1. And a great sign was seen in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. 2. And being with child, she cried, travailing and pained to bring forth. 3. And another sign was seen in heaven; and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns, and upon his heads seven diadems. 4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bring forth, that after she had brought forth, he might devour her offspring.
5 And she brought forth a son, a male, who was to tend all nations with a rod of iron; and her offspring was caught up unto God and His throne. 6. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared by God, that they may nourish her there a thousand two hundred and sixty days. 7. And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels. 8. And they prevailed not, and their place was not found any more in heaven. 9. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil and Satan, that seduceth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10 And I heard a great voice in heaven saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, that accused them before our God day and night. 11. And they overcame him through the blood of the Lamb, and through the word of their testimony; and they loved not their soul even unto death. 12. For this rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to those that inhabit the earth and the sea, for the Devil is come down unto you, having great anger, knowing that he hath but a short time. 13. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman that brought forth the son.
14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time [and times], 532-1 and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 15. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a river after the woman, that he might cause her to be swallowed up by the river. 16. And the earth helped the woman; and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. 17. And the dragon was angry with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The contents of the whole chapter It treats here of the New Church and its doctrine: by “the woman” is here meant the New Church, and by “the offspring” which she brought forth, its doctrine: and it also treats of those in the present church, who from doctrine believe in a Trinity of Persons, and in the duality of the Person of Christ, likewise in justification by faith alone; these are meant by “the dragon.” Then it treats of the persecution of the New Church by these, on account of its doctrine, and its protection by the Lord, until from a few it increases among many.
Verse 1. “And a great sign was seen in heaven,” “A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet,”
The Lord’s New Church in the heavens, which is the New Heaven, and the Lord’s New Church about to be upon earth, which is the New Jerusalem.
“And upon the head a crown of twelve stars,”
Its wisdom and intelligence from the knowledges of Divine good and Divine truth from the Word.
Verse 2. “And being with child, she cried travailing and pained to bring forth,”
The doctrine of the New Church about to come forth, and its difficult reception on account of the resistance by those who are meant by the dragon.
Verse 3. “And another sign was seen in heaven,”
Revelation from the Lord concerning those who are against the New Church and its doctrine.
His state now spiritual-natural.
“And behold a great red dragon,”
Those in the Church of the Reformed who make God three and the Lord two, and who separate charity from faith, and make faith saving, and not charity at the same time.
“Having seven heads,”
Insanity from the truths of the Word falsified and profaned.
“And ten horns,”
“And upon his heads seven diadems,”
All the truths of the Word falsified and profaned.
Verse 4. “And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth,”
By falsifications of the truths of the Word they have alienated all spiritual knowledges of good and truth from the church, and by applications to falsities have entirely destroyed them.
“And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bring forth, that after she had brought forth, he might devour her offspring,”
They who are meant by “the dragon” will endeavor to extinguish the doctrine of the New Church at its first appearance.
Verse 5. “And she brought forth a son, a male,”
The doctrine of the New Church.
“Who was to tend all nations with a rod of iron,”
Which, by truths from the literal sense of the Word, and, at the same time, by rational things from natural light will convince all who are in dead worship from faith separated from charity, that are willing to be convinced.
“And her offspring was caught up unto God and His throne,”
The protection of the doctrine by the Lord, and its being guarded by the angels of heaven.
Verse 6. “And the woman fled into the wilderness,”
The church at first among a few.
“Where she hath a place prepared by God, that they may nourish her there a thousand two hundred and sixty days,”
The state of that church then, that meanwhile provision is making for its increase among many until it arrives at its full growth.
Verse 7. “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels,”
The falsities of the former church fighting against the truths of the New Church.
Verse 8. “And they prevailed not, and their place was not found any more in heaven;”
That they were convinced of being in falsities and evils, but still they remained in them, and that therefore they were torn away from conjunction with heaven and cast down.
Verse 9. “And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan,”
This turning from the Lord to themselves, and from heaven to the world, and thence coming into the evils of their lusts and into falsities.
“That seduceth the whole world,”
That they pervert all things of the church.
“He was cast out into the earth, and his angels with him,”
Into the world of spirits, which is intermediate between heaven and hell, from whence there is immediate conjunction with men upon earth.
Verse 10. “And I heard a great voice in heaven saying, Now is come the salvation and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ,”
The joy of the angels of heaven, because the Lord alone now reigns in heaven and in the church, and that they are saved who believe in him.
“For the accuser of our brethren is cast down, that accused them before our God day and night,”
By the Last Judgment they are removed who opposed the doctrine of the New Church.
Verse 11. “And they overcame him through the blood of the Lamb, and through the word of their testimony,”
Victory by the Divine truth of the Word, and by the acknowledgment of the Lord.
“And they loved not their soul even unto death,”
Who did not love themselves more than the Lord.
Verse 12. “For this rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them,”
A new state of heaven, that they are in the Lord and the Lord in them.
“Woe to those that inhabit the earth and the sea! for the Devil is come down unto you, having great anger,”
Lamentation over those in the church who are in the falsities of faith, and thence in evils of life, because they are in conjunction with the dragon.
“Knowing that he hath but a short time,”
Because he knows that the New Heaven is formed, and that thus there is about to be the New Church upon earth, and that then he with his like will be cast into hell.
Verse 13. “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman that brought forth the son,”
The dragonists in the world of spirits, immediately upon their being thrust down, began to infest the New Church on account of its doctrine.
Verse 14. “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place,”
The Divine circumspection over that church, and its protection, while as yet confined to a few.
“Where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent,”
By reason of the craftiness of seducers, provision is made with circumspection that its numbers may increase until it comes to its full growth.
Verse 15. “And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a river after the woman, that he might cause her to be swallowed up by the river,”
Reasonings from falsities in abundance to destroy the church.
Verse 16. “And the earth helped the woman; and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth,”
Those reasonings in all their abundance fall to nothing before the spiritual truths rationally understood, which the Michaels, of whom the New Church consists, bring forward.
Verse 17. “And the dragon was angry with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ,”
Hatred kindled in those who think themselves wise from their confirmations of the mystical union of the Divine and the Human in the Lord, and of justification by faith alone, against those who acknowledge the Lord alone as the God of heaven and earth, and that the Decalogue is the law of life; and their assaults on novitiates with intent to seduce them.
Verse 18. [English Bible 13:1]. “And I stood upon the sand of the sea,”
His state now spiritual-natural.
Author: Emanuel Swedenborg (Apocalypse Revealed)
THE WOMAN CLOTHED WITH THE SUN.
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars (Rev. xii. 1).
IN considering the remarkable scenes that were connected with the opening of the book, as mentioned in the sixth chapter of this sacred volume of Revelations, we learned that under the striking imagery of the succession of the horses was represented the various changes which came over the Church as centuries passed on. The horse corresponds to the intellectual faculty, by means of which we advance on the road of truth, just as the traveler, by his horse, advances upon one of the roads of the earth. Consequently the subject that is there given, the state of one who rode upon a white horse, and advanced conquering and to conquer, depicted the intellectual condition of Christianity when bright with the new truth, passing out of the dark shades of a decayed Judaism and a decayed Gentile condition.
Triumph after triumph was associated with the new publication of Divine truth, by which men learnt that the first of all the commandments was: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and the second was: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Matt. xxvi. 37-39).
Then came horse after horse, indicating change and decay, until we got to the death and misery represented by the pale horse.
Now the effect of these changes in the religion of mankind, especially in the religion of Christianity, was all that was produced during the dark centuries of the middle ages, when, although religion was still professed, and a vast amount of effort, under the name of religion, was made, yet there was a continued series of sins and sorrows, of calamities and misfortunes, of wars, pestilences, and famines, and all that devastates the human race. A little more than one hundred years ago a great change and improvement set in, which is still advancing, and which will go on advancing until wisdom and goodness, uprightness and happiness, and. universal instruction in all that is really right and good, attended by ever-increasing comfort, will gradually spread over the earth, as is beautifully said in the language of the Prophet Isaiah (xi. 3): They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
Now in these brief observations you will see that the leading idea is, that it is religion which forms the basis of society. Nations are what their religions are. It has always been so, and never can be otherwise. Society is formed by a great variety of influences–commerce, trade, industry of a thousand kinds, legislation, education–all these things go to make society; but at the bottom of them all is religion. Religion always has been the foundation of society, and it always will be. Thoughts of religion are founded upon doctrines; and according to the nature of that religion, so will be the character of everything else which is built upon it. It is precisely as when we throw a stone into a pond there will first be the central circle, and then the next, and the next, and the motion will be taken right to the circumference.
This is a conception of immense importance, both generally and individually. A man is a many-coated being; he has manifold powers, many circles of existence. It is with his soul as it is with his body.
In the body you have several classes of powers and forms distinct, although connected. There is the framework of the body, the skeleton a firm and goodly structure from head to foot. There is then the muscular system, which has to clothe this skeleton framework, which compasses every limb, and firmly bolts and straps the whole, keeping them ready for life and motion.
The circulatory system comes next, and it permeates and penetrates into every part of the muscular system, and sustains and renews it. Then, within all, is the nervous system, quite distinct, yet penetrating, quickening, energizing the whole.
If a man is to be in health, every one of these must be doing its work properly; but most of all, the brain and nervous system. These are the centers of feeling and perception. As these are healthy or unhealthy, perfect or imperfect, so is their action beneficial or otherwise in the whole system, from top to toe.
Now religion is to our spiritual being precisely what the brain and nervous system are to our bodily existence. As it is with the human being, so it is with a society or nation. As its religion is, so is its spiritual, moral, and even its material progress. Upon that, more than anything else, depends the sound working and the happy condition of the whole mass of human beings.
The old nations were simply embodied religions. If you go back to the Eastern nations, and learn their condition, you will find their life was full of their religion. Their whole existence was more or less true as they were more or less close to the highest teachings of the Fountain of Truth.
In Greece, there was a religion which profoundly regarded beauty as a mans highest idea in everything,–the beauty of goodness, the beauty of truth, the beauty of form, the beauty of arrangement–and hence come all those beautiful things which now adorn our principal museums. They covered their land with beauty.
In early Rome, it was the religion of law and duty. They were taught from the earliest time to be faithful to commands.
The great thing with them was to carry out duty and law. What a man was commanded to do, at all risks he must perform. And this religion they carried out, and it made them a great nation, and communicated through them vast benefits to the whole world. They laid the foundations of this great city of ours, and of modern society.
And now allow me to bring this truth home to each individual present. I rejoice to see from time to time so many young men, as we have here, and I want to impress this great truth upon every one of them.
Every young soul is a noble being, the outbirth of the Infinite and Divine. God made this glorious creature with a thousand excellences, in His own image and likeness. What a pity it is he should ever spoil himself. He has all the powers for passing a happy life on earth, and becoming a happy angel in heaven; but whether he will or not–and this is the great truth that should be brought home to every youth in the land–depends upon his foundation principles. You cannot build a good house on a bad foundation. It will fall sooner or later. The only way to be noble is to have a noble foundation. That noble foundation can only be got in an inward faith in God our Savior, and a constant daily effort to do right by power from Him.
It is this sublime truth in its results which was represented in the grand scene which John saw now in heaven. For two or three chapters immediately preceding an account of the continual decay and disasters are figured. Monstrous systems are described by monstrous forms. Now there is a representation of a new and better state of things. It begins by this representation of a new and pure religion. This is what is meant by the woman clothed with the sun. A Church is always typified by a woman. This is done for several reasons, mainly because it is not the knowledge of religion, although that is important, which makes a man religious. It is the love of it. The Creator intended woman to be a vessel and an emblem of Divine love. All good things flow from God into creation. They flow from Him as a combined stream of love and wisdom together. They then form separate beings in creation. Man is created to be the embodiment of wisdom; woman to be the embodiment of love. Ultimately, when both are moved and cultured rightly, the two yearn to come together again, just as life left the Creator. It left the Creator in the combination of love and wisdom. It comes to take hold of those grand parts of creation, and then to bring them together, and form them one in happy marriage, so that there is union produced again.
Hence it is that woman is always represented in Scripture as the type of the Lords Church. In the real Church, love is the principal thing.
When a person receives, first, the knowledge of religion, and then the understanding of religion, he has made progress.
The Lord says to him now, as He said in the beginning, Let there be light. God says to every soul: Let there be light upon your mind, and let truth come in, the knowledge of great and grand things. If you have light, you are on the way to religion–but it is not religion.
Ponder over the truth, and advance by rightly understanding it. You will then get a rational conception of what religion is. But this is not religion. It is a step nearer towards it. It is only when you get the love of the truth which leads you to the Savior, so as to bring it into practice, that you really become religious. There are those three virtues–Faith, Hope, and Charity; but the greatest of these is Charity. That is the soul of religion. Love is the very thing itself. When love permeates the character, and induces a person to live a life noble and good in every way, then that person has really got religion. Above all things, therefore, says the Apostle, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness (Col. iii. 14). Charity or love it is which makes us really religious. Such is the chief reason why the Church is treated as a woman.
The Divine Word constantly represents the Church as a female, because we only enter into it, and become part of it, when we receive love. Woman was intended mainly to be the special embodiment in the world of grace and beauty–Gods glorious vase, into which to pour His own sacred gentleness and affection. He fills it, that its sacred fragrance may permeate society wherever woman goes.
The true character of woman is to be a spirit of happiness, a spirit of genuine affection and peace. The Church, then, is to be what a woman is to home–a true woman heart. That is to say, be filled with love and gentleness; and so she is constantly represented in Scripture. Take, for instance, Isaiah liv. I, where you will see the Lord addresses the Church as if she were a woman: Sing, O barren, thou that didst bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.
There had been a long period in Judaism during which no genuine converts were made, and but little brought forth. The Church of God was a mere barren thing. There had been a spirit of formalism, the making the commandments of God things of none effect.
The real life of the Church had been wanting, and so the Lord says: Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear. The representative character of woman appears in the 5th verse: For thy Maker is thine husband. The Church is the Lords wife, by means of which sons and daughters are to be born in the world that can be made into angels, real members of the Church. Thy Maker is thine husband, the Lord of Hosts is His name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall He be called.
When the Redeemer came into the world, He appeared precisely in the same character. There is a recognition of this in St. John iii. 29. The people came to John, to inquire whether he was the Christ. John said: He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegrooms voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. And then, to explain that this bridegroom was God Himself, he adds, in the 31st verse: He that cometh from above is above all.
Manifestly he describes the Lord Jesus coming first as a bridegroom to form a Church, His bride, and then to turn the bride into a wife. It was no other than God Himself Who was doing this, for He that cometh from above is above all. It was God Who was forming His Church. He that cometh from above is above all.
The Apostle speaks of the Lords union with His Church in the same way. I dare say you remember that remarkable chapter in the Epistle to the Ephesians–the 5th chapter. I mean where, under the representation of the wife and the husband, the Apostle makes some important remarks. In the 31st and 32nd verses he says: For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. He was thoroughly aware of this representation of the Church by a woman.
There are several other portions of this Book of Revelation in which we have a similar representation of woman. John describes a figure of the Church under the form of a golden city, as coming down from God out of heaven. He says the angel said to him: Come, and I will shew thee the bride, the Lambs wife, as a bride adorned for her husband. And he saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.
Here the meaning is precisely the same. The golden principles of love, the clear and sacred illustrations of truth, are represented by the city being golden and clear as crystal. They descend upon earth, and were seen by John. They would be seen and understood by persons of the like character with John–those who were animated by loving-kindness themselves ; they would be able to see this golden city as it came down from heaven.
First they become the bride. Those who feel a virgin-hearted love of truth, desire conjunction with the Lord; and then the bride is formed into a wife, when the Lord Jesus Christ is their all in all, having the testimony of Jesus, and keeping the commandments of God.
This, then, is the reason why this marvelous scene (for that is the word which would best designate what we find in the original language here) is described respecting what was seen in heaven.
After the representation of a series of catastrophes and miseries, there is a commencement of a better state of things, represented by this grand vision of the virgin becoming a wife–a woman clothed with the sun.
The sun is the symbol, in Scripture, of God’s infinite love–that is, the sun of all that is wise and good.
Sun of my soul, Thou Savior dear,
It is not night, if Thou art near.
The sun of heaven, or God’s infinite affection, pours love and wisdom alike over all the societies of the happy. The Divine influence descends to human hearts, and is called the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world.
Again and again do you find this sun as the symbol of the Lord. In Psalm lxxxiv. 11 we read: For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly. But unto you that fear My name, it is said by the Prophet Malachi (iv. 2), shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.
Now it is this sun of the soul, the holy love of the Lord Jesus, embosoming and blessing His Church, which is represented by the sun with which the woman is clothed.
Filled and surrounded by His love,
The saved all live in Him.
The moon is said to be under her feet, because, by the moon, is represented the light of Scripture which is seen by faith. It is the light of faith, which comes out and shines when the splendor of love has become dim. The soul has its changes, its nights and days; and when it has no longer the gladsome happiness of walking in the sunlight then comes the time in which faith supplies the place of what was felt to be all serenity before, and soothes, and comforts, and induces the soul to walk on, notwithstanding it is rather dark. When the moon shines, it is a proof that the sun is still shining, for all the moons light is but reflected sunlight; and though it seems as if the Lord had left us, the light of the heavenly moon proves that the Lord cares for us. The moon still gives her friendly rays, and tells us patiently to wait a little, and the sun will arise again. The Divine dealings with us are quite right. The moon, therefore, is here represented as. supporting the Church, her feet standing on the moon.
And upon her head a crown of twelve stars. All the lesser lights of heavenly knowledge are stars, and all knowledge comes from the Lord. The star which led the wise men to Jerusalem, and then to Bethlehem, was a light in the soul, not a star of our sky. Each ray of heavenly teaching in each particular verse in the Bible is like a star, when you can see the spirit shining through it. Such is the day-star and day-dawn of which the Apostle speaks as arising in the heart (2 Pet. i. 19). The whole Bible, when, we can see its spiritual beauty, in verse after verse, becomes a continual display of glorious stars. The light which guides to the Savior is by Him called the morning star. The number twelve here, as elsewhere, is a representation in spiritual language of all.
There were twelve disciples for the Lord’s Church in its first beginning; there were twelve tribes of Israel; and so twelve, when it is employed, in Scripture, is always the representation that it is full and complete. There were twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem, twelve gates by which to enter, and so on.
Here the twelve stars represent heavenly knowledge on all subjects, and those who compose the Lords Church are those who earnestly seek and rejoice in these disclosures of heavenly light. They make a crown of it, and place it round their heads. It is a sad time in the Church when you find persons professing to be religious, who will say, when speaking of Divine things, Oh, those are matters we care nothing at all about. We mean somehow to get into heaven. Only let us get behind the door some time or other, and we shall be quite content. These are not they whom the Lord calls His true disciples. Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but not to them that are without.
These rejoice in each new disclosure of the Church, as it were a new star. They are like merchantmen seeking goodly pearls. They consider that each truth which gladdens and elevates the mind, and makes us from time to time interested in the Divine character of the Lords everlasting kingdom, is a gem of the first water, a star.
That is represented when it is said that the woman has twelve stars for a diadem. She wears them, and adorns her head with them. She likes to know more about them; she enters more and more fully into Divine things, as if she were searching for the richest jewels of life. They are her glory, her diadem, her pride. She has twelve stars round her head. Those are stars that will not only enlighten and bless here, but they will glow more brightly when we take them into our everlasting home. The Lords Church has a diadem of twelve stars.
It is next said: And she being with child, cried travailing in birth; and pained to be delivered; and a little lower down (v. 5), and 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. The man child, which was brought forth by the Lords Church, means a manly system of true doctrine–a Divine plan of love and life.
The slightest possible opening of Divine truth would be quite enough, according to the notion entertained by some of religion. It is requiring a person to say that he believes the Doctrine of Atonement turned wrong side up. If he believes this statement, he will go straight to heaven; and if he does not believe it, he is certain to go in a very different direction.
True religion, however, sets forth a real manly system of doctrine–a doctrine that applies itself to every duty of human society, and that teaches us what to love, think, and do, in all the relations of life. It must be a man child, and afford a model to sanctify and ennoble every part of man. It must respond to the sublime utterance in Micah: He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God?
True religion would infuse justice and light over the legislature, over commerce, trade, and every department of life, right down into the workshop and the streets. Every department of society should be filled with goodness and truth, brought into act everywhere. The world would then become a happier world.
As we see it at present, the world is a grand world. Never was there a greater libel than that God curses His world. God curses nothing. It is sin and ignorance which spoils everything. The world, in its present state, is a grand platform for training men to be holy and happy. What is wanted is, that we should all be trained up rightly to use the world–to bring the world into true order. But this depends upon combining our exertions with the Lords love and wisdom, to bring out what is intended everywhere, to make everywhere a happy land, and to form this world into a great school in which to raise angels. To produce a genuine system for accomplishing this, is meant by bringing forth the man-child. A noble man-like system first, and then a noble practice. With the help of heaven, and being faithful, we may all become real men, children of God, and ultimately real angels of the Lords kingdom.
It is said of the Church that she cried, being pained to be delivered. What hindrances there are to human improvement! Selfishness, apathy, and stupidity in the world, make progress to be very difficult. She cried, travailing, pained to be delivered. This is the case with relation to every improvement.
A new era has evidently begun in the world; but what throes, what struggles, what hindrances there are in its being accomplished!
In the last hundred years there has been such a change in almost every part of society, that manifestly we live in a considerable installment of a new age.
How beautiful that NEW AGE is, we see described by THE WOMAN clothed with the sun.
The old dark age is described by the other woman mentioned in this book, the Mother of Abominations (chap. xvii. 5). Yet such is the ignorance, the obstinacy, the self-will of great numbers of people, that there is not a new road (to say nothing of railroads), not a new method of doing anything, however salutary, however much connected with beneficence to the world, but what there has been the greatest difficulty in having it accomplished.
The worlds benefactors have been paid with scorn, with difficulty, with opposition, until they may be said to have been crucified like their Lord. I remember, not fifty years ago, again and again, in the north of England, when new machines were invented which were to double, treble, and quadruple the comforts of all around, the inventors were placed in the utmost danger from this stupid, reckless determination not to be thrown out of old ways, if possible.
So has it been in relation to religion. It might be that people had been in the most blessed states of happiness in past times, and that consequently things had been so good, that it is the utmost folly to think of making them any better. But everyone, if only slightly acquainted with history, knows that the very reverse of this is true.
Wars, animosities, persecutions, jealousies, were the constant condition of the nations of Christendom. Slaveries, and slavish laws, keeping in the meanest subjection the of the people, were universal. The wonder is that the people have lived on at all. They had such bad habitations, with such frequent pestilences and famines–they were so cruel to each other, and the laws were so terribly wrong–that, as I have said before, the wonder is that mankind have lived on at all. Yet ignorant people talk of the good old times; and when the Lord is revealing better things, extreme opposition and difficulty come. The woman cries in pain to be delivered, amidst apathy and aversion to changes fraught with blessing.
There stands selfishness, the great serpent which has deceived the whole world, ready to oppose. It is called a dragon, that is, a serpent with wings. That is selfishness professing religion–setting forth aims, lofty, noble and grand, seeking the glory of God and the salvation of men; but in practice seizing at power and pelf, more keenly even than the veriest worldling.
Religious in appearance, but ignoring or trampling upon charity, justice and kindness, which real religion requires. This is represented by the dragon ready to devour the man-child as soon as he was born.
The Lord, however, protects the woman and her child, for she fled into the wilderness for a time, and times, and half a time, or, what is called in an earlier part, twelve hundred and sixty days, but meaning the same thing–three years and a half. Those mysterious terms represent the end of an old system, signified by the three, and the beginning of a new one by the half. The Lord will protect the new truths by their apparent insignificance, until they have acquired some degree of strength, and can go on their beneficial work of blessing the world.
The earth helped the woman (Rev. xii. 6). By the earth helping the woman is meant the well-disposed in the Church–those who have fairness and good sense will assist in the renovation of religion. Many of these have been repelled by what has been taught and done in the name of religion; but when they see a religion pure and practical, they will help the woman. They can see that to make religion acceptable, justice must be the principal thing; they see that religion consists in being and doing good; that to make a religion that is rational as well as spiritual, and which is in harmony with all good sense, as well as in harmony with all Gods attributes, must be the right thing, and the earth helps the woman.
Sorrow, trouble, and opposition will be experienced, but Divine help gives time for the spiritual growth to take place, and enables a society, which otherwise would have been repelled and crushed at the beginning, to have progress, power, and growth. This dispensation will so increase that from land to land, from age to age, the great principles of truth and righteousness, of wisdom and eternal good, will go on growing and growing until, in the language of the 13th chapter of this book, The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.
To Him be glory and dominion, world without end. Amen.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY—– THE MAGNIFICENT SCENES IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION (1878)