J. Vernon McGee writes, “When the Pilgrims sailed for America, their pastor at Leyden reminded them, ‘The Lord has more truth yet to break forth from His Holy Word . . . Luther and Calvin were great shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated not the whole counsel of God. . . Be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you from the written word of God.’ The 20th century has witnessed a renewed interest in eschatology (doctrine of last things), especially since World War I. Great strides have been made in the field of prophecy during the past two decades. Indeed new light has fallen upon this phase of Scripture. All of this attention has focused the light of deeper study on the book of Revelation.”
(12.1-2) 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:
2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
1. “The crux of the interpretation of the entire book of Revelation revolves about this point. Who is the woman? The heresy of Rome, which makes the woman represent the Virgin Mary, is well known. Unfortunately, many able expositors in the Protestant tradition did not depart from this method, but made instead the woman to represent the church of all ages. Practically all denominational literature follows this line.”
2. Several female founders of cults have claimed to be the woman in this passage. Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science cult, claimed to be this woman. She also taught that the child that she brought forth was Christian Science.
3. Let me remind you of my personal presupposition with regard to the book of the Revelation. I assume, and I am willing to state it to you as an assumption, that symbols and symbolic language in this book, as well as in other books of the Bible where symbolism is used, are used to reveal truth not to conceal truth.
4. Think about it for a moment. If God truly intended to conceal truth from us by means of symbols, would it not be easier for Him to simply make no reference to these things in the Bible, to leave them out, to make no mention of them? That God resorts to the use of symbols and imagery may mean that literal language cannot successfully convey the truth God wants to provide in the way He wants it provided. Therefore, He resorts to symbols.
5. In this verse, the first of two great signs is mentioned in Revelation chapter 12. Let us ask some questions: First, where will this first sign appear and who will witness it? John writes, “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven.” Apparently, the great wonder will be observed only by those in heaven, not those still living on earth at this future time.
6. Second question: Who are the characters in this great wonder? That is, who do these symbolic figures represent? The main character of the great wonder is, of course, the woman. The minor character in this wonder is the child she is with. Amillennialists and postmillennialists take this woman to be the universal invisible church, with the twelve stars being the twelve apostles, and the child representing new converts. But we have already established that this portion of the Revelation does not deal with the church, but with the nation of Israel. Consider the woman first.
7. She is “clothed with the sun.” The moon is “under her feet.” On her head is “a crown of twelve stars.” This is obviously a passage loaded with symbolism. No one wears the sun for a dress, or uses the moon for sandals or a foot stool, or uses stars for a tiara. But there is a passage in the Old Testament which provides a striking clue to identify the woman. Genesis 37.9-11:
9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.
10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?
11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.
8. In this dream of Joseph’s, Jacob recognized the sun and the moon to be him and his wife Leah, Joseph’s mother Rachel having died in childbirth by this time. The eleven stars were recognized to be Joseph’s brothers. The sun, moon, and twelve stars seem to me to be an obvious reference to the nation of Israel, then, since Jacob is Israel.
9. What about the minor character in this vision? Who is this child the woman is laboring to deliver? Obviously, it has to be the Lord Jesus Christ. Recognize that this is symbolism, and we cannot press the details too far. If we can recognize such limitations, then we can understand that John is describing a dramatic scene in heaven, a wonder.
10. “The woman as the nation of Israel is seen travailing in birth and awaiting delivery of her child. Frequently in Scripture the nation Israel is pictured in the tribulation time as going through great trial and affliction. Though, historically, the nation gave birth to Christ through the Virgin Mary, the implication of verse 2 is that the references are to the sufferings of Israel as a nation rather than to the historic birth of Christ. It may refer to the sufferings of the nation in general over its entire troublesome history. If strictly interpreted, it may signify the travail of Israel at the time of the first coming of Christ as borne out by verses 3 and 4.”
 J. Vernon McGee, Reveling Through Revelation, Part II, (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Books, 1979), page III.
 Ibid., page 1.
 Lehman Strauss, The Book Of The Revelation, (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1963), page 228.
 Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), firstname.lastname@example.org, and Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), email@example.com, and Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), firstname.lastname@example.org
 John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 188.