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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Revelation 12

THE THREE ENEMIES OF GOD’S KINGDOM (CH. 12-14)

The Revelation of St John gives no regularly progressive disclosure of the future, advancing in unbroken series from beginning to end; but it falls into a number of groups, which indeed supplement each other, every successive vision giving some other aspect of the future, but which are still formally complete in themselves, each proceeding from a beginning to an end.

There can be no doubt that at ch. 12 we have the commencement of a new group, and the remark of Bengel, “Those are in a great prophetical error who break off here, and if nowhere else, yet here at least make an entirely new beginning,” is quite wrong, and ought to be precisely reversed. For at the close of ch. 11 we are manifestly brought to the last end; so that the Seer, if he will not altogether conclude his book, must commence anew. For what could it be but a description of the last end, which has for its object the development of the kingdom of God, when it is said, in ch. Revelation 11:15, in anticipation of what was immediately to follow, “The kingdom of the world has become (the kingdom) of our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever?” When the four and twenty elders, the ideal representatives of the church in heaven, say in prospect of what is presently to be done, “We give thee thanks, O Lord God the Almighty, who art and wast, that thou hast taken thy great power and reignest?” When the “and art to come,” which before the last end has so deep a meaning, and was spoken with so strong an emphasis, appears now as antiquated, and there is only a past and present in the kingdom of God? When the elders say further, in Revelation 11:18, “Thy wrath is come, and the time to judge the dead, and to reward thy servants, the prophets and the saints, and those that fear thy name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth?” Such, surely, have the time of the last judgment, and the consummation of grace immediately in prospect. What we now, according to ch. Revelation 11:15-18, expect—the appearance of the Lord, the final victory of God’s kingdom, the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment, the glorification of the church—all this is represented in Revelation 11:19 as having entered, but only by way of gentle indication, which few have understood. For, the Seer would reserve the more particular delineation of these last things for a later part of his book, and precisely by the enigmatical brevity with which he here treats them, would set expectation on the stretch regarding that more particular delineation in reserve. “And the temple of God (it is said) was opened in heaven, and the ark of his Testament was seen in his temple; and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and a great hail.” The temple in heaven is a symbol of the church, the ark of the covenant a symbol of the gracious relationship in which the Lord stands to his church; that it has become visible, imports that this relation is now in a glorious manner maintained, and becomes manifest to view. All that the Lord does toward the realization of this, and in suspending judgment over the church’s enemies, is here concealed under the lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and earthquake, and great hail—exactly as in ch. Revelation 8:1 by the silence, where the closing scene appears under the same kind of veil. So the end of the vision reverts to the beginning, as a certain proof that we have here a termination before us. What is said in ch. Revelation 8:5, “And the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from off the altar, and threw it upon the earth; and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake,” is a prophecy, which we here see brought to fulfilment.

[By the view now given, the foundation is withdrawn from the hypothesis of Bleek (in the Berlin Theol. Zeitsch. Th. II. p. 281), according to which the book originally consisted of Revelation 1 and Revelation 4-11, and between Revelation 11, 12 something must have been taken away which originally formed the conclusion of the whole book, the representation of the Lord’s second coming, and the setting up of his kingdom. It rests primarily on the groundless supposition, that the book in its original form must necessarily have contained a continuous, regularly progressive representation, whereas here we are met with a quite new beginning. “The artificial plan, by which the future gradually advanced and rose into view, is made to vanish at ch. Revelation 8:2, where we have also a new beginning, not less than at ch. Revelation 12:1. Bleek, indeed, labours there to discover a connection. He says, “We have to consider the matter so, that what comes forth in the particular trumpet-voices, taken together, makes up the whole still remaining part of the contents of the book, inclosed in the seventh seal; so that we are here still in very close connection with the preceding context.” But if we must be still within the compass of the seventh seal at the end of ch. 11, it is very strange that no reference whatever is made to what goes before ch. Revelation 8:1; the seven trumpets have entirely the appearance of an independent position, and never make any allusion to the seals. The silence in ch. Revelation 8:1 is alone to be regarded as belonging to the seventh seal; and the idea, that the seven” trumpets are to be drawn into the circle of the seven seals, was long ago very satisfactorily refuted by Vitringa. Among other things against it is the brevity of the description belonging to the other seals in proportion to this, which would then embrace the contents of four entire chapters; while, “the events of most of the other seals are declared in the short and simple delineation of a single figure or two.” Farther, if the trumpets were subordinated to the seals, and contained the issues of the seventh seal, there would have been no need for a new preface or an introductory vision, by which John sought to prepare the way for the seven trumpets. For, the vision of the sacrificing angel, ch. Revelation 8:3-6, is a sort of prelude, heralding the new scenes, that were soon to present themselves to John. If we have a quite new beginning even at ch. Revelation 8:2, the view must be abandoned, which regards the Revelation as a regularly progressive and continuous whole, a view that has been most pernicious to the right exposition of the book; and it must not be regarded as at all strange, that at chap. 12 we are entirely cut off from the earlier series of representations, so that we should go about to construct groundless hypotheses, with Bleek, or with Bengel and Lücke, try to build a bridge out of our own materials. The attempt of the latter to bring the whole of what follows even to the end of the book within the compass of the last trumpet and of the last woe, is proved to be unavailing by the fact, that never after ch. 11 is a word said about a trumpet or a woe; secondly, by the first six trumpets and the two first woes having so limited a range; and lastly, by the circumstance that the immediately following portion, Revelation 12-14, has not at all the character of a trumpet and a woe. Bleek urges further: “It has already been remarked, how the threefold repetition of the woe, ch. Revelation 8:13, is intentional, since to each of the three still remaining last trumpet voices there belongs a woe; this is expressly noticed in connection with the fifth and sixth. But now in this third and last woe, for which preparation had been so carefully made in the preceding part, that we might certainly expect the same to be at least as solemnly and expressly uttered in regard to it, as in regard to the two first, it is not at all mentioned either here or anywhere in what follows.” In the proclamation, however, at ch. Revelation 11:14, “The second woe is past, behold the third woe comes quickly,” the third woe is expressly announced, and is realized in Revelation 11:19 where the great hail especially appears as the divine instrument of punishment and the symbol of the divine judgment—comp. Revelation 16:21. Any more explicit mention was unnecessary; because the boundary-line in respect to the second was so plainly drawn at Revelation 11:14, and there was to be no fourth. It would even have been confusing; for there was not to be expected here any formal conclusion, but rather something to indicate the supplement still to be expected, the unfinished character of the issue. What Bleek still further urges in proof of the fragmentary character of ch. 11 in its present form—that we should have expected the personal appearance of the Lord at Revelation 11:19, and the judgment therewith connected—has been already met by the remarks made in the text. It would only be of force, if Revelation 11:19 formed the close of the whole book, and not merely of a single group. In the latter case, it is quite enough, exactly as at ch. Revelation 8:1, simply to mark the place, which is to belong to what is to be unfolded afterwards more at length, and this here is sufficiently done, especially if we take into account, not merely Rev 8:19, but also what in Rev 8:15-18, is said in announcing what was immediately at hand. We shall then have no doubt remaining as to what really belongs to the seventh trumpet, and it will be clear, that we have here before us in the plan, what is brought out in detail in the last groups.

Besides, Ewald has already remarked with justice, that the mere hypothesis of Bleek, countenanced only by some appearances, is effectually disproved by ch. Revelation 11:7 alone, according to which the beast, which rises out of the abyss, is to wage war on the two witnesses, and overcome and kill them. By that we are pointed forwards to ch. 13. Only an author could have written thus, who meant to give afterwards a more extended description of the beast, as, indeed, without the future explanation we should not know what to make of such a statement. (This passage also is decisive against the hypothesis of a regularly progressive representation in one and the same line; it implies, that the book consists of groups, which run parallel with each other. How, otherwise, could the beast, which is here spoken of as already being on the field, be represented in ch. 13 as then only making its appearance?) It is not worthwhile to advance more arguments against the hypothesis in question—as that the seven seals and the seven trumpets, which keep very much to generals, and have the character of a prelude, cannot possibly make up one whole, etc.]

As certainly as at the end of ch. 11 we stand at the final close of things, so certainly do we find ourselves at the beginning of ch. 12 thrown back to the commencement of the New Testament economy; so that it is vain to speak of a continuous representation. The sufferings of the Lord’s people first pass before the soul of the prophet, which were endured before the birth of Messiah; then follows the birth itself, then the ascension, and the description, how through the accomplished atonement of Christ the power of Satan has been broken. And though we should consider all this as an introduction, which is its real character, as shall presently be made to appear, yet it does not conduct us over the very first beginnings of the Christian church. The starting-point in that case is the present of the Seer, the time of the Roman persecution, and the tendency of the section appears to be, to direct those, who had to suffer under the persecution, to the grace of God, which was to preserve the church through all the coming troubles, Revelation 12:6; Revelation 12:14, and at last bring the persecution to an end by the overthrow of the persecuting power.

Having thus determined the relation of this section to the preceding context, we shall farther endeavour to fix its relation to what follows. A new scene opens to us with the beginning of ch. 15. The section of Revelation 12-14, or the fourth group, is occupied by the three enemies of God’s kingdom; the capital enemy Satan, who, as such, to indicate his great power, appears in heaven, ch. Revelation 12:1-17,—the beast, who arises out of the sea, the symbol of multitudes of people, the ungodly world-power, ch. Revelation 13:1-18,—and the second beast out of the earth, the earthly, sensual, demoniacal wisdom, ch. Revelation 13:11-18. The fourteenth chapter consoles the faithful, who are to be tried and oppressed by these enemies, by pointing to the blessedness in heaven, which awaits them, Revelation 13:1-5, and to the judgment, which is to be executed on the enemies at the close of all. But the representation given of this judgment is of a very general kind; the detailed account of the divine judgment on the three enemies is reserved for a separate group, the sixth, Revelation 17-20, which in a reverse order ascends from the beasts to Satan, and for which the fifth group, the vision of the vials in Revelation 15, 16, forms a sort of prelude.

According to the historical starting-point of the Revelation, as it is unfolded in ch. Revelation 1:9, which declares the book to have been written by John during the Roman persecution; and according to its design as announced in Revelation 1:1, to shew to the servants of Christ, what must shortly come to pass; farther, according to Revelation 1:19, “Write what thou hast seen, and what is, and what shall be done hereafter,” and according to ch. Revelation 4:1, “Come up here, I will shew thee, what shall be done after these things,” which shew that the past as such cannot be the proper object of the things here unfolded, we must regard what is said in ch. Revelation 12:1-5; Revelation 12:7-12, only as introductory. What Christ has accomplished in the past comes here into consideration only in so far as it formed the basis of confidence and blessing to his oppressed people in their present troubles—comp. Revelation 1:11, where this aim comes plainly out; where it is announced that the glorious victory of Christ, described in the preceding context, is only to be taken into account so far as it is the foundation of victory to Christ’s people in the hard conflict which they have to maintain with the dragon. Revelation 1:6 and Revelation 1:13-15 have respect to the present and the immediate future; Revelation 1:16-17, to the more remote future.

It is justly remarked by Hartwig in his Apologie der Apoc., II. p. 288, “that in this whole representation there are such unmistakeable allusions to the true history of the child Jesus and his mother, and the tyranny of Herod, as related in the second chapter of Matthew, that this chapter receives from it a new confirmation.”

Verse 1

The First Enemy

The Dragon

Revelation 12:1. 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. A sign, because John saw things not in their proper nature, but in figure and enigma; the church, for example, under the image of a woman, Satan under that of a dragon. So sign is used also in ch. Revelation 15:1. This circumstance, that John always sees only signs, has been too little considered by expositors, who too frequently keep standing at the mere outward appearance, so that those who penetrate through the veil into the idea concealed behind it, are apt to be accused of a false spiritualism. The word sign is used otherwise in Matthew 24:30. There, the sign of the Son of Man is his appearance itself, so unspeakably comforting in its nature, and yet so unspeakably frightful, as a prophecy in action of judgment and salvation—comp. the declaration connected with it, “And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.”

The sign, whose external display and glory points to the height of the matter indicated by it (a great sign, in ch. Revelation 15:1: a sign great and wonderful), appears in heaven. Many expositors refer this to the circumstance that the church represented by the woman has its proper seat and the root of its existence in heaven. So Vitringa: “This sign was seen in heaven, partly because it refers to the religion, the object of which is in heaven, partly and especially because the subject of this vision, the church of the New Testament, has obtained its place with Jesus Christ in heaven, Ephesians 2:6.” Bengel: “The woman herself, the church, had previously been in all conditions upon the earth, but on account of her nobility, which belongs to her from her connection with the Lord Jesus Christ, she is in heaven, Ephesians 2:6; Php_3:20 . Her pregnancy and the birth following thereupon is heavenly; in heaven she is assaulted and defended, Revelation 12:4; Revelation 12:7.” But the heaven is here rather the theatre, where every thing passed before the eye of the prophet, not excepting that which in reality belonged to the earth. What the Seer beholds does not belong to the sensuous but to the super-senuous sphere. To be in the Spirit and to be in heaven is the same; comp. Ezekiel 1:1, “The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God;” here ch. Revelation 4:1-2, where, as the realization of the call, “Come up hither (into heaven), I will shew thee what shall be after these things,” it is stated, “And immediately I was in the Spirit.” Then, ch. Revelation 8:1

The woman, between whom and that described in ch. 17, as Bengel remarks, there is a mighty difference, is not the community of Israel in contradistinction to the Christian church; for what is said in Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 12:14-17, of the woman, can only be referred to the Christian church. Nor, on the other hand, does it denote the Christian church in contradistinction to the community of Israel; for the Christian church had not Christ born in it—an argument which the defenders of this view (Vitringa, Bengel, and others) escape from only by the violent supposition that it is not the first birth of Christ in Bethlehem that is here spoken of, but a mystical birth of Christ as the ruler of the heathen. But the woman, or Zion, which often appears in the Old Testament under the image of a woman, is properly the one indivisible community of the Old and New Covenant, the Israel perpetuated in the Christian church, out of which the false seed has been cast by its unbelief in the now manifested angel of the covenant, while the believing heathen have been received into it—comp. ch. Revelation 7:4, ss. That the church here was seen in the type of the virgin Mary, or that the Seer perceived in the virgin Mary an image of the church, is rendered probable by Revelation 12:4.

The woman appears as clothed with the sun. The sun is that of the visible heavens, for only this could be called simply the sun, and be put in opposition to the moon; but the sun signifies the glory of the Lord, and only as a symbol of this is it here brought into view. In Isaiah 60:1, this already appears under the image of a great light, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” Of Christ it is said, in Matthew 17:2, when the veiled glory of the Lord broke forth on the mount of transfiguration, “And he was changed before them, and his countenance shone like the sun, and his raiment was white like the light.” In this book itself, ch. Revelation 1:16, “his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” And of the New Jerusalem, the church in its state of exaltation, it is said, in ch. Revelation 21:23, “And the city needs not the sun nor the moon to give light to it, for the glory of the Lord illuminates it, and the Lamb is the light of it.” To be shone upon and enlightened by the glory of the Lord, belongs at all times to the very nature of the church; but this glory during the present course of things, as with Christ in his state of humiliation, is a veiled one; a dark cloud conceals it from our view; and he only who, like John, has a door opened for him in heaven, and a call addressed to him to go up thither, can behold it in cloudless splendour.

The woman has the moon under her feet. Created light is far beneath her glory, because she is irradiated by the uncreated, the glory of the Lord. Instead of the moon, the sun and moon would both have been named, if the sun had not already been taken as the symbol of divine glory. The thought is the same as in Isaiah 24:23, “And the moon is confounded, and the sun is ashamed; for the Lord of Hosts reigns upon mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his elders is glory.” Sun and moon become pale before the glory of the Lord, their Creator and Lord, with which he irradiates his glorified church. What is said there, and in Isaiah 60:19, “The sun shall no more be for light by day, and as brightness the moon shall not enlighten thee,” can only be regarded us peculiarly belonging to the triumphant church, of which it is primarily said, in so far as in that church it is fully manifest in the appearance. Essentially it must belong to the church always. For in substance every thing is common to the militant and triumphant church.

On the head of the woman is a crown of twelve stars. These cannot denote the twelve apostles, whose names, according to ch. Revelation 21:14, are upon the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem; for the woman has the crown of twelve stars before the birth of her Son; but the twelve apostles are apostles of the Lamb. They are rather the twelve Israelitish patriarchs, as ideal representatives of the tribes; comp. ch. Revelation 21:12, according to which the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel are upon the gates of Jerusalem. According to this passage, and ch. Revelation 7:4, ss., these twelve tribes continue to exist also in the church of the New Covenant; comp. Ezekiel 47:22-23, according to which in the future development of the kingdom of God the stranger is to be on a footing of equality with the native Israelite: “And shall also have their part in the land, each one under the tribe wherein he dwells, saith the Lord.” In the dream of Joseph, too. Genesis 37:9, where sun, moon, and stars occur with respect to the relations of Israel, and from which the figurative style of representation before us takes its rise, the stars denote the children of Jacob. In other parts of the Revelation the elders correspond to the stars here. The difference in the number, here twelve, there twenty-four, is to be explained by the circumstance, that the representation of the church after the period that is here contemplated (for Zion is seen by the prophet as at the threshold of Messiah’s birth), received an increase through the twelve apostles.

Verse 2

Revelation 12:2. And she was with child and cried, and was in travailing-pangs, and in great pain to be delivered. According to a whole series of passages of the Old Testament, the heavy troubles which preceded the appearance of the Saviour appear here under the image of severe pains falling upon Zion, the church of God. Comp. Micah 4:9-10, “Pains have laid hold of thee (Zion) as a travailing woman. Shout and break forth, daughter of Zion;” Jeremiah 4:31, “I hear a voice as of a woman in travail, anguish as of one bringing forth her first-born, the voice of the daughter of Zion; she bewails, she spreads forth her hands, Woe is me! for my soul is wearied through the murderers;” Jeremiah 30:6, Jeremiah 49:24; Isaiah 26:17; Hosea 13:13. The comparison of these passages furnishes a complete answer to those who understand by the woes here, with Bengel, “the anxious longing, the sighing, the prayers, the earnest expectation of the saints for the kingdom of God.” This was not the sorrows, but the sorrows called it forth. It is an eternal law, by which God governs his church on earth, that pain precedes joy, misery salvation; after the example of Israel in Egypt, to whom redemption only came when the suffering reached its greatest height. Suffering must awaken longing after the salvation of God; it is necessary to beget cordial reception and thankfulness of spirit. We must receive what our deeds deserve, so that every feeling of our own worth and excellence, which might lead “us to think ourselves entitled to salvation, may be destroyed; so that not merely with the lips, but with the whole heart we may sing, “Not unto us, not unto us. O Lord, but to thy name be the praise.” The greatness of the preceding suffering is determined by the greatness of the approaching deliverance. It must be experienced, and must also culminate before the first and second coming of the Lord; in respect to which last it is said in Matthew 24:21, “There shall then be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world till now, nor ever shall be”—words, whose solemn import is better understood by us now than it was some time ago, since the beginning of troubles has already entered, and the storm of divine wrath appears lowering in the heavens.

Whence the sorrows mentioned here come, what the instrument is which God employs to break the hardness of his people is shown in what follows. They come without doubt from that dragon who would devour the child. For he would devour the child only because he feared that it would deliver its mother from his dominion. The statement that his tail draws the third part of the stars and throws them upon the earth, Revelation 12:4, points to the destroying agency of the dragon in earlier times—to that as the animating principle of the conquering world kingdoms. Then, the declaration in Revelation 12:5, “who shall rule all the nations with a rod of iron,” serves also to indicate the source of the troubles. It implies that before the birth of the child the church was subject to the dominion of the heathen.

From what has been remarked, the historical reference cannot be doubtful. The people of God before the manifestation of Christ were subject to the dominion of the Romans, and under their auspices to the cruel tyranny of Herod, well fitted to serve as a representation of the invisible tyrant, under whose direction, according to the view given in this book, the whole matter stood In immediate connection with the birth of Christ, and the unmerited salvation which began to be prepared for the people of God, the deserved punishment of servitude to the world presented himself in a living form through Herod in the murder of the children at Bethlehem, which was designed to serve not only as a single specimen, but as an image and symptom of the whole state. The word: “In Ramah was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they were not,” holds not alone in regard to that one calamity; it represents to our view generally the image of Zion under the tyranny of the Romans, of Herod, of the dragon, and affords us a glance into our own future. How Zion then cried aloud, and was in travailing-pangs, in anguish to be delivered, is also vividly described in the song of Zecharias, in which the felt need for redemption joyfully hails the Redeemer, and exclaims, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people; and hath raised up an horn of salvation for ns in the house of his servant David; that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hands of all who hate us; that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies we might serve him without fear.” Those who make all subservient in the Revelation to the discovery of a regularly progressive representation, and who cannot bear to think of a new beginning at this chapter, of a going back to the first origin of the Christian church, suppose that the church is here described in the state which belonged to it before the time of Constantine, when it was big with Christ as the ruler of the heathen, and experienced bitter pangs from the Roman persecutions, especially from the severest of them all, that of Diocletian. But every impartial mind must think primarily of the actual birth of Christ; and this is confirmed by the reference to the history of Christ’s childhood in Revelation 12:4, his ascension in Revelation 12:5, and the atonement effected by him, Revelation 12:7-9.

Verses 3-4

Revelation 12:3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven, and behold! a great red dragon, that had seven heads and ten horns, and upon its head seven crowns. Revelation 12:4. And his tail draws the third part of the stars, and throws them upon the ground. And the dragon stood before the woman that was ready to be delivered, in order to devour the child as soon as she had brought forth. Vitringa: “Nothing is omitted that might set forth the greatness and severity of the woman’s conflict in the most lively colours. She was in the greatest labour, seized with the most violent pangs of child-birth, and in this state appears to be supported only by the hope of the male offspring, which she had so much desired; but she sees a frightful dragon, ready to devour her child whenever it might be born.” Bengel remarks: “The proper theme of this book begins at ch. 4, where heaven is laid open to our view as a sacred theatre of operations. Daring the first eight chapters no description is given of Satan. But since he is introduced here as the chief enemy of the kingdom of God and Christ, he is the more frequently again brought upon the field, until he at last appears as cast into the lake of fire.” The single circumstance of the author having till now been so sparing in his allusions to Satan, shows the careful construction of the plan of the book; and at the same time shows, that it does not by a regular and uninterrupted progress anticipate history. For in that case, silence could not have been maintained so long respecting Satan. The two first groups, the seals and the trumpets, possess more of a general, introductory character, that of a prelude. Prophecy and history respecting God’s kingdom only come upon the main point, when the conflict between Christ and Satan is brought into view.

The dragon [Note: The LXX. render by δρά?κων the תנין of Exodus 7:9, Jeremiah 9:11, the לויתן of Isaiah 27:1, and elsewhere. That by the dragon here a sea-beast is denoted, is evident from a comparison of 1lie passages referred to in the text from the Old Testament. These are to be taken more into account than what has been said by heathen antiquity of the dragon—see Vitringa.] appears often as the king of the sea, and sovereign of the marine animals—see Psalms 74:13-14, and my Commentary there. In the spiritual sea of the world he is therefore the natural image of conquering and reigning power—comp. Isaiah 27:1, where it is said in reference to the king of Babylon, “At that day will the Lord visit with his sword, the hard, the great, and the strong, the Leviathan, the flying serpent, and the Leviathan, the wounded serpent, and he kills the dragon that is in the sea;” also Jeremiah 51:34 of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, “He has swallowed us up like a dragon;” Ezekiel 29:3-4, where the great dragon (to which the great dragon here specially alludes) appears as an emblem of Pharaoh the king of Egypt. Hence the great dragon must represent the prince of this world [Note: This appellation, peculiar to the evangelist John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11, differs from the great dragon here, precisely as John’s Gospel differs from the Revelation. In both alike Satan is represented as the spiritual background of the ungodly world. What Lücke says in repaid, to the prince of this world, “the head of the refractory powers and influences in the world, that are opposed to the kingdom of God, as well among the Jews as heathens,” applies equally to the dragon.] in his most powerful agency, having earthly princes merely as his servants and instruments of working.

Satan appears as a great red dragon. This colour belongs to him as the murderer of men from the beginning ( John 8:44, comp. 1 John 3:12), as the ultimate author of all the plundering ambition and the blood- shedding that discovers itself in the earth; especially as the ultimate author of all the world’s fury against the church, which was typified by the murder of Abel through Cain, the instrument of Satan. [Note: That πυρρό?ς here denotes the bloody character, is plain from ch. 6:4, where beyond all question it occurs as a mark of the blood colour, as also from Zechariah 6:2, comp. 2 Kings 3:22, LXX., τὰ? ὕ?δατα πυρρὰ? ὡ?ς αἷ μα , and the δά?μαλις πυρρὰ? , whose colour points to blood; see my Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 181, ss. Here, too, ch. 17:3 is parallel, as there the woman appears sitting on a purple-coloured beast (the blood-thirsty world power, whose animating principle is Satan). But it is not necessary on this account to give πυρρό?ς , which properly means blonde, fawn, the signification of blood-red. With the serpents as well as the horses, the colour might appropriately be chosen, which comes nearest to that of blood, and reminds one of it. Fawn is the prevailing colour of the greater part of serpents, for example, the boa, and also quite agrees with the colour of the crocodile.]

The seven heads and the ten horns of the dragon denote the seven phases of the hostile world-power—the seventh a divided one, as indicated by the ten horns on the seventh head. Satan bears this emblem as a reflection of his visible representative and image upon earth. That Satan comes into consideration here as the moving principle of the conquering power and dominion of this world, as opposed to the kingdom of God, through which he executes his wicked designs, is clear alone from this, that to him the Old Testament representation commits the earthly world-power—the dragon—with which also agrees the application to him of the emblem that occurs in the subsequent context; and it also appears from what immediately follows. Other reasons will be given in the treatise on the Beast of the Apocalypse.

The dragon’s tail draws the third part of the stars and throws them on the earth. This trait does not immediately belong to the matter at present in hand. The subject of discourse here is not what the dragon begins to do against the kingdom of God.” There is a wide difference,” as Bengel remarks, “between his beginning against the mother, and his deceiving the nations on the earth;” yet still, we add, they have both the same root—the spirit of revolt against God, an impious resistance to his holy arrangements, as wishing to be God upon earth. In the Old Testament also what the conquering world-power generally committed, is very commonly united with that, which is specially attempted against the church. It is so, for example, in Habakkuk. According to the symbolical language of the Revelation stars are rulers; their being cast down upon the earth denotes their being conquered and overthrown—comp. the original passage in Daniel 8:10, where the throwing of the stars upon the earth occurs of an earthly conqueror, and the remarks on this passage in the treatise on the Beast of the Apocalypse. In what is said in Daniel, “And it (the horn) was great even to the host of heaven, and threw down to the earth of the host and of the stars, and trod upon them; and it lifted itself up to the prince of the host,” &c , there is the same transition as here. For the intention of devouring the child, as expressed in what immediately follows, is in like manner a direct act of impiety toward God. [Note: The exposition, “The stare are the Christians and teachers, the third part of whom the dragon draws from their divine object of faith, attaches to himself, and brings down to the natural earthly state,” is both against the original passages and the connexion. It cannot possibly be spoken of Christians before Christ. But by what immediately follows Christ was not yet born. Satan stands ready to devour him as soon as he might be born. The uniform usage of the Revelation also is against it, by which stars denote rulers.] The third part, according to the usage of this book, denotes a great multitude. The dragon places himself before the woman, that was going to bring forth, in order to devour her child. The same wickedness had been practised by him in ancient times. The life of Moses, on whom the hopes of the people of God hung during the fearful oppression exercised over them by the enemy, was brought into extreme peril by him at the very first. At the coming of Christ, whose appearance threatened far greater danger to his dominion upon earth, who was to withdraw from him, not only the people of God, but the heathen also, whom he had hitherto regarded as his proper subjects, who should rule these with a rod of iron, and therefore should attack him in his own territory, he sets his instruments anew in motion, as is reported in Matthew 2:1-12, to which allusion is here manifestly made. Herod, the servant of the dragon, as soon as he heard of the birth of Jesus, takes measures to have the new-born child despatched, and kills all the children in Bethlehem under two years old, that he might make sure of destroying the one hated child. He has been manifesting the same wickedness also since, throughout the whole history of the Christian church, as often as Christ is born anew in the Spirit. He is always at hand to strangle, if he can, the nascent life. What he then did through Herod is, because history, also symbol—a prophecy in action. With Bengel and other expositors, to put here one of those later imitations in the room of the great original, is quite arbitrary.

Verse 5

Revelation 12:5. And she brought forth a son, a male, who was to tend all the nations with a rod of iron. And her child was snatched up to God and his throne. The appended male, serves the purpose of giving peculiar prominence to the sex, and stands in connection with the following declaration: who was to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. [Note: There is much haste in the remark of Züllig, “According to Jeremiah 20:15, it is a pure Hebraism without any intentional emphasis.” “Cursed,” says Jeremiah, “be the man who brought to my father the report: a son is born to thee, a mule: that he might make him glad.” The זכי added to בן is employed to make the contrast more emphatic between the birth of a son and that of a daughter, as being more joyful: q.d. a son, and not a daughter. It is a similar kind of emphasis that is used here.] Allusion, it would seem, is made to Isaiah 66:7, where it is said of Zion, “Before she cried, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child.” The man-child there is not a single person, but it denotes the manly, vigorous after-growth, or fresh growth of the people of God. But by the allusion to that passage it is indicated here, that only in and by that manly son Christ, that other ideal manly son could be produced; that what with the prophet was primarily a mere personification, found in the real person of Christ its profound truth. The word: who was to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, which we find brought to its accomplishment at chap. Revelation 19:15, carries a dreadful threatening to the heathen. But behind the destruction threatened, salvation is concealed, behind the judgment grace. It is a blessing for the heathen if through the iron rod their rebellion against God becomes broken, their enmity against his church, their entire heathenish existence. If they themselves knew what makes for their peace, they would beg to be smitten by the rod of iron. Only the dragon receives hurt in the matter. Allusion is made to Psalms 2:9, where the Lord says to his anointed Christ, “Thou wilt bruise them (the heathen) in pieces with a rod of iron.” Instead of bruising, the Seer, after the LXX., has tending. Not by a sort of misunderstanding or arbitrarily. In the original passage itself allusion is made to the pasturing or tending; the word which signifies: Thou wilt bruise, differs not in its consonants, but only in its pronunciation, from that which means: Thou wilt tend. By this significant allusion it is indicated that the proper office of the anointed is to tend ( Psalms 78:71-72), but that upon their sinful quid pro quo, refractoriness instead of joyful obedience, a righteous quid pro quo follows on the part of the anointed. The double import of the expression could not be rendered in Greek; only one of the sides could be exhibited, and the tending, used with a kind of irony, has substantially much the same force as the original.

Before the words: and her child was caught up, is to be supplied: and the dragon continued his persecution, as was done according to the evangelical history from the temptation onwards to the death on the cross—comp. Luke 4:13, where especially the ἀ?́?χρι καιροῦ? , for a season, is to be kept in view, and John 14:30, where the Lord says in the immediate prospect of his sufferings, “The prince of this world cometh,” = the dragon. The supplying of this becomes quite natural from what is said in Revelation 12:4; for, how should he, who before the birth of the child stood ready to devour him, have at once ceased from his persecution, the moment the child was born? and it is demanded by the expression: he was snatched up. For, this presupposes the danger of the child. It is expressive of the haste, with which one snatches away a precious and loved treasure, and places it in security, when it has come to be in jeopardy. The fundamental passage is Isaiah 53:8, where it is said of Christ, “From oppression and judgment was he taken away.” As the expression: it was snatched up, denotes the ascension of Christ (comp. ch. Revelation 11:12, where also there is a reference to the ascension), so the words: to God and his throne, denote his session at the right hand of God. It rests on Daniel 7:13-14. There the Son of man comes upon the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of days, to the heavenly throne of God, “And to him was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, and all peoples, nations, and tongues, shall serve him, his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which does not pass away, and his kingdom shall not be destroyed.” Comp. Matthew 26:64, “From henceforth shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power.” The throne of God is the symbol of his dominion over heaven and earth, and all that is therein—see my Comm. on Psalms 110:1. To be set near this throne is to have a share in this divine supremacy over heaven and earth. Christ’s participation in the glory of the divine government is still certainly a concealed one during the present course of things. He only who, like Stephen, is full of the Holy Ghost, can see heaven open, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Ch. Revelation 5:6 is parallel, “And I saw between the throne and the four beasts, and between the elders, a Lamb standing,” where Christ likewise appears in the closest proximity to the divine throne. On the earth, however, from which the child had been snatched away, the hopes of the woman were apparently disappointed, and nothing appears of the tending of the heathen. But what seemed to cut off hope in this respect was in reality the means that led to its accomplishment (comp. Luke 24:21).

Verse 6

Revelation 12:6. And the woman fled away into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they might there nourish her for a thousand, two hundred and sixty days. The fate of the woman is here related by way of anticipation, in order to have it placed in juxtaposition with that of the Son. The Seer comes back to it in Revelation 12:14, after he has communicated what was of the greatest moment, for understanding her situation after her Son had been snatched away from the earth. By the wilderness no particular wilderness is to be understood; but the article stands generically: the wilderness in contrast to the cultivated land. To be obliged to fly into the wilderness, into the desert, where no natural sources of nourishment present themselves, is hard; but to be able to fly into the wilderness, and so to escape from the persecutions, and there also to be nourished by God, though it should be only with the necessaries of life, as becomes a wilderness-condition, this is great grace. The thought expressed is the preservation of the church under the cross, and in spite of all persecutions and privations. That all local and special historical meanings are to be avoided, [Note: Even Vitringa’s explanation of the sense, God shall take care by his providence, that the church shall be kept and preserved in certain places, remote from human commerce, till the more fortunate times which he has in reserve for his church, still carries the elements which belong to the figure as such, over to the thing. The wilderness is rather everywhere where the church is persecuted, and preserved amid the persecution.] is clear not only from the reference to the typical sojourn in the wilderness (God had in ancient times led his church out of Egypt, where the dragon persecuted her through Pharaoh, into the wilderness, and on a small scale had again repeated the transaction in the case of Elias, who fled from Jezebel into the same wilderness, and was there fed by God), but also from passages of the Old Testament, which speak of a leading through the wilderness in a purely spiritual sense

Hosea 2:14; Ezekiel 20:34-38; Jeremiah 31:1-2; and see the Christology on the passages. What is given in Deuteronomy 8:2-5 as the characteristic feature of the sojourn in the wilderness, and what was also the characteristic feature of our Lord’s abode there, the temptation exists also here. The thoughts of many hearts are revealed, when the necessity arises for flying into the wilderness. Who then has, to him it is given, but he that has not, from him is taken away even that which he has. What is said of the first sojourn in the wilderness, “He suffered Israel to hunger, gave him also to eat, suffered him to thirst, gave him also to drink, who led him over burning sand, suffered not his shoe to grow old,” holds also here; the woman flies away into the wilderness, not to be wasted there but to be nourished; but if the spirit is there singularly quickened and mightily strengthened, the flesh must in consequence fare ill. As for the church at large, so for single individuals the flight into the wilderness is a necessary stage. Canaan cannot be found, if one has not overcome in the conflict with assaults and temptations. The flight of the ideal mother of Jesus, the church, into the wilderness, was typified by the flight of the actual mother through the wilderness to Egypt, who also, in Revelation 12:4, appears as a symbol of the church. The 1260 days of the woman’s sojourn in the wilderness, are, according to the solution given in Revelation 12:14, the three-and-a half years, which on the ground of Daniel’s prophecies are taken in the Revelation as the signature of the apparent victory of the world over the church. The number, indeed, has no historical meaning, but is to be estimated only by its relation to the number seven Considered thus, it conveys an intimation, that the time appointed for the afflictions of the church is a measured one, that these shall not continue a moment longer than has been determined beforehand in the divine counsels, and that it is a broken and short period.

Verses 7-9

Revelation 12:7. And there was a war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels. Revelation 12:8. And he overcame not, and his place was no more found in heaven. Revelation 12:9. And he was thrown, the great dragon, the old serpent, who is called the devil, and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown on the earth, and his angels were thrown with him. The question here first of all arises, who is Michael? Very different answers have been given to it—for the fullest account of these, see J. Ode de Angelis, p. 1052, ss. According to one view, Michael is no other than Christ, or more correctly expressed, the Word, who in the beginning was with God, and from the first has mediated in all transactions respecting the church on earth. But, according to another view, supported by the Jewish expositors, some authorities in the ancient church, the greater part of Catholic commentators, who in this manner have endeavoured to find biblical support for their angel-worship, and recently among us by Hofmann, Michael is a created angel, who has committed to him the charge of the church, both under the old and the new covenant. The following reasons decide in favour of the first view.

1. The name Michael (who is like God) itself shews, that we must not seek for him in the region of the finite. It rests upon Exodus 15:11, “Who is like thee among the gods, O Lord,” and Psalms 89:6-7, “Who in the clouds is like the Lord, comes like the Lord among the sons of the mighty? God is greatly to be feared in the fellowship of his saints, and terrible over all that is round about him.” In the name: Who is like God, there must be supplied: Whose glory is represented in me. If we should suppose with Bengel, that the name denotes the infinite distance from God, “the humility of this distinguished angel, and his freedom from all self-elation,” q.d., I am not like God, it would be no fit designation of the angel-princes, it would have been more appropriate for the least among the angels, or rather for being used as a designation of men. The derisive imitation of the name Michael in ch. Revelation 13:4, “And they worshipped the dragon that gave power to the beast, and they worshipped the beast and said, Who is like the beast? and who is able to make war with him?” implies that his name denotes an incomparable greatness and power—the εἰ?͂?ναι ἰ?́?σα θεῳ?͂? , being like God, which is affirmed of God in John 5:18, and Php_2:6 . Only when the name is viewed in this light does it appear in a suitable connection with the matter in hand. “In the name Michael,” says the Berleb. Bible, “which is applied to Jesus Christ, the Lord of Hosts, there is given the sure pledge of victory. For, since he is supreme over the whole world, and the Father has put all things under his feet, angels, principalities, and powers, including those that are evil, must also be subject to him, and shall ever be so. This, therefore, is the proper person to fight in us and for us; and were he not on our side we should never be able to escape from our troubles.”

2. Michael first meets us in the book of Daniel, and there, therefore, we must seek for an explanation of his nature. But that hε is there identical with the angel of the Lord, has been proved in my Beiträgen I., p. 165, ss. And what was said in the Christology in proof of the angel of the Lord being no created angel, but the Logos, still holds good, notwithstanding the pains of Hofmann to invalidate it. [Note: No created angel could be described by the Lord as the one, in whom his name was, and his face, ( Exodus 33:14-15), nor could any created angel have been spoken of by Jacob as having redeemed him, and as blessing his children. To give such pre-eminent honour to a created angel, as Hofmann wishes, is entirely against the position, which is uniformly ascribed in the Old Testament to angels, and would gave paved the way for Polytheism. It would also imply a surrender of the Old Testament foundation or the prologue of the gospel of John, which is of essential moment. We lose also the key for explaining the fact, that as in the Old Testament the angel of the Lord and Satan, so in the New Testament, Christ and Satan stand opposed to each other, and that in the New Testament the angel almost disappears. In this one place alone would he occur in regard to the times of the new covenant under the name of Michael. This is incredible if, as the guardian of the church, he was different from Christ. How much has the Old Testament to say of the angel of the Lord? The grammatical reason also for holding that מלאך יהוה cannot mean an angel, but only the angel of the Lord, also stands firm. Ewald in the last edition of his grammar, § 290, remarks, “A proper name has the same influence as a noun with the article. If the first is to be regarded as in definite, but the second as definite, the first also can remain so before the article in the status constructus, if no dubiety arises; but should such arise, because in the first word the individual and the indefinite in kind must necessarily be denoted, then the first word cannot be marked by the status constructus.” The genitive must in that case be marked by ל , comp. § 202. Sυ ch a fundamental rule cannot be shaken by particular passages, in which it seems on a slight consideration to be violated. A close investigation shews, that it is observed also in these. In Haggai 1:13 it is not an angel of the Lord that is the subject of discourse, but Haggai is called the angel of the Lord, to distinguish him from other persons of the same name, but of a different calling. In Malachi 2:7, the priest is not an angel, but the angel of the Lord of Hosts, ordinarius dei minister in his kingdom. The prophets alone as individuals have an extraordinary mission.]

3. What is said in Daniel 10:5-6, of Michael, “His body was like a chrysolite, his countenance like the lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and his feet like shining brass, his speech like a great clamour,” this in the Revelation, ch. Revelation 1:13-15, and Revelation 10:1 is transferred to Christ, which we cannot suppose would have been done, if Michael had been a created angel. Daniel was so terrified by the voice of the person who appeared to him, that he fell down in a state of utter impotence, and could not for a long time raise himself up. John was affected in a quite similar way by the manifestation of Christ. In ch. Revelation 2:18, also, features in the description of Christ are drawn from Daniel 5.

4. What is here attributed to Michael, the conquering of Satan, is in the fundamental passages of the gospels, and here also in Revelation 12:11, attributed to Christ. [Note: Ode: “Michael overcomes the devil, and throws him down from heaven to earth. But it is evident that the person who accomplishes that great work, is Christ the Son of God; see Matthew 12:29, Luke 11:22; comp. with Luke 10:18, Hebrews 2:2; Hebrews 2:14, and 1 John 3:8.”] [2] Vitringa says with perfect justice: “If there were another angel besides him, who undertook and accomplished this, a great part of the glory would be taken from the Son of God, which by this name is often ascribed to him in Scripture.”

The reasons brought in support of the created angel can easily be set aside. “In the altercation, “says Bengel, “with the devil about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. This moderation, befitting only in a creature, certainly indicates a created angel.” But in that passage of Jude, Michael speaks expressly as the “archangel,” as the captain of the Lord’s hosts, as the angel of the Lord, and we can as little draw from it a proof against the godhead of Michael, as from the declaration, “The Father is greater than I,” we can find a proof against the Lord’s equality in power and glory with the Father. [Note: Vitringa with justice derives a proof from this very passage ai1ainst the view of a created angel: “That he is the Son of God, is plain from the following passages compared together, Zechariah 3:1, and Jude Revelation 12:9; for he, who is made known in Zechariah 3:2 by the name itself of Jehovah, is called in Jude the archangel Michael.” This also is not without weight, that the name of no ordinary angel elsewhere occurs in the whole of this book. When Bengel remarks, “Michael alone is called in Scripture an archangel, and elsewhere archangel is found only in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, without the name of the being to whom it is applied. Whether, therefore, there is more than one archangel, or all good angels stand under Michael, as all had ones under Satan, is a question more easily asked than answered;” two problems are mixed up together, which are essentially different from each other. That all good angels stand under Michael as all bad ones under Satan, cannot be doubted, whenever it is understood, that Michael is no other person than the Logos, the Word. But it may still be matter of doubt, whether there is more than one archangel. It admits of question whether archangel is the designation of the higher angels generally, the “first princes” in Daniel 10:13, or whether it belongs to him who corresponds to the great prince in Daniel 12:1. But in either case Michael is distinctively the archangel.]

But if Michael is Christ, it may be asked, why should he here be called Michael and not Christ? The answer is, the name Michael points to this, that the work, which is here under consideration, the decisive victory over Satan, belongs to Christ, not after his human, but only after his divine nature—comp. 1 John 3:8, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning; for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” Then, this name forms a bridge between the Old and the New Testament. In the Old Testament Michael had appeared as the great prince who fights for the church, Daniel 12:1. That battle was the prophecy and prelude of the one reported here.

Bengel again says, “In this battle itself Michael makes the onset. For, it is only said afterwards, that the dragon also fought. But elsewhere this enemy, and the other enemies, always make the assault; Revelation 12:4 here, 13, 17, Revelation 17:14, Revelation 19:19.” Farther, “The battle and the defeat are ascribed pre-eminently to the dragon himself as the principal, and not to his angels; as the Revelation, indeed, in the description of both the good and the evil, is wont to make all, as it were, depend on the head.” Because, we add, it is from the head that a cause always mainly proceeds. Michael and Satan are the proper factors of history. All others, however they may push themselves forward, and however much also they may draw upon them the eyes of a short-sighted world, are but subordinate agents and instruments.

The object of the battle we already learn from Zechariah 3:1, ss. There the controversy is between Satan and the angel of the Lord, who is all one with Michael, about the sinfulness of the people. Satan desires, that on account of this they may be given up to him still farther. The angel of the Lord rejects this demand, removes the ground of it by imparting forgiveness of sins, and at the same time declares, that a still richer participation of this forgiveness, and in consequence a still deeper confounding of Satan, should take place in the times of Messiah, by which a bridge is raised between that passage and the one before us. There the angel of the Lord stands on the defensive: he defends the people of God against the attacks of Satan; but here he takes the offensive. We are introduced to a more profound insight into this conflict by the fundamental and parallel passages in the gospels. As soon as Christ has become Christ, has received in baptism the fulness of the Spirit, the battle of Satan against him begins, with the view of defeating the work of redemption in its commencement, maintaining his position as the prince of this world, and checking in the bud the reviving glory of the church. In the words of Bengel, “He tempted Christ in the wilderness, and when he was obliged to give way, he withdrew, but only for a season. When the suffering of Jesus came, the enemy again appeared, and the power of darkness raged with fearful violence. But then, too, was the prince of this world judged. He had acquired over men, who had allowed themselves to be overcome by sin, aright in consequence of this victory; but in the controversy with Christ he had lost all such right, and received judgment against him as a robber and a murderer.” Jesus says in John 14:30-31, “I shall not talk much more with yon, for the prince of this world cometh, and he hath nothing in me (he has no right in me, because I am without sin, and the territory of Satan extends only so far as sin does); but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do; arise, let us go hence”—namely, that I may meet the attack of this prince of the world. Here Satan is still in the offensive; but in consequence of the failure of his last attempt, in consequence of the obedience of Christ unto death, even the death of the cross, he passes into the defensive, which terminates in the final overthrow. This result, according to our passage, followed after the ascension of Christ. In accordance with this also is it said in John 12:31-32, “Now is the judgment of this world (Lücke: ‘Its power is immediately judged, condemned and broken in its head’), now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth (Bengel: ‘In the very cross there was something that pointed to glory’) will draw all to me”—the complete triumph over Satan only mentioned after the completion of Christ’s work of redemption. According also to John 16:11, the declaration “the prince of this world is judged,” is first introduced after Christ’s return to the Father, as according to John 16:10 it was only thereby that the justification was perfected. It was, as Bengel remarks, “a very hard process, on which the execution followed.” On this execution it is here reported. What Christ had won from Satan through blood and death, (comp. Revelation 12:11, according to which the blood of the Lamb is the root of the whole matter), that is here turned against him. And since he is here once for all cast down to the ground, Christ can let him attempt more, can look calmly on, while he assaults the church; for his attacks can no longer hurt her, they can only advance her real interests. Berleb. Bible: “This all weak and fainting persons may lay to heart, so that they may not surrender the right which they have in God, and God has in them, not reckon the devil stronger than God, as reason is apt to represent him. Judgment has been given long since, and must be fulfilled in the experience of all his party: they can prevail nothing, if one only withholds one’s will from them, as that in which they seek their strength.” [Note: The πολεμῆ?σαι is not to be translated with Ewald by: must war. This yields no suitable sense. We are rather to supply from the preceding context: had war.] The preceding expression: and overcame or prevailed not, serves to explain what follows: his place was no more found in heaven. For, that Satan cannot hold his place in heaven, simply means, that his power is broken—broken, according to Revelation 12:11, through the blood of Christ—for by this forgiveness of sin has been obtained, and thus Satan’s most formidable weapon is wrenched out of his hands. All that is powerful is transferred to heaven. In the passage Isaiah 14:12, which is here specially referred to, it is said of the king of Babylon, the visible image of the great dragon here: “How art thou fallen from heaven, thou bright star, son of the morning,” meaning, how impotent hast thou become, thou glorious ruler! In the chapter before us itself in Revelation 12:1, mighty kings appear as stars of heaven, after the example of Daniel 8:10, and their fall from the region of power is denoted by their being cast down upon the earth. Comp. also ch. Revelation 6:13. Still in Ephesians 6:12, after the decisive victory of Christ, wicked spirits in heaven are spoken of, meaning thereby that they are furnished with much power and dreadful cunning. [Note: Harless, on Unit passage of Ephesians, still seeks in vain to establish for τὰ? ἐ?πουρά?νια another meaning, although he is himself obliged to remark: “Even in this epistle the expression served only for a designation of heaven itself, and of all that is divine.” Bad spirits are locally as little in heaven as in the air ( Ephesians 2:2), as is clear alone from this, that the one destroys the other.

Similar expressions are to be found also in classical authors. Cicero says of Pompey: Quia deciderat ex astris, lapsus quam progressus potius videbator; and of Antony: Collegum quidem de coelo detraxisti; see for these and other passages m Gesen., Isaiah 14.] Comp. also Numbers 24:17, Psalms 73:9.

Züllig remarks on the being cast on the earth, “For believers on the earth this precipitation of their arch-enemy is certainly not clear gain. Now that he has come nearer to them, he can the more easily persecute them, and does it also, as the sequel shews.” This view has the appearance of things on its side; and yet it is found untenable on a closer examination. It is against it, that the simple: he was thrown, denoting the complete overthrow of Satan, in this verse, precedes the other expression: he was thrown upon the earth; it occurs also in Revelation 12:10. [Note: That the expression: he was thrown here, is quite complete in itself; that: he was thrown upon earth, is only an expansion, is evident alone from the: he was thrown, in Revelation 12:10. The double merely: he was thrown, serves as a commentary on the: he was thrown on the earth; shews, that the being thrown on the earth is only a symbolical designation of his overthrow.] The view is further opposed by the declaration in Revelation 12:10, as to the salvation, and the power and the kingdom having become God’s, and the power of his Christ; and that by Revelation 12:11 the foundation of an absolute victory was given to believers. The mere expression of his being thrown upon the earth, renders it impossible for us to think of his acquiring by the circumstance a greater power upon the earth. Bengel’s paraphrase, “He was thrown out of heaven, and after being so thrown he took the way toward the earth,” with manifest arbitrariness advances what stands opposed to the received meaning. The being thrown from heaven on the earth simply denotes his downfall. Satan’s power and opportunity to hurt were not increased by his precipitation from heaven to earth; they were rather checked and weakened; but his rage was increased, being inflamed on account of the damage his interest had sustained, because he had suffered an overthrow, such as had never befallen him since the beginning of the world—an overthrow, from which he can never possibly recover. Comp. the expression in Revelation 12:12: and has a great wrath, and especially the words in Revelation 12:13: And when the dragon saw that he was thrown upon the earth, he persecuted the woman. The fundamental passages also all point in the same direction. The power of Satan uniformly appears in them as broken by Christ, and only his rage as increased—see in respect to the latter, 1 Peter 5:8. According to John 12:31, the prince of this world has been cast out of the world by the atonement of Christ; and according to 1 John 3:8, the Son of God has been manifested for the purpose of destroying the works of the devil. If one should understand literally the throwing out of heaven and the throwing on the earth, we may then say with Lücke, “In John, and in other parts also of the New Testament, excepting the Apocalypse, I find no trace of such a representation.” Precisely the same figurative representation is found in Luke 10:18, “I saw Satan fall from heaven as lightning”—a word which our Lord uttered when the Seventy returned with joy and said, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in thy name. If the falling from heaven were to be taken literally, there would be an opposition between these two passages. For here it is affirmed to have taken place before the accomplishment of redemption, but in the Revelation it appears as the consequence of redemption having been accomplished: understood figuratively the opposition disappears. The words of our Lord in Luke refer to the commencement of Satan’s overthrow by Christ, which carried in its bosom the germ and the pledge of its completion. Then it proceeds onwards by successive stages, till the last stage is reached in the resurrection of Christ and his ascension to heaven. The same thing is presented to our view under a different image in Luke 11:21-22, “When a strong man armed keeps his palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armour, wherein he trusted, and divides his spoils.” Christ here breaks in upon Satan’s fortress. This took place as to its beginning, when Christ entered on his high calling, and in its completion, when he sat down on the right hand of the Father.

The frightful enemy of the human race, “who deceives the whole earth,” appears here under four names: the four as the signature of the entire compass of the earth is very suitable for the prince of this world. The “great dragon” stands at the head, even before the old serpent, because Satan comes here into view peculiarly as the prince of this world, as the animating principle of the ungodly world-power, which in the Old Testament is represented under the image of the dragon. The persecution by the world-power forms the starting point. For the consolation of the church sighing under it and ready to faint, the decisive victory of Christ over Satan is here set forth, as that was the pledge of all subsequent victories. The “old serpent” is mentioned here on account of what he did so craftily at the beginning, Genesis 3:1-5. 2 Corinthians 11:3. In John 8:44, he is called a murderer from the beginning; and in 1 John 3:8, it is said, that the devil sins from the beginning. The expression: who is called, stands at the transition from the purely matter-of-fact designations to those, which are at once proper names, and also, as to the substance, belong to Satan. As the two first appellations denote his great power and his deep cunning (as a serpent he deceives, 2 Corinthians 11:3), so do the two last this intense hostility. The devil, properly the calumniator, he is called, as the accuser of the faithful; Satan, the adversary, as he who leads astray the whole world—that is, according to ch. Revelation 20:3; Revelation 20:8; Revelation 20:10, stirs them up to fight against the kingdom of God. [Note: There it is said: the devil, who deceives them; but the διά?βολος is used as a proper name. The connecting together of the two names here renders it probable that an internal difference exists, that respect is had to the original import of the proper name. Ewald would delete the ὁ? before σατανᾶ?ς . But from what has been remarked, there is no reason for this. For the sake of the four number alone Satan must stand independently of the devil.] On the words: his angels were thrown with him, Bengel remarks: “What might be the state and operations of the angels of the dragon before and after this war and overthrow, is not delineated in this book; but mention is made only of the dragon. It is presupposed that the truth is known from other books of scripture.”

Verses 10-12

Revelation 12:10. And I heard a great voice in heaven, which said: Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ because the accuser of our brethren is cast out, who accuses them day and night before God. Revelation 12:11. And they have overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and have not loved their lives to the death. Revelation 12:12. Therefore, rejoice ye heavens, and those who dwell therein! Woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil is come down to you, and has a great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time. The great voice is such an one on the part of men. “For it belongs to them to speak of their brethren, and not the angels, ch. Revelation 19:10. The saints who had formerly overcome, and had now reached heaven, are those who rejoice thus over their brethren as they go thither (?)” Bengel. Comp. on ch. Revelation 11:15. But we can think only of the saints of the Old Testament, not with Ewald of the twenty-four elders. For, twelve of these represent the church of the New Testament, which could not then as yet be represented otherwise in heaven: the voice is heard immediately after the completion of Christ’s work of redemption. And the very circumstance of the twenty- four elders not being mentioned here, confirms the view we have taken of the connection. The expression: now is come, is to be explained on the ground, that in this matter is contained the germ and the pledge of all that follows—comp. the equally anticipatory expression: they have overcome him, in Revelation 12:11, and also ch. Revelation 19:6-8, where the saints made perfect regard the marriage of the Lamb as already come, when the victory was gained over the great whore, although still much delay and many conflicts must intervene. Bengel: “The salvation, by which the saints were delivered, the power, by which the enemy was overthrown, the kingdom, which displays God’s majesty,” comp. on ch. Revelation 11:15, and in regard to the salvation, on ch. Revelation 7:10. [Note: The MSS. vacillate between the rivaling κατή?γωρ , an abbreviation that often occurs in the Rabbinical writing, and the usual form κατή?γορος .] The expression: they have overcome him, Revelation 12:11, is to be explained from the clear foresight. Substantially it is as much as, they are able now to overcome him. Parallel is 1 John 2:13, “I write to you, young men, that ye have overcome the wicked one;” 1 John 2:14, “I have written to you, young men, that ye are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” The victory is certain through (properly, because of) the blood of the Lamb (comp. Revelation 1:5, “Who has loved us and washed us from our sins by his blood,” also Revelation 5:9, 1 John 1:7, 1 John 1:9, 1 John 2:2), and the word of their testimony—comp. Matthew 10:32-33, “Whosoever confesses me before men,” &c. We have not two quite independent factors mentioned here, but the second, the witness-bearing, has its root in the consciousness of pardon obtained through the blood of the Lamb, according to the sentiment, “Let us love him, for he has first loved us.” That blood alone gives power to resist unto blood. Because Christ has humbled himself and become obedient unto the death of the cross, they now no longer love their lives unto the death. Bengel: “Because of the blood of the Lamb—this blood purified the brethren from all sin, and so the accuser could bring nothing against them. And because of the word of their testimony—the word which they believed, and because they believed it, they also spoke and gave testimony to it, and suffered all for it, 2 Corinthians 4:13. This is called overcoming the wicked one, 1 John 2:14. Where there is such power in the heart, there also will the name of Christ and the righteousness, which is in that name, be confessed without fear.”

Those that dwell in heaven, Revelation 12:12, properly, those who tabernacle in heaven. By σκηνή? , tent, the church is denoted, because the sanctuary representing the church first had the form of a tent—comp. ch. Revelation 13:6. Accordingly the members of the church, who I after the Old Testament manner of representation dwell spiritually with God in his sanctuary, appear here and in ch. Revelation 13:6 as tabernacling or dwelling in a tent. A similar allusion to the original tent-form of the sanctuary occurs in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us,” and also in this book, ch. Revelation 7:15. In so far as the perfectly righteous are denoted by those who dwell in heaven, the object of their joy cannot be, that they have escaped from the personal assaults of Satan (the perfected representatives of the church in Revelation 12:10 know only of the blessed consequences of the overthrow of Satan for their brethren), but the church triumphant rejoices over the salvation, which is obtained by the church militant, as they distinctly express their joy in Revelation 12:10-11. This is plain from the therefore. In the preceding context the discourse was only of that which the church on earth, the church militant, had obtained through the overthrow of Satan. But there is no reason for thinking only, or even chiefly, of the saints in glory. According to the mode of representation adopted in the New Testament, the members of the church militant also dwell in heaven; their citizenship is there, Php_3:20 ; they are risen together with Christ, and sit together with him in the heavenly places, Ephesians 2:6; they have come to the (heavenly) mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, Hebrews 12:22-23. In this book itself, in ch. Revelation 13:6, those who dwell in heaven are manifestly the members of the church generally, including those on earth, who have been in a very peculiar manner affected by the blasphemies of the beast, who have been calumniated by him as evil-doers, 1 Peter 2:12, 1 Peter 3:16, 1 Peter 4:14. Viewed in regard to these members of the church militant, the contrast is not so much one of persons as of spheres of being; in respect to the heavenly one, they have for the object of their joy the peace of God, which they there enjoy, and which Satan can no more destroy; but, in respect to the earthly, they are still exposed to the assaults of Satan, they have sorrow and tribulation in the world, whereby they are tried, and by the trial kept and prepared for glory, 1 Pet. 6:7. Yet the clear light of heaven shines down upon the darkness of this earthly life. The sea can here, as in ch. Revelation 7:3; Revelation 8:8, 12:18, Revelation 13:1; Revelation 16:3; Revelation 21:1, come into consideration only in the figurative sense, as denoting the sea of the peoples, the restless world. Züllig conceives “those threatened upon the sea are partly the inhabitants of islands, and partly such as might be found in ships (!”) The time that is given to Satan is marked as a small one, in relation to the eternity of the glory of redemption.

Verse 13

Revelation 12:13. And when the dragon saw that he was thrown upon the earth, he persecuted the woman who had brought forth the male (child). This is no mere personal description: he persecuted the woman who brought forth the manly son that had thrown him down on the earth—persecuted her because she had given birth to the son, his conqueror—persecuted in her the conqueror himself, whom he could no longer come at. Hatred of Christ is in Satan and his instruments the foundation of their hatred of Christians.

Verse 14

Revelation 12:14. And to the woman were given the [Note: The article is wanting in Luther, and has been restored to the text only by the most recent editors. It could scarcely have failed on account of the article following.] two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished a time, and times, and half a time from the face of the serpent. This verse corresponds to the sixth. What was already said there is here resumed again, after an account has meanwhile been given which serves to place the situation of the woman in a clear light, the occasion of her flight, the persecution by Satan, and what impelled him to this, at the same time also what gave her in such a condition the hope of a blessed and joyful issue; so that we read here what we have already known with quite new feelings. The only things peculiar to this passage are the two wings of the great eagle which were given to the woman; and, instead of the 1260 days, the time, two times, and an half time. The eagle’s wings occur twice in the Old Testament in regard to the first sojourn in the wilderness, Exodus 19:4, “Ye have seen what I have done to Egypt, and I bore you on eagle’s wings, and brought you to me”—into the wilderness, where, under my protection, ye are free from the dominion and persecution of the Egyptians,—and Deuteronomy 32:11, “Like the eagle he stirs up his nest, hovers over his young, spreads out his wings, takes it, bears it on his pinion: “the Lord as the spiritual eagle bore Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness. A reference is made, besides, to Ezekiel 17:3-7, where the king of Babylon appears as the great eagle, the king of Egypt as a great eagle. In allusion to that great eagle, the Lord is described as the (true) great eagle. [Note: Against Ewald, according to whom the great eagle must denote only a very great eagle—the article being Hebraistically used as a mark of the superlative

Züllig justly remarks: “This might be listened to, if there were no definite great eagle to he found. It is the same great eagle that formerly bore on its wings out of Egypt into the wilderness, and placed there in safety, the very same allegorical person, called here Zion, there the people of Israel ( Exodus 19:4).” By Bengel’s exposition, which understands by the great eagle the mighty power which gave protection and support to the church after the arrival of the third woe, the empire, the reference to the passages in the Pentateuch is quite overlooked.] That the wilderness comes into consideration here as a place of security is evident from the whole context. But that the state was one also of privation is implied in the expression: where she is nourished. The natural means of support do not exist there; God must provide for his church in a supernatural way, as of old in the wilderness by manna. The simple expression “where she is nourished,” does not certainly of itself necessarily imply that the matter here under consideration belongs to the Seer’s own time; and we might explain: where she (then) is nourished. But since it is certain on other accounts that the subject has respect to the present, that a leading into the wilderness forms even the starting-point of the Revelation, there is no reason for departing from the most natural construction. That by the times two times are to be understood, may be inferred alone from the circumstance that a definite number is manifestly demanded, hence naturally two as being the first in order; and less doubt can be entertained regarding it since the “times” stand between the one time and the half time. It is a consolatory thought that the sojourn in the wilderness, which, while it serves to quicken and purify the soul, must still always be accompanied with something painful, has a bound set to it. But the consolation grows when it is considered that the three and a half in their relation to the seven suggest the idea of a proportionately small period of time, and so correspond to the declaration in Revelation 12:12, “he knows that he has a short time.” But, finally, the consolatory import receives a still farther increase by the verbal reference to the prophecy of Daniel in Daniel 7:25, the clear sunshine of which also at once sheds a cheerful light over this mournful scene. A time, two times, and an half time are there the period during which the little horn was to make war on the saints and obtain the victory over them, and at the close of which things were to take a happy turn for the people of God. Through this prophecy, which refers to the last great conflict and victory of the kingdom of God, [Note: In the resumption of Daniel’s prophecy of the ten horns, the Seer of the Revelation passes by in silence the small horn, which throws down three of the great horns. But it is very improbable that be altogether left out the matter symbolized by it. Not being touched on in the history of the beast, we must seek for it in the new phase of the enmity of the world against the kingdom of God, which breaks in at the end of the thousand years. Then, there is the consideration, that the Apocalypse, if it does not contain lees, so neither does it more than Daniel.] the three and a-half generally has been consecrated as the signature of the temporary subjection of the Lord’s people running out into victory. It is said in ch. Daniel 7:24-27, “And the ten horns are ten kings that shall arise out of this kingdom, and another shall arise after them, and he shall be diverse from the former, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak words against the Most High, and he shall disperse the saints of the Most High, and shall attempt to change time and law (he will effect a total revolution—comp. Revelation 2:21, where the expression: he changes times, is used of God); and they shall be given into his hand for a time, and two times, and an half time. Thereafter shall the judgment sit, and his power shall be taken away, that he may be consumed and destroyed unto the end. And the kingdom and the dominion over all kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; and his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” By this prophecy the three and a half years and the dominion of the saints of the Most High over the world are inseparably united together. What holds respecting the last end, must be found also in what is the beginning and exemplar of the end. At the clause: from the face of the serpent, we are to supply: in her flight, or, in her fear. Some with Vitringa connect improperly thus: that she might fly from the face of the serpent. By such a construction the words present an unpleasant drawling appearance. Bengel already remarked, “The woman has her nourishment from the face of the serpent, i.e., the serpent with his persecution cannot come at the woman. So in Judges 9:21, Jotham dwelt there from his brother Abimelech. It has been construed otherwise, that the woman fled from the serpent. But this did not need to be said, as it is evident from the fact, that the dragon persecuted the woman. But this, on the other hand, is remarkable, that she should have her nourishment so long in the face of the serpent.”

Verses 15-16

Revelation 12:15. A nd the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might drown her. Revelation 12:16. But the earth helped the woman and opened its mouth, and swallowed up the flood, which the dragon cast out of his mouth. The water appears in ch. Revelation 17:15 as an image of the peoples. Under the figure of an overflowing the idea of an overwhelming was not rarely represented in the Old Testament; for example, in Psalms 124:4-5, “Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul, then the proud waters had gone over our soul.” Jeremiah 47:2, where it is said in regard to the Chaldean invasion, “Behold waters come out of the north, and become an overflowing flood;” Psalms 18:16; Isaiah 8:8; Jeremiah 46:7-8. The more exact definition appears from Revelation 12:16. By this we learn, that the discourse here is of the hostile overflowing of the church, the commencement of which gave rise to this book—the Roman persecution. With perfect propriety the Berleb. Bible compares 1 Peter 5:8, the rather so, as there too the Roman persecution is referred to. The serpent is named, and not the dragon, in order to point to the cunning, which is the distinguishing characteristic of the serpent

Genesis 3:1. The poor world has been deceived by it. It gives no heed to this, that it is driven on by Satan, and conceives that it acts an independent part in the persecution of the church, and advances its own interest, while it is only working for its own destruction. The earth helped the woman and swallowed up the flood, Revelation 12:16, “which would have swallowed up the believing Israel; so that the matter turned into the reverse.” (Berleb. Bible.) Another earthly and worldly power rose against those who persecuted the church, and brought their persecutions to an end, as formerly under the Old Testament the kingdom of the Medes and Persians brought to an end that of Babylon. The further explanation is given in ch. 17. By that we learn, that Rome was to be destroyed by the ten kings, which were themselves of the earth, and gave their power to the beast.

Verse 17

Revelation 12:17. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus (Christ.) The rest are those who survived the hostile overflowing in Revelation 12:15, or were not affected by it. The key is furnished by ch. Revelation 17:13, where it is said of the ten kings or kingdoms, who overthrew Rome, “These have one mind and give their might and power to the beast,” comp. Revelation 12:17. Their battle against Christ is depicted in ch. Revelation 19:11, ss. On the last words Bengel has some excellent remarks in his discourses, “In respect to the keeping or maintaining of the commandments of God, it is a great question, whether such is possible to men or not? Those who have attained through the power of the gospel to faith in Jesus Christ, serve God in a new and willing spirit, and this is called keeping the commandments of God. We must not take it in the strictest sense, as if God saw no faults in his most devoted children, for which they needed his forgiveness. No one knows better than he who really exercises himself to obedience, how much it is a matter of indulgence in God to regard the conduct of his children on earth, which is so faulty, in the light of an obedience to his commands. It is in the spiritual life and growth, much as in the natural. When a child learns to walk or speak, there is at every step or utterance some indication of weakness and defect; but matters are always getting better, and blame is not imputed if there is a growth in alacrity and strength. Those who keep God’s command, have also the testimony of Jesus. If our hearts are convinced of the truth of this, the mouth shall not fail to deliver a stedfast testimony respecting it, though it should be at the expense of life itself. These are the persons on whom Satan makes war, and hence it is a matter of strong suspicion, if one resile from keeping the commandments of God. Such as do so, the devil readily allows to live at peace.”

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 12". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/revelation-12.html.