Revelation Chapter 11
Table of Contents
Revelation Chapter 13a
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Revelation Chapter 12
Verse 1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven;
and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
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An elucidation of this part of the chapter will involve little
more than a mere definition of the symbols introduced. This may be given in few words.
“A woman,” signifies a true church. (2 Corinthians 11:2.)
A corrupt woman is used to represent an apostate or corrupt church.
(Ezekiel 23:2-4; Revelation 17:3-6, 15, 18.) By parity of reasoning, a
pure woman, as in this instance, would represent the true church. “The
sun” here signifies the light and glory of the gospel era. “The
moon” is the symbol of the Mosaic period. As the moon shines with a
borrowed light derived from the sun, so the former era shone with a light
borrowed from the present. There they had the type and shadow; here we
have the antitype and the substance. “A crown of twelve stars”
appropriately symbolizes the twelve apostles. “A great red dragon”
represents pagan Rome. (See comments under verses 4 and 5.) “Heaven” is the space in which this representation was seen by the apostle. We are
not to suppose that the scenes here presented to John took place in heaven
where God resides, for they are events which occurred upon this earth.
This vision which passed before the eye of the prophet, appeared as if in
the region occupied by the sun, moon, and stars, which we speak of as
Verses 1 and 2 cover a period of time beginning just previous to the
opening of the Christian Era, when the church
was earnestly longing for and expecting the advent of the Messiah, and
extending to the full establishment of the gospel church with its crown of
twelve apostles. (Luke 2:25, 26, 38.)
No symbols more fitting and impressive could be found than are here
employed. The Mosaic period shone with a light borrowed from the Christian
Era, even as the moon shines with light borrowed from the sun. How
appropriate, therefore, to represent the former by the moon, and the latter
by the sun. The woman, the church, had the moon under her feet; that is,
the Mosaic period had just ended, and the woman was clothed with the light
of the gospel sun, which had just risen. By anticipation the church is
represented as fully organized, with its twelve apostles, before the man
child, Christ, appeared upon the scene. It was to be thus constituted
immediately after Christ should begin His ministry; and He is more
especially connected with this church than with that of the former period.
There is no ground for misunderstanding the passage; and hence no violence
is done to a correct system of interpretation by this representation.
Verse 4 And his tail drew the third part of the
stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood
before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child
as soon as it was born. 5 And she brought forth a man child, who
was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up
unto God, and to His throne. 6 And the woman fled into the
wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed
her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
“Third Part of the Stars of Heaven.” —The dragon drew
the third part of the stars of heaven. If the twelve stars with which the
woman is crowned, here used symbolically, denote the twelve apostles, then
the stars thrown down by the dragon before his attempt to destroy the man
child, or before the Christian Era, may denote a part of the rulers of the
Jewish people. That the sun, moon, and stars are sometimes used in this
symbolic sense, we have already had evidence in Revelation 8:12. Judea became a Roman province sixty-three years before the birth of the Messiah.
The Jews had three
classes of rulers— kings, priests, and the Sanhedrin. A third of
these, the kings were taken away by the Roman power. Philip Smith, after
describing the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans and Herod, and its
capitulation in the spring of 37 B.C., after an obstinate
resistance of six months, says: “Such was the end of the Asmonean
dynasty, exactly 130 years after the first victories of Judas Maccabaeus,
and in the seventieth year from the assumption of the diadem by Aristobulus
This allusion to the stars undoubtedly has also a wider meaning, and is
related to the truths emphasized in verses 7-9 of this chapter. As a
result of the conflict there brought to view, it is evident that a third
part of the angelic host, who joined with Satan in his rebellion against
the Ruler of the universe, were cast out of the courts of glory.
“The Dragon Stood Before the Woman.” —It now becomes
necessary to identify the power symbolized by the dragon, and this can be
done very easily. The testimony concerning the “man child” which
the dragon seeks to destroy, is applicable to only one being that has
appeared in this world, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. No other one
has been caught up to God and His throne, but He has been thus exalted.
(Ephesians 1:20, 21; Hebrews 8:1, Revelation 3:21.) No other one as
received from God the commission to rule all nations with a rod of iron,
but He has been appointed to this work. (Psalm 2:7-9.)
There can certainly be no doubt that the man child represents Jesus
Christ. The time to which the prophecy refers is equally evident. It was
the time when Christ appeared in this world as a babe in Bethlehem.
It will now be easy to find the power symbolized by the dragon, for the
dragon represents some power which attempted to destroy Christ at His
birth. Was any such attempt made? Who made it? No formal answer to this
question need be given to anyone who has read how Herod, in a fiendish
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effort to destroy the infant Jesus, sent forth and slew all the
children in Bethlehem from two years old and under. But who was Herod? He
was a Roman governor. From Rome Herod derived his power. Rome ruled at
that time over all the world (Luke 2:1), and was therefore the responsible
actor in this event. Moreover, Rome was the only earthly government which
at that time could be symbolized in prophecy, for the very reason
that its dominion was universal. It is not, therefore, without the most
conclusive reason that the Roman
Empire is regarded by Protestant commentators generally to be the power
indicated by the great red dragon.
It may be a fact worth mentioning that during the second, third,
fourth, and fifth centuries of the Christian Era, next to the eagle the
dragon was the principle standard of the Roman legions. That dragon was
painted red, as if in faithful response to the picture held up by the seer
of Patmos they would exclaim to the world, We are the nation which that
Rome, as we have seen, attempted to destroy Jesus Christ through the
fiendish plot of Herod. The child who was born to the waiting and watching
church, was our adorable Redeemer, who is soon to rule the nations with a
rod of iron. Herod could not destroy Him. The combined powers of earth and
hell could not overcome Him. Though held for a time under the dominion of
the grave, He rent its cruel bands, opened a way of life for mankind, and
was caught up to God and His throne. He ascended to heaven in the sight of
His disciples, leaving to them and us the promise that He would come again.
The church fled into the wilderness at the time of the papacy was
firmly established in 538, where it was nourished by the word of God, and
the ministration of angels during the long, dark, and bloody rule of that
power for 1260 years.
Verse 7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and
His angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in
heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent,
called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast
out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 And
I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength,
and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of
our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the
word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to
the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto
you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
War in Heaven. —The first six verses of this chapter, as has
been seen, take us down to the close of the 1260 years in 1798, which
marked the end of the papal supremacy. In the 7th verse it is equally
plain that we are carried back into previous ages. How far? —To the time
first introduced in the chapter, the days of the first advent, when with
fiendish ingenuity Satan working through the power of pagan Rome sought to
destroy the Saviour of men; and also back beyond that time to the very
beginning of the great controversy between truth and righteousness, when in
heaven itself Michael (Christ) and His angels fought against the dragon
(Satan) and his angels. To prove that Michael is Christ, see Jude 9; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; John 5:28, 29.
“Prevailed Not.” —Thank God that in that early
conflict the archdeceiver was defeated. As “Lucifer, son of the
morning,” with envy and hatred in his heart, he had presumptuously led
a host of disaffected angels in rebellion against the government of God.
But the Scripture says he “prevailed not,” and “was cast out
into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
Centuries later at the time of Christ’s first advent, “the great
dragon,” “that old serpent called the devil, and Satan,” put
forth a supreme effort in the guise of the great red dragon, representing
pagan Rome, to destroy the world’s Redeemer. Satan had looked forward to
Christ’s mission to this earth as his last chance of success in
overthrowing the plan of salvation. He came to Christ with specious
temptations, in hope of overcoming Him. He tried in various ways to
destroy Christ during His ministry. When he had succeeded in laying Him in
the tomb, he endeavored, in malignant triumph, to hold Him there. But in
every encounter the Son of God came off triumphant; and He sends back His
gracious promise to His faithful followers: “To him that overcometh
will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame,
and am set down with My Father in His throne.” Revelation 3:21.
This shows us that Jesus while on earth waged a warfare, and obtained
the victory. Satan saw his last effort fail, his last scheme
miscarry. He had boasted that he would overcome the Son of God in His
mission to this world, and thus render the plan of salvation an ignominious
failure. Well he knew that if he was foiled in this his last desperate
effort to thwart the work of God, his last hope had perished, and all was
lost. In the language of verse 8, he “prevailed not,” and hence
the song may well be sung, “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that
dwell in them.”
Their Place Found No More in Heaven. —Satan and the fallen
angels had suffered a terrible defeat, which Christ describes by saying, “I
beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18), and Peter
tells us that these fallen angels have been delivered “into chains of
darkness to be reserved unto judgment” (2 Peter 2:4).
The hope which he had long cherished of overcoming the Son of man when
He took Himself our nature, had forever perished. His power was limited.
He could no more aspire to a personal encounter with the Son of God, for
Christ had vanquished him. Henceforth the church (the woman) is the object
of his malice, and he resorts to all those nefarious means against her that
would naturally characterize his rage.
But hereupon a song is sung in heaven, “Now is come
salvation.” How is this, if these scenes are in the past? Had
salvation and strength and the kingdom of God and the power of His Christ
then come? Not at all; but this song was sung prospectively. Those things
were made sure. The great victory had been won by Christ which forever
settled the question of their establishment.
The prophet then glances rapidly over the working of Satan from that
time to the end (verses 11, 12), during which time the faithful “brethren”
overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony,
while his wrath increases as his time grows short.
It was Satan that moved upon Herod to put the Saviour to death. But
the chief agent of the archrebel in making war
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upon Christ and His people during the early centuries of the Christian
Era was the Roman Empire, in which paganism was the dominant religion.
Thus, while the dragon primarily represents Satan, it is in a secondary
sense representative of pagan Rome.
Verse 13 And when the dragon saw that he was
cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man
child. 14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle,
that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is
nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the
serpent. 15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a
flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the
flood. 16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened
her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his
mouth. 17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to
make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God,
and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The Church in the Wilderness. —Here we are once more carried
back to the time when Satan became fully aware that he had failed in all
his attempts against the Lord of glory in His earthly mission. Seeing
this, he turned with tenfold fury, as already noticed, upon the church
which Christ had established. Then we have another view of the church going
into that condition here spoken of as being “in the wilderness.”
This must denote a state of seclusion from the public gaze, and of
concealment from her foes. That church which during all the Dark Ages
trumpeted her lordly commands into the ears of listening Christendom, and
flaunted her ostentatious banners before gaping crowds, was not the church
of Christ; it was the body of the mystery of iniquity.
The “mystery of godliness” was God manifested here as a man;
the “mystery of iniquity” was a man pretending to be God. This
was the great apostasy produced by the union of paganism and Christianity.
The true church was out of sight. In secret places they worshiped God. The
caves and the hidden recesses of the valleys of the Piedmont may be taken
as representative places, where the truth of the gospel was sacredly
cherished from the rage of its foes. Here God watched
over His church, and by His providence protected and nourished her.
The eagles’ wings given her appropriately signify the haste with which
the true church was obliged to seek her own safety when the man of sin was
installed in power. The assistance of God was provided her to this end.
The like figure is used to describe God’s dealings with ancient Israel. By
Moses He said to them, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians,
and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself.”
The mention of the period during which the woman is nourished in the
wilderness as “a time and times and half a time,” similar
phraseology to that used in Daniel 7:25, furnishes a key for the
explanation of the latter passage. The same period is called in Revelation 12:6, “a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” This shows
that a “time” is one year, 360 days; two “times,” two
years, or 720 days; and “half a time,” half a year, or 180 days,
making in all 1260 days. These days, being symbolic, signify 1260 literal
The serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood to carry away the
church. By its false doctrines the papacy had so corrupted all nations as
to have absolute control of the civil power for long centuries. Through it
Satan could hurl a mighty flood of persecutions against the church in every
direction, and this he was not slow to do. (See reference to the terrible
persecutions of the church in remarks on Daniel 7:25.) Millions of true
believers were carried away by the flood, but the church was not entirely
swallowed up, for the days were shortened for the elect’s sake. (Matthew 24:22.)
“The earth helped the woman” by opening its mouth and
swallowing up the flood. The Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth
century began its work. God raised up Martin Luther and his colaborers to
expose the true character of the papacy, and break the power with which
superstition had enslaved the minds of the people. Luther nailed his
theses to the door of the church at Wittenburg; and the pen with which he
wrote them, according to the symbolic dream of the good elector
Frederick of Saxony, did indeed span the continent, and shake the triple
crown on the pope’s head. Princes began to espouse the cause of the
Reformers. It was the dawning of religious light and liberty, and God
would not suffer the darkness to swallow up its radiance.
The spell was broken. Men found that the bulls and anathemas of the
pope fell harmless at their feet, just as soon as they dared exercised
their God-given right to regulate their consciences by His word alone.
Defenders of the true faith multiplied. Soon there was enough Protestant
soil found in Europe and the New World to swallow up the flood of papal
fury, and rob it of its power to harm the church. Thus the earth helped
the woman, and has continued to help her to the present day, as the spirit
of the Reformation and religious liberty has been fostered by the leading
nations of Christendom.
War on the Remnant. —But the dragon is not yet through with his
work. Verse 17 brings to view another and a final outburst of his wrath,
this time against the last generation of Christians to live on the earth.
We say the last generation, for the war of the dragon is directed against
the remnant of the woman’s seed, the true church, and no generation
but the last can truthfully be represented by the remnant. If the view is
correct that we have already reached the generation which is to witness the
closing up of earthly scenes, this warfare against the truth cannot be far
in the future.
This remnant is characterized by its keeping of the commandments of
God, and having the testimony of Jesus Christ. This points to a Sabbath
reform to be accomplished in the last days, for on the Sabbath alone as
pertaining to the commandments, is there a difference of faith and practice
among those who accept the decalogue as the moral law. This is more
particularly brought to view in the message of Revelation 14:9-12.
 Philip Smith, History of the World, Vol. III, p. 181.
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Revelation Chapter 11
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Revelation Chapter 13a