As previously pointed out, the events described in chapter 12 occur during the Great Tribulation. In order to know what the woman in 12th chapter symbolizes, Israel or the Church, we must first examine what happens to Israel and the Church during the period of the Great Tribulation. We will first look at what happens to Israel during the Great Tribulation.
We know that Israel fell away from God and presently there are only a few Jews who accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah and as the Son of God (Rom 11:5). The Scriptures also tell us that all of Israel (not just a very few, like we have today) will be saved (Rom. 11:26). When the Scriptures refer to the salvation of the “whole of Israel,” it does not mean, of course, that every Israelite that has ever lived from the time of Christ to His Second Coming. On contrary, most, unfortunately, aren't saved because of their disbelief (as Romans 9 clearly tells us). The salvation of the “whole of Israel” means that there will be a time when all of Israel, as a nation, will recognize Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 9:27 that only some of the Israelites will be saved:
“Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved”.
When will the whole of Israel accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah? In Romans 11:25-26, the Bible tells us that this “blindness” in Israel will last until “the fullness of Gentiles” is reached. The next verses, 26 and 27, provide some details about this event, quoting from Old Testament prophecy:
“There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
This verse tells us that the Israel will be forgiven of their sins after the Deliverer (Christ) “comes out of Sion.” The book of Zechariah, chapters 12 and 13, provides us with the most detailed account of this event of Israel’s repentance. In these two chapters, all of the events listed will happen in a specific point of time which is called “that day.” In fact, the words “that day” appear eight times throughout chapter 12 and 13. It is very clear that all of the events described in chapter 12 will happen in one small time period. These are the events:
Zechariah’s 12th chapter places the battle of all nations against Jerusalem (Armageddon) before the repentance of Israel. In other words, all nations will gather against Jerusalem, and God will intervene and help Israel defeat their enemies. Then Israel will repent when God “pours out the spirit of grace and of supplications” and when they actually see the One “whom they have pierced.” It is very clear, based on Zechariah chapter 12, that Israel’s full repentance does not happen any time before the battle of Armageddon, but occurs around the time of the event or immediately after it.
The book of Revelation places the Battle of Armageddon at the end of the Great Tribulation (Rev. 19:19-21). In fact, the Great Tribulation ends with the Battle of Armageddon when Christ defeats the “Beast.” This means that Israel’s repentance coincides with the end of the Great Tribulation and the end of the 3.5 years of the Antichrist’s rule.
The “fullness of the Gentiles” ends with the Second Coming of Christ and the Rapture of at the end of the Great Tribulation (see above). After their repentance, Israel is once again God’s nation, serving Him. As previously shown, the woman-symbol is a positive character that is on God's side, persecuted by the Satan, and kept safe in the “wilderness” for almost 3.5 years (assuming during the Great Tribulation). The woman cannot symbolize Israel because the Israel will remain “blind” (Rom. 11:25) and does not get saved until the end of the Great Tribulation and thus does not fit the positive character description given in the 12th chapter.
We cannot ignore, however, the appearance of 144,000 God-chosen Israelites during the Tribulation period (Rev. 7:3-8, Rev.14:1-5). It is interesting to note that, although they follow Christ (Rev.14:4), they are presented somewhat differently from other Christians—as if they are a separate group of God’s people, distinguished from other Christians. However, there is no evidence in the Scriptures to support the idea that these 144,000 represent the woman from chapter 12 and will be in the Wilderness for 3.5 years. We see, for example, that before the start of God’s judgments, these 144,000 were marked by Angels (Rev. 7:3) to avoid being hurt or killed when the wrath of God is poured out onto the whole earth. This marking would not be necessary if these 144,000 were protected in the Wilderness—a place removed from Beast’s sphere of influence and, logically, would not experience God’s judgments that would occur in the latter days of the Great Tribulation.
Another argument attempts to show that all of Israel will go through trials during the Great Tribulation. We should look at verses in the Bible which tell us about Israel during this time.
Chapters 12-14 of Zechariah provides us with the clearest and most detailed account of what will happen to Israel around the time of the Second Coming of Christ. It describes the following events:
1. All nations will gather against Jerusalem and the land of Israel.
2. Christ will return from Heaven to the mount of Olives (just as it was prophesied about it in Acts 1:11-12):
3. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east
4. Israel will recognize Christ as their Messiah
5. The start of 1000 year Kingdom of Christ
We should examine only the events preceding Christ’s appearance to Israel and the victory over the nations (the Battle of Armageddon).
Just like God works with a person through various circumstances to bring him to a knowledge and acceptance of Christ, God will work with Israel to prepare their hearts to accept their Messiah. All this happens before He pours out His grace onto the Israel at about the time of Christ’s Second Coming. The book of Zechariah tells us how God will prepare Israel to accept Christ, so that all Israel is saved:
“And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.”
If the Israel is protected during the time preceding the Second Coming of Christ, then there would be no trials, no capture of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:2, Rev. 11:2), and no deaths of 2/3 of the Israelites before the Christ’s coming. We don't see this in the Scriptures.
There are no verses in Scripture which we could find which tell us that Israel will be protected during the Great Tribulation. Moreover, this period will be one of trials and dire circumstances for Israel when many will perish. It will be a time when God once again (since Christ’s sacrifice on the cross) will look at the Israel and start working with these people to bring them towards an acceptance of their Messiah and towards their salvation. Only around the time of Christ’s Second Coming will God fight for Israel and save and protect them against the nations which will come to destroy them. Israel does not fit the description of the woman-symbol because:
Israel will be blind until the day it recognizes their Messiah, which does not happen until Christ’s Second Coming and His appearance to Israel.
Israel will go through trials during the Tribulation period and thus does not fit the character of someone who is fully protected by God in “the wilderness.”
CHURCH & THE GREAT TRIBULATION