Unless otherwise noted, all verses come from the Douay Rheims translation. Quotes from the RSV are used in accord with the copyright policy of the copyright holder:
The [New] Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. Notice of copyright must appear on the title or copyright page of the work as follows:
“Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.” (source)
Rev 11:19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple.
It is not just the temple which is opened, but the holy of holies, the most sacred part of the temple. This is indicated by the fact that the ark of his testament was seen, a reference to the ark of the covenant which stood in the holy of holies.
The Catholic Encyclopedia:
(T)he Ark… should rather be regarded as a token of the choice that Yahweh had made of Israel for his people, and a visible sign of his invisible presence in the midst of his beloved nation.The Ark was first destined to contain the testimony, that is to say the tables of the Law (Exodus 40:18; Deuteronomy 10:5). Later, Moses was commanded to put into the tabernacle, near the Ark, a golden vessel holding a gomor of manna (Exodus 16:34), and the rod of Aaron which had blossomed (Numbers 17:10). According to the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (ix, 4), and the Jewish traditions, they had been put into the Ark itself. Some commentators, with Calmet, hold that the book of the Law written by Moses had likewise been enclosed in the Ark; but the text says only that the book in question was placed “in the side of the Ark” (Deuteronomy 31:26); moreover, what should be understood by this book, whether it was the whole Pentateuch, or Deuteronomy, or part of it, is not clear, though the context seems to favour the latter interpretations. However this may be, we learn from 1 Kings 8:9, that when the Ark was placed in Solomon’s temple, it contained only the tables of the Law.The holiest part of the Ark seems to have been the oracle, that is to say the place whence Yahweh made his prescriptions to Israel. “Thence”, the Lord had said to Moses,will I give orders, and will speak to thee over the propitiatory, and from the midst of these two cherubims, which shall be upon the Ark of the testimony, all things which I will command the children of Israel by thee” (Exodus 25:22). And indeed we read in Num., vii, 89, that when Moses “entered into the tabernacle of the covenant, to consult the oracle, he heard the voice of one speaking to him from the propitiatory, that was over the ark between the two cherubims”. Yahweh used to speak to his servant in a cloud over the oracle (Leviticus 16:2). This was, very likely, also the way in which he communicated with Josue after the death of the first leader of Israel (cf. Joshua 7:6-1). The oracle was, so to say, the very heart of the sanctuary, the dwelling place of God; hence we read in scores of passages of the Old Testament that Yahweh “sitteth on [or rather, by] the cherubim”
THE ARK IN CATHOLIC TRADITION Catholic tradition, led by the Fathers of the Church, has considered the Ark of the Covenant as one of the purest and richest symbols of the realities of the New Law. It signifies, in the first place, the Incarnate Word of God. “Christ himself”, says St. Thomas Aquinas, “was signified by the Ark. For in the same manner as the Ark was made of setim wood, so also was the body of Christ composed of the most pure human substance. The Ark was entirely overlaid with gold, because Christ was filled with wisdom and charity, which gold symbolizes. In the Ark there was a golden vase: this represents Jesus’ most holy soul containing the fulness of sanctity and the godhead, figured by the manna. There was also Aaron’s rod, to indicate the sacerdotal of Jesus Christ priest forever. Finally the stone tables of the Law were likewise contained in the Ark, to mean that Jesus Christ is the author of the Law”. To these point touched by the Angel of the Schools, it might be added that the Ascension of Christ to heaven after His victory over death and sin is figured by the coming up of the Ark to Sion. St. Bonaventure has also seen in the Ark a mystical representation of the Holy Eucharist. In like manner the Ark might be very well regarded as a mystical figure of the Blessed Virgin, called by the Church the “Ark of the Covenant”
Given the association of the Ark with the Divine Presence and the Incarnation it is not hard to understand how and why it is applied typologically to Our Lady. For Mary as a type of the Ark of the Covenant see Mary, Ark of the New Covenant and Mary, Ark of the New Covenant – Quotes from the Fathers, two word documents written by Stephen K. Ray.
Rev 12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
And in Greek is kai, a word having a copulative and sometimes a cumulative effect. What is being related in this and the following verses is to be seen in conjunction with the previous verses.
A woman clothed with the sun, &c. She has been variously interpreted as the Church, Israel, Jerusalem, the Heavenly Jerusalem and the Virgin Mary. Most scholars think that at the literal level it should be taken as a reference to the Heavenly Jerusalem (see Rev 19:7-8; 21:9-10). One problem I see with this (and keep in mind I’m not a biblical scholar) is that the birth of this child and the reference to the rest of her offspring (verse 17, RSV), precedes the nuptials of the bride and the Lamb. If one understand the mother figure here as the bride mentioned later, and the male child as the Messiah who marries the bride…then some rather distasteful implication could arise. Perhaps it is best to see the figure as a personification of the people of God, pregnant with the Messiah and his siblings since the promise to Eve. Perhaps she should be understood as a transitional figure between the Old Covenant people and the New. Since Mary gave birth physically to the Christ, and spiritually to Christians (John 19:25-27) it is not hard to see how the text can be applied typologically to her.
Rev 12:2 And being with child, she cried travailing in birth: and was in pain to be delivered.
A reference to Gen 3:16~To the woman also he said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee. Also Micah 4:10~Be in pain and labour, O daughter of Sion, as a woman that bringeth forth: for now shalt thou go out of the city, and shalt dwell in the country, and shalt come even to Babylon, there thou shalt be delivered: there the Lord will redeem thee out of the hand of thy enemies.
Rev 12:3 And there was seen another sign in heaven. And behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns and on his heads seven diadems.
Another sign in heaven. An antithesis between the two signs is being established, just as there is an antithesis between the harlot and the bride (compare 17:4-5 with 21:11-12). The description of the mother’s clothing in the previous verse also provides a contrast with the harlot, and a connection with the bride.
A great red dragon. See Genesis 3 and Wisdom 2:24. Red is a translation of a Greek word (πυῤῥός = purrhos, pronounced: poor-hros’) meaning “fire like,” or ‘flamed colored.” Red is a symbol of death, destruction and slaughter (Rev 6:4), highlighting the destructive nature of the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world (Rev 12:9, RSV); our adversary who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour (1 Pet 5:8). Fire in the Revelation is a symbol of God’s punishment and wrath and so I see an ironic indication of the dragon’s end (Rev 20:9-10). The fiery red color of the dragon contrasts nicely with the woman who is clothed with the sun which in the Bible is often a symbol of life, glory, brightness and light. It is also obedient to God’s will (Job 9:7; Matt 5:45). This last point may be the intended symbolism in light of 12:17~Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus (RSV).
There is also an allusion here to Isaiah 26 & 27 which speaks of Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent (RSV). “After speaking of a woman “in travail” in chapter 26:17, Isaiah describes the defeat of the wicked in terms of crushing the Leviathan. Like Revelation 12, the Leviathan in Isaiah 27 is described as a ‘dragon’ (Is 27:1 ; Rev 12:3) and a ‘serpent’ (Is 27:1; Rev 12:9). COMING SOON, by Michael Barber, pg 156. This is an excellent commentary.
Seven heads. For examples of many headed beasts in Scripture see Psalm 74:13-15 and Daniel 7:7. Some see the reference to seven heads as indicating fulness of evil powers. Father John MacKenzie in his DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE writes this concerning the article “Head”: Its metaphorical use is limited to persons or things which are first in order, rank, or quality…”
Ten horns. There is an allusion here to Daniel 7:7-28. Horns often symbolize strength, kingship (see Rev 17:12), power. The monster from the sea (Rev 13:1) and the beast on which the harlot rides (Rev 17:3) also have ten horns; a second monster from the sea has two (Rev 13:11).
And on his head seven diadems. A symbol of kingship which also alludes to the fourth beast of Daniel 7:24. This provides a contrast with Christ who has innumerable diadems (Rev 19:12-16).
Rev 12:4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered: that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son.
The casting of the stars to earth may allude to Daniel 8:10. The stars are often taken by scholars as symbolizing the teaching of the twelve Apostles. Others see the stars a a symbol of angels and their being cast to earth as representing their fall, but this seems unlikely to me because the angels fell by their own free will and not the devil’s fury. Given the context, the regal image of the woman, and the coming birth of her ruler/son I think the action against the crown of stars should be seen as an attack on the impending kingship and kingdom of Christ.
And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered: that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son.
A possible allusion to Jeremiah 51:34~“Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon has devoured me, he has crushed me; he has made me an empty vessel, he has swallowed me like a monster; he has filled his belly with my delicacies, he has rinsed me out (RSV). Some see here an allusion to King Herod who sought to destroy the infant Messiah/King in Matthew 2. Herod was an Edomite (i.e., a Idumean), a name which means “red.” Herod was a tool in Satan’s attempt to keep Jesus from attaining his kingly destiny (but see the note on who was to rule all nations below)
Rev 12:5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her son was taken up to God and to his throne.
She brought forth a male child. See Isaiah 66:7~Before she was in labour, she brought forth; before her time came to be delivered, she brought forth a man child.
Who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. Alluding to Psalm 2, a royal coronation. I will 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 make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Ps 2:7-9, RSV).
The words “you are my son, today I have begotten you” are important for understanding who the woman is at the literal level. This Psalm passage is used or alluded to several times in the NT, but never in reference to the incarnation, rather, it always refers to Christ’s resurrection (see Acts 13:33; see also Romans 1:4; Heb 1:5. The birth event here is not to seen as the incarnation, rather, it is a symbolic description of Christ’s death and resurrection/messianic enthronement. The woman is Mother Israel who has experienced the messianic birth pangs (see John 16:19-22) and become Mother Church, engendering new children (see John 19:25-27). Mary is the paradigm.
Her son was taken up to God and to his throne. An obvious reference to Christ’s ascension and messianic enthronement.
Rev 12:6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God.
God’s providential care and protection of his people.
Rev 12:10ab And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: Now is come salvation and strength and the kingdom of our God and the power of his Christ.
Verses 10 through 12 are a hymn celebrating what has come about as a result of the events in the preceding verses, 1-9.