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



Chapter 12

Section 20

The Ascent Historically Illustrated


"And there was war in the heaven; the Michael and his angels waged war against the Dragon; and the Dragon fought and his angels, but prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in the heaven."

When Constantine was declared by the Roman Senate the first of the three Augusti, Licinius, the Illyrian Augustus, seemed cordially to endorse his policy with respect to the Catholic Church. But his subsequent conduct soon betrayed the reluctance with which he had consented to the wise and humane regulations of the Edict of Milan. The convocation of provincial synods was prohibited in his dominions; his catholic officers were ignominiously dismissed; and if he avoided the guilt, or rather danger, of a general persecution, his partial oppressions were rendered still more odious, by the violation of a solemn and voluntary engagement.

The interview between Constantine and Licinius at Milan was brief. In the midst of the public festivity these allies were suddenly obliged to take leave of each other. An inroad of the Franks demanded the presence of Constantine on the Rhine; and the hostile approach of Maximin required the immediate presence of Licinius. Maximin had been the secret ally of Maxentius, and without being discouraged at his fate, he resolved to try the fortune of a civil war. He invaded the dominion of Licinius with a disciplined and veteran army of about seventy thousand men. Licinius encountered him with thirty thousand, and after a severe contest, gave him a signal and decisive overthrow. Maximin, perceiving that all was lost, fled with great precipitation. He was the most implacable of all the enemies of the Catholic Church; but he did not long survive his defeat to torment it. Three or four months after he died by Divine justice; and the provinces of the east, delivered from the terrors of civil war, cheerfully acknowledged the authority of Licinius.

The Roman world was now divided between Constantine and Licinius; the former being master of the West, and the latter of the East. Constantine, as the military chieftain of the Catholic Church, which the Deity had predetermined should have the rule instead of the Pagan Priesthood, is styled in the prophecy ho Michael, the Michael: that is, the Michael of the situation. This name is Hebrew in a Greek dress. The Hebrew is resolvable into three words put interrogatively, as Miyka'el, or Mi, who, cah, like, ail power? Or Who like that power Divinely energized to cast the Pagan Dragon, surnamed the Diabolos and the Satan, out of the Roman heaven? There was no contemporary power under this Sixth Seal that was able to contend successfully against it. Hence Constantine, as the instrument of the Deity in the development of his purpose, is styled "the Michael". He was not personally the Michael, or "first of the chief princes" spoken of in Dan. 10:13, nor the Michael termed in Dan. 12:1, "the great Prince who standeth for the children of Daniel's people;" but for the time being he filled the office that will hereafter be more potently and gloriously illustrated by the Great Prince from heaven, who will bind the Dragon and shut him down in the abyss for a thousand years (Apoc. 20:2,3). The militant mission of Constantine and the Great Prince, Jesus Christ, are similar, but not identical. The power of the Deity was with Constantine, as it was with Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander, and the first Napoleon; while Christ is the great power of the Deity corporealized. Constantine was to rule all the nations of the Roman Habitable with an iron sceptre from the time he attained supreme power till he died, which was about fourteen years. Christ Jesus and his brethren are to rule all the nations of the globe with an iron sceptre for a thousand years (Apoc. 19:15; 2:26,27). Constantine stood up with Catholics and for them and Christians, against the Pagan Dragon. Christ Jesus will stand up for the saints, and with them, against the Catholic Dragon and Beasts whom he will bind and destroy. Thus the word parallelizes the greater and the less in their military antagonism, to the powers hostile to the Divine Name. It may, therefore, be fairly admitted that in his military career against the Dragon, Constantine was a typical Michael - typical of that Michael who shall stand up in the resurrection period, and bring all the nations of mankind into subjection to his almighty power.

But the Michael, Constantine, was not alone in his wars. There were associated with him "his angels". Angels are agents employed to execute the will and pleasure of those who commissioned them. They may be mortal or immortal agents, and hold their commission of the Deity or of men. In the prophecy, the Divine Power, or AlL, commissioned certain mortal agents, known as Constantine and his adherents, to cast the Dragon and his adherents out of the Roman Heaven. The same power that co-worked with Constantine cooperated with his retainers. They were, therefore, the Michael-power and its angels - the corrupt and militant class of the Woman's children.

"And there was war in the heaven." "Wherever the scene is laid," saith Daubuz, truly, "heaven signifies, symbolically, the ruling power or government; that is, the whole assembly of the ruling powers, which, in respect of the subjects, or earth, are a political heaven, being over and ruling the subjects, as the natural heaven stands over and rules the earth: so that according to the subject is the term to be limited." The scene is laid in "the whole habitable of the Dragon;" hence "the heaven" in the prophecy signifies the whole assembly of the ruling powers of the Roman Dragon. This being the subject of the prophecy, the term must be limited to the official region of the Roman world.

In the Roman Heaven, then, there was to be war. There had already been a war there; that  namely, between Licinius and Maximin. But this could not be the war predicted; for, although Maximin was defeated, he was not cast out by Licinius; having died in office and from disease: neither were Licinius and his adherents "the Michael and his angels." The chief difference between Licinius and Maximin was, that the former was a hypocritical and cruel politician and pagan; while the latter was all this and more ferocious, but without the hypocrisy. No; the particular war predicted was to be waged between "the Michael" and the Dragon; and not to reach its final termination until the place of "the Dragon and his angels" should be "found no more in the heaven." Constantine took no part in the war against Maximin, being engaged in checking the incursions of the Franks across the Rhine.

Since the death of Maximin, Licinius by his patronage of "the gods of his ancestors," and his hatred, ill-concealed, of Constantine and the catholics, came to be represented from A.D. 314 to A.D. 324, by the Dragon-tail which "drew the third part of the stars of the heaven"

Ver. 4.1 say from A.D. 314, because previously to this date, he was the chief luminary of two-thirds; of his own Illyrian third, and of Maximin's Asiatic third which he acquired by his death.

Now, he was reduced from a tail, or following, of two-thirds to one-third of the stars of the Roman firmament by a war with Constantine. A year had scarcely elapsed after the death of Maximin, before Constantine and Licinius turned their arms against each other. This was a war, but not the war predicted. It was a war for the development of the Dragon's Tail - the tail end of the pagan dragon-power. The character of Licinius was perfidious. He secretly fomented a conspiracy against the authority of Constantine. But this vigilant ruler discovered it before it was ripe for execution. Licinius haughtily refused the extradition of the criminals who had sought refuge in Illyricum. This confirmed the suspicions of Constantine; who, without further loss of time in the interchanges of diplomacy, marched against him with twenty thousand men. Licinius met him near Cibalis in Pannonia with thirty-five thousand. Licinius was defeated with a loss of twenty thousand. After this he retreated, but halted in the plain of Mardia in Thrace, where he determined to hazard another battle. This was no less obstinate and bloody than the former; the troops on both sides displayed the same valor and discipline; but the superior abilities of the Woman's Son again decided the fortune of the day in his favor. The loss of two battles, and of his bravest veterans, reduced the fierce spirit of Licinius to sue for peace. His situation was almost desperate. Constantine, however, consented to retain him in "the heaven," but with a dominion considerably reduced. He left him in possession of a third part of the Roman Habitable, consisting of Thrace, Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt; now comprehended in Modern Turkey: but the provinces of Pannonia, Dalmatia, Dacia, Macedonia, and Greece, the other third, were annexed to the Western Empire; so that the dominions of Constantine now extended over two-thirds, from the confines of Caledonia to the extremity of Peloponnesus.

Thus terminated this war in the heaven. It had reduced the dominion of the pagan element; but had not given the Woman's son rule over all the nations of the habitable; nor had it cast the great red dragon and his angels out. The overthrow of Maxentius, with whom Maximin was allied, that is, the birth of the Woman's son; left "the earth and the sea" in the possession of Licinius and Maximin: who, in relation to "the inhabiters of the earth and sea," constituted "THE DIABOLOS." The signs of the times convinced them, that the pagan political power was doomed to speedy extinction, unless its fall could be arrested by the overthrow of the catholic party and its military chief. This they were determined to compass if possible. Hence, the two wars in the heaven, which brought "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and sea: because the diabolos had come down (from Italy where he had reigned before the defeat of Maxentius) unto them, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" - verse 12. This "short time" was a period of about twelve years; that is, from A.D. 312 to A.D. 324, when Constantine became sole emperor of the Roman world.

The recent treaty of peace between the Diabolos-emperor, Licinius, and the Woman's Son, Constantine, maintained the tranquillity of the empire above eight years. A very regular series of imperial laws commences about the period of this treaty, the most important of which were intimately connected with the new system of policy and religion, which was not perfectly established till the last and peaceful years of his reign.

In the exalted state of glory to which he had attained A.D. 323, it was impossible that Constantine should any longer endure a partner in the empire. Confiding in the superiority of his genius and military power, he determined to exert them for the ejection of "the dragon and his angels out of the heaven." For this purpose he commenced the war predicted in the seventh verse. Licinius prepared himself for the contest, collected the forces of his Eastern Third, the "Angels" of his power, and soon filled the plains of Adrianople with one hundred and fifty thousand f6ot, and fifteen thousand horse; and the straits of the Hellespont with a fleet of three hundred and fifty galleys of three ranks of oars. The troops of Constantine, the Michael of the situation, amounted to a hundred and twenty thousand horse and foot. Constantine's naval preparations were in every respect much inferior to those of Licinius. They did not exceed two hundred small vessels. With this naval preponderance he might have carried an offensive war into the centre of his rival's dominions, and so have changed the whole face of it. But the prudence of Licinius was at fault in contending with "the Michael and his angels," whose attack he awaited in a fortified camp near Adrianople. Constantine's advance from Thessalonica was arrested by the broad and rapid Hebrus, the steep ascent from which to the city was filled by the army of Licinius. Here were now assembled Licinius and Martinianus, whom he had made Caesar, "the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chiliarchs (chiefs of a thousand men) and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every freeman" (Apoc. 6:15). This was the great day of the Lamb's wrath upon the pagan dragon-tail, and the third part of the stars of the Roman firmament that followed it. "The Michael and his angels," the executioners of the Lamb's wrath, "waged war against the Dragon." Many days were spent in doubtful and distant skirmishes; but at length the obstacles of the passage and the attack were removed by the intrepid conduct of Constantine. Zosimus, an historian who was the partial enemy of his fame, relates a wonderful exploit of Constantine. He says that the valiant emperor threw himself into the Hebrus, accompanied only by twelve horsemen, and that by the effort or terror of his invincible arm, he broke, slaughtered, and put to flight a host of one hundred and fifty thousand men. Other causes combined to develop this result; for while he was perplexing Licinius with his artful evolution’s, a body of five thousand archers deployed from a thick wood in his rear, and made it necessary for him to take up a new position in the plain. The advantage of position being lost, the contest was no longer equal. "The Dragon fought, and his angels, but prevailed not". His confused multitude of new levies was easily vanquished by "the Michael," and his experienced veterans of the West. Thirty-four thousand of the Dragon's forces were slain; their fortified camp was taken by assault on the evening of the battle. The greater part of the fugitives "hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains." The logic of their flight hither was that they might hide from the conqueror; and the language of it was, "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne" (Apoc. 6:16). Next day they came forth from their hiding places, and surrendered themselves to the discretion of the victor.

This battle of Adrianople had been a consummation of "woe to the inhabiters of the earth:" the time had now come for a like consummation of "woe to the inhabiters of the sea." Here were five hundred and fifty vessels full of combatants, drawn together from the maritime part of the Roman earth, to engage in the great conflict between the worshippers of the idols, and the catholic believers in the Divine Unity. While Constantine was besieging Byzantium, to which Licinius had retired after his defeat at Adrianople, Crispus, the eldest son of Constantine, was entrusted with the daring enterprise of forcing the passage of the Helles-pont. This he performed with great courage and success. The engagement between the contending fleets lasted two days. A south wind springing up about noon, carried his vessels against the enemy, and as the advantage was improved by his skill and intrepidity, he soon obtained a complete victory. A hundred and thirty vessels were destroyed, and five thousand men were slain. The Hellespont being now open, Licinius perceived that he could not hold Byzantium much longer. Therefore, before the place was surrounded, he prudently removed his person and treasures to Chalcedon in Asia.

Such were still the resources and abilities of Licinius, that, after so many successive defeats, he collected in Bithynia a new army of fifty or sixty thousand men, while Constantine was still actively employed in the siege of Byzantium. The vigilant Michael did not neglect the last struggles of the Dragon. He transported a considerable part of his victorious army across the Bosphorus; and soon after their landing fought the decisive battle of the war on the heights of Chrysopolis, or, as it is now called, Scutari. "The angels" of the Dragon, though lately raised, ill armed, and worse disciplined, made head against "the Michael and his angels" with fruitless but desperate valor, till a total defeat, and the slaughter of five and twenty thousand men, irretrievably determined the fate of the Supreme Pontiff of the Idols and his adherents. Licinius retired to Nicomedia from whence he opened negotiations with Constantine. Peace and affluence were granted to him on condition of sacrificing Martinianus, whom he had created Augustus, and of resigning the imperial office. Licinius accordingly solicited and accepted the pardon of his offenses, laid himself and his purple at the feet of his Lord and Master, was raised from the ground with insulting pity, was admitted the same day to the imperial banquet, and soon after was sent away to Thessalonica, which had been chosen for the place of his confinement, which was soon terminated by death at the hand of the executioner.

Such was the result of this last "war in the heaven." "The Dragon and his angels fought and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in the heaven" - verse 8. "He was cast out into the earth; and his angels were cast out with him" - verse 9: and in his projection, "his tail drew the third part of the stars, and cast them to the earth" - verse 4. The memory of Licinius was branded with infamy(*), his statues were thrown down, and, by a hasty edict, all his laws, and all the judicial proceedings of his reign were at once abolished. By this victory of Constantine, A.D. 324, the Roman world was united under the authority of one emperor; and he the first of a long line of emperors, who, though not christian, but catholic, repudiated "the gods of their ancestors." The immediate and memorable consequences of this revolution were the foundation of Constantinople, and the establishment of the Laodicean Catholic Apostasy as the religion of the State.

While these stirring and exciting events were transpiring, their connexion with apocalyptic prophecy was not unperceived by Constantine and his adherents. In a letter to Eusebius he writes of "that dragon having been deposed from the governance of affairs, by God's providence". And Eusebius further relates, that in a picture elevated by Constantine over his palace gate, there was represented the cross placed over his head; and beneath his own and his children's feet, his enemies under the semblance of a dragon cast down headlong into the abyss. In a letter also to Eusebius he says, "But now that liberty is restored, and that Dragon driven from the administration of public affairs by the providence of the Supreme Deity, and our instrumentality, we trust that all can see the efficacy of the Divine power." A dragon is a symbol stamped on some of the coins of Constantine. I have the representation before me of two, on which the cross, the symbol of the catholic church, is erected over a fallen dragon, the symbol of Roman superstition in its political constitution.

Licinius himself seems to have been aware that the conflict was not simply a matter of personal rivalry and ambition between him and Constantine, but the great question which system of belief and practice was genuine and designed of the Eternal Power, be that power the gods of the Roman Habitable, or "the foreign God" whom the adherents of those gods derided, to prevail. This question was considered by both parties as on trial in the contest of the "short time," and to be determined by its issue.

As a religious preparation for the impending conflict, Licinius col-ected around himself Egyptian seers and diviners, enchanters, jugglers, and the priests and prophets of his idols, and having propitiated his deities with sacrifices, then inquired what was to be the issue to him of this "war in the heaven." If he had inquired of an enlightened Chrisladeiphian of the period he could have told him that it would be to cast him out of the heaven into the earth, and his angels (the Egyptian seers and diviners, enchanters, jugglers, priests, prophets, and all his officials) with him; but there was none such in his tail, or following, to testify the truth; he therefore, had recourse to the stars drawn in his tail, who unanimously assured him that he would undoubtedly prove the stronger in the contest, and be victorious; a judgment everywhere reiterated in long and elegant songs by the Oracles of the Idols. Elated by these deceitful promises, he advanced with great confidence, and prepared for battle. When about to begin, he summoned his trustiest attendants and friends to meet him in a consecrated grove, spacious and irrigated, in which were set up all kinds of idol-statues, and having lighted wax tapers, in the after-fashion of papists and ritualists, and offered the accustomed victims to them, he delivered the following address:

"Friends and fellow-warriors, these are the gods of our ancestors, whom, received from our earliest predecessors as objects of worship, we honor; but he who commands the army that is drawn up against us, having adopted an atheistic Opinion, violates the customs of the fathers, venerating a god from abroad, I know not whence, and disgraces his troops with his ignominious standard (the Cross with the monogram of Christ) trusting in which he arms not so much against us as against the gods whom he offends. This occasion therefore will show which of us errs in his belief, and will decide between the gods who are honored by us, and by the other party; for either by showing us victors, it will show our gods are most justly regarded as auxiliaries and saviours; or, if the Deity of Constantine, come from I know not whence, shall prevail over ours, which are many, let no one thereafter doubt what Deity ought to be worshipped, but go to the strongest, and present to him the reward of the victory. If the foreign god, whom we now deride, should appear the mightiest, we must acknowledge and honor him, and bid farewell to those to whom we have vainly lit wax tapers. But if ours prevail, which is not to be doubted, then, after the victory, we must proceed to war against the atheists."

Thus, the contest was considered by both parties as between the christians' Deity and the many gods of paganism. Each party regarded itself as the respective instrument of these. Hence the propriety of the apocalyptic title bestowed on the enemy of the dragon-tail, "the Michael." Constantine's victory was regarded by him, by the church, and by the people at large, as the victory of the Deity, that is living and true, over the false deities, of christianity over idolatry. Eusebius says, that "when the whole was, by the power of Deity, the Saviour, subjected to Constantine, he made known to all the Giver of his prosperity, and testified that the Deity, not he, was the author of his victories."






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