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Second General Division of the Revelation.
The object of this chapter seems to be, to furnish a general view of the two great combatants,—the church and the devil,—during the Christian era, till near the Millennium. We are hence led back to the commencement of the Christian era; and thence to traverse again the period given in the first general division through which we have passed, as was shown in the first lecture. Of some of the events, given in the first general division, this second division gives also a view, but under different fig
And it gives some events not presented in the first division. These two general divisions furnish a great facility to the exposition of the Revelation. The church of Christ, in this chapter, is presented under her most appropriate figure-a female, in a significant position, state, and habiliments; praying and labouring for the birth of her offspring.*
* Some have been of opinion that the events of this chapter were to extend only through the period which preceded the rise of popery. To perceive the incorrectness of this view, consider ;
1. The object of the chapter, which is an introduction to the second general division of the book, by exhibiting the two contending parties, the church and the devil. The struggles and contentions of these parties were to continue till the Millennium. The same reason then, which presents these parties at all, must operate to present them, till the struggle shall close in the millennial glory of the church, or very near that period.
2. The war between the true church, and the papal see, was much longer, and of deeper interest, than was the war between the church and the pagan Roman emperors. Hence that was more likely to be the “ war in heaven," noted in this chapter, than was that with the pagan emperors.
3. That war of the first Christian ages in the pagan empire, is given in this chapter before, and distinct from the war in heaven here noted. That was given in the standing of the dragon before the woman, to devour her offspring ; and having his symbolic body
Ver. 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 ;
formed from the form of that empire. The subsequent war then, in heaven, must have been in later ages.
4. This war in heaven is subsequent to the flight of the woman into the wilderness, verse 6. But this event took place at the maturity of the papal beast, and it commenced the noted 1260 years of her wilderness state. Certainly then, the subsequent war in heaven was with the papal see.
5. The imagery of this war decides that it was the war with popery, and not the war with paganism. It is “ in heaven” the symbolic heaven of the professed church of Christ. But a system of paganism can never be so denominated.
6. The casting out of the dragon from heaven to earth does not fitly accord with his frustration in the subversion of paganism. But it fully accords with his fall in the commencement of the fall of popery, in the reformation. This fall of Satan was indeed a symbolic fall from heaven to earth; from the mystical heaven of the papal church, to the earth of more open opposition to the cause of Christ. The heaven is a symbol of the visible church, not of paganism. See Heb. xii. 26.
7. The occasion of praise, on Satan's being cast from heaven, is such as well accords with a view of the papal system, but not the pagan. “For the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who ac. cused them before God, day and night.” The papal persecutors accused the witnesses before God indeed ; as rejecters of Christ's vicar on earth, and his true system. But the pagan persecutors never accused the persecuted to God : for they themselves both really and professedly denied him, in holding to their false gods.
8. The cause of the rage of Satan, after being cast from heaven is such as fully accords with the time of the reformation from popery ; but not at all with the time of the revolution in Rome : “ Because he knoweth he hath but a short time !" At the time of the revolution in Rome, the Bible predicted a long time for the cause of Satan! fifteen or sixteen hundred years, at least. But at the time of the reformation in the sixteenth century, the predicted time of Satan began indeed to be short !
9. The casting of floods from the mouth of Satan, in the closing parts of this chapter, fully accords with what has actually taken place in these last days, in the Voltaire system, and the horrors which followed : but it accords not so fitly with any thing that took place in or soon after the pagan empire.
10. The devil in the dragon actually continues his contentionsas the same dragon—with the church, till he is bound at the commencement of the Millennium, and shut up in the bottomless pit. Rev. xx. 1, 2. In Rev. xiii. 2, the dragon gives his power to the
We have here a striking emblem of the true church of God; an emblem well known through the sacred oracles, a virtuous female. Among the symbols of the church is found the bride, the Lamb's wife !" She is "the King's daughter, all glorious within.” She is the spouse of Immanuel, through the Songs of Solomon. My dove, my undefiled is one. She is the only one of her mother. She is the choice one of her that bare her.” This emblem John seemed to behold in the upper regions of the air, in the visible heavens; which is a most fit symbolic position of the church. The church is herself known under the emblem of the heavens,—meaning the visible heavens. Says Inspiration, " Yet once more, and I shake not the earth only, but also the heavens.” Or, not only earthly kingdoms, but the nominal church.
This symbolic woman seemed to stand in the front of the sun, with his bright rays dazzling around her. This is a most lively figure of the union of the true people of Christ with him, the Sun of righteousness
of their position in heavenly places, and their interest in the avails of his perfect provisions of gospel grace for their justification, and preparation for glory. And it is a lively emblem of their special illumination by the Spirit of God of their Christian graces, and their fruits of holiness ;
beast in days long subsequent to the revolution subverting paganism, in 320, in Rome. And in Rev. xvi. 13, after the sixth vial (about this period in which we live), one of the three unclean spirits, like frogs, is from the mouth of the dragon, showing that the very scenes of the twelfth chapter are still in operation, and will be, till near the battle of the great day.
Thus the views given of the chronology of the events of this twelfth chapter, must be correct. And the events of the chapter occupy the period from the commencement of the Christian era, till near the battle of the great day of God. And the writers who insist that they relate only to the period antecedent to the rise of popery, have nothing to support their sentiment, but much to refute it. The one argument, that the war in heaven, in this chapter, is subsequent to the first flight of the church into her wilderness state, by the persecutions of popery, fully oversets their theory! This wilderness state of the church was to be 1260 years under persecutions of popery. But it agrees with nothing that took place under paganism. This war of the devil, then, was in the papal heaven—the symbolic heaven of the professed visible church, in its papal corruption.
also of the gracious accommodations of the church, with all needed gifts for her edification. The church is thus “ clothed with the sun." “ Unto
that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise."
This woman has “the moon under her feet.” This may remind us of several things. The church had, at the commencement of the Christian era, risen superior to the moonlight of the old dispensation. Those rituals reflected the rays of the Sun of righteousness only as the moon in the night reflects the light of the sun upon us, while the sun itself is hid from our view. But the Christian church rose superior to that moonlight system, and received her light from Jesus Christ himself. Her first teachers and members literally beheld their Saviour; and all their successors are blessed with the literal record which God gave of his Son. Of this rich blessedness, the moon's being under the feet of this symbol of the church, in our text, was an emblem. And the same emblem likewise reminds us of the power of the Christian faith, which overcomes the world, and places it under the feet of every true child of God. “ This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” It impresses the superior glory of heavenly things above things earthly, and renders saints dead to the world, and to sin; while it raises the heart of grace to the glory of God, and makes men have their conversation in heaven. To finish the sublime climax, this woman wears a crown set with twelve gems, called, on account of their brilliancy, stars. This is an emblem of her royalty. The followers of Christ are called a royal priesthood, and they are said to be made kings and priests unto God. Christ, the King of glory, thus adorns them with his own royal honours, which are here denoted by a crown with twelve points, at the top of each of which a star is seen to shine. To what can these ornaments of the crown of the church allude? No doubt they allude to the twelve apostles, and their succession, the gospel ministry. Christ in this book assures us, " the stars are the angels (ministers) of the churches." Such honour our Lord puts upon his ambassadors. “ These things saith he who holdeth the stars in his right hand, and who walketh in the midst of his golden candlesticks."
Paul speaks of his converts as his crown of joy. And ministers of Christ are to the church
her crown of joy. And the number of these stars seems fixed by the fact that the number of the apostles' was twelve. This part of the emblem of the church may
denote also the doctrines of grace, propagated by the twelve apostles. These doctrines the church receives, and maintains; and hence she is called “the pillar and ground of the truth." The distinguishing truths of gospel salvation, supported by the twelve apostles, and the gospel ministry, have been indeed bright and precious gems in the crown of the church. Let who will turn aside to their crooked ways; the immutable truths of Christ are ever the same; and they lie at the foundation, and form a crown of man's eternal glory. Let them be hated and opposed by the dragon, by false teachers and their followers; the true church will not fail to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. She here finds her good hope through grace. And when men will not endure sound doctrine, but heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and will turn to fables; the people of God will support these twelve stars, and be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.*
* There is a special reason why the twelve apostles should be viewed as twelve stars in the crown of the church. They were not only the first in commission in the gospel ministry ; but they were the most signal witnesses of the divinity of the Bible. Their exclusive excellence in this respect appears as follows. The evidence arising from their testimony, sealed with their blood, rests not on the mere opinions of men ; but on infallible facts, which facts infallibly establish the divinity of our Bible. These facts are, the life, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven of the Lord Jesus Christ! Of these facts, the twelve apostles were eyewit
And they unitedly declared them at the peril of their lives. No selfish ends could have induced them to do this; for it was in direct opposition to all the worldly interests and popularities of that day, and to the prejudices of the heart of fallen man. When men lay down their lives in support of their favourite opinions, it evinces nothing more than that they are sincere in the belief of those opinions : but the certainty of the correctness of those opinions must rest on other evidence. Their martyrdom in favour of those opinions furnishes not this evidence. Many have died in favour of paganism. But when men lay down their lives in support of certain facts, which they have seen and known, and this for a sufficient length of time, and under circumstances in which they could not have been deceived; when twelve men thus testify, at the peril of their lives, and testify, too, to facts publicly known to all people in the same region, and not dared to be denied by any, even the most violent enemies; the evidence in favour of such facts becomes perfect.