During the last days of each year, God’s people remember that miracle of miracles first conceived in the mind of God, and later in the womb of a virgin when “God sent forth his son, made of a woman” (KJV, Galatians 4:4). Divinity forever blended itself with humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, offering abundant grace, hope and plenteous redemption to all who believe.
During these last days of earth’s history, the Scriptures indicate that we should expect to see another phenomenon of similar import to Christ’s first advent, but on a scale the world has never seen before: Christ will be born again.
You can be the mother of God?
You remember the story. Jesus was in a house talking to a crowd of people when his mother and brothers showed up wanting to speak to him. “But he answered and said… Who is my mother? And who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:47-50).
Why does Christ call his disciples “mother”? What might at first seem to be a puzzling metaphor is in fact one of the richest and most powerful illustrations of the intimacy that God longs to have with each one of us. Paul calls it “[…] the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” and “that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith… that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Colossians 1:26-27, Ephesians 3:17, 19).
At the sound of this incredible announcement, many of us today exclaim the same words as Mary, “How can these things be?” (Luke 1:34). The wedding feast of the Lamb is still future! We have yet to know the Man, Jesus Christ, in person!
The Virgin Pregnancy of the Apocalypse
In vision, John saw 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: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered” (Revelation 12:1-2).
Expositors of prophecy agree that the woman of Revelation 12 represents the true church. To explain the birth, ascension and kingship of the Man Child, however, many claim that the woman also represents the Virgin Mary. Without contesting that interpretation, I believe the pregnant woman in this passage symbolizes the experience of the church of God in the last days.
First of all, notice that John describes the remnant of the seed of the woman as those who “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (12:17). This is the same group that Revelation 14:12 identifies as “the saints […] that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Remember that Christ calls “mother” those who do the Father’s will (Matthew 12:50). The parallel account of Luke puts it this way: “My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it” (8:21). Such obedience is a miracle akin to the virgin birth as we, like Mary, submit to God’s Word and are impregnated by the Holy Ghost.
The Apostle John adds: “These are they which were not defiled with women, [read, ‘the harlot and her daughters’] for they are virgins… and in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God” (Revelation 14:4-5). In the examination prior to the Second Coming, God will have a completely honest people whose lives are congruent with the message they proclaim.
Micah corroborates the diagnosis
In a series of fantastic prophecies that one must read in their full context to completely appreciate, Micah was shown the special experience of God’s people in the last days:
“But in the last days it shall come to pass, [that] the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it” (4:1). This mountain of a house sounds a lot like Christ’s city on a hill that cannot be hid. God’s people will finally let their lights shine before the world in genuine good works that glorify their Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:14-16). When Christ is thus exalted, the world takes notice and “people… flow ” to the church (John 12:32, Micah 4:1).
How is this accomplished? Micah explains that God Himself will develop an end-time singularity, a special people called the Daughter of Zion. He gathers this Remnant from among the lame, the outcast, and those He has afflicted, and promises to revive and restore them: “And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation, and the LORD shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever” (4:6-7).
After this positive promise of a victorious future, the Almighty brings the message back to the present with a mild rebuke to this unlikely group of misfits: “Now why dost thou cry out aloud? [is there] no king in thee? Is thy counselor perished? For pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail” (4:9) Notice that God’s people cry out in distress for their deplorable condition, and God tells them the reason for their affliction: they have forgotten the promise of a Savior to live within them! They complain of pain that is in reality an evidence of the fulfillment of the promise! God reaffirms the remedy that caused their complaint in the first place: “Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go [even] to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies” (4:10).
The parallels with Revelation chapters 12-18 are unmistakable. The setting for this hard labor and birth of the King and Counselor is a crisis in which God’s remnant people will be delivered. The delivery of the Holy Child parallels the church’s deliverance from her enemies in Babylon. But the birth itself is no easy process. The Christ child is already past due, making the pregnancy especially prone to complications. Why is it taking so long? We know the fault doesn’t lie with Christ, because He “is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons 69.1).
God has spoken unequivocally: He promises a miracle as spectacular as His literal conception and virgin birth. It is a work brought about only by the mysterious moving of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who will humbly say with Mary, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). Do we believe that Word? Are we willing to sacrifice our selfishness and pride so that Christ can truly abide in us? Will we endure the travail of self-denial and submit to the pain and shame the world will heap upon us for such a pregnancy?
Kody Kostenko is a high school history and language teacher at a mission boarding school in northeastern Bolivia, South America.