BROTHER BEEBE: – Will you please give your views on Revelation xii. 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, and half a time, from the face of the serpent,” and oblige one who desires to know the truth?
W. W. MARRAH.
Lake Creek, Ill., Feb. 14, 1881.
REPLY. – Although we feel very incompetent to explain or enter into the hidden depths of the things signified in this portion of the vision which the apostle John saw and recorded when in exile on the isle of Patmos, we will express a few thoughts which have occurred to our mind, and leave our readers to accept them only so far as they feel satisfied that they are sustained by the word and spirit of our God.
This chapter follows the sounding of the seventh angel, at the sounding of which great voices were heard in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. At the period indicated the four and twenty elders fell upon their faces worshiping God, and saying, “We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.” And when “the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thundering, and an earthquake, and great hail.”
It seems to us that the sounding of the trumpet of this seventh angel proclaimed the end of the Old Testament dispensation, the passing away of the old heavens, the rending of the vail which had concealed the ark of the testament, and the causing to be seen in heaven the great wonder which is described in the commencement of this twelfth chapter, of “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” “The law and the prophets were until John,” and like a vail concealed the ark of the testament, none but the high priest being permitted to enter within the vail. “The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect.” – Heb. lx. 8, 9.
And then another wonder appeared in heaven, (in the old Jewish heaven, which was not about to be rolled together like a scroll and pass away). In this wonderful development the dragon, which is the devil and Satan, that deceived the whole world, is discomfited and cast out in to the earth and the sea, and in his fall drew the third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. In this sanguinary conflict Christ, who is called Michael, (which name signifies, Who is perfect, like unto God,) the Archangel, (and the only Archangel of whom the scriptures speak,) fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhibiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” Then began a new presentation of the woman, the church, as clothed with the sun, and on her head, which is Christ, is seen the crown of twelve stars. This crown and these stars may represent to us the regal glory of our triumphant King, as set forth in the doctrine, order and ordinances in the gospel kingdom by the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
“And to the woman [the gospel church] 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, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” On this last quotation our brother desired us to give our views, and such views as we have we freely give; but it is with much hesitation, lest we should missaprehend the true design and application of the figures employed by the Spirit.
From the birth of our Redeemer until his triumph over the powers of darkness by his blood, which was fully demonstrated by his resurrection from the dead, we are told there were lightnings, and voices, and thundering, and an earthquake, and great hail, in which the elements of the old heavens passed away with a great noise; and the discomfited serpent, finding himself and his legions cast out into the earth and the sea, being wroth with the woman and the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ, cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. This abortive effort of the devil to inundate the church of God with the delusions and doctrines of devils, if we rightly understand, points to the conflicts between truth and error which marked the history of the early centuries of the christian era; and the giving to the church two wings of a great eagle, shows the gracious providential watchful care of God in preserving his church from the pernicious errors and bloody persecutions which were then about to deluge the earth by reason of the flood which was to be poured out of the mouth of the serpent.
Neither the great eagle nor her two wings were any part of the woman or church; but they were given to her that she might fly into the wilderness, to her place, which God had prepared for her as a place of security from the violence of the serpent, and where she should be nourished for a specific period of time, signified as a time, and times, and half a time.
The great eagle may represent the Roman Empire, the national insignia of which is an eagle. The two wings of this great eagle, we have thought, may represent the two opposing parties, at the close of the second and beginning of the third centuries, for imperial power; as it was in connection with this contest that Constantine the Great, for political reasons, and to aid him in his aspirations, and to draw christians to his support, professed a wonderful conversion from Paganism to Christianity, and by this strategy succeeded; and having thus secured the imperial power, published the memorable edict of Toleration, by which every one was allowed the religion most agreeable to his own mode of thinking. Thus resulting from the two parties of wings of Rome, the church had a respite from persecution for a limited period, allowing opportunity to fly into obscurity from the face of the serpent or dragon, until the earth should open her mouth and drink up the flood of persecution which Satan designed to carry away or exterminate the church.
It appears to have been at about this time the true church of Christ went into obscurity, and the papal hierarchy clandestinely assumed her name, and under the imperial patronage of Rome rose up out of the sea with her seven heads and ten horns, as described in chapter xiii. At about this time, we believe, the Lord’s two witnesses began their one thousand two hundred and three score days, or forty and two months, prophecy, clothed in sackcloth; which period seems to us to be the same which is signified in our text, as a time, and times, and half a time, and by the prophet as “a time, and times, and the dividing of time.” – Dan. vii. 25. This metaphorical limitation of time seems to us to be definite, and to signify the protecting care and providence of God in providing a place and security for his church out of the sight and observation of her enemies, where she is nourished and kept by divine power and wisdom, until the storm and tempest of persecution which has deluged the earth with blood should verify all the predictions of the scriptures, and Babylon sink like a mill-stone, and all her merchantmen be filled with consternation and confusion.
Without claiming any special light upon the mystical terms which are used in our text and its connections, we give only as our imperfect views what we have written, without any desire that they shall be found sustained by the infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Elder Gilbert Beebe,
Middletown, N. Y.
Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 9.
May 1, 1881.