1Now a great sign appeared in the heavens: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.2And being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.3And another sign appeared in the heavens: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.4And his tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, in order to devour her Child as soon as it was born.5And she bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught away to God and His throne.6Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.7And war broke out in Heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,8but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in Heaven any longer.9So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who leads the whole world astray; he was cast out onto the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10And I heard a loud voice saying in Heaven, Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11And they overcame him through the blood of the Lamb and through the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives unto death.12Therefore rejoice, O Heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time left.13And when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.14But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.15And the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.16But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.17And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Matthew Henry - Complete Commentary 1
Here we see that early prophecy eminently fulfilled in which God said he would put enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, Gen 3:15
. You will observe,
I. The attempts of Satan and his agents to prevent the increase of the church, by devouring her offspring as soon as it was born;
of this we have a very lively description in the most proper images.
1. We see how the church is represented in this vision. (1.) As a woman,
the weaker part of the world, but the spouse of Christ, and the mother of the saints. (2.) As clothed with the sun,
the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Having put on Christ, who is the Sun of righteousness,
she, by her relation to Christ, is invested with honourable rights and privileges, and shines in his rays. (3.) As having the moon under her feet
(that is, the world); she stands upon it, but lives above it; her heart and hope are not set upon sublunary things, but on the things that are in heaven, where her head is. (4.) As having on her head a crown of twelve stars,
that is, the doctrine of the gospel preached by the twelve apostles, which is a crown of glory to all true believers. (5.) As in travail, crying out, and pained to be delivered.
She was pregnant, and now in pain to bring forth a holy progeny to Christ, desirous that what was begun in the conviction of sinners might end in their conversion, that when the children were brought to the birth there might be strength to bring forth, and that she might see of the travail of her soul.
2. How the grand enemy of the church is represented. (1.) As a great red dragon
- a dragon for strength and terror - a red dragon for fierceness and cruelty. (2.) As having seven heads,
that is, placed on seven hills, as Rome was; and therefore it is probable that pagan Rome is here meant. (3.) As having ten horns,
divided into ten provinces, as the Roman empire was by Augustus Caesar. (4.) As having seven crowns upon his head,
which is afterwards expounded to be seven kings, Revel 17:10
. (5.) As drawing with his tail a third part of the stars in heaven,
and casting them down to the earth,
turning the ministers and professors of the Christian religion out of their places and privileges and making them as weak and useless as he could. (6.) As standing before the woman, to devour her child as soon as it should be born,
very vigilant to crush the Christian religion in its birth and entirely to prevent the growth and continuance of it in the world.
II. The unsuccessfulness of these attempts against the church; for, 1. She was safely delivered of a man-child
), by which some understand Christ, others Constantine, but others, with greater propriety, a race of true believers, strong and united, resembling Christ, and designed, under him, to rule the nations with a rod of iron;
that is, to judge the world by their doctrine and lives now, and as assessors with Christ at the great day. 2. Care was taken of this child: it was caught up to God, and to his throne;
that is, taken into his special, powerful, and immediate protection. The Christian religion has been from its infancy the special care of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
3. Care was taken of the mother as well as of the child, Revel 12:6
. She fled into the wilderness, a place prepared
both for her safety and her sustenance. The church was in an obscure state, dispersed; and this proved her security, through the care of divine Providence. This her obscure and private state was for a limited time, not to continue always.
III. The attempts of the dragon not only proved unsuccessful against the church, but fatal to his own interests; for, upon his endeavour to devour the man-child, he engaged all the powers of heaven against him (Revel 12:7
): There was war in heaven. Heaven
will espouse the quarrel of the church. Here observe,
1. The seat of this war - in heaven,
in the church, which is the kingdom of heaven
on earth, under the care of heaven and in the same interest.
2. The parties - Michael and his angels
on one side, and the dragon and his angels
on the other: Christ, the great Angel of the covenant, and his faithful followers; and Satan and all his instruments. This latter party would be much superior in number and outward strength to the other; but the strength of the church lies in having the Lord Jesus for the captain of their salvation.
3. The success of the battle: The dragon and his angels fought and prevailed not;
there was a great struggle on both sides, but the victory fell to Christ and his church, and the dragon and his angels were not only conquered, but cast out; the pagan idolatry, which was a worshipping of devils, was extirpated out of the empire in the time of Constantine.
4. The triumphant song that was composed and used on this occasion, Revel 12:10
, Revel 12:11
. Here observe, (1.) How the conqueror is adored: Now have come salvation, strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ.
Now God has shown himself to be a mighty God; now Christ has shown himself to be a strong and mighty Saviour; his own arm has brought salvation, and now his kingdom will be greatly enlarged and established. The salvation and strength of the church are all to be ascribed to the king and head of the church. (2.) How the conquered enemy is described. [1.] By his malice; he was the accuser of the brethren,
and accused them before their God night and day;
he appeared before God as an adversary to the church, continually bringing in indictments and accusations against them, whether true or false; thus he accused Job, and thus he accused Joshua the high priest, Zech 3:1
. Though he hates the presence of God, yet he is willing to appear there to accuse the people of God. Let us therefore take heed that we give him no cause of accusation against us; and that, when we have sinned, we presently go in before the Lord, and accuse and condemn ourselves, and commit our cause to Christ as our Advocate. [2.] By his disappointment and defeat: he and all his accusations are cast out, the indictments quashed, and the accuser turned out of the court with just indignation. (3.) How the victory was gained. The servants of God overcame Satan, [1.] By the blood of the Lamb,
as the meritorious cause. Christ by dying destroyed him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil.
[2.] By the word of their testimony,
as the great instrument of war, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
- by a resolute powerful preaching of the everlasting gospel, which is mighty, through God, to pull down strongholds,
- and by their courage and patience in sufferings; they loved not their lives unto the death,
when the love of life stood in competition with their loyalty to Christ; they loved not their lives so well but they could give them up to death,
could lay them down in Christ's cause; their love to their own lives was overcome by stronger affections of another nature; and this their courage and zeal helped to confound their enemies, to convince many of the spectators, to confirm the souls of the faithful, and so contributed greatly to this victory. 12
We have here an account of this war, so happily finished in heaven, or in the church, as it was again renewed and carried on in the wilderness, the place to which the church had fled, and where she had been for some time secured by the special care of her God and Saviour. Observe,
I. The warning given of the distress and calamity that should fall upon the inhabitants of the world in general, through the wrath and rage of the devil. For, though his malice is chiefly bent against the servants of God, yet he is an enemy and hater of mankind as such; and, being defeated in his designs against the church, he is resolved to give all the disturbance he can to the world in general: Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, and the sea, Revel 12:12
. The rage of Satan grows so much the greater as he is limited both in place and time; when he was confined to the wilderness, and had but a short time to reign there, he comes with the greater wrath.
II. His second attempt upon the church now in the wilderness: He persecuted the woman who brought forth the man-child, Revel 12:13
. Observe, 1. The care that God had taken of his church. He had conveyed her as on eagles' wings, into a place of safety provided for her, where she was to continue for a certain space of time, couched in prophetic characters, taken from Dan 7:25
. 2. The continual malice of the dragon against the church. Her obscurity could not altogether protect her; the old subtle serpent, which at first lurked in paradise, now follows the church into the wilderness, and casts out a flood of water after her, to carry her away.
This is thought to be meant of a flood of error and heresy, which was breathed by Arius, Nestorius, Pelagius, and many more, by which the church of God was in danger of being overwhelmed and carried away. The church of God is in more danger from heretics than from persecutors; and heresies are as certainly from the devil as open force and violence. 3. The seasonable help provided for the church in this dangerous juncture: The earth helped the woman, and opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood, Revel 12:16
. Some think we are to understand the swarms of Goths and Vandals that invaded the Roman empire, and found work for the Arian rulers, who otherwise would have been as furious persecutors as the pagan had been, and had exercised great cruelties already; but God opened a breach of war, and the flood was in a manner swallowed up thereby, and the church enjoyed some respite. God often sends the sword to avenge the quarrel of his covenant; and, when men choose new gods, then there is danger of war in the gates; intestine broils and contentions often end in the invasions of a common enemy. 4. The devil, being thus defeated in his designs upon the universal church, now turns his rage against particular persons and places; his malice against the woman pushes him on to make war with the remnant of her seed.
Some think hereby are meant the Albigenses, who were first by Dioclesian driven up into barren and mountainous places, and afterwards cruelly murdered by popish rage and power, for several generations; and for no other reason than because they kept the commandments of God
and held the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Their fidelity to God and Christ, in doctrine, worship, and practice, was that which exposed them to the rage of Satan and his instruments; and such fidelity will expose men still, less or more, to the end of the world, when the last enemy shall be destroyed.