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Bible Commentaries

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Revelation 12

Verse 1

Rev 12:1. As an aid in identifying this woman we will learn that she is the one who lived through the 1260 years of the apostasy (verse 6). That was not true in any sense of Mary the mother of Jesus. Besides, Mary was a literal woman and we are studying in a book of symbols. We should also remember that the apostate church as opposed to the Lord's institution is the outstanding subject of this book, and of course that of necessity is the church of Christ. Clothed with the sun symbolizes the light of divine truth with which the church has been entrusted (Eph 3:10; 1Ti 3:15). As the moon is a lesser light than the sun, so there are those in the church who are light bearers under the jurisdiction of the church. Crown of twelve stars evidently refers to the apostles. A crown indicates a position of rulership or judgeship. Accordingly we read of Jesus saying to his apostles, "Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Mat 19:28). Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 1. THE WOMAN WITH CHILD (Revelation 12 :l-2) It is generally agreed that the woman was a symbol of the church. In the Old Testament Israel was repeatedly characterized as a woman, as in Jer 2:32. In the New Testament the church of Christ is presented in the figure of a pure woman, as in 1Co 11:1-34; 1Co 10:1-33; 1Co 9:1-27; 1Co 8:1-13; 1Co 7:1-40; 1Co 6:1-20; 1Co 5:1-13; 1Co 4:1-21; 1Co 3:1-23, Gal 4:26 and 2Jn 1:1. 1. There can be no more fitting description of the church in holy relation to Christ, the Head, than that of the pure woman. True to this figure the vision describes in glowing symbols the character and attributes of the woman, as symbols of the apostolic church. In Revelation the word heaven was employed to denote governments and authorities. The Lord Himself so used the word in his own description of the destruction of Jerusalem in referring to "great signs in the heavens," and "stars falling from heaven"- a symbolic reference to the casting down of the Jewish and Roman rulers and authorities. In Luk 10:18, Jesus said: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." In this language the Lord was forecasting Satan's complete downfall from his place and power of dominion, which would come as swiftly as lightning, as the result of Christ's victory over the hadean world by his death and resurrection. The sign in heaven meant the heaven of exalted dominion and rule--the heaven of the political dominion of the whole world. The "great sign" seen in the realm of authorities and dominions referred to the symbolic attributes of splendor and grandeur which followed, in which the woman was adorned before the whole political world. The sign in heaven--Rev 12:1 . 1. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven. The word wonder here meant a sign--a sign was seen in heaven. There are numerous uses of the word heaven in the scriptures. Among the Hebrews it was used chiefly in three senses. First, the aerial heavens where the winds blow and the rains form and the birds fly; second, the firmament where the stars as pendant jewels adorn the sky, and where all the constellations and planets are in orbit; third, the highest heaven, the third heaven, the residence of God and Christ, the dwelling of angels and mansions of the blessed. There are scriptures that use the word heaven in all of these senses. 2. A woman clothed with the sun. The sun is the great luminary that God created and placed in the heavens to preside over the day. The sun being obscured and ceasing to shine were symbols of calamity and darkness settling over nations. In the same way the shining of the sun was used as a similitude of the glory of God. When the Spirit in John, the seer, needed a figure to adequately set forth the glory of the church represented by the woman, he selected the flaming orb of the day--the woman, the church, was arrayed with the sun, the very glory of God. 3. And the moon under her feet. Standing with the moon under her feet was symbol of the exaltation of the church--an extended description of the glorious and exalted position of the church among and in the midst of all the creations, institutions, and governments of man. The symbol picture was most espeoially significant in the Roman world where this glory and exaltation would in succeeding events become visibly manifest to all the authorities of Caesar's empire. Isaiah the prophet pictured the church (Rev 2:2) "on top of the mountains, exalted above the hills." The vision of the woman standing with the moon under her feet was the same imagery of exaltation. 4. And upon her head a crown of twelve stars. The stars are the glory of all the luminaries which adorn the heavens. No part of the visible creation exhibits the supreme glory of God so illustriously as the starry firmament. The crown of stars was the diadem of highest glory on the head of the woman-the glorious church. In royalty it was the ornament of queens. Ahasuerus "loved Esther above all the women . . . so he set the royal crown upon her head." (Est 2:17) The stars were used in scripture to designate all luminaries of heaven, except the sun and moon. The twelve stars on the head of the woman is representative of totality, of completeness, of perfection. There were twelve tribes of Israel, representing the whole Old Testament church. There were twelve apostles for the New Testament church. The twelve stars in the diadem on the woman's head were a complete symbol of the whole church as typified in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament. Verses 1-17. BOOK OF REVELATION SECTION FOUR THE APOCALYPSE OF THE VICTORIOUS CHURCH (CHAPTERS TWELVE TO TWENTY-TWO-- VERSE FIVE) (THE SECOND SERIES OF SYMBOLS) PREFATORY NOTE The first series of symbols ended with the last verse of chapter eleven. The first verse of chapter twelve is the beginning of the second series of symbols. The visions of this section were a recapitulation of the events of the first series, beginning from the first again, but with a new set of symbols. They cover the same period, a repetition of the same imagery in the delineation of the same occurrences. The reason for the two series is stated in the headings by which the purposes of the two series are indicated. In the first series, the symbols surrounded the Lamb, the Rider of the white horse--the conquering Christ--with the descriptive emphasis placed on activities of "the beast of the land," representing the Palestinian persecutors. The second series of symbols surrounded the victory of the church--the conqueror's Bride---over all the forces of persecution, in a set of symbols which placed the emphasis more fully on the activities of the Roman Emperor, who was represented as the beast of the sea, from whom the beast of the land derived authority to act. It was, therefore, said that the beast of the land worshiped, or "obeyed," the beast of the sea--meaning that the Palestinian authorities could do nothing without the consent of the Roman Emperor. The pattern of the Old Testament apocalypses are again recognized in the similarity existing between them and the visions of Revelation. A striking example is found in the dream visions of Joseph, and of Pharaoh in Genesis (Gen 37:5-11 Gen 41:18-32), and of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel (chapters 2 and 7). In the visional dreams of Joseph concerning himself and his brothers the symbols of the sun, moon and stars of the second dream represented the same things as the vision of the sheaves in the first dream. The same thing is true of the visions of the cattle and the ears of corn in Pharaoh's dreams--the successive dreams were visional reenactments of the same events. In the same manner the four beasts of Daniel in chapter seven were symbolic repetitions of the four kingdoms of the colossal image dream of chapter two. By the same process the first series of visions in Revelation, embracing chapters four to eleven, portrayed Jesus Christ, the prevailing Lamb of God, in multiple symbols of conquering all enemies of his church and avenging the martyred saints, defeating all the minions of Satan. All of the events in this set of symbols were envisioned from the throne in heaven, as introduced in chapter four, setting forth the sending of armies by the King of heaven to destroy the murderers of his prophets and apostles and saints, burning their city and bringing an end to their persecuting power. These visions surrounded, as previously set forth, the siege of Jerusalem, the demolition of the temple, the destruction of the city, the downfall of Judaism and the end of the Jewish theocratic state. The unbelieving Jews were the instigators of the persecutions. Rome was only a collateral power to the unfolding scenes. Apostate Jerusalem, Judaism and the Jewish state were the objects of the apocalyptic portrayal. With the downfall of Judaism the greatest enemy of Christianity was removed from the path of the church, opening the door for the universal expansion of the gospel. The second series of visions, now ready for consideration, are retrospective--as they reveal the church in conflict with the diabolical powers of Rome, surviving all forces of persecution, and appearing at the close of the vision as the triumphant Bride of Christ, the church, after Babylon the Harlot had fallen in defeat. The victory of the church over these Jewish and Roman persecuting powers was set forth in the imagery of the new Jerusalem in contrast with the apostate Jerusalem. Pronouncing the same judgment on old Jerusalem, the prophet Isaiah exclaimed: "How is the faithful city become harlot! It was full of judgment: righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers." (Isa 1:21) And again, "Babylon the great" (Rev 11:8), "a holy city, turned unrighteous and filthy." In contrast the new Jerusalem, the church, as the Bride of Christ, was robed in habilaments of victory "as the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven"--after which divine judgment was pronounced upon the persecuting nations; and the tabernacle of God would be with men, signifying his dwelling place among his people in the new spiritual city rather than the evil persecutors of the old apostate city. All tears of persecution were to be wiped away. The sorrows attending the period of their persecutions would cease, and the church again would set out on its divine mission of making known the Spirit's message to all men--the gospel invitation. The twelfth chapter retrospectively begins with the portrayal of the church in conflict with the existing powers under the symbol of the woman and the dragon.

Verse 2

Rev 12:2. This verse describes the mother, but the literal facts are symbols of something that is not literal. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 2. The woman's pain--Rev 12:2. 1. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered--verse 2. A similar figure was used by the prophet Isaiah (Isa 66:7-8) of Israel in exile. Israel in the Old Testament was said to bring forth children. The church, in Rom 7:4, was said to be in spiritual conjugal relation with Christ resulting in bearing fruit unto God. John mentions "her children" (2Jn 1:1) in symbolizing the church as the "elect lady." The woman here symbolized was the church in trial and persecution. 2. Travailing in birth. In this period of tribulation, the church would produce children in sorrow for martyrdom. 3. And pained to be delivered. During the period of greatest tribulation the church did not cease to bear her fruit; she continued to bring forth children, but in pain and persecution and martyrdom. The following verses will develop further the application of these verses to the part of the woman's seed that was martyred--the "child that was caught up unto God"--and the part of her seed, called "the remnant," or rest of her seed, that remained on the earth to suffer, but not to die. (3) The summary of the symbols. The context of chapter twelve yields three major points which must be classified and discriminated in order: First, the woman was a symbol of the Jerusalem church --represented as "the new Jerusalem," in Rev 21:2 at the close of the Revelation, and stands for the whole church. Second, the man child referred to the martyred souls as "the firstfruits unto God and the Lamb." (Rev 6:10-11 Rev 14:4 Rev 20:4) The woman's seed "caught up unto God and to his throne," who thereby entered into a state of victory over the dragon and his wrath in a distinctive sense. (Rev 12:5) Third, the remnant or rest of the woman's seed were distinguished from the man child, as being that part of the woman's seed who suffered the trials of the great tribulation but were not slain or beheaded as were the martyrs. (Rev 6:9-11 and Rev 20:4) The woman of this chapter, therefore, must be considered as the organic body of the church--the totality of its members; distinguished from her seed, or children--the constituent members of it, in the two classes mentioned. The text and context will sustain this analysis, and these viewpoints can be maintained.

Verse 3

Rev 12:3. When a birth is expected in a family the members thereof are generally hovering near, impatiently waiting for the happy event. But in the case of this woman there is a being waiting near who is not friendly toward the event. This being is called a great red dragon. He is called Satan in other places and that is because he works through agencies that belong to this world. The dragon of our verse, then, is Rome. Some commentators designate that it means Pagan Rome but I do not believe it is to be restricted to that. However, since both Pagan and Papal Rome had their headquarters in the city of Rome, it will not make any difference as far as this verse is concerned, which angle of the subject we take. The description of the dragon in this verse agrees with the government of Rome with the leading European kingdoms that were connected with it and formed a part of the institution as a whole. The seven heads are so numbered because the city of Rome literally has seven hills on which it is situated. But those seven hills are not important except as symbols of something else not literal or at least not material. They represent the sevenfold power of that mighty institution in opposing the works of God. The ten horns are the same that Daniel saw (Dan 7:7), and they correspond to the ten toes of the giant image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 3. THE GREAT RED DRAGON (Rev 12:3-6) Trustworthy authorities cite the fact that the original word here rendered dragon appears in the New Testament only in Revelation. In the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) the same word is rendered serpent, in Exo 7:9; and leviathan in Job 41:1; and dragon in Jer 51:34. In Isa 27:1 the prophet referred to leviathan as "that crooked serpent," which apparently connects with the serpent of Gen 3:1 in Eden. In the Septuagint text serpent in Isa 27:1, is rendered dragon, and in both Hebrew and Greek texts it is made the symbol of Babylon, the power hostile to the people of God. In Eze 29:3 dragon in the Septuagint was made the emblem of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the bitter enemy of God's people Israel. In this chapter of Revelation the names Satan, Devil, Serpent and Dragon were used interchangeably, and evidently personified the persecuting powers hostile to the church; that is, Nero and his successors, in whom the persecutions and the persecutors were personified. (1) The dragon with multiple heads and horns--Rev 12:3-4. 1. And there appeared another wonder in heaven. This wonder was referred to as another sign. The other wonder, of verse 1, was the sign of the glory of the church in the symbolic ornaments of splendor with which the woman was adorned before the imperial world. In this reference, of verse 3, the sign was in the same heaven mentioned by Christ in Luk 10:18 : "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." It meant his dominion of diabolical influence. The church is called the "kingdom of heaven" because it is the reign of heaven in the hearts of men, and which designates its divine realm. Jesus said to Pilate, "Now is my kingdom not from hence." The word "hence" means here--his kingdom is here but not from here; it is from heaven. The word "heaven" referred to its heavenly origin and character. The word "now" referred to its immediate establishment in the world. But the heaven of Satan, from which he fell (Luk 10:18), meant the realm of his diabolical influence, and referred to the political authorities, governments and powers of the whole Roman world. It was the sign of an appalling persecution of unprecedented fury, beginning with the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, which was soon to burst upon the church; and the sign of this chapter was comparable to the signs of the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, thirteenth chapter of Mark, and twenty-first chapter of Luke, all of which contain the Lord's description of the events of the same period. 2. A great red dragon--Rev 12:3. The dragon referred to Satan, the antagonist of the church, personified in the active persecutor--Nero and his successors--as representative of all that was opposed to Christ and the church. The flame-coloured description of the red dragon was the type of the destruction of war and the bloodshed of martyrdom. As in chapter six the colors of the horses corresponded with the mission of the riders. The horses were symbols of war and the red horse signified bloodshed. So it was here--the red dragon signified the murderous character of these minions of Satan--the Roman and heathen persecuting powers. 3. Having seven heads and ten horns--Rev 12:3. As in chapter 5, verse 6, the seven eyes of the Lamb represented the perfection of wisdom, so the seven heads of this verse indicated the perfection or completeness of the universal rule and government of Rome, the seven-hilled city of the Caesars, to which the number seven in this reference may have been an allusion. But it was an evident symbol of the complete power of the ruling Roman emperor. The ten horns represented the unified universal power of the Roman emperor through the ten tributaries of the Roman government--all of which were in complete subjugation to the Caesars of Rome's seven hills on the throne of which at this time sat Nero Caesar, the ruling emperor. The ten horns, therefore, denoted the ten kingdoms over which the emperor ruled. 4. And seven crowns upon his heads--Rev 12:3. The seven diadems upon his heads show the regal glory of this dragon. It should be noted that the diadems were not the crown of stars which was upon the woman's head, indicating the divine glory of the church; but here they were crowns of diabolical power and assumed glory. It is not an exaggeration that the great antagonist of Christ and the church in that era of greatest crisis should appear in symbols of pomp and power.

Verse 4

Rev 12:4. Third part of the stars means the men in positions of importance. The reason why only a portion of them was drawn is the same as other similar passages, namely, God has never suffered the enemy to annihilate completely that which he attacks. This dragon is standing by expecting to destroy the child as soon as it is born. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 4. 5. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven --Rev 12:4. The tail of the dragon was in the imagery of the sweeping power of the antagonist of the church and the destruction behind him in the wake of persecution, described in the symbol of pulling the stars from their orbits with the angry lash of his enormous tail. It was the vision of the presumptive power of the persecutors of the church. 6. And did cast them to the earth--Rev 12:4. The reference to casting down to the earth a third of the stars of heaven appears to have had application to the part of the political world that was subject to these destructions--Jerusalem, Judaism and the Jewish state. The application to geographical or political divisions could have had no meaning. The same expression in chapter eight referred to the three woes of destruction, one part each, as noted in the comments on that section. Here the imagery was that of a symbolic portion of the luminaries of heaven being dragged down by the dragon's tail. It signified his potent weapon in the power to harm in the pending events of the destruction of the Jewish world, represented by the destruction of Jerusalem, the downfall of Judaism and the end of the Jewish state. (2) The object of the dragon's rage--Rev 12:4-5. 1. And the dragon stood before the woman . . . for to devour her child--Rev 12:4. This statement indicated that the object of the dragon's deadly rage was the woman, which symbolized the church; and her child, which meant the martyred saints to which the woman would give birth in the pain of persecution and martyrdom. The woman's child was here employed not in a singular sense but in the collective use of the word. 2. To devour her child. The dragon was represented as standing before the woman in childbirth ready to destroy her child as soon as it was born--like Pharaoh in Egypt (Exo 1:16-22), watching to destroy every male Israelite; and Herod (Mat 2:13), ordering the slaying of every Jewish male. This dragon-persecutor was waiting for the opportunity to send the Christians to their martyrdom.

Verse 5

Rev 12:5. When the child was born it was a man child. In preceding chapters we have seen that the outstanding feature of Rome, as well as of other despotic governments, is the hatred of people who wish to have a voice in their own government. As long as the people can be kept in ignorance of their personal rights, they will meekly submit and be ruled over. But the Bible in its clear method of showing people their personal responsibility in determining their manner of conduct, has taught them the truth about it and led them to notify Rome to keep hands off. But the Bible is not a self-propagating document, hence the church was the Lord's instrument for bringing that great truth into the world. In symbolizing that revolutionary event the Lord gave the vision to John of a woman nearing the time of delivery of a child so near in fact that the pains of the event had started. The child may conveniently and truly be called "self-determination" in the light of what has been just shown on the subject of personal responsibility and the right to discharge it without the interference of a dictatorial monarchy. The church as Christ and the apostles set it up, taught men not to call any man "father" upon earth (Mat 23:9). It taught that all men were to consult the word of God for their guidance (Jas 1:25). That the Lord's servants are to speak as the oracles of God (1Pe 4:11), and that means that every man will be able to read and "interpret" the word for himself and not have to take dictation from some supreme authority independent of his own responsibility. When men learned these truths they rebelled at the idea of world monarchies. That is the reason Daniel predicted that the stone cut out of the mountain--the kingdom set up by the God of heaven--was to put an end to world power. Dan 2:44.) It is no wonder, then, that the dragon wanted to kill this man child. Rule with a rod of iron. This may sound severe but iron is not necessarily harsh or cruel, it means It is strong and durable. Child was caught up is another symbol. If a babe was born that was at once surrounded with dangerous conditions so that the mother would have to flee to some place for safety, some kind hearted friends would take care of the infant. Accordingly, when the church was driven into the wilderness, her child "self-determination," was watched over by the kind Father in heaven to see that it would live through all those years of the apostasy. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 5. 3. And she brought forth a man child--Rev 12:5. The use of the word man child here is in neuter gender. And it is not singular number any more than the use of the word "mother" when used in a collective sense; and that is the sense in which man child was used here--collectively, denoting that portion of the church, or the woman's seed, which was to be caught up to God in the martyrdom which followed. That the man child did not refer to Christ becomes evident in the following verses. The expression caught up to God from the face of the dragon would hardly be a fitting description of the ascension of Christ, but it was an appropriate symbol of the triumph of the martyrs who "overcame . . . by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." It further harmonizes with the scene of victory for the souls of the beheaded in Rev 20:4. The man child was not a single person but a collective body. It was that part of the woman's seed which was put in contrast with the remnant, or the rest of her seed, in verse 17. The woman's seed compares with the firstborn ones of Heb 12:23, "which are written in heaven"; and "the firstfruits unto God" (Rev 14:4); and the "kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (Jas 1:18). The man child that was caught up unto God was that part of the woman's seed, or children, who were martyrs-- "the souls of them that were slain for the word of God," under the altar, in the suffering of death in Rev 6:9-11; and on thrones in the state of victory in Rev 20:4. The remnant, or rest of the woman's seed, or children, remained on the earth to suffer persecution but not martyrdom. It compares also with the account of the two witnesses who ascended up to heaven in Rev 11:12, and the effect on the enemies who beheld them. (See comments on Rev 11:12) It is not unusual in the symbolic imagery of scripture description to characterize members of the church as its children. Examples of this use are found in Rom 7:1-4; Gal 4:26; Heb 12:23; Heb 12:28; 2Jn 1:1; 2Jn 1:4; 2Jn 1:13. 4. Who was to rule all nations--Rev 12:5. The reason apparently for the interpretation that the man child refers to Christ is the statement of verse 5, that he "was to rule all nations with a rod of iron." But this same phrase was used in the language of Christ to the members of the Thyatira church in Rev 2:26-27 : "He that overcometh . . . to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron." The rod of iron was the symbol of the impact of the gospel on the pagan world through the victory of the church, resulting from their persecutions. It signified the inexorable character of the law of the gospel in retribution and reward. It was by teaching and practice that those who should overcome all oppression would rule with Christ, and thereby execute his unfailing law as with a rod of iron. (See comments on Rev 2:26-27 and in GOD'S PROPHETIC WORD, p. 192.)

Verse 6

Rev 12:6. This wilderness was the period of the Dark Ages where the length of it is given in words and which is the same 1260 that the other computations give. All through that period the true church was alive but was in comparative obscurity because of the oppressive domination of the institution of Rome with its union of church and state But her child--the spirit of self-determination--was alive and tenderly watched over by an infinite Guardian, and was destined some day to "make his mark in the world" upon the return of his mother from the wilderness. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 6. (3) The woman's flight into the wilderness--Rev 12:6. 1. And the woman fled into the wilderness. The context of these visions surrounded the events prior to and including the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, and the scattering of the church in Judea by onslaught of persecution. Jesus foretold such a flight in his description of the destruction of Jerusalem in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew. This cannot be considered an application too light or limited or unimportant for this vision. The portent was tremendous. It was of extremely ominous and terrible proportions. In the Lord's warnings and in his own forebodings he exhorted them to pray that the flight might not come at a time when hindrances to the flight could not be overcome, and the difficulties of escape would be insurmountable i.e. to the woman with child, who could be greatly handicapped in flight; in the winter when the cold weather would add to suffering and misery; on the sabbath day, when due to the Jewish observance of the sabbath the exits of the city would be closed, its gates locked, barring an expeditious flight, and they would find themselves entrapped. (See GOD'S PROPHETIC WORD, p. 336-337) The period of escape from Jerusalem after the city was alerted would be so short that the Lord warned the one on the housetop not to come down to enter his house for even clothing or food; and the laborer in the field not to return to his house for such purpose, for the same reason. Describing the horrors of the siege Jesus called it "the tribulation of those days" and quoted the prophecy of Dan 12:11 on "the abomination of desolation" (Mat 24:15) as being fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. During the siege one million one hundred thousand people perished. All the houses and underground chambers were filled with perishing bodies; famishing people ate the putrified flesh of human corpses; mothers ate the flesh of their own babies. Outside the besieged city the expatriated race of Jews throughout the empire were slaughtered. In his chronicles on the destruction of Jerusalem Josephus, the eye-witness historian, verifies the declaration of our Lord in Mat 24:21 : "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." Since the Lord Himself declares that no event of the future could exceed the tribulation, there can be no reason to search for events in later history, or to engage in speculation on events of future history to fulfill the identical symbolic descriptions of Revelation. The signs and symbols of Revelation were but the extensions of the twenty- fourth chapter of Matthew, spoken by the Lord Himself in Matthew's record and extended by his servant John in the visions of Revelation. In this verse, Rev 12:6, John stated that "the woman (the church) fled into the wilderness." This was precisely what Jesus commanded his disciples to do. When the signs which he had set forth should appear Christians in Jerusalem and Judea were to make hasty their flight. In Mat 24:33 Jesus said to them: "When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors." In the parallel record of Luk 21:20, He said, "When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh"--and they did know it. In Mat 24:16 the Lord said, "Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains." In Luk 21:21, the parallel adds, "And let them which are in the midst of it (Jerusalem) depart out"--and they did, they departed and fled. As generally known, Josephus was an eyewitness to the siege of Jerusalem and the events preceding it. In Wars, Book III, Section 3, page 3, he relates that after the armies of Cestius Gallius, Roman general, had besieged Jerusalem, they withdrew--and in this interval the disciples fled, according to the Lord's admonition. The historian Josephus was an unbeliever and admitted his inability to account for the cessation, but declared it was nevertheless a fact. All who believe the statements of the Lord in Matthew twentyfour, Mark thirteen and Luke twenty-one, know and understand the why-it was the Lord's doing. Another later historian, Eusebius, whose history bears date of 324 A. D., states in Book III, Section 3, page 3, that the church in Jerusalem, by divine revelation, fled to the mountain country of Pella, beyond the Jordan, which according to Josephus was largely a desert, mountain region. The Lord of the descriptions and signs of Matthew's record of the destruction of Jerusalem is the Lord of the portrayals and symbols of Revelation. There is no difference in the command for all the Christians in Jerusalem and Judea to flee to the desert region of Pella, in the record of Matthew and Luke, and the statement in Rev 12:6, that she fled into the wilderness. 2. To a place prepared of God. The disciples' flight was to a place where Jesus had directed them: "Let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains." But Revelation states that the woman fled to "a place prepared of God." The place where Jesus commanded is the place that God prepared. The descriptions are parallel. Furthermore, Jesus said in Mat 24:34 : "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." All of the signs of Mat 24:1-51 are above verse 34. Jesus said they were all fulfilled in the generation of people who heard his words. (For further discussion on the destruction of Jerusalem, see GOD'S PROPHETIC WORD, pp. 246-260.) It is so with the symbols of Revelation. Jesus said to the disciples in Luk 21:31-32 : when "ye see" and "know ye"; and "I say unto you." His emphasis was on the fulfillment of the signs in events of their own lives. The parallel in Revelation is verse 3 of chapter 1: "Blessed is he that readeth (the one who read it to the churches); and they that hear (heed) the words; and they that keep (remember and observe); for the time is at hand." If the time of these things was so remote as to be yet future, there was no point in this exhortation for them, and no application to them. As the signs of Mat 24:1-51 were fulfilled in that generation of living people, so the symbols of Revelation were fulfilled in the experiences of the existing churches. 3. That they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. Here is an instance of a literal period of time, a specific date, introduced into a figurative and symbolic context. There is another identical example of a specific date connected with the context of prophetic language. In the seventh chapter of Isaiah it was prophesied that the ten tribes would cease. Ephraim was forming an alliance against Judah. The prophet said it would not stand, that Ephraim would be broken, cease to be a separate people, and become extinct as a nation. In fulfillment of it they went into captivity and never came out one people again. Now, read the prophecy of specific time period and historical dates from Isa 7:1-25, verses 5 to 8: "Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal: Thus saith the Lord God, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people." The prophet stated that "in threescore and five years (sixty-five years) shall Ephraim be broken that it be not a people." The date of this prophecy is 733 B. C., according to such authorities as Wordsworth, Adam Clarke and Pulpit Commentary. The event prophesied was fulfilled in 669 B. C.--exactly sixty-five years later. The date of Ephraim's decease was linked with the prophecy that the invasion of Judah by Samaria would fail. That invasion did fail. The prophet said Ephraim would cease to be a people. Ephraim did cease to be a people. It all occurred within the "threescore and five years," between 733 B.C. and 669 B.C.--the specific time period and date. (For further discussion of Isa 7:5-8 see GOD'S PROPHETIC WORD, p. 409.) The context yields the same exact computation of a thousand two hundred and threescore days of the woman's flight into the wilderness. It was the same period of "the forty and two months" of the preceding chapter eleven-- the same mathematical time period in which Jerusalem, "the holy city" was trodden "under foot forty and two months." In the record of Luk 21:24, this period of the treading under foot of Jerusalem was limited by the phrase "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." It was the same period as the "forty and two months" of Rev 11:3, and the thousand two hundred and threescore days of chapter 12:6. The specific mathematical period designated, historically verified, follows this order: Emperor Nero delivered the mandate for the siege of Jerusalem to Vespasian, his imperial officer, in the month of February A. D. 67 when the war against Judea was declared. This was the beginning of the period which ended in August A. D. 70, when the city of Jerusalem was razed, ravished and destroyed; the temple was desecrated and demolished, bringing an end to Judaism and the Jewish state. This exact computation is attested, as mentioned previously, in the authoritative works of Jewish Testimonies, Volume VIII, by Lardner, and Wars of Jews, Volume VII, by Josephus. No further evidence is necessary. As in Isaiah's prophecy, the end of the twelve tribes was a specific mathematical period of sixty five years-so the time period covering the flight of the woman into the wilderness was chronological--the forty-two months or twelve hundred and sixty days in which Jerusalem was besieged. There is no need to look farther away for the fulfillment of these apocalypses. Every effort to bring them down through medieval history and "the dark ages" has been anachronistic and impossible. But assigning Revelation to the same period as all the other epistles of the New Testament, all of which were written before the impending trial and tribulation and distress, lends coherency and harmony to its apocalyptic delineations.

Verse 7

Rev 12:7. War in heaven. We must keep in mind that everything being described is symbolic and shown to John right there on that isle of Pat-mos. But also we should not forget that inspired symbols stand for actual facts and truths. This war was not the first conflict that the forces of heaven had had with Satan for Jesus said he saw him fall from heaven (Luk 10:18). And Paul tells us what was the cause of the first conflict, namely, his pride (1Ti 3:6). Ever since that event he has been the bitter enemy of heaven and all that pertains thereto, never losing an opportunity of getting in his evil work. Now when he sees this expectant mother in heaven (verse 1) he is determined to start a war over it. Just why or how the devil could be present in the vicinity of the angels is not told us in detail, but we know from Job 1:6 Job 2:1 that he has been suffered in the past to be present at gatherings of the angels before God. But the time Jesus saw him fall as cited in Luke was not on the occasion of this war, for the angels who won in the war ascribed the victory to the blood of the Lamb, and when Jesus said he saw Satan fall from heaven was before He had shed his blood. Hence this war was just another attempt of Satan to get in his wicked work and head off the plan of the Lord to give to the world a religion free from the entanglements of worldly despotism, and the selfish ambition of wicked men. It was fitting that Michael should be the angel to lead the forces of heaven against Satan, for he is called "one of the chief princes" in Dan 10:13, and chapter 12:1 of that same book says that he is the prince that "standeth for the children of thy people." Comments by Foy E.Wallace Verse 7. THE WAR IN HEAVEN (Rev 12:7-17) There are several words in the general vocabulary of Revelation, the connotations of which must be understood. These are the words: air, earth, sea, quake, heaven, stars and war. The symbols are employed in the following meaning : air, the sphere of life and influence; earth, the place of the nations; sea, society described as either troubled and tossed or placid and peaceful; quake, the political shaking of the nations; heaven, the governments, authorities and dominions; stars, the rulers and officials of governments; war, the upheavals in the governments and among inhabitants of the earth (various provinces of the empire); and the conflicts between the heathen authorities and the church in the waging of the persecutions of the saints. With this nomenclature defined, the various facets of the phraseology employed in the next few verses can be explained. (1) The War with Michael and His Angels--Rev 12:7-8. 1. There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels. The war in heaven meant the hostilities which developed with the tributary governments of Rome. Two classes were here placed in opposition--Michael and his angels are put in opposition to the dragon and his angels. The dragon and his angels represented all of the powers of paganism and darkness. Conversely, Michael and his angels were representative of the truth and the light of Christianity. Michael was represented in Dan 12:1-13 as defender and guardian of Israel. So Michael and his angels were the representatives and protectors of the woman-the persecuted church. They fought against the dragon and his evil angels by the means of the war between the satellites of Rome, because these conflicts within the Roman empire diverted the emperor's attention from the persecutions of the woman and gave respite to the church. History verifies this outbreak of wars within the Roman empire during this period of persecution; and in Mat 24:1-51 Jesus foretold that such wars would exist to "shorten these days."

Verse 8

Rev 12:8. Satan was defeated and neither was their place found any more in heaven. This means that the enemy not only was vanquished but driven from the field. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 8. 2. "And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven"- - Rev 12:8. The almost universal belief that Satan originated in heaven with God and Christ, apostatized from his created angelic state, caused war among the sinless world of God's own heaven, and because he could not be tolerated there, he was expelled to this mundane sphere to trouble and torment all humanity for all time-that is an inherited belief or notion completely out of harmony with the character of heaven. It is a great incongruity. Heaven, where God dwells, is the divine domain of light, where is no darkness, no evil, no apostasy. Hell is the diabolical realm of darkness, where there is no purity, no good, and where light cannot penetrate. The generally accepted view that Satan became a wicked angel in heaven where God dwells, and that he corrupted and recruited other angels for his revolution, puts apostasy in heaven and is incompatible with the nature of the angels of God in heaven. If apostasy can befall the inhabitants of heaven, in consequence it would render insecure all who obtain that world, in that being subject to apostasy they, too, might be expelled. No sin, nothing evil, can enter or prevail in the abode of the pure and holy in the eternal mansions of God's habitation. The passage in Isa 14:12 was descriptive of the degeneration of the king: "How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations." In his degeneracy this wicked king of ancient history, whose depravity weakened the nations, was cut down; he fell from his high place of dominion. The meaning of the heaven from which the Satanic dragon was cast is the same as the heaven from which fell Lucifer, the wicked Babylonian king. When Jesus said to the disciples (Luk 10:18) that he "beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven," he did not mean that with physical sight he had seen the devil as a physical object fall-it was rather the Lord's forecast that he had foreseen Satan's complete defeat and downfall from his throne of evil dominion. It was Satan's own heaven or domain of rulership from which he would fall, and it would come soon and as swiftly as lightning--and it did. When Peter mentioned (2Pe 2:4) the angels that sinned, and were cast down to hell, and delivered to chains of darkness, and reserved to judgment--it was undoubtedly in reference to the downfall of certain representatives of the human race in high estate, the era and details of which the apostle left unmentioned and therefore remains unrevealed. It is more reasonable to theorize that Satan and his devils originated in this manner than to hypothesize that he inhabited and corrupted heaven, the abode of God.

Verse 9

Rev 12:9. Satan was cast out and his angels were cast out with him. This agrees with 2Pe 2:4 and Jud 1:6, and also explains why Jesus speaks of the devil's angels in Mat 25:41. Satan is called that old serpent because he used that beast as his agent in Gen 3:1-4. Deceiveth the whole world does not mean that every person in the world is deceived for there are exceptions. The thought is that all deception that is in the world is to be attributed to him. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Rev 12:9 Verse 9. [See notes on Rev 12:8 for discussion of the "fall" of Satan] 3. And the great dragon was cast out . . . which deceiveth the whole world . . . he was cast out into the earth-- Rev 12:9. The dragon and his evil agents "prevailed not" against Michael's protection of the woman, which he accomplished by the diversion of the emperor's diplomacy to employ his armies to quell the revolutions in many parts of the imperial world. The context of this section was a diversion from the main scene due to the side effects of the involvement of the Roman rulers in the revolutions in their far-flung tributaries. So the statement neither was their place found any more in heaven was a reference to the final outcome, and is not chronological, or in the order of sequence here. The dragon prevailed not--the cause of the woman (the church) which Michael represented triumphed, in the war with heathenism which the dragon represented, and he eventually "prevailed not" but lost his own place in heaven --that is, in the governments which had been used to persecute the church. And, he was cast down to the earth--that is, Satan was cast out of his sphere of influence through the government authorities against the church. He was cast down to the earth--the place of the inhabitants of the nations as distinguished from the children of the woman, the church. The woman had appeared in the same sphere with the dragon in the war in heaven, as antagonists and was represented by Michael against the dragon. In the final outcome of this struggle the dragon lost his place of power and influence--hence, cast down from his high position in which he had been able to deceive the world. Dethroned from his dominion he went in search of other prey, as mentioned in 1Pe 5:8 --"the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." The dragon in the end was seen as having lost "the war in heaven" against the woman. Jesus anticipated this defeat of Satan in Joh 12:31 : "Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out." This judgment was pronounced upon the dragon in the war against the woman. He lost his place of dominion, but continued to deceive the world, as declared by Paul in Eph 2:2 : "According to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." The phrase "prince of the power of the air" denotes a sphere of influence only. Satan has no longer a dominion of power. He is only an influent being who exerts a deceptive influence, an infiltration insensibily affecting the mind and conscience --an inflow of evil. In Revelation the term earth, as previously stated, designated the place of nations, distinguished from the realm of the church. And air refers to the sphere of life and influence. Thus having lost his power of dominion, he is now prince of the power of the air--that is, having only an exercise of influence which only operates through "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." Jesus Christ through the gospel destroyed Satan's power --he holds no power of dominion over any one. He can operate only through the sphere of influence. The one who serves Satan is a willing servant "through the spirit of disobedience." God has the power to destroy both soul and body of one who refuses to serve him (Mat 10:28), but Satan has no power over any one (Heb 2:14); if one does not choose to follow Satan, he can do nothing; he has no power to conscript, and no power to punish. And the great dragon was cast out into the earth. Satan "prevailed not" against the woman, the church, and was "cast out into the earth," the place of the nations, where he would again in a broader effort seek to deceive the whole world, as distinguished from the church. And his angels were cast out with him. These Satanic angels included all of the combined forces of heathenism which he had employed against the church, and as "prince of the power of the air," he continued to operate in the sphere of life and influence through the spirit of disobedience.

Verse 10

Rev 12:10. It was perfectly logical that the righteous persons should rejoice over the defeat of Satan. Nov is come is their way of saying that the kingdom of our God was given another victory through the power of his Christ. Accuser of our brethren. The specific accusation is not stated, but since it was a daily performance we may conclude that it refers to the general opposition that Satan has always waged against the Lord and his faithful servants. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 10. (2) The victory of the woman--Rev 12:10-17. It should be remembered that with the twelfth chapter there is the beginning of the recapitulation of all the events depicted in the first series of visions from chapter four to eleven. The first series of symbols surrounded Christ the conqueror; the second series encompassed the same events in a new set of symbols and surrounded the woman, the church in the midst of that period of trial. The verses now under consideration set forth the woman's victory over the dragon and parallels the triumph of the Rider of the white horse of the sixth chapter who was the conquering Christ of the closing verses of chapter eleven. 1. And I heard a loud voice saying, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ--Rev 12:10. This "loud voice" of victory reverted to the chorus of "great voices" in Rev 11:15; and the exclamation "now is come salvation . . . and the kingdom of our God" was repetitive of the refrain of Rev 11:15, "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ." The meaning is that the kingdoms of the world became the kingdoms of the Lord by the conversion of its citizens. It was the anticipation of the world-wide expansion of Christianity through the gospel, after the destruction of Jerusalem, as forecast by the Lord in Mat 24:31 --and that is the meaning of the statement, "now is come salvation . . . and the kingdom of our God." The salvation here meant deliverance of the woman (the church) from the dragon; and strength referred to the source of endurance; and the power of his Christ referred to that authority higher than Rome's emperor, that divine rod of iron by which the power of Satan, personified in the persecutor, had been broken and by which his diabolical character had been exposed. 2. For the accuser of our brethren is cast down--Rev 12:10. In verse 9 it states that the dragon was cast out into the earth--the place of the nations, or the political society. This was not the positions of government authority included within the sphere of the phrase in heaven. In verse 10 the dragon (the persecutor) was called the accuser of our brethren. This referred to that part of the offspring of the woman who were not martyrs, but were like the seer of the apocalypse on Patmos: "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ." The emphasis put on the accuser of our brethren by the additional statement, which accused them before our God day and night, indicated the habitual character of the dragon-accuser, that the oppositions of the persecutor would be persistent and continuous.

Verse 11

Rev 12:11. The pronoun they stands for "our brethren" in the preceding verse, who are said to have overcome Satan in the war that was fought in heaven. Verse 7 says that Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. There is no conflict in the statements which show that the forces of heaven are always ready to join in any battle with the forces of evil. This recalls the statement of Paul in Heb 1:14 that the angels are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." Overcame him by the blood of the Lamb. The blood had brought them the hope of salvation and that hope gave them the courage to fight Satan. By the word of their testimony. They persisted in their defence of the testimony of Jesus and that helped to put Satan to flight. Jas 4:7 says, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Loved not their lives unto death. Their faith in the righteousness of their Master's cause was so strong that even the threat or presence of death could not dampen their zeal. (See Mat 10:28.) An army of such soldiers can rout the fiercest attacks of Satan. Verse 11. 3. But they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death--Rev 12:11. The victors here are not the same company as Michael and his hosts of verse 7. The dragon had lost that war and had been cast out of that sphere of conflict but continued his opposition to the brethren of those of whom Michael was defender and protector-- he extended his persecutions to the woman's offspring, or the church beyond the region of Jerusalem and Judea. But as Michael and his hosts had prevailed against him in Judea so did the brethren elsewhere who became the objects of the dragon's extended persecutions. And this verse commemorates by anticipations the victory which the saints had won on the ground or cause and by the means of the blood of the Lamb, the shed blood of Christ. The further reason for their victory was the word of their testimony-- because of the faithful testimony which they had borne in oral declarations. The high tribute in the praise that they loved not their lives unto death meant that these persecuted saints had disregarded their lives for the sake of their cause; in the willingness to join the martyrs they displayed the fidelity that brought them victory over their accuser and persecutor.

Verse 12

Rev 12:12. These happy victors are bidding all the domain of intelligent creatures to rejoice over the situation. However, while the devil has lost this battle, he has not been put out of existence but will use every opportunity that appears for opposing the friends of truth. For this reason the inhabitants of earth and sea are given warning of what to expect. There are literally no creatures in the sea in which Satan is interested. The phrase is a figure of speech that means all creatures everywhere will be the victims of Satan's hatred. Hath but a short time. Whatever Satan accomplishes against the spiritual interests of mankind must be done while the world stands. After that he and his angels will be cast into the lake of eternal fire from which they will never escape even temporarily. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 12. 4. Therefore, rejoice ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them--Rev 12:12. The power of the persecutors broken, and the accuser of the brethren exposed, was here the cause for this rejoicing of the heavens--because it had been delivered from the evil spirit of the accuser. The heavens here meant that spiritual realm referred to in Eph 1:3 as the heavenly places. The phrase and ye that dwell in them meant that these heavens are the spiritual abode of every faithful soul. (Eph 2:6) It is that spiritual sphere of the church in which He dwells to lead and instruct his followers, and in which his power had kept them through their faith in Him and their fidelity to His cause. (Eph 3:17) This benedictory is comparable to the prophet's song of rejoicing for Israel in Isa 49:13 : "Sing 0 heavens; and be joyful 0 earth . . . ` for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted." The Isaiah passage referred to Israel of the Old Testament in exile, and this Revelation text refers to the church of the New Testament in their period of persecution. 5. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time--Rev 12:12. The persecutions which had been focused on one sphere of the dragon's activity in the realm of governments against Jerusalem were not expanded to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea. The word earth here was used to denote the land of Palestine--as the reference to the beast of the land designated the Palestinian persecutor. The word sea indicated the regions of the empire beyond the land of Israel. The dragon's defeat in the first sphere of his war against the woman intensified the activities of his persecutions, and having great wrath he transferred his oppositions and expanded them to the earth and the sea--to all regions where the children of the woman, the objects of his wrath, could be found. The statement because he knoweth that he hath but a short time was based on the fundamental principle pervading the apocalypse--"which things must shortly come to pass" (Rev 1:1); and "the time is at hand" (Rev 1:3). The binding of Satan, the dragon, and casting him into "the bottomless pit" were included in the things which in the first chapter of the Revelation the seer announced as at hand, and must shortly come to pass; which things in the last chapter he declared must shortly be done (Rev 22:6); and quickly to occur (Rev 22:7); and, once more, at hand (Rev 22:10). From the first chapter to the last the Revelation repeatedly emphasized the immediacy of the events, removing them from remote fulfillment. It forms a solid argument for the fulfillment of the symbols of Revelation in the experiences of the churches addressed. The extension of the apocalypse to the medieval centuries, to the dark ages, to the present day, and to the end of time is the greatest anachronism in all history.

Verse 13

Rev 12:13. Was cast unto the earth. The attempts of Satan against the forces of heaven were completely overthrown. That left only the territory of the earth for future operations, and as a persistent general he began at once to carry out his wicked strategy. His objective was to persecute the woman (the church) who had given birth to the man child, namely, the principle of "self-determination." Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 13. 6. He persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child--Rev 12:13. Here the scenes narrated in verses four to nine were resumed. These descriptions repeated in different symbols the events of the first series which chapters four to eleven had envisioned. In verses four to nine of this chapter the woman's flight into the wilderness was related. Here in verses 13 and 14 the reason and manner of her flight were described. The reason was that under the guardianship of Michael and his hosts the dragon and his forces prevailed not in the "war in heaven"--in the high places of authority in governments-- against the woman's seed. Being defeated it was said that neither was their place found any more in heaven--that is, in the sphere of previous activity against the church, in the realm of political authority and government. But Michael's triumph and the dragon's failure to destroy the woman's seed did not prevent the further persecutions. Enraged at being thwarted in his plans to annihilate the church by the destruction of the man child in Jerusalem, where it was born, and which was caught up to God and to his throne, the dragon turns upon the woman and launched a general persecution against the whole church. It was at this point and for this reason that the woman fled into the wilderness (verse 6), the manner of the flight being described here in verse 13. The "two wings of a great eagle" that were given to her was the same symbol of divine strength employed in the exodus of Israel from Egypt. In Exo 19:4 God said to Israel, "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagle's wings, and brought you unto myself." The instinct of the eagle, when its young are ready to attempt flight, is to hover over the nest and flutter its wings to lead the young ones into the venture. In Deu 32:1-52, in the Song of Moses, it is recorded that "as an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreacleth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him (Israel), and there was no strange God with him." In this same imagery, and doubtless in allusion to it, the seer of Revelation represents God's hovering protection and imparted strength in the flight of the woman from besieged Jerusalem into the wilderness, as God did for Israel in the exodus from Egypt, to "a place prepared of God" (verse 6), or "into her place" (verse 14) --the same place. As previously noted, the Lord foretold this flight in similar description of the tribulation of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, "such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." According to this statement of the Lord there cannot ever be events of the future to fulfill these descriptions. It is evident that the context of Revelation is only an extension of the Lord's predictions in Matthew twenty-four, and that the Revelation was received and recorded several years before the destruction of Jerusalem, the impending "present distress" of 1Co 7:26, which was so soon coming upon the church of the God. In the same Corinthian context the apostle said, "the time is short." The darkest threatening cloud and the most frightening, horrifying portents hanging over the whole church, were the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and their attending tribulations.

Verse 14

Rev 12:14. This is a repetition of verse 6 with the additional information about the two wings that were given her. They are symbols and refers to the Old and New Testament, for it is the word of God that sustains the church in all the trying scenes of this world. It is by this word the woman (the church) was to be nourished (given spiritual food) while she is in the wilderness. The length of her exile in the wilderness is the same actual period that has been stated elsewhere, only it is indicated with different figurative terms. The word "time" in figurative language means "year;" this is indicated in Dan 4:16 Dan 7:25 Dan 12:7. Our verse calls for time (one), times (two) and half a time. It sums up three and a half times or years. Multiply 360 by three and a half and you have 1260, the period of the Dark Ages. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 14. 7. Where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent--Rev 12:14. In this wilderness, or place prepared of God, where Jesus instructed the disciples who later formed the Jerusalem church to flee, the verse states concerning the woman that she was nourished for a time, times and a half time. This nourishment of the woman in "her place" compares with the manna by which Israel was fed in the wilderness, upon which event this description is based. In the Old Testament experience it was the result of the flight from Egypt of the church of Moses in the wilderness of Sinai; in the experience of Revelation it was the church of Christ in the flight from Jerusalem to her place in the wilderness of Pella --that place prepared of God, where she was nourished by providential protection. The numerical designation for a time, and times and half a time was equivalent to the forty and two months (of Rev 11:2), and the thousand two hundred and threescore days of Rev 11:3 and Rev 12:6, and they were equal to the same thing. They all refer, as explained in the comments on their mention in the preceding verses, to the mathematically calculated period of twelve hundred and sixty days between Nero's order to Vespasian in the declaration of war and the completion of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem which brought an end to the Jewish state and the system of Judaism. The mystically phrased expression of time and times and half a time was related to the ebbing and flowing of the tide of the persecutions and was comparable to the reference in Rev 17:8 : "the beast that was, and is not, and yet is." The beast was when the persecutor was active; the beast was not when there was an interval of time between the persecutions; and the beast was seen as being reactivated in the last expression yet is. In a similar way the time and the times, of Revelation 12, referred to the period of the persecution in stages, and the expression half a time was the symbolic reference to the shortening of the period of tribulation as indicated in Rev 11:9 in the expression three days and a half, and as foretold by the Lord in Mat 24:22. It is consistent that the time and times and half a time shall be considered to mean the same shortened period as indicated in the expression three days and an half, in both of which the exact period from the commencement of the siege to the termination of it was certainly designated. (See comments on Rev 11:9) It is said in verse 14 that the woman was nourished for this time from the face of the serpent (verse 14), in a place far from, and safe from, the scene of the siege and its accompanying trials, humiliations and horrors.

Verse 15

Rev 12:15. Sometimes when specific temptations do not make the desired "dent" in the character of a Christian, he may be finally overcome by an avalanche of afflictions. The devil (in the form of a serpent) tried this last method on the church. It was symbolized by having the devil cast a flood of water out of his mouth, hoping to engulf the woman in it there being no way to escape due to its volume. The Roman Empire used both methods in opposing the Lord's people. Sometimes an outstanding instance would be used such as burning a man at the stake or nailing some disciple to a cross. Then again the government would let loose a wholesale sweep of persecutions. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 15. 8. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood--Rev 12:15. The water as a flood from the mouth of the serpent was the symbol of an overwhelming tide of persecution, combining all of the Satanic forces of destruction at the command of the serpent. The psalmist David used the same imagery in Psa 18:4; Psa 18:16 : "The floods of ungodly men made me afraid . . . he drew me out of many waters." In a poem of salvation Isaiah, the prophet, exclaimed: "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." (Isa 59:19) The prophet Jeremiah foretold the destruction of Philistia with the same symbolic description as David and Isaiah: "Behold waters rise out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land and all that is therein: then the men shall cry and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl." (Jer 47:2) The most significant Old Testament use of the flood symbol is Daniel's parallel prophecy on the destruction of Jerusalem, generally referred to as "the seventy weeks of Daniel." (Dan 9:27) The mathematical computations bring the fulfillment of this prophecy from "the going forth" of the commandment to rebuild and restore the temple to the final destruction of Jerusalem--the whole period from the proclamation of Cyrus to the end of the Jewish commonwealth-- in the words of Daniel "the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." (Dan 9:26) The dual phrases "the end thereof shall be with a flood" and "unto the end of the war desolations are determined" referred to the flood of persecution and the end of the war terminating in the fall of Jerusalem and end of the Jewish state. Thus the prophecy of Daniel is identified and merged with the apocalypse of John on the siege with its overwhelming flood of persecution. Such is the evident application of Rev 12:15 --"And the serpent cast out of his mouth as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood." The woman escaped this flood of the horrible onslaught of this war of the Romans against Jerusalem, declared by Nero, ordered by Vespasian and executed by Cestius Gallius and his general, Titus. These related events blend naturally and historically with the apocalypse, and they are not anachronistic.

Verse 16

Rev 12:16. In the case of a flood there would appear to be no possible way of escape. But an unexpected opening in the earth let the water down and the woman was thereby saved. Likewise it happens that when matters seem to be at a crisis, and when "no earthly help is nigh," something will occur to defeat the enemy and rescue the would-be victim. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 16. 9. "And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth"--Rev 12:16. The symbol of the earth in Revelation has been defined as the place of nations. That was its meaning here. The rebellions and uprisings and local wars which were occurring and increasing at this time, causing many conflicts among the subordinate kingdoms and nations of the empire, diverted the attention and action of Rome, and thus detracted Roman authorities from the persecutions. It had the effect of a diversionary strategy. Here again the predictions of Jesus in Matthew twentyfour parallel the apocalypses of Revelation. Jesus said: "For nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." This is exactly what occurred--and that is how the earth helped the woman and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. The leading thought is that divine providence overruled the transpiring events to protect and sustain and deliver the woman--his church--in the day of her persecution.

Verse 17

Rev 12:17. If the devil fails to make a wholesale destruction of the church, he will work on as many of the individual members as he can contact. This is the only explanation I can see that will harmonize the parts of this verse which might seem to be in difficulty. The woman (the church) is made up of individual disciples, and to attack one is to attack the other. Yet there is a distinction between the church as a whole and the individual members thereof. Paul said "ye are the body of Christ, and member in particular" (1Co 12:27). Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 17. 10. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ--Rev 12:17. Because his strategy to destroy the church within Jerusalem, by the woman's flight and the help she received from the earth, the dragon's wrath, mentioned in verse 12, was intensified in the persecution of the remnant of her seed--or as otherwise translated, the rest of her seed. By the phrases remnant, or rest of her seed was meant that part of the church which did not dwell in Jerusalem and Judea and was not of the martyred number. The woman's seed was composed of two classes--first, the man child, represented collectively as firstfruits, who were caught up unto God, symbolizing the martyrs; second, the remnant or rest of her children who were not martyrs, but remained on the earth to pass through the tribulation. The word man child is an aggregate term which could not have referred to a single person, anymore than the collective phrase rest of her seed could have had singular meaning. The text will not yield to the view that the woman's man child was Christ. There is no principle of exegesis which can represent the church as the mother of Christ. But there are numerous examples that represent both the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New Testament collectively as composed of the same ones who are separately called the children, as a part of the whole. Hos 4:6 referred to Israel as a whole, and then mentioned them as "thy children." Isa 66:7-8 prophesied of the nation that brings forth children. Jer 31:15 had "Rachel (the nation of Israel) weeping for her children." (Also Mat 2:18) Dan 12:1 made reference to Israel as a people, but as "thy children." Mat 13:38 refers to the "children of the kingdom." The kingdom is composed collectively of them all, as a whole, yet they were children of it. Gal 4:26 calls the spiritual Jerusalem "the mother of us all"--it is composed of us all collectively, but the mother of us all separately. Heb 12:23 refers to the general assembly and church of the first born. The word firstborn is in the plural number in the Greek text and means the firstborn ones. The general assembly and church are collective, but the firstborn are the children of it. So it is in Revelation with the woman--the church; and her seed, children composed of the two classes--the man child (martyrs) caught up unto God; and the rest of her seed, throughout the empire, against which the dragon "went to make war," and who, with the plaudit of the seer, kept "the commandments of God" and had "the testimony of Jesus Christ." The commandments mentioned here pertained to their fidelity in the tribulation; and the expression the testimony of Jesus Christ referred to the witness or testimony that He had borne to them concerning the outcome of the period of trial through which they were passing, as in Rev 3:20 : "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation (trial) which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell in it." The world referred to the Roman world, and them that dwell on the earth referred to Christians in every kingdom, nation or tributary, in every place or part of the empire. (3) The summary of the symbols. The context of chapter twelve yields three major points which must be classified and discriminated in order: First, the woman was a symbol of the Jerusalem church --represented as "the new Jerusalem," in chapter 21:2 at the close of the Revelation, and stands for the whole church. Second, the man child referred to the martyred souls as "the firstfruits unto God and the Lamb." (Rev 6:10-11 Rev 14:4 Rev 20:4) The woman's seed "caught up unto God and to his throne," who thereby entered into a state of victory over the dragon and his wrath in a distinctive sense. (Rev 12:5) Third, the remnant or rest of the woman's seed were distinguished from the man child, as being that part of the woman's seed who suffered the trials of the great tribulation but were not slain or beheaded as were the martyrs. (See Rev 6:9-11 and Rev 20:4) The woman of this chapter, therefore, must be considered as the organic body of the church--the totality of its members; distinguished from her seed, or children--the constituent members of it, in the two classes mentioned. The text and context will sustain this analysis, and these viewpoints can be maintained.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 12". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/revelation-12.html. 1952.