Revelation 12 (Part 2)
Now we have brought forth several clear points here showing what this scripture does not mean. But we would not be fair to the inquirer after truth to just tell him what it was not and leave him hanging out in mid-air, not knowing just what is meant by these things. So we shall now bring forth the truth that is taught in the 12th chapter of Revelation in connection with other Scriptures.
Now, if we just forget the first wonder that appeared in heaven in the first verse of this chapter (the woman clothed with the sun, etc.) and only consider the second wonder which is spoken of in verse 3 (the great red dragon) we shall, no doubt, be thrown off the proper course of thought and stray from the truth. But we find that this woman is mentioned throughout the entire chapter as the object of the dragon’s wrath and persecution. Therefore we cannot leave her out of the picture at all, and to carry her along in connection with the activities of the dragon will help us to understand just what is being taught here and where and when it all took place. The language here is highly symbolical, as it is throughout the entire book of Revelation.
With these thoughts in mind, we will first establish the identity of the woman referred to in the first verse: “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.” (Revelation 12:1)
This woman was in a very exalted place, and the brightest luminaries of heaven were assembled around her. This is a picture of the New Testament church, which was built by Christ Himself (Matthew 16:18), in all of her pristine glory and splendor.
But perhaps you may require other Scriptures in connection with this to justify this interpretation of this Scripture. We shall give them.
Revelation 19:7-8 says, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints..” Here we see the Lamb (Christ) has a wife and that her splendid apparel is the righteousness of saints, who compose the church on earth.
Revelation 21:9-10 makes it even clearer. “And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” The following verses then proceed to give a detailed description of this city in highly symbolical language. This Scripture does not only tell us that the Lamb has a wife, but also tells us who she is—“That great city, the holy Jerusalem.”
Turning to Hebrews 12:22-23 we find a further identification of this city. “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn.” This definitely identifies the city of God (heavenly Jerusalem) as the church of the Firstborn. Thus it is definitely established from these Scriptures that the wife of the Lamb (Christ) is His church, and therefore she is symbolized by a woman in this exalted position.
This is further taught in the Scriptures by plain comparison in Ephesians 5:25-32. And again in 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul is speaking to the church at Corinth and says, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” This refers to the bond and spiritual relationship between saved people and Christ, the heavenly bridegroom of their souls.
Romans 7:4 is another Scripture along this line. “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”
But so much for that. We could go on multiplying texts at considerable length along this line, but it is not necessary. Surely it must be clear to everyone that the New Testament church which Jesus built is His bride and is properly represented by a pure woman such as is pictured in Revelation 12.
The sun is the brightest luminary of heaven. Then it wou1d properly symbolize the brightest luminary of the spiritual heaven, which is the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. This woman is said to be clothed with the sun, and surely the divine virtues and graces of the Son of God are the apparel and adornment of the church of God in the earth: She puts on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14). She puts on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him (Colossians 3:10). She is arrayed in fine linen, the righteousness of saints (Revelation 19:8). She is changed into the same image or likeness of Christ by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Oh, what is the glorious and high situation of those who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, which compose His church in the earth!
A crown of twelve stars was upon this woman’s head. She was exalted and crowned a queen. Her husband was the King of kings and Lord of lords (Christ), and she is exalted to the position of queen, reigning by His side through His power over all the powers of evil and Satan right here in the earth.
In the Scriptures, a “star” is used to symbolize ministers or spiritual rulers or luminaries. Let us look at Revelation 1:20, “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.” () Then in the 2nd chapter of Revelation, the messages to the seven churches begin, and we note in verses 1, 8, 12, and 18, and in chapter 3, verses 1, 7, and 14, that the message to each individual church is addressed to the angel of that church. That would mean the minister or overseer there in that congregation. Perhaps the twelve stars in the woman’s crown refer to the twelve apostles of Christ, who were her first ministers and were co-workers with Christ Himself in establishing her in truth in the earth.
The moon was under her feet. The moon has no light of its own, but reflects the light of the sun. This is a proper symbolizing of the law-and-prophet age, above which the church had just risen to receive the grace and truth which was brought by Christ Himself. The law with its various rituals and sacrifices and mode of worship typified Christ and the prophets prophesied of Him. In reality, all the light that the law-and-prophet age had was that which was reflected upon it by the Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, who was to come.
This woman (the church) was travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered of a child. This properly symbolized the earnestness and zeal with which the early church labored and sacrificed, all to win souls for Christ. And she brought forth a man child. This man child properly represents the multitude of souls who were brought to Christ, born again, in the early church. There were about three thousand in one day on the day of Pentecost, and soon afterward we read of five thousand, etc.
Some may question how a man child could represent such a multitude. This is no mystery when we understand what the saving grace of God does for people, and that those who are saved are of “one heart and one soul,” (Acts 4:32) and that the whole church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18), and there is “one body.” (Ephesians 4:4; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 12:5) Further, in Ephesians 2:13-15 we find that the entire multitude of saved people composed of both Jews and Gentiles who have been brought together in Christ are referred to as “one new man.”
Now at this point, when the woman was bringing forth this man child (multitudes of believers), the dragon appears and goes into action. He “stood before the woman… to devour her child as soon as it was born.” So now we will turn our attention to the dragon, the second wonder mentioned in Revelation 12, and identify him in the Scriptures.
First, he is described as having seven heads and ten horns. Would we expect to see such a literal, physical monster as that? Certainly not! Then we know that he symbolizes something, and the Scriptures will help us in finding out what.
In the Bible, a horn stands as a symbol of power and authority. They stand for the same here in connection with the dragon. The head would more properly symbolize the ruler or system through which this power or authority was executed. The Scriptures make this perfectly plain concerning this dragon of Revelation 12 and the beast of Revelation 13 which had the same identical marks as the dragon: seven heads and ten horns.
Now, let us turn to Revelation 17:3, and we find here a scarlet-colored beast having seven heads and ten horns—the same identical marks as the dragon of Revelation 12 and the beast of Revelation 13. This time there is a woman riding on the beast, but she is a very different woman from the woman of Revelation 12 who was clothed with the sun, etc., a pure woman. But this woman of Revelation 17 is declared to be a vile harlot. If the pure woman of Revelation 12 represented the true, pure church of God in the earth, which the Scripture clearly proves that she did, then a woman who was an impure, vile harlot, would properly represent a false church or religion. But this woman was riding on the beast. Therefore, we are certain that in some way this beast (which is identical with the beast of Revelation 13, together with the dragon which gave the beast its power and seat and authority, and which is distinguished by the same marks—seven heads and ten horns) must be, or is closely connected with a false, impure system of religion.
Revelation 17:7 says, “I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.” Then, in verse 9, it says, “The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth.” The city of Rome, which was at that time the governmental and political head of all the then-known world, is said to be situated on seven mountains. This is a geographical note of history concerning the city. This verse, then, helps to establish the location or place of the seat of authority of the dragon and beast.
But the seven heads also had a further meaning besides just the seven mountains on which the woman sat. Verse 10 says, “And there are seven kings.” During the reign of the Roman Empire as a universal power there were seven different systems or forms of government through which her universal power was executed. They were: (1) The regal power, or kings. (2) Consuls or dictators. (3) Decemvirate, a government by ten men. (4) Military Tribunes or Consuls. (5) Triumvirate, a government by three men. (6) Imperial or emperors (under the Caesars). (7) The Exarchate or Patriciate (Exarch was the title of the ruler of this western kingdom under Charlemagne).
Then in verse 12 attention is turned to the horns instead of the heads, and it says, “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet.” This refers to the ten minor kingdoms which grew out of the Roman Empire during its decline and fall. History records such to have been the case and names these kingdoms as follows: Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Sueves, Vandals, Franks, Burgundians, Heruli, Saxons, Huns, and Lombards.
At the time the Revelation was given to the Apostle John about 96 A.D., the Roman Empire was in its unified form as a world power, and the ten horns had not yet come into existence. The Scripture says they are ten kings which have not yet received a kingdom. But at a later date the Roman Empire disintegrated and fell apart and was broken up into ten minor parts or kingdoms.
These are all merely identifying marks of the dragon and beast so that we might know where to locate them and not be deceived into thinking that this Scripture is teaching something which it is not, such as the devil being in heaven and there being war in heaven, etc.
Rome has been in her time the seat of two grossly false systems of religion. Hence, it was necessary to symbolize her in two forms—a dragon in one instance, and a beast in another—but the seven heads and ten horns of each definitely identifies both of them with Rome. The two false systems of religion of which Rome has been the seat are Paganism (heathenism, idolatry) and Papalism. The dragon symbolizes Pagan Rome and the beast symbolizes Papal Rome.
Rome in its Pagan form with its heathenish and idolatrous worship was prevailing over all the world when Christ came to earth to bring salvation. This false system of religion with its worship and sacrifices to its idol gods stood in direct opposition to the worship of the true God as taught and practiced by Christ, His apostles, and the early church in general. Rome stood before the woman (true church) ready to devour her child as soon as it was born. History proves this to have been a literal reality. The opposition became so violent between them, that it was finally declared to be a capital crime punishable by death to profess Christianity. When anyone would profess a faith in Christ he was subject to death as soon as he was apprehended. History gives an account of more than sixty millions who were put to death for the name of Christ and their testimony of faith in Him as their Savior during the combined reign of both of these false systems of religion, of which Rome was the seat—Paganism and Papalism.
This is what is meant by the war in heaven—the ecclesiastical or religious heaven. It is said that Michael (Christ) and His angels (ministers) fought; and the dragon (the false religious system of Paganism which was dominated, permeated, and engineered by the spirit of the devil himself) and his angels (the priests or ministers or prophets of this false system of religion) fought.
A clear example that this was in the ecclesiastical heaven (the violent opposition between true and false idolatrous religion) is found in Acts 19:23-41. On this occasion Paul and some companions had gone into Asia preaching the gospel of Christ. They came to Ephesus, which was much given to the idolatrous worship of the goddess Diana. As they taught the people that there were no gods which were made with hands, a violent opposition developed against them. They were mistreated and man-handled, and there was much confusion throughout the entire city; the people of that place cried with one voice for about the space of two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” Other examples can be found in the New Testament and many, many such cases can be found in church history.
This is what is meant by the woman’s child being caught up to God and to His throne. When the converts were born or brought forth, then they were put to death and their souls ascended to God. It also explains the statement in verse 11 that they loved not their lives unto death. They were willing to die for Jesus’ sake. Paul, who was a martyr for the cause of Christ, said, “Neither count I my life dear unto me, that I might finish my course with joy.” (Acts 20:24)
The fact that this dragon is called Satan in the 9th verse merely shows the nature of his activity. Satan was more or less a general term applying to any individual or power that stood as an opposer. Jesus called Peter “Satan” on one occasion when he stood before Him and attempted to dissuade Him from going up to Jerusalem because he knew He would suffer there (Matthew 16:23). Therefore this false system of religion was called “Satan” because it stood in opposition to the true religion. This does not at all disannul the fact that the term “Satan” is applied to the devil in many instances in the Scriptures, but sufficient evidence has already been produced to show this is not talking about the devil himself in this chapter, but the agent or system through which he operated.
Verse 9 says the dragon and his angels were cast out. As the truth of God with its enlightening and regenerating power continued to spread through the earth through the efforts and work of Christ, His apostles, and then the great company of the early church, the deceptions of the devil in this false system of idolatrous worship were more and more uncovered and exposed, until the people were able to see the truth and the condition they were in. As they did, they threw down the false worship, through which the devil had been successful so long in deceiving their darkened souls and causing them to hold it in high esteem in their hearts. And so that idolatrous worship was exposed by the light of truth; it was then cast out of the high esteem and allegiance of the people and cast down to a low plane of ill-repute, and was looked on with disdain and contempt by the people, as they discovered its errors and turned unto the truth. Therefore it is said to have been cast out of heaven—the high and exalted place it had in the hearts of the people.
Bear in mind that these verses are talking about the dragon all the time, and we have already seen clearly by the Scriptures what the dragon symbolized.