It is generally agreed by the most learned expositors that the
narrative we have in this and the two following chapters, from the
sounding of the seventh trumpet to the opening of the vials, is not a
prediction of things to come, but rather a recapitulation and
representation of things past, which, as God would have the apostle to
foresee while future, he would have him to review now that they were
past, that he might have a more perfect idea of them in his mind, and
might observe the agreement between the prophecy and that Providence
that is always fulfilling the scriptures. In this chapter we have an
account of the contest between the church and antichrist, the seed of
the woman and the seed of the serpent.
I. As it was begun in heaven,
II. As it was carried on in the wilderness,
|The Woman and the Dragon.
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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.
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.
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
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
Here we see that early prophecy eminently fulfilled in which God said
he would put enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of
You will observe,
I. The attempts of Satan and his agents to prevent the increase of the
church, by devouring her offspring as soon as it was born; of
this we have a very lively description in the most proper images.
1. We see how the church is represented in this vision.
(1.) As a woman, the weaker part of the world, but the spouse of
Christ, and the mother of the saints.
(2.) As clothed with the sun, the imputed righteousness of the
Lord Jesus Christ. Having put on Christ, who is the Sun of
righteousness, she, by her relation to Christ, is invested with
honourable rights and privileges, and shines in his rays.
(3.) As having the moon under her feet (that is, the world); she
stands upon it, but lives above it; her heart and hope are not set upon
sublunary things, but on the things that are in heaven, where her head
(4.) As having on her head a crown of twelve stars, that is, the
doctrine of the gospel preached by the twelve apostles, which is a
crown of glory to all true believers.
(5.) As in travail, crying out, and pained to be delivered. She
was pregnant, and now in pain to bring forth a holy progeny to Christ,
desirous that what was begun in the conviction of sinners might end in
their conversion, that when the children were brought to the birth
there might be strength to bring forth, and that she might see of the
travail of her soul.
2. How the grand enemy of the church is represented.
(1.) As a great red dragon--a dragon for strength and terror--a
red dragon for fierceness and cruelty.
(2.) As having seven heads, that is, placed on seven hills, as
Rome was; and therefore it is probable that pagan Rome is here meant.
(3.) As having ten horns, divided into ten provinces, as the
Roman empire was by Augustus Cæsar.
(4.) As having seven crowns upon his head, which is afterwards
expounded to be seven kings,
(5.) As drawing with his tail a third part of the stars in
heaven, and casting them down to the earth, turning the
ministers and professors of the Christian religion out of their places
and privileges and making them as weak and useless as he could.
(6.) As standing before the woman, to devour her child as soon as it
should be born, very vigilant to crush the Christian religion in
its birth and entirely to prevent the growth and continuance of it in
II. The unsuccessfulness of these attempts against the church; for,
1. She was safely delivered of a man-child
by which some understand Christ, others Constantine, but others, with
greater propriety, a race of true believers, strong and united,
resembling Christ, and designed, under him, to rule the nations with
a rod of iron; that is, to judge the world by their doctrine and
lives now, and as assessors with Christ at the great day.
2. Care was taken of this child: it was caught up to God, and to his
throne; that is, taken into his special, powerful, and immediate
protection. The Christian religion has been from its infancy the
special care of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
3. Care was taken of the mother as well as of the child,
She fled into the wilderness, a place prepared both for her
safety and her sustenance. The church was in an obscure state,
dispersed; and this proved her security, through the care of divine
Providence. This her obscure and private state was for a limited time,
not to continue always.
III. The attempts of the dragon not only proved unsuccessful against
the church, but fatal to his own interests; for, upon his endeavour to
devour the man-child, he engaged all the powers of heaven against him
There was war in heaven. Heaven will espouse the quarrel of the
church. Here observe,
1. The seat of this war--in heaven, in the church, which is
the kingdom of heaven on earth, under the care of heaven and in
the same interest.
2. The parties--Michael and his angels on one side, and the
dragon and his angels on the other: Christ, the great Angel of the
covenant, and his faithful followers; and Satan and all his
instruments. This latter party would be much superior in number and
outward strength to the other; but the strength of the church lies in
having the Lord Jesus for the captain of their salvation.
3. The success of the battle: The dragon and his angels fought and
prevailed not; there was a great struggle on both sides, but the
victory fell to Christ and his church, and the dragon and his angels
were not only conquered, but cast out; the pagan idolatry, which was a
worshipping of devils, was extirpated out of the empire in the time of
4. The triumphant song that was composed and used on this occasion,
(1.) How the conqueror is adored: Now have come salvation, strength,
and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ. Now God
has shown himself to be a mighty God; now Christ has shown himself to
be a strong and mighty Saviour; his own arm has brought salvation, and
now his kingdom will be greatly enlarged and established. The salvation
and strength of the church are all to be ascribed to the king and head
of the church.
(2.) How the conquered enemy is described.
[1.] By his malice; he was the accuser of the brethren, and
accused them before their God night and day; he appeared before
God as an adversary to the church, continually bringing in indictments
and accusations against them, whether true or false; thus he accused
Job, and thus he accused Joshua the high priest,
Though he hates the presence of God, yet he is willing to appear there
to accuse the people of God. Let us therefore take heed that we give
him no cause of accusation against us; and that, when we have sinned,
we presently go in before the Lord, and accuse and condemn ourselves,
and commit our cause to Christ as our Advocate.
[2.] By his disappointment and defeat: he and all his accusations are
cast out, the indictments quashed, and the accuser turned out of the
court with just indignation.
(3.) How the victory was gained. The servants of God overcame Satan,
[1.] By the blood of the Lamb, as the meritorious cause. Christ
by dying destroyed him that hath the power of death, that is, the
[2.] By the word of their testimony, as the great instrument of
war, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,--by a
resolute powerful preaching of the everlasting gospel, which is
mighty, through God, to pull down strongholds,--and by their
courage and patience in sufferings; they loved not their lives unto
the death, when the love of life stood in competition with their
loyalty to Christ; they loved not their lives so well but they could
give them up to death, could lay them down in Christ's cause;
their love to their own lives was overcome by stronger affections of
another nature; and this their courage and zeal helped to confound
their enemies, to convince many of the spectators, to confirm the souls
of the faithful, and so contributed greatly to this victory.
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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.
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
16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her
mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of
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.
We have here an account of this war, so happily finished in heaven, or
in the church, as it was again renewed and carried on in the
wilderness, the place to which the church had fled, and where she had
been for some time secured by the special care of her God and Saviour.
I. The warning given of the distress and calamity that should fall upon
the inhabitants of the world in general, through the wrath and rage of
the devil. For, though his malice is chiefly bent against the servants
of God, yet he is an enemy and hater of mankind as such; and, being
defeated in his designs against the church, he is resolved to give all
the disturbance he can to the world in general: Woe to the
inhabitants of the earth, and the sea,
The rage of Satan grows so much the greater as he is limited both in
place and time; when he was confined to the wilderness, and had but a
short time to reign there, he comes with the greater wrath.
II. His second attempt upon the church now in the wilderness: He
persecuted the woman who brought forth the man-child,
1. The care that God had taken of his church. He had conveyed her as on
eagles' wings, into a place of safety provided for her, where she was
to continue for a certain space of time, couched in prophetic
characters, taken from
2. The continual malice of the dragon against the church. Her obscurity
could not altogether protect her; the old subtle serpent, which at
first lurked in paradise, now follows the church into the wilderness,
and casts out a flood of water after her, to carry her away.
This is thought to be meant of a flood of error and heresy, which was
breathed by Arius, Nestorius, Pelagius, and many more, by which the
church of God was in danger of being overwhelmed and carried away. The
church of God is in more danger from heretics than from persecutors;
and heresies are as certainly from the devil as open force and
3. The seasonable help provided for the church in this dangerous
juncture: The earth helped the woman, and opened her mouth, and
swallowed up the flood,
Some think we are to understand the swarms of Goths and Vandals that
invaded the Roman empire, and found work for the Arian rulers, who
otherwise would have been as furious persecutors as the pagan had been,
and had exercised great cruelties already; but God opened a breach of
war, and the flood was in a manner swallowed up thereby, and the church
enjoyed some respite. God often sends the sword to avenge the quarrel
of his covenant; and, when men choose new gods, then there is danger of
war in the gates; intestine broils and contentions often end in the
invasions of a common enemy.
4. The devil, being thus defeated in his designs upon the universal
church, now turns his rage against particular persons and places; his
malice against the woman pushes him on to make war with the remnant
of her seed. Some think hereby are meant the Albigenses, who were
first by Dioclesian driven up into barren and mountainous places, and
afterwards cruelly murdered by popish rage and power, for several
generations; and for no other reason than because they kept the
commandments of God and held the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Their fidelity to God and Christ, in doctrine, worship, and practice,
was that which exposed them to the rage of Satan and his instruments;
and such fidelity will expose men still, less or more, to the end of
the world, when the last enemy shall be destroyed.