WHO IS “THE WOMAN”?
819. The Woman is not the Virgin Mary merely, nor the man child Jesus, whom Herod sought to slay. These typify, but do not fill out full the vision of John. He saw the Dragon watching for the child before it was born, while Herod knew not of the child Jesus until after His birth, nor could he guess the time of the birth but within a space of two years. And then, the child Jesus was not, as John saw, “caught up” when born, but long afterwards. Nor did Mary and her babe part company, when she fled, but she fled with the babe in her arms; and Egypt was not a “wilderness” anyway.
820. Others believe that the Woman is the Jewish church, which gave birth to Christ; or which gave birth to the Christian church. But according to these views what does the Dragon mean? The devil, certainly, remotely, who instigates Herod’s attempt to “devour” the man child. The devil instigates the attempt whatever interpretation we put upon this Great Sign; it is, therefore, too vague. But can we be sure that “to devour” means “to slay,” merely? It was the Jewish Sanhedrin that compassed Christ’s death; and that is close to saying it was the Jewish church. In other words, if the Woman represents the Jewish church and her child is Jesus, then the woman, not the Dragon, “devours” her child; and certainly that Jewish church, any way we look at the case, never agonized to bring forth Jesus Christ. Therefore we refuse to accept any of these vague interpretations of this Great Sign, excepting in the sense that some of them are types of the events pictured by this Great Sign.
821. Now we ask, How did God begin to fulfill that Great Promise of Genesis 3:15 about the victory of woman’s seed? Did He look about for some body of people, visible or invisible, who bore a name, appropriate, or inappropriate, of the feminine gender, and begin to fulfill that promise to them because of the gender of their name, when He had promised to fulfill it to woman? Did He think it sufficient, after He had made the promise concerning very real and very literal woman, in the presence of Eve, a woman, to fulfill that promise to a sect? Verily, He did not: that is not God’s way of doing. He made that promise to woman, in the presence of a woman, Eve; and He began the fulfillment of that promise to a woman,¾the Virgin Mary; and as He has begun so will He, in faithfulness to His word, continue.
822. God will not be satisfied to send an offspring to the apostate Christian church, merely because the word “church” (ecclesia) is of feminine gender. That offspring will be sent to a feminine person (or company of feminine persons), not to a feminine word, describing a masculine body,¾for the visible church on earth, which excludes women, for the most part, from ministry at its altar, and shuts them out of its councils, and out of the fullness of Christ’s atonement, cannot appropriate such a Great Promise as this, by merely masquerading in the garb of a female. God deals with realities, not with shams. Women belong, in large numbers, to the mystical Body of Christ, the true church; they do not actually belong to that body¾the visible church¾which merely enrolls their names on a list while it makes them irresponsible as regards its entire polity. Therefore this visible church will never grasp this Great Promise.
823. We are driven to the conclusion that, just as the covenant promise of Genesis 3:15 was fulfilled to a literal woman, up to a certain extent, in the birth of Jesus Christ of a virgin (no human male having any part in its realization), so will it be to the end. As Christ was born of a literal woman, so will this man child be born of that sex. The beginning of the fulfillment was to one woman; but it seems more likely that the filling out to the full of the terms of that great covenant will be to many of that sex,¾a body of women.
824. Since the only actual interpretation of prophecy must come after, not before its fulfillment, we can only form a conjecture as to the meaning of these things. Since the sign John saw was “in heaven,” the events seem to refer to the spiritual world. The agony and travail of the Woman seem to signify some great spiritual travail of soul into which women will be plunged just before the Lord’s second coming; and as a result a large body of men (the man child), of exceptional holiness and devotion will rise; this will be that bringing forth of a man child. The entire sign relates to spiritual transaction; and the man child will be the spiritual, not the physical, seed of the woman.
825. Again let us cover these points: A work of women has been prophesied of in Psalm 68:11: “The Lord giveth the word: the women that publish the tidings are a great host” (R. V.). It was prophesied by Joel, and Peter repeated his words on the day of Pentecost: “I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons [first] and your daughters [second] shall prophesy” . . . This much seems to refer to the sons and daughters of the Jews . . . “And on My bondsmen [first] and on My bond maidens [second],” this to Gentile servants of God. Paul maintains this same order (as to gender), when he says, “Adam was first formed [not “created”], then Eve.” As in the natural world, Adam was a more rapid development than Eve, as shown in the second chapter of Genesis (see pars. 24-43), so has God first fashioned man for His purposes in the Church. But as the masculine church falls away into the apostasy of the “last days,” God will put His hands upon Woman, who will, by proclaiming the Gospel,¾more especially the Lord’s speedy coming¾rescue the situation, through her seed, the overcomers of 12:11, the man child.
826. The Prophet Isaiah saw the day of the Lord’s second coming, when scattered Israel would be gathered together, and led back to their own land, by the hand of Jehovah (Isaiah 40:10-11). The prophet represents God as calling: “O thou [woman] that bringest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain: O thou [woman] that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!” (R. V.). There is precisely the same warrant, from the original Hebrew, for inserting “woman” in this passage in Isaiah, as there is for inserting “woman,” as the Revision does in Psalm 68:11. The “woman” has received tardy justice in the latter passage by the translators; and such will one day be the case in the former one (see pars. 209, 773).
827. The “childbearing” of Revelation 12 is that same “childbearing” of 1 Timothy 2:15, of which the Apostle Paul speaks prophetically, in connection with those words about the formation of woman after man, in the spiritual sense. He says of woman: “She shall be saved through the childbearing [R. V.], if they continue in charity and holiness with sobriety.” We have elsewhere spoken of the partial fulfillments of this prophecy (par. 209), but now we come to its completion, in the special protection and care of Almighty God, when the world is in the throes of the Great Tribulation. Because Woman has brought forth that man child who will, with Michael’s help, cast Satan down to the earth (12:13), Woman will be borne away into “the wilderness” beyond his power of avenging himself further on her.
828. God Himself, that Great Eagle who led and sustained the children of Israel during their forty years of wilderness life (Deuteronomy 32:10-12), will bear this company of women¾Christian women¾on the wings of “THE Great Eagle” (not “a great eagle,” as the A. V. translates) off “into the wilderness” where they will be protected and fed until the general rapture of the saints will occur for their rescue (14:14-16). Where that “wilderness” is, we will not attempt to say. What some of these things mean we shall not know until the time comes. We are inclined to the view that the man child of the Woman are the 144,000, a sealed, special Body-guard of the Lord,¾see Revelation 7:4 and 14:1. We use the expression “body-guard” incorrectly, however,¾for the Lord needs no guard,¾merely in the sense of attendants, 14:4.