A Man Child
“And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.” (Rev 12:5 KJV)
We see the child in verse 2, but no information is given about the identity of the man child. Here we see the man child will rule all nations with a rod of iron and the child is caught up to God and His throne in heaven. Many see the man child as Jesus. The child ruling with a rod of iron and being caught up to heaven as referring to the ascension of Jesus gives support to this view.
“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” (Rev 19:15 KJV)
“And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” (Luk 24:51 KJV)
“9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
(Act 1:9-11 KJV)
Others have been referred to as ruling with a rod of iron, including the Church.
“26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.”
(Rev 2:26-27 KJV)
However, the Church cannot be the man-child because the Church has already been raptured. This would fit the flow of events anyway.
The more likely possibility, if chapter 12 is not a parenthetical retelling of past events, is the 144,000. The 144,000 are seen on Earth until the middle of the week. After this (in chapter 14) they are seen in heaven. The ministry and history of the 144,000 seems to fit the sequence of chapter 12.