Last Updated on : Thursday, November 20, 2014
|Thirteen Lectures On The Apocalypse|
Revelation Chapters 12 and 13
CHAPTER XII, compelling another backward journey in point of time -- the explanation of this zigzag construction of the Apocalypse -- a second view of the events of the sixth seal to show their bearing on the friends of Christ -- the woman clothed with the sun; her relation to the Bride, the Lamb' s wife -- "the moon under her feet" -- her crown of twelve stars -- her child-bearing -- the dragon waiting to devour her son -- Constantine and the Paganism of the Roman Empire -- the crowns on the heads of the dragon and not on the horns -- the ascension of the woman's son to God -- the inapplicability of the prophecy to Christ -- the flight of the woman into the wilderness -- the war in heaven -- the conflict between the forces of Christianity and Paganism -- the overthrow and expulsion of the Pagan Dragon -- the rejoicings in the Christian camp -- the woman in her hiding place -- the serpent persecuting her -- The beast of the sea -- the dragon the source of its authority -- the slain sixth head and its survival from the sword-wound -- the blasphemous mouth of the beast -- the forty-two months of its continuance -- the two-horned beast of the earth -- the Holy Romano-Germanic Empire -- the image of the beast made to live -- the mark of the beast and the number of his name -- a solemn lesson.
WE have a somewhat difficult task to-night in the attempt to present a condensed and intelligible view of the matters involved in chapters 12 and 13. Our task, however, is somewhat simplified by the circumstance that some of the matters have already been under our consideration in connection with other symbols. The consideration of these matters again takes us backward in the course of time -- a long way back from the point we reached at the end of the eleventh chapter. You will recollect that at the end of that chapter, we arrived at the time for the dead to be raised, and for the kingdoms of the world to be transferred to Christ as God's viceregent upon earth. In chapter 12, we find ourselves again face to face with the age of Roman imperialism and circumstances of persecution, as, for instance, in verse 17, "The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which kept the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." It must be evident that this is long before the transfer of the kingdoms of the world to Christ, for when that point is reached, all persecution will have ceased, power being taken from the adversary and vested in Jesus and his brethren. Hence, the conclusion is self-evident that as in the case of chapter 11, so in the case of this chapter 12, we are taken away back from the point reached at the end of the previous
chapter, and brought to the consideration of other scenes having to do with the prior history of human government upon earth.
It may strike us as strange that there should be this zig-zag sort of order in the exhibition of the scenes of the Apocalypse. This feeling will disappear if we realize that there are various departments in the divine programme that have filled up the interval since Christ's departure from the earth -- various areas of the Roman habitable in which the plan has been worked out -- various channels in which providential superintendence has been actively giving shape to events with a view to the great consummation appointed, at one time east, at another west, at another both together. By these various roads, we are several times brought to the same general end to which they all reach. It is as if a guide conducted you by one route to some interesting spot, and then took you back through the air, if that were possible, to another outward place from which to conduct you again by a different route to the same spot, and repeated the performance for a third route, and so on.
The opening of chapter 12 takes us back to the place in history marked by the sixth seal, when a mighty revolution upset and abolished the Pagan government of the world, the avowed enemy of Christ, and established in its place a system based upon professed allegiance to Christ. This revolution, effected under the leadership of Constantine, "the first Christian Emperor", was a great revolution. It was in fact the inauguration of Christendom -- the commencement of the nominal dominion of Christ on the earth, to be succeeded by his real dominion. That nominal dominion was far from being a system of real submission to Christ; still it was a great improvement upon the empire of polytheism in a variety of ways. There was hereafter at least a recognition (though in a corrupt form) of the God of Israel and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the adoption of precepts having a humanizing effect on society. In connection with this change, there were details which could not be represented by the sixth seal. The sixth seal merely exhibited the occurrence of the revolution under the symbol of a catastrophe in nature. It could not show how it affected. the friends of Christ among themselves. This is what is done in chapter 12.
John sees a certain woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet. This woman, like all the women of the Apocalypse, was a symbolic woman. There is no difficulty in seeing whom she symbolizes. The woman represents that section of mankind which had come under submission to God through Christ, as shown by the
statement in the verse already read, that the dragon "made war upon the woman's seed" who are explained to be "those who keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ." This use of a woman to represent the community of those who belong to Christ is common to the writings of the apostles, as you know. Paul writes to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:2), "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." Again (Eph. 5:23), "The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church." The Church is apocalyptically described as "the bride, the Lamb's wife" (Rev. 21:9), and his union with her at his coming is spoken of as "the marriage supper of the Lamb."
In this 12th chapter of the "Revelation", however, it is Christ's church or ecclesia in Christ's absence and in the land of his enemies, that is the subject of representation. Consequently there are features about the symbol that will not appertain to the Lamb's Bride in the day of her glory. In the day of her humiliation and trial many who are in her and of her do not belong to her, as the letters of the apostles show, and also the parables of Christ, and as the fact of a judgment for separation at his coming implies. It is while she is in this mixed state that the events of this chapter occur.
John sees her clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. The sun is always a symbol of power and prosperity. These in the Roman Empire were identified with the imperial throne. Hence; for Christ's community among men to be lifted from a position of proscription and persecution, into a position of political ascendancy and sunshine by the elevation of Constantine, the church's friend, to the throne of Pagan Caesarism, the church's enemy, was for that community, considered as a woman, to become a woman clothed with the sun. The moon as a symbol stands in the same relation to the symbolic sun as the literal moon does to the literal sun: it is co-ordinate with the sun but not equal to it. It shines with it in the same heaven but borrows its light from it. What power in the Roman State sustained this relation to the Roman sun of imperial power? The priesthood of the national religion undoubtedly -- the religion of the gods of Rome. The Pagan hierarchy stood in the same relation to imperialism as the modern established clergy do to the State. They were a power in the State secondary to the secular power and sustained by it. The ecclesiastical order is symbolically the moon in any system. In view of
this, we can understand the significance of the Christ-woman having the moon under her feet, when we realize that the pagan priesthood were by Constantine placed under the Christian party, then elevated by him to place and power.
The diadem of twelve stars is the symbol of the Pagan Caesars. There had been twelve Caesars on the imperial throne, from Augustus, the first Roman emperor, to Domitian, the emperor who reigned when John received the Apocalypse. As a matter presented to John, therefore, the diadem destined to be placed on the Church's brow, as the result of her conflict with Paganism, was a twelve-starred diadem. There were other Caesars after John passed away, but the number at the date of the vision continued to represent the imperial prize of the conflict that was in progress.
We have next to consider the meaning of the woman so situated being in the state described in the second verse of the chapter we are considering: "She being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered ... and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns ... and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born." We learn the meaning of this in the contemplation of the events characterizing the history of the epoch. Constantine did not at once ascend the throne of universal dominion. He was the woman's child -- political offspring of the Church -- for a considerable time before he grasped the reins of universal power. His career began in the West. He was the son of Constantius, one of the four Pagan emperors who ruled the empire conjointly at the close of the third century. Constantius, whose dominion lay in Gaul (France) and Britain, considerably sympathized with the Christians, and impeded the execution of the dreadful laws promulgated against them by Galerius, the chief emperor, who vowed he would obliterate the Christian name from the earth. But Constantius's son, Constantine, sympathized with the Christians more than his father did; and this being known at Rome, caused him to be regarded with great jealousy and aversion by the other emperors. When his father died (at York) in Britain, the army proclaimed Constantine his successor in the imperial purple. It was not the place of the army at this time in the history of the empire, to appoint a successor. The power lay with Galerius, the chief emperor, who, when he heard of the action of the army, was filled with rage. He, however, accepted the nomination, with the determination to set it aside by the sword as soon as it was convenient. He did
not acknowledge Constantine in the full rank of emperor, but gave him the fourth rank among Roman princes, making, however, secret arrangements at the same time for the invasion of the dominions of Constantine (the western section of the Roman empire), with a view to his deposition and destruction.
Here we have the situation of the first four verses of the 12th chapter. The emancipated woman was pregnant with a political son, whom another power in the east was waiting to devour. This power is symbolized by "a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads". The identification of this power with Pagan Rome is not only easy, but inevitable. We have an explanation of the heads and horns, which leaves no escape. The heads are declared to represent (17:9, 10) first, the seven hills on which the woman, at a later stage of Roman history, sat enthroned -- (Rome is built on seven hills, and this literal feature is incorporated in the symbol by way of identification); and, secondly, seven sovereignties or forms of supreme power that had succeeded one another on the seven hills, of which the one existing in John's day was, in the verses referred to, declared to be the sixth. The ten horns stood for the division of the empire into ten contemporaneous independent sovereignties at a later time (17:12). The symbol was a prophecy, as well as an emblem. That is to say, it not only stood for the power of imperial Rome, in the way the lion stands for British power, but it exhibited details that were to be evolved in the course of its history. It is for this reason that we find Pagan Rome in hostility to the Christ-woman's political son, represented by a ten-horned monster, at a time when the ten horns had not as yet historically made their appearance. If there were no other evidence that the ten-horned dragon of the chapter we are considering stands for Pagan Rome at this juncture, it is found in the last six words of verse 3, which might easily escape the reader's notice as having anything in them: "seven crowns upon his heads." In the next chapter (13:1), the same symbol has ten crowns on the horns, and not on the heads. There is a very obvious reason for this difference. The crown is a symbol of sovereign authority. At the time of Constantine, the ten horns had not historically appeared. Therefore they are crownless; but the heads had appeared, and were in authority; for the emperorship was the sixth head, or form, of Roman sovereignty. The epoch current in Constantine's days was the epoch of the heads, and not of the horns, which had received no kingdom as yet;
therefore the crowns are on the heads, which is, of itself, a convincing proof that the seven-headed dragon of Rev. 12 stands for Pagan imperial Rome in its attitude of hostility to the Christ-woman, or Church, who had in her midst a son, to whom she was about to give birth in the full-blown possession of imperial power.
The birth of this imperial son was brought about by the very attitude adopted by the Pagan dragon. When Constantine (the sun with which the woman had just become clothed), ascertained the hostile intentions of the Roman emperor, he resolved upon taking the first step himself in the war which was about to be forced upon him. He threw his army across the Alps before Maxentius (who had taken the place of Galerius, deceased) was aware he had begun to move; and encountering the opposing army -- three times as numerous as his own -- he overthrew it with great slaughter, and marched towards Rome. Another army, and another, were collected to oppose him; but both dispersed before the celerity of his movements and the vigour of his blows; and the Roman senate, after his third victory at Saxa Rubra, threw open the gates of Rome, and proclaimed him Emperor of the Romans. Thus the woman's son was born after a season of acute parturition agonies.
But he was not yet what he was destined to become -- sole monarch of the Roman world. This destiny is expressed by the symbolism of verse 5. "She 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 to his throne." Some apply this to the ascension of Christ. A moment's reflection will suffice to show this a mistake. What John saw was a representation of things which a voice told him (Rev. 4:1) "must come to pass hereafter." He was told this A.D. 96. How, then, could this scene represent an event that had taken place sixty years before? Besides, such an interpretation would ignore the primary characteristic of the Apocalypse as an exhibition of things in sign or hieroglyph. No; the woman in the case is the Christian community, and her son the imperial champion, begotten in her midst as the result of the operation. of her principles on Roman society. This son in being born and caught up to God and to His throne, was (1) to become developed as an acknowledged emperor, and (2) to be elevated in the operations of Providence into the position of sole monarch of the world. "God ruleth in the kingdoms of men" (Dan. 4:32). Hence, for Constantine to be placed over them all by the force of circumstances, was symbolically to
be "caught up to God and to His throne This came about in due time.
Meanwhile, we have to consider the event of verse 6: "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". This seems a strange sequel to the events of the early part of the chapter. It is, however, in harmony with the course of affairs as they developed themselves after Constantine's elevation in Rome. While the woman, or Christian community of which Constantine declared himself protector, continued in the sun-invested position in the heaven to which events had elevated her, the woman in another sense fled the position and became the object of persecution of the new and nominally Christian government. To see this clearly, it is necessary to realize that the community developed by the labours of the apostles contained two elements -- the real and the unreal, the actual and the nominal: those who were earnestly subject to the law of Christ and those who were professors without heart -- who accepted Christ as a tradition but were uninfluenced by it in a practical way. The latter were in the majority. It was by their means that the political revolution in favour of Christianity was brought about. They were not fastidious about the commandments of Christ which forbid the use of the sword or identification with the politics of the present evil world. Therefore they felt themselves at liberty to plot and intrigue and fill the army and offices of State, and set up a military champion in Constantine. The other class, described (verse 17) as "those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ", were the minority, an element -- a remnant in the midst of others. Broadly viewed, they were both one community and therefore in relation to the Pagan dragon, one woman. In another relation of things, they were two -- the one the shell, the other the kernel -- the one the shadow, the other the substance. To the one class, Jesus tells us he will say in the day of account, "I never knew you" (Matt. 7:23). To the other, he will unite himself in glorious marriage as a bridegroom to a bride. In the ultimate aspect of things, the latter class only are the woman -- the Bride, the Lamb's wife; and although in relation to the aspects of human history, the nominal are part of the woman as well as the true, yet in even the current recognitions of Christ, the true only are the woman. The false are finally symbolized in the Apocalypse as a shameless prostitute.
It is in view of these distinctions that we are enabled to understand how it came to pass that after the
woman had been invested with the sun of imperial favour, the woman should "fly into the wilderness". As a matter of fact, ecclesiastically considered, the woman remained in the region of sunshine: the Christian party continued in the position to which Constantine's success elevated her. But shortly after its elevation, there was a schism which resulted in the separation of the community into two parts -- one of which "fled "from the presence of imperial favour, and became the object of the persecution of the other. One party was zealous for the commandments of God, and the other were worldly time-servers. The schism, though long existing as a spiritual fact, only became openly visible on the appointment to a bishopric of a man who during the dreadful persecution of Diocletian and Galerius, had given up the Scriptures to save his life. The faithful could not brook such a violation of Christian decorum and refused to recognize the man that had been appointed. The dispute raged with great bitterness. It came several times before Constantine, who decided in favour of the reprobate, who was the favourite of the Court party. The particulars you may learn in Eureka, where they are very fully set forth. The decision resulted in the flight of the woman both in the spiritual and the geographical sense. She fled from the presence of the Court, saying through one of their leading writers, "What has the Emperor to do with the Church? what have Christians to do with kings? and what have bishops to do at Court?" And she flew from the Roman soil and took refuge in the African provinces of the Roman empire -- the territory forming the southern margin of the Mediterranean, and the northern fringe of the African continent. Here she was fed and nourished, and afterwards spreading herself into the southern parts of Europe, she sustained in the capacity of the two witnesses, that 1,260 days (years) testimony in the presence of her persecutors which we had to consider in the last lecture.
Here a question will occur to many: "Are we to consider, then, that the churches in Roman Africa in the fourth and fifth centuries, and the various dissenting bodies in Switzerland, France, and other parts, were the true brethren of Christ? If so, why is it that what we, the Christadelphians, consider the truth is not to be found in their writings?" Some make use of this argument to reject the truth. This is a great mistake. The question of the truth is not to be settled by reference to human documents or human constructions of history. We must enquire concerning this at the holy oracles alone: "To the law and to the testimony; if any speak not
according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them." Yes, yes, says the objector, very good: but how are we to deal with the question asked? The answer is that though these communions were not in the mass the body of Christ, they contained it: while the church ascendant -- the Catholic sun-invested woman, contained it not at all. There is evidence that the heretics as a class contained the brethren of Christ in their symbolization as the witnesses, but the same symbolization representing them as two, brings with it the evidence that, like Israel after the flesh, they were not all Israel that were of Israel. Fragmentary writings exhibiting affinties with the truth present the same evidence: they are quoted by Dr. Thomas in Eureka. But even if there were no such evidence, we should be unwise in allowing the uncertainties of history to weaken our perceptions of the truth. In all our conceptions of truth and duty, we must be governed wholly by the Scripture. We know we are safe here, whereas in dealing with matters of which there is no authentic record, we are on slippery ground. You cannot rely on the portraiture of ecclesiastical history. In after ages, Canon Bowlby, of Birmingham, would be accepted as a competent witness touching the Christadelphians: yet how little, as recent experience has shown us, could we recognize ourselves in his descriptions.
Going back to the days of her flight, before Constantine had yet become supreme ruler of the Roman world, we read (verse 7), "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." In these verses we have a symbolical representation of the struggle that elevated Constantine from the position of ruler of a third of the Roman Empire (in conjunction with his Pagan colleagues, who ruled the remaining thirds), to the position of sole emperorship. It was a struggle in which the testimony for Christ -- (sown in previous centuries of tears and blood) -- obtained final victory over Paganism,
and banished it from the system of the civilized world. It was a struggle conducted "in heaven", that is, it was war among the rulers. Maximin, the emperor of the eastern or Asiatic third of the empire, made war on Licinius, the ruler of the middle, or Illyrian third, with a fatal result to Maximin, whose dominions, on his overthrow by Licinius, were added to those of the latter. Licinius, emboldened by his success, and hating the pro-Christian policy of Constantine (the ruler of the western, or Roman third), resolved to put forth his power against Constantine; and to re-establish Paganism throughout the empire. This brought on war between Licinius and Constantine, which, after several great battles (each a victory for Constantine), ended in the complete overthrow of Licinius, and the expulsion of Paganism from the government of the Roman world. Constantine became sole emperor and Christianity the only recognized religion of the State, from Persia to the Atlantic. This was the triumph of (the symbolic) "Michael and his angels" over the "dragon and his angels." Michael, meaning who like God, was the symbolic name of Constantine, as the instrument by which God cast the idols from the throne of the world, and substituted thereon, in a preliminary way, the name of His son. As opposed to this enterprise, Pagan imperialism was the political incorporation of the original diabolism of human nature, and, therefore, "that old serpent the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world." The wrath of this Devil, on his ejection from heaven, i.e., Italy (the heaven-proper of the Roman system), and the woe announced for the inhabitants of the earth and sea on his descent among them, refer to the stages in the process by which, during twelve years, Pagan superstition was driven by degrees from all place and power in the Roman habitable. In the latter stages, when Licinius, after his overthrow of Maximin, conceived hostile intentions against Constantine, the devil was filled "with great wrath", knowing his time was short; and he "persecuted the woman that had brought forth the man child", that is, he promulgated oppressive laws against the Christian community in his dominions. The literature of the times bears evidence that there was a general presentiment that Paganism was doomed, which stirred up its supporters, under the leadership of Licinius, to supreme efforts, which brought war and devastation on the inhabiters of the eastern and maritime districts of the empire. In twelve years from the commencement of the conflict, the political Michael was entirely victorious, and the "old serpent, the Devil, and Satan", as incorporated PAGE 121 in the venerable Paganism of Greece and Rome, was utterly cast down.
When these events were consummated, there were great rejoicings among the Christian party surrounding Constantine, and throughout the whole empire, who from that time imagined that the kingdom of Christ had really come by the hand of Constantine. This was the loud voice of verse 10 -- a voice "in heaven" -- in the ruling sphere, saying, "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God," etc. It was only, however, in a preliminary, typical, and shadowy sense that this had come to pass. It is only when the seventh trumpet sounds that "the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of Christ", as we have seen. The "loud voice" represents the exultations that actually took place, as ecclesiastical history testifies, but does not necessarily guarantee these exultations as representing the accurate truth in all particulars.
In verse 14 we have the flight of the faithful woman again introduced. We have considered the meaning of this in connection with verse 6. Verse 14 adds to the information of verse 6, by telling us where the woman was to be nourished. "Two wings of a great eagle", or as it is in the original, "of the great eagle", were given to her that she might fly into the wilderness state. Understanding the Roman power to be meant by "the great eagle" (and this was one of Rome's leading symbols), the wings would indicate the outlying provinces of the Roman jurisdiction. The city of Rome itself was the head of the eagle; Italy its body; and the countries east and west, subject to its authority, its wings. History shows us that it was in these wings where the witnessing community were nourished. Dr. Thomas, in Eureka, illustrates this in a very ample and satisfactory manner. I would recommend you to make the acquaintance of that wonderful work. Perhaps you may feel more encouraged to do so after the slight understanding of matters which these lectures may afford.
In verses 15-16 we have "the serpent", also styled "the dragon", exhibited as the persecutor of the woman for a lengthened period. After the overthrow of the Pagan dragon, the actual persecutor in the case was the government of Constantine, under the instigation of the bishops of the Catholic Church of the Court party. This creates a seeming difficulty in view of the fact that the Pagan dragon was finally disposed of by the victories of Constantine. It is staggering at first sight to find the dragon stand for Paganism, and then for the Christian government of Constantine, who overthrew Paganism. The explanation is to be found in the fact, that though in
the conflict in which Constantine as the Christian ruler of a part of the empire, contended against Paganism as the champion of the Christian name, only Paganism could be considered as the serpent and adversary; yet, afterwards, when Constantine occupied the dragon capital -- Byzantium, afterwards called Constantinople -- and had absorbed the dragon territory into his dominions, and became, in his turn, an adversary and persecutor of "the remnant of the woman's seed": his government became transformed into the political serpent and dragon, as distinctly as his Pagan predecessors. Therefore, the vision, which has more to do with the nature of things than their nominal distinctions, retains the serpent-dragon as the symbol of the Church's persecutors, when those persecutors were nominally the Church's protectors. The vision is thus in harmony with events as they unfolded themselves in fact, though out of it with historical nomenclature from a human point of view. In this it gives one of many marks of its divinity. It is after the analogy of the symbol of the woman, which in one relation of things is the community of the faithful; and, in another, the apostate Church in adulterous association with the kings of the earth.
In the water mentioned in verse 15, which the dragon cast out of his mouth, to overwhelm the woman, we may recognize the military expeditions despatched by the Catholic government against the schismatics in the Roman "wings". In the earth helping the woman and opening her mouth to absorb the flood and to save the woman, we see prefigured the aid that was rendered to the faithful Christian community by the lawless lovers of liberty in Africa -- emphatically the earth -- who resorted to violent measures in their defence. The particulars, which are very interesting, will be found very fully set forth in the third volume of Eureka. We cannot do more on the present occasion than indicate the interpretation.
"The dragon was wroth with the woman and went to make war with the remnant of her seed." In the carrying out of this war during the ages that followed, the ecclesiastical enemy of "the remnant of the woman's seed" underwent various political transformations, which are the subject of representation in chapter 13. This chapter is full of interesting details. We cannot go into them with the minuteness which they deserve. We must be content to indicate the general outlines in a rough and ready way. They have to do with the new constitution of things in Europe springing out of the Constantinian revolution. Such as desire to attain
a more thorough acquaintance with the matter will do well to avail themselves of the opportunity so wonderfully brought within their reach in Dr. Thomas' Eureka. His exposition of this chapter alone occupies over 200 pages of the third volume.
John, standing upon the sand of the sea (chapter 13:1), sees a beast rise up out of the sea having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns. The seven heads and ten horns show the Roman nature of the power represented, and the crowns being on the horns and not on the heads shows the time or era. It is the new organization of the Roman world in the west long after the era of Constantine, when the days of a single imperial rule had passed away, and the ten kings had made their appearance, and acquired their sovereignty in Europe. "Upon his heads the name of blasphemy." The Papacy is the name of blasphemy, and the heads, the seven hills upon which it is established. The beast therefore has to do with Papal times. These had not arrived in the days of Constantine. The Popeship was in the germ even then in the office and pretensions of the Bishop of Rome: still it was not a developed institution. It did not become the name of blasphemy enthroned on the seven hills of Rome till nearly 300 years afterwards.
"The dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." The dragon, as we have seen, first represented the political Paganism of Rome in its opposition to the Christian name in the west. This political Paganism was headed up in Licinius, whose seat of government was Byzantium (afterwards called Constantinople). Licinius in the east (Byzantium): Constantine in the west (Rome), presented at this time the historical counterpart of the dragon and his angels on the one side, and Michael and his angels on the other. When Constantine had overthrown Licinius, he transferred his capital from Rome to Byzantium, which he built anew and named Constantinople. Here he and his successors became what Licinius's government had been before them -- the dragon. They did so by reason of occupying the same capital, ruling the same territory and assuming the same hostility towards the true witnesses of Christ. It was from Constantinople that the persecution of the Church emanated in Constantinian and succeeding times. Constantinople continued to be the throne of the dragon though professedly Christian in character. A recognition of this is necessary to enable us to understand the statement that "the dragon gave (to the beast of the sea) his power, and his seat, and great authority." It was from the emperor reigning PAGE 124 in Constantinople in the east that the Papacy in the west received its constitution and recognition, or its "power and seat and great authority." The history of the uprise of the Papacy will show you this. The dragon had the power to bestow, and bestowed it on the bishop of Rome after wavering for some time between the bishop of Rome and the bishop of Constantinople. It was not an instantaneous or a single act of appointment. The competition between Rome and Constantinople for the headship of Christendom extended over more than a century. It was terminated in favour of Rome by the emperor Justinian in A.D. 535, whose decision was finally confirmed and established by his successor the emperor Phocas, A.D. 606-8.
"I saw one of his heads as it were wounded unto death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast." The sixth head of the Roman beast -- that is, the sixth of its seven historic forms of government -- the imperial -- received an apparently fatal wound from the sword of the Goths, as we saw in the consideration of the fourth trumpet. The Roman Empire was totally extinguished in the west -- the kingdom of the Goths taking its place "for a short time", that is for seventy years. At the end of that time, the forces of the dragon -- the armies of the emperor at Constantinople, restored the imperial authority in Italy by defeating and expelling the Gothic forces and putting an end to the Gothic interregnum. Afterwards, on the ground thus cleared, Roman imperialism was restored in the crowning of Charlemagne in Rome as Roman emperor of the west. Thus the sixth head of the Roman beast was healed, to the admiration and astonishment of the world, who rejoiced in the evidently perennial vigour of the ancient imperialism of Rome, re-invigorated from Constantinople. This state of mind is indicated in the statement that "all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast. And there was given unto him (the beast) a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given to him to continue (A.V. margin -- to make war) forty and two months." To the Roman beast, in its Papal constitution, was given (by the dragonic imperial decree from Constantinople) authority to dictate to the world in spiritual things. The Roman Pontiff, in his official utterances, was this mouth, whose great speakings were blasphemies. Power also to wield the sword, in the enforcement of the ecclesiastical ascendancy, was accorded by the same settlement of things, by the Constantinople
(dragonic) ordinance. The duration of that power was not defined in the dragonic decree; but it was fixed in the counsels of Providence. The Papacy was to possess the power for forty-two months (1,260 days or years). We are living at the end of the period, and can see that the word of God has been fulfilled. Exactly 1,260 years from its first institution by the Emperor Justinian, in A.D. 535, viz., at the close of the last century, during the French Revolution, it received a terrible blow, nearly fatal, at the hands of the first Napoleon. But the first institution of Papal power was only preliminary, and therefore 1,260 years from that time could not be the full termination. Its confirmation and establishment by Phocas, in 606-8, supplied another starting-point for the forty and two months. Reckoned from this date, we are conveyed to the events of A.D. 1867, when the French, on their return, rescued the Pope from Garibaldi, took possession of the so-called "Holy City", and virtually terminated the Pope's power to make war against his enemies. Three years later even the shadow of THE TEMPORAL POWER disappeared in the conflict between France and Germany; and, at the present moment, [That is, in 1880] the Pope is known among his friends as "the prisoner of the Vatican." His power is gone. The government of the King of Italy has possession of the City. The Pope is reduced to the position of a mere bishop again. He is obliged to tolerate dissenting chapels before his very eyes, and is powerless to stop the free circulation of the Bible, which has never before been allowed in Rome during the forty and two months. This is a great sign that we are near the end of the present order.
In verse 11, John beholds another beast come up -- not out of the sea, but out of the earth. Students of the Apocalypse have found some difficulty with this beast; but Dr. Thomas has cleared it away. That it is another form of the Papal beast is proved by the statement in verse 12, that "he causeth them that dwell therein to worship the first beast whose deadly wound was healed". You may ask, why should there be another form of the Papal beast? Because, in the progress of events, the Papal ascendancy took an entirely new phase. The Constantinopolitan dragon of the east, who in the first place gave him his authority, finally became of no account; and from the interior regions of Europe -- (and therefore from "the earth", Apocalyptically speaking, as contrasted with the Mediterranean seaboard) there now sprang up a new conquering power, which obtained the controlling
ascendancy in Europe, and incorporated the Papacy in itself in a new order of things. This was the Germanic Empire, springing out of the order of things established by the victories of Charlemagne, king of the French, the emperor of the Romans. Let anyone read the history of this Germanic Empire, which slowly and peacefully shifted from France to Germany, and finally to Austria, as the leading German power. They will find that it had two horns, or was constituted of two contemporary dynasties -- viz., the Emperor and the Pope. These were the two leading features of the empire, to which the rest of Europe were subject. The Pope held his position subject to the confirmation of the emperor, and the emperor did not hold a valid position till he received his crown at the hands of the Pope. It was a dual empire -- a two-horned beast. They were lamb-like horns (verse 11); that is, by profession, they belonged to Christ; between them they were Christendom; but the beast spake like a dragon for all that. In nature and principles it was thoroughly dragonic, though ostensibly holding a lamb-like character. Let anyone study the deeds of the Pope and emperor, and they will see the truthfulness of this symbolism. No more merciless tyranny ever afflicted earth than that which, under the name of the Holy Roman Empire, caused the tears and blood of thousands to flow in dire persecution and oppression, under a pretence of authority from Christ.
The two-horned beast "caused the earth and them who dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed." The first beast being Rome in the first stage of her Papal constitution, was now incorporate in the two-horned beast: it was merged or fused with it. This is proved by the fact that the latter "exercised all the power of the first beast"; and proved also by the history and facts of the case. The first beast was revived in the constitution of the second, in so far as imperial rank was restored to Rome, and the Roman Empire re-instated in the west, in the new empire created by the proclamation of Charlemagne as Roman Emperor by the Pope. This was the healing of the wounded sixth head, and by the public proclamation of the new empire, the earth and the dwellers therein were commanded to worship "the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed." The great wonders which the new beast was able to perform consisted of the prodigies of war, for which Charlemagne is famous in history. He was able to enforce his will upon all Europe by the powers for destruction which he possessed, symbolized by "making fire come PAGE 127 down from heaven on the earth, in the sight of men". By these political miracles he deceived "them that dwell on the earth" into the conviction that divine authority was on his side, and proposed and carried his proposal into effect, that an image should be made of the killed beast that had recovered. This, of course, is not a literal image. It is part of the symbolism. It means a political likeness, or counterpart of the imperial system in Rome that had been killed by the Gothic sword: the restoration, in fact, of the old imperiality of Rome in a new form. This was accomplished on the investiture of the Pope with all the prerogatives of an emperor. In this position he was the exact likeness of the old Roman emperors of the sixth head -- chief magistrate in the domain of civil law, and, at the same time, chief pontiff of the national religion. He was, to all intents and purposes, an image of the defunct imperialism of the west, but a speaking image; for the new beast which came on the scene with the victories and empire of Charlemagne, had "power to give life unto the image of the beast" (verse 15). Victorious Charlemagne (accepted and crowned by the Pope) had the power to give political vitality to the Papal image of the beast. This power he exercised, and ordered the worship of the Pope-King on pain of death (verse 15), causing all to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their forehead, that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name (verse 17). This was the symbolic way of setting forth that, under the new system, the authority of the Papal image would be made essential to the holding of any office, or the exercise of any traffic, in the emoluments or advantages of Church or State; and as this authority was conferred by signing the cross on the forehead or right hand of the recipient of official favour, the cross became the subject of this symbolism as "the mark of the beast." The name of the beast, or the number of his name, were equivalent symbols of the same thing. Those who know the name of the beast, or the number of his name, are in the secret as to what is meant by the symbol. "It is the number of a man", so says the last verse. That is, when you have found the system represented by the name of the beast, you will find the system is centred in a man, though the man and the system are two things. The perception of this enigma is made a feat of wisdom in verse 18.
"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred, threescore and six."
There has been a great deal of guessing and speculating on this subject. It is a standing joke with the scorning and scoffing class, but it is a matter of wisdom for all that. The difficulty which most people have had in finding it out is due to the fact that their theology prevents them from identifying the beast. They regard the Roman Communion as a part of the true Church of Christ, and are therefore driven to look into indefinite futurity for this phenomenon of human history which is already hoary with age. Those who know the truth are burdened with no such difficulty. They see in the leading figure of Christendom -- a sovereign who pretends to hold office in all the centuries as Christ's representative and to be endowed with supernatural authority and prerogatives -- an exact fulfilment of all that was shown to John, and also to Paul, as to the anti-Christ, the Man of Sin, that was coming. The only question is how the Apocalyptic identification of 666 can be discovered in him. Does any official title appertaining to him, when the letters of that title are summed up in their numerical value, yield the number in question as "the number of his name"? It matters not if twenty other names can be made to yield the same number: it must be a name in connection with a one-man system which has wielded a compulsory authority in all the earth in centuries past. The Papal system is such a system, and there is no other system or man of whom this can be affirmed. It is, therefore, a simple question of whether a system, answering in all material points to the prophecy, presents also this feature of identification, that its name, numerically estimated, is equal to 666.
The answer is before us in the Greek name LateinoV (Lateinos), which, in plain English, may be said to mean Latindom or Latin power, kingdom, or Church headed up in the Pope. The letters of this name, added together according to their arithmetical value, give the number thus:
xx xxx xxx
It would be a grave defect in this evening's lecture, if I were to neglect to point out the unmistakable stamp of divine reprobation placed upon the Papal system -- root and branch -- by the language of verse 8: "All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain," etc.
As if to give it greater emphasis, verse 7 adds these words: "If any man have an ear, let him hear." The multitude admire various features of the Roman system which commend themselves to human appreciation -- its antiquity, its numbers, its learning, its wealth, its political status, its history, etc. They think it the most odious form of uncharity to doubt the salvability of those who belong to its communion. Be it ours to accept the odium consequent on receiving the word of God. This word says -- and it strikingly calls our attention to the fact -- that those only worship the beast whose names are not written in the Lamb's book of life. Consequently, it is impossible for anyone realizing this to have the least sympathy with the system or its ramifications. The finger of God's condemnation is indelibly placed on it by this chapter, if there were no other; and if it must be considered uncharitable to be on God's side, wise men will suffer the rebuke, awaiting in patience and submission the day spoken of in subsequent chapters, when God will destroy Christendom, in preparation for the establishment of His own glorious kingdom in all the earth.
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