What do the 12 stars in the Bible represent?

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The 12 Stars

The 12 stars are mentioned by the apostle John in the book of Revelation. “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth” (Revelation 12:1,2).

Revelation chapter 12 starts a new section of prophecy, which carries on till the end of the book. This section of prophecy shows the conflict of the church of God with the powers of darkness, and the church’s final victory over them. To understand the meaning of the 12 stars, lets examine the symbols and their meanings in the context of chapter 12:

Unlocking the symbols

1- The Woman. In Old Testament symbolism, God’s people at times represented as a woman. “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth. For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused,” says your God” (Isaiah 54:5, 6 also Jeremiah 6:2).  

When God’s people forsook the Lord, they were represented with an evil woman. “Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,” says the Lord” (Jeremiah 3:20 and Ezekiel 23:2–4).  

The same figures appear in the New Testament: “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2 also Ephesians 5:25–32; Revelation 17:1–3). 

In Revelation 12, the woman represents the true church. Since she is portrayed as about to give birth to Christ (v. 2, 4, 5) and later as being mistreated and oppressed. Following the ascension of Christ (vs. 5, 13–17), she represents the church of both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  

2-The Sun. The woman is clothed with the sun which means she is covered by the glory of God, which is declared in the gospel. By contrast the woman representing the false church is shown as clothed in gaudy garments and as carrying a cup filled with abominations. “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication” (Revelation 17:4). 

3- The Moon. The symbol of the Moon represents the system of types and shadows of Old Testament times, which were eclipsed by the greater light that came through Jesus Christ. The ceremonial law, being fulfilled in the ministry and death of the Messiah, could well be symbolized by the moon, which shines with a light that is being reflected from the sun. 

4-The 12 stars. The 12 stars that serve as a crown (Matthew 27:29; Revelation 2:10) represent either the 12 patriarchs or the 12 apostles or to both. Since the focus in Revelation 12 is on the New Testament church, the emphasis of the 12 stars is without a doubt on the 12 apostles.

At the same time, the symbol of the 12 tribes is also carried over into the New Testament church. “And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed” (Revelation 7:4). Therefore, the 12 stars represent the spiritual leaders of God’s people and their followers. These 12 stars and the believers are filled by the Holy Spirit and are anointed to do God’s work (Matthew 28:19).

5-The child. The church is presented at the time the Messiah is about to be born. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The context of previous verse makes it clear that the prophecy had a direct application to the Messiah. And Matthew’s reference to the prophecy also confirms that this prophecy points forward to the Messiah.  

6- The red dragon. Revelation 12:9 points to “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan.” Here, the symbol represents Satan as working through pagan Rome, the power ruling the world when Jesus was born (Revelation 12: 4). The dragon is described as “red,” probably because in all his dealings with the church of God, he has been seen as the persecutor and destroyer. But the 12 stars and their followers loved not their lives but would rather die than disobey God (Revelation 12:11).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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