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Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 12

Section 3

A Great Sign in the Heaven.



"And a Great Sign appeared in the Heaven; a Woman who had been invested with the Sun, and the Moon under her feet, and upon her head a wreath of Twelve Stars. "


Thus reads the text of Rev. 12: 1. In the sixth verse this "great sign" is styled a "a great wonder." The word semeion signifies "a work by which something is known. " A footstep in the sand is a mark by which it is known that a human being had been there. Hence the footstep is a sign, or mark with a signification; a mark by which something is signified. The mark is not the foot; but the impression stepped by the foot - the sign of the foot, in a like sense is the sign of the text to be taken. This first verse exhibits a mark, or sign, by which something may be known. To constitute the sign there is a woman, the sun, moon, and stars, an investment, and a wreath. These are but lesser marks or signs of the "great sign." The woman, and the luminaries in the great sign are no more, as some imagine, a real human being of the female sex, and the lights of the sky, than the step of the foot is the foot itself. They are merely signs of something else, between which and them there is an analogy, or resemblance. These lesser marks when grouped together, as in the text, constitute "a great sign," which must, therefore, be regarded as representing a notable development, a wonderful appearance in the apocalyptic heaven

The sun, moon and stars of this great sign, belong to the heaven in which the sign appears. It is the same heaven as that in which "silence, as it were a half hour," supervened after the departure like a scroll of the heaven which preceded it (Rev. 8: 1; 6:14). These two apocalyptic heavens are evidently revealed in these texts. In my exposition of the sixth seal (see Vol. 2. pp. 276, 292), 1 treated of the abolition of the former of these two heavens, in the taking out of the way that which hindered the revelation, or manifestation of the Anomos, or Lawless One (2 Thess. 2:7). The removal of this obstacle is predicted apocalyptically in these words, "the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of the heaven fell into the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken by a mighty wind." And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together. This prediction was fulfilled in the change of the constitution of the Roman Orb consequent upon the success of Constantine, crowned by the victory of Chrysopolis, A.D. 324. Until this epoch of eighteen years, "the heaven" of Daniel's Fourth Beast styled apocalyptically the Dragon, had been in all its constituents pagan. The emperors were all worshippers of Jupiter, and his associate gods. The sun-light of their imperialism was reflected from the idol superstition, of which they were ex-officio the High Priests or Supreme Pontiffs. This was the moon of the heaven shining by reflected imperial light. So long as the Roman constitution of the Fourth Beast continued pagan, none but pagans could constitutionally execute the functions of the imperial office; for none but a pagan could be Pontifex Maximus of the Roman Orb. But the victories of Constantine changed all this. He shook the Dragonic Fig tree with a mighty wind, and caused the stars of the heaven to fall into the earth, as perished figs from the parent tree. He slew with great and sanguinary defeats the adherents of the State Superstition, so that "the moon became as blood." She no longer walked in the brightness of imperial favor, reflecting to the earth the glory of the Roman Sun. The testimony of Jesus Christ against idolatry, borne by his witnesses, had alienated the popular mind from Jupiter and the gods, though it had failed to convert it to the gospel. The priests of the idols having lost their hold upon the affection of the multitude, the way was prepared for the subjection of Roman Idolatry to the Catholic, or Laodicean Apostasy. The consummation was necessarily sanguinary; for the testimony of history, and present experience, show that a minority in arbitrary power can only be brought to abdicate by the arbitrament of the sword. This award was appealed to by the contending parties of the day. The issue was between the PAGANS and the CATHOLICS; or between a pagan minority in place and power, and a majority of anti-pagans of all varieties and shades, who desired a change in the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of the Roman State. In their appeal to arms the power of the minority was broken. It could no longer bring an army into the field to defend the interests of the idols constitutionally vested in their priests; so that nothing remained but the favor of an infidel and alienated multitude, inconstant as the wind. The revolution was complete. The ancient order of things incorporated with the reigning idolatry was cancelled, and the scroll of its constitution rolled up out of the way. The pagan imperialty became black as sackcloth of hair. Since the death of Licinius, the last of Constantine's rivals, only one worshipper of Jupiter has occupied the Roman Throne. The total eclipse of the pagan sun, the sanguinary obscuration of the brightness of the pagan moon, and the hurling of the pagan stars into the lowest walks of life among the people, finally and effectually signalized the departure of the pagan heaven as a scroll rolled up. We have witnessed the departure of a heaven as a scroll when it is rolled up, in the collapse of the Southern Confederacyt. The dispersion of the southern forces resulted in the abolition of its civil constitution, and the consequent suppression of all things related to it; so that with the exception of the calamities entailed, it is as though it had never been. Such was the collapse of Roman Idolatry in its church and state constitution, or heaven. Its forces were overpowered and dispersed, and as the world never "wonders" after a sinking cause, but is always ready to worship success, it easily transferred its allegiance to the more powerful rival which had dethroned it.

Thus the idol-heaven of Daniel's Fourth Beast-dominion was rolled out of the way by the judgments of the Sixth Seal to make room for a new heaven with its own appropriate luminaries. This "heaven" was a church and state constitution of things, in which the Apostasy, foreshadowed in the epistle to the ecclesia at Laodicea. shone with all the brightness and glory an unscrupulous world lying under the wicked could confer upon a system of delusion congenial to it. Its sun, moon, and stars shone brightly. Though a new constitution of the aerial was proclaimed, the sun was not abolished. The storm-clouds of a departing idolatrous institution had blackened it. It no longer shone in the splendor of pagan majesty which was totally eclipsed; still the supreme power continued to be a diademed imperiality. It was the same twelve-starred Sixth Head which was developed in the Augustan epoch of Daniel's "dreadful and terrible" beast. When the half hour's silence invaded the heaven, the "mighty wind" which had been rudely shaking the Roman Fig-tree for eighteen years, was calmed; and the sun of imperial power and majesty emerged again from the hair-sackcloth blackness of the darkening and sanguinary revolution by which it had been obscured. It emerged again to shine with an unclouded blaze upon an entirely new order of things - an order, such as the sun in the natural heaven had hitherto never shone upon since he was placed there to rule the day; an order therefore, which, in the words of the apocalypse, might fitly be represented as "a great sign in the heaven."

In the "great sign" of ch. 12: 1, the Roman Sun is no longer invested with blackness, but invests a sign-woman with a blaze of glory peculiar to himself - "a woman invested with the sun." Whatever the woman may signify, this investiture symbolizes the clothing of the thing signified with supreme imperial authority; so that whatever might emanate from the woman would be by the sanction and co-operation of the highest orders of the state.

The woman, or Laodicean Community, could not have been invested with a more appropriate symbol than "the sun," expressive of the imperial embrace, as well as of the particular emperor by whom she would be patronized. Gibbon informs us that Constantine had a particular veneration for Apollo, or the sun, to which Julian alludes in his orations. His words are, "The devotion of Constantine (while yet in embryo) was more peculiarly directed to the genius of the sun, the Apollo of Greek and Roman mythology; and he was pleased to be represented with the- symbols of the god of light and poetry. The unerring shafts of that deity, the brightness of his eyes, his laurel wreath, immortal beauty, and elegant accomplishments, seem to point him out as the patron of a young hero. The altars of Apollo were crowned with the votive offerings of Constantine; and the credulous multitude were taught to believe, that the emperor was permitted to behold with mortal eyes the visible majesty of that tutelar deity; and that either waking or in vision, he was pleased with the auspicious omens of a long and victorious reign. The sun was universally celebrated as the invincible guide and protector of Constantine; and the pagans might reasonably expect that the insulted god would pursue with unrelenting vengeance the impiety of his ungrateful favorite in his becoming a Laodicean Catholic. Diocletian had chosen Jupiter, and Maximinian, Hercules; but Constantine preferred the sun before all the gods of his fathers, as his guardian and protecting deity." When, therefore, Constantine came to occupy the Roman throne, and was manifested as Supreme Bishop of the Catholic Church, this Laodicean community might fitly be said to have been "invested with the sun."

The position of the imperially invested woman in this "great sign" with "the Moon under her feet, " indicates that she occupies the former place of the Roman Moon. In the heaven which had departed as a scroll, there was no woman standing upon the moon. There was simply the moon-heirarchy invested with the light of imperialism by which it shone; and between this hierarchal moon and the throne of the Dragon power, nothing intervened. But the Constantinian Revolution, or "great earthquake" of the Sixth Seal, had baptized the idol-hierarchy in blood; so that the moon became AS BLOOD.- The sun and moon were not annihilated, but only subjected to changed conditions consequent upon the great earthquake revolution. This popular convulsion exalted one from among the people, and placed her in the moon's orbit. The light and glory of the imperial majesty fell upon her. The rays whose brightness had formerly glorified the priests of Jupiter, and conferred dignity upon his superstition, were now intercepted by a Hierarchy more favored by the state. This new hierarchy had been elevated by the earthquake above the old one; so that, in the "great sign," their relative position is symbolized by the former moon being subjected, or placed under the woman's feet.




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