The Vision of the Church.
SUMMARY.--The Vision in Heaven.
The Woman Clothed with the Sun.
The Great Red Dragon.
The Conflict in Heaven.
The War on the Woman's Seed.
Her Seed Caught Up.
Her Flight into the Wilderness.
The Flood Cast by the Dragon.
The Earth Helping the Woman.
I believe that the first series of visions ends with
chapter 11, verse 18.
The book would be complete if it ended there. This series shows the
judgments inflicted upon the great opposing powers which persecuted the
Church, or in any way affected its history. There is portrayed first
the overthrow of the great secular power which occupied the world as
known to the apostles, and then follows a symbolism which foretells the
opposition from a great spiritual power, a wicked city, which is
finally overthrown by the exaltation of the Witnesses, and this
inaugurates the seventh trumpet, and the final triumph of Christ.
The second series of visions, in part, goes over the same ground.
Its purpose, however, is to portray more fully the fortunes of the true
church, its struggles with anti-Christ, the final overthrow of this
wicked spiritual power, and in inauguration of the era of universal
righteousness and peace.
Chap. 11:19. In my comment on
under the preceding chapter I have said that it ought to belong to the
12th chapter. The reader will observe that the language with which the
first series opens in
is quite similar to the opening words of the verse that begins the
second series. "I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven" is
the opening sentence of the prophecy
language which implies that the secrets of heaven are to be revealed.
it is said that "The temple of God was opened in heaven." Even the Ark
of the Testament in its most secret place is brought to view. There is
to be a revelation of facts connected with the temple of God. We have
already shown that the reference is, not to the Jewish temple, which no
longer existed, but to the spiritual temple, the Church of Jesus
Christ. Its door is opened; its history is foretold; the visions now
beheld will relate to its fortunes, sorrows, trials, triumphs. Its
history will be traced until it reaches its heavenly destiny. This is
symbolized by the fact that the holy of holies, the type of
heaven itself, is seen. The thunders, earthquake, etc.,
foreshadow the commotions, revolutions and judgments which will take
place in the fulfillment of the symbols.
1, 2. A woman clothed with the sun. A woman is used as a symbol
many times in the Scriptures. "Say you to the daughter of Zion, Behold,
thy salvation cometh."
Here the reference is to
the Church. Again Paul
says, "Ye are not the children of the bond woman, but of the free
woman." All are agreed that here the free woman represents the Church.
John sees the New Jerusalem descending adorned as a bride to meet her
husband. The bride, the Lamb's wife, here and in the
indeed in every place spoken of, is the Church. Once more: Paul speaks
of Jerusalem, the mother of us all, alluding again to the Church.
This symbol, then, is a common one to represent the Church, and we are
justified in declaring that to be its meaning in this passage. The fact
that she is clothed with the sun symbolizes the fact that the true
Church shines with the light of the sun of righteousness.
The moon under her feet represents the Old Testament, or
dispensation, which shone by a reflected right and is subordinate to
the New Covenant of the Church. The
crown of twelve stars is explained by the twelve apostles,
lights of the Church and a crown of glory to it.
2. She being with child cried. Again we must let the Scripture
explain its own meaning. "As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth
The travail of Zion causeth an increase. See also
Isa. 54:1 and 49:20,
where the same figure is used. The state of the woman therefore implies
a Church in sorrow, a suffering Church, but out of whose suffering
there cometh an increase of the saints. It is a period when the saints
are multiplied in the midst of persecution.
3, 4. Behold a great red dragon. Another wonder is seen, also in
the sky, a great serpent-like figure, red, with seven heads and ten
horns. This figure, we learn from
is a devilish manifestation. The devil uses it for his purposes. The
red color implies a persecuting power. The seven heads are explained in
where the seven-headed beast appears again, to be seven mountains, and
also seven kingdoms; the ten horns are there said to be ten kingdoms
which did not yet exist. We have also this monster appearing
Dan., chapter 7.
I will discuss it more particularly in chapter,
but will here say that there is little doubt that it represents the
persecuting powers of the earth which have opposed God and his Israel;
the great world powers arrayed against God. This world power appears as
Pagan Rome in the persecution of the Woman; the Church. The dragon was
the standard of Pagan Rome in the third century, as testified by many
4. And his tail drew a third part of the stars. This may indicate
the great power of the dragon. Perhaps it has a more particular
meaning. We have found under the 8th and 9th chapters
that the old Roman world was divided into three parts, that the term
third part was used of these divisions.
In the early part of the fourth century, when the great triumph of
Christianity over Paganism was about to be realized, the Roman world
shows this division; in two parts toleration is shown; in the remaining
third part there is the most bitter persecution, and finally the
ruler of this part, Maximus, enters upon war with Constantine with the
vow that if successful he will restore everywhere the old Pagan
religion. This may be symbolized.
And the dragon stood before the woman. This symbolizes an effort
to destroy the saints, the seed of the woman, the children of the
5. And she brought forth a man child. If the reader will turn to
he will learn that the remnant of the woman's seed is "those who keep
the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." The
offspring of the woman, the "woman's seed," then refers to the saints.
The man child is a symbol of the faithful members of the Church. But
how shall they
rule all nations with a rod of iron. The Greek says "rule as
shepherds with a rod of iron." This implies a firm and permanent, but
tender and loving rule, not a stern rule. In
it is promised that whosoever overcometh shall rule the nations with a
rod of iron. In
the same thing is stated of the Word of God. This is accomplished
through the saints. They shall yet possess the earth. Every knee shall
bow, and every tongue confess. The kingdoms of the earth shall become
the kingdoms of the Lord and his Christ. The man child, the woman's
seed, the saints, shall have a complete, an undisputed, a resistless
And her child was caught up. This figure always means a glorious
exaltation. It signifies that God will protect the saints and give them
victory. This was probably fulfilled when Christianity triumphed over
Paganism in the fourth century.
6-9. And the woman fled into the wilderness. The flight into the
wilderness is alluded to again in
There it belongs in order. Under that verse the meaning will be more
7. And there was war in heaven. The woman had been seen in
heaven, and there she is seen to be assailed. She has, however, a
champion who fights her battles. It must be remembered that Michael,
the woman, the man child, the dragon, the conflict, and the casting
down of the dragon are all symbols. This symbolism indicates the defeat
of the dragon in his attempt. He is not only vanquished, but
humiliated, "cast down." The first mighty attempt of Satan to "abolish
the Christian name from the earth," signally fails. We have already
written enough to show the reader that this represents the facts of
history. Pagan Rome, the dragon, struck at the heart of the Church.
Blood flowed in rivers, the blood of the saints, but the grandeur of
their lives and the heroism of their deaths struck fear and conviction
to the hearts of their enemies. Each martyr called forth an army who
were ready to die for Christ. God exalted the man child, caught it to
his bosom, protected it, and Pagan Rome went down. The dragon prevailed
not. Baffled, he is cast to the earth.
10-12. Now is come salvation, etc. We have next the songs of
triumph sung 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," etc. These songs of triumph are always heard
when the symbolism portrays any great triumph of righteousness. See
The triumphant songs here seem to exult over the overthrow of Paganism
in the fourth century.
11. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb. This shows
how the victory indicated in
was won. It was won by the blood of Christ and the faithfulness of the
"They loved not their life even unto death." They were willing to
give their lives for Christ.
12. Woe for the earth and for the sea.
Not an imprecation but a prediction. Satan, cast down, will take
another form to do his wicked work.
13, 14. The dragon . . . persecuted the woman. In some
other form, not as a Pagan power defying Christ, but perhaps garbed as
an angel of light, he still persecuted the woman.
14. There were given two wings, etc. The meaning is that means
were given to the persecuted church to flee into the wilderness, into a
place where she would be hidden from view. The Church would disappear
from sight. There she would be
a time, and times, and half a time, or a year, two years and
half a year, three and half years, forty-two months, 1260 days. See
verse 6 above, and 11:2, 3.
This period we found under
to begin in A. D. 533, and to extend to about the close of the
15-17. And the serpent cast out . . . a flood. He
resorted to persecutions in order to drive the true Church off of the
face of the earth.
16. The earth helped the woman. In some way the flood of
persecution was so hindered that it failed to accomplish the object. I
believe this refers to the hindrances often interposed by secular
powers to stay persecution. The Hussites protected themselves under
Zisca by force of arms; the German princes protected Luther; the edict
of Nantes gave French Protestants a rest. These were times when "the
earth" drank up the flood.
17. And the dragon waxed wroth.
Was angry at his defeat. He continued the warfare by asking to destroy
the woman's seed. I believe that this vision reveals the persecution
of the true Church, first by Pagan, and then by Papal Rome, a
persecution that results in the apparent disappearance of the true
Church from the earth. Though not visible to the eye of the historian
during this period, yet the true Church, fed of God, survives in the
hearts of the hidden and persecuted saints. The period of her exile
began about 533, in the reign of Justinian, and ends about the
beginning of the nineteenth century. Before the end of the period, the
Divine measure, the reed of the apostles, was used to measure the
temple, altar and worshipers, and, as the result, over three-fourths of
a century ago, the true Church began to appear as a visible body, once
more in the world.