James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:Revelation 12:1-14:20
THE SEVEN PERSONAGES
INTRODUCTION: THE WOMAN AND THE DRAGON (Revelation 12)
The seven personages of this division as identified by Erdman, include the woman, the child, the dragon, the archangel, the remnant (of Israel), the ten-horned beast, and the two-horned beast or false prophet, the first four being found in this chapter. The woman represents Israel it is believed, and the man-child to whom she gave birth, the Messiah. The dragon is Satan, whose ten horns represent the 10 kingdoms of the Roman Empire when in that day they shall be federated under the “beast” of the next chapter. The seven heads are not so easily interpreted, though it may be thought that they stand for seven systems: commercial, industrial, social, military, educational, political, and ecclesiastical, which will contribute to the unity or federation just named. The rule of the man-child refers to the millennial reign of Christ, and his being “caught up,” to His ascension including in the thought the translation of the church to be with Him as the body of which He is the Head. The “wilderness” is the Gentile nations among which the faithful remnant of Israel will be preserved during the tribulation, 1,260 days. Revelation 12:7-12 call for little comment as the event of which they speak synchronizes with the period of the Tribulation, and indeed accounts for it.
Satan’s enmity against Israel is revealed in Revelation 12:15, the aid she receives from some of the Gentile nations, Revelation 12:14, and his futile attempts at her destruction, chapters 15-16. When Satan sought to frustrate God in His plan for Israel in Egypt he “cast out of his mouth water as a flood,” i.e., the Egyptian army, but “the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the flood,” and shall we say that the closing verses of chapter 12 point to an event not dissimilar from that of the Red Sea?
PROGRESSION: TRIBULATION PERIOD (Revelation 13)
The sea represents the Gentile nations, and the first Beast, the last form of Gentile dominion in the earth. In the first three verses we have the ten- kingdom empire, but in Revelation 13:4-10 the emperor himself is designated, who is emphatically the “beast.” The three animals, leopard, bear, and lion, recall Daniel 7 as symbols of the empires which preceded the Roman and all of whose characteristics entered into the qualities of that empire, and will be reproduced in the final form of Gentile rule. The “wounded” head which “was healed,” the same authority refers to one of the ancient forms of government of the Empire, that of absolutism, which for a period ceased to exist and will be revived again at the end. But consistency demands that if the seven heads be taken to represent seven influential systems contributing to the federation of the empire under the beast, then the wounding of one head must be the temporary destruction of one of those systems, and its healing the restoration of it again to its former place. We regard this as the ecclesiastical system, and as pointing to the time when all religious influences will be suddenly swept away, while Satan has another system ready to be substituted for it, whose great high priest is the second beast now to be described.
The second beast (Revelation 13:17-18) is the last ecclesiastical head of the federated empire as the first “beast” is the last civil head. Many regard the second beast otherwise known as the False Prophet (Revelation 16:13), as the Antichrist, rather than the first beast, and probably this is true. For purposes of persecution he is permitted to exercise the power of the first or emperor beast. “666” is man’s number in distinction from seven, which is God’s number, and the reference to it is designed to comfort the remnant in that awful day, when they may take heart in the thought that powerful as he is, yet he is a man only and not God.
PARENTHESIS: THE FIRST FRUITS AND THREE ANGELS (Revelation 14:1-13)
The 144,000 on Matthew Zion are another picture of the saved remnant of Israel (see chap. 7). The mission of the first angel with “the everlasting gospel” is interpreted to mean that gospel which will be proclaimed at the end of the “Tribulation” immediately preceding the judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31). As Scofield says, It is neither the gospel of the kingdom nor the gospel of grace. Its burden is judgment, not salvation, and yet it is good news to Israel and others who, during the Tribulation have been saved (Psalm 96:2-13; Isaiah 35:4-10; Luke 21:28; Revelation 7:9-14).
The mission of the second angel will be seen in fulfillment in chapter 18, and that of the third in chapter 19.
CONSUMMATION: THE HARVEsther AND THE VINTAGE (Revelation 14:14-20)
The “harvest” (Revelation 14:14-16) is thought to refer to the judgment on the Gentile nations, while “the vine of the earth” is applied in the same way to Israel. For the first compare Matthew 25:31-46, and the second, Matthew 24:29-51.
1. Name the seven Personages of this lesson.
2. Give in your own words an interpretation of the imagery of chapter 12.
3. Do the same with chapter 13.
4. Do the same with chapter 14.
5. What two views are given of the symbolism of the seven heads?