Aug 13, 2013

The Manchild of Revelation 12

Tony GarlandBy Dr. Tony Garland

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Q. Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus!

I have a question regarding the futurist and dispensational understanding of the manchild in Revelation 12.

Futurists believe, in one breath, that Revelation 6-12 takes place after the rapture of the church. In another breath, they believe that the birth and ascension of the manchild in Revelation 12 is a reference to the birth and ascension of Jesus Christ.

While a basic reading of the text would suggest that the manchild refers to Christ, does this interpretation not destroy the plain consecutive order of the book of Revelation, destroy the natural divisions of the book and insert past historical events into the prophecy?

I would appreciate your thoughts on this.


Parenthetical Periods in the Book of Revelation

A. As I explain in my commentary on Revelation, some chapters within the book of Revelation interrupt the sequential action to give additional background information pertaining to the sequential events.

Chapter 12 is one such chapter. It alludes to The Fall, with the promise of a redeemer through Eve and the promise of pain in childbirth, and takes in the virgin birth, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and ultimately spans all the way down to the second coming when the 1260 day period during which the woman is supernaturally protected by God comes to an end.

A similar construction is found in Chapter 13, where the final beast is described in terms of the first three of Daniel's four beasts (Gen. 13:1-2 cf. Daniel 7:2-8). It appears that the first two verses of chapter 13 take in a span of time beginning no later than the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon [1] (587 B.C.) and stretching all the way down to the rise of Antichrist. The reference stretches outside of the immediate events of the tribulation to provide background information as to the ultimate origin of the beast.

Chapter 17 serves a similar function: describing the historical background of the Harlot who has been riding a beast from the earliest times: from Babel onward as the mother (original source) of harlotry. Both these chapters step outside the immediate sequence of seals, trumpets, and bowls to provide additional background drawn from the overall history recorded in the Bible from Genesis onward.

Thus, the problem is one of perception. “Yes,” futurists maintain that the sequential events recorded in Revelation 6-12 take place after the Rapture of the Church, but “no”, we don't hold that everything found in those chapters is constrained within the period of the tribulation itself. Note that there is nothing in the text that requires that everything mentioned within the book of Revelation be in strict sequence or be limited within the time period of the tribulation itself.

In other words, what you refer to as “the plain consecutive order” of the book is neither plain or strictly consecutive in all aspects: only in regard to explicitly sequenced events (e.g., seals, trumpets, bowls).


[1] I believe the reference is to an even earlier time if the first of the seven heads is understood to refer to the very first Biblical kingdom, Babel (Gen. 10:10).