Revelation 12

Under the seventh trumpet the elders anticipated the effects of the throne being actually established over the earth. But now the temple is again seen, so that we go back here, for we have God’s purposes in connection with the Lord Jesus from the very beginning — the man child who was to rule all the nation with a rod of iron being clearly, as I think, Christ Himself. It is God reverting to His purpose in Christ, born as the heir of the world — not in relation to the calling of the church, but as the man of might, destined to govern all, and with no feeble hand. It appears to me that this accounts for another remarkable feature of the vision. Christ’s death and resurrection are not alluded to, but His birth and His rapture (not His death) are given in a summary manner. We have the woman in pain to be delivered; and the man child is born; and then we have Him taken away to the throne of God above. Of course this is not given as history. The Lord Jesus had been born and had died long ago: if it had been history, His all-important death would not, could not, have been passed over.

Here it is plain the Holy Ghost connects the birth of Christ and His rapture to the throne of God in heaven with Israel and the purposes of God about them. The birth of Christ is of special importance to Israel. The genealogy of the Messiah is therefore carefully given in Matt. 1; and in Matt. 2 we find all Jerusalem was troubled at His birth. This was the working of the dragon. Herod was a sort of expression of the dragon’s power, who would gladly have devoured the child as soon as it was born. through that evil king as his instrument. The child was delivered; but in the history, instead of being taken up to the throne of God, He was carried down into Egypt. So that our chapter cannot be regarded as historical, in the early part at least; and even where historical facts are alluded to, they are not arranged in order of fact at all, but simply linked with God’s thoughts about Israel. The church as such is passed over. It may be involved mystically in the person and destiny of the man child, but there is no gradual unfolding of the thoughts of God as to His having a heavenly bride for His Son. Nothing is said about a bride for the man child. We have the mother, but not the Lamb’s wife here. Israel was the mother of Christ. It was of them, as concerning the flesh, that the Christ was born. This is the great point which the apostle Paul urges on the Jews in Romans 9, because the Jews thought he made light of their privileges, and was against them, in consequence of the strong way in which he brought out God’s mercy to the Gentiles. But it was not so at all. He demonstrates, in fact, that they overlooked their highest distinction. To them were given the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises. They had the fathers too, and last of all, to them was given a Son, the man child, whom they knew not — the Christ; for of them as to the flesh He came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Far from lessening the just glory of Israel, the apostle had a much more exalted view of it than themselves.

As in Rom. 9 Paul does not go on to speak of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, so it is here. Accordingly these two thoughts are connected in Rev. 12. The man child is brought forth, but leaves the scene where the dragon was opposed to Him, and takes His place upon the throne of God, which none but a divine person was entitled to do. By and by He will sit on His own throne, but that will be when He governs the earth in a direct and public way; for God will never give up the right and title of the Lord Jesus to the earth as well as to the heavens. He has acquired a title by redemption, besides His essential one as Creator. But then He is going to do much better than to rule all nations with a rod of iron, or even bless His earthly people. His heart is to be shown. He must have a free course and a due object for all His love. Christ wants to have those that deserve nothing but judgment as the sharers of His glory above. What is done by Christ and for Christ, whilst is He is upon the throne of God, is not alluded to here. Israel is in question. These few thoughts may be helpful to understand the proper place and bearing of this new vision.

The temple of God then is opened in heaven,71 and there was seen in it the ark of His covenant, the pledge of His faithfulness to His people. For, as we have observed in the last chapter, there was a certain measured remnant that drew near to God in the way of worship, and to these witnesses was given a testimony to the Lord’s rights over the earth, as finally there was the announcement of the kingdom. Now we have another train of idea. There was the throne, and a rainbow round about it in Rev. 4. Here there is the temple, and the ark of God’s covenant seen in it. This may prepare the way for the difference between the two subjects. There it was God’s power over creation. Providential judgments were about to fall upon the earth, and the rainbow was to show, before a judgment was experienced, that even then God would remember mercy. The rainbow round the throne in Revelation 4, and round the head of the mighty angel in Revelation 10 before the sounding of this last trumpet, guaranteed that God was working, not for the destruction, but for the deliverance of the earth. But now we come to a further point; for blessed as the throne is, it does not bring us into such depths of God’s character, as do the associations of the temple and the ark. Displays of divine power are not so much what draw out our hearts in worship, as when we draw near to the dwelling-place and home of God Himself; for though there is no one thing we have so truly to be ashamed of as our poor and inadequate answer to His holiness, yet it is just there God has met us in His grace.

Now He is going to show us not merely creation and mankind smitten, but Satan’s connection with the final apostacy of this age. There had been a figurative allusion to his influence in Rev. 9:2, where smoke issues out of the abyss or bottomless pit; then, in Rev. 11:7, the beast ascends out of that pit; but here the evil source is thoroughly disclosed. And is it not precious to find that, before God discovers to us the tide of full evil, and shows us not merely the development and the instruments among men, but the great hidden spring of it all, and the person of him who puts himself at its head, and who is yet to work out this tremendous conspiracy against God — to find that before all this the temple of God in heaven was opened, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His covenant?72 For the heart under such circumstances wants not the manifestation of God’s power merely, but to know that His holiness is secured, and that in virtue of it His people stand. Accordingly we find that when the temple is opened above, it is not a rainbow that is seen, but God’s connection with His people is set forth in the ark which now appears; for the ark was always nearest to God, and what faith therefore most clave to. Israel showed themselves to be dead to all right and godly feeling, when they were willing to expose it even in the hope of deliverance from the Philistines. The dying grief of Eli, and the living transports of David, alike show what the ark was in the eyes of the true-hearted. Here it is the ark of God’s covenant in heaven; not merely that of Israel which might be taken away. Even the wise king did not adequately value the ark of old. And this shows the superiority of David; for faith is always, if I may so say, wiser than wisdom. If we had the largest human intelligence, and even the highest natural wisdom that God can confer, it never rises up to the height of simple faith. Solomon appears before the great altar. It was a magnificent spectacle, and he was an august king, and brought suited offerings. But David showed his faith in this, that it was not the altar merely which he prized, but the ark most of all. The ark was a hidden thing; not even the high priest could see it, save wrapped in clouds of incense. One had to walk by faith and not by sight, in order to appreciate the ark of God. Therefore David could not rest until the ark had its settled place in Israel; and he never had deeper joy than when the ark came back to Jerusalem. It is time that the ark brought judgment upon all who despised it, and even David’s heart was afraid for a time, and the ark rested in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. But David regained the spring of confidence in God, which generally so marked his career; for we find him afterwards rejoicing when the ark was welcomed back more than ever he did in all his victories put together.

Here, it is not the ark of man’s covenant at all, but of God’s covenant; the temple of God in heaven is opened, not on earth yet (i.e. it is only the purpose of God about it); and associated with this the ark of His covenant is seen, the sure pledge of mercy, and sign of faithfulness to His people. But still the circumstances were such as called for judgment; and accordingly “there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail,”73 all of which were the tokens of God’s judgment. The day of peace and glory was yet to come. Thus you get these two things united: first, the pledges of God’s interest in, and triumph for, His people; and then the signs of His judgment upon the evil that must be set aside before the time of full blessing.

“And there appeared 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” (verse 1). I think it probable there may be an allusion here to the well-known dream that Joseph had of the sun, moon, and stars, explained by himself as alluding to his parents and brethren. Here the symbols are more general, and naturally refer — the sun to supreme glory, the moon to that which is derived, and the stars to inferior or subordinate authority. All this is seen in connection with Israel; for God intends, as far as this world is concerned, all power and glory to circle round Israel. As for the church, she will have all in perfection with Christ, and in Christ; but as far as the earth is concerned, Israel will be the centre. The woman is the symbol of God’s purpose as bound up with Israel.

In the next verse we have another thing; it is the man by the woman. And so we find that “being with child, she crieth, travailing in birth, and pained to bring forth;” and a little after we read (verse 5) that “she brought forth a man child who is to rule all the nations,” etc. Thus we see it was not the woman who was of such importance for her own sake, though clothed with all these symbols of glorious power; but the reason is because from her comes the man child. And we shall find this thought is not at all foreign to scripture. Take for instance the Psalms, where the same thing is alluded to in a mystical way. Thus in Psalm 87 the word is that the Lord is exalted; His foundation is in the holy mountain. He is challenging the world to compare their best with what He can produce. “Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion,” etc. He chose Zion out of all the cities of Israel, because God’s sovereign choice must be carried out, even among His people. “I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me.” Rahab was the figurative name for Egypt, and Egypt and Babylon were the most famous nations in the Psalmist’s time. Philistia, with Tyre and Ethiopia, were, no doubt, powers of inferior order, but extremely celebrated for their trade, commerce, skill, etc. Of them it shall be said, “This man was born there.” And of Zion, “This and that man was born in her, and the Highest himself shall establish her. Jehovah shall count,” etc. I believe there is a dim allusion to the birth of the Christ, where God and His people glory so to speak, (whatever other men may have been,) that this man was born there. The reference is, I think, to the Lord Jesus chiefly, if not alone. Let others boast of their great men, but “Jehovah shall count when he writeth up the people, that THIS man was born there.” When He writeth up the people, of whom does He think? Why of Christ; of the One that was born of the woman, born of Israel, and now caught up to heaven. When we are on the look-out for Christ, passages will be found to bear upon Him, more or less distinctly, all through scripture; for He who wrote the scriptures had Christ ever in view. It is not the death of Christ we hear in this Psalm, because this would have brought the sin of the Jews prominently before them. But it is His birth, which was or should have been unmingled joy. And therefore when Jesus was born, the heavenly hosts broke forth in praises, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will in men.” There was no trouble among them, whatever might be the feelings of Herod and all Jerusalem. Their great joy was what Christ would be for God and men, and especially for the city of David: in other words, just the suited feelings of those heavenly ones, that were not occupied with themselves, permitted to see the counsels of God as to His people.

There is another scripture or two I would briefly refer to, where we may get help as to the meaning of this woman and her child, not merely as to the fact of the birth, but in its connection with prophecy. Micah 5 furnishes a passage that both acquires and gives light when compared with Rev. 12. “Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops; he hath laid siege against us; they shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.” The last words set forth, what we have not in the Revelation, the rejection of Christ and the dishonour done to Him by His own people. Then the Holy Ghost interrupts the course of the chapter by a parenthesis; for such is the whole of verse 2. “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting.” It is Christ after the flesh who is God over all, blessed for ever. There you have the two points of the glory of Christ: His glory as a man, as Messiah; and withal, the One whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Then having shown who this was (the man to be smitten but a divine person, which had made the sin of smiting Him unpardonable, if it had not been for infinite mercy), He takes up again what we had in the first verse. “They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek . . . Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth; then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.”

Mark the term of their being given up by God — “until the time” of the birth. This shows that we are not to take the allusion to the birth of the man child as a literal reference to Christ’s birth into the world, but rather in conjunction with the accomplishment of the purposes of God respecting Israel. Christ was born (Micah 5:2): then comes His rejection, and, as it were measuring His rejection on earth and His exaltation in heaven, the calling of the church. But the prophecy here passes by all that has to do with the church and takes up Christ’s birth figuratively, connecting it with the unfolding of the divine purposes, which is itself symbolized by a birth. The Judge of Israel is smitten with a rod upon the cheek, and therefore Israel is given up until the time when, to use the language of Jeremiah, Jacob’s trouble is come, but he shall be saved out of it. Here it is put figuratively, as Zion travailing till the birth of this great purpose of God touching Israel. “Then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.” All the time the church is being called, the remnant of the Jews (“those who should be saved”) are taken out of Israel, cease to look for Jewish hopes as their portion, and are absorbed into the church. But when God’s earthly purpose begins to take effect in the latter day, the remnant of that time will form part of Israel and will resume their ancient Jewish place. The natural branches shall be grafted into their own olive-tree.

Another scripture speaks of Zion’s bringing forth; but it is of a very different kind. In the last chapter of Isaiah the allusion is to a birth, but there it is said to be in one day. “A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of Jehovah that rendereth recompence to his enemies. Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith Jehovah: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God. Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her.” It is evidently not the time spoken of in Rev. 12. So that it is plain that there are three chief critical points connected with Israel’s history. First, there is the birth of the Messiah; secondly, the passage in Micah, the ripening and effect of God’s counsels regarding Israel, which is to be connected with Rev. 12 where God brings out His purpose concerning Israel, before the beast and antichrist are shown fully; and, thirdly, this passage in Isaiah 66 which is a sort of contrast with the others, the circumstances mentioned being the express reverse of those that accompany natural birth and of the figure used in our chapter. The three passages may be put together thus: — first, Micah 5 shows us the birth of Christ, and Israel given up till the result of God’s counsels as to them shall appear by and by; next, Rev. 12 unfolds the time of sorrow74 just before the last tribulation, when Satan, losing his old seats, attempts new plans in order to frustrate God’s design to bless and magnify Israel; and then, lastly, Isaiah 66 is the time when all sorrow is past, and when before Zion travailed she brought forth — Israel’s full and sudden blessing after the Lord has appeared. All previous sorrow flees away by reason of the joy that fills the city of Zion, or is only remembered to enhance it.

But now, going back to our chapter, we find that, besides the woman and the man child, there is another sign; a great antagonist of God appears — not the beast, but a much more serious power — “a great red dragon.” And there is this remarkable circumstance — the same description which is applied to the beast is used of the dragon. How comes this? That Satan is the great red dragon there can be no doubt; this very chapter tells us so in verse 9: and yet he is described with the various characteristics that we find in the Roman empire (Rev. 13:1), “having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns.” I believe the reason is, that Satan is viewed in connection with earthly power. Just as the woman was seen invested with symbols of power from above which God has given her, so here Satan is clothed with the fulness of earthly authority. He has seven heads, the symbol of deliberative power, that which rules and guides, and ten horns, the symbol of kings or kingly dignities. He is the prince of the world, who surrounds himself with all power connected with the earth. The Roman empire is the grand representative of the power of Satan. But when we look at that empire in Revelation 13 we see this difference. The crowns were upon the heads of the dragon, but upon the horns of the beast. That is, in the Roman empire we have the exercise of the power represented as a matter of fact, but in Satan’s case merely as a matter of principle or the root of the thing. Satan is the great moving spring, though unseen. It is a question of source and character, not of history.

First, then, we have had the thought and plan of God in respect to Israel and Christ. And it is plain that it is the destiny of the man child, not as yet the exercise of His dominion over all the nations; for if it were the latter, the woman would not have to flee to the wilderness, nor would the dragon be permitted to make war on her and the rest of her seed. To apply this historically is to entirely miss the teaching of God, who is here showing out His purpose, and no more as yet. Then the dragon appears, the one that God looks at as the ruler of this world, the prince of the power of the air, clothed with the same symbols of earthly power as we find later on in the Roman empire, save that in this last the crowns are upon the horns, or those actually swaying the power. (Rev. 13.) “And his tail draweth the third of the stars of heaven” (verse 4). This seems to be his malignant power in the way of false teaching and prophesying. In Isaiah 9 we are told that “the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.” The tail of the dragon does not set forth his earthly power, but his influence, through false teaching, in misleading souls, and specially those that were in the place of rule and authority — “the stars of heaven.” “And the dragon stood before the woman that was about to bring forth, that when she brought forth he might devour her child.” How wonderfully all scripture hangs together! For if you begin with the very first portion of scripture that speaks of the serpent, the woman and that subtle foe are seen face to face; and more than this, God appears on the scene where Satan had apparently gained a great triumph, and then it is that He gives the blessed revelation that “the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.” Here, at the close of scripture, the same parties reappear, but with marked differences. In the garden of Eden it was the serpent’s success, but here the certain triumph of God; there it was the devil’s craft, but here it is God’s power, long displayed in patience, but all-glorious in the end. God permits the dragon to stand before the woman, ready to devour her child as soon as it was born. The dragon shows out his spite and wickedness to the last degree and in the next chapter his plans. Meanwhile, God turns even the suffering into more positive blessing for the faithful. The very certainty that He could crush the dragon gives Him patience to wait, and He wants His people to be like Himself.

I would just observe that we must not take the chapter as if it were all consecutive. Verse 7 begins a new division. And a proof that all does not follow in immediate order is this; the casting out of the dragon from heaven unto the earth precedes the woman’s flight into the wilderness, and is in point of fact the reason of it (see verse 13), though only stated afterwards. The truth is, that the first six verses give us the complete picture. In the divine purpose, there is the woman clothed with the heavenly orbs, setting forth the power which God alone can confer. But there is another side of the picture. When the man child is brought forth, the mother is seen in weakness, and is obliged to fly for her life into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God.75 God thinks so much of the time she spends there, that He does not call it “a time, times, and a half,” but counts up, so to speak, every day she is there, “that they should feed her there a thousand, two hundred, and threescore days.” Then comes a new scene in verse 7. It is no longer what takes place on earth, but in heaven, as it is to many a new thing, and startling. A war is intimated on high. How is that? A war in heaven? It is an easy thing to imagine the enemy of souls upon the earth, and a war with him there. But the war begins elsewhere. “And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.”

If the Bible is implicitly believed, its intimation is distinct that Satan has power to draw near, and to accuse the saints before God. People may be staggered, and say, it cannot be; but it is better to be guided by the word of God than by the notions of men. The book of Job shows it; 1 Kings 22 also, and perhaps Zech. 3. You may say that these are visions; but we take the Epistle to the Ephesians, and there we are told by St. Paul that our conflict is not like that of Israel, who fought with the Canaanites. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world (or the world-rulers of this darkness), against spiritual [powers] of wickedness in heavenly places.” Some use this verse in order to justify Christian persons resisting the powers of this world, in plain contradiction of Rom. 13 and other passages. But the principalities and powers in high places, in Eph. 6:12, do not mean men at all. They are evil spirits, in contrast with men. The conflict of Israel was with living men on earth, while that of Christians is with wicked spirits in heavenly places. Of course, Satan cannot draw near into the immediate presence of God, into that light wherein God dwells, which none can approach unto; but he can draw near enough to accuse God’s people before God Himself. The heavenly places here mean the heavens in general, and not merely what is called the third or highest heaven. As far as the lower heavens extend, Satan has access; there can be no doubt that he is prince of the power of the air.

Israel had to fight in order to acquire possession of their inheritance. The land was given to them in title, and before Moses was taken away from this life, the Lord Himself took him to the mountain-top, and showed him all the land of Gilead unto Dan, etc., calling the districts by the names of the tribes of Israel, as if they had been already there. But in order to enjoy their possessions, they had to fight for them; and so have we now. There is no such thing as enjoying the heavenly portion of the church without conflict with the enemy, and that is the reason why so many do not enjoy it. If the Christian does not enter his full heavenly portion here below, it is because he is occupied either with himself or with the world, or some other idol of the enemy, and then he cannot enjoy it. The great object of Satan is to hinder our enjoying, tasting, and living on our heavenly blessings in Christ; and in the same proportion that the world or the flesh is allowed, and so the door is left open to Satan to darken our eyes, we cannot see the goodly land. There must be victory over Satan before we can enter in. The adversary has not merely power through men’s lusts below, but specially in connection with the heavenly places — power of hindering Christians from appreciating their portion here. But there is an end coming to that, though not without a struggle. God will put a stop to all Satan’s means of access to heaven.

There is a text, often found obscure, that I cannot but connect with this. In Hebrews 9 where the various applications of the death of Christ are spoken of, there is the following allusion to the heavenly places: “It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.” One reason, I suppose, is because Satan was allowed so long to have access there as an accuser. God would long since have shown His own sense of the defilement produced there by the foe, if it were not for the death of Christ. But as He bears with the rebellion of the world, so does He also with another rebellion, the audacity of Satan, who ventures to intrude himself even into His own presence, to carry the accusations of His people before Him. But let us not forget that if there be one who loves to accuse, there is another to intercede, the Advocate, who never slumbers nor sleeps. There may be the devil against the saints, but there is Christ for them, who ever lives to make intercession. By and by God will not allow Satan any longer to taint the air of heaven. He is forcibly cast down thence, and has only power to deal with mankind in an earthly way. “Woe to the earth and to the sea! for the devil is come down to you” (verse 12), etc. — that is, to those nations who are in a settled or in an unsettled condition. Satan is henceforth entirely prevented from usurping his higher place, as prince of the power of the air. The heavens will then be cleared of him and his angels, never to regain their place above. He may come out on the earth again for a little season, after he has been bound, but he will never more appear in heaven as the accuser of the brethren before God. The momentous difference in the ways of God with His people is very marked here. All through the present time the accuser has a place in heaven, but at the predicted epoch he is cast out, and his place is not found any more there. Now, you will observe that this naturally, not to say necessarily, supposes the removal of the church to heaven before the change takes place; and for this reason, that if we suppose the church to be still on earth, when the devil and his angels are cast out of heaven, it would no longer be true of us that we wrestle with wicked spirits in heavenly places. Such will not be the condition of the saints, either during the millennium or in the great tribulation that precedes it.

Three years and a half roll on their course, after Satan is cast down to the earth, during which the woman and her seed (that is, Israel) are the objects of his persecution. “And the great dragon was cast [out], the old serpent that is called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were cast [out] with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast [out] that accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life unto death” (verses 9-11). “The blood of the Lamb;” this was what kept their conscience good, and gave them confidence before God. Their conscience was purged by the blood of Christ, and, besides that, they had their testimony for God. He gave them the blood of the Lamb as well as the word of their testimony, and they overcame by both. The one cleansed them before God, the other they held before men. “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.” There are at this time dwellers in heaven, and they are to rejoice because Satan is cast down from heaven. The church is on high at the time of which John speaks; the saints are already taken away from the earth. “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of the 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” (verses 13, 14).

Now, it is plain that this brings us back to verse 6. The important link given us in verses 7-13 was needed, and after that we have consecutive order. We are brought down to the fact of the dragon’s persecuting the woman and her child, and the woman’s flight into the desert; and then the Spirit of God goes back to show us the deeper reasons, and higher source of all. Satan will have to leave his place in heaven, and now in a rage, “knowing that he has but a short time,” he comes down to the earth to do his worst. He hates the woman, well knowing her seed is to crush him; so that all his long-cherished enmity is concentrated upon the woman and her seed. This is what leads the woman to flee into the wilderness. The enmity of Satan, not merely because she has brought forth a child destined to rule all nations with a rod of iron, but because Satan is cast down to earth. Satan was once innocent, but he departed from the place of a creature, admiring himself, and setting himself up against God. Now when Satan is cast down from heaven, he shows out all his evil feeling against God, by persecuting the woman and her seed.

“To the woman were given two wings of the great eagle,” etc. Observe the difference here (analogous to Rev. 11), “where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.” In a former verse the time seems to be made, as it were, as long as possible, because, as I conceive, God’s care for her was then the grand point. She had a place prepared for her of God, and when His care and preparation are in question, He lengthens out the time as much as possible; but where it is a question of the devil’s power, He foreshortens it. It appears to be the same period, only put in a different way.76

The serpent, so spoken of because of his subtle enmity, now adopts a new device. He “cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman,” etc. (verse 15, 16.) This sets forth some providential means used of God to deliver His earthly people and purpose from the instruments of the enemy, then put into a state of great commotion. These last are represented by the waters issuing as a river from the dragon’s mouth (people that are under the immediate influence of the devil); while evidently the earth helping the woman means the more settled parts of the world, used providentially to resist the efforts of Satan to overwhelm the Jews. “The earth” in this book may have morally a guilty character; but God can create a diversion where He sees fit, and so bring to nought that which is calculated to overwhelm His people.

“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the remnant of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus” (verse 17). It might be a difficulty to some that a Jewish remnant should have the testimony of Jesus. But if you have followed me in former chapters, it will not be insuperable; because “the testimony of Jesus” in the book of Revelation is always of Jesus coming back again as the Heir of the world, and not of His relations in full heavenly grace that we know now. The Jewish remnant will not enjoy the same communion with the Lord Jesus that the church actually possesses; but they will stand in faith, and they will have the testimony which Jesus is rendering in the Apocalypse. In Revelation 1 we read, “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass,” etc. It is, we have often seen, a certain revelation which God gave to Jesus, connected with events that were shortly to come to pass. This in the next verse is called “the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” So in Rev. 19:10, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” which shows clearly that it is a prophetic knowledge of Jesus. Thus the testimony rendered in this book, though equally divine, differs from the blessed way in which God unfolds Christ now to the church which is His body. The remnant will have such a knowledge as the saints in the Old Testament times possessed — greater probably in amount, but similar, it seems to me, in kind. They will be waiting for Jesus to come. They will say, with penitent hearts, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of Jehovah.” They will plead, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood?” I do not deny that they may have the New Testament before their eyes; but there will be no power to apply the New Testament facts to their own souls, as far at least as present peace and communion are concerned. What a proof that not merely the word is required, but the Holy Ghost to open it out, for the rest and enjoyment of the soul!

Some of us, even as Christians, have had no light as to certain truths, until in the grace of God He was pleased to remove the film from our eyes. And God does this ordinarily by specific means; for it is not His way to enable persons to take up the Bible and understand it, independently of His provision for the perfecting of the saints. God teaches His children, but in general it is through those He has given for the good of the church, and, though never tied down to that order, He does not set aside the wise and gracious arrangement that He has formed and will perpetuate as long as the church endures. Nourishment is ministered by joints and bands, and thus all the body knit together increases with the increase of God. What would enable us to do without one another is a thing that God never gives or sanctions. Supposing a person were cast upon a desert island, God would bless him in his solitary reading of the word with prayer; but where there are other means and opportunities, such as assembling ourselves together for instruction, for reading the scriptures, for public preaching, exhortation, etc., to neglect or despise them is the will of man and not the guidance of the Spirit of God.

These saints, like those of old, will fear Jehovah, and obey the voice of His servant, but withal must walk in darkness, and have no light, till the Lord returns in glory. Our place is identified with that of Christ Himself, risen and glorified. Compare Isa. 50:8, 9, with Rom. 8:33, 34, for the latter, and Isa. 50:10, 11, for the former. Christians may not always act according to the light, but they walk in the light, as He is in the light. “He that followeth me,” says our Lord, “shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” The remnant of that day will trust in the name of Jehovah, and stay upon their God; but it will be after another sort. Thomas in John 20, as compared with the other disciples, may illustrate this.

And now let us briefly notice the historical theory, as stated by one of the latest and ablest of its advocates. The woman is, of course, the Christian church, which is actually said to be not merely united as one, but morally bright and beautiful in the days of Constantine! ascendant for the first time in the political heaven; with the sunshine of the highest (Constantine) of the three imperial dignities, and the light of the second (Licinius); and with the chief bishops as a starry coronal, the heads, now imperially recognized, of the δωδεκάφυλον of the Christian Israel. (Horae Apoc., iii. pp. 17, 18.) Three pages after, the civil authorities are viewed as the moon, perhaps because of Licinius’s apostacy and subsequent death. And the great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns is the old Roman paganism, concentrated for the time in Maximin’s prohibiting the Christian assemblies, and even killing their bishops in his third of the empire. Again, Constantine reappears as the man child — a baptised (?) emperor, the son of Christ’s faithful church, elevated over the whole empire to an avowedly Christian throne, that might be called the throne of God like Solomon’s. And the ruling with an iron rod means the discountenance of pagans increasing almost to oppression, till at length, under Theodosius, all toleration ended, and their worship was interdicted under the severest penalties. But Mr. E., apparently not quite satisfied with this exposition, offers us the alternative of Mr. Biley, who thinks that the question here was one of fundamental orthodoxy, rather than of political eminence, and that the birth and exaltation of the man child refer to the solemn public profession of Christ’s divinity, and its dogmatic establishment in the general Council of Nice.

Where is one to begin, where end, in unravelling this tangled web? Almost the only thing consistent is the melancholy result (God forbid that I should say intention) of degrading the living word of God. If something like the real point of the chapter is glanced at, it is to discard it summarily. Thus, it was too plain to be quite overlooked, that Christ is destined to rule all nations with a rod of iron (Psalm 2), and that this is made part of the promises to the Christians who overcome. (Rev. 2.) But all such reference Mr. E. considers excluded by the context. For, argues he, the woman is shown immediately after to be persecuted by the dragon, and then to spend 1260 days in the wilderness. But how does this set aside the other — the figure of Christ, take it personally or mystically, as the destined governor of all the nations? On this view, what can be clearer? The woman is Israel, first seen in heaven in the glorious purpose of God, and hence arrayed with that supreme power which is to rule the day, with the moon — which, from the context, may here be a symbol of legal ordinances — under her feet, and with the perfection of administrative authority as her crown of glory. It is not a question of historical fact, but of divine counsels. Accordingly, in spite of such a view on God’s part, the woman is seen the object of Satan’s enmity in the Roman empire, who, foiled in his wishes against the raptured Man of might, directs his efforts against the woman, or Israel, fled into the wilderness, desolate but preserved of God for her destined time of sorrow. I do not deny here, more than elsewhere, a vague analogy to the imperial overthrow of the power of the enemy in idolatry. All I insist on is, that the past accomplishment in no wise meets all the features of the case, and that the system which sees nothing else really makes God Himself the author of that judaizing of the church which, kept in cheek by the apostolic power, soon became doctrinally rampant in the writings of the early fathers, and from the time of Constantine was the established mould in which the Christian profession was cast. Hence, historically, the date does not at all answer. Mr. E. seems to be shy of defining the 1260 years of the woman’s place in the wilderness. He considers the time soon after Constantine when the true orthodox church became insulated, invisible in respect of its public worship, and more and more straitened for spiritual sustenance: the latter a most unusual effect of persecution; the former an unaccountable result, if the eldest son of the true church had the chief power in the empire, and the old paganism of Rome showed itself — not in a thousand years and more of persecution, but — in the mere transient efforts of Maximin and Licinius first, and of Julian somewhat later.

And if heathenism and Arianism are strangely put together to make out the war of the dragon and his angels in heaven, what can serious Christians think of the notion that Eusebius’s extravagant flattery of Constantine, and the unwarranted joy and expectations of the dominant party of that day, are the exact echo of the prefigurative voice heard saying, “Now hath come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ?” Certainly I do not wonder that the eye which can see in Zech. 3 compared with Ezra 4 a reference to the accusation of the Jews before the Persian king’s court by their Samaritan foes, should read the fulfilment of “Rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them,” in the imperial edict which proclaimed liberty to those who had been enslaved or condemned to the mines. (Horae Apoc., vol. iii. pp. 29-32.) Of similar character is the criticism, borrowed from Daubuz, that the use of the uncommon plural from heavens, instead of heaven, indicates the then union of elevation in heart to the spiritual heaven, and elevation and dignity to the heaven of worldly rank.

Then again, when we turn from the parenthetic heavenly war, and its consequences (verses 7-12) to the dragon’s doings on earth, we are told that the two wings of the great eagle were fulfilled in Theodosius the Great, whose lot it was to unite the Eastern and Western divisions of the empire under his own sway, and use all his power as a protector and nursing father to the orthodox church. Under these wings Augustine’s ministry is said not only to have furnished present food, but nourishment for its long long sojourn in the wilderness. How the dragon, or old Roman pagan power, should now have the seven heads and ten horns, from Constantine to Theodosius, does not appear. It is to the historicalist an obviously insuperable difficulty, as to which I see not a word of explanation, even in the most voluminous commentary that defends the view. And supposing e.g., that Theodosius could be the sun, the male child, and the great eagle’s wines all at once, it is hard to connect the dragon with the governing power of the Roman empire in that day. Does ‘,the pagan remnant” answer to the persecuting dragon, as our chapter describes him? I do not wonder also that it is found convenient to combine all possible ideas of the flood from the serpent’s mouth, and to make that a mixture of foreign invaders and heresies, of physical force and doctrinal error, employed to overwhelm the true church, so as to pass off a hazy application to the hordes of Goths, Vandals, etc., who inundated the empire after the death of Theodosius. But “the earth helped the woman,” i.e., according to Mr. E., the Roman population, superstitious and earthly as they are confessed to have been, did service to Christ’s church; and in their bloody wars the barbarians were so thinned, that their incorporation with the conquered followed, and their religion passed through Arianism into orthodoxy. The flood was thus swallowed up! If some very few stood forth as witnesses, like Vigilantius, etc., against such the dragon proceeded to plot, and so procure their destruction. To state the scheme is in my judgment a sufficient refutation.

On the other hand, the fulfilment in the crisis is sufficiently intelligible, whatever measure of partial resemblance there may have been in past events. The seventh trumpet has brought us down in a general way to the very end. From Rev. 11:19 we begin an entirely new subject, of which that verse is as it were the preface. The ark of His covenant is seen in His temple above: it is not yet the actual bringing of the house of Israel and the house of Judah under the efficacy of the new covenant but it is its pledge. The sources of all, whether on God’s part or the enemy’s, are disclosed; and hence, as there confessedly is retrogression, so I think there is nothing harsh in the supposition that the birth and rapture to heaven of Israel’s Messiah may be shown the special object of Satan’s hatred, and the occasion of his intensest and ever-increasing hatred to the Jews and to God’s counsels about them. I can also understand that the rapture of the man child may include that of the church — like a binary star, the two-foldness of which appears on adequate inspection. It is thus in the Old Testament that we find the church involved. so to speak, in Christ. The first great act of our Lords kingdom will be, I believe, the dejection of Satan and the wicked spirits, from the heavenly places (cf. Eph. 6:12, and Rev. 12:7-12). On earth the question of Israel, God’s chosen people, is raised at once; and whether as dragon or serpent, all his resources are put in requisition against God’s purpose in that people (yet in abeyance), and against the godly remnant who have the testimony (prophetically, I conceive) of Jesus, as the man of God’s right hand, the Son of man whom He made strong for Himself. The development of his plans we shall find in the chapter which follows.

71 The true reading may not improbably be ὁ ἐν τῶ οὐρανῶ which is in heaven. At any rate so the Alexandrian, and the Paris rescript, the Leicester, a Vatican cursive (579), the Middlehill, the Mortfort and one of the Parham (17) manuscripts say, not to speak of the Cod. Coislin. of Andreas and Victorinus: not so the Sinai, Basilian-Vat., and Porphyrian uncials, with the mass of cursives. Mr. E. is also quite wrong in saying that “according to Tregelles this is a mistake.” It is true that, in his first edition, he inadvertently omitted to name this various reading, though long before noted by Walton, Mill, Bengel, (Wetstein probably,) and even adopted without question in the text, not of Wordsworth only, but of Lachmann, Tischendorf, Green, and it appears Tregelles also, judging from the new edition of 1859. How it was that Mr. E. did not find it in the critical editions of Griesbach and of Scholz, it is not for me to say: but there it unquestionably may be found by any who examine them. In Hahn’s slight manual one could not rightly expect it given. To cite Rev. 15:5 where there is no difference of reading cannot decide one way or another as to Rev. 11:19, where there is such weighty testimony on both sides. The chief bearing of the later occurrence would perhaps be to encourage assimilation in a bold scribe. Besides the article is often dropped carelessly, and especially might be in such a form as this, where its force is not at first sight apparent.

72 Mr. E. remarks (iii. 308, note 4), “It is clear that this word ought to have been here translated covenant not testament. Indeed so I think, always in the New Testament specially inclusive of Heb. 9?” I should say in every place, except in Heb. 9:16, 17, where the reference is clearly to the “inheritance” just named in verse 15. This, it seems to me, furnishes occasion to the inspired writer to found a fresh illustration of the all-important death of Christ upon the idea of a will or testament, which comes into effect only on the demise of the testator, τοῦ διαθεμένου. The latter word never means covenanting victim, nor do I believe it possible that it could. It was technically used for disposing of property. If these two verses be read parenthetically and with this sense, all is clear. I have no wish to speak dogmatically on a point so nice; but such is the view which commends itself most to me.

73 It is amazing that the true relation of this verse escaped the notice of so many able Christian men, owing perhaps to the mere fact of its being unfortunately tacked to the end of Rev. 11, instead of opening the new division commencing with Rev. 12. if Mr. Elliott had only observed it, he might have been spared much trouble; but then he would have lost the coincidence of the “great hail” with the storm in July, 1788!! and the “earthquake” of the French Revolution in 1789. But the hailstorm he had hitherto interpreted as an invasion from the cold north-east. Where is the consistency of this vaunted scheme? And what had the opening of the temple of God, or the sight of the ark of His covenant there, to do with the French democrats?

74 Some, shrinking from the hypothesis that the birth of Christ is here alluded to, as being at variance with the exclusively future bearing of the Apocalypse incline to the view that the parturition of the woman means, in symbol, the formation of Christ in the hearts of Israel, or a certain part of them, before the final crisis. (Compare Gal. 4:19.)

75 It is true that εἰς may be translated unto or towards, no less than into: to decide which is meant, we must carefully examine the nature of the case, and the context. But Luke 9:56, 57, in no wise proves that the woman was fleeing merely towards the wilderness; because we have various occurrences related immediately after the evangelist says that they proceeded unto another village — occurrences expressly said to be while they were on their way. So with Acts 8:25; Acts 18:18, etc. The two wings of the great eagle convey the very reverse of a gradual movement thither. Nor does the parenthetic account of the war in heaven confirm the notion of progressive stages.

76 Dr. M’Causland (Latter Days of Jerusalem and Rome, pp. 314, 326) conceives that the 1260 days, forty-two months or three and a half times, are but abstract indices of the indefinite period of the present dispensation during which the Jewish body continues, like its type Elijah, in the wilderness, unvisited by the dew of the Spirit. Primasius in early days contended for a somewhat similar view; but while he thought that the dates were intended to include the period of the Christian dispensation, he also allowed their literal application to the find tribulation.