The nineteenth verse of chapter xi. should, I think, though a connecting one, more properly begin the twelfth
chapter. Looking at the chapters as continuous, it is the direct manifest agency of heaven upon earth, the connection of the two. It is not now a seal opened by one who alone could do it, but the temple opened; "and there was seen," &c.
The first thing seen was the secure and unchanging witness of God's covenant mercy, on which all his thoughts and purposes were bent. After the sounding of the seventh trumpet, all the relationships of things, and their real principles and sources, came out. If we look at the eighteenth verse of chapter xi. as closing generally the whole history as it does, then the twelfth takes back the Church to see, abstractedly, the principles and sources of all the events, which, in fact, will be brought out in the last three years and a half manifestly.
These two points of view are in no way inconsistent; for the last crisis is a bringing to a head and manifestation these very sources of action in manifested agents and direct collision of action. On the contrary, none can understand the crisis that takes place, unless they enter into the sources, principles, and moving of (in some sense, we may say, interested) agents, which are here unveiled from the beginning; and, on the other hand, the workings of these agents and principles, and their results, are never clearly seen until brought thus out at the end in their very results, though faith may discern their principles long before. Thus the Lord says in the first displays of His power, "I beheld Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven;" and his great apostle reveals to us, that the mystery of iniquity did already work: only there was a letter, till he should be taken out of the way; and then the wicked should be revealed, whom the Lord would destroy. The unveiling, then, of these hidden, but real agents, was just the unfolding of what would be brought into crisis: and the
crisis is the actual manifestation of these agents in their true character, no longer under the cover of mysteries. Hence the Church, as admitted into heaven, knows them, and explains their manifestations when they shew them-selves on earth.
This forms no part, properly, of the seals, then; but comes in, under the Church's proper knowledge, by the Holy Ghost, and His revelations of what passes in heaven; not in mere communion, as taking of the things of Christ, but in revelation, as showing what is connected with the manifestation of His glory. It is all based (come what will) on the immutability of the ark of the covenant. It was the ark of the covenant of God and the temple of God. The Church rests on this sure faithfulness, but its direct application is to Israel, though in peculiarly symbolical images.
This being fixed, the ways and purposes of Providence were then discovered. There appeared a great 1 sign in heaven. As the woman was for the man, so was the man by the woman; and here things were revealed, not in ultimate results (that is the knowledge of the Church always, in communion, whether as to Christ's glory as man or God all in all), but as administered by the way, and therefore, the man is by the woman here. So in other types of scripture. Hence, though we see her in the glory of God's mind at first, we soon see her in various circum stances and exigencies, to which she was, in His wisdom. and righteousness, subjected, even to fleeing away upon earth. Here, however, she is seen in her title of glory in heaven. The purpose of God is in the Church; but Christ is its great subject; and, in fact, she may be subject to ten thousand vicissitudes here below, for the world is not
regulated otherwise than secretly. God may glorify her, but the woman's place is to be subject; she does not carry on the war, and cannot in this character. I have already mentioned, elsewhere, 1 that the activity of faith, or its failure, is, in typical scripture, spoken of as the man--the condition of the Church or the people of God (for in this sense the Church is the name for a condition of the people of God, this last being used in a general sense) is represented by the woman. 2
We have to look here, at the people of God, as in His own mind or purpose, and therefore glorified in that; yet, as we have said, entering into the detail of consequences, it is in the ministration of it, for it is the man by the woman, not the woman for the man. Both have their importance and their place. Hence the woman is seen clothed with supreme authority--the splendour of supreme authority, and all derivative light under her feet; 3 and derivative rule, all lesser authority, her crown, and that in perfectness. Thus it is viewed abstractedly, but in purpose with all God attaches to it, and about which all God's mediate purposes or plans roll--His own glory and Jesus ever the end. And thus shall it close, for it is true that ἀρχὴ τῆς θεωρίας τέλος τῆς πράξεως.
For we are not speaking here of God's returning into His own infinitude, which can hardly be called purpose: 4--Christ,
then, the glory of the Son, was the purpose; but here, it being the ministration of it, the woman is presented and the man hidden.
If we descend to detail, we shall find the most marked contrast: the lowest state of the lowest condition of God's people--that under the law broken, and they ruled over by the last form of Gentile evil, as to its personality--that in which Christ was born; and so rightly. For by sin the glory was all reversed; all was reversed: the throne, which ought to be the instrument of God's justice, the instrument of slaying His Son, at the instance and instigation (intercession, if you please) of His priests, the leaders of His own people! What a picture of things! If we go to the time when the Jews will actually say, "To us a child is born," we shall see it is after the very last and manifested form of the last evil--the evil of the last days. The Church knows it now, for it has the mind of Christ; and we are renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created us.
That which we find here, then, is the purpose of God concerning the condition of His people producing One who was to rule all nations; and, instead of His doing so, He is caught up to God and His throne; and the condition of His people is left exposed to trial, misery, and pursuit of the great enemy, who had been waiting and seeking to devour the man-child when born. It, however, entirely escapes from him. Such is the general picture, which throws much light on the whole of the detail. If we apply it to Christ in person, then its accomplishment as to heavenly purpose, whatever He might suffer here, is
sufficiently manifest (the condition of God's people being suffering and trial thereon). If we apply it to the saints, who overcome here (as we read) as He did, and to whom it is given to rule as He has received of His Father, then we find that, though the object of the enemy was to devour them too, they are caught up out of his way to Him who was above his power; and the trial and persecution fall on those who are left here--upon the woman. The details of this are entered into in what follows in the chapter. After the child is caught up, the woman flees. In this there are no details. It is a description of the position of the parties, and that with all possible clearness, as with divine power and precision. There is one of these of which, as yet, I have said but little--this other wonder (who was opposed to the woman, this purpose of God in His people), the great red dragon. His object was to destroy the man-child to be brought forth by the woman whose pains of labour he perceived, and hating all that belonged to it; for the purpose of God and its fruits were his destruction. He failed in this, and turned his anger against that which, in a certain sense, was left in his power.
That the dragon is the hostile power of the adversary there is no question. We have the authority of this book (chap. xx.), I suppose no one will deny, for saying that.
If we look to the source of power, it is there; only without the description which gives it its formal character. It was here seen in heaven (i. e., not in its providential forms and consequences by the will of man, but as the Lord viewed it in its will or power of evil), as a whole, identified in form with the beast (to which it gave its power, it is true), yet not the beast, and not identified with it in the specialities of its latter-day character; but the whole generic form of Satan's power, in that which took, at a given period, that character. It had the seven heads
and ten horns, but the heads were crowned, not the horns. It was Satan, acting in the form of power, in which he countervailed--not simply the earthly purpose 1 amongst the Jews, or in which he attacks Jerusalem by an earthly instrument, but--the whole heavenly 2 purposes and the glory of God by Christ in His people. Hence, too, the death of Christ, which closed His Jewish and earthly career, is not noticed here; because the Jewish associations of Christ are not the question when things are seen in the heavens. The child was caught up to God and His throne.
The tail of the serpent, his moral influence--evil moral influence--characterized by the form of the Roman empire, the effects of his power, and the dominant religion of the state, put down a third of the rulers of God, and made them subordinate.
The effect on the woman was her retreat into solitude and sorrow, for so she is seen in actual effect.
Here are the parties: the seventh verse begins a new topic. There was war in heaven. This was not the war of the Church, but of' divine power; not yet, however, in the manifested energy of the Son of man, the mighty man,
the man-child; but in the more secret agencies of His will, angelic ministrations. The Church's war, carried on in the flesh, is carried on in suffering, and waged against the accuser by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; he being always there, and yet they above him, as an overcome enemy in Christ, in their flesh wretched, and as to that in its will, when it worked, under his power. But here it was power to expel in service to God--the question settled whether the dragon and his angels, should continue there: "And the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 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." 1 Then came the celebration; and in the thirteenth verse, what followed on the earth: and the change in all this is very important. The Church's estimate of it in heaven, too, is--"the accuser of our brethren;" 2 the consequence of whose accusations and power was trial 3 and persecution upon earth. They loved not their lives unto death, overcoming him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony--a time then of saints' suffering, and Satan having his place in heaven, in authority and power, and deceiving the whole world. From this the victory of Michael and his angels cast him down.
I apply here the same principle of providential working
and manifestation in crisis as throughout; and I mention it here only particularly, and its application to the fall of idolatry, because by modern interpreters, entirely rejected. It is not his influence in the Church that is here in question, 1 but his power in the rule of the world, however that might act on the Church. The argument, then, that mischief might accrue to the Church by the ceasing of Satan's open power in the world, because the Church thereby sunk in the world, is nothing to the purpose: for my own part, I admit it in the fullest manner possible, though I am sure all was wisely ordered. But as the setting up the supreme power in Nebuchadnezzar, and his speedy connection of it with enforced idolatry, was very important in the divine government in the world, that power coming from God (though Israel was, or might not he, in question in this last act), so the entire relinquishment of idolatry by the governing power (for whatever man does, God looks to the conduct of the governing power) was a fact of great importance in the history of God's government of the world. It was a setting aside Satan's direct throne in the world; for the existence of power in the Gentiles is not Satan's direct throne (it was transferred to them by God); it is its use and character in sinful man that makes it Satan's. This may be merely by passions, or it may be by the direct worship of Satan and his angels, or by open blasphemy against God. The second of these is the open heavenly rule of Satan, looked at in providence: and this went on in Gentile idolatry. He may recover it secretly by what is called the Church: 2 but the thing itself was never restored. This appears to me a very plain and important distinction in the exercise of Satan's power, which
we cannot pass by without leaving a blank in our knowledge of God's mind, and consequently its train lost and the Church misled. Taking this event in this point of view, it would connect itself with the providential course of things which the Church understands in heaven, though not yet outwardly manifested; and the consequent period would be a period of years, the period being the period of her nourishing there, not the date of her flight for this providential purpose. These things are given generally in their characters, not dates, because it was a course of progressively developed principles, although sometimes facts may have given particular dates. As regards that which takes place actually in the crisis, the facts are simple and plain. 1
There was war in heaven. Michael, the archangel, and his angels fought, and the dragon; and the dragon was cast out of heaven; entirely and finally out of that place of authority and power which he had held, as ruling the world--"the rulers of the darkness of this world." As to who Michael is, we have mention of this exalted name in Jude, as contending with the devil; and in Daniel, as that great prince who stands up as the ruler of providential power, in favour of the Jewish people, who are the central object of providence in the arrangement of nations. I do not see that it is revealed that it is Christ 2 under a
mystical name, but it is certainly the direct superior agent of God's providential purposes, and thus the immediate instrument of favour to His people in that character. The notion of archangels is not sustained in scripture. 1 There are seven angels, who stand in the presence of God, spoken of. But Satan was cast out, finally out of heaven; and the announcement given that salvation, strength, and the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ was come; and the reason--that the accuser of the brethren was cast down. Satan, in his character of anti-priest, had been unceasing in his accusations against the brethren; though, in the course of God's dealings with the saints, during this time of trial, He had suffered their being even put to death here below; yet they had overcome their enemy there really as to all the questions which Satan could raise before God. The accusations were of no avail, through the blood of the Lamb. Satan could not over-throw their conscience; and by the word of their testimony they maintained the truth and righteousness against him as the father of lies. .So that while the great High Priest secured their cause above, Satan as a liar and accuser, seeking to deceive, was baffled and overcome; as a murderer, was submitted to, till Christ took the power, and he was turned out. The manner in which accusations and persecutions are connected, in principle, may be seen in the history of the book of Job. Thereon the dwellers in heaven--for this was the ground and place of the enmity and conflict (see Ephesians, chaps. i. ii. and vi.)--are called on to rejoice, for this conflict is ended. Christ, as the great High Priest, might have sustained them in the
conflict with the accuser: but now the conflict 1 was ended. This is clearly what concerned the Church, in this matter, as identified with Christ in His priestly exaltation. Woe then comes upon the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea; for the devil, not yet shut up, but cast from heaven, is come down in great wrath, knowing he has but a short time. Here the second paragraph of this chapter ends: the first at verse 8, where the parties are stated, as we have seen, in the original idea and purpose; here the actings of heaven's deliverance from his power and the consequence of this to the Church, which properly sits in heavenly places (and indeed all heavenly saints); then, verse 13, what the devil did when cast down to earth, after he was cast out of heaven.
The dragon has now lost his place in heaven. He cannot rule the world, as thence, as the prince and god of it: but he comes as a woe and judgment from God upon those who dwelt on earth, had not followed the heavenly calling, where it was then; and he is in great wrath, because he has now but a short time. His enmity against Him 2 who has thus sentenced him, is exercised against that which has any connection with Him in the now sphere of his malice. He can no longer accuse the brethren; he persecutes the woman. And at this period, upon earth, the woman is the Jewish people owned of God, the woman that brought forth the man (for that was true of the Jewish economy as to Christ, looked at in His title of power upon earth--"To us a son is born"). But here, to
the woman is given force and speed from God; but only to flee into the wilderness, where she is nourished for the allotted period, which, speaking as to the closing crisis, is three years and a half; for during this period the opportunity of her return was not afforded by the cessation of the dragon's power.
The dragon here takes the name of serpent, as having the form of subtlety, deceit, and malice, "that old serpent which is the devil and Satan." It is the enmity, we are to remark, of the dragon and serpent, not the woe on the earth which is described: that is reserved for more detailed account in what follows, at least as to the part material for the Church's instruction in its passage towards it. And here I must remark the extreme importance to us of connecting the events and agents in the crisis, in principle, character, and progress with what is passing and the agents we see around us, or it loses its main moral effect and its whole use for the Church. The Church is not under this woe, I believe, at all, in the final crisis. It is on earth, to the Jewish people, this Son is born: we belong to the heavens, whence Satan is east out. But, by the ripened fruit in that day, as more fully displayed in subsequent chapters, we learn the present nature and character of the tree that bears it, as God describes man by his fruits in Romans iii., though all men have not borne such. And thus I can judge my own heart, and know what man is. And if the last apostate be not yet revealed, he is but the head of a system of which God's revelation of him, as the full fruit, makes me know the sap and character. Though the serpent could not overcome the woman in war (for God preserved her, not by the mighty man, but by flight; and there his direct power was stopped; for heavenly power was in aid for her), yet the resources he had he uses, and pours forth these waters, animated by his energy, as a
flood. I should suppose, from the explanation given in this book of waters looked at as on earth, these were armies of people directly under Satan's moral influence, flowing from his mouth, the expression of his mind and will.
But the earth--the scene of God's providential and prophetic agency--helped the woman by whatever providence for God teaches here the facts of Satan's agency, not the historical providences) and swallowed up and brought to nought this agency of Satan: it was frustrated. And he went to make war with the remnant of her seed, the godly Jews who might remain within his reach, who obeyed God's commandments and had received the testimony of Jesus Christ--for so (for I am now speaking of the final crisis) I believe the Jews, i.e., the remnant, will. But I do not say further than a prophetic testimony; "for the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus." The dragon (for he is not now spoken of in his subtle actings, but identified again in his character and acting in the sphere and character of power) was wroth with the woman whom he could not touch, and went to make war with, to use violence towards, the remnant of the seed.
54:1 At least is connected with a wider scope of results.
56:1 Another sign begins chapter xv.
57:1 "Christian Witness," volume iii., page 146.
57:2 But as to direct historic application the woman here is the Jewish people (or Jerusalem) seen in heaven and glory first, then cast out and persecuted by the dragon--in God's mind, and then the object of Satan's enmity.
57:3 Thus all the previous state of heart in which reflected light was shadowed out for the people is put under their feet.
57:4 Purpose has rather the force of the thing purposed here, than intention. If I am understood, I have no anxiety as to metaphysical p. 58 precision. The word purpose evidently includes both, but may apply specially to either (i.e., the intention and the thing intended).
60:1 [The Son born was caught up, but was to rule all nations: the heavenly condition is here the answer and remedy for an effort directed against one who was to rule over the earthly. His rule and power is the matter in question.]
60:2 This is true, even in Antichrist; for that is association with the Jews and possession of Jerusalem, to hold it as the centre of earthly power against the Lord, as coming from heaven. The "scornful men" that dwell at Jerusalem "have made a covenant with death and are at agreement with hell" [I have not altered the abstract applications: it would be changing the book, (and they afford a kind of dictionary to the symbols,) but I add here and there the particular prophetic events in which they are fulfilled--as I believe, that to which they apply.]
61:1 [But they are not as yet replaced by the saints there.]
61:2 [Note here, the victory is celebrated; they overcame, they are not therefore in this conflict any more.]
61:3 I suspect it will be found that, while the suffering may be most blessed and glorious for righteousness', or Christ's sake, it is, nevertheless, always used by the Lord for the correction of some secret or manifest evil in the individual or in the Church.
62:1 i.e., even referring the passage to the protracted period.
62:2 [In saint-worship, which is really demon-worship.]
63:1 [Satan is cast down from heaven to earth, where he yet is in great wrath for Daniel's last half week, and persecutes the Jews owned of God, saved providentially as a body, whereon the enemy seizes all he can. The woman is, as I have said, the Jews owned of God, or Jerusalem.]
63:2 I see a great deal to lead to the conviction that it is Christ as the head of angelic power, but not certainly, and therefore say no more than I do here. [Fuller enquiry would lead me to a different conclusion.]
64:1 i.e., in the plural number. Superiorities (as principalities, powers, thrones, dominions) are spoken of, but not directly archangels.
65:1 Conflict with Satan, and trial, though used, perhaps, for chastening judgment, are very different from judgment in war, where Satan has power according to the fall of the first Adam, and a will to walk with him.
65:2 It is the angelic head of the Jewish people who was the power that overcame him above.