VERSE 1. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a
woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet,
and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2. And she being
with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be
delivered. 3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven;
and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten
horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. p. 509, Para. 2.
An elucidation of this portion of the chapter will involve little more than a mere definition of the symbols introduced. This may be given in few words, as follows:--- p. 509, Para. 3.
A woman, the true church. A corrupt woman is used to
represent an apostate of corrupt church. Eze. 23:2-4; Rev.
17:3-6, 15, 18. By parity of reasoning, a pure woman, as in
this instance, would represent the true church. p. 509,
The sun, the light and glory of the gospel dispensation.
p. 509, Para. 5.
The moon, the Mosaic dispensation. As the moon shines
with a borrowed light derived from the sun, so the former
dispensation shone with a light borrowed from the present.
There they had the type and shadow; here we have the
antitype and substance. p. 509, Para. 6.
A crown of twelve stars, the twelve apostles. p. 509,
A great red dragon, pagan Rome. [See under verses 4 and
5.] p. 509, Para. 8.
Heaven, the space in which this representation was seen
by the apostle. We are not to suppose that the scenes here
represented to John took place in heaven where God resides;
for they are events which transpired upon this earth; but
this scenic representation which passed before the eye of
the prophet, appeared as if in the region occupied by the
sun, moon, and stars, which we speak of as heaven. p. 509,
Verses 1 and 2 cover a period of time commencing just previous to the opening of the present dispensation, when the church was earnestly longing for and expecting the advent of the Messiah, and extending to the time of the full establishment of the gospel church with its crown of twelve apostles. Luke 2:25, 26, 38. p. 510, Para. 1.
No symbols more fitting and impressive could be found than are here employed. The Mosaic dispensation shone with a light borrowed from the Christian dispensation, just as the moon shines with light borrowed from the sun. How appropriate, therefore, to represent the former by the moon, and the latter by the sun. The woman, the church, had the moon under her feet; that is, the mosaic dispensation had just ended, and the woman was clothed with the light of the gospel sun, which had just risen. By the figure of the prolepsis, the church is represented as fully organized, with its twelve apostles, before the man-child, Christ, appeared upon the scene. This is easily accounted for by the fact that it was to be thus constituted immediately after Christ should commence his ministry; and he is more especially connected with this church than with that of the former dispensation. There is no ground for any misunderstanding of the passage; and hence no violence is done to a correct system of interpretation by this representation. p. 510, Para. 2.
VERSE 4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of
heaven, and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon
stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for
to devour her child as soon as it was born. 5. 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. 6. And the woman fled into the wilderness,
where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should
feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
p. 510, Para. 3.
The Third Part of the Stars of Heaven. -- The dragon
drew the third part of the stars from heaven. If the twelve
stars with which the woman is crowned, here used
symbolically, denote the twelve apostles, then the stars
thrown down by the dragon before his attempt to destroy the
man-child, or before the Christian era, may denote a
portion of the rulers of the Jewish people. That the sun,
moon, and stars are sometimes used in this symbolic sense,
we have already had evidence in chapter 8:12. The dragon,
being a symbol, could deal only with symbolic stars; and
the chronology of the act here mentioned would confine it
to the Jewish people. Judea became a Roman province sixty-three
years before the birth of the Messiah. The Jews had
three classes of rulers, -- kings, priests, and the
Sanhedrim. A third of these, the kings, were taken away by
Roman power. Philip Smith, History of the World, Vol. III,
p. 181, after describing the siege of Jerusalem by the
Romans and Herod, and its capitulation in the spring of
B.C. 37, after an obstinate resistance of six months, says:
Such was the end of the Asmonean dynasty, exactly 130
years after the first victories of Judas Maccabaeus, and in
the seventieth year from the assumption of the diadem by
Aristobulus I. p. 510, Para. 4.
The dragon stood before the woman to devour her child. It
now becomes necessary to identify the power symbolized by
the dragon; and this can very easily be done. The testimony
man-child which the dragon seeks to
destroy, is applicable to only one being that has appeared
in this world, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. No other
one has been caught up to God and his throne; but he has
been thus exalted. Eph. 1:20, 21; Heb. 8:1; Rev. 3:21. No
other one has received from God the commission to rule all
nations with a rod of iron; but he has bee appointed to
this work. Ps. 2:7-9. p. 511, Para. 1.
There can certainly be no doubt that the man-child represents Jesus Christ. The time to which the prophecy refers is equally evident. It was the time when Christ appeared in this world as a babe in Bethlehem. p. 511, Para. 2.
Having now ascertained who the man-child was, namely, Christ; and having fixed the chronology of the prophecy at the time when he was born into this world, it will be easy to find the power symbolized by the dragon; for the dragon represents some power which did attempt to destroy him at his birth. Was any such attempt made? and who made it? No formal answer to this question need be given to any one who has read how Herod, in a fiendish effort to destroy the infant Jesus, sent forth and slew all the children in Bethlehem, from two years old and under. But who was Herod? -- A Roman governor. From Rome Herod derived his power. Rome ruled at that time over all the world [Luke 2:1], and was therefore the responsible party in this transaction. Moreover, Rome was the only earthly government which at that time could be symbolized in prophecy, for this very reason that its dominion was universal. It is not, therefore, without the most conclusive reason that the Roman empire is considered by Protestant commentators generally to be the power indicated by the great red dragon. And it may be a fact worth mentioning that during the second, third, fourth, and fifth centuries of the Christian era, next to the eagle the dragon was the principal standard of the Roman legions; and that dragon was painted red, as though, in faithful response to the picture held up by the seer of Patmos, they would exclaim to the world, We are the nation which that picture represents. p. 511, Para. 3.
|THE DRAGON - PAGAN ROME REV. 12:8.||THE LEOPARD BEAST - PAPAL ROME REV. 13:1, 2.|
As we have said, Rome, in the person of Herod, attempted to destroy Jesus Christ, when he sent forth and destroyed all the children of Bethlehem from two years old and under. The child which was born to the expectant desires of a waiting and watching church, was our adorable Redeemer, who is soon to rule the nations with a rod of iron. Herod could not destroy him; the combined powers of earth and hell could not overcome him; and though held for a time under the dominion of the grave, he rent its cruel bands, opened a way of life for mankind, and was caught up to God and his throne. He ascended to heaven in the sight of his disciples, leaving to them and us the promise that he would come again. p. 512, Para. 1.
And the church fled into the wilderness at the time the papacy was established, in 538, where it was nourished by the word of God and the ministration of angels during the long, dark, and bloody rule of that power, 1260 years. p. 512, Para. 2.
VERSE 7. And there was war in heaven: Michael and his
angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and
his angels, 8. And prevailed not; neither was their place
found any more in heaven. 9. And the great dragon was cast
out, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which
deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth,
and his angels were cast out with him. 10. And I heard a
loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and
strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his
Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which
accused them before our God day and night. 11. And they
overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of
their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the
death. 12. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell
in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea!
for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath,
because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. p. 513,
The first six verses of this chapter, as has been seen,
take us down to the close of the 1260 years, which marked
the end of the papal supremacy in 1798. In the 7th verse it
is equally plain that we are carried back into previous
ages. How far? -- To the time first introduced in the
chapter, -- the days of the first advent.
And there was
war in heaven, the same heaven where the woman and the
dragon were seen at first; but they were actors in scenes
that took place here upon the earth; hence we understand
this war to be located in the same place. And to what point
are we carried back? -- Evidently to the commencement of
Christ's ministry here upon earth. To prove that Michael is
Christ, see Jude 9; 1 Thess. 4:16; John 5:28, 29; and that
this was a special time of warfare between him and Satan
need not be argued. p. 513, Para. 2.
Another symbol is here introduced, and John hastens to tell us what this symbol represents. It is the devil and Satan. But this is not the same as the dragon of verses 3 and 4. That was a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. Though in a sense the dragon represents Satan, since he was the instigator of the work which this dragon did, it would be most grotesque to try to apply this symbol to Satan personally. Satan is not said anywhere in the Bible to be red, and he is not possessed of the number of heads and horns there stated; and while he might, as the god of this world, have one crown, there would be no reason for his having seven. But all these features are very appropriate as applied to pagan Rome. p. 513, Para. 3.
When it is desired to set forth Satan by a symbol, no more appropriate on can be chosen than a great dragon, or serpent, unqualified. And why a similar symbol is also employed to represent Rome with some of its peculiar features, is evident. It was because Rome, as a universal empire, was then the only possible general agent to carry out Satan's will in the earth. But there is no occasion to confound the two symbols. p. 514, Para. 1.
In reference to the war mentioned, Satan had looked
forward to Christ's mission to this earth as his last
chance of success in overthrowing the plan of salvation. He
came to Christ with specious temptations, in hope of
overcoming him; he tried in various ways to destroy him
during his ministry; and when he had succeeded in laying
him in the tomb, he endeavored, in malignant triumph, to
hold him there. But in every encounter the Son of God came
off triumphant; and he sends back this gracious promise to
his faithful followers:
To him that overcometh will I
grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame,
and am set down with my Father in his throne. This shows
us that Jesus while on earth waged a warfare, and obtained
the victory. Satan saw his last effort fail, his last
scheme miscarry. He had boasted that he would overcome the
Son of God in his mission to this world, and thus render
the plan of salvation an ignominious failure; and well he
knew that if he was foiled in this his last desperate
effort to thwart the work of God, his last hope had
perished, and all was lost. [See Spiritual Gifts, Vol. I,
p. 67.] p. 514, Para. 2.
But, in the language of verse 8, he
prevailed not; and
hence the song may well be sung,
Therefore rejoice, ye
heavens, and ye that dwell in them. p. 514, Para. 3.
It is held by some that this war took place when Satan,
then an angel of light and glory, rebelled in heaven; and
casting out of which John speaks, was his
expulsion from heaven at that time. But we are unable to
harmonize this view with the testimony before us. Thus, in
verse 13 we read:
And when the dragon saw that he was cast
unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth
the man child. This shows that just as soon as the devil
saw that he was cast out, he turned his wrath against the
woman, the church, which, not far from that time, fled into
the wilderness. When Satan therefore found himself thus
overthrown, the man-child had already been brought forth,
or, in other words, the first advent of Christ had taken
place. Hence this war and defeat of Satan, taking place
this side of the Christian era, and not a great length of
time before the church went into the wilderness in 538,
cannot be his fall from heaven before the creation of the
world; though that was a war in heaven. p. 514, Para. 4.
Again, there seem to be a number of instances in which Satan is spoken of as defeated, or cast down. One was his first rejection from heaven; another, when Christ overcame him at his first advent; and there will be another in the future, when he is cast into the bottomless pit, and shut up for a thousand years. And on each successive occasion, we behold a regularly increasing limitation of his power. He falls a degree lower in every succeeding combat. The first time, as we may plainly infer from certain scriptures, the contest was between him and God the Father [see 2 Pet. 2:4]; the second time between him and Christ the Son, as in the scripture before us; while the third time an angel suffices to accomplish the work of his humiliation. Rev. 20:1, 2. Since his first contest, he has not been permitted to rise to the dignity of contending with the Father; since the second, he has not had the privilege, if such it may be called, of a personal encounter with the Son. The war mentioned in the scripture now before us is between the devil and Michael, Christ. The great effort of the former against the latter, personally, was during his mission here on earth; and Christ's great personal victory over him was in that very contest. p. 515, Para. 1.
Neither was their place found any more in heaven.
Heaven, we have seen, does not mean, in this chapter, the
place which is the abode of God and his celestial messengers.
It here doubtless denotes condition rather than place; and
the expression would then signify that they were here
humiliated, and never to regain their former position. They
had suffered a terrible defeat, which Christ describes by
I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. The
hope which he had all along cherished, of overcoming the
Son of man when he took upon himself our nature, had
forever perished. His power was limited. He could no more
aspire to a personal encounter with the Son of God, -- a
fact which hitherto had given, in a comparative degree,
dignity and prestige to his position. Henceforth the church
[the woman] is the object of his malice, and he resorts to
all those nefarious means against her that would naturally
characterize a baffled and hopeless rage. [See Spiritual
Gifts, Vol. 1, p. 79.] p. 515, Para. 2.
But hereupon a song is sung in heaven,
Now is come
salvation, etc. How it this if these scenes are in the
past? Had salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of God,
and the power of his Christ, then come? -- Not at all; but
this song was sung prospectively. Those things were made
sure. The great victory had been won by Christ which put
the question of their establishment forever at rest. Just
as we read in other scriptures,
We have eternal life,
have redemption through his blood, etc., as if we were now
in actual possession of these blessings; whereas we only
have them by faith, and the language is simply an assurance
that they are forever sure to the final overcomers. p.
516, Para. 1.
The prophet then glances rapidly over the working of Satan
from that time to the end [verses 11, 12], during which
time the faithful
brethren overcome him by the blood of
the Lamb and the word of their testimony while his wrath
increases as his time grows short. Though working through
earthly powers, Satan, personally, is the chief agent from
verses 9 to 17. p. 516, Para. 2.
VERSE 13. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto
the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the
man-child. 14. And to the woman were given two wings of a
great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into
her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times,
and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 15. And the
serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the
woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the
flood. 16. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth
opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the
dragon cast out of his mouth. 17. And the dragon was wroth
with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of
her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the
testimony of Jesus Christ. p. 516, Para. 3.
But little comment is necessary on the verses last
introduced. Suffice it to say that here we are again
carried back to the time when Satan became fully aware that
he had utterly failed in all his attempts against the Lord
of glory in his earthly mission; and seeing this, he turned
with tenfold fury, as already noticed, upon the church
which Christ had established. Then we have again brought to
view the church going into that condition here denominated
in the wilderness. This must denote a state of
seclusion from the public gaze, and of concealment from her
foes. That church which during all the dark ages trumpeted
lordly commands into the ears of listening Christendom, and
flaunted her ostentatious banners before gaping crowds, was
not the church of Christ; it was the body of the mystery of
mystery of godliness was God manifested
here as a man; the
mystery of iniquity was a man
pretending to be God. This was the great apostasy, the
mongrel produced by the union of heathenism and
Christianity. The true church was out of sight; in secret
places they worshiped God; the caves and the hidden
recesses of the valleys of the Piedmont may be taken as
representative places, where the truth of the gospel was
sacredly cherished from the rage of its foes. Here God
watched over his church,, and by his providence protected
and nourished her. p. 517, Para. 1.
The eagles' wings given her appropriately signify the
haste with which the true church was obliged to provide for
her own safety when the man of sin was installed in power,
together with the assistance God provided her to this end.
The like figure is used to describe God's dealing with
ancient Israel. By Moses he said to them:
Ye have seen
what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on
eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Ex. 19:4. p.
517, Para. 2.
The mention of the period during which the woman is
nourished in the wilderness as
a time and times and half a
time, the exact phraseology used in Dan. 7:25, furnishes a
key for the explanation of the latter passage; for the very
same period is called in verse 6 of Revelation 12,
thousand two hundred and threescore days. This shows that
time is one year, 360 days; two
times, two years, or
720 days; and
half a time, half a year, or 180 days,
making in all 1260 days; and this being symbolic, signifies
1260 literal years. p. 517, Para. 3.
The serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood to carry away the church. By its false doctrines the papacy had so corrupted all nations as to have control absolutely, for long centuries, of the civil power. Through it Satan could hurl a mighty flood of persecution against the church in every direction; and this he was not slow to do. [See reference to the terrible persecutions of the church in remarks on Dan. 7:25] From fifty to one hundred million were carried away by the flood; but the church was not entirely swallowed up; the days were shortened for the elect's sake. Matt. 24:22. p. 518, Para. 1.
Men who have been prominent in advancing the work of God.
For Biogrphical Sketches, see p. 741.
The earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and
swallowing up the flood. The Reformation of the sixteenth
century began its work. God raised up the noble Luther and
his co-laborers to expose the true character of the papacy,
and break the power with which superstition had enslaved
the minds of the people. Luther nailed his theses to the
door of the church at Wittenberg; and the pen with which he
wrote them, according to the symbolic dream of the good
elector Frederick of Saxony, did indeed span the continent,
and shake the triple crown on the pope's head. Princes
began to espouse the cause of the Reformers. It was the
dawning of religious light and liberty, and God would not
suffer the darkness to swallow up its radiance. Tetzel, the
indulgence- peddler, swelled and bellowed with wrath, and
Pope Leo roared with rage; but all in vain. The spell was
broken. Men found that the bulls and anathemas of the pope
fell harmless at their feet, just as soon as they dared
exercise their God-given right to regulate their
consciences by his word alone. Defenders of the true faith
multiplied. And soon there was enough Protestant soil found
in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, England, Norway, and
Sweden, to swallow up the flood of papal fury, and rob it
of its power to harm the church. Thus the earth helped the
woman, and has continued to help to the present day, as the
spirit of the Reformation and religious liberty has been
fostered by the leading nations of Christendom. p. 518,
But the dragon is not yet through with his work. Verse 17 brings to view another and a final outburst of his wrath, this time against the last generation of Christians to live on the earth. We say the last generation; for the war of the dragon is directed against the remnant of the woman's seed; that is, the remnant of the seed, or individuals, that constitute the true church; and no generation but the last can truthfully be represented by the remnant. If the view is correct that we have already reached the generation which is to witness the closing up of earthly scenes, this warfare against the truth cannot be far in the future. p. 519, Para. 1.
This remnant is characterized by the keeping of the commandments of God, and having the testimony of Jesus Christ. This points to a Sabbath reform to be accomplished in the last days; for on the Sabbath alone, as pertaining to the commandments, is there a difference of faith and practice among those who accept the decalogue as the moral law. This is more particularly brought to view in the message of Rev. 14:9-12. p. 519, Para. 2.
It may be proper to notice that according to the testimony of this chapter, three powers are made use of by the devil to carry out his work, and hence all are spoken of as the dragon, he being the inspiring agent in them all. These are,  pagan Rome;  papal Rome;  the two-horned beast, our own government under the control of apostate Protestantism, which is the chief agent, as will hereafter appear, in making war upon those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus. p. 519, Para. 3.
© by S. D. Goeldner,