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October 2017 Prophetic Observer

Who Revelation 12’s Male Child Is And Why It Matters

by Douglas Woodward

Editor’s Note: This article provides additional support for the pre-Trib Rapture, and shows that Revelation 12 supports the two-phase return of Christ.

If you are reading this article, then you were not raptured on September 23, 2017. If it is any consolation, I wasn’t either. But what did the “great sign” of Revelation 12 mean? Was there something important that the sign contributes to our understanding of Bible prophecy? I affirm that there absolutely is an important reason why this vision of John regarding “the woman, the male child and the dragon” has become highlighted at this particular moment in time.

In The Revealing: Unlocking Hidden Truths on the Glorification of God’s Children, my co-author, Gary Huffman, and I argue that the “great sign” of Revelation 12 teaches that the Rapture of the church happens at least 3½ years (1,260 days) before the visible return of Christ. We believe that the importance of the so-called “great sign” is this: that the pre-Trib Rapture of the church has been for many centuries and should remain the teaching of the church. The Rapture was not an invention of J. N. Darby in 1830 as part of the dispensational method of interpretation.

Additionally, I recently provided an article at my website, doomsdaydoug.com, that I believe provides incontrovertible scriptural evidence that the Bible teaches the two eschatological events, (1) the Rapture of the church and (2) the visible, “glorious appearing” of Jesus Christ at the end of the age, are distinct events. In other words, they do not happen simultaneously. I encourage you to study “The Rapture and the Glorious Appearing are Distinct Events,” (click on the link above) and an extensive table I assembled comparing the teachings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4, with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 24 and 25. There are 20 different attributes I compared between the teaching of Paul and Jesus that fully complement one another, yet testify to the distinction between the two phases of Christ›s return.

In this article, I supply evidence from several excellent sources, that the male child of Revelation 12 is both Christ and the church—the united head and body of the church in its mystical union. If so, this passage makes plain that the male child is “plucked up” (harpazo, the same Greek word used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17) before the woman flees to the wilderness. (The woman represents Israel—an interpretation seldom debated among scholars today.)

Let’s review the passage:

“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: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder 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 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” (Revelation 12:1-6).

Quoting from our book The Revealing, interpreting the meaning of “the great sign”:

“There are three characters in this passage. There is a woman, there is a male child, and there is a fiery red dragon with seven heads and ten horns. No one disputes that the dragon represents the devil or Satan. And almost no scholar doubts that the woman represents Israel. After giving birth to the male child, the woman flees into the wilderness to a special sanctuary prepared by God for her safe keeping (tradition contends this is Petra or Mount Seir). The passage also indicates that the dragon stands ready to devour the male child as soon as he is born. While the woman is preserved by fleeing into the wilderness, the male child is protected from the dragon—he escapes his clutches—through a very special ‘airlift’ rescue. That is, the child is ‘snatched away’ (in the Greek, harpazo—pronounced har-pod-zho), the same word (Strong’s, G276) used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, ‘Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.’

“Revelation 12:5 states that the child will rule the nations with a rod of iron. Surely then, the child is Jesus, for Psalm 2 testifies that the Messiah will rule with a rod of iron. ‘Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel’ (Ps. 2:9). However, if we must make note that Revelation 2:27 has Jesus promising the church at Thyatira they will rule the nations with a rod of iron—with Him. Therefore, we mustn’t jump to the conclusion the male child is just Jesus. When it is snatched up at the Rapture, the church and Christ are then united—they become one. Thus, a full reckoning of the scripture demonstrates that the church reigns and rules with Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:12)—and this includes wielding the “rod of iron.”

Consequently, we are left with a most definite impression that the male child who is plucked up to Heaven is not Jesus Christ (who ascended visibly into the clouds as witnessed by the Apostles), but rather the church of Jesus Christ who becomes fully one with Him. We will see below many highly-regarded and historically significant commentators during the Church Age, who insist this male child comprises the church and its “snatching up” constitutes the Rapture.

My point here: the male child is unquestionably Christ, the Head, and His body, the church. THAT the rapture occurs separately from the woman fleeing to the wilderness holds enormous consequences for the last days.

Who Else Taught “Christ and the Church Together” Comprise the Male Child of Revelation 12?

Gary (last name not identified) at unsealed.org, a prophecy news website, did us a solid. He assembled an amazing list of scholars that concur on the identity of the male child as both Christ and the church united.

Allow me here to provide a very brief summary of ten scholars unsealed.org identified, along with one or two sentences regarding their commentary concerning the identity of the male child:

  • Theodore Beza (b. 1519), student of John Calvin, co-author of The Geneva Bible Commentary, stated: “That is Christ the head of the Church joined with his Church (the beginning root and foundation of which is the same Christ) endued with kingly power and taken up into heaven out of the jaws of Satan (who as a serpent did bite him on the cross) that sitting on the heavenly throne, he might reign over all.”
  • Hanserd Knollys (b. 1599) early Baptist scholar, author of many books, including his Commentary on Revelation said this: “The man child brought forth was Christ, and his saints, the spiritual seed of this mystical woman, the church of the firstborn written in heaven, {Hebrews 12:22-23} the Jerusalem, that is above, which is the mother of us all. {Galatians 4:26} This child was prophesied of {Psalm 2:6-10}. And also, her spiritual seed, the saints {Revelation 12:16-17}. Christ and his saints shall have the dominion over the nations, Daniel 7:27-28 and {Revelation 11:15}.”
  • Matthew Poole (b. 1624) expressed firm conviction that the male child was neither Christ alone, or (as some were then arguing) the first Christian emperor of Rome, Constantine the Great (A.D. 320). In his Latin commentary on Revelation, Poole stated, “It was prophesied of Christ, Psalm 2:9, that he should break the nations with a rod of iron. It is applied to the servants of Christ, who overcome, and keep Christ’s words to the end, Revelation 2:27. So, as it is here applicable to believers, whom the church should bring forth, who shall judge the world, as the apostle tells us; and I had rather thus interpret it, (rather) than concerning Constantine the Great.”
  • Matthew Henry (b. 1662) also stated the identity of the male child clearly and described the Rapture perfectly without using that term. We read from his massive six-volume commentary, “She was safely delivered of a man-child (v. 5), by which some understand Christ, others Constantine, but others, with greater propriety, a race of true believers, strong and united, resembling Christ, and designed, under him, to rule the nations with a rod of iron; that is, to judge the world by their doctrine and lives now, and as assessors with Christ at the great day. Care was taken of this child: it was caught up to God, and to his throne; that is, taken into his special, powerful, and immediate protection.”
  • John Nelson Darby (b. 1800) the progenitor of Dispensationalism (the successor to Restorationism), certainly saw in Revelation 12:5 a powerful affirmation of the Rapture. Said Darby, “If the mighty man, the mystic man, the man-child of Revelation xii. is to act [in judging the world with a rod of iron], He must first be complete (of course He is so, essentially so, in Himself, but as Head over all things to the Church which is His body). The head and the body must be united before He can act as having this title before the world; because the mystic man as a whole cannot take it until the Church is taken up to Him. For not until then—until the Church, the body, is united to the Head, Christ, in heaven—is the mystic man in that sense complete; and therefore, the Church must be taken up before Christ can come in judgment.…”
  • William Kelly (b. 1820), an Irish theologian of the nineteenth century and member of the Plymouth Brethren, argued the same, “On this principle then I cannot but consider that the rapture of the man-child to God and His throne involves the rapture of the church in itself. The explanation why it is thus introduced here depends on the truth that Christ and the church are one, and have a common destiny. Inasmuch as He went up to heaven, so also the church is to be caught up.”
  • G. H. Pember (b. 1845), whose works have become popularized in our day thanks to Chuck Missler and Tom Horn, states firmly that Revelation 12:5 speaks of the church and its Rapture. Moreover, the Rapture must occur before the nephilim reappear during the time of Great Tribulation! Says Pember, “We may mention our conclusion that the birth and rapture of the man child refer to the completion of the mystic Christ—of which the personal Christ is the Head and His Church the body—as manifested by the sudden translation of all waiting saints, whether dead or alive, to meet their Lord in the air. It thus appears that this long-expected event will precede Satan’s banishment from heaven, and, therefore, also its results … and the revelation of the Man of Sin. Like Enoch, the Church of Christ will be called away, before [the] earth is, for a time, abandoned to the Nephilim, before the fearful woes of the end.”
  • Charles Stanley (from the nineteenth century, not the popular preacher in Atlanta present day!), who was a powerful evangelist in England during the nineteenth century, likewise confirmed the identical viewpoint in his book, The Great Tribulation or Time of the End, “Now the church is associated with Christ in this, as it is written in Revelation 2:26. ‘And he that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end; to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron.’ And when Christ comes to exercise this judgment, the church comes with Him (Rev. 19:14-15).So that the full ascension of the man child is complete, when the church, His body, is caught up to be with Him where He is: and to come with Him when He comes.
  • Harry Ironside (b. 1876), a significant personality in the evangelical movement in the twentieth century, wrote explicitly on the topic and declared one’s understanding of Revelation 12:1-6 crucial to rightly understanding the outline of the end times. A lengthy quotation from Ironside: “This, clearly enough, is our Lord Jesus Christ, who is soon to reign over all the earth, and undoubtedly, He is primarily the Man-child who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron, and the special object of Satan’s malignity. But we have already seen, in Rev. 2:26–28, that when He reigns He will not reign alone. … Is there then any incongruity in understanding the man-child to represent both Christ Jesus our Lord and His church? Surely not, for He is the Head of the body, the church, which is the fullness, or completion of Himself, so that the title, ‘The Church’ is applied to both head and body viewed as one in 1 Cor. 12:12. … We may then, on the authority of Scripture itself, safely affirm that the man-child represents the one New Man who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron—Christ, the Head, and the church, His body.”
  • Chuck Missler (b. 1934) remains with us today as one of the revered sages of Bible prophecy, continuing his ministry to the blessing of the Church. Chuck, not long ago, said this about the identity of the male child: “For many, many years as I read verse five I recognized of course that the woman is Israel … the man-child is who? Jesus Christ. And her child was caught up unto God and to his throne. And I just took for granted that was an allusion to what? The ascension, right? It was G. H. Pember I believe, back probably in 1914, he was the first that I encountered at least, that saw this as possibly alluding to something else. Not the ascension, but the rapture. Her child, the Body of Christ, was caught up to God and his throne. That could be an allusion to the ascension, no problem. It also might be an allusion to the Body of Christ caught up in the rapture because the word ‘caught up’ there in the Greek is, guess what? Harpazo. Snatched. The same word that occurs in First Thessalonians chapter four.”

There should be no doubt that Revelation 12:5 is teaching the Rapture of the church and that it is a separate event occurring before the woman flees into the wilderness, and before Satan and his angels are cast out of heaven.

More Recent Commentaries Confirm the Same Truth

In addition to the scholarship of the ten scholars cited above, here are three commentaries we identified in The Revealing, that also confirm the perspective championed here:

  • From the Faith Life Study Bible: “In Revelation, the number 12 is associated with the 12 tribes of Israel and also the 12 apostles as the Church’s foundation (Rev 21:14). Thus, the woman could symbolize the faithful people of God. The Messiah is born from God’s people, Israel, and His work continues with God’s people, the Church.”
  • Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, on Revelation 12:5, voices the same opinion: “And she brought forth a man child—Representing, according to the view above taken, the church in its increase and prosperity—as if a child were born that was to rule over all nations. See the notes on Revelation 12:2. Who was to rule all nations—That is, according to this view, the church thus represented was destined to reign in all the earth, or all the earth was to become subject to its laws. Compare the notes on Daniel 7:13-14” (BibleHub.com).
  • Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, regarding Revelation 12:5 agrees. The male child is the “mystical Christ,” i.e., “his members, who are called by his name.” Reading this statement in context: “And she brought forth a man child. … Not Christ, literally and personally considered, or Christ in his human nature, as made of a woman, and born of a virgin, which was a fact that had been years ago; but Christ mystically, or Christ in his members, who are called by his name, because he is formed in them, and they are the seed of the woman, the churchd” (Ibid.).

Conclusion

The Feast of Trumpets on September 21-23, 2017, did not culminate in the Rapture of the Church. However, the hoopla surrounding “the great sign” of this past month did surface a teaching drawn from Revelation and pictured in the stars above that has been, for the most part, lost to the present-day church. That is, Revelation 12 teaches us the Rapture is a distinct and imminent event. We will be caught up into the clouds BEFORE the woman flees into the wilderness at which time there will be at least 1,260 days before the LORD returns visibly to the world.

And as Gary Huffman and I write in The Revealing, before the church takes on its new duties to administrate God’s cosmos, replacing the “powers and principalities” that occupy the second (and possibly the third) heaven of today, the Rapture must happen FIRST. This truth, given all the debate about when the Rapture occurs during the last days, is one that we need to hear, acknowledge, and incorporate into our beliefs about the second coming of Christ for His church.

It is time to put oil in your lamp, today and every day. We are to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be expectant. “… Behold, the bridegroom cometh …” (Matt. 25:6). For there is a crown awaiting all those who eagerly await the coming of the LORD:

“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).