The great vision of this book goes straight forward,
from the fourth to the twenty - second chapter. Only the tenth,
with part of the eleventh chapter, was a kind of introduction
to the trumpet of the seventh angel; after which it is said,
"The second woe is past: behold, the third woe cometh quickly."
Immediately the seventh angel sounds, under whom the third woe
goes forth. And to this trumpet belongs all that is related
to the end of the book.
1: And a great sign was seen in heaven - Not only by St.
John, but many heavenly spectators represented in the vision.
A sign means something that has an uncommon appearance, and from
which we infer that some unusual thing will follow. A woman - The
emblem of the church of Christ, as she is originally of Israel,
though built and enlarged on all sides by the addition of heathen
converts; and as she will hereafter appear, when all her "natural
branches are again "grafted in." She is at present on earth; and
yet, with regard to her union with Christ, may be said to be in
heaven, (Eph 2:6). Accordingly, she is described as both
assaulted and defended in heaven, (Re 12:4,7).
Clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her
head a crown of twelve stars - These figurative expressions must he
so interpreted as to preserve a due proportion between them. So,
in Joseph's dream, the sun betokened his father; the moon, his
mother; the stars, their children. There may be some such
resemblance here; and as the prophecy points out the "power over
all nations," perhaps the sun may betoken the Christian world;
the moon, the Mahometans, who also carry the moon in their
ensigns; and the crown of twelve stars, the twelve tribes of
Israel; which are smaller than the sun and moon. The whole of
this chapter answers the state of the church from the ninth
century to this time.
2: And being with child she crieth, travailing in birth
- The very pain, without any outward opposition, would constrain
a woman in travail to cry out. These cries, throes, and pains
to be delivered, were the painful longings, the sighs, and
prayers of the saints for the coming of the kingdom of God.
The woman groaned and travailed in spirit, that Christ might
appear, as the Shepherd and King of all nations.
3: And behold a great red dragon - His fiery - red colour
denoting his disposition. Having seven heads - Implying vast
wisdom. And ten horns - Perhaps on the seventh head; emblems of
mighty power and strength, which he still retained. And seven
diadems on his heads - Not properly crowns, but costly bindings,
such as kings anciently wore; for, though fallen, he was a
great potentate still, even "the prince of this world."
4: And his tail - His falsehood and subtilty. Draweth - As
a train. The third part - A very large number. Of the stars of
heaven - The Christians and their teachers, who before sat in
heavenly places with Christ Jesus. And casteth them to the
earth - Utterly deprives them of all those heavenly blessings.
This is properly a part of the description of the dragon, who
was not yet himself on earth, but in heaven: consequently, this
casting them down was between the beginning of the seventh
trumpet and the beginning of the third woe; or between the
year 847 and the year 947; at which time pestilent doctrines,
particularly that of the Manichees in the east, drew abundance
of people from the truth. And the dragon stood before the
woman, that when she had brought forth, he might devour the
child - That he might hinder the kingdom of Christ from
spreading abroad, as it does under this trumpet.
5: And she brought forth a man child - Even Christ,
considered not in his person, but in his kingdom. In the ninth
age, many nations with their princes were added to the Christian
church. Who was to rule all nations - When his time is come. And
her child - Which was already in heaven, as were the woman and the
dragon. Was caught up to God - Taken utterly out of his reach.
6: And the woman fled into the wilderness - This wilderness
is undoubtedly on earth, where the woman also herself is now
supposed to be. It betokens that part of the earth where, after
having brought forth, she found a new abode. And this must be in
Europe; as Asia and Afric were wholly in the hands of the Turks
and Saracens; and in a part of it where the woman had not been
before. In this wilderness, God had already prepared a place;
that is, made it safe and convenient for her. The wilderness is,
those countries of Europe which lie on this side the Danube; for
the countries which lie beyond it had received Christianity
before. That they may feed her - That the people of that place
may provide all things needful for her. Twelve hundred and
sixty days - So many prophetic days, which are not, as some have
supposed, twelve hundred and sixty, but seven hundred and
seventy - seven, common years. This Bengelius has shown at large
in his German Introduction. These we may compute from the year
847 to 1524. So long the woman enjoyed a safe and convenient
place in Europe, which was chiefly Bohemia; where she was fed,
till God provided for her more plentifully at the Reformation.
7: And there was war in heaven - Here Satan makes his
grand opposition to the kingdom of God; but an end is now put to
his accusing the saints before God. The cause goes against him,
verses 10, 11, (Re 12:10,11) and Michael executes the
sentence. That Michael is a created angel, appears from his not
daring, in disputing with Satan, (Jude 1:9), to bring a railing
accusation; but only saying, "The Lord rebuke thee." And this
modesty is implied in his very name; for Michael signifies, "Who
is like God?" which implies also his deep reverence toward God,
and distance from all self - exaltation. Satan would be like God:
the very name of Michael asks, "Who is like God?" Not Satan;
not the highest archangel. It is he likewise that is afterward
employed to seize, bind, and imprison that proud spirit.
8: And he prevailed not - The dragon himself is principally
mentioned; but his angels, likewise, are to be understood.
Neither was this place found any more in heaven - So till now he
had a place in heaven. How deep a mystery is this! One may
compare this with (Lu 10:18,Eph 2:2,4:8,6:12).
9: And the great dragon was cast out - It is not yet said,
unto the earth - He was cast out of heaven; and at this the
inhabitants of heaven rejoice. He is termed the great dragon,
as appearing here in that shape, to intimate his poisonous and
cruel disposition. The ancient serpent - In allusion to his
deceiving Eve in that form. Dragons are a kind of large serpent.
Who is called the Devil and Satan - These are words of exactly the
same meaning; only the former is Greek; the latter, Hebrew;
denoting the grand adversary of all the saints, whether Jews or
gentiles. He has deceived the whole world - Not only in their
first parents, but through all ages, and in all countries, into
unbelief and all wickedness; into the hating and persecuting
faith and all goodness. He was cast out unto the earth - He was
cast out of heaven; and being cast out thence, himself came to
the earth. Nor had he been unemployed on the earth before,
although his ordinary abode was in heaven.
10: Now is come - Hence it is evident that all this chapter
belongs to the trumpet of the seventh angel. In the eleventh
chapter, from the fifteenth to the eighteenth verse, are proposed
the contents of this extensive trumpet; the execution of which
is copiously described in this and the following chapters. The
salvation - Of the saints. The might - Whereby the enemy is cast
out. The kingdom - Here the majesty of God is shown. And the
power of his Christ - Which he will exert against the beast; and
when he also is taken away, then will the kingdom be ascribed
to Christ himself, (Re 19:16,20:4).
The accuser of our brethren - So long as they remained on earth.
This great voice, therefore, was the voice of men only. Who
accused them before our God day and night - Amazing malice of
Satan, and patience of God!
11: And they have overcome him - Carried the cause against
him. By the blood of the Lamb - Which cleanses the soul from all
sin, and so leaves no room for accusing. And by the word of
their testimony - The word of God, which they believed and
testified, even unto death. So, for instance, died Olam, king
of Sweden, in the year 900, whom his own subjects would have
compelled to idolatry; and, upon his refusal, slew as a sacrifice
to the idol which he would not worship. So did multitudes of
Bohemian Christians, in the year 916, when queen Drahomire raised
a severe persecution, wherein many "loved not their lives unto
12: Woe to the earth and the sea - This is the fourth and
last denunciation of the third woe, the most grievous of all.
The first was only, the second chiefly, on the earth, Asia; the
third, both on the earth and the sea, Europe. The earth is
mentioned first, because it began in Asia, before the beast
brought it on Europe. He knoweth he hath but a little time
- Which extends from his casting out of heaven to his being cast
into the abyss.
We are now come to a most important period of time. The non -
chronos hastens to an end. We live in the little time wherein
Satan hath great wrath; and this little time is now upon the
decline. We are in the "time, times, and half a time," wherein
the woman is "fed in the wilderness;" yea, the last part of it,
"the half time," is begun. We are, as will be shown, towards the
close of the "forty - two months" of the beast; and when his number
is fulfilled, grievous things will be.
Let him who does not regard the being seized by the wrath of
the devil; the falling unawares into the general temptation; the
being borne away, by the most dreadful violence, into the worship
of the beast and his image, and, consequently, drinking the
unmixed wine of the wrath of God, and being tormented day and
night for ever and ever in the lake of fire and brimstone; let
him also who is confident that he can make his way through all
these by his own wisdom and strength, without need of any such
peculiar preservative as the word of this prophecy affords;
let him, I say, go hence. But let him who does not take these
warnings for senseless outcries, and blind alarms, beg of God,
with all possible earnestness, to give him his heavenly light
God has not given this prophecy, in so solemn a manner, only to
show his providence over his church, but also that his servants
may know at all times in what particular period they are. And
the more dangerous any period of time is, the greater is the
help which it affords. But where may we fix the beginning and
end of the little time? which is probably four - fifths of a
chronos, or somewhat above 888 years. This, which is the time
of the third woe, may reach from 947, to the year 1836. For,
The short interval of the second woe, (which woe ended in the
year 840,) and the 777 years of the woman, which began about the
year 847, quickly after which followed the war in heaven, fix
the beginning not long after 864: and thus the third woe falls
in the tenth century, extending from 900 to 1000; called the
dark, the iron, the unhappy age.
If we compare the length of the third woe with the period of
time which succeeds it in the twentieth chapter, it is but a
little time to that vast space which reaches from the beginning
of the non - chronos to the end of the world.
13: And when the dragon saw - That be could no longer
accuse the saints in heaven, he turned his wrath to do all
possible mischief on earth. He persecuted the woman - The
ancient persecutions of the church were mentioned,(Re 1:9,2:10,7:14); but this persecution came after
her flight, (Re 12:6) just at the beginning of the
third woe. Accordingly, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the
church was furiously persecuted by several heathen powers. In
Prussia, king Adelbert was killed in the year 997, king Brunus
in 1008; and when king Stephen encouraged Christianity in Hungary,
he met with violent opposition. After his death, the heathens in
Hungary set themselves to root it out, and prevailed for several
years. About the same time, the army of the emperor, Henry the
Third, was totally overthrown by the Vandals. These, and all
the accounts of those times, show with what fury the dragon then
persecuted the woman.
14: And there were given to the woman the two wings
of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness
to her place - Eagles are the usual symbols of great potentates.
So (Ezekiel 17:3), by "a great eagle', means the king of Babylon.
Here the great eagle is the Roman empire; the two wings, the
eastern and western branches of it. A place in the wilderness
was mentioned in the sixth verse also; (Re 12:6) but it is
not the same which is mentioned here.In the text there follow one after the other,
The dragon's waiting to devour the child.
The birth of the child, which is caught up to God.
The fleeing of the woman into the wilderness.
The war in heaven, and the casting out of the dragon.
The beginning of the third woe.
The persecution raised by the dragon against the woman.
The woman's flying away upon the eagle's wings.
In like manner there follow one after the other,
The beginning of the twelve hundred and sixty days.
The beginning of the little time.
The beginning of the time, times, and half a time.
This third period partly coincides both with the first and the
second. After the beginning of the twelve hundred and sixty
days, or rather of the third woe, Christianity was exceedingly
propagated, in the midst of various persecutions. About the
year 948 it was again settled in Denmark; in 965, in Poland and
Silesia; in 980, through all Russia. In 997 it was brought
into Hungary; into Sweden and Norway, both before and after.
Transylvania received it about 1000; and, soon after, other
parts of Dacia.
Now, all the countries in which Christianity was settled between
the beginning of the twelve hundred and sixty days, and the
imprisonment of the dragon, may be understood by the wilderness,
and by her place in particular. This place contained many
countries; so that Christianity now reached, in an uninterrupted
tract, from the eastern to the western empire; and both the
emperors now lent their wings to the woman, and provided a
safe abode for her. Where she is fed - By God rather than man;
having little human help. For a time, and times, and half a
time - The length of the several periods here mentioned seems to
be nearly this: -
The non - chronos contains less than
The little time
The time, times, and half a time
The time of the beast
And comparing the prophecy and history together, they seem to begin and end nearly thus:
The non - chronos extends
from about 800 to 1836
The 1260 days of the woman
from 847 - 1524
The little time
947 - 1836
The time, time, and half
1058 - 1836
The time of the beast
between the beginning and end of the
three times and a half
In the year 1058 the empires had a good
understanding with each other, and both protected the woman.
The bishops of Rome, likewise, particularly Victor II., were
duly subordinate to the emperor. We may observe, the twelve
hundred and sixty days of the woman, from 847 to 1524, and the
three times and a half, refer to the same wilderness. But in
the former part of the twelve hundred and sixty days, before
the three times and an half began, namely, from the year 847 to
1058, she was fed by others, being little able to help herself;
whereas, from 1058 to 1524, she is both fed by others, and has
food herself. To this the sciences transplanted into the west
from the eastern countries much contributed; the scriptures, in
the original tongues, brought into the west of Europe by the
Jews and Greeks, much more; and most of all, the Reformation,
grounded on those scriptures.
15: Water is an emblem of a great people; this water,
of the Turks in particular. About the year 1060 they overran
the Christian part of Asia. Afterward, they poured into Europe,
and spread farther and farther, till they had overflowed many
16: But the earth helped the woman - The powers of the earth;
and indeed she needed help through this whole period. "The time"
was from 1058 to 1280; during which the Turkish flood ran higher
and higher, though frequently repressed by the emperors, or their
generals, helping the woman. "The" two "times" were from 1280
to 1725. During these likewise the Turkish power flowed far and
wide; but still from time to time the princes of the earth helped
the woman, that she was not carried away by it. "The half time"
is from 1725 to 1836. In the beginning of this period the Turks
began to meddle with the affairs of Persia: wherein they have so
entangled themselves, as to be the less able to prevail against
the two remaining Christian empires. Yet this flood still
reaches the woman "in her place;" and will, till near the end of
the "half time," itself be swallowed up, perhaps by means of
Russia, which is risen in the room of the eastern empire.
17: And the dragon was wroth - Anew, because he could not
cause her to he carried away by the stream. And he went forth
- Into other lands. To make war with the rest of her seed - Real
Christians, living under heathen or Turkish governors.