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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Revelation 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-17

WOMAN throughout the Bible symbolizes Church. In this verse the sun represents the New Dispensation of entire sanctification, with which the Church is clothed during the Gospel Age; while the moon emblematizes Mosaic justification, and the twelve stars are the apostles.

3. Christ was born of a woman — i.e., the Church — amid the terrible menaces of Satan, who sent wicked Herod to destroy Him in His infancy. The seven heads and seven diadems emblematize the seven governments of Rome, the mighty empire of Satan; i.e., the kings, consuls, dictators, triumvirs, tribunes, emperors, and popes, who ruled the world two thousand years. The ten horns are the ten great political powers into which the Roman world was disintegrated when the barbarians dethroned the Csars.

4. His tail draws the third part of heaven and casts them upon the earth.” This is evidently a prophetical retrospection, in which John sees the fall of Lucifer and the angels who followed his influence. Isaiah 14:12 :

“How thou art fallen, O Lucifer, the son of the morning!”

This was the first origin of sin, and one-third of the angels seemed to have followed in the sad apostasy. In this unfortunate defection all the fallen angels became devils, were cast out of heaven, and have since populated earth and hell. Of course, the angels were on probation, as we are, or they would not have fallen. Presumptively the probation in these heavenly worlds has already expired, as ours will at the end of time. Therefore, there is no longer a probability of apostasy in heaven. As Satan in his Unfallen state was one of the brightest and most intellectual of all created intelligences, and doubtless had been present, and perhaps performed some important offices in the creation of this world, therefore, when cast out of heaven, he immediately set his heart on the earth, determined to possess it, and thus augment the narrow dominions of hell. After the conquest of Eden, he was constantly on the lookout for Immanuel, his old enemy, who had led the embattled host and ejected him from heaven.

5. Here is a retrospection of the incarnation and the terrible persecution against the Messiah, which began under Herod in His infancy, hounded Him to the bloody cross, and has pursued His Church, with diabolical malignity, ever since; and rest assured, he will never let up till the millennial angel binds him and casts him into hell.

7. In this graphic description of the war in heaven, Dr. Clarke (as in Daniel 12:1) identifies Michael with Christ. “The Angel of the Covenant,” so frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, is believed be the excarnate Christ.

10. We learn here that Satan, from his apostasy, has been the accuser of the brethren, as he wickedly and falsely maligned the innocent angels before the Almighty, thus filling heaven with confusion till he was cast out. So he has indefatigably pursued that course on earth. Martin Luther says he appeared before him in an embodied form, held up for his inspection the long, dark catalogue of his sins, and assured Luther that they were too great to ever be forgiven; but when he approached the devil and wrote beneath that long, black catalogue, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin,” Satan cowardly fled away. In Nehemiah we have the scene of Joshua, the high priest, standing before God in polluted apparel, and Satan standing at his right hand, relentlessly accusing him, and pretentiously vindicating the divine glory with wonderful assiduity, persistently berating the impudent presumption of Joshua to think the aggravated and persistent idolatry of Israel could be forgiven consistently with the purity and glory of the divine sovereignty. In the midst of Satan’s accusations, a bright angel sweeps down from heaven, strips Joshua of his soiled garments, which symbolized Israel’s sins, and invests him with a shining robe, white as snow. At this moment, the devil takes his flight.

Satan upsets more Christians in this way than any other; i.e., by holding up the dark columns of their flagrant sins for their contemplation. Though these sins have already been forgiven, if Satan can get you to look at them in the absence of the cross, he will first inject discouragement, then doubt, and finally throw his black wing over you, dragging you into apostasy and damnation. Oh, how Satan, by this stratagem, tilts over the sanctified! Introspection is good and helpful, if you will always see your old, dark depravity under the blood. But Satan will try to get you to look at the old rattlesnake den of diabolical passions and lust in the absence of the blood. If you let him play that stratagem on you, he will down you every time.

11. They conquered him through the blood of the Lamb, and through the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death.” Amid all the devices of Satan, you should constantly keep your eye on the blood. If you ever persistently introspect your own heart in the absence of Jesus and the blood you will be in imminent danger of getting into darkness and trouble. Satan will do his utmost to absorb all your attention in the contemplation of your sins, so you will have none for Jesus and the blood. Besides, he will magnify your little innocent infirmities which are not removed in sanctification, but remain till you are glorified, when the soul leaves the body. This glorification not only sweeps away all your infirmities, but confers on you angelic perfection, in which you live in heaven forever. Satan’s fond caprice is to magnify these infirmities into mountains of sin, and get yon to look at them instead of keeping your eye on Jesus and the blood. Remember, as this verse says, you conquer all of your sins by the blood and defeat the devil by your testimony. If you permit your testimony to flicker, the devil will get the advantage of you discourage, weaken, and ruin you. Your heart is for Jesus; you give it to Him and keep it in His possession by faith. Hence, your consecration and faith are for God; but your testimony is for the devil. In this way you get the victory, and keep him off of you. Did the angels in heaven need the blood of Jesus to conquer the devil? Hebrews 9:23 :

“It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.”

Here is a contrast between the sacrifices of the Levitical law and that of Christ. We see in this Scripture that all heaven needed the purgation which Jesus brought in by His expiatory death. At that time the inhabitants of the heavenly worlds were on probation (which has doubtless since expired). The irregularity of Lucifer’s insurrection was felt and recognized throughout the celestial empire. Christ was the Michael who then led the embattled host to victory in the ejectment of Satan and all of his followers out of the celestial worlds. But this would not suffice. The Divine government must be perfectly vindicated and order completely restored.

Hence, then and there the foundation of the redemption scheme was laid, Christ having volunteered to take the trouble into hand, prosecute the war against sin and Satan to the bitter end, exterminate the malady, completely expurgating all worlds by His precious blood, thus in the finale restoring perfect order and eternal loyalty throughout the universe.

Ephesians 1:10 : In the economy of the fullness of the times to reveal all things in Christ, both the things which are in the heavens and the things which are on the earth were even in Him. Colossians 1:20 corroborates the above, which you see is in harmony with Hebrews 9:23. The word “heaven” in your Bible is “heavens” in the Greek, confirmatory of the universally received astronomy revealing innumerable worlds, which constitute the celestial empire. There is a sense in which Satan’s revolt infected these heavenly worlds. As to this world, the devil actually cut its head off in the capture of its king and queen. Spiritual life is the head of the man. Satan cut it off. Hence the great work of Christ is the restoration of this world and the confirmation of all worlds in their eternal, unshaken, unshakable, and perfect loyalty to the Divine administration. Therefore, the victory over Satan in his ejectment out of heaven and his final defeat on earth, ultimate and eternal banishment from God’s illuminated universe into the darkness of nonentity, infinitely beyond the ultimathule, where the combined illumination of one hundred and seventeen millions of glowing suns have never shot one cheering ray, is all from his first revolt in heaven to his final and immutable doom through the blood of the incarnate Son.

12. No wonder all heaven rejoiced when Satan and his followers were cast out; and we do not wonder that a dismal woe is pronounced on land and sea, because the devil and his innumerable demons have come down, if possible, to ruin every human being, dragging men and women indiscriminately into hell. Satan is in a great rage, burning with the enthusiasm of hell-fire to utilize every possible opportunity, because his time is short. He has already had this world by the throat six thousand years, sweeping them into hell by millions. But this period is very short, when contrasted with the never-ending eternity. While Satan is utterly dead spiritually, and destitute of spiritual light, yet he has a great and powerful intellect. To what extent he understands the Scriptures and fathoms the prophecies, we know not; but it is certain his mighty intellectual perspicacity has a wonderful diagnosis of the divine plans. He is fully assured that embargoes rest on his prerogative in the near future. Doubtless the fearful apostasy of the Churches, and the awful increase of wickedness in the world, especially in the last fifty years, result from Satan’s unprecedented activity and adroitness in the prosecution of every conceivable stratagem for the seduction of souls and the population of hell. The solution of this alarming phenomenon is evidently in the fact that he has prophetic inklings that the Lord’s kingdom is nigh, and his time is very short. Comparatively with eternity it has always been short; but now it is almost gone. No wonder the hosts of hell are all under double duty to get the caverns of damnation filled up before his impending arrest and final imprisonment.

14. Here we see the woman, the persecuted Church, fly before the bloody dragon into the wilderness, where she is kept time, times, and a half-time from the venomous serpent. You see from the phraseology that mysterious period — i.e., “‘time, times, and a half-time,” which Daniel also gives (12:7) — is synonymous with one thousand two hundred and three score days (Revelation 12:6). So you see, from former expositions, it is the well-known prophetic period, 1260 years.

15-17. In these verses we have a prophetical description of what was verified when the Goths, Huns, and Vandals destroyed the Roman Empire, A.D. 476. After the conversion of Constantine, the empire became the upholder of Christianity. When the heathen armies invaded and destroyed imperial Rome, and with her fall ancient civilization passed away, the Christian Church was in imminent peril. These barbarian armies were the floods which Satan poured out of his month to carry away the Church. How did the earth help the woman? When those ruthless barbarians, triumphant in the Roman world, and enriched in the spoils of war, saw the beautiful sunny Southern Europe contrasted with the bleak wilds of their Northern haunts, they desisted from the excitements of conquest, settled down, and became peaceful and enterprising cultivators of the soil. Then the Church preached to them the gospel, and converted them to Christianity. This signal defeat so enraged the devil that he blew up the fires of persecution hotter than ever.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Revelation 12:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/revelation-12.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, August 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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