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Ver. 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.
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.
The delicate state of this symbolic woman is significant and impressive, and shall receive attention under the fifth verse.
Who this dragon is we are not left to conjecture. In verse 9 he is called “the devil and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world.” The fallen angels are spoken of as legions, because they are many. It is immaterial whether the whole race of them are comprised in this red dragon, or only their leader, the prince of devils. Probably all the race of fallen angels are included They are all united as one, against the church. This symbol derives its form from the old pagan Roman empire, because it was the prime instrument of the devil's
And what are those facts in the present case? They are such as infallibly to decide that our Bible (the Old and New Testaments) is the Word of God. If the infinite God was indeed on earth, manifest in the flesh, wrought miracles in the view of all men, and did what Jesus did ; then the evidence of the gospel, thus established, is infallible.
Most of the facts thus evinced by the senses, and the united testimony of the twelve apostles, lay open to the inspection of all around. They were seen, and acknowledged, to the vast vexation of the enemy. And the writers of these facts gave their testimonies apart, with no appearance of trembling concert, or fear of being detected in falsehood ; writing “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Some things which these separate witnesses thus wrote, seem at first view to differ ; but on close investigation they are found to agree. The writers herein discover their fearless honesty ; and that they were no impostors. Such infallible witnesses were the twelve apostles. Well then might they be represented by twelve stars in the crown of the church. They were those “who had accompanied Christ all the time that he went in and out among them, to be witnesses."
“ Ye are my witnesses unto the ends of the earth.”
was no more.
operations at the time of this vision, and for a number of subsequent ages. The dragon has seven heads, and ten horns, because Rome had been built on seven hills; and also its dynasty was to be known under seven distinct forms of government, as will be shown, in the exposition of the secular Roman beast, chap. xiii. and xvii. And, as the beast hasten horns; the dragon is noted as having the same.
The dragon is red, as that pagan empire (the prime instrument of his annoyance) was stained with the blood of the saints. The dragon has his seven crowns upon
his heads, as no doubt the devil managed, at his pleasure, the distribution of the crowns of that empire. The devil here received his symbolic form from a descrip. tion of pagan Rome, which was then the signal instru. ment of his persecutions of the church; but he did not cease to be the persecuting dragon when pagan Rome
The devil is still known under the same figure, in the last days. See Rev. xvi. 13, and xx. 2. Here, at the battle of that great day of God, the dragon is found aiding the event. And this figure suggests how fully Satan manages the wicked powers of the earth. The pagan empire was here noted as the body, and the devil the soul, of this dragon, So fully does Satan work in the children of disobedience, and lead them captive at his will.
By the dragon's tail drawing a third part of the stars of heaven, and casting them to the earth, we may understand that, by his infernal influence, he could, to a great extent, depose dignitaries of the Roman empire, and hurl them from their stations, when not likely to answer his infernal designs.
And the position of the dragon-standing before the woman, to devour her offspring as soon as it is born, gives a striking view of the vigilance and the power of the wicked one, to destroy the seed of the church. It was the malicious eye of this same infernal agent, that watched the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem, to devour him by Herod. Here was the influence which instigated that Roman governor to direct the wise men of the east to bring him word, after they had found the infant Saviour ; pretending his wish to worship him; but intending to destroy him. The same satanic influence was operating, when the same Herod, upon finding the eastern sages
had not in this thing obeyed him, sent forth his soldiers, and cut in pieces the infant children of Bethlehem. Here was a deed fully in character with the great red dragon standing before the woman, to devour her offspring as soon as born.
An emblem of the same thing we find in Exod. i. 16-22; the decreeing of the death of the male children of the people of God in Egypt. The prophet Ezekiel (chap. xxix. 3) says, “ Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I am against thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of the river." Pharaoh is here called the great dragon, meaning the crocodile of the river of Egypt, which must be supposed to have devoured the infants of Israel cast into it; because that tyrant had ordered those infants to be cast into the river. This, we may conceive, is the parent text of the passage under consideration : only in the latter, the dragon becomes a land animal, and is red, and takes his head and horns from the ancient form of the Roman empire. The noted means of the devil's opposition to the church were to be,-persecution, errors, heresies, paganism, the Man of Sin, and the infidelities of the last days. When Satan became alarmed at the propagation of Christianity, he instigated first the Jewish rulers, and then the pagan emperors, to persecute the church with deadly hatred. To this the position of the dragon in our text alludes.
Ver. 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.
This man-child born to the church alludes, we may believe, both to her Saviour, and to her spiritual succession. It was Christ who was to rule all nations with his rod of iron; as Psalm ii. 9. And he was to be born of a woman, born of the church; she is instructed to say, “ For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” To this our text seems to allude. The church under both the Old and New Testaments is but one and the same church. “My beloved is one.” And the Old Testament church was long ardently desiring the birth of her Saviour, and praying for the event. so that the salvation of Israel
was come out of Zion!” Simeon and Anna were waiting at the temple for this event. Pious kings and prophets had long done the same, in their ardent desires for the birth of Christ. He was, accordingly, known as “ the desire of all nations!” His birth was then pre-eminently the desire of the church. And well might she be denoted by the figure in our text, a woman bringing forth her son, who was to rule all nations with his rod of iron ! This was a most happy figure of the church at that period, just introductory to the new and last dispensation.* This accords
* Some have made the following objections to the man-child here being Christ: Christ was born before the text was written; and “ the writer here spoke as a prophet, and not as an historian.” Hence events then future must have been exclusively intended. Reply,—This seems plausible ; but it has no weight. The writer John, it is true, was speaking as a prophet. But if, to exhibit events then future to the best advantage, something on which they rested was already past ; prophets repeatedly took the liberty to commence with that past event. This is a fact. In Rev. xiii. 15, the writer stands in vision on the bank of the sea, and beholds the secular Roman beast rising from its billows. This was the same beast, and event, with what we find given, in the same figure, in Dan. ix. 7, as distinct from the papal power. But this secular Roman beast had risen ages before this view of it given to John in Rev. xiii. 1; though he was then “speaking as a prophet, and not as an historian," no less than in our text. The object of the Holy Spirit then was to predict things future relative to this beast. But he takes the liberty to commence the description with a view of the origin of this beast, notwithstanding that this event was then long past. It was necessary that he should do thus, in order to form å whole of the event to be described. The same thing is done in Rev. xvii. when predicting the beast of the last day, to arise from the bottomless pit, just before he goes into perdition in the battle of the great day of God. This power of infidelity of these last days is there prefigured as a new beast, from the world of wo; and, at the same time, as a healed head of the old secular Roman beast. And, in order to identify him with that beast, he is here described as having seven heads and ten horns; while yet the first of those seven heads existed before the birth of Christ, and most of them were now for a long time past events. It is thus a plain case, that when a whole is to be presented to view, an essential part of which is already past, the prediction commences with that past event; just as in our text. See another instance of it. Daniel beheld, in (vision, the rise and progress of the four great eastern empires ; and he was led to predict them as events then future, because various of them were then future. But the Babylonian empire was then past : yet he commenced with this, as though it had been future, because he
with the first promise of Christ, as the seed of the woman. The birth of Christ was, above all other events, glorious; and was the foundation of the new birth of all his spiritual seed. Most happy and appropriate is it, then, that it should be placed at the head of the events given in this general division of the Revelation.
But the figure in our text includes also the new and spiritual birth of all the seed of Christ, as the children and succession of the church. They are “born again;" and noted as born of the church. Paul speaks of Jerusalem (the church) as being 6 the mother of us all.” Isaiah speaks of Zion (the church) as travailing, and her children being born.
My little children, for whom I travail in birth again, till Christ be formed in you." The Psalmist says, “ Of Zion it shall be said, this man was born in her.” • The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there!" The new birth of the children of Christ rests on the literal birth of the Saviour. Both, then, may be included in the figure in the text. Both are out of the course of nature ; both are by special promise. The birth of Isaac (given by special Divine promise) was a type, both of the birth of Christ, and of the new birth of the seed of Christ, the seed of the church, as might be shown from express divine testimony, and as the church well know. All were by promise, and by special divine intervention. The literal birth of Christ was an earnest of the new birth of his chosen. Christ was the true spiritual Seed of Abraham. And, in him, believers are “the seed of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise !” Most fitly, then, does the birth in our text exhibit both of these events.
As Christ was to rule all nations with his rod of iron, so he engages that his spiritual seed shall do the same, Rev. ii. 26, 27 ; He that overcometh, and keepeth my work unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the
would give a whole. Another objection has been, “ Christ was born of the Jewish, and not of the Christian church !” Had this objector forgotten, that the Jewish church and the Christian church were both essentially one? God never had but one church, vineyard,-one olive-tree. These, and all similar objections, then, are wholly without weight.