Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you that dwell in them…
Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! etc. This portion of John's vision illustrates four facts of great importance and of vital interest to all men.
I. THAT MIGHTY AS IS THE MASTER FIEND OF EVIL, HE IS NOT PROOF AGAINST DEFEATS. "Therefore rejoice, ye [O] heavens, and ye that dwell in them" (ver. 12).
1. Here is a defeat implied. The efforts of this matchless fiend, however wisely directed and mightily wrought, are evermore exposed to failure. There is nothing permanent in error, there is no stability in wrong. All systems untrue to fact and unrighteous in principle are but houses on the sand of time. The laws of the universe flow in ever-increasing volume against wrong. The devil is truly a defeatable agent; he has no power over those who are prepossessed with goodness. "The prince of this world cometh, and findeth nothing in me." The command is, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." As light extends and virtue grows, all schemes of wrong, political, social, and religious, crack to pieces and tumble to ruin.
2. Here is a defeat righteously exultable. "Rejoice, ye heavens." In whatever heaven this defeat is witnessed, whether in the individual soul or in the social circle, it is a reason for rejoicing. In every error corrected, in every prejudice crushed, in every unholy purpose broken, in every impure impulse conquered, there comes to the soul the command, "Rejoice, ye heavens." It is the joy of the prisoner quitting his cell, of the patient returning to health.
II. THAT GREAT AS HIS DEFEATS MAY BE, THEY DO NOT QUENCH HIS ANIMOSITY. "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." Hunted from one arena, he enters another, flaming with indignation, and the more so as he feels that his time for work is shortening. "He hath but a short time." "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none." He is "a roaring lion, going about seeking whom he may devour." As every defeat enfeebles his power, contracts his reign, and decreases his opportunities, his malign nature becomes more intense in hatred. Like the ravenous beast of the desert, his failure to fasten his tusks in one victim whets his appetite for another. Evil is insatiable.
III. THAT HIS ANIMOSITY IS ESPECIALLY DIRECTED AGAINST THE TRUE CHURCH. "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child" (ver. 13). Let the woman stand as an emblem of the true Church, or Christly men collectively, and we have before us a picture of the mighty fiend tormenting it and its progeny. We read that "the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood [river] after the woman" (ver. 15). And again, "The dragon was [waxed] wroth with the woman, and went [away] to make war with the remnant [rest] of her seed" (ver. 17). What on this earth doth he hate most and yearn to crush? Not politics, learning, commerce, science, literature, art. None of these as such, but the Christly in men. Wherever the Spirit of Christ is, the spirit of tenderness, humility, self-sacrificing love, this he hates and seeks to destroy. On such he "pours out water as a flood," that he may "cause them to be carried away of the flood [stream]." Who shall say what he pours forth from his mouth? False accusations, pernicious errors, social persecutions, etc.
IV. THAT THE TRUE CHURCH, EVEN IN TRYING CIRCUMSTANCES, IS UNDER THE SPECIAL PROTECTION OF HEAVEN. "And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent" (ver. 14). Notice:
1. The Church is in the wilderness. "That she might fly into the wilderness." The home of Christly men on this earth has always been more of a wilderness than a Canaan - intricate, dangerous, gloomy.
2. Though in the wilderness, it has enormous privileges.
(1) It is endowed with heaven-soaring power. "To the woman were given two wings of a great eagle." It is endowed with soaring instincts and faculties. Like the eagle, the Church has the power to rise from the earth, penetrate the clouds, and bask in azure. "It can mount up on wings as eagles."
(2) It has the whole earth to serve it. "And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth," etc. (ver. 16). - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.