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b. The Theocracy. Christ. The Churches of the Wilderness, or Church of the Cross
1And there appeared [om. there appeared] a great wonder [sign (σημεῖον)—ins. was seen] in [ins. the] heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2And she being with child cried [crieth]1, travailing in birth [om. in birth], and pained [tormented] to be delivered 3[bring forth]. And there appeared [was seen] another wonder [sign] in [ins. the] heaven; and [,] behold [,] a great red [πυῤῥός] dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and [ins. upon his heads] seven crowns [diadems] upon his heads [om. upon his heads]. 4And his tail drew [draggeth2] the third part of the stars of [ins. the] heaven, and did [om. did] cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which [who] was ready to be delivered [about to bring forth], for to devour her child as soon as it was born [that, when she should bring forth, he might devour her child]. 5And she brought forth a man child [male son (υἱὸν ἄρσεν3)] who was [is (μέλλει)] to rule [shepherdize] all [ins. the] nations with a rod of iron [an iron rod]: and her child was caught up [away (ἡρπάσθη)] unto [to] God, and to [to] his throne. 6And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath [ins. there]4 a place prepared of [by (ἀπό)5] God, that [ins. there] they should feed [may nourish]6 her there [om. there] a thousand two hundred and threescore [sixty] days.
c. Establishment of the Church Triumphant in the Heaven of the inner Spirit-life on Earth. Freedom of the Invisible Church
7And there was [ἐγένετο] war in [ins. the] heaven: [,] Michael and his angels fought against [warring with]7 the dragon; and the dragon fought [warred] and his angels, 8and [ins. they] prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in [ins. the] heaven. 9And the great dragon was cast out [thrown down (ἐβλήθη)], that [the] old [ancient] serpent, [ins. that is] called the [om. the] Devil, and [ins. the] Satan [or adversary], which deceiveth [that seduceth or misleadeth (ὁ πλανῶν)] the whole world [inhabited world (οἰκἰυμένην)]: he was cast out [thrown down] into [unto] the earth, and his angels were cast out [thrown down] with him. 10And I heard a loud [great] voice saying in [ins. the] heaven, Now is come [ins. the] salvation, and strength [the power], and the kingdom of our God, and the power [authority] of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast [thrown] down, which accused [that accuseth] them8 before our God [ins. by] day and [ins. by] night. 11And they overcame [conquered] him by [on account of] the blood of the Lamb, and by [on account of] the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives [life (ψυχήν)] unto the [om. the] 12death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabited of [om. the inhabiters of]9 the earth and of [om. of] the sea! for [because] the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath [anger], because he knoweth that he hath but a [om. but a] short [little] time.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Here, manifestly, the beginning of the End commences, and, consequently, the second division of the Apocalypse. It begins with the heavenly pre-celebration of the victory over the Dragon—Satan—and over his representative on earth—the Beast, i. e., Antichrist. This precelebration is linked to the blast of the seventh Trumpet. A striking turn in the description is found in the fact, that the Spirit of prophecy does not make the seven-headed Beast appear immediately upon the blast of the seventh Trumpet, as the seven Trumpet-Angels emerged from the seventh Seal. In like manner, the vision of the seven Seals might not directly follow the picture of the seventh Church; nor, furthermore, can the seven Vials of wrath be immediately linked to the seven heads of Antichrist, and this irrespective of the fact, that these [the heads] constitute, in the first place, a unitous phenomenon. If it had been designed that the seven Thunders should be particularly set forth, they would have followed upon the seventh Trumpet, whilst the seventh Thunder would have been succeeded by the announcement of the Antichristian time. The sealing of the seven Thunders, however, necessitated a modification of the outward consequence of the septenaries; nor could the new Divine manifestations issue from the preceding bad human conditions, but could only follow them as judgments.
From the seventh Trumpet great or powerful voices proceed. Not one voice, but a chorus of voices—and those, mighty, voices—concordantly proclaim the great victory
This is, manifestly, an expression of the strongest assurance of victory, developed in the very face of the emergence of Satan and his Antichrist.
This assurance of victory in Heaven is also an assurance of victory in the spirit-realm of the Kingdom of God in this world, i. e., in the invisible Church. It is a fundamental feature of the Kingdom of God, that this assurance of victory has been in process of more and more glorious development from the Protevangel down to the consummation of the New Testament (1 John 5:4). And, indeed, with the death and resurrection of Christ the victory is, in principle, decided, so that there is no longer question save as to the full development of the principle into the visible appearance.
But in what manner do the voices proclaim the victory? The kingdom of the world is become our Lord’s and His Christ’s, and He shall reign to the æons of the æons. The position of Christ toward God the Lord is economically modified here, because the kingdom relationship is involved (see 1 Corinthians 15:25-27). Since we must distinguish between a Kingdom of power, possessed by God from the beginning, and a Kingdom of His Spirit’s sovereignty in spirits, founded by His grace in Christ, to which, however, the kingdom of darkness stands opposed—an anarchy of spirits, under the lying power of Satan—the point in question here can be nought but the synthesis, already accomplished in principle, of the Kingdom of power and the Kingdom of grace. It is a Kingdom of God over the world, which is at the same time a Kingdom over hearts; or a Kingdom over hearts which, from the invisible Church, goes forth, in dynamic operation, through all the world, finally spreading through the worlds of space, as through the æons of time.
At the close appearing of this Kingdom, the kingdom of darkness is destroyed. With the mere announcement of this absolute Kingdom is conjoined the absolute thanksgiving of pious humanity in the evening of the world; pious humanity as, represented by the twenty-four Elders, the Presbytery of the Theocracy and the Presbytery of the New Testament Kingdom of God, both of which institutions have had so much to suffer from the oppressions of the kingdom of darkness. [See foot-note†, p.152.—E.R.C.]
They, lying upon their faces, rightly return thanks to God as the All-Ruler, Who now has taken to Himself—i. e., brought into full operation—His great power. In these words a grand theological revelation is contained. From the beginning of the world’s history, but, above all, in the humiliation of Christ, in His cross, and His cross-bearing Church, God has so greatly restrained His power, in the maintenance of the liberty, thereunto opposed, of moral agents, and in the service of love, as to make it seem as if He had laid that power aside. Now, however, that the seed of liberty has gradually matured, having sprouted up partly on the right hand side, partly on the left hand side, He can unchain His full majestic power, and He has begun His absolute royal rule.
The first mark of this turn in the current of affairs is peculiar; it has almost the aspect of a contradiction. The heathen [nations] have become wroth, it is declared; the power of darkness seems just now to be more than ever at liberty. But as, in the second Psalm, the strongly emphasized today marks the very date of the general rebellion against Jehovah and His Anointed as the date of the anointing and institution of His Son—as the date of the crucifixion of Christ became the date of His exaltation likewise—so it shall be at the time of the last great apostasy; even above the wrath of the heathen and simultaneously: with it, the revelation of the wrath of God appears. The wrath of God is destination to death (Exodus 4:14; comp. Ezekiel 12:24; Psalms 90:0). The suicidal death-choice of the old world, in its apostasy from the living God, brings the judgment of the Divine destination to death directly upon this old world. The living have become a prey to death; the dead, on the other hand, revive. The time of the dead, when it is their turn to have justice done them, has come; the retributive judgment must be held, in which God gives to His servants their reward, i. e., the final perfect and solemn restoration, which forms the antithesis to all the ignominy and sorrow of their historic life.
And here the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament saints are beautifully linked together; and with them, all the God-fearing, who have kept the name of God—their knowledge of God—sacred; all, both small and great, in the whole sphere of God’s Kingdom. For they all had to suffer from the destroyers of the earth—of Divine order on Earth, as well as of Nature and Earth in the literal sense.
But the time of compensatory retribution is likewise the time of punitory retribution: the destroyers of the Earth must themselves be destroyed.
The judgment is consummated amid the complete revelation of that idea of justice by which it is put in execution. Hence the Temple of God in the Heaven is opened, i. e., the radiant archetype of the Kingdom of God on Earth is revealed in its ideal and dynamical authority for mankind. The Ark of the Covenant in this Temple becomes visible; the heavenly rule [Norm] of the condemning law, as well as of the real redemption, is made known to all the world.
Nor is the radiant appearance all; it produces, as a vital phenomenon, in the richest manifestations of its powers, lightnings, or revelations of the Spirit; voices, or Divine words and thoughts; thunders, or lively stirrings of soul; earthquake, or convulsions of the old world; and a great hail, as a symbol of the conflict betwixt Heaven and Earth: fire and cold issue from the disclosure of the heavenly spirit-world at the end of the world.
And now the history of Antichristianity on Earth is prefigured by the history of it in Heaven. Here Heaven is manifestly the pure celestial sphere of spirit and of spirits, the background of all occurrences in that general history of the world which is visible to all. A great sign appears in this Heaven. A Woman, the Kingdom of God, modified by the feminine receptivity of the human mind, is seen. She makes her appearance in the unity of the Old Testament Theocracy and the New Testament Kingdom of Heaven; she is adorned with the sun of revelation; with the moon, as a symbol of nature, in its subserviency to the Kingdom of God (and also as symbolizing the change of times), under her feet; and a crown of twelve stars upon her head—the adornment of a plenary number of elect spirits appertaining to her. The Seer has deeply felt the conflict of the transition from the Old Covenant to the New, as is proved by the words: And she, being with child, crieth, etc.; the Lord’s people, together with Himself, have experienced these throes of the Messiah (see John 16:21). This sign is accompanied by another: Behold, a great fiery-red Dragon. In Heaven! how is this possible? Heaven is that realm of spirit and of spirits in which Christ overcame Judas (see the author’s Leben Jesu, Book ii., p. 1328), without the observation of mere historical men, in their external world; hence, it is the spiritual back-ground of worldly history. In this Heaven, the great red Dragon appears; the winged primeval serpent, at once serpent and swine; signalized as a monster, not only by the fiery hue of the murderer, but also by the seven heads, and especially by the disproportion between the seven heads, or the caricature symbol of holy intelligence—not to say of a Holy Spirit—and the ten horns or the symbols of worldly power; the heads only are adorned with diadems, thus making the worldly power appear as unauthorized might, obtained by artifice. Farther on, the Dragon, the ancient serpent (Genesis 3:0), is expressly called the Devil and Satan (Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2). These seven heads of the Dragon are not to be identified with the seven heads of the Beast, nor are they to be referred to historical shapes; they are seven spiritual deformities which ape the seven Spirits, or ground-forms of the Spirit.
It is declared concerning his first exertion of violence: His tail draggeth the third part of the stars of the Heaven, and cast them upon the Earth. This cannot be regarded as significant of the apostasy of a portion of the angels, since the angels of the Dragon are spoken of, further on, as still in Heaven.
The passage should rather be interpreted in accordance with Revelation 8:0, particularly Revelation 12:10.
The third part of the spirits designed as light-bearers in the human Heaven are, by the violent oscillations of the demonic tail—overpowered, that is, by the impressions of apparently irresistible vivacity and might—swept from the Heaven of spiritual purity, and cast upon the Earth; made subservient to worldly-mindedness, in order to the more thorough transformation of God’s Earth (Psalms 93:0) into an Earth estranged from God. The preliminaries to the crucifixion of Christ were, in particular, the fruit of this act of the Dragon. Fallen stars constituted the government of Palestine and the majority of the Sanhedrin; even the Messianic hopes of the Jews were satanically empoisoned. In the face of Christ’s appearance, however, the machinations of the Dragon concentrate themselves; for Christ is the glorification of the personal God, of love in the love-kingdom of personal life, by means of an absolutely worthy personal conduct; Satan, on the other hand, is the seducer and accuser of men, who tends to sink the whole world in worldliness—to plunge the personal kingdom into the service of impersonal things, by means of the lying perversion of his own true creaturely essence into the semblance of a false divinity.
Shamelessly, therefore, the Dragon takes his stand before the Woman who is about to be delivered, that he may devour her child. Thus was the power of evil concentrated in Israel at the very moment when Christ, in respect of His historical descent from the eternal congregation of God, extending through the Theocracy and the Church, was about to be born.
But the new-born Child is a man—the Man, simply (Isaiah 9:0)—destined, in the words of the Old Testament (Psalms 2:0), to rule [shepherdize] the nations with a rod of iron; ordained to the government of the world in redemptive and judicial righteousness—for Satan, therefore, unattainable in His essence (John 14:30). His own name for Himself is the Son of Man, in the highest sense. Pilate calls Him the Man [ὁ ἄθρωπος=Mensch, human being]. The vision calls Him the Man [Mann (υἱὸν ἄρσεν)], in the highest sense of the term. And here, in accordance with the spiritual, æonic aspect of the history, there is no special reference to the sufferings of Christ; His death itself forms a part of His elevation above every assault of Satan; hence it is declared: her Child was caught away to God and to His Throne. This exaltation (Philippians 2:6 sqq.) is at the same time the foundation of the Church Triumphant in Heaven and on Earth.
Of the Woman it is said, that she fled into the wilderness. She is the same who bore Christ—hence, the Old and New Testament Church in undivided unity. The wilderness, prepared for her by God as a place of shelter,10 exhibits a transformation similar to that presented by the cross. As the cross, from the tree of the curse, has become the symbol of salvation, so this wilderness, from being the abode of demons (Leviticus 16:22; Matthew 4:0; Matthew 12:43), was changed into a refuge from the Arch-demon. This wilderness is the perfect New Testament renunciation of the world, which makes the Church on Earth, in respect of its invisible kernel, like unto the Church in Heaven. The entrance thereto is baptism into the death of Christ (Romans 6:0); its external form is asceticism; its security is courage for the cross; its verdant oases are the triumphs of the martyrs. The time of residence in this wilderness is modified after the measure of the New Testament trial-time; not in the form of the change of times (Revelation 11:2), but in that of uninterrupted days’ works—twelve hundred and sixty days (Revelation 11:3). In regard to the Woman herself, the notation of time is more obscure, less definite, and gloomier: a time, two times, a half time (Revelation 12:14; Daniel 12:7)—running, we may say, into apparently endless helplessness or destitution (Luke 18:1).
The succeeding scene is most wonderful. The theatre of this war in Heaven—a conflict marvellous when considered merely in the abstract—is, we believe, the spiritual and spirit world of the Church Invisible—not, however, the Heaven of Christ’s glory.
The nature of the conflict is equally remarkable: Michael and his angels (as the attacking party) war with the Dragon; but the Dragon also wars, and his angels (as the resisting party). We have shown elsewhere that the Archangel Michael is an image of Christ victoriously combatant. Christ is an Archangel in His quality of Judge; and He appears as Judge, not only at the end of the world, but also in the preservation of the purity of His Church (Acts 5:1 sqq.; 1 Corinthians 5:1 sqq.). That Christ has His angels also—those that war with Him—not merely in the evening of the world, but from the beginning, is a fact which John has previously intimated in his Gospel (John 1:51); they are the principles and spirits which are with Him absolutely. And so the Dragon also has his angels, his assistants. Since the foundation of Christ’s Church, Christian and Antichristian principles have been warring with each other—primarily, in spiritual, intellectual and ethical forms (John 14:0 [John 15:0?]).
These battles are not simply central general combats, but a sum of great single conflicts. Michael wars; the angels war; the Dragon wars, and his angels. But, with them, he is defeated.
Why is it so concisely declared: they prevailed not? Be it observed, in the first place, that the principial victory of Christ has already taken place, and that the final historic victory cannot yet be intended. But Satan is totally defeated, in so far as respects the fact, that the New Testament Heaven, in its central essence, is thoroughly purged from him and his angels; in Heaven their place is no more found. That is, as the Church Triumphant is now established in Heaven, so, in correspondence with it, the Church on Earth has also a place that is purified from all Satanic essence—the sphere of pure Christian spiritual life, the communion of saints. Out of this Heaven, therefore, is cast the great Dragon, the ancient Serpent (the demonic seducer of Adam); the Devil and Satan, as the slanderer and enemy of mankind (Job 2:0), who has continually changed the conception: man is sinful and wicked—into the calumniatory sentence: he is fundamentally bad; and this, on account of his success in approving himself the seducer of the whole world.
When it is declared, that the whole Satanic troop is cast upon the Earth, in company with its leader, it cannot be necessary to apprehend the declaration in an astronomical or local sense. Expelled from the inner Church, Satan now directs his whole assault against the outer Church. The wheat of Christ’s field remains pure; but the field, as such, becomes impure: the enemy sows his tares amongst the wheat.
The foundation of the holy Church, the communion of saints, is an infinitely glorious achievement. A great voice pronounces the hymn of victory; it is a single, common triumphant consciousness of all the heavenly throng. Now there is founded, with Christ and through Him, a pure, eternal Heaven, which descends from Heaven to Earth. And with the pure Church, the New Testament Kingdom of Heaven is established, in which God reigns with three attributes: He has taken upon Himself the salvation—the perfect and final redemption from all evil; He has, further, taken to Himself the power over redeemed souls, and has called in the current of worldly affairs as co-operative in redemption (Romans 8:0); and, consequently, He has finally assumed the real Kingdom of His Spirit as a sovereignty over all good spirits. The attribute of Christ is, henceforth, the authority, the executive power (ἐξυσία). Such is the constitution of the Kingdom (Revelation 11:15).
How all this has come to pass, is intimated in the following words. The negative term runs thus: the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God by day and by night. The temptations to despair, which Satan brought to bear upon the consciences of men, subsequent to his seduction of them into sin, are annihilated, throughout the whole realm of faith, by the sure and perfect peace of reconciliation (comp. 1 John 3:20; Hebrews 2:15).
And they conquered him by [on account of] the blood of the Lamb, is the reason assigned for their victory; for it is upon the triumph of Christ that the triumphs of Christians are grounded. Their heart-victories, however, have become intellectual victories likewise, through the word of their testimony; and victories of their entire life, because they loved not their life unto death, when martyrdom was the price of adherence to the truth (Matthew 16:24-25).
Therefore rejoice, ye Heavens, and ye that dwell (take up your abode)in them—such is the festal conclusion. Heaven spreads out into a plenitude of Heavens (John 14:2), and these Heavens become peopled with blessed conquerors.
A terrible contrast to the above is presented by the last words: Woe unto the inhabiters11 of the earth and of the sea. The danger is heightened for the world-church of external order and authority, as well as for the surging popular life and the fluctuations of society. For the Devil, as the poisoner of the truly historical powers, has made their common destruction his aim. He has great anger; the principle of demonic worldly-mindedness is excited—the more, as it is a final paroxysm, or because he knoweth that he hath little time.
The fact that the Heaven-picture continues to this passage, is proved, among other things, by the concluding hymn (Revelation 12:10-12).
[ABSTRACT OF VIEWS, ETC.]
By the American Editor
I. Rev 12:15-17
[Elliott regards Revelation 12:14 as setting forth the cessation of the Turkish woe—the period of cessation beginning with the battle of Lepanto, A. D. 1571, and extending to the peace (humiliating to Turkey) in 1791, between Turkey on the one side and Russia and Austria on the other. He connects this “second half” of the Turkish woe with the visions of Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 11:13, as follows: It was just after the “slaying of the third part of men” (Revelation 9:18), i. e., the fall of Constantinople—and the ineffectiveness of the catastrophe to induce repentance (see p. 210, foot-note), that the Covenant Angel descended (Revelation 10:1)—betokening the Reformation (see p. 218); and also it was just after the fall of the tenth part of the City and the seven Chiliads (Revelation 11:13), i. e., the political earthquake following the Reformation (see p. 228), that the announcement of Revelation 12:14 was made. (The beginning of this earthquake he places about A. D., 1569; the battle of Lepanto was fought A. D. 1571.) Revelation 12:15-17 he interprets as a general Heaven-picture of the last time (including the establishment of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom), the development of the great events of this vision being deferred until after “the parenthetic Visions” in chs. 12–14.
Barnes regards the description of the events of the seventh Trumpet as closing with Rev 12:18 (Revelation 13:1); the period extending to the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom, and the vision closing the series of visions beginning at Revelation 5:1. He regards Rev 12:19 (Revelation 13:2) as commencing “a new series of visions, intended, also, but in a different line, to extend down to the consummation of all things.”
Stuart: “One powerful and bitter enemy of Christianity is now, or is speedily to be, put down. The judgments of Heaven, which had been so gradually proceeding, and seemingly so slow, are immediately to be consummated. The triumph of Christianity over opposing and embittered Judaism is to be completed. ‘Their place and nation are now to be taken away.’ The progress of the Gospel can no longer be stayed by them.”
Wordsworth agrees with Barnes in regarding this section as closing the first series of visions, and with commentators generally, in regarding it as referring to the last time.
Alford: (Revelation 12:14). “Transitional—The episodical visions of Revelation 10:1-11; Revelation 11:1-13 are finished; and the prophecy refers to the plagues of the sixth Trumpet, Revelation 9:13-21. These formed the second woe, and upon these the third is to follow (Revelation 12:15-17). But in actual relation and detail it does not immediately follow. Instead of it, we have voices of thanksgiving in Heaven, for that the hour of God’s Kingdom and vengeance is come. The Seer is not yet prepared to set forth the nature of this taking of the Kingdom, this reward to God’s servants, this destruction of the destroyers of the earth. Before he does so, another series of prophetic visions must be given regarding not merely the dwellers on the earth, but the Church herself, her glory and her shame, her faithfulness and her apostasy. When this series has been given, then shall be declared in its fullness the manner and the process of the time of the end.”—“Notice (1), that the seventh Seal, the seventh Trumpet, and the seventh Vial, are all differently accompanied from any of the preceding series in each case; (2) at each seventh member of the series (a) we hear what is done, not on earth, but in Heaven (chs. Revelation 8:1; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 16:17); (b) we have it related in the form of a solemn conclusion (with slight variations), ἐγένοντο βρονταὶ κ.τ.λ., chs. Revelation 8:5; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 16:18 sqq.; (c) we have plain indication in the imagery or by direst expression, that the end is come, or close at hand, by (α) the imagery of the sixth Seal, and the two episodes preceding the seventh Seal, (β) the declaration, here ἦλθεν ὁ καιρὸς τῶν νεκρῶν κριθῆναι, (γ) the Γέγονεν sounding from the Temple and the Throne on the pouring out of the seventh Vial; (3) all this forms strong ground for inference, that the three series of visions are not continuous, but resumptive; not indeed going over the same ground with one another, either of time or of occurrence, but each evolving something which was not in the former, and putting the course of God’s providence in a different light. It is true that the Seals involve the Trumpets, the Trumpets the Vials; but it is not mere temporal succession, the involution and inclusion are far deeper,” etc.
Lord: The seventh Trumpet is to be followed by 1. The assumption by the Redeemer of the dominion of the earth in a new and peculiar relation as its King, and the commencement of a visible and eternal reign. 2. The resurrection, and public adoption as heirs of the Kingdom, of all saints who have suffered the penalty of death; and the acceptance and reward of all living saints. 3. The destruction of the apostate powers, the Wild-beast, False Prophet, etc. This Trumpet is cotemporaneous with the seventh Vial (comp. Rev 12:19 with Revelation 16:18 sqq.); the lightnings, voices, etc., denoting excitements, commotions, and revolutions among the nations, and the descent on them of judgments. The opening of the inner Temple and the exhibition of the Ark (Rev 12:19)(Revelation 13:2), denote, probably, that the mysteries of the former administration are finished, and that thenceforth the reasons of the Divine procedure are to be understood.
Glasgow regards the prophecy of the period of the seventh Trumpet as contemplated in only Revelation 12:15. This period he holds to begin with the Reformation and to extend “through all the period of the Vials.” “The Trumpet declares the Kingdom to be Christ’s, and goes on to announce the events by which all rebels are to be brought to submission or extinction.” The voices he interprets as “The voice of Jesus through the instrumentality of ecclesiastical voices. They are the voices of Luther, Zwingli—all the Reforming preachers.” He explains the expression: “His Christ’s,” as relating to the Church (see Expl. in Detail). Revelation 12:16-17 describe a Heaven scene (at the opening of or throughout the period?); Rev 12:18 (Revelation 13:1), an Earth scene at the beginning of the Reformation. Rev 12:19 (Revelation 13:2), he refers to the day of Pentecost, when “Peter and the other apostles, by preaching, ‘opened the door of faith instrumentally!’ ” (See Expl. in Detail.)
II. Rev 12:1-12
[Elliott: With this section this author regards Part IV. of the Apocalypse as beginning, including chs. 12, 13, 14. This Part presents a “supplemental and explanatory history of the Rise, Character, and Establishment of the Beast from the Abyss, or Popedom; with its chief Adjuncts; and the contrasted Impersonation of Christ’s faithful Church.” The vision of this section be holds to be retrogressive. By the Travailing Woman he understands Christ’s true visible Church, in the heaven of political elevation (invested with Christ as the Sun of Righteousness; the moon, representing the civil authority, under her feet; the stars, ecclesiastical ministers, recognized as dignified authorities before the world); bringing forth with pain (the Diocletian persecution) a son who is to rule, etc., i. e., producing children who, united and multiplied into a nation, are to be raised to dominant political power; (this elevation being first accomplished under Constantine, to whom, according to Ambrose, was given the title “Son of the Church”). The Dragon he interprets as the Roman Empire as a persecuting power hostile to Christianity. He presents the following indications as to the time of the birth and effort to destroy: (1) not until after the close of the Second century, as it was then that the dragon was first used as a Roman ensign; (2) not until the time of Diocletian, as it was then that the diadem was first assumed as one of the imperial insignia; (3) the drawing by the Dragon of a third part of the stars of Heaven indicates that though he was still in the political heaven, his power was diminished to a third part of the Imperial power, and this occurred about A. D. 313, when in two divisions of the Roman Empire, Europe and Africa (under Constantine and Licinius), Christianity was in the ascendancy, but in the third, Asia (under Maximin), Christians were still exposed to persecution; (4) this was the period of the termination of forty weeks (280 prophetic days from Pentecost) of the Church’s gestation. The attempt to destroy he explains by (1) the persecution of Maxi min (see Gibbon II. 489); (2) the apostasy of Licinius, A. D. 323, and the following persecutions. The catching up of the child to God and His throne he regards as the elevation of Constantine, as an avowed Christian, to the undivided throne of the Roman Empire, and the consequent establishment of Christianity, after the defeat of Licinius at the battle of Adrianople, A. D. 323 (see Gibbon and historians generally). (For the explanation of the flight of the Woman, see the following abstract, p. 258.) The war in Heaven he regards as indicating the struggle of Paganism for re-elevation to political power under Licinius and Julian the Apostate, and the throwing down of the Dragon (or Satan, who inspired them) as the final downfall of Paganism, primarily in the defeat of Licinius, and finally in the death of Julian in the Persian War, A. D. 363.Revelation 12:10-12 (1st clause) he interprets as the Church’s song of victory in the “symbolic Heaven of political elevation and power.” The last clause of Revelation 12:12 he regards “as a detached and solemn notification by the dictating prophetic Spirit of some woe on the Roman Empire soon about to follow,” reference being had “primarily, to heretical persecutors within the Church and Empire; and, secondarily, to the Gothic scourge.”
Barnes agrees, in the main, with Elliott. His most important variations are as to—1. The adornment of the Woman: by the moon under her feet he understands “the ancient (Jewish) and comparatively obscure dispensation now made subordinate and humble; and by the twelve stars, “the usual well-known division of the people of God into twelve parts.” 2. The war in Heaven: he writes, “Another vision appears. It is that of a contest between Michael, the protecting Angel of the people of God, and the great foe, in which victory declares in favor of the former, and Satan suffers a discomfiture, as if he were cast from Heaven to Earth.”
Stuart interprets (1) the Woman as the Church (“not simply as Jewish, but in a more generic and theocratic sense, the people of God”) at the period of Christ’s birth; (2) the child as Christ Himself; (3) the dragon as Satan inspiring Herod, Judas and other persecutors; (4) the attempt to destroy as the massacre at Bethlehem and the other assaults on our Lord; (5) the catching up to Heaven as the Ascension; (6) the War in Heaven (the lower heaven, the air) as a struggle between good and bad spirits, “according to the usual popular modes of conception;”12 (7) “the words of the voice in Heaven (Revelation 12:10 sqq.) are to be regarded mainly as anticipative of victory in respect to the future, grounded on a reminiscence of victory with regard to the past.”
Wordsworth regards Revelation 12:0 as a “Prophetic View of the History of the Church relatively to Rome” (Revelation 12:1-12, relatively to heathen Rome). “The Woman in this vision is the Christian Church; she appeared in Heaven, for her origin is from above; she is clothed with the Sun, for Christ is the Sun of righteousness; she has the moon under her feet, because she will survive the changes of this world; she has on her head a crown of victory (στέφανος); the crown of twelve stars indicates the Twelve Apostles.” The Dragon is the Old Serpent, who is called in this Book the Dragon, see Revelation 12:9; Revelation 12:15-16, where the names Satan, Devil, Dragon and Serpent are interchanged; the Dragon is also described here as having Seven Heads, etc.; diadems are symbols of royally; horns are emblems of power (Luke 1:69); the number seven represents completeness, and combined with the number ten (ten horns), it connects this manifestation of the Dragon with the display of his power, as wielded by the fourth great Monarchy, that of Rome.” He refers the Male Son primarily to Christ, secondarily to the people of Christ; the rod of iron is Christ’s word, the Holy Scriptures, and by it the male children, the masculine spirits of Christ’s Church, are endued with power from Him to rule the nations and overcome the world.” (On the flight of the Woman see the Abstract on p. 261.) Concerning the war in Heaven, he writes: “St. John now reverts to an earlier period, in order to recite the antecedent history of the Dragon, and to explain the circumstances under which he was led to persecute the Woman, and he traces that history till it is brought down, in Revelation 12:14, to the same point as in Revelation 12:6, namely, to the escape of the Woman in the Wilderness; Satan is displayed as he was before his fail from Heaven.”
Alford regards the vision of this chapter “as introductory to the whole imagery of the latter part of the Apocalypse,” and holds that “the principal details of the present section (chapter) are rather descriptive than strictly prophetical.” By the Woman he understands “the Church, the Bride of God, and, of course, from the circumstances afterwards related, the Old Testament Church, at least at this beginning of the vision;” by the Dragon, the Devil (“he is πυῤῥός, perhaps for the combined reasons of the wasting properties of fire, and the redness of blood;” the seven crowned heads represent “universality of earthly dominion;” “the magnitude and fury of the Dragon are graphically given by the fact of its tail … sweeping down the stars of heaven”); by the child, “the Lord Jesus, and none other” (“the exigencies of this passage require that the birth should be understood literally and historically, of that Birth of which all Christians know;” (see also Expl. in Detail, Revelation 12:5). Concerning the war, he writes: “The war here spoken of appears in some of its features in the Book of Daniel, Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1 (also Judges 9:0) … Satan’s being cast out of Heaven to the Earth is the result not of the contest with the Lord Himself, of which it is only an incident leading to a new phase, but of an appointed conflict with his faithful fellow angels led on by the Archangel Michael.” (See also Expl in Detail.) In conclusion he writes: “I own that I have been led … to think whether after all the Woman may represent, not the invisible Church of God’s true people, which under all conditions of the world must be known only to Him, but the true visible Church: that Church which in its divinely prescribed form as existing at Jerusalem was the mother of our Lord according to the flesh, and which continued as established by our Lord and His Apostles, in unbroken unity during the first centuries, but which, as time went on, was broken up by evil men and evil doctrines, and has remained, unseen, unrealized, her unity an article of faith, not of sight, but still multiplying her seed, those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus, in various sects and different countries, waiting the day for her comely order and oneness again to be manifested—the day when she shall ‘come up out of the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved;’ when our Lord’s prayer for the unity of His people being accomplished, the world shall believe that the Father has sent Him. If we are disposed to carry out this idea, we might see the great realization of the flight into the wilderness in the final severance of the Eastern and Western churches in the seventh century, and the flood cast after the Woman by the Dragon in the irruption of the Mohammedan armies. But this, though not less satisfactory than the other interpretations, is as unsatisfactory. The latter part of the vision yet awaits its clearing up.”
Lord. “The Woman is the representative of the true people of God; … her sunbeam robe, her station above the moon, and her crown of stars, bespeak her greatness, conspicuousness, and majesty; … her cry and labor to bear, denote the importunate desire and endeavor of those whom she symbolizes to present to the empire one who should, as their son, rise to supreme power, and rule the nations with an iron sceptre, etc.” “The great red Dragon symbolizes the rulers of the Roman Empire; the seven heads denoting the seven species of the chiefs of its ancient government; the ten horns the chiefs into which its western half was divided on its conquest by the Goths; … its sweeping its tail through the sky, dragging one-third of the stars, and casting them to the earth, represents its violent dejection of one-third of the Christian teachers from their stations by imprisonment,” etc. By the child he understands Constantine; and his being caught up to God and His throne he takes as denoting “both (1) that he was rescued in an extraordinary manner from the attempts of the Pagan Emperor to destroy him, and exalted to supreme power in the Empire; and (2) that he became in that station a usurper of the rights of God, and an object of idolatrous homage to his subjects.” “That the Woman fled into the desert, signifies that the people of God, wholly disappointed in their expectation of a more favorable rule from monarchs professing to be Christian and exposed to greater evils than they had suffered from their pagan persecutors, were compelled, in order to safety, to retire from the nationalized Church into seclusion.” (See also Abstract on p. 262). Concerning the war, he writes: “Michael and his angels are symbols of believers in Christ, who gain a victory by faith in His blood, by proclaiming His word, and by submitting to martyrdom rather than swerve from fidelity to Him. … Satan13 and his angels, on the other hand, symbolize antagonists of believers, who endeavor by contradiction to countervail, or by persecution to prevent, their testimony and to maintain the supremacy of idolatry. … The period of this war was the period of the persecutions by Diocletian, Galerius, Maxentius, Maximin, and Licinius; and the victory, that change of feeling that rendered persecution and paganism itself unpopular, prompted Constantine to espouse the cause of the Christians, and finally led to the rejection of paganism as the religion of the State.” “The chant (Revelation 12:10) was uttered by the victors, and indicates that the Church was to regard … (the victory) as insuring the speedy Advent of Christ, and commencement of His millennial reign. The heavens summoned to rejoice are the new heavens, the symbol of the risen and glorified saints; … they who dwell in those heavens are the sanctified nations who are to live under their sway; … the land and the sea … denote the nations at rest and in agitation anterior to the establishment of that millennial kingdom.” “That the dejection of Satan and his angels was to be a woe to the earth, indicates that the decline of the pagan party into a minority was to exasperate its priests and rulers, and lead them to more violent measures, to overwhelm their antagonists, and reinstate themselves in authority.”
Glasgow regards the Woman as denoting the invisible Church; the Child, all the regenerated children of God, the assumption of the Child, the elevation of the members of the Church invisible to a heavenly status; the Dragon (“the seven headed monster, with his sixth head now fully developed ”),14 the heathen empire; the attempt to devour, the persecution of the Church begun, in a public and national sense, in A. D. 51, under Claudius, but in an indirect sense in Herod’s massacre of the babes; the flight (Revelation 12:6, distinguished from that of Revelation 12:14), the banishment of Christians in the first persecution, A. D. 51. The war he interprets as the intellectual and polemical warfare waged between Jesus (Michael) and His ministers (Quadratus, Aristides, Justin, etc.), and Satan and his ministers (Celsus, Porphyry, Diocletian, etc.), resulting in the dejection, i, e., the destruction of Pagan supremacy under Constantine. The hymn (Revelation 12:10) he regards as that of Christians raised to the Heaven of ecclesiastical superiority; the woe (Revelation 12:12) as implying that Satan instigated the pagan priesthood to resist Christianity to the utmost, and also that after Constantine, Arianism prevailed.
Auberlen.15 “Woman and Beast form manifestly the same contrast as in Daniel the Son of Man and the Beasts. … In both cases it is the human which is opposed to the bestial, only with Daniel in male, with John in female shape. Daniel beholds the Man, the Bridegroom, the Messiah; because he looks into the time when Christ shall reappear visibly and establish His Kingdom upon earth. John, on the other hand, within whose horizon lies, to speak at present only in a general way, the time before the second advent, beholds the Woman, the Bride, the Congregation of God in the world. He beholds her in the figure of a Woman, and this symbolism is not confined to the Apocalypses, but is a consummation of the whole usus loquendi of the Old and New Testaments. It begins in the Pentateuch … (for example Exodus 34:15; Leviticus 17:7; Leviticus 20:5-6; Numbers 14:33; Numbers 15:39; Deuteronomy 31:16; Deuteronomy 32:16; Deuteronomy 32:21). We find a further development of this view in the writings of the Prophets … (Isaiah 1:21; Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 54:1; Jeremiah 2:2; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 2:23-25; Jeremiah 3:1; Ezekiel 14:23; Hosea 1:0, etc.). In the New Testament the same expression is used by John the Baptist (John 3:2-9 ). Thus from the very outset Christ is introduced in the place of Jehovah: in the time of fulfillment Jehovah became Jesus Christ, as His name manifests, ὁ Κύριος, the Lord. He Himself calls Himself the Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15). … We meet the same view in the Apostolic Epistles (Ephesians 5:23-32, comp. with Genesis 2:0.) … All this the Apocalypse sums up in one word, Woman (Revelation 12:1). The characteristic of woman, in contradistinction to that of man, is her being subject (Ephesians 5:22-24), the surrendering of herself, her being receptive. And this is in like manner the characteristic of man in his relation to God, and receiving from Him. … Humanity, in so far as it belongs to God, is the Woman; therefore it is said of Christ, the Son of the woman (Revelation 12:5), that He is a Male-Son. True, He is born of a woman; …but at the same time, He is the Son of God, and as such His relation to the Church is that of Husband to Wife. … This is the simple meaning of the addition of male to son, apparently pleonastic. … Beside Him no man dare deny his receptive, woman-like position; for they who imagine to have life in themselves, who separate themselves from God, rise against Him, and, trusting to stand in their own strength, sink to the level of irrational beasts. The proud nature-strength of man is not of a manly, but of a beastly kind; it is nothing but the brute force of the beast. … The choice of symbols is (not) accidental or arbitrary, but based on the essential characteristics of Woman and of the beast. … Woman and Beast designate the Kingdom [Church] of God, and the kingdom of the world, not only in this or that period of their development in time; but also in general universality.” By the male-son, this commentator understands (as above) Christ; by the Woman, at the period of Christ’s advent, “the congregation of God in its Old Testament shape;” by her adornments—the sun, the supernatural Divine light borne by her; the moon under her feet, heathenism vanquished and conquered by her; the crown of stars, the twelve-fold division of Israel (continued in the twelve-fold New Testament shape, Revelation 21:12). The wilderness he regards as indicating the heathen world whither the Church fled from Canaan; “the flight of the Woman into the wilderness is nothing else but the passing away of the Kingdom, [Church] of God from the Jews, and its introduction among the Gentiles: Matthew 8:11-12; Matthew 22:43; Acts 13:46-47; Acts 28:25-28.” (“The Acts of the Apostles gives us a grand comment upon this in the description it contains of the Church’s migration from Jerusalem to Rome. … The Church’s life is nourished by the kind ministrations from on high; she lives in the wilderness, even as Israel on manna from Heaven; … but though she finds no nourishment, yet she finds a refuge and an asylum in the Gentile world, even up to this day.”) Concerning the war in Heaven (Revelation 12:7-12) he writes: “We cannot possibly find anything else but a description of the fact, known to us from other parts of Scripture … that the Prince of this world is judged by the completion of Christ’s work of reconciliation … There are three stages of the conflict of Christ and Satan. The first is the temptation of Christ in the wilderness; … (the second, the assault upon) those who were near Christ, in order to oppose the Saviour’s work; the third, in which the victory is consummated, is the sufferings and death, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. (What Paul expresses in Colossians 2:15, in a didactic form, John saw in a prophetic vision. The devil is now cast out of Heaven after the Son is raised to the throne of God, Revelation 12:5. The Archangel Michael is appointed the executor of the judgment. For according to Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1, he, among the high angelic Princes, is the Angel to whom is entrusted the defence of God’s Church against the opposing powers in the invisible world of spirits.)” Revelation 12:12 sqq. he regards as setting forth the second period16 in the history of Satan during which, having “lost his power and place in Heaven, and chiefly for this reason, because (ὅτι) he can no longer accuse men before God,” “he concentrates all his strength (by temptation and persecution) to ruin as many souls as possible.” (See also in loco.)—E. R. C.]
EXPLANATIONS IN DETAIL17
Revelation 11:15. Great voices.—Voices simple are prophecies. In view of the hasty movement of the Kingdom of Darkness toward the revelation of Antichristianity, Heaven is filled with the triumphant and prophetic presentiment that now the judgment upon the dark kingdom and, consequently, the appearance of Christ’s Kingdom, are near. “The question—to whom did these voices belong?—need neither be asked nor answered” (Düsterdieck). For various insignificant hypotheses on this subject, see Düsterdieck. This commentator also rightly discards the limitations of the circuit of the seventh Trumpet (Hengstenberg: it embraces Revelation 12:15-17; Ebrard: Revelation 12:15-17), and, in connection with others, maintains the proleptical import of the voices. On the other hand, the interpretation of the words:
In the Heaven, as indicative that John is still in Heaven, reposes upon a comprehensive misapprehension of the structure of the Book.
The kingdom of the world.—Simultaneously with the Satanic and Antichristian uprising, the imminent emergence of the Kingdom of Christ is decided (Matthew 26:64; comp. Psalms 2:0.)—as beginning, however, with dynamical operations which are in constant process of development, and do not become perfectly apparent until the end, at the Parousia.
Is become our Lord’s.—Rapturous feeling of the Christian consciousness, in face of the apparent rule of the Beast who is about to come forth.
He shall reign.—See Daniel 7:14.
Our Lord’s and His Christ’s.—Careful observation of the economical relation.
Revelation 12:16-17, 18. The twenty-four Elders.—These, therefore, are distinguished from the voices; doubtless, however, as forming the concentrated acme of them. The prophecy concerning the Kingdom of God likewise assumes a stronger expression. First, in the circumstance that the Elders fell upon their faces (see Revelation 4:10; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 5:14; Revelation 7:11; Revelation 19:4). The contemplation of the sublime, thrills us with a sense of our own littleness and nothingness; the adoring and admiring consideration of the sublime, triumphant Divine rule, in its moments of grandeur, casts angels and men upon their knees. In the twenty-four Elders we see, as ever, the elect representatives of the human race. [See foot-note†, p. 152.—E. R. C.]
The second element in which the prophecy of the Kingdom presents a stronger tinge, is the form of their adoration: they give thanks, in the loftiest assurance of spirit; they regard what is to come as already decided. “They give thanks, not because they regard themselves as participants in the great power and government of God (Hengstenberg), a conception which is as remote from the subject here as in Revelation 12:15” (Düsterdieck). As remote, in the sense of hierarchical superiority, and as near, in the sense of humble co-heirship with Christ. Furthermore, the feeling that God is the All-Ruler assumes additional prominence, and the future of His consummate sovereignty has become present—hence the omission of ὁ ἐρχόμενος.
Because Thou hast taken, etc.—In the economy of grace, God had suffered human spirits to pursue their own way in liberty, emptying Himself, as it were, of His power, even to the semblance of impotency (Christ on the cross), that He might then make conquest of souls in this their liberty, and educate them to salvation. Now, however, this economy of salvation is ended, and God brings His whole authoritative sway into active and visible operation again.
Thirdly, there is a particular grandeur in the sign by which the Elders recognize the turning-point of the times. This sign consists in the fact that
The nations [Lange: heathen] were wroth.—In the very wrath of the revolt, the apostasy of the heathen—and also of the Christian peoples, which have, by apostasy, become heathen again,—the Seer—as, approximately, the singer of Psalms 2:0 (particularly in the to-day that exegetes have misunderstood)—perceives that the wrath of God is on the point of executing its judgment. Not only has He arisen “against the wrath of His enemies,” but in the very wrath of His enemies, the judgment of His wrath is revealed. Undoubtedly, however, the wrath of God first issues forth, in full revelation, in the Vials of wrath [or anger]18 which follow upon the wrath of the heathen under the domination of the Antichristian Beasts.
The time of the dead.—We understand this, not as significant of the judgment upon the awakened dead, Revelation 20:12, with Düsterd., but as indicative of the satisfaction imparted to the pious dead by the judgment upon living transgressors (see Revelation 6:10-11). This judgment is two-sided: first, it gives reward to all the servants of God, and that in all proportionate degrees: to Prophets, saints, even to simple God-fearing men—and not only the great, but also the small. This reward does not necessarily begin with the heavenly glory; the most affecting reward is satisfaction, vindication of honor, justification. Hence the second side of the judgment, the antithesis:
To destroy those who destroy the earth.—The latter expression recurs in Revelation 19:2. It is in every respect highly significant, whether by earth we understand the theocratic Divine institution, or the basis thereof, the cosmos, which, in all points of its ideal destinations, is laid waste by the enemies of the Lord, even in the direction of an ungodly civilization.
Düsterdieck refers τοῖς δούλοις to the Prophets only, apprehending τοῖς φοβουμένοις as a summary expression for the entire mass of the godly. The distinction of Bengel, adopted by Hengstenberg, accords better, however, with New Testament usage; namely, the servants of God and the God-fearing—by servants understanding the saints together with the Prophets. Nor must the antithesis, the small and the great, be confounded with the same antithesis in Revelation 13:16; Revelation 19:18—interior relations being contemplated here.
Rev 12:19 (Revelation 13:2). And the Temple of God which was in the Heaven was opened.—Herewith begins the heavenly fulfillment of the preceding festal prophecies.
The Heavenly Temple is the archetype of the earthly Temple (see Exodus 25:9; Exodus 25:40); it is, therefore, the ideal Kingdom of God. The Church Invisible, then, begins to become visible; even the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies is seen. The meaning of this is, we believe: the ideal import of the holiness of the law and the truth of the redemption becomes a matter of Christian knowledge manifest to all the world. Hence, also, there proceed from this great ideal appearance lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and earthquake, and a great hail—all kinds of awakening and vitalizing convulsions of the spiritual world. They commence with lightnings, with grand radiations of new illumination, and close with a great hail, in which the grand conflict of hostile winds with the heavenly spring-wind in the spiritual atmosphere seems to be set forth. So far as the idea of the heavenly Temple, the heavenly Ark of the Covenant, etc., is concerned, we may remark that the Jewish axiom cited by Düsterdieck [see p. 150 and foot-note.—E. R. C.]: quodcunque in terra est, id etiam in cælo est, does not stand on the same footing with the Jewish tradition to the effect that the lost Ark of the Covenant had been transported to Heaven. On the confusions of construction attaching to Rev 12:18-19 (Revelation 13:1-2), see Düsterdieck, p. 388.
The different expositions of the present section follow the lead of the various conceptions of the whole Book. According to the Church-historical view, reference is had to the conquest of the Goths and other Arians by Narses (Lyra). According to the synchrono-historical view, we have an announcement of the truth, that access to the heavenly Sanctuary is open to all through Christ (Herder), or a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem (Eichhorn), or to Barcocheba (Grotius). According to Hofmann, the law has now received its due through the medium of the judgment; therefore, the Ark of the Covenant, which contains the law, can now appear. According to Hengstenberg, the Ark of the Covenant appears, because the Covenant now meets with its visible realization. Similarly Düsterdieck. Sander better explains: “The testament [covenant] which the Lord made with His Church and, particularly, with Israel, becomes manifest in all its glory; to many, profound glimpses into the mysteries of the covenant are vouchsafed,” etc.
Revelation 12:1. “If that judgment upon Antichristianity, which the Lord comes to execute, is to be represented in exact completeness and reasonableness [Begründung=state of being based upon just and sufficient reasons.—Tr.], not only must the deepest Satanic foundations of Antichristianity as a whole be laid bare but, likewise, the most essential shapes in which this radically Satanic Antichristianity appears in the world, must be depicted“ (Düsterdieck).
A great sign was seen in the Heaven.—According to Ebrard, this means simply a symbol. Hengstenb. is of the same opinion. Düsterd. strives to distinguish this symbol from other figures, which, he declares, are in no whit allegorical in their nature; he, however, cites, in illustration, no figures that are not allegorical; for dearth, for instance, in Revelation 6:0., is assuredly presented in an allegorical figure. Hengstenberg, on the other hand, superfluously suggests that John is continually seeing only signs.
Be it observed, in the first place, that the Seer here speaks of a great sign; and, furthermore, that the Woman cannot be intended as a symbol of the Church or the Theocracy simply in and for herself; but that her condition forms an important element in the symbolism. The great sign in Heaven presents, in a highly striking picture, which is no mere symbol, but a historical life-picture or parabolical phenomenon (an entire composition of single symbols), the whole spiritual conflict betwixt the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan—a conflict which is at the same time a presage of the imminent emergence of Antichristianity, to do battle against Christianity in this present visible world.
A woman.—In reality, only three explanations are possible here:
1. The Woman (as the Bride of the Lord, in accordance with a standing Biblical view, based upon deep and essential spiritual relations, the contrast of spiritual receptivity and spiritual creative power) is the Christian Church (Bede et al. to Bengel et al.), or, particularly, the Christian Church of the last time (à Lapide, Stern, Christiani). The attempt has been made to remove the contradiction which makes the Christian Church the mother of Christ, by saying that by the birth of the Messiah we are to understand the birth of Christ in believers; or even by declaring that His birth is His return to judgment (Kliefoth).
2. The Woman can be only the Old Testament Church of God, the true Israel (Herder et al. to Düsterdieck). Ebrard even apprehends by the Woman, the natural people of Israel qua possessor of the promises.
3. The Woman is the Old and New Testament Church of God in undivided unity (Victorinus to De Wette, Hengstenberg, Auberlen). The fact that the Woman cannot be referred to the New Testament Church alone, results clearly from Revelation 12:5; the Christian Church did not bear Christ. Holding fast the identity of her in the Heaven and her in the wilderness, neither can the Woman be significant of the Old Testament Church by itself, since the same Woman lives on in the wilderness throughout the New Testament period of the cross. The unity of the Old and the New Testament Church of God lay, doubtless, much nearer to the contemplation of John than to that of an exegesis whose view is, in many respects, too exclusively fixed upon externalities. Though it is impossible that John could have apprehended the Woman as Mary herself, yet the fact was most closely present to his consciousness that this Mary, whose bodily offspring Christ was, was the final concentration of the Old Testament Theocracy—the Theocracy which, in respect of its inner essence, spiritually gave birth to the Messiah, and which, in respect of this inner essence again, continued, as the Kingdom of God, in a new and New Testament shape.
But who then are the λοιποί of Revelation 12:17? queries Düsterdieck. This we shall touch upon later.
Clothed with the sun.—It is an obvious fact that the sun is a symbol of the Divine revelation of salvation; comp. Malachi 4:2; also Psalms 19:0, where the sun is spoken of in connection with the law, i. e., revelation. The distinct reference of the sun to the historic Christ, which many have sought to establish (Bede, etc.), is not pertinent here, because Christ is the Son of the Woman. According to Hengstenberg, the sun is the glory of the Lord; but with the glory of the Lord, the Lord Himself is clothed (Psalms 104:1-2).
So far as the moon is concerned, Diana of the Ephesians was well known to the Apostle as a symbol of nature, and to readers of Asia Minor there was something peculiarly striking in the circumstance that the Seer represents the moon as appearing under the feet of the Woman whose clothing was the sun. The symbol of Isis also denotes nature. Thus Constantine saw the cross over the sun, because in his time the latter was adored, as a symbol of the nature-divinity, by a sublimated heathenism, and particularly in his own family.
The figure of the moon has likewise been variously interpreted—as significant of: Worldly glory (Bede); the light of the Old Testament (Grotius); the light of Church teachers, in so far as that is derived from Christ (Calov.); the light of the Turkish crescent (Bengel; to make this true, however, half of the moon must be invisible. The same commentator regards the sun as the Christian Empire!); created light (Hengstenberg; the same looks upon the sun as significant of uncreated light); pale night with her half (?) moon-light (Ebrard). Poetic description (Düsterdieck).
A crown of twelve stars.—Twelve is the number of completeness; the crown, as a wreath or garland [prize], is an ornament which has been obtained by a struggle; the stars are the elect spirits of the Kingdom of God (Daniel 12:3). The number twelve has been taken literally, and, in accordance with the whole interpretation, referred either to the twelve Apostles (Vitringa, et al.), or to the twelve Tribes of Israel (De Wette, et al.).
Revelation 12:2. And she, being With child, crieth.—Several grand contrasts successively appear here. First, the Woman in her heavenly garb of light; then the same, crying out in the pains of a hard travail and menaced by the hellish Dragon. Again, the Woman in her simply beautiful and sublime raiment of light, over against the Dragon in the startling forms and glaring colors of demonico-bestial unnaturalness. Furthermore, the third part of the stars of Heaven; swept away and cast down by the tail of the Dragon. Next, the Son lifted up to the Throne of God, and the mother sheltered in the retirement of the wilderness. The crying Woman represents the sufferings of the true Israel at the time of Christ’s crucifixion—sufferings of which John had the deepest experience.
Revelation 12:3. Another sign.—The sign is not only the symbolical form of the Devil, as the prince of darkness, the adversary of the Kingdom of God, the murderer of man and mortal enemy of Christ, but also a presage of the imminent outburst of the Antichristian power. The allegorical figure of the serpent, originally significant of Satan, was blended, even upon Israelitish ground, with the figure of the crocodile or leviathan; in Jewish tradition, together with the features of the dragon of story, it received the name thereof, especially through the mediation of the Septuagint (δράκων=תנין and לויתן). Though the dragon, in the narrower sense, has, in accordance with passages in the Psalms, been represented as king of the sea and of marine animals (like the Midgard serpent in Scandinavian mythology), he also occupies the position of a hostile ruling power toward the Earth; and the present figure in the Apocalypse symbolically indicates that which in the Gospel of John is denoted by “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11). Greek mythology elevated the dragon, subsequent to its killing by Hercules, into a constellation, situated near the polar star, and embracing several stars in its folds. Jewish tradition elaborated the original figure of a serpent into a dragon with seven heads (see De Wette, p. 127).—Even in Christian story, the dragon-slayer, under different names (Michael, St. George), Occupies an important place.
A great red [Lange: fiery red] dragon.—Πυῤῥός, the designation of the color, is looked upon by many as blood-color, in accordance with Revelation 6:4, and considered as referring to him who, from the beginning, has been the murderer of man (John 8:0 and 44), and who now seeks to kill, in particular, the Son of the Woman also. Ebrard combats this interpretation, maintaining that blood-red and fire-red are two different things, and that fire is a symbol of destruction and ruin. The fire-hue certainly is susceptible of several shades, from pale to brownish red. In Revelation 6:4, blood-color is unmistakably indicated. In the Neronic persecution, John had, moreover, become acquainted with the prelude to those stakes at which, since then, the hues of blood and fire have so often mingled.
Seven heads and ten horns.—“The picture is not to be conceived of (with De Wette) as so utterly without taste, as if on four of the heads there were one horn and on the remaining three, two horns, but (with Bengel, et al.) as having ten horns on one of the heads.” This is said to be proved by Revelation 17:5; Revelation 17:9; Revelation 17:12; but the horns of Satan must not be identified with the horns of the Beast. Neither is it possible for us to see how one head with ten horns could, beside these, carry a crown likewise. A correct appreciation of the symbolism, however, will leave the disposition of the ten horns amongst the seven heads to exegetical controversy. The appearance is designed to be monstrous, however. By many, a wrong leap is taken from the figure of the heads and horns of the Dragon to the heads and horns of the Beast (see Düsterdieck, p. 395; Ebrard, p. 355; Hengstenberg, p. 603), although the Seer himself has taken sufficient pains for their distinction. The seven heads of Satan are not, in the abstract, to be divided into historical phases, any more than are the seven archangelic forms, or the seven Spirits, that, from the Throne of God, go forth into all lands, to be thus distributed. In the case of the seven heads, the septenary bears the import of the whole Satanic week, so to speak—in its continuance, as a plenary number of lying works, from the beginning of the Satanic labor in Paradise: this week, with its demonic days’ works, gives promise of a new Paradise, an absolute witches’ Sabbath19—which, however, shall be celebrated in the lake of fire.
The same emphasis must be laid upon the symbolical element in the case of the ten horns; i. e., neither are they to be identified with the ten kings who appear as ten horns of the Beast. Ten is the complete course of the world; ten horns are the complete world-power, here, indeed, appearing as lying powers. This circumstance [of their falsity] is manifest in the fact that Satan has three more horns than crowns. In more ancient times Vitringa, at least, pointed out the difference of equipment between the Dragon and the Beast; the same has been done in modern times by De Wette. Ancient exegetes have, moreover, taken the difference for granted, by referring the seven heads of the Dragon to seven bad spirits, or the whole number of bad spirits; to seven capital vices, or the seven deadly sins: or by apprehending, by the ten horns, the ten sins against the ten commandments; or worldly power; or the multitude and might of the demons.
According to Hofmann, the seven heads symbolize the non-unitous power of Satan; according to De Wette, they are a symbol of wisdom—that is to say, of consummate cunning. In the Indian mythology, the members of the divine forms are multiplied, for the purpose of portraying the superhuman greatness of the qualities indicated.
Erroneous historical interpretations see cited by Düsterdieck: Diocletian, the one head with ten horns. Düsterdieck himself: the Roman empire [imperium], etc. Düsterdieck, p. 390; De Wette, p. 127.
The Heaven, in which the Dragon makes his appearance, can be neither the antemundane Heaven of the angel-world—since the fallen angels did not immediately fall to earth—nor the Heaven in which the glorified Christ is enthroned. That which is intended, therefore, is the Heaven that Christ has instituted on earth—the invisible Church, the Communion of saints—into which Satan, as a Dragon, has found entrance, just as, long ago, he pressed into Paradise.
Revelation 12:4. And his tail, etc.—De Wette: “The strength of dragons is resident in their tails, Solin., Rev 30 in Wetstein.” Three is the number of spirit. A third is a fraction in reference to spiritual things. The significance of the third has already been set forth in Revelation 8:0. From the one star of embitterment, of merely germinant apostasy, an apostasy of the third part of the stars, i. e., the spiritual Church-heaven, has resulted. These stars are, by the lashings of the Satanic tail, by the magic of an apparently prodigious vital power, cast from Heaven to earth, i. e., from being stars of the invisible Church, they become demonic organs of the external Church and of Christian political order.
The reference of the stars to angels (Vitringa, et al., Ebrard) is most erroneous: further on, the Dragon himself, together with his angels, is found still in Heaven. The division of the stars into two classes, based upon their reference to churchly teachers (Grotius, et al.), and to believers or saints (Alcasar, et al.), is inadmissible. According to Ewald, the action of the Dragon’s tail constitutes merely a poetic trait—being indicative of eagerness for combat. Düsterdieck also reduces the description, in essence, to a poetic picture. Other interpretations see quoted by the last named commentator, p. 398.
And the Dragon stood [trat=stepped—took his stand].—According to Pliny viii. 3, dragons move in an upright posture. Comp. Wetstein, De Wette.
Revelation 12:5. A male son.—Jeremiah 20:15. The strong expression of the manfulness of the Child by the neuter ἄρσεν, is not merely explanatory of His destination, in accordance with Psalms 2:9, to shepherdize (in accordance with the Sept.) all the nations-with a rod of iron (Düsterd.); it also contains a slight intimation of the fact that Christ has, by His resurrection, frustrated the attempt of Satan to devour Him. De Wette totally denies the emphasis in the apposition; Düsterdieck, unnecessarily, discovers an announcement of the shepherdizing of Antichristian nations in judgment.
Manifestly the Messiah is here denoted in the literal sense of the term—not in any metaphorical sense whatsoever. This truth, however, does not invalidate the typicalness of the facts set forth: the people of Christ, in whom He is born on earth, are, like Him, themselves caught away into Heaven, through the medium of suffering and death, from Satan’s plots for their destruction.
Manifold interpretations of the words, as referring to the Christ born of the Church, from Bede onward, see in Düsterdieck, p. 400, De Wette, p. 128 (Christians; Constantine the Great: the Nicene confession; the Roman Church; Christianity, etc.).
[“These words (who is to shepherdize all the nations, etc.), cited verbatim from the LXX. of the Messianic Psalms 2:0, and preceded by the ὅς of personal identification, leave no possibility of doubt who was here intended. The man-child is the Lord Jesus Christ, and none other.’ Alford. See also the abstract of Auberlen, p. 243, and the Add. Notr. p. 250sq.—E. R. C.]
And her child was caught away.—Sub specie æterni, the sufferings of Christ, as instigated by Satan, down to His very death upon the cross, are a baffled machination, resulting in the consummation—opposite to that desired—of His exaltation to the Throne of God. De Wette pertinently cites the words of Jesus (John 14:30): The prince of this world hath nothing in Me. Mark also his comment on the “absurd interpretation” of Grotius concerning the translation of Christ, on the hypothesis that the Roman Church is meant. On the same hypothesis of a mystical birth of Christ, Lyra spoke of the liberation of the Church, and Eichhorn of its growth. The fact that the actual history of the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus (hence also the fact of the Ascension) underlies the Apocalyptic description, is vainly denied by Düsterdieck; he himself subsequently admits it, in a certain degree, by saying that the historical actuality serves merely as a firm, concrete substratum for the idea.
Revelation 12:6. And [Lange: But] the woman fled into the wilderness.—On the repetition of this passage, see above. The wilderness becomes a place in the heavenly region itself by its perfect symbolico-ideal import: heroic abnegation of the world. On the term designating the period of retirement in the wilderness, see Symbolism of Numbers in the Introduction. Also De Wette, p. 121. In commenting on the wilderness, exegetes have referred to the wandering of Israel through the wilderness; the sojourn of Elijah in the wilderness; the flight of the parents of Jesus to Egypt; withdrawal from the world and renunciation of it; the flight of the Christians into the wilderness; the flight of the Christians to Pella, etc. Even waste-lying Palestine is mentioned (by Hofmann) as the wilderness in which the Woman, who is still fleeing, will one day arrive (!).
De Wette calls the interpretation of the flight as the flight of the Christians into the wilderness, “pettily literal”—a comment which is ungrounded, since in that flight, the external fact originally coincided with its inner significance—as was the case in regard to Christ’s sojourn in the wilderness.
[Auberlen supports his view that by the wilderness is meant the heathen world (see p. 243), by considerations such as the following: “It is by flight that the Woman comes into the wilderness. If we remark whence she flies, we shall also find whither. It is before the persecutions of the Devil, through Herod, and in general through the Jews. But whither does she fly?. . Undoubtedly from the Jews to the heathens. Therefore it is that, in this passage, the attribute given to Christ elsewhere, that He will rule the heathen with an iron sceptre (Revelation 2:27; Revelation 19:5; Psalms 2:9), is expressly mentioned. From the time of His ascension, the heathen are given to Him as His field; thither His Church, persecuted by the Jews, takes her refuge (from Acts 8:0. onwards). There God has prepared a place for her to be sheltered and nourished… This signification…is corroborated by the prophetic usus loquendi. We know that Canaan, as the seat of all temporal and spiritual blessings of God, is called the land of glory, of pleasantness, etc. (Jeremiah 3:19; Ezekiel 20:6; Ezekiel 20:15; Daniel 11:16; Daniel 11:41; Daniel 8:9). The land of the heathen, on the contrary, is a wilderness, because forsaken by the fullness of Divine life and strength. As God dwells and reveals Himself in the land of glory, the demons dwell in the wilderness (Matthew 12:43; Mark 1:13; Leviticus 16:21-22; Isaiah 34:14); they are the rulers and princes of the heathen world (1 Corinthians 10:20; Revelation 9:20). Hence, when Israel is exiled to Babylon, it is said to be in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 41:17-19; Isaiah 42:10-12; Isaiah 43:19-20,” etc.—E. R. C.]
Revelation 12:7-12. Expulsion of Satan from the Heaven of the spiritual Church, the communion of saints.
“The assumption that the Dragon pursued the Child even to the Throne of God, and that this was the cause of the conflict that arose in Heaven (Eichhorn, Herder, De Wette, Stern), is not only utterly without foundation in the context, but is also incompatible with what is stated in Revelation 12:5” (Düsterdieck). The commentator from whom we have just quoted, will, however, listen to no conjectures as to the signification of this Heaven, and calls even Bede’s explanation (which is also that of Primasius and others), in ecclesia, “allegorical interpretation.”
Revelation 12:7. War in the Heaven.—Treatises on the difficult reading which we meet with here, see in De Wette (p. 131; Düsterd., p. 404). [Sea Text. and Gram.—E. R. C.]
Michael.—We read this as in apposition to the war in Heaven. The war in Heaven is the eternal, holy, and warlike opposition against the Satanic Kingdom; an opposition represented by Michael, the warlike form of Christ, a form which also manifests itself in His Church as the spirit of discipline.
“The view of Vitringa, of which Hengstenberg is an earnest advocate, that Michael is not an Angel (according to Daniel 10:13; Daniel 12:1, the guardian Angel of the Old Testament people of God; according to Judges 9:0, an Archangel), but Christ Himself, or, as Hengstenberg prefers to say, the Logos—suffers shipwreck at the very outset—irrespective of the passage Judges 9:0, where the express title ὁ�, according to Hengstenberg, no more contains a proof against the divinity of Michael than the utterance of our Lord, John 14:28, bears testimony against the homoöusia of the Son—in the impossibility of regarding the Michael of Revelation 12:7 and the Child of Revelation 12:5 as one and the same person” (Düsterd.). Within the range of sensuous apperception this is, undoubtedly, impossible; in Christology, however, Christ can, at the same time, be a child, in Bethlehem, and the Son of God, in universal relations and manifestations. We take it that Michael, in accordance with the difficult reading, is, from the outset, Christ in warlike array against Satan, and that hence it is that the angels of Michael are appointed to be angels of war against the Kingdom of Darkness. The very designation of Michael in Jewish Theology as the συνήγωρ, or advocate of the pious, in opposition to the κατήγωρ, is expressive of the assumption that Michael is no mere angel. [See foot-note, p. 241.—E. R. C.]
Revelation 12:8. “Hofmann, Ebrard and Auberlen preposterously dogmatize on this verse, maintaining that it presents the idea that until then (until the Ascension of Christ, Revelation 12:5, Auberlen [see pp. 243 sq.]; during the whole‘ world-period,’ from the Ascension, Ebrard) Satan and his angels have really had their place in Heaven. In the presentation of this view, reference is had to the appearance of Satan before the Lord, Job 1:0, in the sense of an historical fact, and from Zechariah 3:0 it is shown that Satan’s occupation in Heaven is that of accusing” (Düsterd). Ebrard even assumes that during the whole world-period of the 1260 days, Satan has a right to appear before God as the accuser of the people of Israel, etc., p. 365.
We have already called attention to the conciseness of the expression: they prevailed not; neither was their place (as a permanent position) found any more in the Heaven.
Revelation 12:9. And the great Dragon was thrown down [Lange: cast out], etc.—A solemn and comprehensive expression, declaratory of the expulsion of Satan, hence also of his lying arts and motives, from the Church of God, the kernel of humanity. First, the symbolical term: the ancient serpent. The great Dragon, as the mortal enemy of Christ, long ago began his murderous sport as the ancient serpent. The serpent of Paradise has become the great Hell-dragon. And, similarly, in accordance with his true essence, the fiend has, from being the Devil, or slanderer and accuser of mankind, become its unmasked foe, Satan. Although known in, and cast out from, Heaven under these titles, he resumes his old courses in the world as the seducer of the whole world. In antithesis to the holy kernel of the Church of God, he now becomes, more truly than ever, the seducer of the world.
He was thrown down unto the earth.—That is, not out of the cloud-heaven upon the terrestrial globe, but out of the inner Church upon the external Church and the ecclesiastico-political institution. It is a truth supported by historical data, that the antithesis of the external Church to the inner spiritual Church of faith has, in many impure, egotistical organs of the former, been the cause of the more perfect development of the hypocritical world-spirit in hierarchical and sectarian forms. The second clause of the sentence, therefore:
And his angels were thrown down with him, must not be regarded as relating purely to demonic powers of the other world. The declaration concerning the angel of Satan, Who buffeted the apostle Paul [2 Corinthians 12:7], is suggestive of the hatred of Jewish or Judaizing fanaticism; and such fanaticism was also at work in the rise of the synagogues of Satan, of which the Apocalyptist speaks.
Revelation 12:10-12. The song of triumph over the liberation of the invisible Church, the communion of saints, from the deceptive arts of Satan and his angels.—This song is expressive of the great contrast betwixt the inner and the external Church—a contrast as great as that between Heaven and earth, nay, between wheat and tares, though, notwithstanding it, the Church in its totality continues to be a unitous organic phenomenon until the end of the world. Hail to the one! Woe to the other!
Revelation 12:10. Now is come (ἐγένετο) the salvation and the power and the Kingdom of [Lange: with] our God.—These words, difficult in an exegetical point of view, are explained by the assumption of a traditional antithesis. In this holy region, which is purged from all Satanic works, but one salvation is known, which, as principial and final σωτηρία, is with God alone. Here, therefore, there is no condition of the forgiveness of sins, or of the going home to the Father through human mediation. Here the mighty rule of God alone prevails, and the Church is purely and alone His Kingdom, in which the authority of no other ruler is of any account. The rule of the Divine authority, however, is mediated singly and only by the pure and infallible mighty rule of Christ.
For the accuser (κατήγωρ) of our brethren is thrown down.—Satan is, on the one hand, the seducer, of the natural life to levity by the sophism, that sin is nothing, and on the other hand, the accuser of the spiritual life, and the deluder into melancholy, by the sophism, that sin is unpardonable; in both aspects, he is the calumniator of man before God, in the declaration that man is worthless to the very core. As seducer, he endeavors to rule in the world; as accuser, he seeks dominion in the Church. So long as men’s consciences are unperfected (Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 9:14), so long are they in fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15); and just so long are they not free from the power of the accuser, as exercised through hierarchs and sectarian heads of parties. If, however, the accuser be but decidedly cast out of the sanctuary by means of the perfect peace of the reconciliation, then is salvation found here alone with God, and all the might of hypocrites influenced by Satan is here broken. But how has this Divine freedom in the peace of God been brought about?
Revelation 12:11. They conquered him on account of [Lange: by virtue of] the blood of the Lamb.—The appropriation of the reconciliation in the death of Christ was, at the same time, a being baptized, with Him, into His death, resulting in their joyful confession of Him. [Alford: “They conquered by virtue of that blood having been shed; not as in E. V., ‘by the blood,’ as if διά had been with the genitive. The meaning is far more significant; their victory over Satan was grounded in, was a consequence of, His having shed His precious blood; without that, the adversary’s charges against them would have been unanswerable. It is remarkable, that the rabbinical books give a tradition that Satan accuses men all days of the year, except on the day of Atonement. Vajikra Rabba, §21, fol. 164. 3, in Schöttgen.”—E. R. C.]
The word of their testimony. In the consistent bearing of this testimony, they loved not their life unto death; they were, in respect of the posture of their hearts, ideal martyrs, even though real martyrdom should not have been required of them. That the Heaven on earth is here intended throughout, is evident from the fact that the great voice in Heaven says: The accuser of our brethren is thrown down. Thus do the blessed in the Heaven beyond, speak of the sealed in this present world.
Interpretations of the heavenly brethren: As the Angels; the twenty-four Elders; the perfected saints in the other world. According to Ebrard, the voice proceeds from the whole number of individual Israelites who are converted throughout the period of the 1260 days; by the brethren in this world, he understands Israel as converted at the end of the world-period.
Revelation 12:12. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens.—Significant plural. The dwellers in the Heaven beyond this life, as well as the dwellers in the Heaven in this life. Düsterdieck combats the declaration of Hengstenberg, that the saints on earth are included in this apostrophe (in accordance with Philippians 3:20; Ephesians 2:6). The former commentator regards the inhabitants of Heaven as proleptically celebrating the victory, yet future, of their brethren. This explanation is foreign to the context, and does not hold fast the antithesis.
Woe to the earth and the sea.—Even here Bengel looks upon earth and sea as significant of Asia and Europe. Düsterdieck utterly rejects every “allegorical interpretation,” and thus the two unreconciled propositions stand contrasted: woe to the earth (with the Accusative)—“Satan is made a conquered foe even for believers on earth” [Düsterdieck’s comment on Revelation 12:11.—Tr.]20 If the terrestrial orb were meant, in its merely literal sense, the mention of the sea would be superfluous. Hengstenberg rightly refers the sea to the sea of nations, and thus, here also, a contrast to it is formed by the earth as the theocratic institution and order, as ecclesiastical and, relatively, ecclesiastico-political authority.
The devil is come down unto you.—Even within the sphere of the earth there is an above and a below. The devil, after being cast down, makes pretence of a voluntary descent, as a sort of Mentor, to the pastors of the earth and the agitators of the sea.
Having great anger.—The animosity of the kingdom of darkness and its prince is heightened by the presentiment of its imminent judgment—a presentiment conditioned by the sense of its vileness.
Little time.—We cannot identify καιρός with χρόνος, as if the whole time from the Dragon’s expulsion from Heaven to the coming of the judgment were intended, as the “time of Anti-christ,” or, according to Bengel, the period from the year 947 to 1836. The καιροί of Satan do not run through the whole Chronos of the Church of the cross; they emerge from time to time only, as particular moments of apparent triumph for the kingdom of darkness, even though Satanic temptations pervade all times; see Luke 22:53. Here, therefore, the kingdom of darkness, in its deepest demonic foundation, as represented by Satan himself and his angels, appears first as an ultramundane spiritual kingdom—which, however, in its onslaughts against the Kingdom of God and His Anointed, begins, in the centre of the Theocracy in this world, as, subsequently, in the periphery of the Church, to belong to this world. Satan already has his instruments in this world, as prefigured by his organs in the specific Antichristian sphere, the Beast out of the sea and the Beast from the earth. The attributes of this hellish triad are attributes of falsehood and hypocrisy. The Dragon has seven heads, the sea-Beast has seven heads; and whilst the plurality of heads announces the monster, the septenary, as holy, seems to cover this drawback; it is the number of holy days’ works, promissory of an entrance upon the eternal Sabbath, the new Paradise. In still more hypocritical guise, the Beast from the earth appears; he has two horns like the lamb. This is the pseudo-Christian figure which comes to the aid of the Antichristian shape, by means of which the latter succeeds in obtaining perfect apparent victory. The consummate hypocrisy of this second Beast forms a contrast to the insolent boldness of the Beast out of the sea. The ten horns of Satan are themselves indicative of complete earthly world-power, as well as the ten horns of the first Beast; but the former wears the crowns, a sacred seven, with the semblance of legitimacy, upon his heads, whilst the Beast has ten crowns, which he boldly sets upon his horns, as manifest signs of his usurped revolutionary power. This hellish triad agree, however, in blasphemous speech; even the Lamb speaks as a Dragon.21
[ADDITIONAL NOTE ON THE SECTION]
By the American Editor
[In the judgment of the writer, this Section is divisible into two parts. The first, Revelation 11:15-18, presents the doxology of the heavenly host22 in view of the events of the seventh and last Trumpet, which events are immediately in order to the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom, and issue in that establishment. At the first blast of the Trumpet this doxology is begun. The second part, Revelation 11:19 to Revelation 12:12, forms the introduction to the development of the events of the Trumpet. Revelation 11:19, like the preceding doxology, may indicate purely a Heaven-scene in which, under circumstances of inexpressible grandeur, the Divine purposes in fulfillment of the promises of the Covenant will be unveiled to the inhabitants of Heaven; or it may betoken a fearful convulsion, shaking Heaven and Earth, which will inaugurate, and perhaps be continued throughout, the period of this Trumpet.
The Woman and the Dragon
The writer adopts the view, that the Woman symbolizes the True Church; and the Dragon, Satan, or more probably the host of evil spirits under the leadership of Satan (possibly one-third of the original number of blessed spirits, Revelation 12:4). He regards them as Classical Symbols (see p. 146), as also the male Son of Revelation 12:5, representing the ἀπαρχή (see below). He cannot adopt the conclusion that the vision is retrogressive. This seems to be forbidden by the phraseology of the Apocalyptist. There is here no strong disjunctive (καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο εἶδον) as in the beginning of the account of the intercalated vision of Revelation 7:0, not even the secondary disjunctive καὶ εἶδον (see Add. Note, p. 193; and footnotes, pp. 150, 190); the whole narrative flows on as though the Seer were describing one continuous scene. And not only so, but there is nothing to require an unannounced and unprecedented break in the description at this point, and still further, as will appear, the idea that the actions ascribed to these symbols occurred after the blowing of the seventh Trumpet gives a unity to the whole description unattainable on any other hypothesis.
As to the adornment of the Woman, the writer adopts the general view set forth by Lange (pp. 237, 246), understanding, however, by the crown of twelve stars the dignified position and completeness of her ministers. (On the number twelve, see p. 15; and for an inspired exposition of the stars, Revelation 1:20.) He has formed no decided opinion as to what is symbolized by the seven crowned heads and the ten horns of the Dragon. He would suggest, however, that this symbolization may have been employed because of the relation of Satan to the seven-headed and ten-horned Wild Beast (the World-power, developing in seven Empires, the last being divided into ten kingdoms, see p. 272), which he inspires, which is his earthly representative and instrument. On this hypothesis, the Dragon appropriately wears the crowns on all his heads, as the one inspirer and ruler of all; but the Wild-beast is introduced as wearing the crowns upon his horns (Revelation 13:1) as indicative of the time of his appearance on the Apocalyptic platform.
By the male Son, the writer understands the ἀπαρχή, who, with Christ, their Elder Brother and Head, are to rule all nations with an iron sceptre (comp. Revelation 2:26-27; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 20:6; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:29-30; 1 Corinthians 6:3; see also Add. Note, p. 193). In one point of view (exclusive of Christ), this body constitutes the Bride of the Lamb, and is so symbolized, Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9; but in another (as forming one body with Christ—a body of which He is the Head, the Root, the King, the Elder Brother, the Husband) it may appropriately be styled the male Son. The travail of the Woman commenced with the Advent of Jesus, and from that time until the present the Dragon has continually stood before her striving to destroy her offspring, which continually has been caught away from his grasp to the Throne of God. She is brought into the field of Apocalyptic vision in the last time, when her long labor is near its end. John beheld the completion of the birth, the last assault of the Dragon, and the completed deliverance of the male Son from his attacks. Then the completed body, the ἀπαρχή, the 144,000, delivered from Satan and the woe that is to come upon them that dwell upon the Earth, stand in safety, with their Head, on Mount Zion (comp. Revelation 12:5; Revelation 12:12; Luke 21:35-36; Revelation 3:10; Revelation 7:4; Revelation 7:14; Revelation 14:1-5; see also Note on the Great Tribulation, pp. 191 sq., and Add. Note, p. 193).23
The War in Heaven the writer also refers to the period of the seventh Trumpet. It may, indeed, have begun on, or before, the Ascension of Jesus; but for reasons already given, we must conclude, that it comes into the view of the Seer as waged to its completion under this Trumpet. As additional reasons for this opinion may be urged the following: 1. The declaration concerning the Dragon following his dejection, “he knoweth that he hath little time,” Revelation 12:12; the time accorded could not have been characterized as little if the dejection occurred at either the Ascension of our Lord or the establishment of Christianity under Constantine. 2. The declaration that the woe following the dejection should be visited upon the Earth. This seems to point to the period of the great tribulation (see above; and also 2 Thessalonians 2:8-13, comp. with Matthew 24:21-24, in which the last and most violent outburst of Satanic malice is directly connected with the great tribulation). The writer adopts in the main the views of Auberlen as to the nature and place of demons; holding, however, that the dejection is still future; that when it takes place, the hosts of evil spirits being concentrated on Earth, the fulfillment of the last quoted prophecies, which lie parallel with the remaining portions of this vision, will begin.
By the flight of the Woman into the Wilderness, the writer thinks it probable, is intended the removal of the vital Church to some earthly retreat of seclusion and safety. By the victory of Revelation 12:11 he understands not that of Michael, but the victory of the Saints whom the Dragon persecuted and accused.—E. R. C.]
Revelation 12:2; Revelation 12:2. The reading καὶ ἔκραξεν is probably an alteration of the original reading. [Alf., Treg. and Tisch. read κράζει with א. A. P.; Tisch. (8th Ed.), Lach. (maj.), prefix καί with א. C.; Tisch. (1859), Lach. (min.), Treg, omit with A. B*. P.; Alf. brackets; Lach. reads ἔκραζεν with C.; B*. gives ἔκραξεν.—E. R. C.]
Revelation 12:4; Revelation 12:4. The imperfect is probably an alteration. [The reading σύρει is unquestioned.—E. R. C.]
Revelation 12:5; Revelation 12:5. Codd. A. C. give the reading ἄρσεν instead of ἄῤῥενα. [So Crit. Eds. generally. א. and B*. give ἄῤῥενα(B*. ἄρενα).—E. R. C.]
Revelation 12:6; Revelation 12:6. Ὅπου ἔχει ἐκεῖ. [Alf. and Tisch. give ἐκεῖ with א. A. B*. P., etc.; Rec. Lach. and Treg., omit with C. 1, etc.—E. R. C]
Revelation 12:6; Revelation 12:6. [Crit. Eds. give ἀπό with א. A. C P.; B*. reads ὑπό.—E. R. C.]
Revelation 12:6; Revelation 12:6. [Lach. and Alf. give τρέφωσιν with A. P.; Gb. and Tisch. (1859), ἐκτρέφωσιν with B*.; Treg. and Tisch. (8th Ed.), τρέφουσιν with א. C. For the א. T. use of ἵνα with the Ind. Pres, see Winer, § 4, par. 3.—E. R. C.]
Revelation 12:7; Revelation 12:7. [We follow the best authenticated, although difficult and venturesome reading τοῦ πολεμῆσαι. [Crit. Eds. give πολεμῆσαι with א. A. B*. C. P., Gb, Sz, Lach, Tisch. (1859), Treg. prefix τοῦ with A. C P.; Tisch. (8th Ed.), omits with א. B*.; Alf. brackets. Winer (§ 44, 4) confesses his inability to explain the construction, and thinks it probable that there is a corruption of the text. Alford comments: “The construction is remarkable, but may easily be explained as one compounded of (τοῦ) τὸν M. καὶ τοὺς�.αὐτοῦ πολεμῆσαι (in which case the τοῦ depends on the ἐγένετο as in Acts 10:25) and ὁ M. καὶ οἱ�. αὐτοῦ ἐπολέμησαν. In the next clause it passes into this latter” Lillie, assuming the correctness of the text (τοῦ πολεμῆσαι) prefers “to construe ὁ M. καὶ οἱ�. αὐτοῦ as absolute nominatives, with the participle of the substantive verb understood.” This gives a construction equivalent to the one adopted above. For other explanations see Winer and Lillie.—E. R. C.]
Revelation 12:10; Revelation 12:10. There is an unimportant difference between αὐτῶν and αὐτούς. [Alf. and Tisch. read the latter with A. P.; Treg, the former with א. B* C.—E. R. C.]
Revelation 12:12; Revelation 12:12. The reading τοῖς κατοικοῦσιν is a gloss. [It is supported only by 1.—E. R. C.]
The Seer seems to repeat himself in Revelation 12:14, the flight into the wilderness being again depicted there. But in this very fact, the architectonics of the Book may be seen. Here, in Revelation 12:9, we have the Heaven-picture; in Revelation 12:14, the Earth-picture.
In the Text (see Revelation 12:12 and note 17) our author properly omits these words.—E. R. C.
 [Scriptural Angelology]
[Stuart gives, in the Appendix of his Commentary on the Apocalypse, an elaborate Excursus on this subject, of which the following is an abstract.
I. Good Angels
1. They are very numerous, Daniel 7:10; Psa 68:17; 2 Kings 6:16-17; Hebrews 12:22; Matthew 26:53; Judges 14:0; Revelation 5:11.
2. They accompany the Divine Majesty and the Saviour, and take part in all the peculiarly glorious displays which they make, either in the way of mercy or of judgment. (1). At the giving of the Law, Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 68:17; Hebrews 2:2; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19. (2). At the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew 24:30-31. (3). At the final judgment, Matthew 13:39-41; Matthew 25:31; 1Th 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.
3. They are guardians—(1). Of the Lord Jesus, Luke 1:11-20; Luke 1:26-38 : Matthew 1:20-21; Matthew 2:13; Matthew 2:19-20; Matthew 4:11; John 1:51; Luke 22:43; Matthew 28:2-7; Mark 16:5-7; Acts 1:10-11. (2). Of individuals, Matthew 18:10; Gen 32:1; 2 Kings 6:17; Psalms 34:7; Acts 12:7-15; Hebrews 1:14. (3). Of nations and kingdoms, Exodus 14:19; Exodus 23:20; Exodus 33:2; Numbers 20:16; Numbers 22:22-35; Joshua 5:13; Isaiah 63:9; Daniel 10:5-13; Daniel 10:20-21; Daniel 11:1; Zechariah 1:8-14; Zechariah 3:1-2; Zechariah 12:1; Judges 9:0. From all this it is apparent that not only the Jews but other nations—that not only Jesus and the saints, but little children have their guardian angels.
4. They are employed as special ministers for executing Divine justice. See many of the preceding passages; also Genesis 19:1-23. comp. with Revelation 18:1-2; Exodus 12:23; Joshua 5:13-14; 2 Samuel 24:16-17; 2 Kings 19:35; Acts 12:23; Revelation 7-11; Revelation 16:0.
5. They seem to watch over and govern the different elements, Revelation 7:1-2; Revelation 14:18; Revelation 16:5, (Proverbs 7:0); Revelation 19:17; (also probably Psalms 104:4; Hebrews 1:7).
6. They were regarded as intercessors, Job 33:23; Zechariah 1:12-13. In Revelation 8:3 an Angel takes his station by the altar in Heaven, and presents “much incense …. with the prayers of all saints.” (He endeavors to show, by copious extracts from Jewish and contemporary Christian writings, that John is not singular in his alleged meaning in Revelation 8:3. This view, be it observed, does not involve the utterly unscriptural idea that Angels may themselves be invoked.)
II. Evil Angels
1. These are numerous, Matthew 25:41; Matthew 12:26; Mark 5:9.
2. They were originally good, but fell from their first estate, 2 Peter 2:4; Judges 6:0.
3. One is more distinctly marked and made very prominent. He is called (1). Satan (השטן), the adversary, Job 1:6-12; Job 2:1-7; 1 Chronicles 21:1; Zechariah 3:1-2; Matthew 12:26; Mark 4:15; Luke 22:3; Acts 5:3; Romans 16:20, etc. (2). The Tempter, Matthew 4:1-11; Matthew 13:19; Luke 22:3; Luke 22:53; Acts 5:3; 1 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2; Revelation 20:8; Revelation 20:10. (3). The Destroyer (Ἀπολλύων), Revelation 9:11. (4). The Devil (ὁ διάβολος), the accuser, calumniator. This designation is too frequent to need references.
4. The extent of Satan’s power, together with that of other evil spirits (demons), is very great, 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 12:31; John 14:30; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 1:13; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 20:8. (This extensive influence is the result of corruption in men, rather than of any irresistible power in Satan, James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9; Ephesians 4:27.)
5. Place of evil spirits before the general judgment. (1). The Abyss. This word means without bottom, unfathomable. The idea of the Hebrews respecting it was that of a deep, dark pit or chasm, which was, or might be, closed up, and where darkness perpetually reigned; hence Judges 6:0, “angels…… kept in perpetual chains under darkness,” i. e., in the deep and dark abyss. See also 2 Peter 2:4; Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1-3 (this, Revelation 12:9, is styled φυλακή). (2). Deserts, Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14; Revelation 18:2; Matthew 12:43. (3). The air, Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12.
6. They are sometimes employed as executioners of Divine justice or chastisement, Job 1:2; 1Ki 22:21-23; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20.
The Excursus concludes with the following: “Is angelic interposition unworthy of the Godhead? What then are the laws of nature, and all the intermediate agencies by which the Maker of Heaven and earth carries on His designs and accomplishes His purposes? On the other hand, I can conceive of no more magnificent and ennobling view of the Creator and Lord of all things, than that which regards Him as delighting to multiply, even to an almost boundle’s extent, beings made in His own image, and therefore rational, and moral, and immortal, like Himself. How different from representing Him as the Master of a magnificent puppet-show, all of which He manages by merely pulling the wires with His own hands! To make Him the only real agent in the universe, and all else as mere passive recipients of His influence, is to take from Him the glory that results from the creation of numberless beings in His own image—beings which reflect the brightness of their great Original. It is this intelligent and rational creation in which John lives, moves, thinks, and speaks. The universe, as viewed by him, is filled with ministers swift to do Jehovah’s will. They stand before His throne; they preside over nations; they guide the sun in his shining course; the moon and stars send forth radiance at their bidding; the very elements are watched over by them; even infants are committed to the guidance of presence-angels; and ‘the Angel of the Lord encampeth round about all that fear Him.” Such is the Universe, which the God Who is, and was, and is to come has created and governs; and amid the contemplation of productions and arrangements such as these, John wrote the glowing pages of the Apocalypse.”—E. R. C.]
Lord distinguishes between the great Dragon of Revelation 12:9, and the great red Dragon of Revelation 12:6, identifying the former with Satan.—E. R. C.
[Glasgow: “The pagan empire occupied the place and character of all the heads developed and gone. … Various enumerations of them (the heads) have been propounded. That which bears most verisimilitude is: 1. Egypt…2. Palestine or Arabia (Amalek, Idumea, etc.)… 3. Assyria …4. Babylon …5. Persia … 6. Yavan, or Hellas, dating from Alexander’s conquest of Persia, B. C. 331, and comprehending Greece and Rome, until Paganism fell, and which, when it became complete, assumed the nature and received the name of Dragon. 7. Rome, which began first with Constantine, who adopted Byzantium as his capitol, B. C. 329, and thus led the way to the rise of that new or second Roman empire, called Θήριον, the monster with seven heads (the first six represented by the last) and ten horns.” (See footnote†, p. 272.)—E. R. C.
Although this distinguished author cannot be classed with English and American commentators, it is deemed proper here to present an abstract of his views.—E. R. C.
Auberlen holds that the history of Satan and evil spirits “consists of an ever deeper downfall, in four gradations or periods. The first extends to the first coming of Christ (Revelation 12:8 (ἔτι) presupposes that hitherto, up to the ascension of Christ, the demons were in Heaven like the other angels, and that like them, they influenced Earth from their abodes in Heaven, in which there are many mansions. See Job 1:6; Job 2:1; 1 Kings 22:19-22; Zechariah 3:1-2). The second period is from Christ to the commencement of the Millennium; then Satan is cast out of Heaven to earth, where he exercises yet free power … The third period embraces the millennium. The enemy is bound; and as he was cast out of Heaven to Earth, he is now cast into the bottomless pit [pit of the Abyss] and rendered harmless, Revelation 20:1-3. After having been let loose for a little while, he is, fourthly, judged and cast for ever and ever into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10; Matthew 25:41; 1 Corinthians 6:3). Thus the whole history which the Apocalypse gives of Satan, is a continual succession of his being cast out, hurled down (βληθῆναι, Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:3-10).”—E. R. C.]
Special comments are reserved for the Add. Note, p. 250 sq.—E. R. C.]
See note 29, p. 275; and foot-note on p. 276.—E.R.C.]
Witch’s Sabbath (Hexensabbath): “the festive conventicle of witches and spirits. for the indulgence of wild uproar and dissolute mirth.” Sanders Wörterbuch.—Tr.]
[The precise position of Düsterdieck is, that Revelation 12:11 contains a proleptical celebration of the future victory of earthly believers, whilst Revelation 12:12 rather reverts to the actual condition of affairs, proclaiming joy to the Heavens and the dwellers therein, on account of the victory over the Dragon; but woe to the earth and all its inhabitants—even to believers, since it is theirs now to make good the triumph proleptically rejoiced over, and to fight the raging Dragon, even to the death.—The contrast between the “two propositions,” therefore, is not quite so irreconcilable as would appear from Dr. Lange’s statement of the case.—Tr.]
The hypothesis earlier advanced by Bleek, to the effect that the Book originally closed with Rev 40, has since been declared by himself to be untenable (Apok., p. 120; Beiträge, p. 81). This dispatches the note in Hengstenberg I., p. 589.
For the writer’s views concerning the Elders see foot-note to p. 152,—E. R. C.]
[An objection to the interpretation given above may arise in the minds of some from the fact, that after the dejection of the Dragon to Earth, he is represented as making war with the remnant of the Woman’s seed, Revelation 12:17. The writer will here only remark, that in his mind there is a growing conviction that the ἀπαρχή does not include all true Christians, but that it consists of a select portion of them—the specially faithful. He regards Revelation 12:17 (τῶν λοιπῶντοῦ σπέρματος αὐτῆς) as strongly confirmative of this view. See Add. Notes, pp. 193 and 291.—E. R. C.]
The notation of Lange and of Critical Editors of the Greek Testament is here adopted. That which is here styled Rev 12:18 is the first clause of Revelation 13:1 of the English Version. See Note 7 above.—E. R. C.]
SPECIAL DOCTRINO-ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL NOTES (ADDENDUM)
Earth-picture of Antichristianity. (Revelation 12:13 to Revelation 13:18)
General.—The climax manifest in the development of Antichristianity on earth, is signalized by the names: the Dragon, Antichrist, and the False Prophet, added to which, as a sort of supplement, is the dominant Antichristian congregation, with its Antichristian symbols of fellowship.
At first, the Dragon has no conscious organs on earth; he does but vomit forth the water-floods, as will-less or unfree masses of peoples, against the Woman, to cause her to be carried away. Nor can he, after this attempt, at first do more than direct his temptations, in single demonic attacks, against individual believers or isolated communities.
Subsequently, however, he procures a conscious human organ: the Beast which rises out of the sea of national life, and in which he himself vanishes for a long time. In Antichristianity, which is at first a fellowship of Antichristian sympathies, but which finally becomes personal in geniuses of wickedness who attain their meridian in the Man of Sin, the Satanic essence is reflected in heightened potency. It appears as the consummate compound of all demonic and antitheocratic world-powers, or the four Danielic Beasts. The names of blasphemy, visible on its head, must, doubtless, be regarded as indirect blasphemies; it assumes many attributes of a blasphemous nature, e. g. absolute authority as a ruler and teacher, and the like. With these names are also connected the direct blasphemies which are providentially permitted him by the gift of the mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; aye, which must aid in the execution of judgment upon God-estranged Christendom. That, however, which is in the highest degree conducive to the dominion of Antichristianity, is the apparent perfect revival of it in its ungodly, worldly essence, after the mortal wound dealt to it by Christianity in one of its heads (in a special world-power).
Thus are the outward victory of the kingdom of darkness over the saints, and its temporary public rule over the nations, brought about; assuredly, under forms of subtile worldly refinement and by means of the sympathy of infatuated millions. Nor is the devil-worship which is established in the same manner to be regarded as a rude shamanism. The whole submission and homage of the nations arise from a cowardly recognition of the apparently invincible power of falsehood, hate and violence.
Violence exercised in the sphere of religion shall, however, meet its judgment; and the more consummate will be that judgment, the more thoroughly the faithful learn, themselves to abstain from all violence contrary to the dictates of conscience and the provisions of justice.
Antichristianity attains its full power, however, only through the medium of the False Prophet, who, at all events as such, proceeds from the Church in its external constitution. That he does not conduct the entire institution over to the hostile camp, is evident from the subsequent fact that the Harlot is killed by the Beast; nevertheless, he denotes the true essence of its worldly spirit, the turning-point, subsequent to the appearance of which the familiar relationship between the Woman and the Beast, in which the Beast was at first subservient to the Woman, changes its character, and the Woman is brought into subjection to the Beast. We are thus furnished with a picture of the most disgraceful apostasy, first appearing in back-sliding sympathies, next exhibited in prominent examples of defection, and finally reaching its climax in a perfect genius of perfidy.
The consummate hypocrite then establishes the consummate Antichristian congregation, which exhibits the complete counterpart of the true Church, in that it, like the true Church, has its wonders of revelation, its symbolic cultus, its symbolic marks, and its ban of excommunication. Its wonders of revelation, however, are delusions; its cultus is a worship of the Beast’s Image; its marks are brands of spiritual slavery; and its ban is more than the great ban—it is a social outlawry of the faithful.
The very mark, however, by which the Antichristian is to be recognized, presupposes the continuance of a quiet Church of God in this troublous time, for the benefit of whose members the mark is designed.
[Chap. 13.] The Beast and the False Prophet, or the relations, antipathies and sympathies between the secular and the spiritual Babylon.
[Revelation 12:13.] The Satanic power, the woe-engendering spirit on earth. Also in the domain of the symbolic earth, the institution and order of Church and State.—The spirit of the kingdom of darkness, a spirit of persecution.
[Revelation 13:14.] The safety of God’s Church on earth, ensured by the wildernesses of poverty and renunciation.—Holy dwellers in the wilderness: Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Christ.—Churches of the wilderness.—The blossoming wilderness.—Borne away on eagles’ wings from the persecutors of earth: 1. Israel; 2. The Christian Church; 3. All believing souls.—Preservation and nourishment of the Church even through times of sorest distress.
[Revelation 13:15.] And the serpent cast out of his mouth, etc. The dragon now becomes a serpent, and again the serpent becomes a dragon.—The river [water as a river] in its symbolical import, in respect of its bright and its dark side.
[Revelation 13:16.] The earth under the same aspects.—Historic dependence of the Church on the earth. Her apparent mergement in the earth. Her solicitude for the earth.
[Revelation 13:17.] Isolated temptations [trials] of the true children of the Church and witnesses of Jesus. By isolated attacks, it is true, the power of faith is divided, but so, likewise, is the power of evil.—Satan seeks Christians. But for what reason?
[Revelation 13:1.] The Beast out of the sea. His dark intent. His horrible and monstrous appearance. His business (the bringing into vogue of a worship of the Dragon, blasphemy against the Holy One and holy things, and the conquest of holy men [the saints]. His history. His success.—His blasphemy, (a) indirect, (b) direct. Against (1) the Name of God, (2) His Tabernacle, (3) them that dwell in Heaven (see Exeg. Notes).—The great world-monarchies depicted, as regards their bright side, in the human figure of Daniel 2:0.; as regards their dark side, in the bestial figures of Daniel 7:0.—Concentration of all ungodly and antigodly principles in the last Antichristian world-power.—The nature of the Wild-beast, nay, of consummate bestiality, in the semblance of, and with the claim to, consummate civilization. The Beast in the antithesis of (1) sensuality and blood-thirstiness; (2) stupidity and an absolute lack of appreciation of the Divine, and deviceful animal cunning; (3) a lust for prey and an impulse to destruction.—The Apocalyptic Beast, in its elegant, spotted body resembling the leopard; in its heavy and clumsy paws resembling the bear; in its heads, horns and crowns perfect monstrosity and deformity.—In what respect may we speak of a conquest of the saints by the Beast, and in what respect is the expression an improper one?—Universalism, or the international power of Antichristianity.—Devil-worship in its gross, subtile and extra-subtile forms.—The heavenly Book of Life.—Watchword of the Church of God under the persecutions of this world (Revelation 13:10).
[Revelation 13:11-17.] The False Prophet: 1. His types in Holy Writ; 2. His examples in Church History; 3. His fundamental traits at all times.—Apostasy is a twofold hypocrisy, just as hypocrisy is a twofold apostasy (perfidy at once toward Heaven and hell).—Hypocrisy, the mother of apostasy.—Perfidy, or specific depravity, the brand of apostasy.—Distinction between sinners who are only wicked [Böse] and those who are depraved [Schlechte].—Satan, because he finds his tools in the depraved, calumniates all men as depraved, but in this presupposition he is put to shame (see Job; Zechariah 3:0; Matthew 4:0).—All tyrants are put to shame when they make the assumption that humanity is rotten and depraved at the core.—God has placed a rock in the midst of the way of worldly history upon which all godlessness must be confounded.—The mock character and work of the apostate. His mock-holiness (like the Lamb); his mock-miracles; his mock-cultus; his mock-church.—Horrid picture of the church of Satan.—Horrible opposites in the nature of evil: in the nature of the Beast; in the nature of the False Prophet; in the nature of the Antichristian community.—Outlawry of believers in the time of the perfect dominion of unbelief: (1) subtile; (2) universal.
[Revelation 13:18.] The mysterious number. Taken as a riddle, it is infinitely obscure (the most diverse interpretations of it have been given). Taken as a symbol, it is clear enough. The Antichristian signature of a life full of endless, vain and frustrated plots, toils, malignities and intrigues.—The mysterious description of the Beast, a great warning for faith—not a great problem for curious investigation.—The grand combinations of the hellish spirit are always confounded by reason of one mistake in his calculation: 1. He holds all to be as depraved as himself; 2. He says: there is no God (Psalms 14:1), and he regards the holy and excellent ones that are on earth (Psalms 16:3) as chimeras.
Starke, Cramer: God has many ways and means of preserving His Church, and can quickly give her wings, that she may easily escape the malice of tyrants—for the Church is to endure forever.—However long or short a space the tribulation of God’s faithful ones is to continue, God has beforehand decreed and meted it out.
Revelation 13:16 (Psalms 124:1-5). This style of expression is drawn from the natural shutting up of waters in the earth (Psalms 93:3-4).—Quesnel: No one who is of the true seed of the Church escapes the temptation and persecution of Satan (2 Timothy 3:11-12).—A worldly kingdom is called a Beast because its government is often conducted with bestial irrationality, tyranny, unrighteous violence and brutish lusts (Daniel 7:4; Daniel 7:23).—Worldly kingdoms are subject to many and great vicissitudes, for God setteth up and removeth kings (Daniel 2:21; Daniel 5:25-28).—As lions are of great courage, and very strong and cruel, so the kings of Assyria and Babylon were very haughty, powerful and cruel. As bears are indeed very fierce, and yet have something in common with men, in that they eat all sorts of food, and are especially fond of honey, and can be tamed so that they will dance to our music, so certain kings of Persia were very cruel, whilst others, again, were very amiable toward the people of God. As leopards are spotted, wily and swift, thus was the Grecian monarchy (Revelation 13:2).—The Spirit of God speaks in His children, the spirit of the devil speaks, likewise, in his members.—The multitude and high position of those who profess a false religion do not convert error into truth.—The patience of believers in their affliction is their great crown.—The shape of a lamb and the heart of a dragon.—As the Egyptian sorcerers counterfeited some miracles, etc.—False religions are set up by violence and cruelty; the Gospel, by humility and patience. We should bear in our bodies the mark of Christ, but not that of the beast (Galatians 6:17).—The Antichrist practices two kinds of violence; he deprives true believers of life and (or) of freedom, which is as dear as life.—As the Beast is not some individual person, but a fellowship of men, so the name of the Beast cannot be the name of a prince, etc. The name Adonikam would be quite suitable for Antichrist (Ezra 2:13, etc.), since there were 666 of the family of Adonikam that returned out of captivity to their own land. (It is doubtless from this source, or from the still earlier one of Vitringa, that Hengstenberg derived his explanation.)—True wisdom consists in knowing how to distinguish the Spirit of God from the spirit of darkness.
Læmmert, Babel, das Thier und der falsche Prophet (see p. 74): Revelation 13:1-7. After John has seen the pure Church of God and the Dragon which persecutes her, he is made to behold the Beast out of the sea, the Dragon’s representative on earth. This connection obliges us to revert to Revelation 12:0.
H. W. Rinck, Die Lehre der Heiligen Schrift vom Antichrist (see p. 73): Interesting communications and dissertations on the subject of the spiritists [Spiritisten]. The False Prophet is here regarded as the representative of false science, and is distinguished and separated from the great Harlot Babylon.
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 12". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany