Who is the man child of Revelation 12:5?
Revelation 12 opens with the words “Then a great sign appeared in heaven” (NET). That sign embraces both the woman of verse 1 and the man child of verse 5, and our understanding of one element of the sign will inform our understanding of the other. Thus, it is helpful to begin where the sign does – with the woman clothed with the Sun. This is the second of four women presented in Revelation, along with Jezebel (2:20), the great harlot (17:1), and the Bride, the Lamb’s wife (19:7). She presents features of dignity and dominion, clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and crowned with 12 stars. These symbols echo the dream of Joseph recorded in Genesis 37:9, and help us to identify this woman as Israel (in keeping with repeated OT descriptions of the nation as a woman). This is confirmed by two additional features of the sign: she is the object of special Satanic attack and she takes refuge from his onslaught by fleeing “into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” The period mentioned, which covers 42 months, or three-and-a-half years, corresponds to the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week, “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7), during which Israel will, in a very literal way, hide in the wilderness from the intensifying satanic efforts to totally eradicate her.
If this is accepted, the identification of the man child is greatly simplified. He is the Seed of the woman, the “Child born” and “the Son given,” the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This identification explains Satan’s intention to “devour her child as soon as it was born” (v4), a desire that found a terrible expression in history in the “lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning” as Rachel wept for her children, and would not be comforted (Matt 2:18). Indeed, Satan’s implacable opposition to Israel through history has largely been focused on thwarting Messianic prophecy, and attempting to ensure that the Seed of the woman could not be brought in. Repeatedly, his purpose has been defeated by Divine intervention, seen here as the “child was caught up unto God, and to His throne” (v5). The location to which the man child is snatched up is significant too – He is transported right to the throne of God. It is only Christ Who can occupy that position. Any attempt to see in the man child the Church, or overcomers, or the remnant, or any human company has an insurmountable obstacle to overcome here.
Any doubt about this identification is removed by the words of verse 5: “Who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.” This expression echoes the words of Revelation 2:27, and ultimately has its source in the Father’s promise to the Son, “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psa 2:9).
This is a complex passage of Scripture, which raises a range of interpretative issues that are beyond the scope of this answer. However, the answer to the question asked is clear – the man child of Revelation 12:5 is the Messiah, the “long promised Seed of the woman.”