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



Chapter 12

Section 5

The Wreath of Twelve Stars



In this "great sign" is seen upon the head of the Sun-Invested Woman "a wreath of twelve stars". Thus I have rendered in my translation the words stephanos asteron dodeka. The twelve stars were set in a stephanos, not in a diadema. If there had been seen upon her head a diadem of twelve stars, it would have indicated that she was an integral part of the diademed sixth head of the dreadful and terrible dragon, all of whose heads are diademed. But no; the "crown" of the C.V., was a stephanos, and not a diadem.

Now, the reader of the former volumes of this exposition is aware of the important apocalyptic difference there is between a Stephan and a diadem. The former was given to a combatant when victorious in his conflicts; the latter is the symbol of regal and imperial, or elective sovereignty of an established order. The Antipagan Woman was a combatant community, to whom dominion and power over the nations were promised, as a prize to be contended for, and bestowed upon the victor (Ch. 2:26,27). This prize was signified by a stephanos. If she were victorious, her success would be indicated by a stephan upon her head, as in the "great sign".

It may be remarked here, that the antipagan Woman and the arrowless Archer of the first seal are representative of the same community in its warfare "against the principalities, powers, world-rulers of the darkness, and the spirituals of the wickedness in the heavenlies of the Roman Orb (Eph. 6:12). The Antipagan Archer went forth to conquer the Grxco-Latin Dragon, He had first to overcome and dethrone Jupiter and the gods, "by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of his testimony;" and afterwards to take possession of the diadems enthroned under the whole heaven, and to rule their nations for a thousand years. Significative of this it is written in ch. 6:2, edothe auto stephanos, there was given to him a stephan, or wreath. John saw that the archery of this communion, to which he himself belonged, was prevailing "against the darkness of the course of things" - tou aionos toutou - which obtained while he was in Patmos. He saw it, therefore, going forth "conquering, even that it might conquer." Its career of conquest, though harassed by the enemy, was not to be stopped. The stephan was to be placed upon the woman's head by the highest authority in the state, as the result of "a great earthquake," or revolution, which should place her son upon the throne. When John in vision saw the archer ride forth upon the white horse he had not then won the Stephan. He had a combat for the faith of over two centuries before him; at the end of which the fraternity he represented was seen in the heaven invested with the sun, the moon in subjection, and the Stephan of victory emblazoning her head with its stars. Thus far the triumph was complete: nevertheless, the earnest or type only of a greater yet to come.

But, the placing of a simple stephan upon the Woman's head would have merely signified that she was a victor. But what was the prize of Victory? What had she gained by her victory over the Dragon persecutor, which accused her people incessantly before the Deity? This question is apocalyptically solved by the TWELVE STARS inserted in the wreath. These were the twelve most conspicuous stars of the Roman Firmament. They were stars of the first magnitude which excelled all the other stars in the glory of their position. There were none brighter in the political astronomy of the state. They were the stars of that imperial dragon-headship of which it was remarked to John in chapter 17: 10, saying -,ONE is.- These stars of this Sixth Head at the time of the apocalyptic going forth of the archer of the first seal were exactly twelve, and may be enumerated chronologically thus

1. AUGUSTUS, founder of the Sixth Headship of the Roman Dragon. This Star reigned 44 years from the battle of Actium, which was fought B.C. 30. He died A.D. 14, in his 76th year. He made Tiberius his colleague in the empire three years before his death A. U. C. 764 to................ A.D. 11

2. The SECOND STAR was Tiberius Caesar, successor to Augustus. In the 15th year after being made the colleague of Augustus, "the word of God came to John the son of Zachariah in the wilderness;" and he began to preach. This was 483 years from the 20th of Artaxerxes, the beginning of Daniel's seventy weeks. John was aged 27; Jesus 26 years and six months.................... A.D. 26

At the end of three years and a half, Jesus having been immersed, and John cast into prison, Jesus began to preach the gospel of the kingdom. This began the second half of Daniel 's seventieth week................... A.D. 30

At the end of Daniel's Seventieth Week, or 490 years from the 20th of Artaxerxes, which was the 22nd of Tiberius Caesar, sin was condemned in our common nature by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ..................A.D. 33

3. Tiberius dies in the 23rd year of his reign, and is succeeded by the THIRD STAR, named Caius Caesar Caligula................ A.D. 33

Of this human monster Tiberius said, that he had brought up a serpent for the Roman people; concerning whom he expressed the wish that they had but one neck, that he might cut if off at one stroke. He died ................A.D. 37

4. The FOURTH STAR was Claudius Caesar. The famine mentioned in Acts 11:28, pervaded the whole Roman Habitable under this star. He reigned not quite fourteen years, and died aged 63 ................A.D. 51

5. The FIFTH STAR was his successor Tiberius Claudius Nero. This Caesar for the first five years reigned with applause, being provoked to good conduct by the perpetual admonitions of the renowned Seneca. But changing his manners, he sunk to the lowest depths of degradation. He reduced the greater part of Rome to ashes, and charged it upon the christians, upon whom he inflicted the most exquisite torture. He died by his own hand in the fourteenth year of his reign, aged 32....................................................A.D. 64

6. The SIXTH STAR, was Galba, who reigned 8 months.

7. The SEVENTH STAR was Otho, remarkable for his wickedness, and the shortness of his reign, which scarcely exceeded three month s. He died by his own hand, and was succeeded by a man of incontinent gluttony.

8. Vitellius was the EIGHTH STAR, whose reign of seven months was signalized by the expenditure of thirty millions of dollars in feasting and riot. In the 57th of his age, he was dragged half-naked by a Roman mob into the forum, and with exquisite tortures torn to pieces, and thrown into the Tiber.

9. The NINTH STAR was Vespasian. He emulated the excellences of Augustus, and grieved to inflict punishment when justice demanded it. He was, however, extremely avaricious. He reigned ten years, and died aged 69................................................................. A.D. 75

10. The renowned Titus was the TENTH STAR. On account of his Singular humanity, he was called "the delight of mankind." In the life-time of his father Vespasian he destroyed Jerusalem. He reigned rather more than two years, and died aged 41. He is supposed to have been poisoned by his brother who succeeded him ................A.D. 77

11. Domitian was the ELEVENTH STAR of the Imperial Stephan. He persecuted the christians with the greatest rigour. He was a second Nero. John, the Apostle, was banished by his decree to the isle of Patmos, where the Apocalypse was revealed to him for the benefit of all true Christadelphians, or Brethren of Christ. After a reign of fifteen years, being detested on account of his cruelty, he was put to death by his own guards, aged 55 ................A.D. 92

12. The TWELFTH STAR of this "dreadful and terrible" succession Cocceius Nerva, a man of prudence and moderation, who acquired the dominion late in life. During his brief reign of one year and four months, John was restored to the society of his brethren and companions in tribulation. He died, aged 66, and was succeeded by Trajan................ A.D. 94


In the foregoing chronological table the dates are given according to the true time, which is four years earlier than the regular era.

Such was the WREATH OF TWELVE STARS extended by the Deity as a prize to be gained by the conquest of the Dragon. All the twelve were imperial supreme pontiffs. For the archer-and-woman fraternity to carry off the prize, was for it to be wreathed with the imperial Stephan of the Caesars; and to subdue their pontificate under their feet. This it did most effectually; and, as a sign prophetic of this great victory over the principalities, authorities, world-rulers, and spirituals of the Roman Heaven; and for the encouragement of all engaged in the good fight of faith against the gods, who had eyes to discern the import of the vision, the woman was photographed in the firmament of the Roman Orb, wreathed with the supreme pontifical authority of the twelve.

For two centuries after the reign of the twelve stars, the soldiers of the faith, when they perused the verbal description of the "great sign in the heaven," would understand what was the Stephan to be conferred; and would be filled with a full assurance of hope, that they would go on conquering until they obtained it. It was under this conviction, that on the opening of The Fifth Seal, they are represented as crying with a loud voice from underneath the altar, "How long?" How long till their brotherhood should wear the dodecal Caesarian starry Stephan? They knew that this wreath of victory was Caesarian. A believer living in the beginning when the apocalypse commenced to be fulfilled; that is, at the accession of Trajan; knew that twelve Caesars had occupied the draco Roman pontifical throne. From Augustus to Constantine there were about fifty-four emperors. Why, then, were there not as many stars upon the imperial Stephan, seeing that it was gained when so many had sat upon the Italian throne? Because, I conceive, the number of the stars was given to indicate, that the opening of the apocalyptic, seals was to begin when the twelfth imperial star had set; that is, with the reign of Trajan an, who was a thirteenth, or number one of a new series. Trajan an and his pagan successors may be said to have worn the crown of the Twelve Caesars* But they could not retain it. It was wrested from them by the Woman, whose Jezebel-son claiming to be her Head - the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church - wreathed himself therewith; and then caused her to become a fugitive in the wilderness of the Great Eagle.

Ignorance and superstition have sadly misinterpreted the significance of this "great sign in the heaven." An engraving published with the sanction of the authorities of the Mary-worshipping synagogue of New York City, as a frontispiece to a book entitled "The Glories of Mary," interprets the sign as a signification of the "Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary." In the centre of the picture is a woman standing upon a cloud. She stands, as it were, in the sun, with beams of light issuing from the palms of her hands downwards towards the earth, as if they were rays of grace being shed upon her worshippers. Around her head is a halo, in which is a circlet of twelve stars; and over these a diadem supported by winged angels resting upon the upper margin of the cloud on each side of the woman. Under her feet is the moon, and beneath this, the ocean and rocks of earth. Thus is represented the ghost of a dead woman having been taken up into heaven and being on exhibition there as queen; for the legend of the picture is "salve regina, " Health to thee, O Queen! Assuredly, nothing can be more remote than this from the true import of this "great sign". The reader, unless he be a Mariolator or a Puseyite, need scarcely be told, that the sign is wholly irrelevant to the mother of Jesus; and but for the adoption of the heathen dogma of the immortality of the soul by the Laodicean Apostasy, such a signification could never have been invented. There is no such woman in being, whether in heaven above or in the earth beneath, as the Virgin Mary, body or ghost. The dust of what was once Mary is in "the pit of corruption," or Sheol, and will there remain until "the time of the dead," when she will stand again upon her feet the "blessed among women," and "thenceforth all generations will call her blessed." In all "the times of the gentiles," however, she is non-existent. This is well known to all who are not drunk - drunk with the wine of the abominations and filthiness of Jezebel's fornication (Apoc. 17:4; 18:3). Hence the object of the adoration of Romanists is the merest fiction that can be conceived. They have deified nonentity, and fall down and worship the conceit as the goddess-queen of heaven. This is not only folly, but the idiocy of pietism notably characteristic of the ecclesiasticism of our day.

But not only have Romanists missed the truth of this great sign, but their Protestant brethren likewise. Dr. Newton, a former Bishop of Bristol, in his work on the prophecies, page 600, in commenting most meagerly upon this sign, says, "St. John resumes his subject from the beginning, and in ch. 12:1,2, represents the church as a woman, and a mother bearing children to Christ. She is 'clothed with the sun, invested with the rays of Jesus Christ, the sun of righteousness; having 'the moon,' the Jewish new moons and festivals, as well as all sublunary things, 'under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,' an emblem of her being under the light and guidance of the twelve apostles." This is all he can see signified by this great sign! The bishop of Jezebel's English daughter has certainly made a nearer approach to the import of the sign than Jezebel herself. He does perceive that the woman represents church of some kind - that she is a sign-ecclesiastical woman, and not the emblem of a phantasma yclept the Queen of Heaven. But more than this he sees nothing signified.

The Rev. E. B. Elliott, however, does not agree with the interpretation of his ecclesiastical superior. He admits with him that church in some sense is meant by the woman in the sign; but this is all. On page 8, vol. 1, he says, speaking of the sign, "But what the things prefigured hereby? This is the question. And first there can scarce be meant by the solar emblem, I think, what so many commentators have suggested in explanation - the church's investiture with Christ, as the sun of righteousness. The sun is no where in the Apocalyptic imagery made-the representative of Christ. His countenance with its own intrinsic light is described as like the sun, not as borrowing the sun to enlighten it: and, when fully revealed in the heavenly city, as altogether superseding it to the favored inhabitants. Nor, again, by her having the moon subjacent can there be meant a trampling upon things sublunary. Can the moon signify things under the moon? Consistency requires that we explain these greater luminaries to signify the chief rulers of the state, according to the general prophetic use of the symbols; and in the same way the stars, also seen in symbol, to signify lesser rulers in it. As to the precisely defined number of twelve stars - considering that the professing church on the Apocalyptic scene, including the true, was in an earlier vision (though one depicting somewhat later and worser times) numerically symbolized as the twelve tribes of Israel, we can not well err, I think, in explaining them to signify the heads, or ecclesiastical rulers, of those twelve tribes. The rather so, since this interpretation agrees with that which is given by inspiration itself of almost precisely the same symbol in the earliest of all emblematic visions, the dream of Jacob's son Joseph: and indeed with that explanatory note given at the very commencement of the Apocalyptic visions by the revealing angel himself; 'the seven stars are the angels (or chief and presiding ministers) of the seven churches.'

"And thus we are led to see that the figuration here given of Christ's faithful church was not one universally or generally true; but designative of it at some remarkable and particular time and conjuncture, viz: when the ruling powers in the Apostolic world would be associated with it, as its decoration and support; and its ecclesiastical rulers, or bishops, would be recognized as dignified authorities before the world. And indeed much the same thing is indicated by the very representation of the woman as in heaven. For the heaven meant is evidently that of political elevation; just as in the vision, a little while since discussed by us, of the ascent of the witnesses; it being one in which the dragon might occupy a place as well as the woman; and one, the position in which is contrasted with dejection to the earth, as of a change from political power to political degradation."

Thus far Mr. Elliott, in whom there is certainly more light than in bishop Newton. Still Elliott's light is but darkness after all. The woman church being crowned by the heads, or ecclesiastical rulers, of the twelve tribes of the apostolic Israel, is a very far-fetched conceit. He admits, that the sun and moon of the sign belong to the heaven common to the woman and the dragon; what consistency then is there in not recognizing the twelve stars as belonging to that heaven also! Why interpret the sun and moon of the Roman Heaven, and twelve stars of the woman's own polity in apostasy? The stars are Roman as well as the sun and moon; and stripped of these in flight, the twelve stars remain with the sun and moon in the same heaven from, or out of, which she flies; otherwise, we ought to behold her a fugitive with a wreath of beauteous stars upon her head in the wilderness; a symbolization which would be incompatible with her trampled condition there.

* The first twelve of the emperors, who ruled the Roman Habitable with undivided authority, assumed the surname of Caesar, this title was therefore their original distinction - Imperator Caesar.

But when their successors associated colleagues with them in office, it became an inferior title, the chief emperor being styled Augustus, the rest Caesars. Hence the diadem of the Sixth Head of the Dragon was the Crown of the Twelve Caesars with which the woman's head was wreathed. The Austrian emperors, who claim to be the secular chiefs of the Holy Roman Empire, are styled Kaisar or Caesar to this day. - J.Thomas






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