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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 12

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-17



Revelation 12

This is by far the longest section in the book, extending from Revelation 12:1-19:10. Its interpretation will call for several chapters. It will be, or at least has proved to be, exceedingly difficult of interpretation, and before attempting the detailed exposition we must first consider the general purpose of the whole section. The entire section gives a prophetic forecast of the history of two opposing religious institutions. Each institution is symbolized by a woman who glides into a city; that is, the symbol changes from a woman to a city. The idea, as elsewhere throughout the book, comes from the Old Testament imagery, the general convocation of ancient Israel as represented by the prophets is a woman betrothed to Jehovah. Marital infidelity, or harlotry, on the part of this woman is defined to be a turning away from Jehovah to worship idols. That is, spiritual fornication means idolatry. Paul, in a measure, adopts this imagery in his letter to the Galatians (Galatians 4:21-31), where in the form of an allegory he makes Hagar and Sarah represent the two covenants: Hagar, the bond woman, answering to the earthly Jerusalem, and Sarah, the true wife, answering to the heavenly Jerusalem.

We need not be surprised, therefore, to find in this symbolical, apocalyptic prophecy two women representing two opposing institutions, nor to find each woman, by a change of figure, becoming a city. Nor need we to stumble in the exposition if, bearing in mind the law of interpreting symbols, we be careful not to construe a symbol literally. A symbolic woman is not a real woman. As there was a real Hagar and a real Sarah, so there is some historical background which will be the analogue of every symbol in this book. For example, there was the historic Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, who led Israel to worship idols, else there would be no force in calling the temptress Jezebel who led the church at Thyatira astray in idolatry.

Let us, therefore, look at the two women in this section. The first is thus described: "And a great sign was seen in heaven, a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head was a crown of twelve stars" – heaven here must not be understood as the final abode of the blest, but is the scene of the vision. The word "sign" (Greek "semeion") is further proof that the woman is not real. "Woman" symbolizes the church as an institution. "Arrayed with the sun" means that Christ is her light. The "moon under her feet" means that the Christ light is not direct but reflected, as the moon shines when the sun is absent. Note that her crown is not a symbol of sovereignty. It is a garland given as a reward to victors – Greek "stephanos," not "diadema," a diadem worn by sovereigns. The twelve stars probably allude to the twelve apostles, in a teaching sense the foundation, as the twelve foundations of the Holy City (Revelation 21:14), which itself helps to prove that the woman is the church – she radiating with Christ’s light and the light of the apostles. In the second chapter of Ephesians we have the thought somewhat expressed (Ephesians 2:20) : "Being built upon the foundation of the apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord." This woman, then, stands before us as pre-eminently a light-bearer – of the light of Christ, of the light of the Apostles, and of the New Testament prophets. The fact that she has a garland on her head rather than a crown shows that when she appears she has won a victory. The picture reminds us of the description of the woman in Solomon’s Sons (Song of Solomon 6:10): "Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?" That is the woman.

The second woman is thus described (Revelation 17:1-6): "And there came one of the seven angels that had the seven bowls, and spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters; with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and they that dwell in the earth were made drunken with the wine of her fornication; and he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of the names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations, even the unclean things of her fornication, and upon her forehead a name written: Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and the abominations of the earth. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, and when I saw her I wondered with a great wonder." The explanation of the terms here will be given when we reach the seventeenth chapter.

Did you ever see two pictures standing over against each other more in contrast than these two? Now, the question is: who are these women? Is either one of them a real woman, and when the second one glides into a city called Babylon is it the real Babylon which in ancient times led Israel into captivity? When the first one, now only betrothed to Christ, becomes the wife of the Lamb at the close of this section (Revelation 19:7-8), can we, with the Romanists, interpret this wife of the Lamb to be his mother, the Virgin Mary, and worship her as the Queen of Heaven? And when later this wife, by a change of figure, becomes a city, Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-12), shall we call it the earthly Jerusalem?

We are safe, therefore, in a general interpretation that the first woman represents the true church of Christ as an institution, and that the second woman represents the apostate church as an institution, originated by Satan to counterfeit the true. In our chapter on Matthew 16 and Matthew 18, where Christ says: "On this rock I will build my church" we have already learned that the term church may be used abstractly if considered as an institution, or concretely when applied to a particular congregation, or prospectively when it is applied to the future church in glory. In Revelation 12, under the symbol of a radiant woman, the church is represented as an institution. I read the second verse: "And she was with child, and she crieth out travailing in birth and in pain to be delivered." This spiritual travail is a familiar figure of speech in both Testaments. For example, Isaiah, foreseeing the regeneration or new birth of the Jewish nation in one day, says: "Who hath heard of such a thing – who hath ever seen such a thing? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth at once? For as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children." Now, the church is represented as being in travail to bring forth children; as when in a revival meeting we say: This church, this Zion, must travail in order that new converts may be born unto God.

Continuing the quotation (Revelation 12:3) : "And there was seen another sign in heaven, and behold! a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads seven diadems" – not "stephanos," a garland but diadems, the symbols of authority. What is the meaning of this great red dragon? A horrible thing as seen in that vision. What does it mean? Revelation 12:9 tells you exactly: "The old serpent, he that is called the devil, Satan, the deceiver of the world." That is what that sign represents. What is meant by "having seven heads"? That refers us to his diverse sources of vitality, and his persistence in life after it seems you have killed him – seven being the symbolic number of perfection or fulness. You have heard that a cat has nine lives; well, the symbolic seven means more than nine – means any number of heads, any number of seats of intelligences, diverse forms of intelligence, diverse forms of vitality, diverse capacity of biting and striking. Just here those of you who have studied the classics will recall the famous battle between Hercules and Hydra. Hydra was the many-headed snake. You have little trouble in killing a snake with one head; with stick or stone you crush that one head. But suppose that when you strike at one head, the one you see, the other six in ambush strike at you.

The devil struck with three heads of temptation at Christ in the wilderness – and each in succession was crushed. But the record says the devil left him for a little while; he came back again – he had another way to try him; he came back at him in another form. He will the same way approach you. You need not think, because you have overcome the evil one in one form, that you have won a final victory. He takes as many shapes as Proteus, he has as many heads as Hydra, as many hands as Briareus, as many eyes as Argus, and he always falls on his feet.

What is meant by diadem? It means that it is unlike that woman’s garland who had no sovereignty. The woman is not sovereign, for Christ is the Sovereign. But the devil is a real king; he is the king of the pit; he was the king of that swarm of locusts we talked about; he is the king of all the fallen angels; he is the prince of the world. As Paul says, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers"; he is the prince of this world.

What is meant by his ten horns? Always in this book a horn is a symbol of power, and ten is one of the prophetic numbers to represent any number of powers. The unicorn mentioned in the Bible, which I suppose is the one-horned rhinoceros, has only one horn, and if you can get away from that one horn, you are all right for awhile; if a wild bull comes after you he can gore you with only two horns; but the devil can hook you in any direction. The ten horns represent the diversity and multitude of his powers.

We will read again (Revelation 12:4): "And his tail draweth a third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth." The tail here is but carrying out the idea of a dragon. Every serpent has a tail, and many of the crocodile class have their greatest power in their tails. If you are walking along a Louisiana bayou, thinking you are passing an old rotten log, which is an alligator, he will knock you into the water with his tail and then go in after you and devour you. Now, while the tail is an essential part of a reptile, it symbolizes here the pagan power he will use against the church. The stars drawn by the tail represent the pastors he leads astray by fear of persecution, by immorality, or by heresy. Note the tense "draweth," not "has drawn," which by anticipation shows how in the conflict with the woman he will try to destroy her by corrupting her ministry. The "third part" signifies that in this particular conflict he will only partially succeed in corrupting the ministry. The majority will remain faithful. It is an outrage on interpretation to make the stars here refer to the fallen angels who were seduced by Satan before Adam was created. That is indeed the historic background which furnishes the imagery of this future event – see Judges 1:6 and 2 Peter 2:4.

I therefore repeat the question: Who are the stars? In this book they are preachers, and it means that in the coming persecution a relatively large number of preachers will fall. Walking carelessly along the bayou of sin they have been knocked by the tail of this alligator into its mouth. Henceforward they become preachers of the devil rather than of Jesus Christ. I once saw a preacher as drunk as a fool; a bystander said: "He is so drunk he could not hit the ground with his hat." A friend also standing by me, who was a student of this book, said: "The alligator’s tail has drawn down that star – he has that preacher." What an awful thing when one commissioned of heaven to outshine the real stars shall fall from his high estate and become a servant of the devil rather than a leader of the hosts of the true God. Whenever a preacher tells lies, whenever he is two-faced and double-tongued, whenever he is a strife-maker and not a peacemaker, the devil’s tail has hit him.

We continue to read: "And the dragon sitteth before the woman that is about to be delivered, that when she is delivered he may devour her child. And she was delivered of a son, a man-child, who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron, and the child was caught up to God unto his throne." The devil got that child’s body; when you see the woman a little later the child is not with her. But the devil did not get the soul – that was caught up to heaven. But he did destroy the body of that child and thought he was winning & great fight. Now, the question is: Who is that man-child? In the verse I have just read it states that he is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, and here the child was caught up unto his throne. On that statement Alford and nearly all commentators say that the child was Jesus Christ, and that it could not possibly apply to anybody else. If that be true, I would like to ask Mr. Alford who then is this woman, the mother of the child. Some commentators try to get out of that difficulty by saying that the woman is indeed the church, but that the church here is an Old Testament church, continued in the New Testament, and about equivalent to the kingdom. I fail to see how the kingdom gives birth to its founder, and totally dissent from such a mixed interpretation of the word "church." When Jesus said, "I will build my church . . ." He had before him the Old Testament Jewish church, the convocation of national Israel, and he had before him the Greek church, the civil body governing in every city, yet in contradistinction to both of them he says, "I will build my church," and if this woman represents the church, she represents the New Testament church, not a mixed Old Testament and New Testament church. Moreover, this whole vision is a part of the things "that shall come to pass hereafter," and we are now in that section of Revelation. We have seen the things that John "saw," we have seen the things "that are" in the seven churches on earth and the things "that are" in heaven, but ever since that we have been in the things that shall take place hereafter. Whoever this man-child is, he was not born before or in John’s time, and the fact that he is to be caught up to the throne of God and rule the nations with a rod of iron cannot necessarily prove that it was Jesus Christ, for in this very book, and in the parts we have gone over, Christ said: "To him that overcometh will I give to sit down on my throne, and I will give him authority over nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron." Therefore, it is not at all necessary to violate the symbolism by making this child to mean Jesus Christ, born away back yonder in the past from John’s time, nor to make this woman represent something that existed away back yonder in the Old Testament. In John’s time the church as an institution seems beaten by her adversaries. John is cheered by a vision of this apparently beaten institution, crowned with a garland of victory and radiant with light. When John writes he is under the persecution of Domitian, a very discouraging time, and the church as an institution does not seem to be in a prosperous condition. But he sees in the future ahead of him this glorious church about to be marvelously prosperous. She wears the garland of victory. The church goes on conquering and to conquer up to the time of the Emperor Decius, A.D. 248, when, according to Gibbon, the greatest persecution ever known to history, or that paganism ever waged against the church, was in his administration. The church, from John’s time, wears the garland wreath of victory on her brow up to the time of the Decian persecution. The dragon in that persecution devours her converts and drives her into the wilderness. It is true that the history in Matthew 2:13-16, when the devil through Herod seeks the life of the child Jesus, is the historic background suggesting the imagery of this vision of a future event. And it is true that after his crucifixion our Lord ascended to a heavenly throne.

Who, then, is the man-child? My answer is that one is taken to represent a class, that is, the man-child represents the martyrs that are to be put to death in this coming persecution. They are converts just as you are.

Revelation 12:17 says: "And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed that keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus Christ." He did not succeed with that first seed, but purposes to assail the rest of them and by a new kind of power – he will use different means, as we will see in the next lesson. The head he is using right now in devouring the converts is the pagan persecution of Decius.

Now, as a further proof that I am right in saying this manchild represents a whole class, later on in the chapter (Revelation 12:11), he is spoken of as plural: "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death." Now all of Revelation 12:7-11, are parenthetical and epexegetical of the killing of the man-child. It is a parenthesis. For instance, in John 3 we have: "Except a man be born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God," and further down in the chapter we have: "Except a man be born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." That second statement is epexegetical of the first one. That is, it elaborates by giving the constituent elements of the new birth – cleansing by application of Christ’s blood and renewing of mind by the Holy Spirit.

I want you to reflect most solemnly upon my position, taken by no commentary in the world, and on the correctness of which I will risk my reputation; that from Revelation 12:7-11 the whole paragraph is parenthetical, and is simply explanatory of the devouring of the man-child. As soon as that parenthesis is interposed, you go right on about the woman in the wilder ness; you resume the story that was interrupted by the parenthesis.

How, then, does the devil propose to destroy the converts of the church? In this verse you see a class represented by a man-child – the class of the martyrs that you saw in the fifth seal of the preceding lecture – how does he propose to devour that man-child? By using a pagan government to kill them in various ways: cut their heads off, burn them at the stake, destroy them root and branch. He lost the fight, though he thought he had won it. He lost the fight because the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Wickliffe’s ashes were cast into the river Severn after his body was burned. They cast his ashes into the river, but the river carried them to the sea, and the sea carried them around the shores of the world, and so Wickliffe’s soul goes marching on. You will see in the next chapter how the devil will employ a more formidable means of persecution. You cannot understand the next lesson unless you note this change: his first means to destroy the churches was to put their members to death by persecution of pagan Rome. His next expedient will be papal Rome.

Let us now expound that parenthesis. I have told you that Revelation 12:7-11 is a parenthesis explanatory of the devouring of that child. There was war in heaven (whenever the devil seeks to destroy the saints, that always means war). Michael and his angels go forth to war with the dragon and his angels, and they prevail not. The man-child was killed, but Satan prevailed not – the martyr testimony makes other seed. The old serpent was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.

"And I heard a great voice in heaven saying: Now is come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of God, and the authority of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuses them before God day and night, and they [see the plural of that man-child] overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their life even unto death." John Milton takes "the heaven" here to mean the home of God and not the scene of this symbolic vision, and, forgetting that this imagery foretells a thing to occur in the future, made this war in heaven take place before the world was created – a real fight between the good and the bad angels. The finest part of his Paradise Lost is his description of the war between the angels. Just what means were employed in expelling the fallen angels originally I do not know, but Michael here is our Lord Jesus Christ himself; his angels are the angels we saw in Revelation 4 – ten thousand times ten thousand of thousands, and they are helping the church here on earth. The devil is trying to destroy the church, and he has the power to kill their bodies, but not their souls, and God’s angels from heaven help the saints in their fight to stand firm and shout and sing and pray as they die, so that their martyr testimony will be more powerful in making new converts to God than if they had not been martyred. Now, as I said, the devil got the bodies of the martyrs, but not their souls, and he lost the fight.

Let us see what becomes of the woman. Revelation 12:6 says that the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God, where she remained a thousand two hundred and threescore days, each day a year. That is the same as forty-two symbolic months. Note again particularly that Revelation 12:13-17 are epexegetical of Revelation 12:6. It says that she was given the two wings of a great eagle that she might fly into the wilderness. The great eagle here is one of the Cherubim. We know that every Cherub had one eagle face. This statement recalls two Old Testament passages: God says to Moses: "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself." And again we have these glorious words: "Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard? The everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not; neither is weary; there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to him that hath no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fail; but they that wait for Jehovah shall renew their strength; they mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:28-31). Cherubim, eagle-faced, bore the woman into the wilderness, where she was nourished for twelve hundred and sixty years.

Revelation 12:15: "And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a river, that he might cause her to be carried away with the stream." That is a familiar Old Testament image, where great wrath is compared to a flushed river, an overflowing torrent. The record says the earth helped the woman by swallowing up the water. Imagine what would become of a river turned loose in a desert. It would soon vanish. But what it means by the earth helping the woman is that secular governments sometimes intervene to protect the rights of the saints and of the churches. For instance, in the Catholic part of Germany it was easy to destroy a martyr, but they could not get to him over in the Protestant part of Germany. The earth over there helped the woman. The Savoy king would say: "You cannot persecute here." Like the grim old Black Douglas, when he started to the borders of England and Scotland to defend the frontier, and the Catholic Church was just starting a persecution, said: "I go, but the smell of one burning fagot on the way will bring me back from the borders." That is the earth helping the woman. "And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and he went away to make war with the rest of her seed, those that keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus."


1. What is the extent of this section?

2. What part of it is our present lesson?

3. What is the general purpose of the whole section?

4. Whence is the imagery?

5. Cite Paul’s use of similar imagery.

6. What is the first law of interpreting symbols? Illustrate.

7. What is the description of the first woman?

8. Explain separately the words: "sign," "heaven," "woman," "arrayed with the sun," "the moon under her feet," "crown," "twelve stars."

9. What Old Testament passage does this vision recall?

10. Where and what is the description of the second woman?

11. What does she represent, who established, and why?

12. What uses of the word "church" were given in the lecture on Matthew 16:18?

13. Explain Revelation 12:2 – "the woman in travail," and cite illustration from Isaiah.

14. Revelation 12:3: (a) Who is the dragon; (b) meaning of seven heads, and cite classic allusion; (c) meaning of "diadem" – Greek "diadema" – and distinguish between it and the woman’s crown "stephanos," and prove his real sovereignty; (d) meaning of ten horns?

15. Revelation 12:4: (a) Meaning of tail; (b) illustrate the power and use of the tail of a certain class of reptiles; (c) the symbolic meaning of tail in this connection; (d) meaning of stars here; (e) prove that the drawing down of these stars is not a past event.

16. Revelation 12:5: (a) What is the historic analogue which suggests the imagery of this future event; (b) what part of the verse led Alford and most other commentators to make this man-child our Lord himself; (c) what preceding passages in this book disprove the necessity of confining the application to our Lord; (d) what is the difficulty of referring the passage to our Lord; (e) how do some commentators seek to evade this difficulty, and your reply to them; (f) who is the man-child and the proof?

17. What great poet misinterpreted the war of Revelation 12:7?

18. What was this war? And wherein does Satan fail?

19. What verses of the chapter are epexegetical of Revelation 12:6?

20. What is the Old Testament analogue of the church in wilderness?

21. Who bore the woman in the wilderness, and what two Old Testament passages are recalled?

22. To what are the outgoings of Satan’s wrath against the woman compared?

23. Literally, what becomes of a river in the desert?

24. Symbolically, what is meant by "the earth helped the woman," and illustrate?

Verses 1-18



In the preceding chapter, commencing the exposition of this section, we considered only Revelation 12. A brief review of the leading lines of thought on that chapter will help us now to see clearly its connection with our present study, Revelation 13.

We found the radiant woman of Revelation 12:1, to be the true church established by our Lord, in the sense of an institution, appointed to enlighten the world. We found the adversary of this institution to be the devil, de facto (not de jure) king of this world and prince of all powers of darkness. We found that the war he waged against the church consisted of three distinct campaigns:

1. An assault on the pastors, in which "his tail draweth down a third part of the stars" – i.e., a great proportion of the pastors were led astray into either heresy or a corrupt life, Satan counting that as are the pastors so will be the churches. In this campaign, Satan is defeated because he could not corrupt all the preachers; the majority remained faithful to the Lord.

2. An assault by persecution unto death on the progeny of the church, i.e., her true spiritual children (Revelation 12:5), the manchild meaning not a particular person, but standing for the martyr class in that greatest of all Pagan persecutions in the first half of the third century; a class and not a single person being evident from the more elaborate statement in Revelation 12:11, "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, even unto death." In this terrible conflict the heavenly powers, Christ and his holy angels, assisted the martyrs against Satan and his demons assisted the persecutor pagan Rome (Revelation 12:7). In this campaign Satan was defeated, for he could kill the body only but not the soul (latter clause of Revelation 12:5), and because "the blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church."

3. His attempt to destroy the church is an institution worldwide prescriptive legislation, making its assembling a capital penal offense – notably by the Roman Emperor Decius and his successor in first half of third century. In this campaign he was also defeated because, although the church was driven into the obscurity of the wilderness, even there she was divinely kept alive and nourished (Revelation 12:6; Revelation 12:13-14), and children of faith were born unto her there. Even some secular powers defended the persecuted institutions against the swollen river of his wrath, "the earth helped the woman" (Revelation 12:15-16), and so always when the enemy comes in like a flood the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. (See Isaiah 59:19.)

Failing to destroy the church by a partial corruption of the ministry, failing to destroy it by martyring its children of faith, since the martyrs’ dying testimony made other believers, failing to destroy the church as an institution by making its assemblies a penal offense under imperial pagan law, the wrath of Satan was exceedingly great and his purpose confirmed to wage war against her other seed, i.e., wilderness seed, but by employing a different expedient, just what, this lesson, Revelation 13 will disclose.

To further clarify this brief review of Revelation 12 these additional observations are submitted, though but repetitions:

1. While conceding and even insisting that there was a fall of the angels, led by Satan, before man was created (Judges 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4), this interpretation of "things to come to pass hereafter," i.e., after John’s time, A.D. 96, has no other allusion to that ancient event than this, that all of his visions of the future are clothed in the imagery of past historical events. Hence these "stars" drawn down by the dragon’s tail (Revelation 12:4) mean not the fallen angels seduced by him before Adam was created, but mean fallen pastors seduced by him in this conflict with the church, following our interpretation of the first chapter of this book. And so the war in Revelation 12:7, was not, as Milton interpreted it in his Paradise Lost, the war which resulted in casting down Satan and his demons before Adam’s creation, as v. II of that context shows. But as there is a historical background which furnishes the drapery of every vision of the future, poetic license may extenuate, if not justify, Milton’s misinterpretation. Just so, when the seventy returned with joy, saying "Lord, even the demons are subject unto us through thy name," and the Lord replies, "I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:17-18). He does not refer to Satan’s original fall, but to his fall through the testimony of the seventy. So here he falls from his usurped place-by the testimony of the martyrs (Revelation 12:11). You have only to compare the great lesson in Matthew 12:28-29, where our Lord casts out Satan and spoils him of his goods, referring not to Satan’s original overthrow, but to his overthrow from his place of usurpation.

2. Similarly we have not followed Alford and most commentators in making the man-child (Revelation 12:5) mean our Lord himself. We can see how Romanists would enjoy this, since it would make the radiant woman of Revelation 12:1, to be the virgin Mary and queen of heaven. The way Satan sought to destroy our Lord when a child, through Herod’s massacre at Bethlehem, is indeed the historic analogue which suggests the imagery of this vision of a future event. The authority given to the "manchild" in latter clause of Revelation 12:5, need not stagger us when we consider the promises already expounded at Revelation 2:26-27; Revelation 3:21, and many later passages in this book. Nor have we accepted the weak evasions of other commentators, who, to avoid a difficulty, make the woman of Revelation 12:1, mean the church, but a blended Old and New Testament church, so as to permit our Lord to be born of the church. There is no such church. And our Lord is the founder and head of the church, not its son.

3. Our interpretation makes Revelation 12:7-12 epexegetical of the war on the man-child, latter clause of Revelation 12:4 and Revelation 12:5; and Revelation 12:13-17 epexegetical of Revelation 12:6.

4. Our interpretation makes the numbers "forty-two months" in Revelation 11:2, and Revelation 13:5, and the 1,260 days of Revelation 11:3; Revelation 12:6, and the "time, times and half-time" of Revelation 12:14, all mean the same thing – i.e., 1,260 years, which delimits the wilderness period of the church, commencing about A.D. 250, and extending to A.D. 1510.

With this clarifying view of Revelation 12, we are now prepared to undertake the exposition of Revelation 13, and particularly to see the connection between them. Revelation 12 left the church in the wilderness, A.D. 250, to remain there 1,260 years bearing "other seed," and left Satan exceedingly angry at his failure to destroy it by the persecution of pagan Rome, and devising in his wrath some other method of continuing the war. This chapter, our present lesson, gives his new device, which, in a few words, is the establishment of a counterfeit church. This counterfeit church, while changing the names of its objects of worship, will have more of them than heathen polytheism ever assembled on Mount Olympus, and whose images are more numerous than all ever placed in a heathen pantheon. It will have more persecuting powers than pagan Rome, and the power this time will extend beyond the grave. Out of the ruins of the pagan Roman Empire it will construct a more formidable "Holy Roman Empire," whose boundaries will be pushed far beyond the limits of pagan Roman territory. While the Caesar head of pagan Rome was wounded unto death, the wound will be healed by a papal head. There were only twelve Caesars – there will be a multitude of Popes, among them a Pope and his son Caesar Borgia worse than Nero. By using pagan Rome as his tail the great red dragon was able to draw down to earth only a third of the stars, i.e., to corrupt only one-third of the ministry, but with papal Rome as his tail this scriptural crocodile will sweep down into his Nile for devouring the overwhelming majority of the ministry.

This device of Satan, in its ultimate proportions, will not be a mushroom product, nor an Aladdin palace springing up in a night, but a steady development of the centuries, a ceaseless evolution by accretion of the ages. All the seven wonders of the classic world will pale into insignificance before this prodigy – Satan’s great masterpiece. The statue of its Pope will cast a longer shadow than Jupiter’s on Mount Olympus; its temple will surpass Diana’s at Ephesus. This colossus will outstraddle the bronze pigmy at Rhodes. Its pyramid will exceed that of Cheops on the Nile, and its Sphinx will not be dumb; the lighthouse at Pharos, near Alexandria, revealed a port of entry to storm-tossed little Mediterranean ships – but this in the name of a lighthouse, will diffuse darkness on a thousand rock-bound ocean shores, that mighty liners may grind their keels and ribs of steel into the fine powder of total shipwreck. In the days of Pericles classic art embellished the Acropolis at Athens, but this acropolis will exhaust for centuries the skill of subservient architects, painters, and sculptors. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus held the dust of only one honored king; this mausoleum will hold the dust of many dishonored kings and statesmen.

But, let us turn from rhetoric to detailed exposition:

Revelation 13:1 – the Common Version reads: "And I stood upon the sand of the sea." Our revision corrects the misleading pronoun: "And he stood upon the sands of the sea" – he, the dragon of the preceding verse, mad at his failure in employing pagan persecution. Why stood he at the sea? "Sea" in this book means the peoples, or confluent materials of nations (Revelation 17:15). Satan is contemplating the heterogeneous national material disintegrated by the fall of pagan Rome, and calculating a reconstruction more efficient for his purpose than pagan Rome. He is the usurping de facto king of the nations. He recalls a temptation once offered to our Lord: "All the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, will I give thee if thou wilt fall dawn and worship me." (Matthew 4:8-10.) Our Lord rejected it. Satan knew also that the radiant woman of Revelation 12:1, the true church, would reject it, even to escape the wilderness. But he argues: Why not I establish a counterfeit church that will accept it on my conditions? And so John the seer is enabled to witness the method of his work.

"And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea." "Beast" in this book, as in Daniel 7:1-8 (which see), means a king or government. And follows a description of this sea beast, which wars against the saints and has authority for 1,260 years – all the wilderness period of the church, i.e., up to the Reformation, when its power wanes until reanimated by the earth beast (Revelation 13:11-12). We may not attempt to interpret this vision except in the light of Daniel 7:19-25, and Revelation 17:7-18. The whole passage seems to teach the transition from a pagan Roman Empire to a so-called "Holy Roman Empire." That is, commencing with the Emperor Constantine, there came about first a union of church and state, with the state at first on top, followed later by the church on top. Constantine might claim that he was the head of the church, but gradually the Pope became the head of both state and church. In the order of history the spotted beast – church and state – would precede the earth beast, looking like a lamb, but having the voice of a dragon, representing the papacy. The idea of the Pope’s universal supremacy would be a gradual development, which in all its fulness was not attained until the Vatican Council in 1870. A universal visible church, united with the state and dominant over the state, naturally receives its consummation in an earthly, visible, and infallible head. So the leopard sea beast would represent a politicalreligious world empire, and the earth beast of v. II would represent the papal head of this empire, galvanizing it into at least a semblance of life after its political life was broken, by his infallible ipse dixit.

In a union of church and state two results always follow: A. quarrel concerning ultimate authority: shall the state dominate the church, or the church dominate the state? No matter which dominates, there is sure to be persecution of those who claim liberty to worship God according to the dictates of the individual. Where a church claims to be universal, with ultimate jurisdiction over all states, there will certainly be a revolt of states against the church.

Revelation 13; first clause of Revelation 13:1: "And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns ten diadems, and upon his heads names of blasphemy." If you turn to the description of the dragon in your last lesson, you will see both a likeness and an unlikeness: "I saw a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads seven diadems." Here the diadems on this beast are on his horns. The likeness arises from the fact that the government created by the dragon will resemble the dragon; and the unlikeness will arise from the fact that the horns, signifying power, will be different because the first was wholly spiritual, and the second will be secular.

What do the seven heads mean? "I saw a beast come up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads" – suppose you turn with me to Revelation 17:9, it will give us God’s explanation. Revelation 17:9: "The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth" – that looks like it means the seven hills on which Rome was built, to which there may be a remote allusion; but let us go on and read a little further: "And they are [that is, they represent] seven kings [or better, seven kingdoms], five are fallen, one is, and the other is yet to come, and when he cometh he must continue a little while." Now, when we take Daniel and Revelation together, we understand these seven world empires – the kingdoms that oppose the kingdom of God in every age. First, the Egyptians; they wanted to destroy Israel or keep it in bondage. The second was Assyria, with its capital at Nineveh, that destroyed the ten tribes. These two had passed away before Daniel wrote, and hence he does not discuss them. When John comes to write five are fallen, so we must add three more to the two that had fallen when Daniel wrote. These three were Babylon, which captured Judah; Persia, which, at Haman’s suggestion, was about to destroy the Jewish exiles; and Greece, which, particularly under Antiochus Epiphanes, sought to destroy utterly the religion of the Jews. Daniel saw four: Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Now, when John wrote, five of these world empires had passed away, and the sixth, the Roman Empire, is the one which will destroy Jerusalem and is now persecuting under Domitian. When John wrote it was still in great power. The seventh would be this spotted beast that this lesson is discussing – the Holy Roman Empire, and hence we can understand how the eighth (Revelation 13:11) is not a nation, but is of the seventh. The eighth is the papacy, not a nation, but is of the seventh and has the power of the seventh. Now, do you get that point clear? That there is a likeness in every great world empire that wars against the kingdom of God – persecuting likeness and a blaspheming likeness. Every one of these assumed divine as well as human power, from Egypt to Rome. The emperor claimed to be Pontifex Maximus – that is, high priest of the religion of the nation, and also claimed to be God, demanding to be worshiped. The image of Caesar was put up on their standards, and when the legions would wake up in the morning the first thing to do would be to bow down and worship the image of Caesar on the standard.

Now, this last beast is represented as having seven heads. That is, it blends all the evils of the six preceding world powers, and itself will be the seventh. What are the ten horns? "And the ten horns that thou seest are the ten kings that have received no kingdoms yet" (Revelation 17:12). That is, the ten kingdoms that were to be built up out of pagan Rome were not yet established; he is looking into the future and sees them, but they are not yet. I ask you particularly to notice these ten horns and the ten kingdoms. They support the woman in purple and scarlet (Revelation 17:13) and these ten kingdoms give their power and authority unto the beast – every one of the ten kingdoms that were established out of the ruins of the pagan Roman Empire and constitute the Holy Roman Empire championed the Roman Catholic religion.

But look at Revelation 17:16: "And the ten horns which thou seest on the beast, these shall hate the harlot and make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire." That means that in later history these ten governments in succession would become the oppressors of the Roman Catholic Church, as France threw off its allegiance, and as did Germany, and later Holland, Switzerland, all Scandinavia – i.e., Denmark, Norway, Sweden – and England, Scotland, and Wales, and turned their powers against this great whore that represents the Roman Catholic Church, and finally Italy itself, when Victor Emmanuel led his army into Rome and destroyed the temporal power of the Pope, and carried an open Bible at the head of his entrance column. You thus see what the ten kings, or ten horns, mean.

We now come to the description of this beast (Revelation 13:2): "And the beast that I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth was as the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority." If you turn back to that seventh chapter of Daniel, you will notice that this beast combines the elements of the four beasts of his vision. The predominating quality here is the leopard; i.e., the beast had the leopard’s form. Which means it was a spotted government, a mixed government, it was a politico-religious government. That is the reason the leopard predominates – it is a spotted beast. Revelation 13:3: "And I saw one of his heads as though it had been smitten unto death" – that is, the pagan Roman head, yet further when John writes – "and I saw that one head was smitten to death and his death stroke was healed." In other words, succeeding pagan Rome came papal Rome. The center of authority is still in the city of Rome, the governing power still goes out from that center, but the Caesar head dies in the destruction of pagan Rome, and the Pope head comes in the place of it.

Last of Revelation 13:3: "And the whole earth wondered after the beast" – well, it was a prodigy; there had never been anything just like it. It was not like pagan Rome in this, that there were ten kingdoms united on their religion, but divided in their civil authority, until the Pope usurped the civil as well as the religious authority. So it was the strangest beast ever seen. "And they worshipped the dragon because he gave his authority unto the beast, and they worshipped the beast, saying: Who is like unto the beast, who is able to war with him?" For many centuries of the 1,260 years no nation in Europe was able to war with the power represented by the Pope.

"And there was given to him a mouth, speaking great things and blasphemies, and there was given to him authority to continue forty-two months" (rather, to do his work; the Greek word shows not so much the idea of continuance as ability to do his work. He continued after the 1,260 years, but without ability to do as before). He still claims the same authority, but he cannot do his work like he did up to that time. "And he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle [that is, his church], even they that dwell in heaven [that is, the true saints], and it was given to him to make war with the saints to overcome them. And it was given him authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation [he was permitted to make such claim], and all that dwell on the earth shall worship him [not the exception], every one whose name hath not been written on the Lamb’s book of life." These, the true people of God, did not worship him – all over Europe there were people who refused to submit, even unto death. They were true candlesticks, but shining in the wilderness. Human history does not take much notice of them. There were true preachers, though by using this new kind of tail the dragon swept down the most of the stars.

Revelation 13:10, last clause: "Here is the patience and faith of the saints." In Revelation 14:12, we have this language repeated in another sense: "Here is the patience of the saints," Here it means the patience of the saints in enduring the trials by faith. The next time it means the fruition of patience: I will call your attention to it again in a subsequent chapter.

We now come to a description which shows that the papacy does not come out of the sea – that is, it is not a nation: "And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and it had two horns like a lamb but spoke as a dragon." It claimed to be a lamb but it was a dragon. Now, when you turn to Daniel 7, he says: "I saw a little horn come up that destroyed three of the other horns" – so the Pope usurped the civil jurisdiction of several of the states) and claimed them as papal states and was king over them. That little horn in Daniel’s fourth beast and this two-horned beast here that has the voice of the dragon and that claimed to be a lamb, and the false prophet in Revelation 19 as being cast into the abyss with the beast, all mean the same thing; the little horn, the lamb-dragon beast, and the false prophet all mean the papacy: Pope comes from "papa," or father, hence papacy. It is not a nation and hence is represented as coming up out of the earth, and yet he is the eighth government, rising out of the seven governments, or beasts. We see that he is the one that heals the death stroke of the sixth head; when the Caesar head dies, the Pope head succeeds. There is attributed to him, in the rest of this lesson, great miracle-working power. John does not affirm that these were real miracles – he reports as he sees; he saw a vision of the Pope giving the beast the power of miracles of different kinds. It is characteristic of Roman Catholicism that from the beginning of its history down to the present time it is brimful of so-called miracles; its images are made to speak, or weep, or bleed.

Revelation 13:16: "And he causeth all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, the free and the bond, that they be given a mark on their right hand, and upon their forehead." Many have tried to explain what is the mark of the beast given by this Pope. One old Baptist preacher insists that it was infant baptism, followed by a sign of the cross made on the forehead. Your lesson tells you (Revelation 13:17) that "the mark is the name of the beast or the number of his name." And adds: "Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding let him count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six." Whoever can interpret this knows what is "the mark." No better explanation of this passage has been given than that of Irenaeus. The first Roman ruler was Latinus. His name spelled in Greek is Lateinos. Greek letters are numerals, each letter standing for a certain number. Thus: L-a-t-e-i-n-o-s. I give you English letters corresponding to the Greek because some of you do not know Greek.

L (Greek, Lamda) == 30

a (Greek, Alpha) == 1

t (Greek, Tau) == 300

e (Greek, Epsilon) == 5

i (Greek, lota) = 10

n (Greek, Nu) == 50

o (Greek, Omikron) = 70

s (Greek, Sigma) == 200

Total........... ......666

These Greek letters when used as numerals are equal to the numbers opposite and their added total is 666. Here, then, is the number of the beast and it is the number of a man, and it is 666.

The mark of the beast then is the word "Latin." On which Alford observes: "The Latin Empire, the Latin church, Latin Christianity, have ever been its commonly current appellations; its language, civil and ecclesiastical, has ever been Latin; its public services, in defiance of the most obvious requisite for public worship, have ever been throughout the world conducted in Latin; there is no other one word which could so completely describe its character, and at the same time unite the ancient and modern attributes of the two beasts." [Alford might have added: No version of the scriptures considered authoritative except the Latin Version and that only as interpreted by the Latin Church. Irenaeus had in mind the pagan Latin Empire, Alford more wisely its transition into the papal Latin Empire. – Editor]


1. State the three distinct assaults of Satan in trying to destroy the church as an institution, and wherein he failed in each case.

2. Was there a real fall of Satan and his angels before the fall of Adam? If so, prove it scripturally and then show the relation of that ancient history to the imagery of the future events in Revelation 12.

3. Show the relation of Satan’s assaults on the infant Jesus to the imagery of the man-child in Revelation 12.

4. Show what verses of Revelation 12 are epexegetical of other verses.

5. What symbolical numbers of 11, 12, 13 are equal to each other?

6. About what date did the church enter the wilderness, on account of what persecution, and about what date did it emerge?


7. Revelation 13:1: meaning "He stood on the sand and the sea"?

8. In a few words, tell what the new device of Satan as an instrument of war against the church.

9. Show how this new device will have more idolatry than pagan Rome, more persecuting power, a more formidable head than the Caesar of Rome, and corrupt more preachers.

10. Show how it will be more wonderful than each of the seven wonders of the classical world.

11. What passage of Scripture enables us to interpret the leopard of Revelation 13:1; the lamb dragon beast of Revelation 13:11, and the harlot woman of Revelation 17:1-6?

12. In the light of these scriptures what the leopard beast? And the nature of it?

13. What is the lamb dragon beast?

14. What is the harlot?

15. What is the expression in Daniel 7, and what other expression in chapter 19 of this book, mean the same thing as the lamb, dragon, beast?

16. What two results always follow a union of church and state?

17. Explain in Revelation 13:2 the wounding of one head unto death, and healing of the wound.

18. What is the real meaning of the Greek word rendered "continue" in Revelation 13:5?

19. (a) What is the difference between Common Version and the Revised Version rendering of Revelation 13:8? (b) if Common Version is right, What is the meaning? (c) if Revised Version is right? Which do you prefer?

20. What is the meaning of Revelation 13:17?

21. What is "the mark of the beast," Revelation 13:16, as explained in Revelation 13:18, and the exposition thereof by Irenaeus and Alford?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Revelation 12". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/revelation-12.html.
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