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We have now come to a new section in the book of Revelation beginning with chapter twelve. The preceding section, chapters four and eleven inclusive, is ended. The seven seals are all loosed; the seven trumpets have all sounded, and what they signified has now been disclosed. These all portended the destruction of Jerusalem as the first great persecutor of the Christian church. That climax has been reached; and all that was meant by the seals and trumpets has now been revealed; and with the ending of the seals and trumpets that section of Revelation came to a close. In a little booklet, by J.H. McConkey, we find the writer connecting the seventh trumpet with the seven vials of subsequent chapters so as to make the seventh trumpet include the vials; but there is no ground in the book of Revelation for such a position. The two series are distinct as the two historical situations are distinct, and the line of cleavage is here between the eleventh and twelfth chapters.
The next section begins with chapter twelve and ends with chapter nineteen. And as the last section dealt with the first great persecutor, this section on which we are entering deals with the second great persecutor, Rome.
Vs. 1,2. There appears in the prophet's vision a wonderful woman; clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. Who is this woman? We will understand that better when some other features of the vision are brought before us. In the meantime keep in mind, who was this woman? This woman was on the verge of motherhood. Some notable one was to be born of her.
Vs. 3, 4 And there appeared a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns on his heads. His tail drew the third part of the stars, and did cast them to the earth, and the dragon stood before the woman to devour her child as soon as it was born.
There is no difficulty about the identity of the dragon, for in verse nine he is described as "the great dragon, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan." That settles who he is.
"His tail drew a third part of the stars," fallen angels perhaps, or wicked men in high places. That they followed his tail may be an expression of contempt for the foolishness and baseness of their allegiance. At least he went before and they followed. And there are men as well as fallen angels that are assiduous and devoted followers of the Devil's tail; and they follow the Devil's tail more readily than some nobler and worthier leader.
Now the Devil was quick at strategy, and designed to destroy the woman's offspring as soon as it was born. He was early on the job, to gain the first signal advantage and forestall all comers. But there is one quicker and mightier than he for whom the Devil is no match; as we shall see.
V. 5. "And she brought forth a man child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and her child was caught up unto God and to his throne." It is at once recognized who this child was. Who is to rule all nations but Jesus Christ? The words "rod of iron" are taken from the description of Christ's rule in the second psalm. And that this child was caught up to God and to his throne describes Jesus Christ and no one else.
Now we are ready to say that the woman, clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars, represents the church of God. The twelve stars may have reference to the twelve tribes of Israel. The true Israel, the Zion of God, gives us the incarnate Christ, Out of the bosom of the church comes Jesus Christ into the world as the promised Messiah who was to be the "seed of the woman."
V. 6. "And the woman fled into the wilderness where she hath a place prepared of God." Since the Devil could not destroy Jesus Christ he could still persecute the church. This indicates the condition which the church has to face and is the forecast of the scenes that are to follow. Persecution is the Devil's work from the beginning, and the church early felt his power. But God is the protector of the church and has her safely provided for; "a place prepared of God where they should feed her 1260 days. This 1260 days is a term borrowed from Daniel where it was a period of persecution, and has become the symbol of any period of persecution. And as long as the Devil persecutes the church the Lord will protect and feed her. Thus early in this section we have the outline of the story, the persecution of the church and the divine protection and deliverance. The completed section will fill in the outline.
Vs. 7-12. There was war in heaven and the Devil and his angels were cast out. And a voice said: "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."
We have little knowledge of the Devil's relation to space and place or whether he can appear in heaven or not; but we remember in this connection that in the prologue to the book of Job we see Satan presenting himself before God and accusing Job. This seems to be a similar representation. And here the old accuser is cast out. We remember again that Jesus Christ said just before his death and resurrection and ascension, as he looked forward to them, "Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the Prince of this world be cast out;" Joh_12:31 . Again when the seventy disciples reported the success of their preaching mission, Christ replied: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven;" Luk_10:18 . So the meaning here seems to be that the resurrection and ascension of Christ was the staggering blow to Satan's kingdom, and foretokened the ultimate overthrow of his power. When Christ arose from the dead and ascended to the throne of God it was eviction-notice served on Satan. Verse five gave us the scene of ascension and the following verses give us the victory and prelude of coming victories consequent upon that ascension. It is the aftermath of Christ's victory from the time of his ascension with which we are dealing here.
V. 13. "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child." Since he could not destroy the omnipotent Son of God he persecutes the church to show iiis hate toward Christ and every thing that is his. And here we have the church in this part of Revelation, if not by name, in adequate description at least, being further described in verse seventeen as the remnant of the woman's seed "which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
Vs. 14-17. And the woman is given the wings of a great eagle to fly into the wilderness where God has a place to protect and nourish her. The Lord provided a way of escape for the persecuted church, which lifted it out of the reach of the Devil's power. The Devil is represented as a crawling serpent; but the church as flying on wings.
Then the serpent cast out of his mouth a flood of water after the woman to carry her away with the flood. But he fails again. The earth helped the woman by opening her mouth and swallowing up the flood. God is never short of means. All the resources of earth and heaven are at his command. Here we see how the providences of the world are on the side of God's church. The stars in their courses fought against Sisera, which may refer to the storms that helped Israel win her battle; and here the earth puts forth her helping hand to save God's people and God's cause. The God of the church is the God of nature, and the God of providence; and he can command them in any exigency that may arise.
The closing word of the chapter is that "the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed." The following chapters will show some of that warfare as it pertains to the next period of the church's life. The twelfth chapter has been setting the stage for the next era of persecution, which we are now ready to consider. The twelfth chapter began by bringing Christ upon the scene as the Messiah born of the woman. It proceeded to show the design of Satan to destroy the Saviour of the world. But Satan's eff'orts proved futile, for Christ was taken up to God and to his throne. Then Satan turned his attention to persecuting the church; and the next chapter continues the story.
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the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18