The Universal Bright Woman, Life-Study of Revelation, Message Thirty-Four, pp. 397-402
THE UNIVERSAL BRIGHT WOMAN
The first section of the book of Revelation, composed of the first eleven chapters, covers all things to eternity. The second section, comprising the last eleven chapters, gives details of the important things and crucial matters from the last three and a half years of the present age, which will be the period of the great tribulation, to the eternal age of the new heaven and new earth. The first of these important things and crucial matters revealed in this section is a woman with a man-child (12:1-18).
The first eleven chapters of this book cover the seven seals and the seven trumpets. The seven seals and the seven trumpets give us a brief yet inclusive sketch of the contents of this book. The first four seals (6:1-8) cover the nearly two thousand years of history from the time of Christ's ascension until the end of this age. We are now living at the very end of this age, very close to the time of the fifth seal. The fifth seal (6:9-11) consists of the prayer of the martyred saints. When this seal is opened, the thousands of martyred saints who have been slain for the Lord's testimony will cry to God for vengeance, beseeching Him to intervene and deal with rebellious mankind. The sixth seal (6:12-17) will be God's answer to the cry of the martyred saints. The supernatural calamities of this seal will be a warning to those who dwell on this earth. These six seals bring us to the end of this age.
The seventh seal, which includes the seven trumpets, is all-inclusive. Since the seven trumpets are the content of the seventh seal, the seventh seal equals the seven trumpets. The first four trumpets (8:7-12) are supernatural calamities, God's judgment upon the earth, the sea, the rivers, and the sun, moon, and stars. These four trumpets will damage heaven and earth, causing the earth to no longer be a suitable place on which mankind can dwell. The heavens are for the earth, and the earth is for mankind to dwell on. However, since mankind has continually disappointed God, rebelling against Him, God will eventually declare that His toleration has come to an end. The great earthquake and the shaking of heaven in the sixth seal will be a warning to earth's dwellers. This warning will be an introduction to the supernatural calamities to follow. After the first four trumpets have been sounded, the time of the great tribulation will be at hand. The sixth seal and the first four trumpets of the seventh seal will be a preliminary to the great tribulation. The fifth trumpet (9:1-11), which will bring damage directly to man, will be the beginning of the great tribulation. The fifth trumpet is the first of the three woes mentioned in 8:13. The sixth trumpet (9:12-21), a further judgment on men, will be the second woe. The third woe (11:14), part of the negative content of the seventh trumpet, will consist of the seven bowls of God's wrath poured out upon Antichrist, his people, and his kingdom (16:1-12, 17-21). These seven bowls included in the seventh trumpet will close the great tribulation. After this, the Lord Jesus will come down to earth to fight Antichrist at the war of Armageddon. Antichrist will be defeated and, with the false prophet, will be cast into the lake of fire (19:19-21). Following this, the millennial kingdom, lasting a thousand years, will be ushered in. Then will come the new heaven and the new earth with the New Jerusalem for eternity. The seventh trumpet will last for eternity. This is a brief sketch of the book of Revelation.
The scroll of God's economy which Christ has opened needs eternity to be fully opened. Today, we can only see a portion of it. When we get into the new heaven and new earth and live in the New Jerusalem, we shall have a much fuller vision than we have now. The scroll which we shall see in eternity will be eternally long. The seventh trumpet, which continues into eternity, includes many significant things: the last part of the great tribulation, the resurrection and rapture of the majority of the believers, the reward to the saints, the fall of Babylon the great, the marriage of the Lamb, the seven bowls, Christ's descent to the earth with His overcomers as His army to fight Antichrist at Armageddon, the binding of Satan, the millennial kingdom, the last rebellion of mankind, Satan's being cast into the lake of fire, the judgment at the great white throne, the new heaven, the new earth, and the New Jerusalem.
Brother Nee conducted a study of the book of Revelation when he was young. After that study, he saw more and more light concerning this book. In 1933, we asked him to give us a thorough study of the book of Revelation. He told us that he would not give us the study we had requested unless we had read this book so many times that we knew every chapter and could almost recite the entire book. At the time, I thought that this demand was too great. But through the years I have gradually learned that if we would understand this book, we must be fully acquainted with all the points and details it contains. We must be thoroughly familiar with every chapter.
We have seen that the first eleven chapters of Revelation are a general sketch and that the last eleven chapters give us the details of certain important things and crucial matters. Do not consider the last eleven chapters as the continuation of the first eleven chapters. No, in a sense, the last eleven chapters are a retracing of the first eleven chapters. Reading the book of Revelation is similar to reading a map of a city. First we look at the main streets and see a general sketch of the city. Then we go back to consider the smaller streets, lanes, and other details. After gaining a general understanding of the map, we proceed to consider it section by section.
The first important detail and crucial matter in the second half of Revelation is the woman mentioned in 12:1. This verse says, "And a great sign was seen in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon underneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." Here, the woman is revealed in the heavens and is called "a great sign." This great sign is not of a strong man, but of a woman. The woman in this tremendous vision is not on the earth but in the heavens. She is clothed with the sun, underneath her feet is the moon, and on her head is a crown of twelve stars. She is under the shining of the twelve stars, above the shining of the moon, and enveloped with the shining of the sun. Because of this, she is fully emancipated. Anything that is in darkness is bound and imprisoned, but anything that is in the light is released and emancipated.
Would you like to be a part of this woman? Let me ask you this question: Are you a male or a female? All the sisters, of course, find this question easy to answer. But what would the brothers say? If they say that they are males, then they have no part in the woman of this vision. Does this woman include you? If it does, then, in the eyes of God, you are a female.
From the beginning of the Bible to the end, in the eyes of God, God's people are considered as a woman. Isaiah 54:5 says, "Thy Maker is thine husband." In Jeremiah 3:14 the Lord tells His children that He is married to them, and in Jeremiah 31:32 He says that He is a husband to them. Moreover, in Hosea 2:19 and 20 the Lord says that He will betroth His people unto Himself forever. Although, as we all know, the Lord Jesus came as the Savior and as the Lamb, one day He indicated to His disciples that He came as the Bridegroom (Matt. 9:15; John 3:29). Furthermore, in 2 Corinthians 11:2 Paul says, "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." Brothers, do you have a husband? Praise the Lord that our husband is Christ. Naturally, we brothers are males, but spiritually, we are, in a sense, females in God's eyes. In God's eternal economy there is one unique man—Christ. Adam was a symbol, a type, of Christ as the Bridegroom, and Eve, the wife of Adam, was the symbol, a type, of God's people being the counterpart, the wife, of Christ. Therefore, in His economy God's redeemed people are always considered by Him as His wife, and God considers Himself as their husband. In Revelation 12 we have the woman and her child, but here we are not told who her husband is. Nevertheless, this chapter reveals that she is pregnant and is about to deliver her child. By whom did she become pregnant, and who is the source of her child? By reading the whole Bible, we see that the husband is God in Christ.
I. A SYMBOL OF THE TOTALITY
OF GOD'S PEOPLE
It is difficult to understand the book of Revelation. If we would rightly interpret this book, we need all the other sixty-five books of the Bible. Hence, in order to understand who this woman is, we need the whole Bible. Some Christian teachers have held the concept that this woman is Mary, the mother of Jesus, and that the man-child is Jesus. This concept, however, does not suit the context of this chapter because Jesus ascended to the heavens nearly two thousand years ago. But in 12:5 and 6 we are told that the man-child will be raptured to the throne of God and that, following this, the woman will be nourished for "a thousand two hundred and sixty days" (v. 6). These twelve hundred sixty days are three and a half years or forty-two months (12:14; 11:2-3; 13:5), which will be the period of the great tribulation. This proves that the man-child is not the Lord Jesus and that the woman is not Mary. Mary was just a single woman on earth, but this woman is universally corporate and is revealed in heaven.
Others say that this woman is Israel, the Jewish race. Some of those who hold this view take Genesis 37:9 as their basis. According to this verse, Joseph had a dream in which "the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance" to him. Since the woman wears the sun and the twelve stars and stands upon the moon, apparently corresponding to Joseph's dream concerning his family, it is said that the woman in Revelation 12 must signify Israel, the Jewish people. But 12:17 proves that this woman does not only comprise those who "keep the commandments of God," but also those who "have the testimony of Jesus." Those who "keep the commandments of God" are Jews. However, those who "have the testimony of Jesus" must be New Testament believers, not Jews. This is a strong proof that the woman is not only composed of Jews but of two classes of people: the Jews who keep the commandments of God and the believers who have the testimony of Jesus. Therefore, to say that this woman is merely Israel does not fit the whole context of this chapter.
The woman in this chapter is the totality of God's people. According to the vision, this totality is in three sections: the section of her head with the twelve stars, the section of her body clothed with the sun, and the section of her feet on the moon. Hence, this woman is universal, composed of the twelve stars, the moon, and the sun. In Joseph's dream, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars plus Joseph himself signified the total composition of God's people on earth. Based upon the principle of that dream, the sun, the moon, and the twelve stars here must signify the totality of God's people on earth, which in this chapter is symbolized by a woman.
Most of her being is clothed with the sun. The sun signifies God's people in the New Testament age. Before Christ came into the world, it was the dark night of the Old Testament age. When Christ came, it was the sun rising from on high (Luke 1:78 KJV, margin), the beginning of the age of the sun. Before that, it was the age of the moon, which signifies God's people in the Old Testament time. The moon is under the feet of the woman, for the age of the moon was the age of the law, which should not be exalted as the stars. The stars, which signify the patriarchs, God's people before the law was given, are on her head as a crown. All God's people in these three ages, who together constitute this woman, are light bearers. Hence, she is the bright woman shining throughout all generations.