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Bible Commentaries

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Revelation 12



Other Authors

1.What appeared in heaven r

2.Tell what personage was seen.

3.With what was she clothed?

4.Tell what was under her feet.

5.What was on her head?

6.How many stars did it have?

7.State the condition of this woman.

8.What other wonder appeared in heaven?

9.How many heads and horns did it have?

10.What did he do with his

11.Where did the dragon stand?

12.What was his purpose?

13.Tell what the woman then did.

14.State what this child was to do.

15.What now was done with the child?

16.And what did the woman do now?

17.Tell what God had here done for her.

18.For how long will she be there?

19.What occurred in heaven?

20.Who were the combatants?

21.How did the contest end?

22.What was done to the dragon and his angels?

23.When did they return to their place there?

24.State the names of the dragon.

25.Where did John hear a voice?

26.In what were they rejoicing?

27.Who had been cast down?

28.By what did they overcome him?

29.What was their attitude toward death?

30.What were the heavens bid do?

31.Why the woe to the inhabitants of the earth?

32.For what reason is the devil full of wrath?

33.What did the dragon realize?

34.This caused him to persecute whom?

35.What had the woman done?

36.Tell what was given to the woman.

37.For what use were they to her?

38. "ro what place did she fly?

39. How is she to be treated while there?

40. For how long will this continue?

41.From what face. is she thus separated?

42.What was then cast from the serpent"s mouth1

43.In what amount was it?

44. State his purpose in this.

45.What helped the women?

46.By what act did it do so?

47.How did this affe.t the dragon?

48.What did he go to make?

49.With whom was it to be?

50. What were these people keeping?

Verse 1

As an aid in identifying this woman we will learn that she is the one who lived through the1260 years of the apostasy (verse6). 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 ( Ephesians 3:10; 1 Timothy 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" ( Matthew 19:28).

Verse 2

This verse describes the mother, but the literal facts are symbols of something that is not literal.

Verse 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 Revelation 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 ( Daniel 7:7), and they correspond to the ten toes of the giant image in Nebuchadnezzar"s dream.

Verse 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.

Verse 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 ( Matthew 23:9). It taught that all men were to consult the word of God for their guidance ( James 1:25). That the Lord"s servants are to speak as the oracles of God ( 1 Peter 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. ( Daniel 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.

Verse 6

This wilderness was the period of the Dark Ages where the length of it is given in words and which is the same1260 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.

Verse 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 Patmos. 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 ( Luke 10:18). And Paul tells us what was the cause of the first conflict, namely, hit pride ( 1 Timothy 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 (verse1) 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 and 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 Daniel 10:13, and chapter12:1 of that same book says that he is the prince that "standeth for the children of thy people."

Verse 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.

Verse 9

Verse9. Satan was cast out and his angels were cast out with him. This agrees with 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6, and also explains why Jesus speaks of the devil"s angels in Matthew 25:41. Satan is called that old serpent because he used that beast as his agent in Genesis 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.

Verse 10

It was perfectly logical that the righteous persons should rejoice over the defeat of Satan. Now 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.

Verse 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. Verse7 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 Hebrews 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. James 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 Matthew 10:28.) An army of such soldiers can rout the fiercest attacks of Satan.

Verse 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,

Verse 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."

Verse 14

This is a repetition of verse6 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 ‘p_‘year;" this is indicated in Daniel 4:16; Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7. Our verse calls for time (one), times (two) and half a time. It sums up three and a half times or years. Multiply360 by three and a half and you have1260 , the period of the Dark Ages.

Verse 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.

Verse 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.

Verse 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" ( 1 Corinthians 12:27).


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Bibliography Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 12:4". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

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