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Bible Commentaries

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 12

Introduction

12:1f>

12:1f> And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

This woman is the true visible constituted Church of God under the gospel, in the apostles days called a woman, in opposition unto the apostate Church of Rome, called the great Whore, and the mother of harlots; that is, of all false churches. { 17:1-18f>} The Church of God (his Jerusalem) is resembled by a fair and delicate woman. { 6:2f>}

A woman clothed with the sun.

That is, covered with the robe of Christ’s righteousness; and clothed with the garments of his salvation, { 61:10f>} called the perfection of beauty, { 50:2f>} she is all glorious within. { 45:13f>} The spiritual beauty of the primitive church under the gospel in the apostles days, and also in the latter days consisteth, First, in her head, the Lord of Glory, the Sun of Righteousness, { 4:2f>} her crown and diadem of beauty. { 28:5f>; 62:2-4f>; 60:1-2f>} Secondly, in her spiritual gifts, { 12:4-8f>} and fruits of the spirit. { 5:22-23f>} Thirdly, in all her spiritual administrations, and sacred gospel ordinances of Jesus Christ.

And the moon under her feet.

By the moon we may understand all sublunary things, as earthly honours, dignities, riches, and all the enticements and allurements of this world, and all the threatnings and tortures thereof; all these were under her feet. The church was faithful to Christ, as well as fair, { 11:2f>} a chaste woman, who would not be enticed to commit fornication with the kings of the earth (as mystical Babylon did.) { 17:1-2f>}

And upon her head a crown of twelve stars;

which are the faithful ministers of Christ in his Churches of Saints. See 1:20f>. Who are the churches crown in subordination unto Christ, her principal crown and King of Glory; for the Church of God under the gospel, is builded upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. { 2:20-22f>; 21:9-14f>}

Introduction

12:2f>

12:2f> And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

Here followeth a metaphorical description of the churches fruitfulness.

And she being with child,

the church her fruitfulness was testified by the prophets. { 87:5-7f>; 54:1-5f>; 66:6-10f>} The first fruits of the church, her travailing in the new birth, were those many converts begotten to God by the preaching of the gospel, { 2:41-47f>; 4:15f>; 4:19f>} "My little children of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you". So when Zion travailed, she brought forth. { 66:8f>} This comely and beautiful woman, the church of the first born being in travail, was in such pain to be delivered, that she cried out; such, and so great was her persecution under the Dragon, that attempted to destroy her new born children; the true and faithful believers. { 2:13-16f>; 1:3-4f>; 11:36-37f>}

Introduction

12:3f>

12:3f> And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

By the

great red dragon

here, we may understand that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, ( 16:13-14f> and 20:2f>) and metaphorically, the Roman pagan emperors, who bare the dragon in their standards or colors: The fourth beast, or fourth kingdom, { 7:19-23f>} that is, the fourth kingdom or monarchy. A great dragon for the greatness of the Roman Caesars dominion; and a red dragon for the bloody persecutions of the Christians, who are the woman’s seed, the church her children.

This Roman pagan dragon is further described by his seven heads, that is several kinds of government under the Roman Caesars. { 17:9-10f>} See the exposition. See KNOLLYS: 17:9f>See KNOLLYS: 17:10f>

And his ten horns;

that is, ten kings. See the exposition of Chapter 17, verse 12,14 See KNOLLYS: 17:12f>

See KNOLLYS: 17:14f> They were ten provincial rulers or governors, until the Roman papal beast arose out of the sea of troubles, and then they got a kingly power one hour with the beast, and became ten kingdoms. { 13:1f>; 17:12f>}

And seven crowns upon his heads,

(not upon his ten horns.) The Roman pagan senate were the crown; that is, exercised rule and dominion, they were the dragons heads during the Roman pagan Caesars; Socrat. Hist. Lib. 1. Cap. 2. and Eusebius Eccles. Hist. Lib. 8 Cap. 2 See Prideaux Introduct. period 4th. page 207 and our exposition, chapter 17 verse 9-14. See KNOLLYS: 17:9f> See KNOLLYS: 17:10f> See KNOLLYS: 17:11f> See KNOLLYS: 17:12f> See KNOLLYS: 17:13f> See KNOLLYS: 17:14f>

Introduction

12:4f>

12:4f> And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

By the dragon’s tail, we may understand his political and his ecclesiastical power. See 9:10-19f>. Read the exposition 40:15-17f> and 7:4-6f>.

By

the stars of heaven

we are to understand some false teachers, and apostate ministers, in those times, which were prophesied of, { 2:1-3f>} and the apostle Paul did not marvel at it. { 11:13-15f>}

And did cast them to the earth;

that is, the dragon drew them from their heavenly state in the true church, and threw them down into the earthly state of a false church; viz. from the pure worship of the only true God, to worship idols of wood and stone.

And the dragon stood before the woman, -to devour her child as soon as it was born.

By the child we may understand the spiritual seed of the woman; that is, Christ, and all the Christians; so did Herod, { 2:16f>} with 27:26-37f> and Pilate: And so did the Roman pagan Caesars, and their governors endeavour to kill all the Christians, Euseb. Lib. 6 Cap. 4 by their bloody persecutions for the space of three hundred years and more, from Tiberius to Dioclesian.

Introduction

12:5f>

12:5f> 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.

The man child brought forth was Christ, and his saints, the spiritual seed of this mystical woman, the church of the firstborn written in heaven, { 12:22-23f>} the Jerusalem, that is above, which is the mother of us all. { 4:26f>} This child was prophesied of. { 2:6-10f>} And also her spiritual seed, the saints. { 12:16-17f>} Christ and his saints shall have the dominion over the nations, 7:27-28f> and { 11:15f>} Eusebius de vita Constantini, Lib. 1 pag. 22. 43-46-51. Socrates Lib. 1 Cap. 1 and other historians tell us, that Constantius Clorus, a Christian emperor, died at York, and left the government of the Roman Empire unto his son Constantine the Great, whom he had by his first wife Helena, a British lady, who also embraced the Christian religion, and settled it in the whole Empire, Euseb. Lib. Cap. 11. 15-19 And some expositors upon this chapter say, Constantine the Great was the man child, who ruled the nations, and brake the heathen rulers and their idols in pieces, as it were a potters vessel with an iron rod.

And her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

So was Christ. { 1:9-10f>} So are his saints. { 14:1-3f>} And doubtless so was Constantine at his death, having reigned about thirty years, etc.

Introduction

12:6f>

12:6f> And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

The time of Christ’s two witnesses, prophesying if sackcloth, and the time of the woman’s being in the wilderness, is the same,

a thousand two hundred and threescore prophetical days;

each day for a year. See KNOLLYS: 11:3f> So by the wilderness here, we may understand the persecuted condition of the church of God, and his ministers, under the Roman Papal powers, the beast, the whore, and the false prophet, unto the day of the resurrection of the two witnesses, { 11:11-15f>} see the exposition thereof. See KNOLLYS: 11:11f> See KNOLLYS: 11:12f> See KNOLLYS: 11:13f> See KNOLLYS: 11:14f> See KNOLLYS: 11:15f>

Where she hath a place prepared of God.

God takes care of his church: He prepared; that is, provided a place where his ministers

should feed her a thousand two hundred and threescore days,

each day for a year, as before. Read 14:34f> and 4:6f> (See KNOLLYS: 11:3f>) The knowledge of the end of these

thousand two hundred and threescore

years of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth, and of the woman being in the wilderness, is much desired by the people of God, especially at this time. And therefore I am willing to show my opinion thereof upon scripture grounds.

Now to find out the end of these

a thousand two hundred and threescore days,

let us consider, first, that the Lord gave his holy prophets to number years by days, { 4:4-6f>} each day for a year. And times by years. { 4:16f>; 4:25f>; 4:32f>} Seven times for seven years. So { 11:11f>} three days and an half are three years and an half; and { 12:14f>} the time, and times, and half a time, are three years and an half. And upon these scripture grounds, we may certainly conclude, that as the three days and an half are the ending time of the witnesses

thousand two hundred and threescore days,

so the time, times, and an half, are the last three years and an half of her thousand two hundred and threescore days.

Consider, secondly, that the three days and an half (which are the ending time of the witnesses a thousand two hundred and threescore days,) are expressly said to be between their being killed and their rising again. { 11:7-11f>} See the exposition thereof. See KNOLLYS: 11:7f> See KNOLLYS: 11:8f> See KNOLLYS: 11:9f> See KNOLLYS: 11:11f> And therefore, when we see the witnesses of Christ, his churches, and his ministers killed by the beast, we may certainly conclude, that the ending time of their [thousand two hundred and threescore days,] are come and begun.

Consider, thirdly, Christ told his servant John, that after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into the witnesses, and they prophesied again, { 11:11f>} before Kings, and bare their testimony again for Jesus Christ, as King of Saints, { 15:3f>} King of Zion, { 149:1-2f>} and King of Nations, { 10:7f>} King of Kings, the only potentate, { 6:15f>} King of all the earth, { 14:9f>} And therefore, when we see the mystical resurrection of the witnesses, and hear them prophesy again, and bear their testimony publicly for Christ, his magistracy, ministry, churches, ordinances, worship, discipline and government, against antichrist, his magistracy, ministry, churches, ordinances, worship, discipline and government; we may certainly conclude, that the end of the thousand two hundred and threescore days is fully come. { 11:12-15f>}

Introduction

12:7f>

12:7f> And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

By heaven here, we may understand the Roman Empire, the dragon’s kingdom, where John saw the great red dragon. { 12:3f>} By war here, is meant those mystical battles mentioned, Verse 7, 13th, and 17th of this chapter. { 12:7f>; 12:13f>; 12:17f>} Whereof, this first combat was between

Michael and his angels, and the dragon and his angels.

The Roman pagan empire was the seat of this war; Michael and his angels, that is, Christ the captain general of our salvation. { 2:10f>} The Christian emperors (especially Constantine the Great) were his Lieutenant-generals; the Christian kings and governors were his angels; that is, his commissioned officers; the laws and decrees of the Christian emperors, against idols, and idolatrous worship was their commission.

The dragon and his angels;

that is, the devil. The heathen emperors by their laws and decrees against the Christians, gave commission to their commanders and officers, the anti-Christian kings, governors, and armies, to kill and destroy the Christians. { 7:21-28f>}

Introduction

12:8f>

12:8f> And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

Here followeth the issue of this set battle.

And prevailed not;

that is, the heathen emperors were overcome, and their thrones cast down;

Neither was their place found any more in heaven;

that is, the Roman pagan empire, called heaven, the dragon’s heaven. Read the exposition of chapter 6 verses 12-17. See KNOLLYS: 6:12f> [ff] See KNOLLYS: 6:13f> See KNOLLYS: 6:14f> See KNOLLYS: 6:15f> See KNOLLYS: 6:16f> See KNOLLYS: 6:17f>

Introduction

12:9f>

12:9f> And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

The great dragon

is here called the devil; that is, the grand accuser,

that old serpent

who beguiled Eve by his subtilties, { 11:2-3f>}

and Satan;

that is, the Christians grand adversary, which deceiveth the whole pagan and papal world, even all those that have not their names written in the Lambs book of life, { 13:8f>}

And his angels were cast out with him;

namely, the Roman pagan emperors, kings, priests, were put out of their places of dignity and authority.

Introduction

12:10f>

12:10f> And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

The voice that the apostle John, the servant of Jesus Christ, heard in heaven, was the joyful praises and thanksgiving of the faithful ministers and people in the churches of saints. The matter of their praise was, first,

salvation

which God wrought for them. Secondly, the strength and power which God raised up for their defence against the tyranny of the Roman pagan emperors, by Constantine the Great: And thirdly,

The kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ;

that is, the establishment of both political and ecclesiastical government, according to the laws of God, and the constitutions of our Lord Jesus Christ. Fourthly,

The accuser of our brethren is cast down,

that is, the old serpent called the devil and Satan, the grand accuser of the saints.

Introduction

12:11f>

12:11f> And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Here is recorded the saints victory over the devil and the dragon, and all their enemies; first,

by the blood of the lamb;

that is, by the power and efficacy of the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the virtual application of his precious blood. Secondly,

by the word of their testimony,

which did convince many adversaries, convert some sinners, and did strengthen the faith and courage of very many weak Christians, as the best historians do testify.

And they loved not their lives unto the death.

They esteemed nothing too much, too great, or too good to lose for Christ; they took the spoiling of their goods joyfully; they being tortured, would not accept deliverance, hoping for a better resurrection, as those primitive believers did. { 11:35-37f>} They were willing to lose all, forsake all, and deny all estates, liberties, relations, and lives, for Christ and the gospel, the Christian and protestant religion, and for the true worship of God, and ordinances of Jesus Christ.

Introduction

12:12f>

12:12f> Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

By

heavens,

we are to understand the churches of God.

And ye that dwell in them;

that is, the ministers and members of Christ, who are here called to rejoice, that Jesus Christ and his angels had conquered the great red dragon and his angels.

Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, and of the sea;

as before, 8:13f>.

For the devil is come down to you.

By the inhabiters of the earth, we may understand the Roman political governors and people. And by [the inhabiters of the sea] we may understand the Roman ecclesiastical governors and people. And by both joined together, we may understand those two beasts, { 13:1-11f>} that is, if rightly interpreted, the Roman poli-ecclesiastic state; namely, mystery Babylon, the whole complex body of the Roman papal kingdom, called the beast, the whore, and the false prophet; with the kings of the earth, who give their power, that is, their civil authority; and their strength, that is, their armies of militia, and their kingdom to the beast, till the words of God be fulfilled, { 17:13-17f>} see the exposition thereof. See KNOLLYS: 17:13f>[ff] See KNOLLYS: 17:14f> See KNOLLYS: 17:15f> See KNOLLYS: 17:16f> See KNOLLYS: 17:17f>

Having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time;

that is, a limited time; viz. One thousand two hundred and threescore days, or forty two months, { 13:5f>} see the exposition. See KNOLLYS: 13:5f>

Introduction

12:13f>

12:13f> And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

By the woman, here we are to understand the church, so described 12:1-2f> see the exposition. See KNOLLYS: 12:1f> See KNOLLYS: 12:2f> Called the woman; that fled into the wilderness. { 12:6f>} This was the Arian persecution, against the orthodox bishops, ministers, and churches, after the death of Constantine the Great; as Socrates, Eusebius, and other ecclesiastical historians do testify.

Introduction

12:14f>

12:14f> And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

By the

two wings of a great eagle

we may understand the means of the churchs preservation by Arcadius and Honorius, the two sons of Theodosisus, between who the Roman Empire was divided. It may bear some allusion unto God’s preservation of his church in the days of her wilderness condition, (De 32:11-12 and 19:4f>). Ye have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles wings, etc.

Where she was nourished for a time and times, and half a time;

that is, three prophetical days and an half. { 7:25f>} Read 6:1-3f>; 11:11f>. And there she was fed by the ministers of Christ, and was preserved and hid

from the face of the serpent,

by God’s divine Providence.

Introduction

12:15f>

12:15f> And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.

This flood of waters was those heresies, superstitions, and idolatrous worship which were taught and practised by by Heterodox, bishops and false teachers, who brought in damnable heresies, { 2:1-3f>} will worship, and the doctrine of devils. { 4:1-3f>}

That he might cause her to be carried away of the flood,

and so corrupted and destroyed. The mouth of the serpent, are the false apostles and ministers of the devil. { 11:13-16f>}

Introduction

12:16f>

12:16f> And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

By earth here we are to understand those apostate churches, ministers, and professors that submitted to the Arian and Pelagian heresies, and damnable doctrines of devils, before mentioned, and thereby swallowed up the serpents flood, which he cast out of his mouth, by his false prophets and teachers. And so the rage and wrath of the old serpent was allayed for a season; but brake forth again into an open and violent persecution: As appears by the next verse.

Introduction

12:17f>

12:17f> And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Here we have the last part of the dragon’s mystical war described, first, by the continued wrath of the serpent;

and the dragon was wroth with the woman.

Secondly, by the effect of his wrath; He designed another mystical war,

with the remnant of her seed. See KNOLLYS: 11:7f>. The woman’s seed is called a remnant: For, first, they remained sound in the faith, when others apostatized and departed from the faith. { 4:1-3f>} Secondly, they were but a few; that is, the sealed ones, Chapter 7 { 7:1-17f>} in comparison of them that worshipped the beast, and had not the seal of God in their foreheads. { 13:7-9f>} This remnant kept the commandments of God, when others taught for doctrines the commandments of men. { 15:7-8f>}

And have the testimony of Jesus Christ,

which is the spirit of prophecy. { 19:10f>} Christ’s two prophets, called his witnesses. { 11:3-7f>} See the exposition. See KNOLLYS: 11:3f> [ff] See KNOLLYS: 11:4f> See KNOLLYS: 11:5f> See KNOLLYS: 11:7f>

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Bibliographical Information
Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 12". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hkc/revelation-12.html.