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1 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:
Ver. 1. And there appeared ] This and the two next following chapters are an exposition of the former vision.
A great wonder ] As shadowing out and showing great wonders.
In heaven ] That is, in the Church, or (according to some) in the visible heaven, where sun, moon, and stars are.
A woman ] Alma mater Ecclesia. The Church is called a woman, for her, 1. Weakness; 2. Fruitfulness; 3. Lovingness, 2 Samuel 1:26 .
Clothed with the sun ] With Christ’s own comeliness, Ezekiel 16:14 . She is also conspicuous, Matthew 5:14 , and scorched with persecution, Song of Solomon 1:6 . All which notwithstanding she is comely. Uxor fulget radiis mariti, saith the Civilian.
And the moon under her feet ] She treads upon the world’s trash, bears patiently all changes and chances; and though the curs of the world bark at her, she shines still:
" En peragit cursus surda Diana suas. "
A crown of twelve stars ] A crown in token of victory.
Twelve stars ] Those white horses, Revelation 6:2 , the twelve apostles and their successors, in and by whom mystical Christ goeth forth conquering and to conquer.
2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
Ver. 2. And she being with child ] And so soon smelt out by the bears of the world. Ursa praegnantem mulierem non solum uteri gravitate notam, sed eam etiam quae pridie conceperit, solam ex omni turba consectatur. (Bodin. Theatr. Nat.)
Cried travailing ] Being hard beset with cruel persecutors, she longs to be delivered of a Christian emperor, that might put her out of her pain and misery.
She cried ] viz. In her prayers to God and apologies to men.
3 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.
Ver. 3. Another wonder in heaven ] That is, in the Church, which is called heaven; for, 1. Its original is from heaven, Joh 1:13
2. Its tendency to heaven, Hebrews 11:14 ; Hebrews 3:1-19 . Its conversation in heaven, Philippians 3:20 ; Philippians 4:1-23 . Its dependence upon heaven,James 1:17; James 1:17 .
A great red dragon ] A dragon the devil is called for his sharp-sightedness (the dragon hath a very quick eye, and is said to sleep with open eyes, Mr Arrowsmith), as also for his mischievousness to mankind; and lastly for his serpentine subtilty, Genesis 3:1 . a The comfort is, that as the devil is a lion, so is Christ; there is courage for courage. And as the devil is a serpent, so Christ compares himself to the brazen serpent; there is wisdom for wisdom. A great dragon the devil is, as being god of the world; and red all over with the blood of souls, which he hath swallowed down, as St Peter hath it, 1 Peter 5:8 . It noteth him also to be a fiery dragon, fiery red, full of wrath and rancour.
Seven heads ] To plot, and ten horns to push men into the pit of hell.
Seven crowns upon his head ] Pretended authority for what he did against the Church. It passed in France in manner of a proverb, that the modern Council (of Trent) had more authority than that of the apostles, because their own pleasure was a sufficient ground for the decrees, without admitting the Holy Ghost. That Popish council was carried with such infinite guile and craft, that the Papists themselves will even smile in the triumphs of their own wits (when they hear it but mentioned) as at a master stratagem. By these seven crowns some understand the supremacy of the Roman empire, prevailing against the Church.
a δρακων παρα το δερκειν. παρα το δραυ αχος . Scalig.
4 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.
Ver. 4. And his tail drew ] A monstrous tail for length and strength. One interprets it as his dog-like flattering tail, whence the proverb grew, Cauda blandiri, to be flattered by a tail, κερκω σαινειν . Julian the Apostate drew many from the faith by flatteries and fair promises. Luther was offered a cardinalship to be quiet. (Bp Carlton’s Thankf. Remem.) The pope offered Queen Elizabeth to confirm the English Liturgy by his authority, granting also the use of the sacraments under both kinds, so that she would join herself to the Roman Church. And how the pope clawed our king when he was in Spain, A. D. 1623, is better known than that I need here to relate. (Jac. Revius, vit. Pontif.)
And the dragon stood before the woman ] This implieth, 1. His readiness and nearness; 2. His instance and diligence.
For to devour her child ] As that dragon Pharaoh (so he is called, Isa 51:9 ) sought to make away the newly born babes of Israel, Exodus 1:22 . Thus the dragon Maximinus devoured Alexander the son of Mammaea; and thus Decius devoured the two Philips, because they seemed somewhat to favour the Christians. Thus Philip, king of Spain, suffered his eldest son Charles to be murdered by the cruel Inquisition, because he was any whit inclinable to the reformed religion. Constantine the Great had like to have lost his life for the like cause, but that God strangely preserved him for a better purpose.
5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
Ver. 5. And she brought forth a man child ] Constantine, the Christian Church’s first and chief champion.
Who was to rule all nations ] The whole Roman empire, but especially to overrule and subdue the Church’s many and mighty enemies, as Constantine did most notably.
Caught up to God and to his throne ] To rule in the Church next under God himself. And to this height of honour he was caught when the empire was cast upon him, not once thinking of it. Bonus Deus Constantinum magnum tantis terrenis implevit muneribus, quanta optare nullus auderet, saith Augustine. (De Civ. Dei, v. 25.)
6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
Ver. 6. And the woman fled ] viz. After the battle mentioned in the next verse was fought and finished. See Revelation 12:13-14 .
Into the wilderness ] This notes her afflicted and desolate condition, forced now to live in poverty and exile.
Where she hath a place ] To wit, that temple that was so exactly measured, Revelation 11:12 , called here a wilderness, as was that of Judea, Matthew 3:1 , because but thinly inhabited. The elect are but a handful to a houseful of Atheists and Papists. Or else in allusion to the wilderness of Arabia, through which the Israelites fled from that dragon Pharaoh.
That they should feed her there ] Those two prophets, Revelation 11:3 , were appointed to feed these hidden ones, Psalms 83:3 , with the hidden manna, Revelation 2:17 . Their time and hers agree.
7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
Ver. 7. And there was war ] viz. While the woman was bringing forth; and after that her son was advanced to the empire.
Michael and his angels ] Constantine and his armies.
Against the dragon ] Maximinus, Maxentius, Licinius, and other tyrants, acted and agitated by the devil.
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
Ver. 8. And prevailed not ] They were so totally routed and ruined, that they could never rally or rage any more. Iucundum Christiano homini spectaculum est, quasi coram cernere certantem Christum cum Antichristo, saith one, concerning Luther’s reformation. (Scultet. Annal.) It was a pleasant sight to see Christ and Antichrist striving for the better. For whatsoever the pope with his bulls, or the emperor with his lightbolts, did to hinder it, still the gospel ran and was glorified; and as then, so ever since, maugre (defy) the malice of Rome and of hell. Their late utmost endeavours, and some successes for a season, were but as the last spruntings or bitter bites of dying beasts.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Ver. 9. Was cast out ] Full sore against his will. If the enemies had but as much power as malice, the Church should never rest. But they shall be utterly routed and outed, as at this day they are here to our great comfort.
That old serpent ] When he was young he outwitted our first parents, 2 Corinthians 11:3 , then when their reason was not depraved. Now that he is old, and we but children, Ephesians 4:14 , had we not need look to him, and not be ignorant of his wiles?
Which deceiveth the whole world ] Having for that purpose his set and composed machinations,2 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Corinthians 2:11 , his methods artificially moulded, Ephesians 6:11 , his depths, sleights, coggings of dice, &c. And herein he is incessantly exercised, as the participle of the present tense noteth, ο πλανων .
10 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.
Ver. 10. And I heard a loud voice ] Great joy was throughout the Churches of Christ, as great cause there was, when Constantine came to the empire. That was very remarkable, that Constantine being now a conqueror, should cause a table to be hanged up on high before the doors of his palace, wherein was painted a dragon that lay thrust through with a dart under his own and his subjects’ feet. (Euseb. in Vita Constan.)
For the accuser of our brethren ] So the devil is called, saith one, in direct and full opposition to that special name and office of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, or pleader for us, παρακλητος . The Russians are so malicious one towards another, that you shall have a man hide some of his own goods in the house of him whom he hateth, and then accuse him for the stealth of them; just so deals the devil many times by God’s dearest servants. The word κατηγορος , here rendered the accuser, signifieth not any kind of accuser, saith a learned divine, but such a one as accuseth before a king.
Which accuseth them ] And upon some such articles too as he is able to prove against them. Hence he is said to stand at Joshua’s right hand, at the upper hand, because his accusation was as true as vehement, Zechariah 3:3 . But here is the comfort, Christ appears in heaven for his (as a lawyer appears for his client), to nonsuit all the devil’s accusations, Hebrews 9:24 . The Spirit also (as an advocate, παρακλητος ) makes request in our hearts to God for us, and helpeth us to make apologies for ourselves,2 Corinthians 7:11; 2 Corinthians 7:11 . But may not the saints say to Satan (first drawing them to sin, and then accusing them) as he did to Joab?2 Samuel 18:12-13; 2 Samuel 18:12-13 .
11 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.
Ver. 11. By the blood of the Lamb ] By his merit and spirit, Christ’s blood (as Pliny saith of Polium) is a preservative against serpents.
And they loved not their lives ] When one said to a certain martyr, Take heed, it is a hard matter to burn; Indeed, said he, it is for him that hath his soul linked to his body, as a thief’s foot is in a pair of fetters. (Acts and Mon.) In the days of that bloody persecutor Diocletian, Certatim gloriosa in certamina ruebatur, saith Sulpitius, multoque avidius tum martyria gloriosis mortibus quaerebantur, quam nunc Episcopatus pravis ambitionibus appetuntur. Those ancient Christians showed as glorious power in the faith of martyrdom, as in the faith of miracles; the valour of the patients and the savageness of the persecutors striving together, till both, exceeding nature and belief, bred wonder and astonishment in beholders and readers. a One martyr said, Can I die but once for Christ? Another, Had I as many lives as I have hairs upon mine head, they should all go. Hanc animam in flammis offero, Christe, tibi, saith Jerome of Prague.
a Non maiori unquam triumpho vicimus quam cum decem annorum stragibus vinci non potuimus. Sulp.
12 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.
Ver. 12. Rejoice, ye heavens ] Ye that have your conversation in heaven, and shall shortly remove your tents thither.
Woe to the inhabiters of the earth ] Earthworms that load themselves with thick clay, and strive, with the toads, who shall die with most earth in their mouths.
And of the sea ] Seamen are, for the most part, very profane and godless. See Judges 1:13 ; Isaiah 57:20 . Mr Brightman by these inhabitants of the sea understandeth the clergymen, as they call them, who set abroach gross, troubled, brackish, and sourish doctrine, which doth rather bring barrenness of godliness to their hearers, and doth gnaw their entrails, than quench their thirst, or yield any other good fruit.
For the devil is come down ] Indeed he was cast down; but that the devil dissembles, and makes as if he came for his pleasure’s sake, and so makes the best of an ill matter.
Having great wrath ] Indignation, commotion of mind, perturbation of spirit, inflammation or heaving of the blood, by apprehension of an injury, θυμον . Satan’s malevolence was a motive to his diligence. Natural motion is more swift and violent toward the end of it.
Because he knoweth ] By the signs of the last judgment, which cannot be far off, and by conjectures, wherein he hath a singular sagacity.
That he hath but a short time ] He therefore makes all haste he can to outwork the children of light, in a quick despatch of deeds of darkness. Certain hawks in colder countries are most eager and earnest to take their prey when the daylight there is of least continuance.
13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child .
Ver. 13. He persecuted the woman ] As the matter of his calamity. The devil infinitely hates Christ, and sins that sin against the Holy Ghost every moment. His instruments, also, carried with hellish malice, cease not to malign and molest the Church, to their own utter ruin: for Christ must reign when all is done.
14 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.
Ver. 14. Two wings of a great eagle ] That is, sufficient means of safety and protection from peril, Exodus 19:4 . By this great eagle, some mighty personage seems to be designed,Ezekiel 17:3-7; Ezekiel 17:3-7 . And this may very well be Constantine, whose peculiar surname was Great: but yet so (saith Mr Forbes) as that the great honour and riches, wherewith, as with wings, he upon good intention endowed the Church, is an occasion to make her flee to the wilderness, all true and sincere religion by degrees decaying in the visible Church.
Where she is nourished for a time ] See Trapp on " Rev 8:9 "
A time, times, and a half time ] That is, a year, two years, and half a year, even three years and a half, as Revelation 11:9 .
15 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.
Ver. 15. Cast out of his, mouth water ] Those barbarous nations, Goths, Huns, Vandals, Lombards, others, stirred up by the devil to overrun the empire, and afflict the Church. Or else it may mean those pestilent and poisonous heresies, Arianism, and the rest, wherewith the Church was infested, according to that of Solomon, "The mouth of the wicked belcheth out evil things,"Proverbs 15:2; Proverbs 15:2 .
16 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.
Ver. 16. And the earth helped the woman ] That is, the multitude of Christians meeting in the general councils, those four first especially, held at Nice against Arius, at Constantinople against Macedonius and Eunomius, at Ephesus against Nestorius, and at Chalcedon against Eutyches. These helped the Church exceedingly against inundations of heresies; and were therefore by Gregory the Great received and embraced as the four Gospels.
And the earth opened her mouth ] An allusion to Numbers 16:32 . Look how the earth swallowed up those malcontents, so did God root out pernicious heresies with their authors and abettors, by the power of the Scripture and the zeal of the orthodox doctors, so that they suddenly vanished out of sight, after a marvellous manner.
17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Ver. 17. Was wroth with the woman ] Who yet had done him no wrong; but he and his are mad with malice (when their designs miscarry especially), and are ready to sue the Church, as he in Cicero did another, quod totum telum corpore non recepieset, because he had not taken into his body the whole dagger wherewith he had stabbed him. (Orat. pro C. Rab. Posth.)
To make war ] That war which is mentioned Revelation 13:7 .
With the remnant of her seed ] As a little seed grain is reserved out of a great heap for store, which is nothing to the whole crop; so is the small number of true believers reserved by grace, nothing to the whole field and crop of the world.
Which keep the commandments ] A just description of a godly Christian. Boni catholici sunt qui et fidem integram sequuntur et bonos mores. To be sound in faith and holy in life, this is the kernel of Christianity. (Aug.)
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 12". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24