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What is meant to be symbolized by this war in heaven has been matter of dispute. But the name of Michael a symbol, as we learn from Daniel, of the Redeemer at the head of his holy angels,-and, especially, the congratulation of the voice, that the kingdom was now come, has led me to conclude, that it must either symbolize, directly, the last conflict itself, or that which would be a type, and might form an historical allegory of the last conflict. It cannot signify the last conflict itself, because, as appears from the following verses, the dragon still persecutes the woman. It must, then, symbolize some event that is a type of the last conflict, and of the succeeding kingdom of Christ. Such an event has already been shown in the abolition of the pagan authorities of the Roman empire, and in the substitution, in its stead, of the Christian empire under Constantine; and this event has, in the sixth seal, been already blazoned with all the symbolical imagery that could make it typical of that greater change one day to come to pass.
This, then, I conclude to be the event symbolized by this war in heaven between Michael and the dragon. It symbolizes, immediately, the casting down of the pagan authorities of Rome from their political heavens: the devil could no longer, through these instruments, carry on his persecution against the church: "their place was found no more in heaven :" and it might be said, that, for a time, the fourth beast was not, as an instrument in the hand of Satan, to oppose the interests of Christ's kingdom. The great city, which ruleth over the kings of the earth, was, for a time, eclipsed and superseded. For the present, the governing powers of the Roman world might be congratulated on their escape from the abominable idolatries of their predecessors, and on their accession to
the true religion," Rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them:" and I think, from a comparison of the sixth seal, that, notwithstanding the personal character, perhaps, of Constantine himself, and the personal characters and wicked administration of some, perhaps of almost all, among his successors, the throne of Constantine, and the government of the Christian emperors of Constantinople, are viewed, in Scripture prophecies, as, with respect to an idolatrous world around, on the side of God-as, on the whole, notwithstanding the corrupt aims of some individual princes, favourable to the cause of the Gospel.1 And this we may well esteem to have been the case, if, in this rest afforded to the churches throughout all the world, it could be said of some of them, though but of the most obscure was said of the churches of Judea and Samaria, after the persecution that arose on account of Stephen,"They were edified, and, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied."
We may reason, from analogy, that this was the case. The same prosperity that nurtured the seeds of apostasy, and brought into action the wicked pride and ambition of rulers and church governors, which have so disgraced the name of Christian, afforded peace and the quiet enjoyment of the means of grace to the poor of the flock; and
"It is certain that the Christians, in the time of Constantine, thought this prophecy to be so plainly fulfilled by the great event of Constantine's advancement to the throne of the empire, that the emperor's statue was set over his
palace gate, trampling upon a wounded dragon: and Constantine himself, in a letter to Eusebius, calls his conquest of Licinius the falling of the dragon, and the restoration of Christian liberty to all men."-PYLE.
among these religion flourished, unknown to fame, unnoticed by history.
But, though not from the then imperial heavens, new enemies, successful as powerful, must arise, instigated by the same great adversary :—
12. "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that his time is short."
So much of prophecy was now fulfilled, that the evil spirit might perceive his reign on earth was drawing to its close; for though the one thousand two hundred and sixty years of the reign of the last triumphant adversaries of the church was yet to come, yet that was comparatively but a short period to him who, from the beginning, had boasted his power over the kingdoms of the earth : —
13. "And when the devil saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman that brought forth the manchild. And to the woman were given 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."
The gift of wings for flight seems to denote preparation for escape. The devil will prevail in this contest, but not to destroy. The Lord will conceal his chosen remnant from his pursuit.
His first effort, in his persecution of the woman, is thus designated :
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 flood."
I think there can be no question that this relates to something that took place before the mystic woman fled,
because then she was concealed from his sight: he saw her no longer-she had "fled from his face." Now, if we inquire in history what was the next great danger that threatened the destruction of the church, after that revolution which released her from the persecution of the pagan authorities of the Roman empire, we shall immediately fix upon the invasions of the northern barbarians; and, recollecting that floods and inundations are, in prophetical language, standing symbols of an invading foe, we shall not hesitate to apply the prophecy here. The issue and consequences will be found also corresponding :
16." And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth."
The extraordinary manner in which these barbarian and pagan nations were absorbed into the original population of the Roman provinces, so that instead of sweeping away the Christian church, as might have been expected, they fell at length into the ranks of her nominal supporters, exactly answers to this symbol. "As captive Greece," observes a late author, " is said to have subdued her Roman conqueror, so Rome, in her own turn of servitude, cast the fetters of a moral captivity upon the fierce invaders of the north. Chiefly through the exertions of the bishops, whose ambition may be forgiven for its effects, her religion, her language, in part even her laws, were transplanted into the courts of Paris and Toledo, which became a degree less barbarous by imitation." 1
HALLAM'S State of Europe during the Middle Ages. Compare
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."
The woman with her seed are still a visible object of the dragon's hostility. "He goes to make war." This implies a settled and systematical plan of warfare. Observe, he is the great red dragon still, though not now in the political heavens of the world. But how he is still to be identified with the beast of seven heads and ten horns, prophecy and history will show. We know, from former prophecies, that some instrument of the powers of darkness is, in these last times, to make war against the saints of the Most High, and to prevail against them,-to prevail against, but not absolutely to destroy the mystic woman; for wings have been given her to fly away, and a place has been prepared for her, where she is to be nourished in secret for one thousand two hundred and sixty years. During this period, however, times and laws are given into his hands.
The next vision will show us the devil's instruments in this warfare :
Chap. xiii." And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of Blasphemy."
There can be no doubt that this represents the revived Roman empire in the west. Its rising from the sea may denote the situation of Europe: or rather, the conflict of nations out of which this fourth empire, which, for a time, was not, in a strict and proper sense, though it virtually survived in the authority of the Constantinopolitan emperors, again emerged in its own proper form.