THE “GREAT SIGN.”
810. The student will now be prepared for an exhibition of the complete fulfillment of God’s promise that the seed of the woman should crush the Serpent’s head. The revelation of that greater fulfillment will be found in John’s vision of events attendant upon the Lord’s second coming¾Revelation 12. But the last verse of chapter 11 should be joined with it. John saw that the Temple of God was opened in heaven, “And there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament.” This last word is the same one which is translated in other places “covenant;” so we will read it “covenant” here,¾“The ark of His covenant.” God wishes all in heaven to witness that He remembers His covenant; He opens the temple in heaven,¾that is, the inner sanctuary of it,¾so that all can see into the very “holy of holies,” see the ark in it, to be reminded of a certain covenant. The twelfth chapter must, then, show the fulfillment of that certain covenant,¾or, at least, the beginning of its fulfillment.
811. We must discover what, precisely, that covenant means.
(1) The first thing mentioned in chapter twelve is “a great sign” (R. V.),¾so we decide that the covenant it represents must be some “great covenant,” or promise (verse 1).
(2) The principal figure in the “sign” is a woman.
(3) The chapter tells us about “that old Serpent, called the devil and Satan” (v. 9).
(4) Whose chief characteristics are that he is a “deceiver,” and a persecutor of both the “woman” and the “seed” of the woman (verses 9, 13, 17).
(5) We are told, also, that she bore “a man child” (part of her seed) who was caught up to God and His throne (v. 5); and Satan, “was cast out into the earth,” and after persecuting the woman until she was rescued from him (verses 6, 14), he turned upon “the remnant of her seed” (v. 17).
812. Now need we call attention to how vividly this “great sign” portrays a fulfillment, in outline, of that greatest covenant promise God ever made, in words He addressed neither to man nor woman directly, but to that same “old Serpent” the devil and Satan, the last time but this that he was mentioned in Scripture as the “Serpent” when He said,¾“I will put enmity between thee and the woman; and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15)? Furthermore, God said to that “old Serpent” at that time: “Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” In Ephesians 2:2, Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air,” but from the time this war takes place “in heaven” he holds that place of exaltation, or erection, no longer. He is “cast down to the earth,” or ground, never to rise again (verse 9). Here we see, then, an outline of the fulfillment of “that promise, of which the whole of the rest of Scripture is but the record of the gradual stages of its fulfillment,”¾a fulfillment which, when these events of the closing chapters of the Revelation take place, will leave nothing undone that can give it greater fulfillment.
813. How completely the terms of the sign meet those of the covenant! We have the “woman;” the “enmity;” the “deceiver;” the “Serpent,” his head bruised in war; himself driven down to “eat the dust of the earth,” and the seed which was snatched up to heaven, with the “remnant,” or remainder of her seed suffering still from the Serpent’s enmity; and then follows in the succeeding chapters a description of that time of the Great Tribulation, “as travail upon a woman with child” (1 Thessalonians 5:3)¾filling out to the full, even in its spiritual completion, the words, “In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16).
814. Some would hold that the promise of Genesis 3:15 was completely fulfilled in the birth, death and resurrection of Christ, followed by His ascent to sit “on the right hand of God,” on His throne. But like all prophecy which has had, as yet, only partial fulfillment, the details do not fit, in all particulars, to the complete prophecy. The head of Satan, as we have already said, was not at once crushed at the time Christ rose, victorious. Christ is still “expecting till His enemies be made His footstool.” This chapter twelve, then, tells about the enmity between the Serpent and the woman; of a victory won 1900 years ago by Christ, her Seed, “caught up to God and His throne,” yet typical of the woman’s seed that is yet to be caught up to God and His throne; and her persecution, and that of the “remnant of her seed,” by that same Serpent. Chapter thirteen tells us more details about the enmity between the Serpent and “the remnant” of the woman’s seed, the persecution of her seed by Satan’s seed¾Antichrist and the False Prophet. Chapter fifteen shows us further details of the woman’s seed escaped to heaven, and standing on the “sea mingled with fire.”
815. Many choose not to believe, in these days, in the existence of the devil. Such do not believe in their Bible, for it is very explicit on this point. This one chapter in the Revelation is sufficient to prove the fact. Such people also talk of all human beings as the sons of God. But God does not so teach in His Book. Christ says: “The good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one,”¾that is, of the devil, or that old Serpent; and the apostle John says, “In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil.” Jesus Christ often spoke of wicked men as a “generation of vipers,”¾that is, “that old Serpent,” the devil, was their father, not God. He said to the Pharisees: “Ye are of your father the devil.” The children of God are, by faith in Jesus Christ, also called the children of Christ,¾Hebrews 2:13: and the seed of Christ in Isaiah 53:10. But since Christ is the Seed of the woman, so all believers are, through Christ, the seed of the woman also.
816. We believe the word “woman” is used in Revelation 12 in precisely the same sense as in Genesis 3:15, 16. On the contrary, most expositors teach that the woman is the visible Church; and the man child is the invisible, real, or spiritual Church; so we will examine this teaching: This vision of John’s¾of the woman¾is followed by chapters that relate to the Lord’s second coming. But St. Paul tells us that Christ will not come “except there come a falling away first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). This means that the visible Church will be fallen away from Christ, it will be in spiritual darkness. But this woman is represented as “clothed with the sun,” and that, just about the time of the Lord’s return. She surely does not represent that fallen Laodicean Church, which is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). “Clothed with the sun,” means clothed with Christ, “the sun of righteousness.”
817. But if this woman, in the Revelation, be Womanhood, why is she represented as having twelve stars in her crown, the moon under her feet, and clothed with the sun? She is clothed with the sun, in that she is in Christ Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness,¾she has become Christian: the moon is under her feet, in that she has risen above Judaism, with its types and ceremonies,¾“a shadow [or outline] of good things to come, and not the very image,” or thing itself (Heb. 10:1). The twelve apostles are the brightest gems in her diadem, in that all believers are comprehended as “the seed of the woman,” just as they are “the seed of Abraham” (par 83). And then this Woman is in the greatest agonizing toil, trying to accomplish the birth of the man child. This, some say, represents the translation of the invisible Church out of the midst of the visible Church. But we ask, will the visible, fallen Church ever agonize to accomplish that marvelous work? Never! That which is born of the flesh will ever persecute that which is born of the Spirit (Galatians 4:29). Like can only bring forth like. The visible Church can never produce anything but another visible body of its own quality. The carnal never yet brought forth the spiritual. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” always and always to the end of all time.
818. Others say that the Woman represents the Virgin Mary; the dragon means Herod who sought to kill the child Jesus; the flight into the wilderness is Mary’s flight into Egypt. But Jesus was not caught up to heaven as soon as He was born, as is inferred in Revelation 12:5. Those events typified the events of this great sign, but there is only resemblance in some outlines between the two. Others think the man child is Christ because it is “to rule all nations with a rod of iron.” But the same is the destiny of “overcomers” also (Revelation 2:26-27), who carry out Christ’s will in this regard. As we have said before, until the complete fulfillment comes, there will be only resemblances, not identity, between the type, or types, and the antitype.
(To be continued.)