Thursday, January 7, 2010

Woman vs. Beast: Lessons from JST Revelation 12

I was reading the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible today and I started to understand some symbols that I hadn’t before.
1 And there appeared a great sign in heaven, in the likeness of things on the earth; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. (Revelation 12:1, JST, italics removed in this and all following verses)
Clothed with the sun = celestial glory (in this case it is anticipatory and looking forward to the future with an eye of faith)
The moon under her feet = terrestial kingdom in subjugation to her
Upon her head a crown of twelve stars = led by 12 apostles
(crowns always equal ruling authority)
2 And the woman being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3 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 his throne.
4 And there appeared another sign 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 delivered, ready to devour her child after it was born. (Revelation 12:2-4, JST)
Horns = power to destroy (like a bull can gore you with its horns)
Tail = followers inseparably attached
Ready to devour her child = evil tries to take advantage of goodness, because evil is parasitic. This reminds me of the parable of the sower in which the thorns choke the seed as it springs up.
5 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore years. (Revelation 12:5, JST)
Fled = fleeing temptation
Wilderness = marginalization, difficulty, outcast
Note that even though the woman is in the wilderness, she is in a place God prepared for her, and she is still nourished. Being nourished in the wilderness evokes the story of the miracle of manna from heaven.
6 And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought against Michael;
7 And the dragon prevailed not against Michael, neither the child, nor the woman which was the church of God, who had been delivered of her pains, and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his Christ.
8 Neither was there place found in heaven for the great dragon, who was cast out; that old serpent called the devil, and also called Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into earth; and his angels were cast out with him.
9 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ;
10 For the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11 For they have overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; for they loved not their own lives, but kept the testimony even unto death. Therefore, rejoice O heavens, and ye that dwell in them. (Revelation 12:6-11, JST)
I just have to comment that the same things that allowed us to overcome Satan in the pre-mortal world will help us overcome him in the next:
  • The Atonement
  • Bearing testimony
  • Giving our lives to the truth and giving our lives for the truth
12 And after these things I heard another voice saying, Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, yea, and they who dwell upon the islands of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
13 For when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
14 Therefore, to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might flee 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. (Revelation 12:12-14, JST)
Wings = heavenly power (birds often are used to symbolize angels)
Given two wings of a great eagle that she might flee = given power from heaven to flee temptation (available through the temple)
Note that the idea of being nourished in the wilderness is repeated.
15 And the serpent casteth out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. (Revelation 12:15, JST)
casteth out of his mouth water as a flood = a multitude of rationalizing arguments meant to cause us to stop resisting temptation. Could also represent an environment in which sin is everywhere.
16 And the earth helpeth the woman, and the earth openeth her mouth, and swalloweth up the flood which the dragon casteth out of his mouth. (Revelation 12:16, JST)
The earth swallowing up the flood = the temptations are ineffective.
For the earth to swallow anything large like a flood, there has to be a massive earthquake creating a huge drainage rift. Such an earthquake at the opportune time would be a miracle, so the above phrase could also symbolize unexpected miracles allowing us to escape temptation and sin.
17 Therefore, the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:17, JST)
the dragon was wroth with the woman – evil is angry when good escapes the traps and snares set for it. Anger is a ruling emotion in evil.
The battle continues even though the flood is stopped.

In conclusion, it is evident that the Lord prepares different ways for us to escape Satan during mortality. First we are to fight with our faith in Christ, our testimonies, and with our determination to die for the truth. God gives us heavenly power to flee temptation. In situations where escape is impossible, He works miracles through those who are sympathetic to our concerns to attenuate the intensity of the threat to resistable and escapable proportions. This message is meant to give us courage and hope when the opposition seems overwhelming. It is a testimony that God loves us, feels after us, and wants us to triumph over evil with His help.

Final score?
Woman 2, Beast 0.
Game over.


Clifford said...

Beautifully written -- don't you love it when the deeper meaning of a verse becomes clear to you?

Michaela Stephens said...

Yep, I really get a buzz from discovering new things from the scriptures.

Heather@Women in the Scriptures said...

Thanks for your insights into this scripture. I have recently been thinking alot about these verses. It seems like if you read Revelations enough eventally it all starts to be so incredibly clear. The other way I've been thinking about this scripture is that the woman represents our Heavenly Mother-- the child she bears is Christ (ie. the church) and that the ones Satan is really trying to pick a fight with here on this earth is women because he didn't get a body. Maybe I'll have to develop this all into a blog post and you can tell me more of your thoughts. But thanks so much for your interpretations... they really helped me understand it in a new way.

Michaela Stephens said...

Heatherlady, that's quite an intriguing line of thought. I'd be interested in reading whatever blog post you develop on this idea.

Clifford said...

You know, that would make sense, heatherlady. It is a sad fact that the history of humanity has been an almost universal scene of misogyny, and that even today, some genres of music positively drip with anti-woman venom.

The adversary also has had a field day convincing women themselves that they are incapable, inferior and unattractive; to abort their babies; or to sell themselves cheap for relationships of non-commitment; and to give in, shack up and throw away their precious virtue