The Woman, The Beasts, and The Harvest

Revelation 12-14

“There appeared a great wonder in heaven” (Revelation 12:1).

by Matt Kerry

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Revelation chapters 12-14 discuss events during the entire Gospel Age, from the early persecution of the saints by Pagan Rome, through the Harvest. Descriptions include the persecution of the church, the battle between Pagan Rome and Papal Rome, the formation of the Church of England and Ireland, and the Gospel Age Harvest.

Revelation 12

Revelation 12 is unique in its use of symbolic language to describe prophetic events. It describes a triumph of Christianity over Paganism, early in the Gospel Age, in terms that remind us of expressions later used of the establishment of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom in Revelation 20. However, this early triumph of Christianity gave way to corruption and Revelation 12 describes the subsequent persecution of the saints during the 1,260 years (from 539 to 1799), during the time that papacy was elevated and the true Church fled into the “wilderness” for protection.

In 313 AD, the church was still relatively faithful and had passed through several difficult persecutions by Pagan Rome. The most recent persecution had been so severe that it is termed “The Great Persecution,” running from 303 AD to 313 AD. Those 10 years are referred to in Revelation 2:10 as tribulation for “ten days.” Jesus’ message to this suffering Church contains no criticisms, as his messages do to most of the other churches of Revelation chapters 2 and 3.

Revelation 12 begins by describing the institution of the Church as a woman, clothed with the Gospel Sun, with the moon (teachings and types of the Law) under her feet, and graced with a crown of 12 apostolic “stars” as her teachers. The incipient Christian community was soon to come to strength, being “born” through great travail. The persecutor is depicted as a “great red dragon,” representing Pagan Rome as the agent of the devil, seeking to devour the child at its birth.

“His tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth” (verse 4), representing the severity of the devil’s onslaught against individual Christians in the intensity of the persecution. As Daniel 8:10 expresses it, “It waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.”

However, the nascent Christian community was spared by heavenly intervention. It was caught up for protection to the throne of God, destined in God’s due time to “rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Revelation 12:5, compare also Revelation 2:27). But more difficulties would follow, requiring the woman to flee to the wilderness. This point is introduced in Revelation 12:6 and resumed in verse 14.  Meanwhile, verses 7 through 13 describe the circumstances leading to that later distress.

Verse 7 depicts the struggle between Christianity (Michael and his angels), and paganism (the dragon and his angels) as a “war in heaven,” each seeking to rule the spiritual influences operating in the Roman Empire. Christianity prevailed during the time of Constantine, and thus the control of paganism was eventually overturned. A later successor, Julian (nicknamed “the Apostate”), revived paganism during his brief reign from 361 to 363, but he was the last non-Christian ruler of the empire. Thus, “the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (verse 9).

Revelation 12:10-12 describes the Christian triumph in words of high laudation. However, Christianity would soon corrupt, yielding to the rising rule of the papacy, forcing the true saints, the true church, to flee into the wilderness for 1,260 years (verse 14). The serpent, Satan as a deceiver would cast out of his mouth many errors, “water as a flood after the woman,” but Christian society would absorb these without the intended effect, and the woman was preserved. Whereupon the dragon “was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and which have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).

Chapter 13

The development of papacy as the persecuting power during the 1,260 years, from 539 to 1799, is represented in the symbols opening chapter 13. Papacy is described as a beast having 10 horns, and like a leopard, bear, and lion. These are the symbols used in Daniel chapter seven referring to Rome, Greece, Medo-Persia, and Babylon, in sequence from last to first. This indicates that papacy was (culturally) built upon the empires that preceded it. The seven heads of this beast remind us of the seven heads, cumulatively, of the beasts in Daniel seven. This beast ascends out of the sea, as do the four beasts of Daniel seven.

Papacy received its power from Rome, after the Roman Empire’s conversion, nominally, to Christianity. It was in the time of Justinian that the Roman Empire, then centered in Constantinople, allocated to the pope a jurisdiction of political influence in Rome and its environs. The specifics of this can be found in chapter three of Volume Three of “Studies in the Scriptures,” Thy Kingdom Come. For additional specifics, the interested reader can consult the article “A Little Horn,” August 1992, Beauties of the Truth.

The 10 horns on this beast apparently represent the divisions of political authority in the countries of Europe that stemmed from the 10 tribes which recognized the authority of the Roman Empire. That is why the crowns, or diadems, are depicted on the horns in this vision. The 3½ times, or years, of the previous chapter, is equivalent to 42 months, and this is the same period mentioned in Revelation 13:6 as the time of papacy’s power. At 30 days per month, this would be 1,260 days, matching the period in Revelation 12:6.

In these prophecies, as in Daniel, a day is fulfilled as a year. This period of papal influence ran from 539 to 1799. By 539 the pope’s rivals (the Ostrogoths) had been subdued at Ravenna and Belisarius, general of the armies of Justinian from Constantinople, retreated victorious, leaving Pope Vigilius to represent Justinian’s authority in the western branch of the empire. In 1799 Pope Pius Sextus died in France as a prisoner of Napoleon and the French Directory, leaving papacy temporarily headless. They would never again exercise its political authority as in former years.

The great wound to one of the heads of this beast may be the wound suffered by Rome at the hands of the Ostrogoths that overran Rome after the center of power had moved to Constantinople.  Nevertheless, Rome revived again under papacy. The unopposable power of papacy is expressed in verse 4, “Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?” Its period of power is expressed in verse 5 as 42 months. Its unrighteous decrees in verse 6 are described as blasphemies, its persecution of the saints as “war with the saints” in verse 7, and its wide scope of influence as “all that dwell upon the [nominally Christian] earth shall worship him” in verse 8. Warnings to Jesus’ true followers follow in verses 9 and 10, “here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”

Two Horned Beast

A second beast rises up in Revelation 13:11. This beast comes from the [nominally Christian] “earth.” Many brethren understand this beast to represent the Church of England and Ireland. It was separated from the Roman Church by King Henry VIII in 1534. It had two horns like a lamb, which could mean that it intended to represent our Lord Jesus, or it could mean they were relatively “harmless … not intended to do injury” (R5349:2).

It spoke as a dragon, representing that it had political power, exercised through the British government. It performed great signs, calling “fire … down from heaven,” claiming to represent godly authority and judgment (1 Kings 18:38, Leviticus 9:24).

The end of this chapter records the infamous “six-hundred, threescore and six” number, the number of a man, without which no one could buy or sell in the “marketplace.” This restriction on spreading the truth could indicate an inability for new ones to understand, or an inability to spread the truth because of persecution.  The stamp on the hand or forehead suggests the actions or thoughts of those cooperating with papacy. The ancient Greek word for Rome was lateinos, {put in Greek letters} which adds up to 666. The New Testament was written in Greek (except Matthew); so numbers in other languages are less significant.

Revelation 13:14, 15 introduce an “image of the beast,” that is, an “image” of the original beast, not the beast itself. This may refer to a coalition of “protestant” sects who, like the Catholic Church, would seek power over the minds of people as a united front. One dimension of this may have been the Evangelical Alliance in 1846, in the aftermath of the early Adventist movement. Or, more likely, the King of England created the Anglican church-state in the image of the Roman church-state.

Chapter 14

In contrast to the mark of the beast, Revelation 14:1 introduces a vision of 144,000 standing with the Lamb, the risen Jesus, on mount Sion, having the name of God “written in their foreheads.” For the true church, it is necessary to be in mental accord with God and His virtues, not merely an outward cooperation. The name of God on their foreheads means that these are called, chosen, and faithful — they are part of God’s spiritual family, His name being written on their foreheads (Revelation 3:12). This is a heavenly picture, standing on Mt. Zion. Compare with Obadiah 21.

These are the Bride class, and will rule and reign with Christ as priests to uplift mankind during the Millennium (Revelation 20:6).  They are blameless, faithful virgins, redeemed as firstfruits from the earth. The description of this sacred and sanctified class, complete in glory, continues through Revelation 14:5, as though to complete the string of pictures from chapter 12 forward.

The Harvest

Beginning with verse 6, through the remainder of chapter 14, we have a picture of the Harvest, or ending period of the Gospel Age. Three angels, each with an important message, are introduced. The first has the “everlasting gospel,” the second announces “the hour of … judgment” declaring that Babylon is fallen, and the third warns the saints against the beast, his image, and his mark.

During the present Harvest of the Gospel Age, the saints are called to a clearer understanding of the Divine Plan, the “everlasting gospel,” without the defiling errors of the darker past. It is a wonderful time of enlightenment for the saints, but one of judgment against the systems of Christendom. It is time for us to separate from the latter, and adhere to the former.

These angels fly in “mid-heaven,” during the present “heavens and earth,” beginning early in the harvest, and appeal to those spiritually minded (R474:5, 304:1). Babylon here refers to nominal Christendom, whereas the saints are called to full devotion and true consecration.  Those who remain attached to the systems of nominal Christendom will not find the kind of peace and rest of mind provided to the saints (verse 11). Verse 12 exhorts us to patience and faith during the Harvest time, which has extended much longer than originally supposed.  Verse 13 suggests that saints who complete their course during the Harvest time pass immediately to their reward beyond the vail.

Verses 14-20

The symbolism of “harvest” is introduced in Revelation 14:14-20. Jesus appears in verse 14 as the “Son of man,” seated on a cloud, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. In verse 15 an angel from the temple says with a loud voice, “Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”  Perhaps this “angel” is the voice of time prophecy, indicating the proper time for the Harvest activity (Daniel 12:12). Otherwise, what “angel” is of sufficient authority to direct Christ? The whole activity of harvesting the saints, with the “sickle” of truth, is succinctly covered in verse 16, “He that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the [Christian] earth; and the earth was reaped.”

Thereafter another angel comes out of the temple with a sharp sickle. Perhaps this angel represents the Church complete in glory, much as the “angel standing in the sun” with a similar mission, in Revelation 19:17. “This honor hath all his saints” (Psalms 149:9).

Another angel came “out from the altar,” reminding us of the voice of justice from the fallen saints who were depicted as “under the altar” awaiting retribution (Revelation 6:9). The angel with the sickle thrust it in and gathered the vine of the earth (systems of Christendom) into the winepress for their treading and demise. The blood of the grapes came out by the remarkable distance of 1,600 furlongs.

Judging by Joel 3:12, 13, the winepress is at Israel, thus “without the city” of Christendom where the old systems are gathered for their fall. The number 1,600 is the square of forty, indicating a full measure of retributive judgment. The blood rises “even unto the horse bridles,” suggesting that the old systems will no longer control the blessed doctrines of the Scriptures.  Thereafter the bridles will have “Holiness unto Jehovah” (Zechariah 14:20), and the blessings of the kingdom will ensue.

One of the lessons we learn from these verses is that the harvest of the true vine will not be complete until we see in progress the harvest of the false vine (i.e., Armageddon).  May the Lord guide us in our understand Jesus, present during the Harvesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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