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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 12 - Verse 17

Verse 17. And the dragon was wroth with the woman. This wrath had been vented by his persecuting her, (Re 12:13;) by his pursuing her; and by his pouring out the flood of water to sweep her away, (Re 12:15,) and the same wrath was now vented against her children. As he could not reach and destroy the woman herself, he turned his indignation against all who were allied to her. Stripped of the imagery, the meaning is, that as he could not destroy the church as such, he vented his malice against all who were the friends of the church, and endeavoured to destroy them. "The church, as such, he could not destroy; therefore he turned his wrath against individual Christians, to bring as many of them as possible to death."-De Wette. And went to make war with the remnant of her seed. No mention is made before of his persecuting the children of the woman except his opposition to the "man child," which she bore, Re 12:1-4. The "woman" represents the church, and the phrase "the remnant of her seed" must refer to her scattered children, that is, to the scattered members of the church, wherever they could be found. The reference here is to persecutions against individuals, rather than a general persecution against the church itself, and all that is here said would find an ample fulfilment in the vexations and troubles of individuals in the Roman communion in the dark ages, when they evinced the spirit of pure, evangelical piety; in the cruelties practised in the Inquisition on individual Christians under the plea that they were heretics; and in the persecutions of such men as Wycliffe, John Huss, and Jerome of Prague. This warfare against individual Christians was continued long in the Papal church, and tens of thousands of true friends of the Saviour suffered every form of cruelty and wrong as the result.

Which keep the commandments of God. Who were true Christians. This phrase characterizes correctly those who, in the dark ages, were the friends of God, in the midst of abounding corruption.

And have the testimony of Jesus Christ. That is, they bore a faithful testimony to his truth, or were real martyrs. See Re 2:13.

The scene, then, in this chapter is this: John saw a most beautiful woman, suitably adorned, representing the church as about to be enlarged, and to become triumphant in the earth. Then he saw a great red monster, representing Satan, about to destroy the church: the Pagan power, infuriated, and putting forth its utmost energy for its destruction. He then saw the child caught up into heaven, denoting that the church would be ultimately safe, and would reign over all the world. Another vision appears. It is that of a contest between Michael, the protecting angel of the people of God, and the great foe, in which victory declares in favour of the former, and Satan suffers a discomfiture, as if he were cast from heaven to earth. Still, however, he is permitted for a time to carry on a warfare against the church, though certain that he would be ultimately defeated. He puts forth his power, and manifests his hostility, in another form— that of the Papacy—and commences a new opposition against the spiritual church of Christ. The church is, however, safe from that attempt to destroy it, for the woman is represented as fleeing to the wilderness beyond the power of the enemy, and is there kept alive. Still filled with rage, though incapable of destroying the true church itself, he turns his wrath, under the form of Papal persecutions against individual Christians, and endeavours to cut them off in detail.

This is the general representation in this chapter, and on the supposition that it was designed to represent the various forms of opposition which Satan would make to the church of Christ, under Paganism and the Papacy, it must be admitted, I think, that no more expressive or appropriate symbols could have been chosen. This fact should be allowed to have due influence in confirming the interpretation suggested above; and if it be admitted to be a correct interpretation, it is conclusive evidence of the inspiration of the book. Further details of this opposition of Satan to the church under the Papal form of persecution are made in the subsequent chapters.

{b} "woman" Ge 3:15

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