The Radiant Woman
October 28th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
Dragon, Eagle, Israel, Michael, Remnant, Women, Revelation 1961 - 1963 (early svc), 1962, Revelation
THE RADIANT WOMAN
Dr. W.A. Criswell
10-28-62 8:15 a.m.
Now on the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Radiant Woman, or The Sun-Crowned Woman.
In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the Revelation, and in Revelation, to the second great division of the book. In the Book of the Revelation, the first eleven chapters bring us to the glorious and final consummation [Revelation 1:1-11:14], when the kingdom of the world, the sovereignty of the world has become the sovereignty of our Lord and of His Christ [Revelation 11:15], when the dead are judged, when God’s saints are rewarded and we enter that ultimate and final eternity of a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 11:15-19]. The first eleven chapters of the Revelation in prospect, in prophetic preview, come to the great denouement of the age and the consummation of the purposes of God for all humanity [Revelation 1:1-11:19].
In chapter 12, we start over again, and these great outlines that are here given under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, which brings in the consummation of the age, the great outline in chapter 11, beginning at verse 15, at the sounding of the seventh trumpet the great outline of that ultimate denouement [Revelation 11:15]; beginning at chapter 12 [Revelation 12:1], we have its detail. God is giving us, in these visions, the people that figure in it and His purposes as they are wrought out, ultimately, in the earth.
Now if you will take your Bible, you can easily follow the message of this morning as we try to understand the meaning of these great signs:
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven, sēmeion, and there appeared a great sign in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
And there appeared another wonder in heaven, sēmeion, sign, and there appeared another sign in heaven; and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
And she brought forth a male Child, a man Child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her Child was caught up unto God, and to His throne.
And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not—what if he had prevailed— and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
“And the great dragon was cast out, that,” and you have it translated “old”; the Greek word is archaios, “that ancient serpent,” who is known and introduced to us from the beginning, “and the great dragon was cast out, that ancient serpent, called the Devil,” you have in the King James Version “devils” sometimes in the Bible. No there is just one devil, and the Greek word for all of the angels and cohorts that support him is the word “demons,” but one devil, “and the great dragon was cast out, that ancient, serpent called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” [Revelation 12:9].
Then you have the rest of the chapter [Revelation 12:10-17], and I, in a small space of time such as in a sermon, I have opportunity this morning just to introduce the things that shall be spoken concerning this twelfth and vital chapter of the Apocalypse.
Now in this story, in this text, in this vision, there is a radiant woman [Revelation 12:17], there is a great red dragon [Revelation 12:3], there is a man Child [Revelation 12:5], there is Michael [Revelation 12:7], there is the remnant of the woman’s seed [Revelation 12:17], these five. Now, most of them are easy of identification.
Michael is several times mentioned in the Old Testament. In the Book of Daniel [Daniel 10:21, 12:1], he is called the great prince who stands for and who represents Israel, mentioned in Jude as the archangel [Jude 1:9], the only archangel in the Bible who is so named. But we will speak about him next Sunday. Michael, the archangel of God who stands as a great prince in the councils of heaven and in the elective purposes of God in the earth; he stands for Israel.
Now, the great red dragon is identified explicitly. He is that ancient serpent called the Devil, and Satan [Revelation 12:9].
The man Child is easily identified. John quotes here in this passage verbatim a part of the great messianic psalm, Psalm 2:9. “She brought forth a man Child” [Revelation 12:5], and then he quotes verbatim from that messianic Psalm in the Greek Septuagint version, “who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron” [Psalm 2:9]. This man Child is the Messiah, the Christ of God, the Savior of the world [Revelation 19:11-16].
It therefore remains just for one thing else, the identification of this radiant woman. Who is she? “And there appeared a great sēmeion in heaven, a mighty, wondrous sign” [Revelation 12:1]. Now, a sign is a thing, an instrument that points to something else, like a sign on the highway will point this way or that. A sign on a store will seek to delineate what is sold on the inside. The sign is in heaven, and it represents something, it points to something down here in the earth. This wonder, this sign, this radiant woman, clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars [Revelation 12:1]; now, who could that woman be?
Well, there are endless identifications. Some say she is Mary alone. That would please a certain Romaness congregation. This radiant, glorious woman is Mary alone. But it is incongruous. In fact, when you say it, it becomes ridiculous to identify her as Mary because the woman, after birth of the child, flees into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God and where she is cared for a thousand two hundred sixty days [Revelation 12:6].
And then again, and the woman was given great wings as of an eagle that she might fly into the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time, times, and half a time, same period of time [Revelation 12:14], three and a half years, forty-two months, one thousand two hundred sixty days [Revelation 12:14]. And being unable to destroy her, the dragon was wroth, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed [Revelation 12:17]. Well, to apply those things to the virgin Mary is impossible. It is inconceivable. Such a thing as that never happened to any woman and least of all to the Virgin Mary.
Well, then, the identification is suggested that this woman is the church. Immediately, immediately, when you make an identification like that, you confront yourself with an unusual situation, for this woman gave birth to the Messiah [Revelation 12:5], and if the woman is the church, then the church gave birth to Jesus. It is exactly and diametrically the opposite. Jesus is the foundation and the source, and it is the Lord who gave life, and meaning, and breath, and reality, and birth to the church [Colossians 1:18]. The church came out of our Lord, not our Lord came out of the church. One of the most magnificent passages in the Bible, and one of the most meaningful, is Paul’s discussion of that very thing in the fifth chapter of the Book of Ephesians [Ephesians 5:30-32].
Quoting from the record in Genesis where God took Eve out of the side of Adam [Genesis 2:21-22], and that is the funniest translation in the Bible, where that word “side,” the Hebrew word “side” is translated “rib.” In no place in the Bible is the Hebrew word “side,” and it is an ordinary word, “side,” like the side of the ark, would you translate it there the rib of the ark, or the side of the house? Do you say the rib of the house? It’s side. God took out of the side, from the heart of Adam, and made Eve [Genesis 2:21-22], and when she was brought to Adam, he said, “This is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh [Genesis 2:23] . . . Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife [Genesis 2:24].
“But I speak,” says Paul, “concerning Christ and His church” [Ephesians 5:32]. That is, as the first bride was taken out of the open side of Adam, from his heart, from a riven, ruptured, wounded side [Genesis 2:21-23], so the church is taken out of the heart, the wounds, the blood, the tears, the agony, the spear-thrust of our Savior [Ephesians 5:30]. Always that will be a consistent imagery in the Holy Scriptures. The church is taken out of our Lord. And the great foundation of the church is our Savior, and never the other way around, that we produced Him. He produced us. We are born of Him, not He is born of us [Ephesians 5:30].
Now, in discussing that, ah, so many brilliant writers make that identification, and in order to turn away from that unusual, unusual exegesis, they say this; “What this means is, the production of Christ in us, the believer.” Or, others will say this refers to the coming of Christ in judgment. But all of those things are feeble and are very poorly defended, it seems to me.
Now, if I make this identification according to the plain meaning of the text and according to the plain witness of the Scriptures, it will all fit and beautifully so. All right, look at Paul as he will speak of the same imagery in the ninth chapter of the Book of Romans:
Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
Whose are the fathers, and of whom a concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
If I make therefore the identification, the woman is Israel who gave to us, of whom according to the flesh, there was born the Messiah of God [Revelation 12:1-2, 5], I will have an imagery that will fit every conception and every revelation in the whole Book, from beginning to end. “Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever, Amen” [Romans 9:5]. Well, let us see if it will do that.
In the Holy Scriptures, time and time and time again, Israel is considered a mother. Many times in Isaiah, Israel is a mother [Isaiah 40:11, 66:9]. Zion has children [Joel 2:23]. And in the days of her rejection and her captivity Israel is called a widow [Isaiah 54:4], and in one place is called a divorced woman [Jeremiah 3:8]—but always, the imagery there of Israel being married and having children, being a mother.
When you come to the New Testament, an altogether different imagery is applied to the church, for the church is always a virgin bride. As Paul will say again in 2 Corinthians, the eleventh chapter and verse 2, “I have espoused you, the church, as a chaste virgin bride unto Christ” [2 Corinthians 11:2]. “He that has the bride is the bridegroom” [John 3:29], says John the Baptist. And in the great coming of our Lord, the time of His marriage has come, for the bride hath made herself ready [Revelation 19:7]. Always and without exception, the church is a bride, and for a bride to be found in the condition of this woman would be unthinkable, and unspeakable, and indescribable. You just don’t say things like that. And the true imagery of God never follows things like that, but the bride is a chaste virgin, and never is she ever presented as a mother.
And when you say mother church, you’re using a human expression, not a divine expression. You’re using a human expression to refer to the fact that our First Baptist Church founded a mission out here, and that’s our child. And that mission founded another one, and this third one is our grandchild. But in no way ever in the Word of God is that word “mother” applied to the church. The church is always a virgin.
So, when I come to this passage, “There appeared a great sign in heaven; a woman. . .travailing with child” [Revelation 12:1-2], and that Child is the Messiah, then I know the woman is Israel, who gave us, according to the flesh, the Son of God [Romans 9:5].
Now one other thing, the woman is described as “clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” [Revelation 12:1]. That also identifies her. In the dream of Joseph, for example, in Genesis 37:9:
And he dreamed yet another dream. . .Joseph dreamed, and he told it to his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance unto me—the twelfth star would be, of course, the boy himself—Joseph himself, the eleven stars made obeisance unto me.
Well, Joseph sold to the Gentiles, but elevated—ah, so gloriously—by the elective purpose of God; Israel, sold to the Gentiles, yet elevated according, someday, in the elective purpose of God. And their Messiah, sold to the Gentiles, yet elevated according to the elective purpose of God. “The sun, the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me,” twelve tribes altogether, Joseph being the twelfth [Genesis 37:9].
And when the Lord considers Israel, He always considers Israel as a unit. When Elijah was on Mt. Carmel, he was up there with the ten tribes, but when he rebuilt the altar, he placed there twelve stones for the twelve tribes of the family of God [1 Kings 18:31-32].
When I see therefore the woman, “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her crown twelve stars” [Revelation 12:1], that is Israel in the glory of God’s purpose for her—sun-crowned, with the governments, and all in praise and in joy for her regeneration, for her conversion, and with the twelve tribes, God’s elect purpose in God’s elect people, coming to that ultimate and final destiny God hath for her, with her Son, her Messiah! [Revelation 12:1].
They are blinded now, says Paul; there is a veil over their heart, but someday that veil, according to Paul, will be taken away [2 Corinthians 3:15-16]. That branch taken out of the old olive tree will be re-engrafted [Romans 11:23-24], “for the calling and the purposes of God are without repentance” [Romans 11:29], said Paul, without change, without turn.
God will do it, just like in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus, those three fourteens. The first fourteen brings Israel to the height, the zenith of their glorious kingdom [Matthew 1:1-6, 17]. The second fourteen brings Israel to the nadir of their rejection and captivity and sorrow [Matthew 1:7-11, 17], but the last fourteen brings Israel to the birth of their glorious Messiah [Matthew 1:1-17], of whom Christ came according to the flesh [Romans 9:5], and this woman travailing in birth comes with a Child, who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron [Revelation 12:1-2, 5]. He is their Messiah and our Savior.
Now the second thing, of so much to be discussed, is a chronological revelation here. There is a period of time that is easily identified, “And the woman fled into the wilderness, and there she is cared for a thousand two hundred sixty days” [Revelation 12:6].
Well, I have met that same period of time again and again. In chapter 11, the previous chapter, “The holy city,” the only city that is ever called the holy city in the Bible is the city of Jerusalem, which is identified here in the eighth verse of that eleventh chapter as the place where our Lord was crucified, and our Lord was crucified in Jerusalem [Revelation 11:8], “The holy city shall be tread under foot forty-two months” [Revelation 11:2], and then in the next verse, “And those two witnesses witnessed a thousand two hundred sixty days” [Revelation 11:3].
And in the fourteenth verse of this same twelfth chapter, “And the woman was given eagle’s wings, and into the wilderness she is cared for time, times, and half a time” [Revelation 12:14], one year, two years, three years and a half of a year, three and a half years. And in the thirteenth chapter of the book there is that same forty-two months [Revelation 13:5], three and a half years, forty-two months, a thousand two hundred sixty days, that same time period, used again and again.
Now I have discussed that in days past, but just by way of remembrance, in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel, Daniel says God hath purposed for His people, the Jewish people, Israel, He has purposed seventy weeks until the final kingdom, until the final consummation, until the end, seventy weeks [Daniel 9:24]. The Revised Standard Version translates that correctly, weeks of years, weeks of years, seventy weeks of years. Multiply seventy weeks of years, and you will have the time that God has said is going to take place in the life of His people until that great consummation [Daniel 9:24].
And in this ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel, those seventy weeks of years are divided into sixty-nine [Daniel 9:25] and one [Daniel 9:27]; sixty-nine and one. Sixty-nine of those weeks of years until Messiah is born and is cut off, is rejected. And then the last week is stuck out here by itself. It is separated, sixty-nine here and the seventieth here.
And he divides the seventieth year in the middle [Daniel 9:27], and that is where you get that three and a half years, that forty-two months, that one thousand two hundred sixty days [Revelation 11:2-3]. That is the seventieth year of Daniel, the last year of Daniel which he divides in two, three and a half years on this side, three and a half years on that side. When I come, therefore, to the twelfth chapter of the Revelation and to that time period, I know immediately where I am. We are in the great final consummation. We are at the end time [Revelation 12:1].
Then you have a problem: “And she brought forth a man Child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her Child was caught up unto God, and to His throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness . . . where she was cared for this thousand two hundred sixty days” [Revelation 12:5-6], this forty-two months, that three and a half years.
Well what an astonishing thing! Now, this is the most important thing, I think, we could ever try to understand if we have any hope of following through consistently these prophetic revelations of God throughout His Book. The great thing that I had to try to understand is this, that when God looks upon time—we look upon it day at a time, day at a time, things happen, and we see them come around the corner, but not God—when God looks upon time, He sees all of it in the present tense. There is no tomorrow, there is no yesterday with God. He is the great I AM [Exodus 3:14], and He sees the end from the beginning [Isaiah 46:10].
And the Lord can see it here, here, there, there, anywhere. All time and all history are present tense to God. Time is a creation like matter is a creation, and our lives are a creation, and time is temporal, that is evident. Time is for this age and this world, but there is no time in eternity. And there is no time to God; it is a created thing. And God sees all things in a present. He can see it anywhere.
Now when God is speaking of a thing He will take it here, here, here, here, without any idea or any purpose of chronologizing it, annualizing it, saying it in its piece, but He will follow through a great purpose, as it will appear here, here, here, and between those prophetic revelations of God, great time periods will pass, and God will do that in a word.
Now look at it here. He does it right here. “And she brought forth a man Child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her Child was caught up unto God, and to His throne” [Revelation 12:5]. Why, man, the life of Christ is not even mentioned there; you would never know that He had a life. His death is not mentioned there. You would never know there was an atonement. He jumps in the same breath and in the same sentence from the birth of the Child to His ascension into heaven, with no intimation of anything in between [Revelation 12:5]. That is because God has His certain purpose that He is trying to reveal here, and His purpose did not include a history of the man Child, a chronology of the man Child, but He is doing a thing here that we hope to speak of when we have time next Sunday.
Now what I want you to see is that that thing of skipping over vast periods of time is everywhere in the Word of God. It’s in the Old Testament, it is in the New Testament, it is everywhere. Now you look at this. In the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because He hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek,” and so and so and so and so, “and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” [Isaiah 61:1-2]. And in the Book of Luke, over here in the fourth chapter, the Bible, the roll of Isaiah, is delivered unto Jesus, and He read in the place where it said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,” and on and on, “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and He closed the book and put it down [Luke 4:17-20].
But the Lord stopped reading right in the middle of a sentence, because when you read the prophecy, “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God” [Isaiah 61:2]; yet Isaiah in prophecy put those things right together in the same breath and in the same sentence. But they are divided by thousands of years; “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,” that Jesus said, is fulfilled right now in His day, but He stopped there [Luke 4:19]. “And the day of vengeance of our God” [Isaiah 61:2]; that belongs to the great consummation at the end of the age. But you would never know it, for all of it is at one breath; yet those syllables are separated by thousands of years now.
Let us take another one. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Isaiah:
And there shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him…
[Isaiah 11:1, 2]
That is a picture of the birth of our Lord, the Rod out of the stem of Jesse, the Branch out of his roots. All right, now listen to it:
And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
[Isaiah 11:6, 9]
Why, man, that’s the great, holy, precious kingdom of God! Yet, you would never know it from the prophecy, as it is written here, for that time period has fallen out. You have the birth of the Lord here [Isaiah 11:1-2], and then in the same breath you have a description of the millennial kingdom [Isaiah 11:6, 9], but there is a great, vast time period in between.
Oh, I hate to close!
That same gap is here between the fifth and the sixth verses [Revelation 12:5-6]. Between the birth of the Child, you jump to the great consummation of the age. This is the time of Jacob’s trouble [Jeremiah 30:7]. This is the time of God’s restoration of Israel [Jeremiah 16:14-15]. This is the time of the great coming of the kingdom [Matthew 25:31].
And these years of grace, the church age, is not even in it. Paul said that was a mustērion in the third chapter of Ephesians. That is the mustērion which is hid in the heart of God that no man knew until He revealed it unto His apostles [Ephesians 3:3-11]. He said the prophets never saw it, this gap in there [Ephesians 3:5].
The clock for Israel has stopped. Israel now is like any other nation, like any other people. There is nothing about Israel beyond what is about an American or about a Britisher—all of us, living in this day of grace. The clock has stopped for Israel. Israel has no scriptural history now, not now; just like everybody else, trying to get them to Jesus, trying to get them to repent, trying to get them to look and be saved, trying to get them to the Lord. All of us alike now.
But there is one week that remains. After that sixty-nine weeks, there is one week that remains, that seventieth week [Daniel 9:27]. And someday, the clock is going to start again for Israel, and that will be in the day of the great consummation, what we call the great tribulation [Matthew 24:21], what we call, what Jeremiah called the time of Jacob’s sorrow [Jeremiah 30:7]. And in those days of travail [Revelation 12:2], she is going to be cared for a thousand two hundred sixty days [Revelation 12:6], those three and a half years, and out of it is going to come the conversion of those people [Ezekiel 20:37-38]. And they are going to receive their Christ, and He is going to be their owned and acknowledged and rightful King [Zechariah 9:9].
Ah, the things God has in store for those who love Him! [1 Corinthians 2:9].
Now if I have to go on all morning, I want you to see this one thing because it is so pertinent. When I talked to one of the finest Jewish merchant women I ever met in my life in Panama City, I said to her, “Why don’t you accept the Lord? Why don’t you, your Messiah?”
She replied, “I do not accept Him as my Messiah because when Messiah cometh things will be changed. No war, no hatred, no murder, no suffering and sorrow. I know He is not the Messiah because things are still just as they are.” That was the difficulty of John the Baptist. “Are You the Christ,” said John, “or do we look for another?” [Matthew 11:3]. You see, John had preached that when He comes, He will lay the ax at the tree [Matthew 3:10], He will winnow the chaff from the wheat [Matthew 3:12], and He will establish His kingdom in the earth [Matthew 3:2]. When it didn’t come and Jesus was the suffering Servant, but not that reigning King, John couldn’t understand, “Are we looking for somebody else?” [Matthew 11:3].
We know the answer. The prophet never saw it, and John never saw it, and that Jewish merchant woman, fine as she is, she doesn’t see it. Between the two is a great gap [Revelation 12:2, 6]. This age of grace in which we sorrow, and are in travail, and war is still here, and things that make men’s hearts stand still for fear, but the clock is going to start again some of these days. He is coming again [Acts 1:11]. There is a return of that Lord Messiah, one time to die [Matthew 20:28], but coming a second time as a glorious and reigning King [Zechariah 14:9].
Ah, the Lord help me as I study and try to understand, and God help us all as we read from these holy and sacred pages.
Now with our heads bowed, is there somebody this morning to put his life in the fellowship of the church? Is there somebody to give his heart in trust to Jesus? [Romans 10:9-10]. Would you come down here right now? While our heads are bowed in prayer, would you do it? Would you just stand up and come,” Here I am, preacher?” Is there a couple to come? Is there? Is there one somebody you to come? Would you do it? Just stand up and come down here to the front. While we pause in prayer, is there? Is there? Somebody you, anywhere?
Our Lord, upon our people may the Spirit of Jesus rest. Oh, oh, oh! And in the day of this trouble, when it seems as though God hath forgotten us, yet there is another day coming. There is an ultimate purpose of God, and though in this place and in this world worms eat and destroy, yet someday the glorious presence of our reigning King, our resurrected and immortalized lives, and all of us rejoicing with God our Savior [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], visibly, openly, triumphantly; O Master, give us hope and assurance in Thee and Thy infinite blessing upon Thy people, Lord. Amen.
And we are dismissed.