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LECTURES ON THE APOCALYPSE.
REVELATION, CHAP. XI. 15-19. and xII.
The conclusion of the 11th chapter announces the sounding of the seventh trumpet; under it many scenes of calamity are to occur to the church, and many trials to be endured by believers. These are plainly and strikingly described in the subsequent chapters: but to comfort the saints, they are first, taught what shall be the glorious issue of all these afflictions, what shall be the result of these dispensations of Providence, and what the future triumph and joy of the church. While it is clearly intimated that there will be persecutions, it is also declared, that God will judge the cause of those who have suffered martyrdom for the truth, and will avenge them; and that the confusions of the nations, and the corruptions of the church, shall introduce that happy period when “ the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." The vision concludes by teaching us that God is mindful of his covenant; that all heaven rejoices in his judgments upon his enemies, and the manifestation of his grace to his friends. This is the general meaning of that part of the 11th chapter which was not explained in our last lecture. Attractive as is this subject, dear to the heart of the Christians as are the truths that are here presented, we merely glance at them, because when we arrive at the 16th chapter, we shall see them again presented in their regular series, and more fully illustrated. During this lecture we confine ourselves to the 12th chapter. Its object is to give an account of the church during that important period of one thousand two hundred and sixty years, which is so often mentioned in this book as the season after which it shall appear in all the lustre of millennial glory. The apostle saw in heaven a wonder, or rather a remarkable symbol, as the original term causior signifies, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her
upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” It is a beautiful exhibition of the spiritual and true church of the Redeemer. You know that not only in the sacred scriptures, but also among all poets, and on the medals of all countries, states and churches are represented under the symbol of females. She who is here exhibited, is termed in the Old Testament, “the king's daughter, greatly desired for her beauty;" and in this book is called, “ the Bride, the Lamb's wife.” She is 6 clothed with the sun :" arrayed in the pure and shining righteousness of Christ, and irradiated with light, holiness, and comfort, derived from this Sun of Righteousness. She stands upon the moon : which here, as opposed to the sun, may signify the world, all the enjoyments of which are comparatively changeable and diminutive: above these the church of God is raised; she looks down upon them
with holy indifference, and seeks sublimer and more perfect joys. She wears as her ornament and honour, the doctrine of the twelve apostles and of the ministers of reconciliation who have succeeded them. These are her crown and stars. She is " in travail :” an expression which signifies her desires, and prayers, and labours, to produce converts to the Redeemer, and to bring forth a spiritual offspring unto God. She is that mystical “ Jerusalem, who is the mother of us all;" that “ Zion of whom it shall be said, This and that man were born in her.”
This sign appeared in heaven. Heaven, when applied to states, denotes, as you have already seen, civil power and elevation ; when applied to the church, it is the symbol of ecclesiastical polity. Thus it is used in this chapter to denote the visible church in its most extended form ; for in the same heaven appear the woman and her foe, the sincere and insincere professors of the religion of Jesus.
This we are taught in the next verses: “ And there appeared another wonder (or sign) in heaven : and behold a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his head ; and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman that was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born." In the ninth verse we are taught that this was the “ old serpent, called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world;" he who had tempted our first parents in paradise; he who ever is opposed to God and goodness, and who seeks to propagate falsehood and wickedness throughout the earth. He is represented with the same number of heads and horns as the beast who is described in the next chapter, and which denotes Antichrist, because be
invisibly directs and manages this beast who belongs to him, who is his representative and agent. The meaning of this precise number of heads, and horns, and crowns, will more naturally be considered in our ensuing lecture, when this symbolical beast denoting Antichrist is explained. The dragon thus exhibited as the soul of Antichrist, is red, to denote persecution, cruelty, and bloodshed. He drew down “ the third of the stars,” those corrupt and unholy pastors, who were so different from those that adorned the crown of the spiritual church. 66 He stood before the woman,” to devour her offspring. This denotes the watchful malice of Satan against Christ and his religion, and his endeavours to prevent the progress of the Redeemer's cause in the world. More implacable than Pharaoh against the children of Israel, than Herod against the babes of Bethlehem, Satan was desirous to destroy all who should be born to God.
Yet his efforts were in vain : “ The woman brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and her child was caught up unto God and his throne.”. There is here an evident allusion to the second Psalm, in which it is declared concerning the Messiah, “ Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron ; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” Nevertheless, it is not of Christ personal that the apostle here speaks. He had ascended to glory, he had gone up to the throne of God, long before the period when John received these revelations. But such is the union between Christ the head, and believers his members, so fully do they participate in his triumphs. that what is said of Him is often applied to them. Thus we find this very expression in Rev. ii. 26, 27. “ He that overcometh, and keepeth my works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessel of a potter shall they be broken to shivers, even as I received of my Father.” It is then of Christ mystical, of the succession of true converts, of his spiritual church and people, that the scripture here speaks. These, notwithstanding the opposition of Satan, instead of being extirpated, shall finally obtain sovereign power over the nations; and in the mean time are as secure under the protection of God, as if they were carried up into heaven, and there placed before his throne.
“ The woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” “ To her,” we are told in the fourteenth verse, “ were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place; where she is nourished from the face of the serpent for a time, and times, and half a time;" that is, according to prophetical language, one year, two years, and half a year: which, reckoning as the scriptures do by lunar years of three hundred and sixty days, make one thousand two hundred and sixty prophetical days, that is, one thousand two hundred and sixty years. The general meaning of this prediction is evident: it is, that though for these one thousand two hundred and sixty years, the church should be in distress, in danger, and often in a bewildered state, yet she shall be as assuredly preserved as was Elijah, when he fled into the wilderness from Ahab, or as were the Israelites, when in the wilderness