The story behind the wonderful prophecy in Revelation chapter twelve!
The Woman In The Wilderness
By Pastor Jory Steven Brooks, Canadian British-Israel Association
Revelation chapter 12 contains an important and much misunderstood prophecy of a prophetic “woman” in the wilderness. Noted evangelical expositor, Dr. Harry Ironside, observed, “I have learned to view this twelfth chapter as the crucial test in regard to the correct prophetic outline. If the interpreters are wrong as to the woman and the man-child, it necessarily follows that they will be wrong as to many things connected with them.”
Yes, this is a very important text for prophetic understanding. Unless we correctly identify this woman and the subject matter connected with her, we will be misled on important Biblical issues including Israel, Christ, the Covenants and latter-day prophecy as a whole! Yet, sadly, the late great expositor, Henry Alford, exclaimed: “…the vision yet awaits its clearing up.” That is the purpose of this study.
The prophecy begins in Revelation 12:1, “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” This woman has been variously identified as Israel, the Church, or the Virgin Mary. Yet in no way is the mother of Christ Biblically symbolized as a woman in a wilderness (cf. Rev. 12:6), nor can we agree with the very common interpretation that makes the prophetic woman to be the Christian Church.
Dr. William R. Newell gives an excellent analysis of this question. “Israel, not the Church, gave birth to Christ (Rom. 9:1-33; Mic. 5:1-15; Isa. 9:6; Heb. 7:14). In no possible sense did the Church do so. [Dr. Joseph] Seiss, generally very helpful, most strenuously asserts the Woman to be ‘the Church Universal’[and] ...proceeds to call the Child ‘the whole regenerated purchase of the Savior’s blood’, though how the Mother and the Child can be thus the same company, even the author’s utmost vehemence fails to convince you! (Seiss: Lectures 26, 28.)…The subsequent earthly history (Rev. 12:1-17) of the woman corresponds exactly with what other prophets tell us concerning the trouble of Israel…”
Similarly, the Barnes Notes Commentary says, “Christ is rather represented as the Husband of the church than the Son: ‘Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband’ Rev. 21:2. ‘I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife’ Rev. 21:9; compare Isa. 54:5; Isa. 61:10; Isa. 62:5.”
Revelation 12:6 is a key verse: “And the WOMAN FLED into the WILDERNESS, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should FEED HER there a THOUSAND TWO HUNDERED AND THREESCORE days.” Barnes Notes tells us that the 1260 days prophetically represent years: “That is, regarding these as prophetic days, in which a day denotes a year, twelve hundred and sixty years.”
Evangelical writers (as well as some British-Israel teachers) have been divided on whether this prophecy is to be interpreted historically or allegorically. Some consider the 1260 years to represent the history of the papacy or even dating it from the Hegira—the founding of Mohammedanism—but the prophecy concerns Israel, not Rome or Islam! Others date the prophecy from the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C.; adding 1260 years then results in a prophetic end date of 540 A.D., said to be the approximate time of the Saxon invasion of Britain. However, many of Israel’s tribes were in Britain long before that time, including those who sailed westward across the Mediterranean in the time of Solomon (1 Ki. 9:26-27).
It is doubtful that the prophecy began in 721 B.C., because the conquest and exile of Israel to Assyria was neither a free-will act of “fleeing,” nor was “Halah, Habor, and the cities of the Medes” (2 Ki. 17:6) a description of an uninhabited wilderness. The word “fled” in Rev. 12:6 is a translation of the Greek, pheugo (Strong’s #5343), meaning “to run away, by analogy to vanish, escape, flee away.” This is not a description of being taken in chains and fetters to Assyria and Babylon! Similarly, the word, “wilderness” (Strong’s #2048) means “desert, waste, desolate, solitary, wilderness, lonesome.” Babylon, Nineveh, & the cities of the Medes where Israel and Judah had been taken captive were not solitary wildernesses! Halah was a suburb of Nineveh, which along with Babylon were two of the largest metropolises of the ancient world. The cities of the Medes were also well populated. Clearly, the wilderness wandering was in a new land after the period of subjugation by Assyria, Babylon and Persia. That new wilderness land to which Israel fled was early, unsettled Europe.
The Pulpit Commentary’s analysis supports this: “Israel is to be brought ‘into the wilderness of the peoples’ (Ezk. 35:20). The wanderings of their fathers was in ‘a waste howling wilderness’ (Deut. 32:10) among the wild beasts and far from the cities and homes of men; but the exile of the nation in Ezekiel’s day was a transportation into the midst of the settled populous country of Babylon. Chaldea was no Siberia…Although a strange blight has since fallen upon the scene of the exile, and the ruins of the great cities of the Euphrates have now become a veritable wilderness, haunted by lions and hyenas, those cities were at the height of their prosperity and splendour when the prophet lived and wrote. How, then, could he speak of them as a wilderness?” The answer, of course, is that neither Ezekiel nor the Book of Revelation were speaking of Babylon and Assyria in these wilderness prophecies.
In a previous study on “Ezekiel’s forgotten prophecy of the House of Israel” based upon Ezek. 4:4-5 (see Covenant Nations Magazine, vol. 3, no. 3, 2014, or the CBIA website www.israelite.ca), it was shown that ten-tribe Ephraim-Israel received a Divine punishment for their national sins of 390 years, dating from 721 B.C. to the fall of Persia in 331 B.C. They were successively subjugated by Assyria, Babylon, and Persia, until Alexander the Great overthrew the Persian Empire at the Battle of Gaugamela on October 1, 331 B.C., finally freeing the captive nations of the Mideast who were for so long under the yoke of oppression.
When we calculate 1260 years after the fall of Persia, we reach the date 930 A.D.—a very important date in history. On June 23rd of that year the "Althing" was established in Iceland, the very first European parliamentary government. Similarly, during this era England for the first time became a unitary nation. Prior to unification England had been a divided Heptarchy, with separate kings of East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex, and Wessex. However, in 927 B.C., King Athelstan of Wessex fought a decisive battle with the Vikings and followed up his victory by sending emissaries throughout Britain demanding the allegiance of all of the provinces. Although he proclaimed himself the ruler of England as early as 925, it was a few years before he finally consolidated control over all of England.
For 1260 years, the House of Israel had been lost, wandering tribes spreading across Europe, nurturing and growing in numbers. Over time they coalesced from mere tribes into districts and heptarchies, until in 930 A.D. they began to fulfill their Abrahamic covenant promises of becoming many nations (Gen. 17:5), a company of nations (Gen. 35:11), and growing into a multitude as the sand on the seashore and as the stars of heaven! (Gen. 15:5; 22:17)
The evangelical International Bible School Commentary tells us, “When God led his people from captivity, they wandered in the ‘wilderness’ until their redemption was complete (i.e., until they possessed their [promised] inheritance.” Yes, beginning in 930 A.D., after 1260 years of wandering, nurturing and growing, Israel began forming “many nations” instead of mere nomadic lost tribes, in fulfillment of their promised inheritance in the Abrahamic Covenant. Israel was indeed nourished in the Wilderness (Rev. 12:6). Further, their “redemption was complete” at this time, as England became a Christian nation under King Athelstan, and Christianity quickly spread across Europe.
Israel’s covenant fulfillment into many nations continued with the Union of England and Wales by the Act of 1535, followed by the establishment of the British parliament and the United Kingdom of Great Britain as a unified sovereign state in 1707. The first historically recognized King of Denmark was Gorm the Old, 958 A.D. The Denmark parliament, the Folketing, “The People’s Thing,” was established in 1849. The Swedish parliament, the Riksdag, was formed in 1435. The Dutch republic was established in 1705; before that, Holland was a changing patchwork of territories. The Constitution of Norway established Norway’s parliament, the Storting in 1814. The French national parliament, l’Assemblee Nationale was established in 1789, and the United States of America became a nation in 1776.
Revelation 12:14 adds some further details to this marvelous prophecy: “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” This time-period corresponds to the “1260 days” of verse 6. "Her place" is the "place prepared of God" (Rev. 12:6). This is a reference to the Davidic promise in 2 Sam. 7:10. Israel would live in a new land that would evidently be an unsettled wilderness—a land where wicked nations would not afflict them: “Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime.” That land was not Palestine!
It is surprising that modern commentaries cannot see the realization of these wonderful prophecies, and ignore the factual evidence that these “lost” tribes of Israel fulfilled their covenant destiny in migrating to Europe. Even in their blindness, the evangelical Kelly Commentary exclaims, “But where for the present is Israel? Hidden in the wilderness, yet preserved till God's public kingdom appears…How strange to fancy that such amazing events took place ages ago without the saints of God knowing it!” Yes, it is indeed truly amazing! Let us pray for Israel’s revealing in this end time. Amen!