In orthodox traditions the Revelation is seen as a warning to be spiritually and morally ready for the end times, whenever they may come ("as a thief in the night"), but they will come at the time of God's choosing, not something that can be precipitated nor trivially deduced by mortals. This view is also held by many Catholics, although there is a diversity of opinion about the nature of the Apocalypse within Catholicism. Most denominations don't have an official interpretation of Revelation. Exceptions might be the Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons and Jehovah's Wittnesses.
Popular interpretations focus on the identity of the Woman of the Apocalypse. She may be understood as:
The Virgin Mary
The Nation of Israel
Dispensational Premillennialists, and Amillennialists who believe in multiple valid interpretations will often identify the woman as the nation of Israel.
The earliest Church Fathers understood the woman as the church.
“And there was seen a great sign in heaven. A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. And being with child, she cried out travailing, and bearing torments that she might bring forth.”] The woman clothed with the sun, and having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars upon her head, and travailing in her pains, is the ancient Church of fathers, and prophets, and saints, and apostles, which had the groans and torments of its longing until it saw that Christ, the fruit of its people according to the flesh long promised to it, had taken flesh out of the selfsame people. Moreover, being clothed with the sun intimates the hope of resurrection and the glory of the promise. And the moon intimates the fall of the bodies of the saints under the obligation of death, which never can fail. For even as life is diminished, so also it is increased. Nor is the hope of those that sleep extinguished absolutely, as some think, but they have in their darkness a light such as the moon. And the crown of twelve stars signifies the choir of fathers, according to the fleshly birth, of whom Christ was to take flesh.
Victorinus (died 303 or 304)
By the woman then clothed with the sun,” he meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father’s word, whose brightness is above the sun. And by the “moon under her feet” he referred to her being adorned, like the moon, with heavenly glory. And the words, “upon her head a crown of twelve stars,” refer to the twelve apostles by whom the Church was founded. And those, “she, being with child, cries, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered,” mean that the Church will not cease to bear from her heart the Word that is persecuted by the unbelieving in the world. “And she brought forth,” he says, “a man-child, who is to rule all the nations;” by which is meant that the Church, always bringing forth Christ, the perfect man-child of God, who is declared to be God and man, becomes the instructor of all the nations. And the words, “her child was caught up unto God and to His throne,” signify that he who is always born of her is a heavenly king, and not an earthly; even as David also declared of old when he said, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” (Ps. cx. 1.)
Methodius (died 311) devoted several chapters to an extensive interpretation of Revelation 12.
Six brief points summarize his contribution concerning Revelation:
- Woman of Revelation 12 is the Church; the Child Represents the Saints.
- 1260 Days Precede New Dispensation.
- New Earth Follows Present Earth.
- Contends Against Origen on the Resurrection.
- Change of World to More Glorious Condition After the Conflagration.
- Bodies Received in the Resurrection Never Die.