“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.” – Revelation 12:1
The Book of Revelation is the record of a vision given to the Apostle John. Visions play an important role in the Old Testament story. We are, perhaps, most familiar with the visions granted to Abraham, Balaam, Elisha, and Daniel. Visions were the means by which the Lord revealed many important truths to mankind.
The natural world exists and lives from the spiritual world, just as the body has form and lives from the soul which is within. Vision is sight into this spiritual world. The ability to see into that world is an important and holy gift, granted at times for the welfare of the human race. Thus it is said in the days of Eli: “And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.” And in Proverbs we read: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” To assure us of the existence of the spiritual world and thus sustain our knowledge of heaven, to give us an insight into that inner world of causes whence come the influences which change and renew this outer world of human society – these are some of the objectives of vision, and where these are not maintained, the people perish.
The visions which were given to John in Patmos were given to show him, and everyone through him, the state of the church as it would be in the later days, a state which we have seen in part realized. So he was commanded, “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”
The Book of Revelation tells of the conflict that will come before the Lord’s love and wisdom shall be enthroned on the earth. It is the conflict between the Lord and His angels on the one side, and the dragon and his hosts on the other. The conflict goes on until it is proclaimed, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
The vision of the woman clothed with the sun follows this announcement. A woman has ever been the chief symbol of the Church. The relation between the Lord and His Church is most perfectly represented by the relation between a true husband and a faithful wife. Thus it is written in Isaiah, “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called.” Here it is evident that the Lord is considered as the Divine husband, and the Church as His bride and wife.
The woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet is the symbol of the New Church. It is clothed with the Divine love and rests upon faith in the Lord. The twelve stars, as a crown upon her head, picture the glory of the truths which she possesses concerning spiritual things. She is in pain to bring forth children to picture the persecutions and afflictions which the Church would undergo in performing her true use.
The sun is the center of our solar system. Divine love is the center of the spiritual universe. The sun warms and gives life to the world of nature. The Divine love is the source of warmth and light in the heavens of angels and to everyone in this world who is seeking heaven. The sun is an attracting center, preventing the planets from whirling lawlessly away to destruction. The Divine love holds all who receive it within its influence, and keeps them from drifting away from the Lord and happiness to their own self-hood and destruction.
The sun is the natural cause of all the flowers and fruits of the earth. Without it the earth would be cold, cheerless, and barren. The soul is cold and barren until the Divine love warms, cheers, and quickens the affections. So of the Church in its purity it is written, “The Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.”
“The moon was under her feet.” The two great lights are mentioned in the first chapter of the Word, the greater to rule the day and the lesser to rule the night. The soul has its nights as well as its days. There are periods of obscurity and darkness that alternate with those of brightness and joy. It is day when all is cheerful, bright, and happy with us. We see our course clearly, and we can work while it is day. But nights come. Sometimes the night comes as a calm and friendly one, a time for rest. We cannot always soar in lofty heights, for we are finite. Our limited powers tire; we need rest and restoration. “So he giveth his beloved sleep.” And in Mark, “So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.” Day and night are necessary in spiritual things as they are in nature.
Times of worship are our daytime, when the mind is opened to the beauties of the Word. It is full day when in the sunlight of the Lord we feel as did the Apostles, “Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias,” teaching us that we should make a place for the Lord in the heart, mind, and life.
When we are engaged in our natural occupations, our thoughts and feelings are turned away from spiritual things. We are not in conscious thought about the Lord, but we are not without light. The moon is the symbol of faith. It rules the night. Like nature’s moon, which shines by borrowed light, it gives evidence that the sun still shines though it is not seen. So faith still speaks of the Lord’s love. It brightens our night. Faith tells us about the Lord, about His love, about heaven and its blessedness.
When the spirit feels its sin, faith like the little Hebrew maid in Syria says, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria!” When the soul is surrounded by enemies, faith says with Elisha, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” When we are sad, our faith may still be bright: “The Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.”
A clear, firm, rational faith will enable those of the church to stand firm under every temptation and to conquer in every conflict. Upon this rock the Lord builds His church, and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
There was “upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” Stars are symbols of spiritual truths. So the twelve stars represent all the knowledges of Divine things. The number twelve is the symbol of completeness in truth. There were twelve foundations of the Holy City. The Holy City is called “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” This is to teach us that to the Church have been revealed the truths of the Word. All the knowledges of goodness and truth are to her as stars. They are about her head as a diadem; they are the crowning glory of her intellect. So should these truths be to us the glory of our minds.
This vision is a vision of the Church as it was at length to be made actual in the world. The man child to be born is the new system of Christian teachings, in which knowledge would take the place of mystery, and love to the Lord would supplant the love of self. Instead of mystery there shall be light, light on all things, which will abolish duplicity and subterfuge of every kind, light upon all the paths and works of life.
The two great sources of mischief are selfishness and mystery, and it is to be expected that there will be hostility to the new truth. So there are those who seek to destroy this new truth as soon as it is born in the mind. But mystery, and evil which loves mystery are to go. Love to the Lord will be the ruling love. All virtues spring from it, and it is the source of all happiness and peace. And as love to the Lord, faith in Him, and knowledge of His laws are established in the earth, men will no longer wear themselves out in the struggle for existence, or harass and destroy their neighbors. Then the prophecy will be fulfilled:
“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”