ESV - 1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
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I would say that the twelve stars mentioned as being in the woman's crown (as representative of the twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament, and then of the twelve apostles of Christ in the New Testament) indicate that she is a symbol of God's elect -- first as Israel in Old Testament times, and then (in the New Testament) as the church of those who have placed faith in Christ for salvation.
This woman, the woman of Revelation 12:1, symbolizes Israel. Israel birthed Christ, gave Christ to the world (see Revelation 12:5 ("So the woman gave birth to a son, a male child, who is going to rule over all the nations with an iron rod.") The woman (Israel) will endure intense persecution (Rev. 12:13), and I know the Tribulation Period is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble.” (Jeremiah 30:7)
When reading the Bible we always have to remember the literal meaning of the passage as well as the figurative or deeper meaning of the passage. When writing Revelation, St. John the apostle is on the island of Patmos and he is granted the ability to look through the door of heaven and observe what happens there. While looking into Heaven he saw “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant...” This woman gave birth to “ a son who would rule all nations with an iron scepter.” So before we move to the deeper meaning, we have to understand the literal meaning. Who is the male child that rules all nations? Jesus Christ, of course. Who is the woman gave birth to Jesus Christ? Mary, of course. So on the literal level, this is Mary and Jesus. Now we can move to the deeper/figurative meaning. The woman in this passage has also been known to be interpreted as The Church. Specifically, it represents The Church that is persecuted by the workings of the devil (the dragon). The Church is preserved, though, because there is a “place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of...” Additionally, the Church’s offspring are “those who keep Gods commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” I hope this helps! It’s also good advice for the entire Bible: figure out the literal meaning first before we interpret. If we don’t have a literal foundation then we can’t get the interpretation right.
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