I want to offer some thoughts on Revelation ch12 vv12-17.
This is the second part of the story of the woman who was "seen in heaven", in the middle of giving birth, at the beginning of the chapter. I was
looking at the first part on the attached thread;
Woman in Heaven
I thought the best way of understanding her was to treat her as a figure representing the faithful people.
Now I'm moving on to what happened next, and I'm going to be asking the question; what is the purpose of that flight into the wilderness?
The Psalmist says;
"Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it". (Psalm 96 v11)
All three parts of the created universe will be rejoicing together in praise, when the Lord comes "to judge the world with righteousness".
In Revelation ch12 v12, the heavens are rejoicing already, but the other two parts of the world must wait.
Heaven can rejoice, because the "accuser of the brethren" has been thrown down from it.
(I was looking at this theme in my last thread, on the attached link;
Satan fell from Heaven
Earth and sea, though, are still in trouble.
It may be the case that Satan's power is now limited, it may be the case that the real source of his power has already been destroyed; but, for
exactly that reason, he comes down upon them now with all the proverbial ferocity of the mortally wounded animal.
He shows the ferocity in his pursuit of "the woman", because she's the one who gave birth to the "male-child"- that is, to Christ himself- who
inflicted the mortal wound in the fist place.
There are some very pointed similarities between the story of his pursuit and the story of the Exodus.
It begins, of course, with the hostile power- Pharaoh in one case, and the dragon in the other.
In fact, Ezekiel describes Pharaoh as "the great dragon that lies in the midst of his streams". (Ezekiel ch29 v3)
The serpent or dragon pursues the woman by pouring water out of his mouth, in the hope of sweeping her away in the flood.
Similarly, Jeremiah says about the power of Egypt against Judah;
"Egypt rises like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge.
He said, I will rise, I will cover the earth,
I will destroy cities and their inhabitants." (Jeremiah ch46 v8)
We're told in Revelation how the earth opens itself up and swallows the river.
Similarly, the Song of Moses says this about what happened to Pharaoh's army;
"Thou didst stretch out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them". (Exodus ch15 v12)
We're told how the woman escapes by being given "the two wings of a great eagle".
Similarly, this is how the Lord sums up the whole Exodus experience, when he speaks to Moses at Sinai;
"You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I lifted you up on eagles' wings and brought you to myself". (Exodus ch19 v4)
The final similarity, of course, is the culmination of both episodes in a successful escape into the wilderness, where the people will be
"nourished" by their God.
There's a clear message in these parallels;
That God's people should be expecting to be oppressed- perhaps to the point of possible extinction- by hostility in a place of power, as at the time
of the Exodus.
But that God himself will be able to preserve them by his own power- as at the time of the Exodus.
The woman is going to be nourished in the wilderness "for a time, times, and half a time".
Much debate has gone into trying to identify that period.
This is not the time for me to enter that particular debate, so I'm going to content myself with a summary of what seems to be generally agreed;
That the phrase is intended to be understood as a total- "Three and a half times".
That the phrase refers back to the angel's declaration in Daniel ch12 v7 (where he's describing the time which remains before "the end of these
wonders", the time during which the "holy people" would remain powerless).
And that this should be identified with the statement in Daniel ch9 v27, that "the prince who is to come" would be at war with God's worship for
"half a week"- i.e., "three and a half days".
In other words. the concealment of God's people "in the wilderness" is understood to coincide with the hostility of that last, great, powerful
So, coming back to my original question, what's the purpose of that flight into the wilderness?
The most obvious answer, as in the Exodus parallel, is that God's people need to escape from the power of the oppressor. The church has to go
"underground", as we would probably say nowadays. The persecuting power cannot grasp the church as a body, and can only seize upon the individuals
who attract its attention ("the rest of her offspring").
However, there's another possible angle which may be worth considering.
Hosea ch2 contains a complaint, from the Lord, that his people Israel- his "wife"- have not been faithful to him in the land which he gave them.
They've been learning corruption, and injustice, and idolatry. he proposes, therefore, to take their comforts away from them;
"I will put an end to all her mirth, her feats, her new moons, and all her appointed feasts".
And then he plans to take her into the wilderness, in order to complete the cleansing process, and to make it possible to renew the relationship;
"And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt". (Hosea ch2 vv11-15)
There is the possibility that something similar could be happening when the "woman" in Revelation ch12 is "taken into the wilderness". She too,
perhaps, might have developed corrupt and idolatrous ways. She, too, perhaps,might benefit from an experience which would take her away from her
comforts and temptations, and force her to focus once more on the essence of her relationship with God.
(I was addressing a similar question in one of my previous threads;
Ch6- The sins of the Church?
But there is one more purpose which must not be forgotten.
The final purpose of Israel's period "in the wilderness", in the days of Moses, was that it was a time of preparation for their entrance into the
[edit on 4-6-2010 by DISRAELI]