Revelation 12

Revelation 12
IT would have been better if those who divided our English bibles into chapters and verses, had put the last verse of chapter 11 at the commencement of chapter 12., for it is in connection with its contents.
“And a great sign was seen in the heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, arid upon her head a crown of twelve stars; and being with child she cried, [being] in travail, and in pain to bring forth." (Ver. 1.) Although this great sign was seen in heaven in the vision, it does not follow that all the events which are brought forward or symbolized have their actual accomplishment there. It is clear from what the prophet saw that some of them take place on earth, others in heaven, both being in certain relation the one to the other. In examining the passage carefully, it is not 'difficult to perceive that this "sign" is a figure of the nation of Israel. The woman is clothed with the sun. Israel had been invested with light and power and authority from God. The moon, which illustrates derivative and reflected light, is under her feet. The crown of twelve stars upon her head seems to denote the twelve sons of Israel, heads of the twelve tribes.
Verse 2 speaks of travail and pain before deliverance, and doubtless points on to the hour of Jacob's trouble and pain before the Deliverer comes out of Zion. A remarkable passage in Isa. 66:7-97Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. 8Who 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. 9Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God. (Isaiah 66:7‑9) may shed light upon it. It says there, that "Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child. Who hath heard such a thing? “And here in chapter 12:5, where a man-child is born, he is caught up to heaven, and the passage goes on to speak of the future in relation to the nation prior to His reappearance. When Zion travails in the future, she will bring forth her children. (Isa. 66:88Who 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. (Isaiah 66:8).) And they shall be delivered and blessed under Christ. This scripture links the past and future concerning Christ and Israel together in such a remarkable manner, that it is not easy to discern the true spiritual import of some of the details.
“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.
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." (Verses 3, 4.) The great red dragon, is Satan in his draconic character, in relation to the great imperial and infidel power which is to be set up on the earth, the Roman Empire. The seven heads are seven mountains, the well-known seven hills upon which Rome, the capital city of the empire, is built, and which becomes the center of Satan's power on the earth. And there are seven kings or ruling powers. There are seven crowns, or diadems, upon the seven heads. The word "there" is a doubtful rendering. The seven heads have a double signification. (Rev. 17:9, 109And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. 10And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. (Revelation 17:9‑10).) The ten horns are ten kings, who will have power as kings in the countries which will comprise the empire in its last phase, when revived. (Rev. 17:1212And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. (Revelation 17:12).) The dragon draws the third part of those prominent men who hitherto have been set up as lights, to shine morally among men, and casts them down to the level of the earth. The dragon stands before the woman (Israel) which was ready to be delivered. He is bent on devouring her child as soon as it is born. The gospel narrative shows us how he wrought through Herod the king to destroy Christ. (Matt. 2:1616Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. (Matthew 2:16).) But He was preserved till the will of God was accomplished. Both Jew and Gentile combined finally to put Him to death.
“And she brought forth a man [or male] child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne." (Ver. 5.) When the fullness of time was come Christ was born into the world, a male son (New Trans.), who was to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod. This latter is yet to be accomplished. Refused at His first appearing (passing over all that befell Him at the hand of man in His rejection and death), Israel's child (the child born, the Son given, Isa. 9:66For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)) was "caught up" to God. The same expression is used in 'Thessalonians 4:15-18 in relation to His heavenly saints. "And to his throne." It brings before us Christ's present position as the glorified One, seated at the right hand of God's power, when all things were given into His hand. (John 3:3535The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. (John 3:35); Eph. 1:20-2220Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, (Ephesians 1:20‑22).) And it links up with Him the future ways of Gold with Israel. Sufficient is said to connect the past and future history together.
“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." (Ver. 6.) Prior to the casting down of the dragon to earth, the description of which follows, and the most terrible period of trial and suffering in man's history, God in mercy thinks of His people, and reveals His care of them at that awful hour. The woman flees for safety into the wilderness, a sphere where every natural resource is lacking. But the same faithful God who led His people through the wilderness of old, and sustained them by His own wondrous and unfailing resources, will prepare a place for them. And there He will nourish them every day of the period of Jacob's trouble. They will be preserved and nourished twelve hundred and sixty days, the whole time of the dragon's rule on earth.
“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." (Verses 7, 8.) Many, through preconceived notions and faulty early training, have very erroneous ideas both about heaven and about Satan. If any of our readers, instead of gathering their thoughts from scripture, have only one sphere called heaven before their minds, and vainly imagine that Satan is now a king in hell, we are not surprised at their having a difficulty in understanding this sudden introduction of war with the dragon in heaven. It is all important to remember that there are several spheres which are called heaven in scripture. There is the firmament (Gen. 1:6-86And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Genesis 1:6‑8)); the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3; 2:63Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (Ephesians 1:3)
6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 2:6)
); the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:22I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. (2 Corinthians 12:2)); the heaven of heavens (1 Kings 8:2727But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? (1 Kings 8:27)). Other spheres have been affected by sin, besides this habitable earth. There is spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. (Eph. 6:1212For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12).) Satan is the prince of the power of the air. Is it needful to add that there is no sin in the third heavens, or the heaven of heavens, the immediate presence of God. (2 Cor. 12:22I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. (2 Corinthians 12:2); 1 Kings 8:2727But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? (1 Kings 8:27).) When Christ said, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (Luke 10:1818And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. (Luke 10:18)), He was speaking prophetically. His actual fall comes later. He is not yet in the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:1-31And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. (Revelation 20:1‑3)), nor in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:1010And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10).) He will be later on. At present the whole world lies in the wicked one. (1 John 5:1919And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. (1 John 5:19).) He is its god. (2 Cor. 4:44In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:4).) He has access to one of the spheres called heaven. (Job 1:22And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. (Job 1:2).) He rules the world, but God is above all and over-ruling, and Satan cannot enter where He is. And God will cause him to be cast out of his present position. It will be accomplished by angelic instrumentality.
“There was war in heaven." A terrible war it will be. On the one side Michael, the archangel, the great prince which standeth for the children of Daniel's people, that is, Israel (Dan. 12), "and his angels." On the other the dragon. The hour has arrived for him to be cast out. Michael and his angels take the offensive. The dragon fights and his angels with him, but in vain. The power against him is from God, and he cannot stand. He prevails not. Our Lord had said the gates of hades should not prevail against His assembly. (Matt. 16:1818And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18).) And that assembly having been brought safely through Satan's world, and landed in glory, to be presented by Christ, to Himself, as His bride, the enemy must be cast out from the heavenly sphere that he had hitherto occupied. His and his angels' place is found no more in heaven, but the contention of good and evil will continue a while on earth, issuing in the final triumph of, Christ.
“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." (Ver. 9.) It is important and instructive to notice how the great enemy is spoken of in this verse. The four names by which he is known in scripture are employed, from which we gather that this awful and powerful being, the prince and god of this world, will exercise all his power on the earth during the last half-week in this fourfold character. He will put forth draconic, serpent-like, devilish, and Satanic power during his short sojourn here. The same four names are mentioned again when his power comes to an end. Then he will be bound in the abyss, sheaving that he will be completely powerless in every way during the thousand years' reign of Christ. (Rev. 20:33And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. (Revelation 20:3).) At the close he is loosed for a little season, but only his titles of "Satan" and "the devil" are used. It is also to be noticed that the word "great" is added again when he is cast out. He will exercise great power in connection with the earth. And the word "old," or "ancient," is also employed in relation to the serpent. He is the same who led to the fall of man when he intruded in serpent's guise in Eden.
He is also said to be the one who deceives the whole habitable world. This great power of deception explains, although it does not excuse, the carelessness and indifference of men in regard to Christ and their salvation. He is the god of this world, and blinds the minds of them which believe not, which, combined with the deceitfulness of the human heart, and of sin, keeps man in complete darkness. This wicked being is cast out into the earth and all his angels with him. His is a downward course from his first absolute and irretrievable fall onwards. He lost his marvelous heavenly position in the economy of God (Ezek. 28:11-1911Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 12Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. 13Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. 14Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. 15Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. 16By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. 17Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. 18Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. 19All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more. (Ezekiel 28:11‑19)) and became what he now is. Through this conflict in heaven he will be cast down to earth (Rev. 12:9-139And 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. 10And 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. 11And 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. 12Therefore 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. 13And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. (Revelation 12:9‑13)); later on he will be bound in the abyss (Rev. 20:1-31And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. (Revelation 20:1‑3)); finally, he will be cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:1010And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10).) This latter is prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matt. 25:4141Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (Matthew 25:41).)
“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. 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. 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 hut a short time." The language of this loud voice would suggest that it is that of the heavenly saints. It speaks of”
God," and of "our brethren," who are still upon the earth. It is not yet the moment for the establishment of Christ's rule over the earth, but it refers to the establishment of the kingdom in relation to its heavenly sphere, for there will be both a heavenly and an earthly. God shall head up all things in Christ, both in heaven and in earth. (Eph. 1:1010That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:10).) Hence the voice cries, "Now is come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ." (New Trans.) The enemy's opposition on high to the salvation of God, the exercise of His power and the establishing of His rule ceases. Satan is cast out. The authority of God's Christ is paramount henceforth where Satan had opposed. Already powerless to accuse God's heavenly saints before Him, those who had been justified, reconciled, saved, and taken into favor through and in Christ, Satan had been persistently accusing, day and night, the saints witnessing on earth under the fresh dealings of God (of which we have already spoken, after the heavenly saints are seen enthroned in chapters iv. and v.) until his fall. The voice proclaims that the accuser of "our brethren" is cast down. He accused them (not us). It is not a question of Christians. And they (not we) overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. They will know for themselves, as we do on earth to-day, the infinite value of the precious blood of the Lamb. Confident and assured as to their future blessing, they announce His word in faithful testimony, and are willing to sacrifice their lives for His sake. "They loved not their lives unto death." They suffer martyrdom rather than deny the One to whom they owe all.
“Therefore rejoice [or be full of delight], ye heavens," cries the voice,” and ye that dwell in them." The announcement concerning the kingdom, the overthrow of the accuser, and the faithful testimony of God's fresh witnesses, become the joy of the heavens, and of those who dwell there.
But that which causes joy in heaven brings terrible retribution upon the world of the ungodly.
“Woe to the earth and to the sea" Enraged at his overthrow, and knowing that he has but a short time ere he will he bound in the abyss, he will exercise all his power and malignity against men both within the ordered and unordered spheres. The world having refused every overture of God's mercy up till this moment will suffer woe, by reason of the casting out of the devil to the earth. They will not have God and Christ, but choose rather Satan and his man. The next chapter gives us details of the awful state of things; which will ensue through his power and wiles.
The first thing the dragon does, when come to earth, is to persecute the Jewish nation. "When the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the Man-child." It is in his draconic character that the devil does this. He has always been a persecuting spirit, using men as his instruments. Here it is not a question of the Jewish witnesses, but of the nation. The Jews as such are the objects of his malice.
But God having renewed His links, as we have seen, with His ancient people, bestows upon them the means of protection and support. "To the woman were given two wings of a great eagle." In the vision of chapter 8:13 it was a flying eagle which utters the woes upon the inhabiters of the earth; here the two wings of the great eagle are given to God's people to protect them whilst these woes are being executed. Through this power, supplied in the mercy of God, the woman is enabled to fly into the wilderness, into her place. This, we judge, is the sphere we have noticed in verse 6, and the place providentially prepared of God. There she will be nourished for a time, times, and half a time from the face of the serpent. A time represents a year. It is the same period of three years and a half, referred to as a thousand two hundred and threescore days in verse 6. They find themselves, so to speak, face to face with the serpent. But all his wiles are powerless against those whom God protects. This protection is afforded by providential means, as the following verses chew.
“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. 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."(Verses 15, 16.) The serpent sets in motion what appears to be a popular movement against the Jews. In the original the flood, or river, is said to be behind them. He seeks to get them carried away. It is not the first time by many that this persecuted people has been subject to movements of a similar character; this will probably be on a more general scale. But in the vision the earth helps the woman. It would seem that the fixed government of the ordered sphere of the earth comes to the people's aid, and the movement is frustrated. The earth opens her mouth in the figure and swallows up the flood; consequently the draconic power is nullified. The movement dies down and disappears.
“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." (Ver. 17.) Frustrated in his design to overwhelm and destroy God's ancient people, the enraged dragon turns against the remnant of the woman's seed. These are the truly godly ones in the midst of the apostate nation. They keep God's commandments from the heart, and are not content with a mere external observance. And they have the blessed testimony of Jesus, in whom all those commandments found their perfect expression. The dragon makes war against them. In the following chapter, we find the allied power of two beasts his instruments in carrying out his deadly designs.