POST OVERVIEW. (4th post)A continuation of post #617 (1/31/2023) investigating specific occurrences of the “42 months” in Revelation 11-13 (also in Daniel 7:25 and 12:7). This post looks specifically at Rev. 12:6 and Rev. 12:14.
In our last post (#617, 1/30/2023), we had begun carefully examining several occurrences of the “42 months” to get a clearer picture of these events near the end of the age, and now we will continue that work by looking at Rev. 12:6 and 12:14.
Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. – Revelation 12:6
But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she *was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. – Revelation 12:14
Since these two verses evidently describe the same event, we will interpret them simultaneously. That is, we will consider information in either verse as being useful for interpreting both verses. We see that both verses tell of a woman who flees into the wilderness to a place where she is nourished for “42 months.” How do we interpret what this means?
THE WOMAN. We will begin by identifying the woman. She is introduced in Rev. 12:1 wearing a crown of twelve stars. The woman then gives birth to a male child (12:5). This is obviously the Incarnation. Jesus completes His work and then “was caught up to God and to His throne” (12:5), which describes His ascension, so that by the end of 12:5, we are at basically the same place as we are in 5:6, when the Lamb arrives back in heaven. But who is “the woman?” The woman is a symbol for true Israel or the elect. Here in Rev. 12:1-5, the woman represents the Old Testament people of God. Thus, the twelve stars (12:1) represent the twelve tribes.
But “the woman” also appears during the “42 months” (12:6, 14) in the time shortly before the coming of Jesus at the end of the age. The woman is persecuted by the dragon (12:13) after the dragon (the serpent, Satan) is thrown down to the earth, “having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time” (Rev. 12:12). In other words, here in 12:6 and 12:13-17, “the woman” represents the church. Therefore, throughout this chapter, the woman is a symbol for true Israel or the elect, representing as she does the entire people of God.
THE OTHER SYMBOLS. So, if in 12:6 and 12:13-17, “the woman” represents the church, what do the other symbols mean? Let me begin this exploration with an observation. We know that the “42 months” appears seven times in Scripture. In all the other passages which mention the “42 months,” the people of God are persecuted and must endure suffering. In Dan. 7:25, the little horn wears down the saints. In Dan. 12:7, the holy people will be shattered. In Rev. 11:2, “the holy city” (the church) is tread underfoot. In Rev. 11:7, the beast overcomes and kills “the two witnesses” (the church). And in Rev. 13:7, again, the beast overcomes the saints. But in Rev. 12:6 and 12:14, even though “the woman” must flee into “the wilderness,” she does not suffer and is not killed in this “place,” but instead is “nourished.” The woman is just as faithful as “the saints” and “the holy people” and “the holy city” and “the two witnesses,” but in God’s sovereignty, one portion of the church suffers greater and more dangerous persecution while another portion suffers less. Paul wrote, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12), and Jesus sends His whole church out “as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. 10:16). So, all disciples are willing to suffer and die for Jesus, but, according to God’s divine sovereignty, not all will. Some will flee into the wilderness to their place to be nourished, away from the presence of the serpent (Rev. 12:14).
FAITHFUL CHURCHES AND A PLACE IN THE WILDERNESS
Now we should consider Jesus’ letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. Among these seven churches, only two, Smyrna and Philadelphia, were faithful and received no rebuke and no call for repentance from the Lord. Smyrna represents the suffering church, the church that is imprisoned and tested and has tribulation. Jesus commands them, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (2:10). By contrast, the church at Philadelphia is presented with an open door and to them Jesus promises, “I will keep you from the hour of testing which is about to come upon the whole world” (3:10). In this context, “the hour of testing” refers to the great tribulation of the church (Rev. 7:14). The point is that one faithful church goes through tribulation and testing, while another faithful church is kept from that same testing. One faithful church goes through the fire while another flees into the wilderness to be nourished. As Philadelphia displays the church that the Lord, in His sovereignty, delivers from testing, so some of the church will be allowed to flee into the wilderness to be nourished during the 42 months.
Thus, the general meaning of Rev. 12:6 and 12:14 reveals that, during the 42 months, not all the church will be subject to deadly persecution. In Matthew 24:22, our Lord declares that the days of the great tribulation will be cut short “for the sake of the elect.” Clearly implied here is that some of the church will be spared and will remain alive until the coming of the Lord. We know that is the case because Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 4:17 that there are some “who are alive and remain” and in 1 Cor. 15:51, the apostle tells us that “we will not all sleep.” Some, therefore, will be able to flee to a place of safety in the wilderness. The “place” here may not be a physical place but may be speaking of a place of spiritual safety. The “wilderness” suggests that the church must seek refuge away from the land of abundance and fruitfulness. There in the wilderness the church finds nourishment and she is sustained by the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. The physical comforts are few but there is safety in the barren place where no one wants to go. And so the church stays under the radar and is nourished during the “42 months” as she awaits her King’s coming.
Having investigated the seven occurrences of the “42 months,” we now want to consider all these passages together and see what they teach us about the end times. That will be the purpose of our next blog post in this series.
Soli Deo gloria rmb 2/18/2023 #624