C. H. H. Wright's Key to the Apocalypse

+ Larger Font | - Smaller Font

The Creation Concept


Biblical essays

by C. H. H. Wright.
T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh.
pp. 198-252.

Ezekiel's prophecy of Gog and Magog


IT would be impossible in the compass of a short "study" to attempt anything like a review of the various interpretations of the Book of the Revelation, or even a satisfactory outline of the history of the exegesis of a single chapter. But, paradoxical as the assertion may appear, there is, notwithstanding the differences of opinion which exist among expositors, a far more general agreement among them than is usually supposed. The real differences, indeed, between those commentators who believe in the inspiration of the book, and who are really worthy of notice, are to be found in the explanation of the subordinate details. There is a general agreement among expositors on the question of the main object and teachings of the book itself.

On no book of the Sacred Scriptures has a larger number of worthless "expositions" been written, and on none has such an amount of perverse ingenuity been expended. The multitudes of pamphlets also which have been issued, all giving more or less discordant explanations of the Book of the Revelation, have, indeed, like Egyptian flies, "shadowed" the book "with their wings" (Isa. xviii. 1), and have lighted down, like the Assyrian bees, on all the "rocks and pastures" of this "holy land" (Isa. vii. 18, 19), not a little obscuring for ordinary Bible readers the sacred teachings of the book. We cannot profess any reverence for those busy nobodies whose ignorance is generally equalled by their dogmatism, and must claim the right even in a popular essay simply to brush them off without any detailed notice. For it would be hopeless to attempt as much as an enumeration, even of the titles of the productions which have teemed forth from "the prophetical writers" of our own country, not to speak of those of other lands.

The object of the present study is to point out that the Book of the Revelation itself contains a key wherewith the darker rooms in that castle may be unlocked, and presents a clue which may enable the ordinary Biblical student to penetrate many of the winding passages in that apparent labyrinth of Scripture.

Interpretations of the Book of the Revelation which claim to be entirely new and original ought not to be regarded with any favour. The very claim to originality ought to be sufficient to condemn them unheard. For the book was no doubt understood in its general outlines by the Churches for whose instruction it was penned, and to whom it was first sent by the Apostle. Though it contains also prophecies of later times, and points out the working of principles, which have been exhibited in the Church and in the world in all ages, yet to understand it aright we must try and transport ourselves back to the days in which the Apostle tarried in Patmos, and from that rocky isle surveyed the conflict in which the Church was engaged, as well as those struggles into which she was shortly to enter.

Zahn in his recent Apokalyptische Studien [1] has called attention to the importance of recognising this truth, and has shown how important the principle is when nsed in the defence of the apostolic authorship of the last book of the New Testament. He observes, as many expositors have done before him, that the author of the Apocalypse expressly put the reader on his guard not to regard his book as "sealed" (Isa. xxix. 11), like the Book of Daniel (xii. 4, 9), the Book of Enoch (i. 2), or the Fourth Book of Ezra (xii 36-38, comp. xiv. 26, 4o-47). [2]

The Apocalypse was not therefore a book intended only for later ages, and for the reading of the "learned" (Isa. xxix. 12) and "wise" (Dan. xii. 10), but from the beginning to the end of the book St. John distinctly contemplates his work being used by Christians in general even of the earliest ages. [3]

The visions of the Apocalypse have a voice which has spoken comfort to the Church in all trials and tribulations she has been called upon to endure from the very earliest period. The glowing hopes therein set forth, and the expectations of coming victory, have cheered the soldiers of Christ in many of their arduous combats. Mistakes have, no doubt, been constantly made as to the interpretation of many of the details of the book, owing in great part to the tendency of persons in every age to exaggerate the importance of the events in which their own lot is cast, and to view events which occur in their day too much either from an optimistic or pessimistic standpoint.

It appears to have been designed by Divine wisdom that the Church of the Old Dispensation should be kept always in anticipation of the first Advent of the Messiah; and on all occasions the prophets anticipated the speedy coming of that Deliverer. The Church of the New Dispensation has likewise been kept in constant expectation of the second Advent of the Kedeemer; and the Apostles, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, expected even that Advent to take place in their own day. They were thus kept watching and waiting for the advent of the Son of Man, and such an expectant attitude was most befitting the servants of the great Master. Christ has not permitted His people to know the day or the hour of His coming; their duty is simply to "watch" which implies that they are to work as men who expect His arrival--"and pray."

In the same way the Book of the Revelation, written in the light of the Neronic persecutions, was designed not merely to encourage the Christians of that age, but to be a blessing to the Church in all ages. It was not intended to be a history written in advance, a history so general and so precise, that if its starting-point were once clearly ascertained, the intelligent and God-led believer would be able to track out the history of the Church to the end of the world. It is a mistake to affirm that all fulfilled prophecy is clear and distinct, and unfulfilled prophecy is dark and obscure. Prophecy was scarcely ever "history written in advance," and consequently many prophecies generally assumed to have been fulfilled, are, when examined, found to be difficult and obscure. The careful student of the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah will fully endorse this statement; and we cannot tarry here to give proofs sufficient to convince the gainsayers.

It is a fact, however, patent to the student of Church history, that the Book of the Apocalypse has afforded hope and encouragement to the Church in all periods. It nerved her for her early struggles with those adversaries who said they were Jews and were not, but were of the synagogue of Satan (Rev. iii. 9). It comforted the Church during the oppressions and persecutions late and early to which it was subjected at the hands of pagan foes, as is evident from the writings of Hippolytus and the commentaries of Victorinus at the close of the third century. It acted as a warning voice to many within the Church in the days of her decline, when she had gotten the victory over the Eoman power. It supported the hearts of Christians in the terrible struggle of Christianity against the Mohammedan enemy, and in that day of darkness it spoke of deliverance. The Abbot Joachim founded on an exposition of the book a strong but ineffectual argument in favour of the reformation of the Church in the twelfth century. The "Waldenses in their warfare with the Church of Borne appealed to its visions. Birgitta, the saint of the North, in the fourteenth century made earnest appeals to the Popes to purify the Church, which were partly founded on its solemn warnings. Wickliffe a little later expounded more fully its teachings. Huss followed in his train. It is needless to remark that from the dawn of the great Eeformation in the sixteenth century down to very recent times, Protestant expositors of no mean ability have been wont to trace in its pages the history of the great defection from the faith of the gospel, against which that Reformation was a protest. This exposition of the Apocalypse, whether correct or not, helped to support the martyrs and confessors of the Eeformation in their struggles against the Papal power, while the gallant but ineffectual insurrection of the Camisards in France was greatly promoted by the remarkable expositions of Jurieu on the same prophetical book.

But it is quite possible to discover a certain harmony in all these divergent interpretations, when sifted to the bottom. It is however impossible to harmonize those expositions, if the Apocalypse be regarded as a prophetical compendium of the history of the Church to the end of time, in which the events are supposed to be arranged one after another in chronological order.

The events depicted in the Book of the Revelation were necessarily represented in vision as succeeding one another in consecutive order. But it does not at all follow that the order of fulfilment should necessarily be that in which the events were presented to the view of the Apostle. It is quite conceivable that a similar series of events might in the process of time often recur in a similar order, or in the course of the world's history even reappear in an inverted order.

Thus the four seals, the opening of which is described in chap, vi., cannot be satisfactorily explained in any other way than as representing the operation of the judgments upon earth which follow in the wake of the great Conqueror (comp. Rev. vi. 2 with xix. 11 ff.), namely, the sword, scarcity, famine, and pestilence all of which are preceded by the ciy "come" arising from animate creation (comp. Rom. viii. 22). Those judgments are closely akin to the "four sore judgments" mentioned by Ezekiel (xiv. 21), which are, indeed, included in the series mentioned in this part of the Apocalypse (vi. 8). All those judgments, which have again and again fallen upon the earth, have, in accordance with our Lord's prophecy (see p. 123), been preparations for the revelation of the Son of Man in His day.

The same might be affirmed of the vision of the martyred saints presented under the fifth seal. The blood of the martyrs is there, like that of Abel, depicted as crying out against their murderers for vengeance. For the earth upon which their blood was poured out like water is God's altar, and the death of Christ's saints, "slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held," was in very deed a sacrifice (Phil. ii. 17; 2 Tim. iv. 6). The blood of the saints re-echoes the cry of suffering creation, "Come, Lord Jesus!" That piercing cry has been raised as often as Christian soldiers have fallen under the merciless hands of their foes, and may, for aught we know, yet be heard again "in the street of the great city" (Rev. xi. 8). The earth has often witnessed the repetition of the terrible scene; and the names of many a martyr unknown in Christian annals will be made known in that day when "the earth shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain" (Isa. xxvi. 21).

Even the sixth seal depicts a state of things which may repeatedly recur. For the imagery made use of in Rev. vi. 1217 is not by any means confined to descriptions of the final day of wrath. Almost all the details there mentioned are used in the Old Testament in passages which refer to judgments which have already fallen on the nations. The sixth seal, although it probably depicts the great day of the destruction and perdition of ungodly men, may also be referred to seasons of judgment which have taken place in various ages and in various lands. A recent writer has well remarked that "imagery, which, if literally verified, would involve the total dissolution of the fabric of the globe, and the destruction of the material universe, may really mean no more than the downfall of a dynasty, the capture of a city, or the overthrow of a nation." [4]

The correctness, therefore, of the eulogium pronounced upon the learned Joseph Mede by Bishop Hurd is more than questionable. [5] Mede maintained that if the real time of any one vision could be discovered, the relative time of the other visions could, from such data, be easily ascertained. For, although the visions were not regarded by him as all arranged chronologically (inasmuch as several refer to the same event), yet he regarded it as quite possible, by arranging first the coincident portions in a series of what were termed "synchronisms," to ascertain the precise order in which the events prophesied would occur; such as preceded a special vision were to be regarded as matters preceding the events therein depicted, while those things that followed were to be explained as subsequent transactions. [6]

It may be fully admitted that the scheme propounded by Mede in his Clavis Apocatyptica imparted a peculiar definiteness to the more detailed exposition of the Revelation which that writer published shortly afterwards, especially when compared with former works on the subject. But there is little doubt that Mede was carried too far by his love of system. Several of his "synchronisms" have been disproved by later writers, among whom Vitringa is peculiarly worthy of mention, whose work on the subject, Anacrisis Apocalypseos (Amsterdam, 1719), notwithstanding many errors, has not after more than a century and a half lost its value for the real student of the Revelation.

With these prefatory remarks we turn to a consideration of the remarkable vision which forms the subject of Rev. xii. The chapter opens with the statement: "And a great sign was seen in heaven." [7] The use of the word "sign" has been rightly regarded as an indication that the vision which follows is of a peculiarly allegorical character. Düsterdieck maintains that the expression implies that the vision is different from such visions as those of chap. vi. and chap. viii. 79, which in his view are not entirely of an allegorical character, since they contain descriptions of literal events, such as the shedding of blood, the occurrence of earthquakes and of other plagues. Without, however, fully endorsing Düsterdieck's opinion of those passages, we agree with him in regarding the vision contained in chap. xii. as in the main allegorical. [8]

The Book of the Revelation, as Auberlen has observed, starts with the assumption that the Church of Jesus Christ has the special work assigned to her of converting the nations of the world. That is the duty set before the Church; that is her distinctive mission. The Church, too, is represented throughout the Book of the Revelation as more or less successful in the discharge of the work assigned to her, although she is depicted as retarded at every step by  her spiritual adversary. At one time she is represented as confronted by one set of dangers, at another by difficulties of a different kind. She is often described as persecuted by the world-power, stirred up by Satanic agency. But though tried and harassed by persecution, the Church in those struggles came off victorious. Her members overcame the Evil One "because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the words of their testimony," and because "they loved not their life even unto death" (Rev. xii. 11). Baffled in open conflict, the Adversary is represented not as relaxing his efforts, but changing his tactics. Victorious over open force and over the false religions of the world, the Church was tempted and overcome by the allurements of " the pomps and vanity" of earth. The heathenism which could not overthrow her from without, seduced and corrupted her from within. The chaste woman of Rev. xii. and the bedizened harlot of Rev. xvii. are both pictures of the visible Church, though of course under different aspects: the former represents the Church in its pure state persecuted by the world-power; the latter is a picture of the Church corrupted and led astray from the simplicity toward Christ (2 Cor. xi. 3). In consequence of such a transformation she appears in the next scene as upheld by the world-power, and even as ruling and directing its operations. The mission of the Church is, however, represented as ultimately successful, though retarded for a time by the world-power, which either assumes the part of an open enemy, or acts the r$e of a treacherous seducer. In spite of all the machinations of the Prince of Darkness, the work of Christ is carried on in every age, and at the close of the Dispensation the Lamb's wife is finally described as made ready for the marriage-supper of the Lamb (Rev. xix. 7, 8).

There is no doubt that the woman persecuted by the dragon signifies the Church of God. Both in the Old and New Testaments the Church is spoken of under the figure of a woman. In the vision in Rev. xii., the woman was seen "in heaven," not merely because heaven was the place in which the scene was represented, but because the Church, even in its present state, belongs to heaven. "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil. iii. 20). The saints of whom the Church is composed are potentially raised up in Christ, by virtue of His resurrection, and are represented even now as seated together with Him. "in the heavenly places" (***), that is, in the same places in which Christ Himself is seated at the right hand of the Father (Eph. i. 3, ii. 6, comp. with i. 20). In the same Epistle the manifold wisdom of God is said to be made known by the Church "unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places" (Eph. iii. 10). And at the close of that letter S. Paul warns the believers that "our wrestling, is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. vi. 12).

There seems to be, then, a peculiar significance in the Church being symbolized by a "woman in heaven." The Church is heavenly in its origin, and its final inheritance is there. It is in this respect like the great sheet seen by S. Peter in his vision, " wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts and creeping things of the earth and fowls of the heavens" (Acts x. 11, 12), which sheet descended from heaven and was drawn up again into heaven. But while the woman was depicted as in heaven, she was also represented bringing forth, "the man child" on the earth. The latter is necessarily implied in the statement (Rev. xii. 5) that the child when born "was caught up unto God, and unto His throne." Thus the woman is represented at one time in heaven, and at another time on the earth, although no mention is made of her removal from the one place to the other. Similar changes of scene constantly occur in ordinary dreams, and excite no surprise on the part of the dreamer. Hence it is not strange that rapid changes of scene should occur in allegorical visions, in which they have often peculiar significance. That the woman was on earth, when seen "travailing in birth and in pain to be delivered," is plain from the sequel of the vision, in which she is described as fleeing into the wilderness (ver. 6, comp. vers. 13, 15, 16). The wings of the great eagle, mentioned in ver. 14, were bestowed upon her in order that she might fly swiftly over the surface of the earth from the face of her enemy, and not in order to enahle her to descend from heaven.

It is also to be noted that in like manner the great red dragon, the adversary of the woman and her child, is represented in ver. 3 as in heaven, while described in ver. 4 as lying in wait on earth to destroy the child as soon as it should be born. In the intermediate paragraph (vers. 712), which, as shall be seen presently, represents under other figures the same great realities, "the great dragon," or "the Devil and Satan," is depicted as carrying on "war in heaven," and as "cast down to the earth" after his defeat in the heavenly places along with those angels who espoused his cause. At the close of the vision (vers. 13-17), he is described burning with rage at his defeat, and seeking on earth to destroy the woman and the rest of her seed, because the child he had specially longed to devour had been so wondrously delivered out of his hands.

When the apocalyptic seer at first beheld the woman she appeared to shine forth arrayed in heavenly light. Her appearance was similar to that of Christ upon the Mount of Transfiguration, when He was clad in the heavenly glory, His face shining as the sun, His garments white as the light (Matt. xvii. 1), or, as another evangelist expresses it: "His garments became glistering, exceeding white; so as no fuller on earth can whiten them" (Mark ix. 3). "When the Son of Man revealed Himself in vision to His servant John in Patmos, "His head and His hair were white as white wool, white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and His voice as the voice of many waters," "and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength" (Rev. i. 14-16). So in the Old Testament God is described as covering Himself with light as with a garment (Ps. civ. 2). And the Church of Israel is addressed by Isaiah: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee" (Isa. lx. 1, 2).

The "sun" with which the woman in the vision appeared clothed must not be interpreted to signify Christ Himself; because He is represented in the vision as the child born of the woman. Hence the light with which the woman is arrayed is better explained, like the light spoken of by Isaiah, of the glory of God in general. Malachi speaks of the sun of righteousness as arising on the people of God (Mal. iv. 2), and the Psalmist describes Jehovah as a "sun and shield" who gives "grace and glory" to them that walk uprightly (Ps. lxxxiv. 11). In the allegorical vision of S. John those very gifts are pictured as abundantly bestowed upon the Church in the days of her travail and sorrow. We may also compare the teaching of Ps. xix., in which the glory of the natural sun in the expanse of heaven, which is a gift hestowed upon all men, is contrasted with the light of the Law of Jehovah and its precepts, which was the peculiar gift vouchsafed to the nation which God had chosen to be His inheritance.

The "moon" which was seen under the feet of the woman can hardly, in accordance with Old Testament language, be explained as the symbol of earthly glory or of mutable things, as "the venerable Bede" was wont to interpret it. Nor can it be interpreted to signify that "all reflected light" is too mean to be characteristic of her upon whom the glory of God Himself has been bestowed, [9] which explanation could not have been understood in the days of S. John. Still less can we view it, with Ebrard, as a figurative description of the night, the darkness of which is pourtrayed as chased away and overcome. [10] The passage, too, can scarcely be regarded as based on Cant. vi. 10, as Dean Alford supposed, for the language of the Song of Songs is certainly not used by the New Testament writer. The introduction of the moon into the vision may be regarded as simply part of a poetical description in which all the light-giving bodies are united sun, moon and stars. This is the view of Düsterdieck, and the dream of Joseph might be cited in some respects as a fitting parallel (Gen. xxxvii. 9). But there appears even more probability in the explanation given by J. P. Lange (in his Bibelwerke), to wit, that Diana of the Ephesians, goddess of the moon, and the symbol of nature, was so familiar to the Apostle and to the members of the Seven Churches of Asia, for whose benefit the bookwas primarily intended, that they could scarcely avoid interpreting the symbol of the woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet otherwise than as indicative of the subjugation of heathenism by the Church of Jesus Christ. Such an incident in the vision would have been interpreted by them in. the same manner as Constantine is said in the well-known story to have interpreted the appearance of the cross above the sun which he saw in the heavens. Upon the head of the woman there was "a crown of twelve stars." This symbol also has been variously interpreted. Those expositors who regard the woman to mean the Church of Christ naturally think of "the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Rev. xxi. 14); those who explain the woman to typify the Church of Israel naturally interpret the diadem of stars to mean the twelve patriarchs; while those who view the whole as a picture of the Church of God in general, in both its Old Testament and New Testament aspects, regard the twelve stars to be significant of the twelve tribes of Israel, emblematic of "the Israel of God," composed of both Jews and Gentiles. In proof of this combination of the old and the new ideas the vision of Rev. vii. may be quoted, and the scene of the harpers on the glassy sea depicted in Rev. xv. 2, as "singing the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb."

The key to the solution of the allegory, and to the correct comprehension of the larger portion of the Book of the Revelation itself, lies in the right understanding of "the man child" to whom the woman gives birth. It is to be noted that several interpretations of the symbols made use of in the allegory are given in the chapter itself. The dragon is explained to be Satan (ver. 9), the contest represented at one time as waged in heaven is explained to be that which has taken place on the earth, the angels of Michael are described as "our brethren," and the weapons of their warfare are in ver. 11 said not to be carnal but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds (2 Cor. x. 4).

Similarly the sacred writer explains (ver. 5) the "man child" to be Him "who was to rule (***), feed, guide as a shepherd (***) all nations with a rod of iron." There is a reference here to Ps. ii. 9, where the LXX. translate the Hebrew by the words quoted by S. John. [11] That Psalm is Messianic, and is frequently expounded as such in the New Testament (Acts iv. 2527, xiii. 33). It is quoted again in Rev. xix. 15, where "He shall rule them with a rod of iron" forms part of the description of Him who is "Faithful and True," whose name is called "the Word of God," and who is there described riding forth to victory over His foes, having on His garment and on His thigh a name written, "King of kings and Lord of lords." If, then, Rev. xii. 5 is to be explained in accordance with those passages, "the man child" can be no other than God's "holy Servant Jesus" (Acts iv. 27).

Many interpreters, however, maintain that the actual birth of Christ is not the event referred to. They explain the passage of the birth of Christ mystical (Gal. iv. 19), that is, the birth of the Church in general, or of some particular Church composed of true believers in Christ. They seek to remove the incongruity of regarding the woman and her child to mean one and the same thing, by referring to Isa. Ixvi. 8 (which passage is also quoted by S. John, as shall presently be noticed, see p. 221). In the latter passage Zion and her children are virtually identical. S. Paul also makes use of the expression "the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother" (Gal. iv. 26). In support of such an interpretation the promise in Rev. ii. 26, 27 is appealed to: "He that overcometh and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations: and he shall rule (***) them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to shivers; as I also have received of my Father." The promise of Christ is: "He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in His throne." But such promises, which are only to be fulfilled in the day of Christ's appearing, can hardly with propriety be cited as explanatory of an event represented as taking place long prior to that day. For the reign of the "man child" over the nations commences in the allegory when the child is caught up to God and His throne, and invested there with the power of the Divine majesty.

It has been frequently maintained that, inasmuch as Christ is uniformly represented in other parts of Scripture as Lord and Husband of the Church, He cannot be described in the Revelation as the Son of the Church. But the answer to this objection is easy. There is nothing inconsistent in Christ being represented in an allegorical vision as the Church's son, although He be in very deed her Lord and Master. The Messiah was similarly described in prophecy as both David's Lord and David's son. The Pharisees could not explain the enigma, but to the instructed Christian it presents no difficulty (Matt. xxii. 41-45). The two cases are analogous, and even if no parallel text could be adduced, in which Christ is actually represented as the Son of the Church, that would not in itself be any objection to explaining Christ to be designated in Rev. xii. by the son of the woman.

There are, however, other passages in which Christ is represented as the Son of the Church, The proto-evangelion (Gen. iii. 15) may be regarded as an approximation to this manner of speaking. The birth of the Messiah was the event to which the Church before His advent looked forward with intense longing and expectation. The Synagogue was wont to use the expression: "the pains of the Messiah" (***) to indicate not only the sufferings which the Messiah should endure in His own person, but also the sorrows of His people which were to precede and accompany His advent, "the birth-throes" (comp. Micah iv. 9, 10), as it were, of the Church of the Messiah. [12] Thus the Messiah is spoken of by the prophets in the following language: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given" (Isa. ix. 6). The passage of Isaiah is, we admit, not wholly free from obscurity. Delitzsch regards it to refer back to Isa. vii. 14; for he considers the child and son of Isa. ix. to be thought of by the prophet in the latter chapter as the son of "the maiden" of Isa. vii., although the "child" spoken of in chap. ix. is regarded in that passage as a special gift granted to the people of God. But the episode of Isa. viii. 1-5 seems to break off the connection with chap. vii. Consequently the child prophesied of in Isa. ix. appears to us to be there represented as the son of the nation or Church of Israel, the holy nation and the Church being regarded under the Old Testament dispensation as identical. [13]

A more satisfactory parallel, however, is that in Micah v. 3. In the verse immediately preceding Micah mentions the place where Christ should be born, and adds: "Therefore will He (God) give them up," i.e. permit His people to be brought down and subjected to their foes, in order that in man's greatest extremity the Divine power and grace might be more gloriously exhibited. Messiah was to be born of the royal house of David after the Davidic family had sunk into obscurity, when the home of the family was no longer the royal city of David, but the inconsiderable town of Bethlehem from whence the family originally came. There the great Messiah, like his forefather David, was, in accordance with the counsels of the Eternal, to be born in utter obscurity.

The people of Israel were, however, only to be given up for a season "until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth." The travailing woman of Micah, whose pains "in travail" are described in Micah iv. 9, 10, has been explained by Calvin, Vitringa, Auberlen, and others, to signify the Church of Israel personified as a woman. The explanation is in harmony with the context, in which "the daughter of Zion" is repeatedly mentioned; although the passage has been explained by other interpreters, as Hitzig, Ewald, and Keil, to refer to the mother of the Messiah, "the maiden" of Isa. vii. If the former interpretation, however, be adopted, the expression in the close of the verse (Micah v. 3), "the residue of His (Messiah's) brethren," will be seen at once to have a fitting counterpart in Rev. xii. 5, where the Son of the woman is spoken of, and reference is made at the same time to "the rest of her seed" (ver. 17). There is little doubt but that Rev. xii. 5 contains a quotation from Isa. lxvi. 7, 8:  [14] "Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain (***) came, she was delivered of a man-child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? shall a nation be brought forth at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I that cause to bring forth shut the womb? saith thy God."

The "man-child" spoken of by Isaiah to be brought forth by Zion with such rapidity and ease, must (with Delitzsch and Cheyne) be identified with the "children" afterwards mentioned. The meaning of the prophet is that the Holy Land will once more be full of people who shall acknowledge Zion as their mother. Nägelsbach imagines that the earlier prophecy of Isaiah (ix. 5) was present to the mind of the prophet when he wrote those words, although it is of course impossible to regard the prophecy in chap. Ixvi. as a prediction of Messiah's birth. The blessings there predicted were, however, to be brought unto Israel by means of the Messiah, and Isaiah describes there the fulness of Messianic times. The Zion travailing in birth of Isa. lxvi. is to be identified with the travailing Zion of Micah v. 3, and, as Delitzsch has observed, is also identical with the woman clothed with the sun of the Book of the Revelation; notwithstanding that the "man child" in the New Testament passage is the Shepherd of the nations, who bears the iron rod, who was to be brought forth by Zion at the commencement of the Messianic dispensation, while the "man-child" of the Old Testament prophet is the new Israel, "the faithful" nation which is to be born at the close of the Messianic age. For, as Delitzsch observes, "the community which has been saved through all tribulations is as truly the mother of the Lord who overthrows Babylon, as she is the mother of the Israel which shall inherit the blessing." But if the "man child" of Rev. xii. 5 be no other than "the Christ of history," a fixed point is secured from whence to start in the interpretation of the passage. The visions of the Revelation depict not merely the present and the future, but in some cases the past also. The correct comprehension of the past history of the Church is often absolutely necessary in order to understand either its present or its future. The travailing woman is no other than the Church of God, the Church founded in the days of the Old Testament, and which exists still in New Testament times. The Church is built upon the foundation of patriarchs and prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone. Jews and Gentiles, if properly enlightened, would mutually regard one another no more as strangers and foreigners, but as fellow-citizens and as fellow-members of the household of God (Eph. ii. 18-22). The woman of Rev. xii. is identical with the Zion represented by Isaiah and Micah as travailing with child (Isa. lxvi. 7, 8; Micah iv. 9, 10), although "the pains" in Isaiah and Micah iv. represent the birth-throes of Israel as a nation; while the pains spoken of in Rev. xii. were the birth-throes of the Messiah. The two ideas are apparently combined in Micah v. 3. For Messiah and "His brethren" are there spoken of as if they were born at the same period, and the connection between Messiah and Israel throughout those passages is similar to that already noticed in our study on Jonah, pp. 62-65, 70.

The pictorial vision of Rev. xii. 4, 5 is founded upon the opening and the closing scenes of the history of our Lord. The Dragon even prior to the birth of the Redeemer attempted the destruction of that great Son of the Church. But in spite of all the efforts of the Evil One to destroy the Saviour Himself, to mar His work, and to make the incarnation valueless for the purposes it was designed to effect, Christ was "saved" from his malice (Zech. ix. 9; see pp. 65, 66), and "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. i. 3). Düsterdieck is correct in maintaining that no precise historical fact corresponds to the prophetico-ideal representation of the dragon waiting to devour the child as soon as it was born, but the facts recorded in the evangelical history of the attempt on the part of King Herod (who was a Roman vassal) to destroy the infant Christ in His cradle (Matt, ii.), and the subsequent murder of the infants of Bethlehem, gave rise to the particular conception in the vision by which the Apostle sought to represent the deadly hostility of Satan against the Christ of God.

For it was not only during the infancy of Christ, but all through His short but eventful life, the Redeemer was assaulted by the Foe. The temptation in the wilderness was a device to destroy the value of the incarnation of the Son of God. Foiled in his efforts at that time, Satan departed, but only "for a season" (Luke iv. 1 3). He renewed his onslaughts when he sought to overcome Christ by means of the weakness of His disciples, the carnal expectations of the Jewish people, the hypocritical temptations of the scribes and Pharisees, and of other adversaries. The Apostles in their solemn prayer and thanksgiving to God, recorded in Acts iv. 2 7, called to mind how "of a truth in this city (Jerusalem) against Thy holy Servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together." To the malignity of Satan in the bitter hour of His last earthly conflict Christ referred when He said to His disciples: "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (John xii. 31), or exclaimed at a later period: "The prince of the world cometh; and he hath nothing in me" (John xiv. 30). Similarly He remarked to those that came to seize Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Luke xxii. 53). Both at the commencement and the close of Christ's earthly career, "the great red dragon," the "murderer from the beginning" (John viii. 44), seated on the throne of earthly power, sought to devour "the child as soon as it was born."

Similarly, as Düsterdieck has also noticed, no fact in the history of Christ corresponds exactly with the words of the Revelation: "the child was caught up to God and His throne." But the event of the ascension of the Lord on Mount Olivet afforded in like manner the form with which to clothe the idea of how inexpressibly glorious was the manner in which the Child of the Church was preserved from the attacks of Satan, and how fully Satan was put to shame. Despite the tremendous efforts of the great enemy by open attack and by crafty guile to destroy the Redeemer, despite the fact that he persecuted Him to the death, even the death of the cross, Christ by His own death brought to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. ii. 14); the seed of the woman bruised the serpent's head (Gen. iii. 15); "the child of the woman" was, in very deed, as described in the allegory, "caught up to God and His throne."

If, however clothed in allegorical language, it was the history of the work on earth of our blessed Lord (which began with His incarnation and closed with His ascension), which is set forth in the vision of Rev. xii., a number of interpretations more or less ingenious must be at once set aside. The "man child" cannot be explained, with Sir Isaac Newton, to be the empire of Rome, secured to the Christian Church by the victory won by Constantino over Licinius (A.D. 323), by which victory Sir I. Newton imagined "the child was caught up to God and His throne." [15] Nor is the modification of the same theory adopted by Rev. E. B. Elliott in the third volume of his Horae Apocalypticae much better, by which Constantine himself is regarded to be "the man child caught up to the throne," or raised to political supremacy in the Roman empire. [16] Constantine, the great Christian emperor, was not even baptized until the agonies of death came upon him, and although styled by some fulsome Orientals "equal to the apostles" (***), he cannot, as Niebuhr well remarked, be termed "a saint" without "a profanation of the word." Notwithstanding the fact that at the Council of Nice, which was convened by his authority, he solemnly subscribed to the dogma of the proper divinity of Jesus Christ, Constantine does not appear to have had any real understanding of the matter in dispute; and it is scarcely possible to regard such an event as his elevation to the emperorship as worthy to be described in the terms used by the sacred writer. The explanation of George Stanley Faber (a writer whose works, once read with avidity, are now, perhaps, too little regarded) is highly ingenious, but little more. [17] He regards the vision of chap. xii. to be synchronical with that of the two witnesses in chap, xi., and considers the casting down of the stars by the dragon's tail (xii. 4) to symbolize the apostasy of some of the professed adherents of the Church of Christ. The birth of the man child, according to his view, is the setting apart of the Vallensico-Albigensic Church from the general body of the Faithful, and "the abreption of the man child to God's throne" the protection of that Church from extinction during the 1260 prophetic days or years. The war in heaven is the warfare in the visible Church, the casting down of Satan from heaven the success of the Reformation in Europe; while the flood, which at the close of the vision is represented as cast forth out of the mouth of the dragon after the woman, symbolizes the rise and progress of secular infidelity during the close of the great prophetic times.

Of more importance is the view taken by J. Chr. K. von Hofmann. That scholar explains the woman to mean the Jewish Church which gave birth to our Lord. [18] The Church of Israel, according to his theory, is depicted in the vision in two distinct stages, first as it existed immediately before Christ and at the time of His Ascension; and secondly, as it will be in the days immediately preceding the second Advent of the Eedeemer. The Church of Israel during the first period was in the Holy Land, and she will be there, according to von Hofmann, when the second crisis arrives. He considers the Church of Israel to be distinct from that of the Gentiles, and to be heir to promises peculiarly her own. The 1260 days during which the woman or Church of Israel is preserved in the wilderness and sheltered from the wrath of the Dragon, are identified by him with the 1260 days during which Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles (Rev. xi.). The incongruity of regarding the Holy Land at one time as a place of shelter in the wilderness from the persecutions of the Dragon, and at another as the scene of the hottest persecution, von Hofmann seeks to lessen, by calling attention to the analogy between the sojourn of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, which, regarded under one aspect, was a place of trial, and under another was the place in which Israel was concealed and preserved for a season.

The theory of von Hofmann mainly rests upon his explanation of Michael as the Angel-Prince of the Israelitish nation, instead of being an allegorical representation of Christ (see p. 240). Notwithstanding the arguments adduced by von Hofrnann in his Schriftbeweis in reply to Auberlen, the objections of the latter scholar seem to be destructive of the whole interpretation.

Briefly stated, Auberlen's objections are the following: The Jewish Christian Church has not really been in existence as a separate community during the greater part of the Church-historical period. The writer of the Apocalypse cannot mean by the woman clothed with the sun anything else than a congregation or community of people believing in Christ. No satisfactory proof can be adduced in favour of the idea that the allegory is confined to the representation of the Judoeo-Christian Church. The sudden transition in the passage from the time of Christ's birth to the end of the world (when Antichrist, according to von Hofmann, is to be manifested) is arbitrary. The theory of such transitions, which have been too often devised by expositors, has proved a pregnant source of error. The transition in question, as Aubelien remarks, is one "for which there is no ground or connecting link in the words of the text." It is unnatural to regard the vision as pourtraying the woman fleeing from Judsea, where she gives birth to the Saviour, back into Judaea again, without the slightest intimation being afforded of the long intermediate period, which has lasted now more than eighteen centuries. [19]

The anonymous author of The Parousia (see note, p. 2 6), a book of more than ordinary ability, explains the woman to signify the Church of Jerusalem in apostolic days; the "man child" to be the faithful disciples of Christ in Judeea (or those in the city of Jerusalem itself); the flight into the wilderness, the flight of the Christians to Persea beyond the Jordan during the period of the great Jewish war; and the "man child" caught up to God and His throne to mean probably "the martyred sons of the Church referred to in ver. 11," if the event signified by the latter symbol be not identical with that referred to under the former.

Archdeacon Farrar, in his interesting work entitled the Early Days of Christianity (1882), takes substantially the same view. He explains the 1260 days to "be the period of the great Jewish war from about A.D. 67 to A.D. 70, when the temple perished amid blood and flame. But Dr. Farrar afterwards explains the forty-two months of Rev. xiii. 5 (which surely must he identified with the 1260 days of Rev. xii. 6, and the "time and times and a half a time" of Rev. xii. 14) as the three years and a half which intervened between the beginning of the Neronic persecution in Nov. A.D. 64 and the death of Nero himself in June 68.

In reply to these interpretations, it must be noted that the object aimed at by the war of the Eomans with the Jews was not the extinction of the Christian Church that terrible war was not a war of religion, certainly not a war against Christianity. The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple was an advantage rather than a disadvantage to the cause of Christianity. That event could not with any propriety be described in a Christian allegory under the symbol of the Dragon seeking to devour the child of the woman, or the Church. Moreover, an expositor ought definitely to make his choice between the two conflicting interpretations of the "man child" in the vision. That symbol must be explained to mean either Christ Himself or Christ's people. An interpreter is not at liberty to explain it at one time to denote the former, and at another time to signify the latter. If the symbol be interpreted to mean the Christian Church, or any company of believers in Christ, it is incongruous to explain the being caught up to God and His throne to mean the ascent to heaven in the fires of martyrdom. But if, as already shown, Christ Himself be the "man child," the 1260 days, 42 months, or three times and a half, must be supposed to commence shortly after His ascension into heaven. The destruction of Jerusalem, as the author of The Parousia has pointed out, was a judicial punishment, and being such we maintain it cannot be viewed as the central point of the vision of the Apocalypse.

There is no doubt but that the discovery in modern times, that the name of Nero may be so written in Hebrew as to make the numerical value of the letters reach the fatal number 666, combined with the fact that a very general belief prevailed in early days that Nero was still alive, or would return to life, a belief which many suppose referred to in Rev. xiii. 3 and xvii. 11, have induced many able expositors (Ewald among the number) to consider Nero and his bloody persecutions as the special theme of the Revelation. But it ought to be observed that the correctness of the mode of writing "Nero Emperor" in Hebrew (***) so as to bring out the desired result is a matter of grave doubt. For Caesar or *** ought to be written in Hebrew fully with four letters (***), and not defectively with three. The former method of writing, which is more correct, is destructive of one of the chief supports of the hypothesis. [20] Nor can we admit the second assumption on which the theory rests. Consequently although Archdeacon Farrar has put the exposition in the most favourable light before English readers, a close examination of it reveals difficulties which cannot, we maintain, be overcome.

We have no space here in which to give a sketch of other explanations, such as those propounded by Kliefoth and others, by whom the entire vision is relegated to the future. Kliefoth, it may be noticed, interprets even the birth of the "man child" as a prophecy of Christ's Second Advent. Symbols interpreted in that manner might be explained with equal propriety of almost any event in history.

The power of evil in opposition to the woman, is represented in the vision by a "great red dragon." This representation of Satanic power is founded upon Gen. iii., which passage seems also to be referred to in the symbol of the son of the woman. The Dragon is called the old serpent in ver. 9 (cornp. also vers. 1315). His great size symbolizes the greatness of his power, and the colour assigned to him denotes his murderous designs (John viii. 44). [21] The Dragon, however, does not represent the great Adversary himself, but Satan as directing the power of the Roman empire in his capacity of "the Prince of the world" (John xiv. 30). His seven heads have, therefore, a reference to "the seven mountains" on which Rome was sitting in the days of the Apostle, in the plenitude of her power (Rev. xvii. 9).

The number "ten" in the horns has, of course, a reference to the ten kingdoms into which the fourth world-empire, that of Rome, was to be divided in its second and weaker phase (see Dan. vii. 24 as explained by Dan. ii. 41, 42). For the explanation given in Dan. ii. 41, 42, of the second phase of the fourth monarchy distinctly shows that second period to be far inferior in power and strength to the former.

"It has been too often assumed that the kingdom of Antichrist, supposed to be predicted by Daniel, is described by that prophet as stronger and mightier than all the kingdoms which preceded it. Whatever its strength may have been represented to be, considered in relation: to the Church of God, the second stage of the fourth kingdom in the vision of the metallic image is described as the very weakest stage of the last world-monarchy. Nor does the vision of Dan. vii. set forth any other view; for the description of the fourth beast (in verses 7 and 19) as "dreadful and exceeding strong" is the description of the last monarchy in its earlier stage, and is not a picture of that monarchy in its latter phase. On the contrary, even in that chapter (ver. 24), the latter times of that power are represented as weak, so far as material strength is concerned, however violent its rage against the saints of the Most High." [22]

The number "ten" in the horns of the dragon is used as a round number to denote division and plurality. It does not, as commentators have too often explained it, necessarily refer to that precise number of "kings" or "kingdoms." The sole reason why the number ten was employed was that such was necessarily the number of the toes of the great image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his dream. For in the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, as explained by Daniel (chap. ii.) 3 in which the number ten first occurs, the number is not expounded as significant except so far as indicating that the fourth monarchy in its later phase was to be broken up into a considerable number of kingdoms, which, though possessing a certain unity, should not cohere or cleave together, notwithstanding all efforts to bring about union by the device of matrimonial alliances.

Many prominent features in the great colossus are passed over in Daniel's interpretation as possessing no significance whatever. Nothing is said of the symbolical meaning of the eyes and ears of the image; the number two belonging to the arms, thighs, and legs is not regarded as significant. Nor is the number ten found in connection with the fingers and toes explained by Daniel as symbolical. The plurality of the toes, indeed, is of significance, for it is alluded to in Daniel's explanation (though no stress is laid upon the number), and that feature reappears in the symbols made use of in other prophecies. The number ten was specially selected, because it was that necessarily presented to the eye in the representation of the four empires as a metallic colossus. But inasmuch as no importance was there assigned to the special number, the number chosen is most simply explained to indicate a divided unity, or a plurality of kingdoms, which though severally independent were parts of one great whole.

Hence it is a mistake to look for ten kings or kingdoms in the fourth world-monarchy, while there is even less warrant in Scripture for any interpretation of the number "two" in the two legs of the great image as being in any way symbolical. For if an image of a man had to be divided into four portions, no better division could be made than that given in Dan. ii. It is a sound principle in the explanation of parables and symbols, to refuse to regard any feature as necessarily symbolical which is not distinctly pointed out as having such a meaning.

The seven-headed, ten-horned dragon represents the world-power, symbolized by the Roman empire, and ruled over by Satan, who claims and exercises authority over the kingdoms of the world (Luke iv. 5, 6). The world-power is represented in the vision as hostile to the Church of God in its pure state, even down to the close of the mystical period of the three times and a half.

The description of the dragon casting down a third part of the stars of heaven (Rev. xii. 4) appears to have no special meaning, but to be a poetical detail, intended to depict his magnitude and fury. The strength of dragons or serpents was supposed to lie in great measure in their tails. The description is partly framed on that in Dan. viii. 10, where "the little horn" is spoken of as casting down some of the stars to the ground. In the latter passage the stars of heaven represent the people of Israel, against whom Antiochus Epiphanes acted with violence and cruelty (see Keil and Kranichfeld on that passage). There is no allusion whatever to the fall of angels, as Arethas and other early Christian writers imagined, although that opinion has been in modern days regarded with favour by Alford and others.

The description of the "war in heaven" in vers. 7 to 9 seems to be an explanation of the truth set forth under different symbols in the opening of the chapter. The passage, indeed, has been often popularly regarded (as by Milton) to be a description of the original fall of angels. But the contest described in the Apocalypse is distinctly connected (vers. 10, 11, 12, 13) with the endeavour on the part of the dragon to destroy the child of the woman. Some commentators (such as von Hofmann, Ebrard, and Auberlen) have argued that the expression "neither was their place found any more (***) in heaven" (ver. 8), tends to show that Satan and his angels maintained their place in heaven until the ascension of our Lord. Job i., ii., 1 Kings xxii., and Zech. iii. are referred to in proof of this theory. [23] But those passages must not be interpreted as stating historical facts. As illustrative of spiritual realities, they cast light upon the vision of the Revelation. When the seventy disciples returned to Christ with joy and announced the success of the mission on which He had sent them forth, our Lord expressed His assurance of final victory in the remarkable saying: "I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven" (Luke x. 18). That exclamation was probably a reminiscence of Isaiah's song of triumph over the anticipated downfall of the King of Babylon: "How art thou fallen from heaven, day star, son of the morning!" (Isa. xiv. 12). [24] For Isaiah does not there refer to the fall of Satan (as the Fathers and even some moderns have expressed it), and still less to the fall of Antichrist, to which some commentators are too fond of discovering allusions in parts of the sacred writings, often where the idea could never have entered into the mind of the original author.

A more suitable parallel may be found in Isa. xxiv. 21, 22, a passage already discussed on pp. 167-169. The prophet there also predicts the downfall of Babylon, and speaks of the overthrow on earth of that mighty monarch and his vassal kings, and at the same time of the overthrow of the wicked angels who assisted them in fighting against God. The rebels both of earth and heaven, after their defeat on the field of battle, are represented as shut up in prison by Jehovah the King of Israel (Isa. xliv. 6), and reserved by Him for future judgment. When nations that oppose God's truth are overthrown, their spiritual leaders are likewise cast down (Rev. xii. 9, 13,). In his commentary on Isaiah, Delitzsch has aptly cited the Eabbinic saying: "God over- throws no people until He has first overthrown their prince," namely, the angel who has exercised an ungodly influence over particular nations.

But the real passage upon which the description of Rev. xii. 79 is founded is that in Dan. xii. Michael is represented by Daniel as standing up for the cause of Israel, "the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people." A day of battle is depicted, like that of Zech. xiv. 3, 4, which, though a day of trouble and darkness, is also a day of deliverance, as pointed out by both of the Old Testament prophets, and also by the New Testament seer (vers. 12, 13, 14 ff.). Michael is, as Hengstenberg and others maintain, a personification of Christ. That view has been strongly opposed by von Hofmann, who, in his Sehriftbeweis, considers that such an interpretation would render it impossible to explain the vision of Rev. xii. Michael, according to the latter theologian, is the angel-prince of the people of Israel, the guardian-angel of the nation. The interpretation is not in itself opposed to Old Testament ideas. But the New Testament casts a new light upon dark passages of the Old. And, while it was quite natural for "the great prince of Israel" (Dan. x. 21, xii. 1), the Angel that redeemed Jacob from all evil (Gen. xlvii. 16), who guided Israel through the wilderness to Canaan, to be described in Daniel as only "one of the chief princes" (Dan. x. 13), a comparison of the prophecies, even of the Old Testament passages with one another, show the identity of "Michael your prince" with Messiah the leader of Israel. In Daniel Messiah and Michael are never mentioned together. The vision of Dan. vii. speaks of the Son of Man, the Messiah, appearing in the time of the end for the deliverance of His people. The vision of Dan. viii. pourtrays the Messiah as "the Prince of princes," His adversary having been "broken without hand," assailed (to use the language of Dan. ii. 45) by the "stone cut out of the mountain without hands." In the last prophecy of Daniel, "that which is inscribed in the writing of truth" (Dan. x. 21), Michael assumes the place and discharges the work of Messiah. He is, therefore, to be regarded as an angelic personification of the Messiah. His people are Messiah's people; and Israel, even in the New Testament, remains still the people of Christ, "His own" people, although as a nation Israel has not yet received Him (John i. 11).

The Angel that stood up for Israel, against Satan, when in the days of the Eestoration as in the days of David, that Adversary "stood up against Israel" (1 Chron. xxi. 1), is identified by Zechariah (iii. 2) with Jehovah Himself. This is the interceding Angel seen in Zechariah's first vision (i. 12), this the Captain of the army of Israel who, in days of peril, manifested Himself to Joshua, and having been worshipped and acknowledged by Joshua as his superior (Josh. v. 1315), gave the directions for the siege of Jericho in the capacity of Jehovah (Josh. vi. 2 ff.). .

There is, therefore, nothing against the analogy of Scripture in the identification of Michael and Christ. The very name of Michael (Who is like God?) gives utterance to the glorious challenge of St. Paul in Rom. viii. 33: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" For the apostle adds: "God is He that justifieth, who is he that shall condemn?" which words are a paraphrase of the Old Testament passage in Isa. l. 8, 9. The language of Isaiah throws again fresh light on the scene described in Zechariah's vision (chap, iii.), in which the Angel of Jehovah, who is also called Jehovah, pronounced judgment in favour of Israel in opposition to the demands of the Adversary, and "justified" Joshua, the high priest (Israel's representative), by removing his filthy garments from him, while with his solemn "Jehovah rebuke thee" he put to flight the Adversary of Israel.

The name of Michael, as Hengstenberg remarks in his Christology, is a connecting link between the Old Testament and the New. We do not, however, think with Hengstenberg, that the reason why the name Michael is made use of in Rev. xii. is that the victory described in the vision belongs not to Christ in His human, but in His Divine character.

For it is essential to the very nature of an allegory that the characters therein described should not be directly named, but should be pointed out under significant appellations. There is a special reason in Rev. xii. 7 ff. for a change in the personification employed. For Christ appears in the former part of the vision as the Child of the woman rescued from the great enemy (Ps. xxii. 19-21), and exalted to God's throne. As the child is described as only just born, such an infant could not be fitly represented as the Conqueror of the Dragon. Hence if Christ had to be depicted in the allegory as a victor, it was necessary to represent Him in that capacity by a new personification; and the Divine character of the person represented as Michael is so clear as to make the episode of verses 7-12 introduced into the vision an explanation of the vision itself.

The prophecy of Dan. xi. is an introduction to that of Dan. xii., which forms its concluding portion. When carefully examined, that prophecy appears not to extend beyond the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. Many portions, indeed, of the earlier part of that apparently literal prophecy do not, as Kranichfeld has shown, refer to actual historical events. The destruction of Antiochus Epiphanes at the close is related, not in literal language, "but in language more in accordance with the general usage of prophecy. It is a mistake to view the latter portion as referring to the Antichrist of the New Testament.

Daniel in chap. xii. describes the great deliverance fondly expected by the Church of Israel. He speaks of it in connection with the overthrow of the Grecian power, so far as it had come into collision with Israel, which overthrow as represented in Daniel was an ultimate result of the victories of the Maccabean heroes. If Daniel speaks of the Messiah in connection with the downfall of the third world-power, so does Isaiah . when he predicts the overthrow of Syria (Isa. vii., viii, ix.), and of Assyria (chaps, x., xi.), and so does Micah when speaking of the overthrow of Babylon (chaps, iv., v.). Many other parallels could be cited. For it was the constant practice of the prophets of Israel to connect the advent of Messiah with any special deliverance they were commissioned to predict.

The victory of Messiah and the establishment of His kingdom was shadowed forth in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Dan. ii.). It was depicted in the vision of the wild beasts which came up one after the other from the stormy sea (Dan. vii.). In the latter prophecy the Messiah is represented as coming in the clouds of heaven. It is not, however, the second advent but the first which is there described, of which the second advent is but the completion (comp. Dan. ii. 44 with Dan. vii. 27). The standing up of Michael the warrior-prince in Dan. xii. similarly represents the first advent of the Messiah, who then came for "the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke ii. 38), although that advent "in great humility," owing to Israel's "hardening in part" (Rom. xi. 25), was not only attended by "the raising up" of many sons and daughters through faith in His name, but also resulted in "the falling of many professors through unbelief" (Luke ii. 34).

Christ's first advent, therefore, on account of the sin of Israel, was followed by a time of trouble (Dan. xii. 1), namely, by the great tribulation predicted by our Lord, when Jerusalem for her iniquity was trodden down by the Gentiles (Luke xxi. 24). The two great facts which are prominently mentioned in the sketch presented by our Lord of "the times of the Gentiles," are the fall and punishment of Israel, and the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom to every nation under heaven (Matt. xxiv.; Mark xiii.; Luke xxi.).

The first advent of Messiah is suitably represented in the Old Testament prophecy by the standing up for warfare of Michael, the captain of the Lord's host (Josh. v. 14, 15), and the captain of our salvation (Heb. ii. 10). For inasmuch as the last prophecy of Daniel is chiefly concerned with the conflict of earthly kings and warriors, Messiah is fitly represented in it as a prince and a warrior.

The prophecy of Dan. xii. no doubt reaches forward to the time of the end. Hence it alludes to the resurrection of the just and unjust, though that event is spoken of by Daniel only as a resurrection of "many" and not as the resurrection of all men. The resurrection of mankind from the dust of the earth is to be brought about by the power of Him who is the Eesurrection and the Life; and inasmuch as the swallowing up of death in victory was one of the great objects to be effected by Messiah, Daniel speaks of it in close connection with His advent. Those who live in New Testament days can speak of two advents of Christ; the prophets of the Old Testament knew of but one. They were unable to understand fully their own prophecies, in which at one time the glory and at another time the sufferings of Messiah were depicted (1 Pet. i. 10, 11). It was not granted to them to know about the long period that would intervene between the days of suffering and the time of glory. All was presented to them in one view, in which the sufferings of Messiah were dimly seen by reason of the brightness of the glory also exhibited. Both events were predicted as belonging to one era, inasmuch as they form in reality one grand whole. The sufferings of Christ were to be but temporal, His glory was to be eternal. The prophets before Christ beheld in their visions the first and second advents of Christ as one and the same event; in the ages to come the saints in glory will probably also look back on the two advents as but one.

The war of Michael and the dragon in Rev. xii. is, therefore, to be identified with the struggle of Michael in Dan. xii. Both passages represent the same contest "in heavenly places" alluded to by our Lord (Luke x. 18; John xii. 31). The expression "cast out" used in John xii. 31 is similar to the phrase "cast down," used of Satan's fall (Rev. xii. 9); and the warning of ver. 12 has its counter-part in the warnings of S. Paul (Eph. vi. 12-16) and of S. Peter (1 Pet. v. 8, 9), which last was no doubt suggested by the warning given by Christ to that Apostle (Luke xxii. 31, 32). The victory of Michael "in heaven" was but a foreshadowing of the triumph of his soldiers on earth (ver. 11). For "this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith" (1 John v. 4). By faith the Church in early days obtained her victories, by it she conquers still. The Adversary with whom believers struggle has been overcome, and vanquished by "the Stronger than he" (Luke xi. 22); and "the God of peace shall bruise Satan shortly under His people's feet" (Rom. xvi. 20).

It is unnecessary further to delineate the explanation of the vision. The flood cast forth by the serpent after the woman represents the attempts made from time to time by the powers of darkness to destroy Christianity; and the help afforded to the woman points to the providential arrangements by which the rage of the adversaries has been as repeatedly checked.

If the events of Christ's life on earth form the subject of the vision of the Revelation, the "time, times and a half" must commence with the period when the dragon, worsted in the war in heaven, sought to destroy the saints on earth. That period extends from the ascension of our Lord to the time of the end. The vision of chap. xii. is an epitome of the history of the faithful belonging to the real Church of Christ down almost to the close of the gospel dispensation. The "time, times and a half" are not to be explained as three and a half literal years, nor even, according to the "year-day" theory, to mean a cycle of precisely 1260 years. The period spoken of is undefined and indefinable. The expedients resorted to by writers in favour of the literal interpretation, of introducing "breaks in prophecy," or of supposing immense gaps of time to be passed over without mention by the prophecy, or of expounding the flight of the woman as an event lasting for an indefinitely long period, are each and all arbitrary. The period is not a literal but a mystical cycle. It represents a definite time in the Divine reckoning, but man cannot discover its exact duration. Ebrard is not wrong when he maintains that the forty-two months or 1260 days correspond to the Church-historical period, namely, the period which extends from the ascension of our Lord and the destruction of Jerusalem on to the corning of Antichrist, or, as we prefer to express it, up to the period of the destruction of the power of Satan. For the notion that a great Antichrist is to arise at the close of the dispensation is, we maintain, a simple delusion, grounded on a misconception of certain portions of the Sacred Scriptures.

That question cannot, however, be here discussed; we purpose to discuss it elsewhere. We can only here give an outline of our conclusions without entering further into detail. [25]

There are two distinct periods, each spoken of as a "time, times and a half." The first of these is that period during which the fourth monarchy bears rule over the earth. This is the period spoken of in Dan. vii. 25, and must be identified with that in Rev. xii. 14. The second is the period noticed in Dan. xii. 7; the two have been erroneously regarded as identical. For the cycle of Dan. xii. 7 is the time which has already intervened between the days of Daniel and the advent of our Lord, and the "breaking in pieces of the power of the holy people" because of their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. The coming of Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem are the great events with which the one cycle begins, and with which the other closes. For the Messiah was to appear in the days of the ftrarfch world-monarchy. The two periods combined make up "the seven times," or "the times of the Gentiles, during which the theocracy has ceased to exist on earth."

The first half of these times may be reckoned from the period when Israel fell under the power of Babylon, or from the close of the seventy years of the Babylonish captivity. The second period (which is not necessarily equal in length to the first) may be reckoned from the day in which Christ was taken up from the midst of His foes, or from that time in which the gospel was finally rejected by the Jewish nation, and when Christ came in the clouds of wrath to execute vengeance upon Jerusalem. Thus the seven times comprehend the period which began when the world-power, represented then by the king of Babylon, was permitted to overwhelm the professed people of God, who were chastened for their sin, but not given over to utter destruction, according to our Lord's words: "This generation shall not pass away, till all things be accomplished" (Luke xxi. 32).

"The times of the Gentiles," during which Israel is trodden down under their feet, reach onward to the end of the world. In the first half of that period "Israel after the flesh" is described sometimes as rescued from, and at other times as falling under, the power of their adversaries. That half closed with the great transgression of Israel predicted by Zechariah, and with Israel's punishment, also set forth by that prophet. [26] All through that chequered period, in which light and darkness were strangely commingled, there existed "a remnant of Israel according to the election of grace" (Rom. xi. 5). These were delivered in every age, and by their instrumentality the nations were prepared for Christ's first advent, and when He came were converted in great numbers from heathenism.

Thus Israel and Israel's Messiah form the two great subjects about which all prophecy speaks. The second half of the seven times peculiarly belongs to the Gentile Church; for Israel does not exist in the second period as a God-ruled nation, protected and upheld by Divine power. On the contrary, that nation is still trodden down and broken in pieces. Israel is not, however, even during that period, to be thought of as excluded from the blessings purchased by Israel's Messiah. But the Church of Christ composed of all nations is represented during that cycle as identical with the true Church of Israel, "Israel after the spirit," and is described as by faith overcoming the world.

But as "Israel after the flesh" ultimately fell away as a nation from God, so the Gentile Church, the Church of the New Testament in its visible form, is represented in the prophecies of the Revelation as entering into an alliance with the world, and becoming apostate like that of Israel. The second period, therefore, of the seven times closes like the first (comp. Isa. i. 21), with the overthrow of an apostate Church, with the downfall of "the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters" (Rev. xvii. 1 ff.), and with the destruction of the spiritual Babylon.

But as at the close of the first part of the seven times salvation was manifested to Israel, and then, through Israel's instrumentality, to the nations; so at the end of the second portion of that great period, "the mystery of God according to the good tidings which He declared to His servants the prophets "shall be finished (Rev. x. 7), "all Israel shall "be saved," and the salvation of Israel shall be the salvation of the world (Rom. xi. 12). The history of Nebuchadnezzar was a remarkable shadowing-forth of the history of the world-power; and the "seven times" of the insanity of that king who finally crushed under foot the theocracy, fitly symbolize the seven times of the Gentiles, when the nations in their madness "give their power and authority unto the beast" (Rev. xvii. 13). But at the end of the dispensation, spiritual reason will be restored to the whole human family, and when the long-lost prodigals shall have been brought home, then shall be "heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth" (Rev. xix. 6).

Notes & References

1. See Zahn's articles in Luthardt's Zeltschrift fur kirchliche. Wissenschaft u. kirchl. Leben for 1885, pp. 523 ff., 561 ff.; also in the Zeitschrift for the present year 1886, p. 32 ff.

2. It is much to be regretted that the apocryphal books of the Old Testament are so seldom read in the present day, and that many even of the clergy have never perused them. They afford on many points important "side-light" on Biblical subjects. We can scarcely avoid commending the Eev. "W. E. Churton's valuable edition of these books, The Uncanonical and Apocryphal Scriptures, with introduction and notes. London: J. Wbitaker, 1884; as well as the popular commentary on the Apocrypha issued by the Christian Knowledge Society; and, above all, Bissell's valuable commentary.

3. Rev. i. 3, ii. 7, 11, 17, 29, iii. 6, 13, 22, xxii. 7, 10, 18.

4. The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of our Lord's Second Coming (London: Daldy, Isbister, & Co. 1878), p. 352.

5. Speaking of the earlier interpreters of the Reformation era, Hurd remarks: "As each interpreter brought his own hypothesis along with him, the perplexities of the book were not lessened but increased by so many discordant schemes of interpretation. And the issue of much elaborate inquiry was, that the book itself was disgraced by the fruitless efforts of its commentators, and was on the point of being given up as utterly impenetrable, when a sublime genius arose in the beginning of the last century, and surprised the learned world with that desideratum, A Key to the Revelation. This extraordinary person was Joseph Mede." Kurd's Warburtonian Lectures (Sermon x.), London, 1772.

6. See Mede's Works, Clavis Apocalyptica, p. 432.

7.  The translation of *** by "sign" given in the Revised Version is more correct than that of "wonder" which occurs in the Authorized Version. The reading ***, in place of ***, has been adopted by all recent critics.

8. Kritisch-exegetisches Handbuch über die Offenbarung Johannis, von Friedrich Diisterdieck, in Meyer's Krit.-exeget. Kommentar, 2tc Aufl., Göttingen, 1865.

9. Dean Vaughan in his Lectures on the Revelation of S. John.

10. See Ebrard's Comment, in Olshausen's Bibl. Comm. über sämmtl. Schr. des N. T.

11. The Hebrew of the Psalm is no doubt correctly pointed in the JMasoretic text *** from ***, and has unquestionably the meaning of breaking, which idea not only agrees better with, the rod or sceptre of iron spoken of, as well as with the word break-in-pieces used in the parallel clause. But the consonants could also be pointed *** from ***, which is what was read by the LXX. and Syr. The word ***, rod, is used both of the sceptre or rod of power and of the stuff of the shepherd (Ps. xxiii. 4; Micah vii. 14); and the Son of Man, when He exercises to the full His authority as Shepherd, is represented not only as opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers, but also as punishing with, an everlasting destruction those who are workers of iniquity. See Matt. xxv. 31 ff., xxi. 44. These are the two aspects of the rule of Messiah over the nations set forth both in Old and New Testament Scriptures, and neither must be lost sight of. See Delitzsch's remarks on the Psalm in question.

12. See Dr. Aug. Wünsche, Die Leiden des Messias in Hirer Ueber-einstimmung mit der Lehre des Alten Tests, und den Aussprüchen der Rabbinen in den Talmuden, etc. Leipzig 1870.

13. The student who is desirous of understanding these prophecies should consult not only Delitzsch's Commentary, but also Cheyne's notes on these passages, which abound with valuable matter.

14. The LXX. translate the last clause of ver. 7 by ***, and the text of Rev. xii. 5 embodies the last words, interpolating the noun *** as an explanation, ***. This may possibly account for the grammatical incorrectness of the Greek text. The reading ***, which smooths over the grammatical mistake, is now generally recognised to be a correction. The neuter may be explained as caused by a mental reference to the *** which precedes and follows, as has been suggested by Düsterdieck. The grammatical peculiarity of the Greek might be rendered literallv in English, "a son, a male thing." The *** may also be explained as a kind of apposition. But it seems more probable that the word son was interpolated to explain the aptrn which immediately follows. On the expression itself, apart from its grammatical irregularity, Düsterdieck compares ***, Jer. xx. 15, where the LXX. have simply one word, ***. It may be well to note that the idea "man child" is in. Isa. lxvi. expressed by one word, ***, literally "a male." Hence it would have been better in the Revised Version to have united the words in Isaiah by a hyphen, "man-child," in order to note the difference between that and the "man child" in Revelation.

15. Observations on Daniel and the Apocalypse, Lond. 1733.

16. Elliott has called attention to the fact that Constantine himself in his letter to Eusebius speaks of his victory as an overthrow of the dragon. Elliott also refers to the coin struck by that emperor, in which the cross (the labarum with the monogram of Christ) is represented as standing above the dragon. Elliott exhibits a peculiar fondness for catching hold of such apparent literal fulfilments of prophecy, which mars some of the best portions of his really able work. The overthrow of Paganism was, no doubt, an eventful period in the Church's history; and with the Book of the Revelation in their hands it is not surprising that its phraseology was made use of by Christian writers in describing the wonderful change which then took place in the position of Christianity. But the admission of such a fact by no means obliges us to see in such incidents any fulfilment of the special prophecy. Great as was the importance of the ascent of the throne of the Caesars by a Christian prince, the importance of the event was (as was very natural) overestimated by the writers of the period. In giving, however, that explanation of the prophecy, Elliott only treads in the footsteps of many commentators who were prior to his day, and his explanation is substantially that given by Vitringa.

17. In his Sacred Calendar of Prophecy, vol. iii., London, 1844.

18. See von Hofinann's Weissagung wul Erfullung (2 vols.), Nord- lingen 1841, 1844; and in his more recent work the Sclirifibeweis, both in the earlier and later editions, in which he notices the objec- tions of Auberlen and others.

19. The exposition of Ebrard is in many respects similar to that of von Hofmann. He regards the woman as "Israel according to the flesh," and Christ as the Son of Israel. Ver. 5 depicts the birth and ascension of Christ. The woman's flight is the dispersion of the Jewish people, and the events at the close of the vision are supposed to be those which are to take place at the time of the end. But the dispersion of Israel was a judgment from God. It cannot, from a Christian standpoint, like that of the author of the Apocalypse, be regarded as an event caused by the malignity of Satan. The flight of the woman, instead of being rapid (as pointed out in ver. 14), would, according to this exposition, have lasted 1800 years. Nor can the woman in the place of shelter prepared for her by God welt be regarded as representing a nation remaining in a state of unbelief, but must denote some community protected, preserved, and nourished by God (vers. 6-14).

20. See the important article on the number of the "beast in Zahn's "Apokalyptische Studien" in Luthardt's Ztitschrlft for 1885, pp. 561-576. Dr. Salmon (Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Dublin) has some interesting remarks 011 the whole subject in his Historical Introduction to the, Study of the New Testament, p. 300, London, 1885.

21. Düsterdieck has satisfactorily replied to the objection made by Ebrard to this latter explanation.

22. Bampton Lectures on Zechariah, p. 132.

23. See remarks on these passages in our study on Job, pp. 6-13.

24. For the words  *** ...

25. We hope to discuss the questions more fully in our commentary on Daniel, which is to form part of the Pulpit Commentary now in course of publication by Messrs. C. Kegan Paul & Co. of London.

26. See Brampton Lectures on Zechariah, chaps. x.-xiii.