Interest in the great sign of Rev. 12:1 that might occur in September, 2017 has led some to speculate: is Rev. 12:5 a picture of the rapture? And if so will Christians be raptured in a few months?
This article will not speculate on the great sign of Rev. 12:1. I promise I will discuss that sign in a future article as I have received a great number of questions about it. Rather this article will focus on Rev. 12:5 which is purported to be a symbol for the rapture of the church:
And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught (harpazo) up to God and to His throne. (Rev. 12:5)
Many are purposing that a pretribulation rapture will occur in conjunction with the great sign which they think will take place in September 2017. This is actually the place to begin. Is the event in Rev. 12:5 a potential rapture. If not, then when we investigate the sign in a later article we will know it has nothing to do with that.
Adding credence to this theory that this is the rapture is a scholarly article that was forwarded to me by a friend who is possibly one of the world’s leading experts on the great sign of Rev. 12:1. The 2004 article is by Dr. Michael Svigel of Dallas Theological Seminary. CHECK IT OUT HERE He asked me to analyse the article.
Dr. Svigel first makes a number of points about possible references to the rapture in the Book of Revelation. I agree with some of his points and strongly disagree with others. I will do a new series on his article examining all the arguments he makes, some of which beg to be refuted. However, this article will focus on the main focus of his article, whether Rev. 12:5 is truly a symbolic representation of the rapture.
Is Rev. 12:5 a picture of the rapture?
Dr. Svigel’s main point is that ” a son, a male (child)” in this verse is both a depiction of Jesus and of the church who are the Body of Christ. In this way when the male child is raptured, it is the entire church that is raptured. Dr. Svigel also assumes that if this is true it will be a pretribulational rapture because it appears to occur prior to the midpoint of the 70th Week.
Dr. Svigel makes this assertion that the “son, a male” is the church because:
- Jesus will grant the overcomers the right to rule the nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 2:26-27)
- all the symbols in the prophecy are corporate; the woman is Israel, the “son, a male” is the church, and the dragon is Satan and all of his evil world empires.
- that the reason the “son, a male” is corportate is that Isa. 66:6-9 refers to this event and depicts all of Spiritual Israel
- harpazo is a poor word choice for the ascension of Jesus
We will examine all of thse points individually.
Jesus Grants the Overcomers the right to rule the nations with a rod of Iron
Jesus does grant the overcomers this right in Rev. 2:26-27.
The traditional view of Rev. 12:5 is that this passage refers to Jesus and only to Jesus and that quote of Psalm 2 about ruling with a rod of iron proves that. Dr. Svigel’s point is that the reference to ruling with a rod of iron will be granted to those that overcome. They will rule the nations with a rod of iron in the Millennial Kingdom. On this point Dr. Svigel is correct.
The word “son” in Rev. 12:5 also comes from Psalm 2. It is the first time Jesus is referred to as the Son of God in the Bible:
But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’ (Psalm 2:6-9)
This Psalm was identified with Jesus in Acts 4, so the traditional interpretation is absolutely correct that Jesus is the Son (obviously). It is important to notice, however, that this is a SINGULAR reference not a corporate reference and this obviously is the reference to “son” because of the “rod of iron” reference in the same passage.
This strongly suggests that “son, a male” is also a SINGULAR not corporate reference, but we need to continue and to examine the “a male” portion of the reference.
Dr. Svigel then discusses the birth of the “son, a male” and suggests it is the birth that is recorded in Isa. 66. To him this is very significant because the one given birth to is a nation, a corporate birth. However, let’s look at the actual passage:
Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy. (Isa. 66:7)
It should be obvious to all that this is not the same birth as Rev. 12:1-5. This birth takes place BEFORE the woman travails, but Rev. 12’s birth is one of travail and pain. Whether Isa. 66 speaks of a corporate birth or not, it isn’t the same birth as Rev. 12 so that is immaterial! The correct Old Testament reference is earlier in Isaiah:
And as a woman in travail draws nigh to be delivered, and cries out in her pain; so have we been to thy beloved. We have conceived, O Lord, because of thy fear, and have been in pain, and have brought forth the breath (spirit) of thy salvation. (Isa. 26:17-18 LXX)
As readers of Revelation Deciphered know, John quotes from the Septuagint Old Testament in Revelation. And this is obviously the passage he was referring to in Rev. 12. The woman cries out in pain and is in travail. Please notice who is born as the result of this birth: “thy beloved” and “the spirit of the thy salvation.” This is Jesus. He is God’s beloved and the spirit of salvation. John is telegraphing that Israel (who is talking in this verse) will be as a woman in labor. They will bring forth the Messiah, God’s beloved, and the spirit (pneuma) of salvation. This is again a very SINGULAR birth of the one and only Son of God.
Isa. 66 and the birth without labor is considered the rebirth of Israel in 1948 by most scholars. Something totally different than what is depicted in Rev. 12.
The reference to “a male” is found in the New Testament and, not surprisingly, it is from the nativity of Jesus!
And she gave birth to her firstborn son . . . Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord (Luke 2:7,23)
“Son” and “male” are found in the same extended passage. This is also a very SINGULAR reference and not corporate by any means. This does not completely discount Dr. Svigel’s theory, but it is getting weaker with each point we examine.
By the way, if you read all of Svigel’s article, you will notice a he discusses the “gender” of “a son” at some length. He assumes the word “a male” is an adjective as in “a male son.” This leads to “Gender confusion” in his mind but that is not correct. The words are both nouns as in “a son, a male.” One is masculine and one is neuter. Nothing more and nothing less.
Are All the Symbols are Corporate?
Dr. Svigel then continues to make the point that “the son, a male” is the church as well as it is Jesus because all the symbols in Rev. 12:1-5 depict individuals and corporate groups. He asserts the woman is both Mary and Spiritual Israel. I agree with him wholeheartedly. Please see my article on Who is the Woman of Rev. 12.
He also asserts that the Dragon is both Satan and the evil world empires that have comprised the heads and horns of the dragon. I don’t agree with him. First, Rev. 12 clearly identifies the dragon as “the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” Satan has controlled the evil world empires but by no means are they the dragon. Additionally, Rev. 12 clearly identifies the dragon as a single spiritual being, the devil who has evil angels under his command. The dragon and the angels will be thrown out of heaven. The evil world empires will not be thrown down and they don’t control evil angels. They are not the dragon and it is not a corporate symbol.
Harpazo and the Ascension
Rev. 12:5 mentions a harpazo, a snatching up, of the “son, a male.” Traditional theory has claimed this is the ascension of Jesus. Dr. Svigel goes into great depths to say that harpazo is a poor choice of words for the ascension. He does this to claim that this harpazo is the rescue of the church from the clutches of Satan and not the ascension. I’m sure Dr. Svigel considers this the strongest point in his argument. He even includes a table which shows all the various translated meanings of harpazo in the Septuagint and the New Testament to support his point.
Unfortunately, Dr. Svigel misapplies a very, very important use of harpazo found in Hosea. It is one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. Because of this I will insert the “snatched up” definition of harpazo in Brenton’s Septuagint translation as opposed to what he chose:
Wherefore I am as a panther to Ephraim, and as a lion to the house of Judah: and I will [snatch up myself], and go away; and I will take, and there shall be none to deliver. I will go and return to my place, until they are brought to naught, and then shall they seek my face. (Hosea 5:14-15 LXX)
I have a future article on this verse and the verses that follow it planned for later this summer. However for our purposes now, Look at this passage! It is the source reference for the “Lion from the Tribe of Judah” found in Rev. 5:5. Notice that it clearly references Jesus being “snatched up” (harpazo); a process that Jesus does himself! (future middle imperative). This explains Dr. Svigel’s issues with Jesus being snatched up. The Holy Son of God carries out the process himself.
The verse then further clarifies that it’s Jesus because he will return to heaven until the Jewish remnant are brought to nothing by the Antichrist and then they shall seek Jesus’s face. (They will see his face in Rev. 6:17!)
So harpazo is clearly a word that can and should be associated with Jesus’s ascension. Dr. Svigel’s fourth argument is totally invalid.
The Body of Christ
Dr. Svigel goes into a great deal of postulating that the rapture of Christ in Rev. 12:5 is also the rapture of the Body of Christ (the church) symbolically. The church is referred to as the Body, but Jesus is the head and He was snatched up 2000 years ago. The Body can’t be snatched up without its Head, symbolically! So this symbolism is very weak and not a proof at all. Jesus is the one and only Son of God.
What About the Dragon?
Now that we have exhausted all of Dr. Svigel’s arguments, we need to continue to explore this passage because there is more evidence to disprove his theory. In the expanded prophecy of Rev. 12:1-5, there are three characters. We have seen that Spiritual (True) Israel is the “woman” and that Satan is the “dragon.”
Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. (Rev. 12:3-4)
Dr. Svigel does not discuss these verses in the context of his theory, but they are very relevant. He does not explain what the “birth” of the Son is in an eschatological sense or why Satan is waiting for that moment to devour the Son after his birth. Why is the Son more vulnerable after this birth?
Rev. 12:4 makes perfect sense in the nativity narrative of Jesus. Herod attempted to kill Jesus immediately after his birth. This passage makes no sense in terms of the 70th Week. What is the birth that would take place before the 70th Week that makes the church more vulnerable? Why is Satan is waiting?
In order to take the enormous leap to say this passage symbolizes the rapture of the church, one must fill in all the blank spaces. Rev. 12:4 is a huge blank space in Dr. Svigel’s theory.
But the Church is mentioned
Although Dr. Svigel wishes us to believe that the Son is a symbol for the church, but a very real and tangible mention of Christians is found later in this chapter:
So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Rev. 12:17)
Dr. Svigel argues that these are the mythical Tribulation Saints of the pretribulation rapture theory. If they are, they will be great heroes of the faith:
And they overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. (Rev. 12:11)
The same testimony n verse 17 is found in verse 11. It is this testimony that overcomes Satan! In fact testimony is a key ingredient of the end times, it is mentioned 9 times in Revelation and in each version of the Olivet Discourse (Matt., Mark, Luke). If the pretribulation rapture is true, why does God take his saints from the earth and give the job of testimony to these “Tribulation saints” during the greatest need for testimony in history? Is the current church inadequate for the job?
It also doesn’t answer why God would choose a oblique symbol for the church in verse 5 and yet specifically mention Christians in literal terms in verse 17.
The Rest of the Story
If Rev. 12 existed in a vacuum without the rest of the Bible, Dr. Svigel’s theory might be possible, highly, highly unlikely but possible. Fortunately we do not have to guess. Revelation contains several other references to the rapture, a prewrath rapture, that are solid and fairly indisputable. We will examine them in the next several installments in this series.