Revelation 12:2
And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
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(2) And she . . .—Better, And being with child, she crieth, travailing, and tormented to bring forth. All life dawns in anguish, according to the ancient fiat (Genesis 3:16); but this is not all. There is an anguish of the Church which Christ laid upon her; it is the law of her life that she must bring forth Christ to the world; it is not simply that she must encounter pain, but that she cannot work deliverance without knowing suffering. Thus the Apostles felt: the love of Christ constrained them; woe it would be to them if they did not preach the Gospel; necessity was laid upon them; they spoke of themselves as travailing in birth over their children till Christ was formed in them. This, then, is the picture, the Church fulfilling her destiny even in pain. The work was to bring forth Christ to men, and never to be satisfied till Christ was formed in them, i.e., till the spirit of Christ, and the teaching of Christ, and the example of Christ were received, loved, and obeyed, and men transformed to the same image, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

But there was to be opposition; the enemy is on the watch to destroy the likeness of Christ wherever it was seen.

12:1-6 The church, under the emblem of a woman, the mother of believers, was seen by the apostle in vision, in heaven. She was clothed with the sun, justified, sanctified, and shining by union with Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. The moon was under her feet; she was superior to the reflected and feebler light of the revelation made by Moses. Having on her head a crown of twelve stars; the doctrine of the gospel, preached by the twelve apostles, is a crown of glory to all true believers. As in pain to bring forth a holy family; desirous that the conviction of sinners might end in their conversion. A dragon is a known emblem of Satan, and his chief agents, or those who govern for him on earth, at that time the pagan empire of Rome, the city built upon seven hills. As having ten horns, divided into ten kingdoms. Having seven crowns, representing seven forms of government. As drawing with his tail a third part of the stars in heaven, and casting them down to the earth; persecuting and seducing the ministers and teachers. As watchful to crush the Christian religion; but in spite of the opposition of enemies, the church brought forth a manly issue of true and faithful professors, in whom Christ was truly formed anew; even the mystery of Christ, that Son of God who should rule the nations, and in whose right his members partake the same glory. This blessed offspring was protected of God.And she being with child cried, travailing in birth ... - That is, there would be something which would be properly represented by a woman in such circumstances.

The question now is, what is referred to by this woman? And here it need hardly be said that there has been, as in regard to almost every other part of the Book of Revelation, a great variety of interpretations. It would be endless to undertake to examine them, and would not be profitable if it could be done; and it is better, therefore, and more in accordance with the design of these notes, to state briefly what seems to me to be the true interpretation:

(1) The woman is evidently designed to symbolize the church; and in this there is a pretty general agreement among interpreters. The image, which is a beautiful one, was very familiar to the Jewish prophets. See the notes on Isaiah 1:8; Isaiah 47:1; compare Ezekiel 16.

(2) but still the question arises, to what time this representation refers: whether to the church before the birth of the Saviour, or after? According to the former of these opinions, it is supposed to refer to the church as giving birth to the Saviour, and the "man child" that is born Revelation 12:5 is supposed to refer to Christ, who "sprang from the church" - κατὰ σάρκα kata sarka - according to the flesh (Prof. Stuart, vol. 2, p. 252). The church, according to this view, is not simply regarded as Jewish, but, in a more general and theocratic sense, as "the people of God." "From the Christian church, considered as Christian, he could not spring; for this took its rise only after the time of his public ministry. But from the bosom of the "people of God" the Saviour came. This church Judaical indeed (at the time of his birth) in respect to rites and forms, but to become Christian after he had exercised his ministry in the midst of it, might well be represented here by the woman which is described in Revelation 12." (Prof. Stuart). But to this view there are some, as it seems to me, unanswerable objections. For:

(a) there seems to be a harshness and incongruity in representing the Saviour as the Son of the church, or representing the church as giving birth to him. Such imagery is not found elsewhere in the Bible, and is not in accordance with the language which is employed, where Christ is rather represented as the Husband of the church than the Son: "Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband," Revelation 21:2. "I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife," Revelation 21:9; compare Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 61:10; Isaiah 62:5.

(b) If this interpretation be adopted, then this must refer to the Jewish church, and thus the woman will personify the Jewish community before the birth of Christ. But this seems contrary to the whole design of the Apocalypse, which has reference to the Christian church, and not to the ancient dispensation.

(c) If this interpretation be adopted, then the statement about the dwelling in the wilderness for a period of 1260 days or years Revelation 12:14 must be assigned to the Jewish community - a supposition every way improbable and untenable. In what sense could this be true? When did anything happen to the Jewish people that could, with any show of probability, be regarded as the fulfillment of this?

(d) It, may be added, that the statement about the "man child" Revelation 12:5 is one that can with difficulty be reconciled to this supposition. In what sense was this true, that the "man child" was "caught up unto God, and to his throne?" The Saviour, indeed, ascended to heaven, but it was not, as here represented, that he might be protected from the danger of being destroyed; and when he did ascend, it was not as a helpless and unprotected babe, but as a man in the full maturity of his powers. The other opinion is, that the woman here refers to the Christian church, and that the object is to represent that church as about to be enlarged - represented by the condition of the woman, Revelation 12:2. A beautiful woman appears, clothed with light - emblematic of the brightness and purity of the church; with the moon under her feet - the ancient and comparatively obscure dispensation now made subordinate and humble; with a glittering diadem of twelve stars on her head - the stars representing the usual well-known division of the people of God into twelve parts - as the stars in the American flag denote the original states of the Union; and in a condition Revelation 12:2 which showed that the church was to be increased.

The time there referred to is at the early period of the history of the church, when, as it were, it first appears on the theater of things, and going forth in its beauty and majesty over the earth. John sees this church, as it was about to spread in the world, exposed to a mighty and formidable enemy - a hateful dragon - stationing itself to prevent its increase, and to accomplish its destruction. From that impending danger it is protected in a manner that would he well represented by the saving of the child of the woman, and bearing it up to heaven, to a place of safety - an act implying that, notwithstanding all dangers, the progress and enlargement of the church was ultimately certain. In the meantime, the woman herself flees into the wilderness - an act representing the obscure, and humble, and persecuted state of the church - until the great controversy is determined which is to have the ascendency - God or the Dragon. In favor of this interpretation, the following considerations may be suggested:

(a) It is the natural and obvious interpretation.

(b) If it be admitted that John meant to describe what occurred in the world at the time when the true church seemed to be about to extend itself over the earth, and when that prosperity was checked by the rise of the papal power, the symbol employed would be strikingly expressive and appropriate.

(c) It accords with the language elsewhere used in the Scriptures when referring to the increase of the church. "Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children," Isaiah 66:7-8. "Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord," Isaiah 54:1. "The children which thou shalt have, after thou shalt have lost the other, shall say again in thy ears, The place is too strait for me; give place to me that I may dwell," Isaiah 49:20. The comparison of the church to a woman as the mother of children, is one that is very common in the Scriptures.

(d) The future destiny of the child and of the woman agrees with this supposition. The child is caught up to heaven, Revelation 12:5 - emblematic of the fact that God will protect the church, and not suffer its increase to be cut off and destroyed; and the woman is driven for 1260 years into the wilderness and nourished there, Revelation 12:14 - emblematic of the long period of obscurity and persecution in the true church, and yet of the fact that it would be protected and nourished. The design of the whole, therefore, I apprehend, is to represent the peril of the church at the time when it was about to be greatly enlarged, or in a season of prosperity, from the rise of a formidable enemy that would stand ready to destroy it. I regard this, therefore, as referring to the time of the rise of the papacy, when, but for that formidable, corrupting, and destructive power, it might have been hoped that the church would have spread all over the world. In regard to the rise of that power, see all that I have to say, or can say, in the notes on Daniel 7:24-28.

2. pained—Greek, "tormented" (basanizomene). De Burgh explains this of the bringing in of the first-begotten into the world AGAIN, when Israel shall at last welcome Him, and when "the man-child shall rule all nations with the rod of iron." But there is a plain contrast between the painful travailing of the woman here, and Christ's second coming to the Jewish Church, the believing remnant of Israel, "Before she travailed she brought forth … a MAN-CHILD," that is, almost without travail-pangs, she receives (at His second advent), as if born to her, Messiah and a numerous seed. Being with child; not with Christ considered personally, who was long before brought forth by the virgin Mary, but with the truth, and gospel of Christ, or with Christ mystical.

Cried; desiring to bring many children to the kingdom of Christ; or to bring forth Christ in the souls of others: of this burden and labour she desired

to be delivered. The phrase is judged to signify both the primitive church’s desire to propagate the gospel, and also her many sufferings for that endeavour.

And she being big with child,.... Which may be expressive of the fruitfulness of the church in bearing and bringing forth many souls to Christ, and which were very numerous in this period of time, when it was said of Zion that this and that man was born in her; and particularly of her pregnancy with the kingdom of Christ, to be brought forth, and set up in the Roman empire, under the influence of a Roman emperor: and this being her case, she

cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered; which are metaphors taken from a woman in travail; and may either denote the earnest cries and fervent prayers of the members of the church, and the laborious and painful ministrations of the preachers of the Gospel for the conversion of souls, and especially for the setting up of the kingdom of Christ in the empire of Rome; or else the sore and grievous persecutions which attended the apostles of Christ, and succeeding ministers of the word, throughout the times of the ten Roman emperors, and especially under Dioclesian; when the church was big, and laboured in great pain, and the time was drawing on apace that a Christian emperor should be brought forth, who should be a means of spreading the Gospel, and the kingdom of Christ, all over the empire; see Jeremiah 30:6; so the Targumist frequently explains the pains of a woman in travail in the prophets by "tribulation"; see the Targum on Isaiah 13:8.

And {3} she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

(3) For this is the barren woman who had not given birth; Isa 45:1, Ga 4:27. She cried out with good cause, and was tormented at that time, when in the judgment of all she seemed near to death, about to die because of her weakness and poverty.

2. and she … pained to be delivered] There is probably a reminiscence of Genesis 3:16, and perhaps of St John 16:21, as well as of Micah 4:10, to which the main reference is. Cf. also St Matthew 24:8, St Mark 13:1.

Verse 2. - And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. The present, "crieth," κρὰζει, is found in א, A, P, Coptic, Andreas in a et bav., etc.; the imperfect, ἐκράζεν, is read in C, Vulgate, 7, 8, 31, etc., Andreas in c et p, Primasius; the aorist, ἐκράζεν, in B, twelve cursives (cf. the words of our Lord in John 16:21, 22). A similar image occurs in Isaiah 26:17; Isaiah 66:7, 8; Micah 4:10. The trouble which afflicted the Jewish Church, and the longing of the patriarchs for the advent of the Saviour, are here depicted. So also St. Paul, encouraging the Romans to bear patiently their sufferings, says, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8:22). Revelation 12:2Travailing in birth (ὠδίνουσα)

See on sorrows, Mark 13:9, and see on pains, Acts 2:24.

In pain (βασανιζομένη)

Lit., being tormented. See on Revelation 11:10, and references. For the imagery compare Isaiah 66:7, Isaiah 66:8; John 16:21.

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