Summary: This article was written and published on Dec. ’16. When a woman is used as an allegory in scripture, it always refers to a corporate religious entity in an established or set condition. This is true in all of scripture. The book of Revelation is a great example of this allegorical use. This book has four different female figures used as prophetic types – it becomes important to the overall understanding of the entire book that we discover, by the Spirit of God, what are the antitypes which these four woman represent. Again, if you read further, possibly a greater level of concentration may be required of you than what you give to reading the local newspaper. Hover your mouse over the scripture references in blue – this really is a great study tool that saves you time.
There are many figures and types in the book of Revelation. They all represent something other than their literal meaning. In a sense, this is what makes the book both interesting and difficult. It does one no good to hold the wrong interpretation of a type – mistakes like this only lead on to greater error and confusion. It is important to know the proper meaning of types and figures, especially when studying bible prophecy. The book of Revelation is a book of prophecy filled with prophetic figures.
There are four women mentioned in the book of Revelation – Jezebel (Rev. 2:20); a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars (Rev. 12:1); the great harlot (Rev. 17:1); and the wife of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7). They are all figures representing a significant corporate body. When a woman is used as a figure in God’s word, it always represents a religious or ecclesiastical entity.
Jezebel is found in the fourth message given by Jesus at the beginning of the book. This message is directed to the angel of the church in Thyatira (Rev. 2:18). But there are other important truths needed to understand the context, before we get to her meaning. The book is divided into three sections. We find Jezebel’s name mentioned in the second division of the book, referred to as “the things which are.” (Rev. 1:19) This section contains all seven messages to the churches (Rev. 2 and Rev. 3). The breakdown of the three divisions is this
1. “the things which you have seen” – this is chapter one. It contains the vision John has in chapter one. There Jesus is presented as on the earth, walking among the candlesticks. He is seen as both the Son of Man and the Ancient of days. This is slightly different than what is seen in the book of Daniel (Dan. 7:13), where the Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days. In John, the Spirit merges the two together as one. There are some significant figures to be understood even here in the first chapter. Without getting into lengthy explanations, let us mention them quickly. The number “seven” prophetically means whole or complete. The seven churches (Rev. 1:11) represent the whole external body of Christendom. The seven candlesticks represent the whole corporate responsibility of this professing body. The seven messages from the Son of Man represents the judgment of Christendom in seven different epics of time as it passed through its whole entire history on the earth – the seven epics or states together making its complete history. The things which you have seen are the Son of Man in the midst of the candlesticks. The vision is on the earth. The Son of Man has His garment down to His feet and girded about the chest (Rev. 1:13). This is not Jesus girding Himself with a tile about His waist, and washing feet (John 13:4). It is not Jesus serving the church as its High Priest, constantly making intercession for us and washing the defilement of this world from us. Rather, this is the One to whom all judgment was given, even the Son of Man (John 5:27), who is here judging the works of Christendom. He is among the candlesticks to see how bright the testimony of the professing church is to His glory and name.
2. “the things which are” – this is the second division and consists of chapter two and three of the book; this is exclusively the seven messages to the churches. The “seven churches” is a figure for the whole of Christendom. Together, the seven messages encompass the entire history of Christendom on the earth. It is the judgment of Christendom’s works, of all that it has become in the hands of men, all that man has built on the earth in Christianity, and all men have done in the name of Jesus Christ. It is the judgment of God concerning man’s corporate responsibility for the public testimony of the glory of Christ (who is sitting hidden from the world at the right hand of God). This corporate responsibility is held by Christendom during the time of the Christian dispensation. The candlestick belongs to the body of professing Christianity – all that professes faith in Jesus Christ. The Son of Man walking in the midst of the candlesticks is judging the brightness of the light being given off to this dark world. Important to remember is that the light is connected to the corporate body and represents the corporate responsibility of the whole of Christendom together. This is what is being judged; the messages to the churches is not the judgment of individuals or personal responsibility.
3. “the things which will take place after this” – this third division is the largest section of the book and consists of chapter four through to the beginning of the ending salutation (Rev. 22:6-21). This section is properly the prophetic portion of the book, because it is the things which will take place after the things which are (the second section above); The things which are, or the present things, involve the history and judgment of Christendom. The things which will take place after this, or future things, involve God’s judgment of the world, including the Jews as part of the world. God’s dealings with the earth, with the Jews, and concerning His government of the earth, are the defining characteristics of bible prophecy.
Jezebel is the only one of the four women figures that are in the second division of the book. Her interpreted meaning must have to do with the development and history of Christendom in the Christian dispensation. When we look at the seven messages in their order, we see there is decline and decay of the professing body testified of by God in the first message (Rev. 2:1-7). Christendom had forgotten its first love and had fallen from its first position. It is told to repent and return to its first place (do the first works). God had provided the first position in sovereign grace, and this is represented by Pentecost and the demonstrations of His power shortly after. But all things that begin as a sovereign work of God, must pass over to the care and responsibility of men. What did men do with it, once it was given into their hands? Ephesus represents the state of Christendom when John, the last living apostle, was banished to Patmos. It is the post-apostolic church world.
The first four messages represent a progression of Christendom through three successive states or epics (Rev. 2:1-17), only to end in the condition of the fourth (Thyatira, Rev. 2:18-29). The picture painted for us by the Holy Spirit is of the further decline and corruption of Christendom through consecutive epics of its history. Ephesus is the post-apostolic church world and its departure from its first position. Jesus threatens to come quickly and remove its candlestick from its place (Rev. 2:5). Smyrna is the discipline God allows in the form of external worldly persecution engineered by Satan to get Christendom to repent and return to its first place. This was Christendom in persecution under the Roman empire in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Pergamos is the epic when Christianity was made the official religion of the empire under Constantine’s edict – Christ’s message is how the world enters into the professing church. In Smyrna, the evil was bringing persecution from outside; in Pergamos, the corruption and evil is now within.
This brings the history of Christendom to the fourth epic – Thyatira and Jezebel. The woman used as a figure represents an established ecclesiastical state in its full result. In the previous epic (Pergamos) the male figure of Balaam was used, depicting the active energy of evil and corruption entering in through false doctrine and teachings (II Pet. 2:15, Rev. 2:14). But now Jesus switches to the use of a female in figure, indicating that in the Thyatira state there is the settled, established condition of evil, corruption, and worldliness in the professing church – Jezebel is birthing her own children in Christendom (Rev. 2:23). She is the Roman Catholic church in all her idolatries, worldly riches, false doctrines, and corruptions. She is the head and leading force of Christendom.
This fourth church finishes the straight-line prophetic progression of Christendom. The first three churches progress one after the other until the history arrives at the fourth church. Jezebel became established around the 6th century, and has continued on in this form, in all her earthly glory, even to this day. She thrives and prospers as Romanism to the end of the age. In the message to Thyatira, Jesus predicts she will see her judgment and end in the future tribulation (Rev. 2:22). There should be no doubt what the Jezebel figure represents.
The next figure we want to consider is the woman in John’s vision in Revelation twelve (Rev. 12). She is clothed with the sun – supreme authority; with the moon under her feet – all legal ordinances and law in her possession; on her head a garland of twelve stars – complete administrative subordinate authority in man (the twelve sons of Jacob, the twelve tribes of Israel). In the vision, this woman represents the nation of Israel in the counsels and purposes of God. In the last verse of chapter eleven we see the ark of the covenant in God’s temple in heaven (Rev. 11:19). Everything in that verse is an association with the nation of Israel – the ark, the temple, lightnings and thunderings, etc. bring the remembrance of Mt. Sinai. Actually, this verse is misplaced; it starts an entirely new vision for John, and should be the first verse of chapter twelve.
In this chapter (Rev. 12) we get the thoughts and counsels of God. All through, this vision is from God’s perspective and not man’s (eventually I will develop this perspective in greater detail in another article, but the details of other objects and events in this chapter, and even those found in chapters thirteen and fourteen, are not the subject of this writing). Biblical prophecy is about Israel, the earth, and the principle of God’s government of the earth. This chapter gives us all three of the defining characteristics of prophetic writing – first, the woman is the nation of Israel; second, as for the earth, the dragon and his angels are cast down to the earth, where he turns to persecute the woman, who possesses God’s earthly calling – her place is in the wilderness, which is the world (Rev. 12:13), and also notice the great association of the earth with the women as used of God to help her (Rev. 12:14-16); third, the central theme and focus of the chapter is the government of the earth according to God’s counsels – the male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 12:5), and everything Satan does to hinder and oppose the counsels of God from coming to pass.
There is another prophetic detail that helps us identify the woman as Israel. The counting of time in scripture is only associated with Israel and the earth. Notice both verses six and fourteen of the chapter – the one thousand two hundred and sixty days, and a time and times and half a time both indicate 3 ½ years of time. This is the last half of the future tribulation, a time known as Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7). The dragon and his angels have been cast down to the earth, and he has great rage, for he knows his time is short (Rev. 12:12-13). This will be the most terrible and horrific time every known to man (Dan. 12:1). Jesus said, “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” (Matt. 24:22) His shortening of the days refers to the last half of the tribulation only lasting 3 ½ years; His elect mentioned in Matthew are the end-time Jewish remnant God seals in the tribulation period (Rev. 7:1-8). One of the characteristics of the nation of Israel is that they are only ever saved through tribulation. They must be delivered through judgments for them to have their proper place in the earth – they are the earthly calling of God.
Now we move to consider the last two women on our list: the great harlot, Mystery Babylon (Rev. 17:1-6), and the wife of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7, 21:9). These two have an association with each other in the way of an antagonistic relationship. What is their connection? One is the bride of the Lamb, while the other pretends to be so. One has heaven as her home, while the other has the earth, and embraces the world to gain earthly riches and comfort. One is true and will have her place with God and the Lamb forever; the other is false because of her great pretentions, and is judged and destroyed by God on the earth during the future tribulation. The one rejoices and celebrates in heaven upon seeing the other judged and destroyed below (Rev. 19:1-4). Remembering that a female used as a figure in scripture will always refer to an established religious corporate entity, the wife of the Lamb is the true church, the body of Christ; the great harlot is Christendom on the earth, headed by Romanism.
There are many subtle, or not so subtle, details which bring us to these conclusions. Any believer familiar with Ephesians five knows that the bride or wife of Christ is used there as a figure of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:22-32). Actually, the type used by Paul is that of Adam and Eve, the first man and his wife (Eph. 5:31). This is also validated in Romans, where the first Adam is said to be type of Him who was to come – Jesus Christ, the second Adam (Rom. 5:12-14). If Adam is type of Christ, then Eve is type of the church – the wife of the second Adam. These types are only valid in viewing Adam and Eve in their relationship to each other before Adam’s disobedience and fall. We see at the end of the book of Revelation (Rev. 22:17) the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Who can doubt that this is the Holy Spirit and the church together responding to the words of Jesus in the ending salutation of the book?
As we have seen all through the above examples, in prophetic language and allegories, the female will always represent a religious entity. Below is as complete a listing of examples as I can think of, not only from Revelation, but other places in Scripture.
· Jezebel is the form that the professing corporate church took on, known as Roman Catholic, in and around the fifth century (Rev. 2). It took some time for her to fully develop all her false doctrines, idolatries, and corruptions, and for her to gain her influence with and over the civil kings of the Roman earth. She has done so with persistence. The official edicts of the Roman Empire in 313 and 380 helped pave the way for Christendom to more easily gain her worldly influence and wealth.
· In Revelation 12, the woman in the heavens is Israel as seen in the counsels of God, and when on the earth in that vision she is the Jewish remnant in the last days.
· As is the one above, the widow before the judge in Luke 18 is the elect Jewish remnant in the tribulation period crying out for vengeance against their enemies (Luke 18:1-8).
· The bride of the Lamb is a prophetic symbol representing the true church, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ. This has an obvious ecclesiastical meaning.
· Sarah and Hagar are used as types representing stark differences between Christianity and Judaism in their comparison in Galatians 4:21-5:4.
· Eve in the garden before the fall is a type of the church. The body of Christ is bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh (Eph. 5:29-32). The church is united to the second Adam, as Eve was to the first Adam. Adam is a type of the second Adam, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:14). The type is always a lesser value or reality than the substance that fulfills it. Adam as a type of Christ and Eve as his help-meet has remarkable symbolism of the future glory of Christ and the church found with Him in that glory (Col. 3:4).
· Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, is a type of the church. This is after Isaac was offered up by his father, where he becomes a type of Christ raised from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19).
All the above females represent a religious or ecclesiastical entity and the same will be found true for the great harlot. She is professing Christendom, or at the very least the Jezebel form of the professing body. It is what the professing church had become around the fifth century. Jezebel existed alone until around the sixteenth century and the development of Protestantism. For almost eleven centuries she was the corporate body of Christendom. She continues to exist today as the largest and most dominant form of the professing church.
The evidence in identifying the great harlot as Christendom is subtler.
1. There is the connection mentioned above that exists between the wife of the Lamb in the heavens and the great harlot on the earth. This isn’t coincidence. The Spirit of God in the word of God doesn’t do coincidence. Along these lines there is another interesting truth – the two separate visions John is given concerning these two women are introduced to him by the same angel, and done so in a similar fashion (Compare Rev. 17:1 with Rev. 21:9). The church is the true bride in the heavens; the harlot pretends to be the bride of Christ on the earth.
2. There is the fact of John’s amazement when he realizes the significance of what the harlot is. The only plausible reason for his astonishment is because the woman is the corporate body of the professing church. John is connected to her as the last living apostle of the church. He would not be astonished if the woman represented some other religion. If she represented something else he would not have recognized her as he did (Rev. 17:6).
3. The woman is drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus (Rev. 17:6) – this is also part of John’s amazement. The professing church which he was part of would become so corrupt and evil that God held it responsible and guilty of all the blood shed of the true church. Christendom had gained control and authority over governments and kings in its history (Rev. 17:1-2), welding an ungodly influence in the name of Christ, committing inexcusable atrocities against many poor but faithful saints. Jewish prophets killed – Israel was held responsible by God (Matt. 23:29-35). Martyrs of Jesus killed – Christendom is held responsible by God.
4. The official Roman edicts in the years 313 AD and 380 AD helped pave the way for Christendom to become popular with the world. Christendom began to gain worldly influence and wealth. When the Roman Empire was Christianized, it was not the removal of Satan’s throne from this world and the triumph of the church. Rather, it was Satan acquiring dominion and control over what was called Christendom – this was the time when the great whore climbed up on the beast.