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arrayed in pure and heavenly light.' And thus splendid she will again appear, when she has regained her native purity, and is freed from the assaults of her enemies, and the corruptions of a sinful world. (Rev. xxi.)
There is but little difference of opinion upon the explanation of this part of the prophecy : almost all the commentators agree, that the woman represents the Church of Christ. Methodius, who wrote about the year 290, thus applies it.”
Ver. 2. And she being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.] Such was the situation of the Church from the time of Adam,“ the first man,” to whom the seed was promised,—to that of Christ, “ the second man,” the promised “seed, the Lord from heaven.” The scriptural writers express, under the same imagery, the earnest and unsatisfied desire of the ancient Church, to possess this promised blessing. (Mich. v. 2, 3; Rom. viji. 22.)
Ver. 3,4,5. And there appeared another wonder (or sign) in heaven ; and behold a great red (ruppoc, fire-coloured) dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth : and the dragon stood before the woman, which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron : and her child was caught up to God and to his throne.] To this description of the fire-coloured dragon, if we add the view afforded of him in the ninth verse of this chapter, (where he is said to be “ that old, or ancient serpent,' who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world,”) we cannot entertain a doubt of his identity. The Devil (Alaßodos) is the Greek name, as Satan is the Hebrew one, of that arch-enemy of true religion and of mankind, who, under the form of a serpent, deceived our first parents, (Gen. iii.) and, from that time to this, has been but too successful in deceiving their posterity. His seven heads, with crowns (or diadems) upon them, and his ten horns, express a prodigious quantity of worldly power and elevation, such as he in vain offered to our pure and virtuous Lord in the day of his temptation. This agrees with other passages of Scripture, in which he is called “ the Prince of this World, the God of the World, the Prince of the power of the Air,” (John xii. 31; 2 Cor. iv. 4; Eph. ii. 2.) To this is added another description of him, that with his tail, his ignoble and brutish part, he drags after him, as with a net, (ouper,) a third part of the stars of heaven, and casts them on the earth. This may denote the original apostasy of those angels, who, in heaven, “ kept not their first estate,” (Jude 6,) for he is now attended by those angels; or it may signify the artful machinations by which he made the ministers of religion subservient to his wicked designs,
i See Psalm civ. 2; where the Almighty is poetically represented as “ clothing himself with light, as it were with a garmeni.”
2 Vitringa observes, that Launæus, Cocceius, and other foreign interpreters, suppose her to be the church of the Old Testament: this interpretation he combats, and endeavours to show that it is that of the New Testament which she represents. But according to the most judicious divines, these form but one church, one and the same, of which Christ was the head from the beginning, when he was declared the successful supporter of the Church against her inveterate enemy.
1 Αρχαιος, ο απ' αρχη.
? The ancient interpreters, Methodius, followed by Arethas and Primasius, understood by the woman erkinoiu, by the dragon, ó Acapodoç. And. Cæsar. com. in locum.
3 See ch. vi. 4, and the notes. It must be observed, that the dragon has seven heads and ten horns, the same as the wild beast, his minister, to whom he delegates his power. But there is this difference, he has seven crowns on his seven heads, the beast has ten crowns on his ten horns, but horns are kings or kingdoms. (Dan. vii. 24.) This imports, that it was during the continuance and administration of the two beasts, that the governing power was divided
among the kings. The power of the dragon, before he was joined by these associates, is of a more general description, extensive as the inhabitants of the earth, and exercised long before and long after the appearance of the wild beasts.
Bishop Newton ad loc. ;) or it may be understood to have reference to both these apostasies, for the arch-fiend has succeeded in accomplishing such rebellions both in heaven and earth.
The object of this furious beast was, to devour the hope of the Church, the Messiah, designated as such by prophecy through all its ages previous to this expected birth, the male child, whose description is, that “ lie was to rule all nations with a rod of iron." This character and power, our Lord specifies as belonging to himself, " (Rev. ii. 27; xix. 15;) and it is awarded to him prophetically in the second Psalm. The iron rod is the sceptre of the Messiah, the crook of “ the great Shepherd of Israel,” dreadful to the enemies of his fold, but a sure protection to “ the sheep who obey his voice,” (Heb. xii. 20; John X. 3, 14, 16; Rev. vii. 17.)
Hitherto it appears that the symbol of the newborn Child belongs most appropriately to Christ; but the last clause in the five verses confirms it beyond all manner of doubt; for, to escape the jaws of the dragon, he is “ caught up unto God and to his throne;” not only to be protected by the presence of God, but to take the station there exclusively appropriated to him by holy scripture, and in which we
have seen him seated, in the “ midst of the throne of God," ch, v. 6. It is “the throne of God and of the Lamb," (ch. xxii. 3; Acts ii. 30; Heb. viii. 1; xii. 2.) He is both the Parent and the Son of the Christian Church. The Parent, when in his divine nature, “ before the foundation of the world,” he formed it, and engaged to redeem it, (1 Pet. i. 20; Rev. xiii. 8.) The Son, and first-born Son, when he derived an human existence from Abraham, in the line of David, &c., and performed his engagement. Hence he is styled by the prophet, both the root and the offspring of Jesse, (Isa. xi. 1. 10.)
Ver. 6. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore years.] By referring to Isaiah xli. 17—20;
Ezek. xx. 35—39; Hos. ii. 14–20; Matt. iv. 1-11, it will appear, that the word wilderness denotes a place of habitation scanty of sustenance, where food miraculously given is necessary for support of life; but where such support, united with the correction which is the effect of a desolate and perilous situation, produces excellent fruits of religious improvement. ReJigion abode with the Israelites in the wilderness during forty years of miraculous preservation. She fled again to the wilderness with the prophet Elijah, and was there miraculously supported and restored to her own land. (1 Kings xvii. xvii.) Thus the Church of Christ, after the birth of the promised seed, persecuted by the dragon and his agents, flees for refuge to obscure retreats; and is there miraculously preserved during a time appointed, 1260 years, of which more will be said as we advance in considering this prophecy.
Ver. 7–13. And there was war in heaven, &c.] This passage, beginning with the seventh, and end
ing with the thirteenth verse, should be read as in parenthesis ; because it is plainly no part of the prophecy as contained in the narration, both before and after it, which is here suspended, and then renewed again ; for verses six and fourteen, (the one at the beginning, the other at the end, of the parenthesis,) contain the same matter, and give the same information, thereby showing the junction of the parts to be complete.
where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there 1260
eagle were given to her, wbere she is nourished there for a time,
times, and balfa time, from the face of the serpent.
This is nearly the same narration, varied only by the difference of mood and tense required by the context; and the period of abode is the same, as hath been shown, (ch, xi. 2, note ;) and the place is divinely prepared for her. But since now (in ver. 14) the narration is about to proceed, so it here begins with an additional information, that she is conveyed by the wings of the great Eagle, that is, by divine, miraculous aid.1
The transaction, related in the parenthesis, is of a date far prior to the history related in the prophecy; and as such is alluded to in Jude 6, and 2 Pet. ii. 4.
It is a warfare or rebellion, of which Satan was the leader in heaven, whence being expelled, he attempts to pursue the same mischievous course on earth. Both these wars are to be understood in a spiritual sense only. The tempter seduced some of the blessed angels from their happy state of obedience to the divine laws. The leading angel, who,
1 Exod. xix. 4 ; Isa, xl. 31; Psa. xci. 4.