Page images

did cast them to the earth : and delivered, for to devour her the dragon stood before the child as soon as it was born. woman which was ready to be 5 And she brought forth a of the Roman army.

The horses their high stations. So Isaiah says, breathed fire and smoke and brim- “How art thou fallen from heaven, stone ; and their tails were like ser-O Lucifer, son of the morning ;' xiv. pents, having heads. The sole intent 12. The dragon had power to cause in that passage seems to have been to many to fall from their high estate of represent the horses to be as fearful purity and faithfulness. T To devour as possible. So, to represent the her child. — It will be seen that this dragon's power, it is said, “his tail was the great object of the dragon, drew a third part of the stars." The his first and most earnest purpose. dragon, if he represented the spiritual and he desired to accomplish, it speepower of Rome, or paganism, would, dily. He watched for the child ihat of course, have great influence among was about to be born, that he might the rulers of the empire; they would devour it. be more or less under his guidance ; 5. Brought forth a man-child. This and all who have learned of the is one of the most interesting verses immense power of heathen priests, in the whole chapter. The prophet know that they could almost make said, “A virgin shall conceive and and unmake rulers at their pleasure. bear a son, and thou shalt call his They had means of guiding public name Immanuel ;" Isa. vii. 14. A sentiment and controlling the public “ man-child” was born. Is not this will. Such a power in the dragon, the man-child brought forth by Zion, would be well described by his draw- and mentioned in Isa. lxvi? At any ing after him the stars of heaven. rate the figures are similar: “Before John had placed the scene in the she travailed, she brought forth ; befirmament, among the stars. He fore her pain came, she was delivered showed the dragon's power, therefore, of a man-child. Who hath heard by representing him as drawing thé such a thing? who hath seen such

The metaphor, perhaps, was things ? shall the earth be made 10 suggested by the passage in Daniel : bring forth in one day? or shall a "And it waxed great, even to the nation be born at once? for as soon host of heaven: and it cast down as Zion travailed, she brought forth some of the host and of the stars to her children;" verses 7, 8, of the the ground, and stamped upon them ;" chapter mentioned. | Rule all nations viii. 10. Daniel meant by stars Jew- with a rod of iron. This man-child ish rulers. The dragon was repre- was “to rule all nations with a rod sented as very powerful; he had of iron.” Who is this but the Christ? immense influence. It would seem God says of his Son, whom he had to require great power to strike the begotten : “ Ask of me, and I will stars out of their places. Star stands, give thee the heathen for thine inherin the metaphorical language of the itance, and the uttermost parts of the Bible, for a ruler, an eminent person, earth for thy possession. Thou shalt as we saw in treating of the angels break them with a rod of iron,” &c.; of the churches; i. 20. This dragon Psa. ii. 8, 9; Rev. ii. 26, 27; xix. 15. had power to draw many of the rulers It seems difficult to avoid thé thought after him. When men are drawn that the revelator had his mind on away by bad influences, they are com- this passage in the 2d Psalm, when pared to “ wandering stars ;" Jude he said that the man-child “was to 13. To cast the stars down from rule all nations with a rod of iron.'' heaven to the earth is to degrade | Unto God and his throne.

-- This men, – to throw them down from 'may signify that God took Jesus


[ocr errors]

man-child, who was to rule all 6 And the woman fied into nations with a rod of iron : and the wilderness, where she hath her child was caught up unto a place prepared of God, that God, and to his throne.

they should feed her there a

as soon

under his peculiar protection ; and 6. The woman fled into the wilderthat he was safe from all that God | ness. - It is not necessary to suppose did not design that he should suffer, that the woman fled into the wilderas if he had been caught up to Godness after her child was caught up to and his throne; or it may signify the throne of God; but after the that Jesus, at his death, was taken birth. The sense may be as follows: up to heaven to sit down at the right And she brought forih a man-child, hand of God. Jesus and his religion who was to rule all nations with a was the continued object of persecu- rod of iron ; and her child was (subtion, all over the Roman empire, sequently, viz., at his resurrection] wherever it was preached. His death caught up unto God and his throne. was no hindrance to the propagation But the woman, the mother, fled into of his religion, but rather a great help the wilderness, where she had a place to it. So signal a display of divine prepared of God. In this case it is power was it in God, to cause the possible the revelator referred to wrath of man to praise him, that even Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus, when the powers of earth succeeded who, as we have seen, fled with her to kill him, the hand of God was in son into Egypt. It is by no means it, and God was said to have “caught certain, however, that this is the true him up to his throne.” We know interpretation. It may signify the that Herod, the Roman governor, retirement of the believers into obsought to slay the infant Jesus almost scure places, in consequence of the

as he was born ; and his raging persecutions. The Hebrews mother was obliged to tiee away with used the word which we translate him into Egypt, where she remained wilderness, to signify all places that until Herod died ; Matt. ii. 12–20. were not cultivated, but which were But we have said God “caught him chiefly destined to the feeding of catup to his throne;" and there the rev- tle, and on which trees grew wild. elator saw him. " And I beheld, and So when wilderness is mentioned in lo, in the midst of the throne, and of Scripture, we are not always to imagthe four beasts, and in the midst of ine it to be a place forsaken, abanthe elders, stood a Lamb,” &c.; v. 6. doned, void of cities, or inhabitants; Hence the throne is called from that as this word often represents the soil time “the throne of God and the near a city, or village, which was Lamb."

The Son, from the time appointed for a pasture, and where that the Father caught him up to his the plough never came. Thus, in throne, was safe in heaven. Perse. Scripture, there are few cities which cution could no more assail him, and had not their wilderness, i. e., unculaccordingly we read no more of his tivated places for woods or pastures. being persecuted. But persecutions We need not suppose, therefore, that still continued. « And the dragon the Christians all rushed to one and was wroth with the woman, and went the same place; but they resorted to to make war with the remnant of her obscure retreats, in the times of the seed, which keep the commandments greatest danger. They fled at times of God, and have the testimony of from one place to another, as their Jesus Christ ;" verse 17. The mem- Master told them to do; Matt. x. 23. bers of the church on carth still suf- So Paul went from Amphipolis to fered under the wrath of the dragon. | Apollonia, thence to Thessalonica,

war in

thousand two hundred and three- 7 And there was score days.

heaven : Michael and his angels thence to Berea, and thence to Athens. is “the captain of our salvation.” The Christians were not required to This war may be said to have been sacrifice their lives uselessly and in heaven perhaps for two reasons. rashly. They were to flee before 1st. John had laid the scene of these persecution, and live and preach as transactions in the firmament, the long as they could, and as long as it field of the sun, moon and stars. was God's will. But they were never The dragon was introduced first of all to hold life dearer than the cause of in that field. The war certainly was Christ, and were never to renounce metaphorical. The whole account is of the latter to save the former. TA that nature. No such events actually thousand two hundred and threescore took place among the stars. The days. — The revelator merely touches scene was laid there in the revelator's upon the persecution of the woman in imagination. War in heaven may this place; and, intending to resume also signify a spiritual contest. This it again, he passes hastily to the sub- is the only place in the Bible in which ject mentioned in the next verse. that expression occurs. It was the The persecution of the woman is contest, says Sir Isaac Newton, beresumed, ver. 13. By the thousand tween "the Christian and heathen two hundred and threescore days is religions;" and we quote the words as meant the time of the church's depres- expressing the idea, which, in our sion, and the triumph of the perse- view, the revelator intended to concuting power, as we have shown vey. | Michael and his angels. The under xi. 2, 3. It is the same season inquiry will now arise, who was Mithat is referred to in ver. 14, as a chael ? He was an imaginary leader time, times, and half a time. This is of the Christian forces, as the dragon, made certain by a comparison of ver. 6 that old serpent, who is the devil and with ver. 14.

Satan, (for these four terms all sig. 7. There was war in heaven. War nify the same thing,) was the imagi. is put for spiritual contests in the Scrip- nary leader of the opposition. Mitures. “For though we walk in the chael is mentioned in the books of flesh, we do not war after the flesh; Daniel, Jude and the Apocalypse. In for the weapons of our warfare are Daniel the name seems to be applied not carnal, but mighty through God to one of the chief princes of Persia, to the pulling down of strong holds,” | an amiable and excellent personage, &c., &c.; 2 Cor. x. 3, 4. Paul who succored Daniel and the Jews, charged Timothy “to war a good while they were in captivity, and warfare;" 1 Tim. i. 28; again he rendered them very essential service; tells him to “endure hardness as a see chap. x. 13, 21. From this fact good soldier of Jesus Christ;" and that his name came to be used metonym“no man that warreth entangleth ically for the guardian of good men, himself with the affairs of this life, who would protect the Christians in that he may please him that hath the time of their troubles, as he had chosen him to be a soldier ;” 2 Tim. protected the Jews in their captivity; ii. 3, 4. And he says, in the same Dan. xii. 1. In the figurative lanepistle: "I have fought a good fight, guage of Jude, he is called an archI have finished my course, I have angel, who had contended with the kept the faith ;" iv. 7. There can be devil, (i. e., the opponents,) about the no doubt that often put in the body of Moses, a figure to represent Scriptures for spiritual contests. The the Jewish church in captivity, just Christian is a soldier," and Christ | as the body of Christ represents the

fought against the dragon; and I was their place found any more the dragon fought and his angels, in heaven.

8 And prevailed not; neither 9 And the great dragon was Christian church. See Eph. i. 22, prejudice to aid it; but it could not 23: “Gave him to be the head over prevail. | Neither was their place all things to the church, which is his found any more in heaven. — The drag. body, the fulness of him that filleth on was degraded, thrown down from all in all.” Col. i. 24: “For his his high place. John, having laid the body's sake, which is the church." scene of the contest in the firmament, 1 Cor. xii. 27 : “Now ye are the body thus gave himself a fine opportunity of Christ, and members in particular." to describe the degradation of the Michael, in metaphor, being spoken dragon, by his being precipitated to of as the guardian of the Jewish the earth. Instead of succeeding in church, (metonymically, “the body his attempt, the dragon was even of Moses,”') so is he spoken of, in the further removed from the power of same sense, as the guardian of the accomplishing it. Christian church; and he contended 9. The great dragon was cast out. with the dragon, or devil, about the The dragon prevailed not; he was body of Christ, or the church. Hence beaten. He was cast out of heaven; came the battle, or spiritual contest, i. e., he was cast down from his placé between “Michael and his angels,” of spiritual power. The Christian and “the dragon and his angels." religion was successful. When the

T The dragon fought and his angels. - seventy disciples returned to Jesus on We have given some account of the a certain occasion, and told him of dragon under ver. 3. The dragon their great successes, he foresaw the was the metaphorical leader of the ultimate triumph of his truth over all opposition to Christianity, precisely opposition, and he described the fall as Michael was of the Christian of that opposition in these words : forces. The spiritual contest is de- "I beheld Satan as lightning fall scribed under the metaphor of earthly from heaven;" i. e. from his high warfare; and therefore the spiritual power. I beheld, and saw him cast forces are described under the meta- down. The same figure was used to phor of earthly forces. Neither Mi- describe the fall of the king of Babychael nor the dragon was a real being. lon from his throne. Isa. xiv. 12– Michael and his forces were the 15 : “How art thou fallen from heavChristian forces; the dragon and his en, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning! forces were the heathen powers, that how art thou cut down to the ground, opposed and persecuted the Christians. which didst weaken the nations! The dragon, the old serpent, the devil For thou hast said in thy heart, I and Satan, are all used to signify the will ascend into heaven, I will exalt leading opposers of Christianity. The my throne above the stars of God: great fact to be remembered in this I will sit also upon the mount of the place is, that this account of the congregation, in the sides of the contest is wholly allegorical, and north : I will ascend above the describes the opposition between heights of the clouds; I will be like Christianity and heathenism.

the Most High. Yet thou shalt be 8. Prevailed not. This is as we brought down to hell, to the sides of should expect. God's truth cannot the pit.” To be cast out of heaven be overcome. The Christian reli- | into the earth was to be abased, - to gion prevailed in spite of all the op- be thrown down from high power and position that was arrayed against it ; influence to weakness and degradaand the opposition could not prevail. tion. The battle of Michael and the It had numbers, wealth, learning, and I dragon was a visionary scene. It

cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which existed only in the imagination of St. of the Apocalypse signifies anything John ; though the circumstances in- besides human adversaries, it is the tended to be described were realities. only instance in the Bible in which it See our extract from Doddridge in has such a signification. We find our note on chapter iv. 4. Bishop the dragon mentioned Psa. xci. 13: Newton, we think, gives the best “ Thou shalt tread upon the lion and construction of the contest between adder : the young lion and the dragon Michael and the dragon : “ This con- shalt thou trample under feet.” Is test lasted several years, and the any other than a human adversary final issue of it was, that the Chris- intended here? Is not this the mean. tian prevailed over the heathen reli- ing of the passage thou shalt tri. gion, the heathen were deposed from umph over all thine enemies, even all rule and authority, and the Chris- the most formidable? Are not the tians were advanced to dominion and lion, the adder, the young lion, the empire in their stead.” The Christian dragon, all put for earthly enemies? religion prevailed among the leading Why should the dragon be supposed men of the empire. There is not the to refer to a super-human adversary slightest evidence that by “the great any more than the lion, or the adder? dragon, that old serpent, called the The dragon is mentioned again, Isa. Devil, and Satan,” any other than xxvii. 1 : “In that day the Lord with earthly powers were intended. It is his sore and great and strong sword high time that all the old superstitions shall punish leviathan the piercing in regard to a super-human adversary serpent, even leviathan that crooked passed away. That the devil stood serpent ; and he shall slay the dragon for the earthly opponents of the Chris- that is in the sea.” What is meant tians is certain; for it is said, “The here by the dragon that is in the sea ? devil shall cast some of you into Was it any other than a human ad. prison,” Rev. ii. 10; and of course, versary ? Adam Clarke, speaking of the power that cast the Christians the animals mentioned in this verse, into prison was intended by the devil. says: “These are used allegorically, That power was unquestionably the without doubt, for great potentates, leading opponents of the church, enemies and persecutors of the people against whom the Christians had to of God; but to specify the particular contend. Paul said to the Ephesians, persons or states designed by the “Put on the whole armor of God, prophet under these images, is a malthat ye may be able to stand against ter of great difficulty, and comes not the wiles of the devil;' vi. 11; and necessarily within the design of these then he shows who they were to con- notes. R. D. Kimchi says, leviathan tend with, in the next words : “For is a parable concerning the kings of we wrestle not against flesh and the Gentiles; it is the largest fish in blood, but against principalities, the sea, called also tannin, the dragon, against the rulers of the darkness of or rather the whale. By these names this world, against spiritual wicked the Grecian, Turkish and Roman ness in high places. These rulers, empires are intended. The dragon these principalities, these powers, of the sea seems to mean some nation were diabolos, the devil

, that old ser- having a strong naval force and pent, and Satan. The final and ut- extensive commerce. See Kimchi ter overthrow of the dragon is men- on the place.” So far A. Clarke. tioned in Rev. xx. 1–3 and 7—10, to We here have the Jewish use of the which places we refer for further re- metaphor. It signified earthly opposmarks on this topic. We take the ers and oppressors. The next in. opportunity here to say, if the dragon Istance in the common version in

« PreviousContinue »