Pareus on Revelation 12

A woman clothed with the sun = At this juncture, Ribera introduces two great and difficult questions, as he calls them: (1) “Whether this woman is the Church or the always blessed Virgin Mary.” After discussing the pros and con of such a proposition, Ribera concludes she symbolizes the Church, using Methodius as an authority.

(2) The other question, he says, is the more difficult, “Whether this is spoken concerning the Church in her first state, that is, before Christ’s coming, or at His first coming, or of her future state in the last age of the world.”

Ribera concludes that this vision of the Woman refers to the end of the age during the 4-year reign[1] of Antichrist. He reasons that because the woman’s flight and abode in the wilderness is 1260 days, the same length of time during which Michael fights the Dragon, that both speak to the same time of the Antichrist.

This vision does not establish the Monkish dream that the Woman is the Virgin Mary who was ‘assumed’ into Heaven to be placed on the throne of the Trinity as Queen of Heaven. Such fiction is contradictory to true Christianity.

On the contrary, this Woman is a type of the Church’s birth under the New Testament, alluding to the history of Christ being born of the Virgin Mary, for the history of Christ’s coming in the flesh both literally and allegorically foreshadows the future condition of the Church.

*   This Woman brought forth a man child; so in the fullness of time God sent His Son made of a woman, Gal. 4:4.

*   The Dragon lays in wait for the Woman’s child; so Herod sought to kill Christ as soon as He was born.

*   The Woman with eagle’s wings flies into the wilderness; so Mary, being admonished of God, fled with the child into the deserts of Egypt, Matt. 2:13.

*   The Woman was sustained there and kept 1260 days; so Mary remained in Egypt nearly four years until Herod’s death.

*   The Dragon cast forth a flood of waters after the Woman to devour her; so Herod after Mary’s flight murdered all the male infants in Bethlehem, two years old and younger, that he might slay the woman’s child.

*   The child of the Woman was caught up into Heaven, unto the throne of God, and made the ruler of all nations; so Christ having finished the work of our redemption, ascended into Heaven, and is sitting on the throne of the Father, having all power in Heaven and earth.

Now these things were not shown to John as being historical in nature, for John was not ignorant of Christ’s history; neither were they shown to John as those things which Christ was to accomplish later since they were already accomplished. Therefore, this vision was shown John as a foreshadowing of future events, mystically setting forth the future condition of the Church in the Church Age.

*   For as the Virgin Mary once brought forth Christ corporally; so the Church continually, as it were, being in travail, brings Him forth in His members spiritually, Gal. 4:19.

*   Herod persecuted Mary with her child; so that old Dragon by means of tyrants and other enemies shall persecute the Church with her members.

*   Mary, flying from the tyrant, withdrew herself out of sight of the adversaries, yet she was still alive, being preserved and nourished in the deserts of Egypt until her return; so the Church shunning Antichrist, withdrew herself out of the eyes of the world, yet she continued to exist, being preserved and nourished in the wilderness of the world until the measuring of the temple.

*   Christ, the son of the woman, being taken up into Heaven, was set on the throne of God; so the will the faithful ultimately be taken up into Heaven and reign with Christ.

Thus, this vision does excellently represent both the history of the birth of Christ and His Church.

The Woman = the Church

The child of the Woman = her seed = the faithful Christians of all ages.

The Dragon = the Devil = all tyrants who persecute the Church.

The symbol of a Woman may signify both good and evil

        It is not unusual for Scripture to compare both the true and false Church to a Woman. Hence, the Church is generally called the ‘spouse of Christ,’ ‘a chaste and undefiled virgin.’ In Rev. 19:7 she is called ‘the wife of the Lamb.’ The reason for this is due to both her spiritual marriage with Christ, her bridegroom, and the weakness of her sex. For the Church is similar to a weak woman, having no power to subsist by her own strength. On the contrary, the Church of malignant men is compared to an adulterous woman, Jer. 3:1; to a whore and most impure harlot, Ezek. 16 & Rev. 17:18. Thus, we see who the Woman depicted in this vision symbolizes, so I hope by this time Ribera’s first question is fully answered. 

Pareus answers Ribera’s second question

        Now I come to Ribera’s second question. He rightly denies that the woman represents the Church in her first state before Christ’s coming. However, he then affirms that which is not true. First, he denies the woman represents the state of the Church at Christ’s first coming. This we have already proved true. Second, Ribera views this event as occurring in the last times under his feigned Antichrist who shall never come.[2] According to Ribera we are to believe the Woman had not already fled into the wilderness long ago, persecuted by the Dragon in her flight.

Pareus poses a third question – Are there two Churches or one?

        There is yet a third question which arises, “Is this Woman who flies into the wilderness the same woman who sits on the Beast, Rev. 17?” I say that she is and yet is not, for it is plain she represents the Church. However, one may ask, ‘Which Church?’ For by ‘Church’ one may understand by diverse significations either the Church of the first begotten, Heb. 12:22-23, which universally comprehends all the elect before, including under the law, as well as that under the Gospel. This is that ‘Catholic Church’ mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed. On the other hand, by ‘Church’ one may understand ‘The Church of the Called’ which in the New Testament is the multitude of them worldwide that profess the faith of Christ. In the former sense, the Woman or Church, is and always shall be the only spouse of Christ, never to become as degenerate as is Antichrist’s strumpet. In this chapter, the Church depicted is that of the chaste bride of Christ, while in Rev. 17 the Church depicted is that of a great whore.

But how then are these two Churches the same? I answer, she is the same in name but not in deed; in profession, but not in faith; in appearance, but not in truth. In this same sense Jerusalem is called a ‘holy city’ in Ps. 122:3, as well as a ‘harlot’ in Isaiah 1:21. At the time of the Apostles and shortly thereafter all of Christianity, East and West, was as a chaste mother clothed with faith and holiness as the stars. This is the state of the Woman here in Rev. 12. But afterward, as Eusebius testifies, she no longer kept the chastity of an undefiled Woman, until at length, possessing the mountains of Rome, she changed her star-like garment into scarlet, sitting on the Beast, degenerating into the common strumpet which appears in Rev. 17.

Indeed, the Roman parasites cry out strongly to the contrary, that the true Church of Christ, which was once Rome, (according to the Apostles’ testimony), cannot fall away; that the spouse of Christ cannot degenerate. This is true of the Church of the First Born, the only true spouse of Christ. But of every Church of the called (or of every particular Church) it is false. Besides, several testimonies regarding the Churches of Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, etc., confirm this fact. For, although these ancient Churches were once true Apostolic Churches and the spouse of Christ, yet where are they today? What has become of them? So then, why should we wonder if the same has happened to Rome, though in a different condition?

Clothed with the sun = For by faith and baptism she puts on Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, as a wedding garment.

Having the moon under her feet = This denotes the variable state of the Church in this world, as well as her high mindedness. “For the Church,” says Ambrose, “has defects and risings like the moon, having no brightness of her own, borrowing her light from Christ, as does the moon from the sun.” Augustine concurs, “The Church is sometimes darkened and clothed, as it were, with a multitude of scandals. Sometimes she appears quiet and free due to the tranquility of the time; other times she is covered and troubled with the floods of tribulations and temptations.” As therefore the moon appears in diverse forms in the firmament, so is the Church’s condition diverse in this life. Sometimes she shines in full light; other times she is scarcely to be seen; and sometimes not at all, until once again her light breaks forth as out of darkness. This spiritual truth refutes the Popish fiction that the Church shall always be visible in the world, as are other worldly kingdoms visible to all.

        Moreover, there is significance in having the moon under her feet for she despises all sublunary and earthly things as vain and perishing, seeking after and possessing in Christ the things which are above.

And a crown of twelve stars on her head = This denotes the faith of the Apostolic Church, the profession thereof was as a crown unto her head. For just as the Apostles were twelve in number did the light of God’s truth spread forth over the world like bright shining stars. For although Paul and Barnabas were afterward added unto them, yet the number of twelve remained, even after Judas fell away. The Apostles by their ministry did set a crown upon the Church by laying the foundation upon which she is built. In the ‘head,’ that is, the beginning of the Church, they did shine as stars, being principal members thereof, as a certain interpreter expounds it. Other expositors understand the twelve stars as symbolic of the heads of the Apostles’ Creed because faith is the crown of the Church, for in them are contained the chief points of the Christian religion.

        It is here we are to observe that the Woman who here is seen shining, clothed with the Sun, having the Moon under her feet, a crown of stars upon her head, the undefiled spouse of Christ, afterward put on purple and scarlet and began following after earthly things, changing her crown of stars into a crown of gold, pearls and precious stones. In a word, she played the harlot, sat on the Beast, becoming the Mother of Fornications, as described later in Rev. 17. Let the reader diligently compare the descriptions of both.

And she being with child cried for pain = Our wafer-worshippers cannot tell how to apply this to the Virgin Mother, for they hold that Mary was delivered without pain, grounding this on the false opinion that she was free from the stain of original sin. But neither of these opinions can be of faith because neither of them are grounded on the Word of God. The Virgin conceiving was, indeed, miraculous. But her bringing forth was natural, for by the opening of the womb she brought forth her first born son, Luke 2:23. But whether a natural delivery can be without pain, I leave to the naturalists. But in the case of the Woman depicted here, she is seen in the kind of pain common to all women in labor. This Christ confirms in John 16:21. Indeed, God first imposed the sorrow of childbearing on the woman as a punishment for her sin, I will multiply thy sorrows, etc.

        So then this type signifies that the Woman or Church shall not bring forth her fruit without labor, sorrow and much crying. This ‘labor’ refers partly to the labor and care of the ministry, and partly to the troubles and calamities of persecutions. Hence, the Apostle Paul, travailing in birth of the Corinthians, cries out, not without grief, 1 Cor. 4:11; 2 Cor. 6:5, 7:5. So likewise he speaks of the declining Galatians, Gal. 4:19. We then see that the birth and propagation of the Church shall be with great troubles, cares, sorrows and crying. This Christ foretold us, saying, “The world shall rejoice, but ye shall mourn.” [3] And the Apostle confirmed, All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. By this sorrowful travail of the Woman is chiefly prefigured the miseries, persecutions, punishments and martyrdoms which Christians would afterwards suffer under tyrants. Yet this truth is not without comfort of the Church. For whereas the world thought to suppress the Church by such means, she would (though with pain) most fruitfully bring forth, and beyond all expectation increase far and near.

Behold a great red Dragon having seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns upon his heads = The adjective ‘great’ denotes size and strength. The color ‘red’ denotes his cruelty and bloodthirsty nature, being red with the blood of the saints. Others think it denotes his fiery and hellish condition, but I approve the former interpretation.

        Ribera attributes this Dragon and entire vision to the time of his feigned Antichrist. He believes these heads and horns belong to Daniel’s fourth Beast, whose Little Horn was a type of the Antichrist to come. Thus, in his thinking this Dragon is not yet come. Besides the ten horns the Dragon exhibited here has nothing in common with the fourth Beast of Daniel. Now the Beast in Rev. 13 has its crowns on its horns, while the Dragon has its crowns on its heads. Thus, they are different Beasts, yet share similar traits for the Dragon begat the Beast. Sons share common traits with their fathers. The Dragon is Satan, as is obvious in verse 9, the enemy of mankind. He is represented by the form of a Dragon or Serpent, because that is the form he took when he seduced our first parents. It also speaks to his rage and cruelty against the Church, and lastly because of his poison by which he infects the world.

        The ‘heads’ and ‘horns’ of the Dragon are the devil’s instruments and ministers of his fury against the Woman. The fact that the ‘crowns’ are said to be on his ‘heads’ and not on his ‘horns’ argues that these ‘heads’ denote the chief instruments of the Dragon who are armed with royal authority. The ‘horns’ are inferior, yet also armed. Therefore, the ‘crowned heads’ of the Dragon are kings and tyrants persecuting the Woman. The ‘horns’ are officers under them, as are governors, captains, soldiers, hangmen, etc., by whom they exercise their cruelty, just as the head of a literal, carnal beast pushes with his horns.

        The ‘seven heads’ are spoken of an indefinite number, as is also the ‘seven spirits’ and ‘seven lamps’ in Rev. 4:5. However, later, ‘seven heads’ are definite in number, representing the seven mountains of Rome, Rev. 13 & 17.

The Heads of the Dragon are Roman Caesars

         Among the ‘heads’ Herod holds first place, who labored to destroy the seed of the woman by wickedly causing all the infant boys of Bethlehem to be murdered. Next was his son, Herod Antipas, the murderer of John the Baptist. The third, Herod Agrippa, who killed James and persecuted Peter. After these are numerous other persecuting Roman tyrants, such as Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian, Commodious, Severus, Decius, Diocletian, among others, who wholly imbrued themselves in the blood of the saints, most miserably afflicting the Church until Constantine’s time.

        Of the Dragon’s horns, Pilate the Roman Governor was chief, who with the Scribes and the Pharisees crucified the Lord of Life. Also included are his successors, such as Felix, Lysias, and Festus. These symbols must be interpreted thus by necessity, otherwise we would grope in darkness, for they all demonstrate the calamities of the primitive Church.

And his tail drew the third part of the stars = The Dragon’s two-fold cruelty is here noted: the first against the stars; the second against the Woman. Andreas interprets this of Lucifer drawing with him many Angels to destruction.[4] I do not agree. Rather, it is a metaphorical allusion to Daniel 8:10 which speaks of Antiochus Epiphanes, who (as a type of Antichrist) cast down the stars to the ground and stamped upon them. The ‘stars’ in Rev. 1:20 signify the teachers of Churches. Their casting down from heaven to the earth signifies their falling away from the faith and heavenly office to that of human traditions and cares of this life. This the Dragon did with his ‘tail,’ signifying, as some think, his fraudulent subtlety. Satan drew many teachers away from seeking after heavenly things by means of flattery and lying promises, dashing them against the rocks of worldly honor. This he does daily to the destruction of many. However, he does not neglect to do battle by means of open violence.

        Therefore, I interpret the Dragon’s ‘tail’ (in which his chief strength consists) of the cruelty and long, continuous persecutions, by which many professors of the name of Christ, who ought like ‘stars’ to shine before others, have fallen from the faith, partly due to torments and partly due to fear, only to worship devils. This happened under the cruel storms of former persecutions, as histories testify, principally under Domitian, Diocletian, and Decius. For as Eusebius tells us, “By a tyrannical edict, Diocletian commanded the meeting houses of Christians to be razed to ground level, the holy Scriptures burnt, their leaders apprehended, fettered, and by torture constrained to sacrifice to Idols. The many who remained faithful suffered martyrdom, but an infinite number of others overcome with fear, soon gave up the fight.

        Primasius saith that “the tail is the false prophets through whom the enemy fulfills his wickedness.” This is taught in Isaiah 9:15, The prophet that teaches lies is the tail; namely because of smooth and flattering sermons. Now the Dragon did both. Therefore, we make understand it both ways: The Devil draws many away from the faith through the lies of deceivers and by the cruelty of tyrants. The Dragon casts from Heaven to the earth, meaning he seduces from the faith to perfidiousness by the love of the earth, some by lies, others by torture. In this manner was the great star Wormwood, Rev. 8:10, and a third part of the stars, verse 12, and the great star fallen from Heaven, Rev. 9:1, drawn and cast to the earth by the fall of this Dragon; that is, fell away from the sincerity of the faith and Christian piety to that of worldly mindedness and Antichristianity.

And the Dragon stood before the Woman = Like a hungry wolf who stands before the fold to destroy the sheep which come forth, he stands before her. Satan’s ravenous appetite is insatiable. He always desires to fill himself with our blood, which is why Peter describes him as a hungry and roaring lion.

        The Dragon endeavored to devour Christ by means of Herod, the Dragon’s first ‘head,’ who murdered all the male infants of Bethlehem. He then used Pilate, the first ‘horn,’ who condemned and crucified the Son of God.

        Afterward he labored mightily to destroy Christ in His members: Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist; Herod Agrippa killed James. He used his other heads, Nero and Domitian, for example, who through cruel edicts, punishments, tortures and persecutions throughout their Empire, endeavored by all means to swallow up whatever the Church brought forth, so that they might destroy all Christians and utterly blot out the faith of Christ.

And she brought forth a man child = Although this verse may be literally applied to Christ, its prophetical sense lies chiefly in applying it to His members, His Body and Church. The Woman, that is, the Church, brought forth, by the seed of the Word, a ‘Son’ in the collective sense, because in His Body are contained many children of God. Even in the beginning many thousands of Christians were begotten to Christ by Apostolic preaching. The elect of God dispersed throughout the whole world were, little by little, gathered. They are said to be ‘male children’ because the elect’s faith is strong whereby they manfully resist Satan. They also shall rule the nations with a rod of iron in Christ, their Head, because the Head communicates what is His unto His members. Hence, it is said, the Saints shall judge the world and Angels, 1 Cor. 6:2. They shall also be caught up to God and His throne because they are supported by the power of God and so will not fall under their temptations. They shall finish their warfare with courage, obtaining (as conquerors) a crown of glory with Christ: For to him that overcometh He will grant to sit with him in his throne, even as he also overcame and was set on His Father’s throne, Rev. 3:21.

And the Woman fled into the wilderness = It is to be noted that the Holy Spirit speaks here by way of anticipation of her flight. For her actual flight does not occur until after the Dragon is cast unto the earth, after a new persecution, verse 13, when she is given wings to fly into the wilderness.

        Thus, the flight into the wilderness signifies the invisibility of the Apostolic Church, hidden from the world, but preserved, after fighting many battles with tyrants, heretics, and hypocrites. The Papists affirm their Church never fled or vanished away, contending she always shone in her full light. By this they unknowingly contradict themselves, denying their Church to be this chaste Mother! Secondly, in that there is a place prepared for her in the wilderness where she is nourished, it signifies that no matter how much the purity of the outward appearance Church shall fade away, yet God will always preserve and feed a remnant.

And there was war in heaven = This happened after the man child was caught up to Heaven. The Dragon, having failed to destroy Christ, attempts to destroy the Mother, His Church. But Michael is present in her behalf, provoking the Dragon to combat, thrusting him and his followers out of Heaven, whence arose a shout among the heavenly spirits.

        There are some who refer this battle to the first fall of the Devil, when Lucifer, with his Angels, was cast out of Heaven. This interpretation Ribera rightly rejects, yet replaces it with a strange fiction of his own: i.e., of a battle which shall take place between Antichrist and the Saints, occurring in the last four years before the end of the world. But if the truth be told, without all doubt this battle is already fault, the Dragon having been cast to the earth because the Woman has long ago fled into the wilderness.

        Therefore, just as there was a double sense to understanding the sign of the Woman, her delivery and child – historically fulfilled in the persons of Mary and Christ, and allegorically fulfilled in the Church and the members of Christ – so we may also rightly interpret this combat in a two-fold sense. First, spiritually in the conflict of Christ and Satan, which preceded this vision in terms of chronological order. Secondly, historically of Constantine’s battle with his enemies, which happened afterward. For as Christ was caught up into the throne of God and thrust Satan out of His kingdom, bringing peace and safety unto the Saints by His intercession; so Constantine, advanced on the throne of the Empire, did manfully suppress all enemies of Christianity, bringing in a time of relaxation from persecution for the Church.

Michael = Christ, the man child caught up into heaven. Just as Satan is depicted under the symbol of the Dragon, so Christ is depicted under the name, Michael, meaning ‘Who is like God?’ Who, indeed, but Christ, His only begotten Son? Daniel also introduces Christ under the name of Michael, chaps. 11 & 12: At that time Michael, the great prince shall stand up for the children of his people; i.e., having finished the work of our redemption in the flesh.

Now is come salvation = Christ, having been lifted up unto the throne of His Father, triumphed over all principalities and powers. Then, as a conqueror, he ascended with his body (on which He had both born and by His blood purged the sins of men) into Heaven, and by the efficacy of His eternal intercession represses the accusations of the adversary, making peace for us with the Father. This mystery of our salvation is shadowed out under the type of this battle, which truth plainly appears in verses 10 & 11.

Michael’s Angels = The Apostles.

Satan’s Angels = His heads and horns; i.e., all instruments of the devil, whether high or low, by whom he exercises his violence against Christ and His Church.

And prevaileth not = Great, indeed, and cruel is the Dragon, but Michael is greater and more powerful. Satan is the strong armed man, Matt. 12:29, possessing his house in peace, Luke 11:21, vexing the Church. But Christ, who is stronger than he, comes, takes away his palace, overcomes him and divides his spoils. For by death he destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered them who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage, Heb. 2:14. Now as Christ sits triumphantly at the right hand of God, there was no place found for Satan in Heaven, and was cast to the earth like a champion broken and overcome. We clearly may judge Satan to be conquered when we see him pictured lying groveling on the ground. This thrusting down of Satan was not spiritual, but historical, of which Christ spoke in the Gospel, I beheld Satan as lightening fall from heaven; Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out. For the spreading of the Gospel through the world was Satan’s overthrow and destruction of his kingdom. Thus, when Christ was close to the time of His death, He said, The prince of this world is judged.

The accuser of the brethren = The name ‘Devil,’ translates as ‘slanderer’ or ‘false accuser.’ The Greek word, ‘diabolay,’ from which the Greek word for ‘devil’ is taken, means ‘calumny,’ which is defined as that which wrests into a malicious sense a thing well spoken. This is the proper work of the Devil, who was the first most impious calumniator for two reasons: (1) He slanderously perverted God’s prohibition to our first parents concerning the forbidden fruit by accusing God of falsehood and envy, as though man should not die by eating of the forbidden fruit, but instead become like God. (2) He ceases not to cry out against Christ who died and was raised up for our sakes, denying His satisfaction, scoffing at our redemption, not ceasing to accuse the saints, before the judgment of God, as being guilty of death for their sins.

For the accuser of our brethren is cast down = By this truth the doctrine of the Gospel touching free justification by faith is confirmed. For if our ‘accuser’ is cast out, then certainly even if man accuses us, God the Judge will not condemn, but rather acquit and justify them, who by faith are in Christ Jesus.

        This truth also confirms the doctrine of the full assurance of our faith and salvation. For if Christ hath satisfied God’s judgment for us and silenced our accuser, then verily henceforth we may fully persuade ourselves of the clemency and philanthropy of God the Judge, who wills not the death of a sinner, but that he be converted and live: For who shall lay any charge to God’s elect? It is God that justifies, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us, Romans 8:33.

        The accuser is cast down, not trodden under foot. It is true he can do nothing against us before God’s judgment seat, nevertheless he ceases not to prosecute the suit against us among worldly men, whom he stirs up exceedingly to wrath and rage. Therefore, we must not give ourselves to carnal security, but watch and pray, having always our loins girt that we enter not into temptation.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb = The ‘they’ referred to here is our brethren who overcame the accuser by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, also called Michael, who are one and the same person. Also, the war with the Dragon and the victory over him was chiefly in the blood of Christ, His death, resurrection and exaltation. Because the Lamb overcame the Dragon, the godly have also overcome him because they have washed and made their garments white in the blood of the Lamb; that is, they are justified and sanctified in the blood of Christ, so that the merit and victory of the Lamb’s blood is ours; He overcoming, we overcome; He dying for us. We are all dead with Him. To this purpose did the Apostle say, But thanks be to God, who gave us the victory through Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. 15:57. Likewise John says in his Epistle, This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith, 1 John 5:4.

Inhabitants of the earth = Always in this book ‘the inhabitants of the earth’ are taken in an evil sense for the enemies of the Church, Antichrist’s associates, worldly men and idolaters.

For the devil is come down unto you full of great wrath = It is true that Satan did never cease from raging in the world, after he was once thrust out of Heaven. But this threat is of a prophetic nature, for it appears that the darkness and calamities of Antichrist came into the world about the year of our Lord 606. It foretells, therefore, Satan’s fury, by which he should introduce Antichrist’s spiritual and secular power into the Christian world, establishing his kingdom to the destruction of infinite souls.

Because he knoweth he hath but a short time = The cause of his great fury is the shortness of time allotted in which he may rage, granting him immunity from the eternal torments of Hell, to which he knows himself to be ordained. Undoubtedly he knows his time is short by the signs of the times and by conjectures which are secret to us, seeing he is a spirit of quick and deep apprehension.

        But one may ask, “How is it his time is short if he has been raging for one thousand years thus far”? Ribera restrains this ‘short’ time period to the last four years of his supposed Antichrist. But if this conjecture were true, not only the devil, but men of the weakest capacity might know the Day of Judgment beforehand. But this conjecture of Ribera’s is manifestly false, for the Beast was not yet ascended out of the sea and earth. When the Dragon was cast down he had not as yet seduced the world by means of the Beast and False Prophet. So, the time of Antichristian persecution which was to continue more that one thousand years is said to be short for the consolation of the godly, that they might know that the Dragon’s rage should have an end. It may be considered ‘short’ also because it is spoken respecting the time which would pass before Antichrist was to be revealed. This figure of speech is seen in the New Testament where it is called the ‘last hour,’[5] though we now know it to be a very long time period.

And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle that she might fly into the wilderness = The ‘wilderness’ is opposed to ‘Heaven.’ The Church fled from Heaven into the wilderness, not by change of literal location, but by loss of her graces, changing her ancient sincerity of doctrine, faith, piety, humility and Christ’s government, into luxuriousness, ambition, superstition and pagan worship. Instead of a pure virgin’s attire, she put on whorish habit, altering her image, insomuch that she was not the same woman, though she retained the name, ‘the Bride of Christ.’ Thus, she fled into the wilderness, that is, she vanished out of man’s sight, so that what she had formerly been no longer appeared, just as things which disappear into the wilderness are hidden from men’s sight. It is true that in all ages there still remained many godly people, but these were taken of no account and suppressed. There were very few (if any) congregations who worshipped the Lord in the purity of His ordinances, for superstition, idolatry and tyranny altogether prevailed.

        But one might argue, “Such a flight does not correlate with the factual history of the Church. For after Constantine’s time, for the space of 300 years, until Gregory the Great, the Woman remained in Heaven; that is, the Church flourished both in the East and the West. Yea, the Church has always remained, for even today the Church of Rome is more magnificent than ever.”

Pareus distinguishes the true Church from the false

        I answer: We are to distinguish the true Church from the false. The true, sincere and chaste woman was forced to flee into the wilderness because of the Dragon’s assaults. She vanished out of sight, having lost her former clothing and ornament. And just as that chaste Mother, the Church, disappeared in the eyes of the world, a new Church succeeded her; a gaudy and whorish woman. So then the flight of the Woman signifies the departure of the true Church out of the world. The sum is this: The true Church fled into the wilderness, not by changing her position before God, but by losing her former estate. Not by literally going forth from Rome, but by losing her ornaments.[6]

        The ‘wilderness,’ therefore, is not to be imagined as any remote place to which the true Church was limited (as the Donatists dreamt concerning their Africa), but rather is that apostate condition brought in by Antichrist, in which indeed there was a true Church, but one not apparent to the view of men. This was true even during Israel’s apostasy, for there was a Church of 7,000, though unknown to Elijah and others. This ‘wilderness’ I say, is the spiritual confusion of the Papacy, just as the Prophet Isaiah calls the spiritual desolation of the Jewish kingdom ‘a wilderness.’[7] In this ‘wilderness’ or spiritual confusion of the Romish Church, John sees a Woman riding on a scarlet colored Beast, Rev. 17. We are to consider that Christ’s spouse nevertheless was not extinguished, and nowhere to be found, but was secretly kept and nourished by God, even as in the time of Elijah, the Lord reserving unto Himself 7,000 worshippers of His name, though they were not apparent and visible to all.

Rev. 12 refutes the Papists’ argument that the true Church must be visible and known, making them the true Church

        The Papists, therefore, ask us, “Where was the Church these past thousand years, if they are not the true Church?” It is here, in Rev. 12, where they may receive their answer. For it was into the wilderness where she was forced to flee not long after Constantine’s time. In fact, Hilary complained that in his time “the Church was hid in caves and dens of the earth, and not found in the chief seats.” [8]

Time, times and half a time = This is the length of time the Woman shall remain banished in the wilderness. This three-fold distinction of time is taken out of Daniel 7:25 and 12:7, where Antiochus, a type of Antichrist, should tread the Saints underfoot for a time, times and half a time. The interpretation is given us in verse 6, when it is said she is fed there 1260 days. We have already spoken on the time period of 1260 days earlier in our exegesis of Rev. 11:3. For there it signifies the time of the prophesying of the two witnesses. Here is signifies the time of the Woman’s exile in the wilderness. The same time period, 42 months of 30 days each, is taken for the time in which the holy city is trodden down, Rev. 11:2; and in Rev. 13:5, during which time the Beast shall rage against the Saints. From this I gather:

*   The Church’s abode in the wilderness

*   The treading down of the holy city

*   The prophesying of the two witnesses

*   The Beast’s persecution of the Saints

shall occur at one and the same time, and go together as parallel events. By understanding this principle of interpretation, one will be able to see more clearly that which may be obscure in other places.

The Papists view this time period to mean 3 ˝ literal years

        The Papists understand by ‘time’ one year; by ‘two times’ two years; and by ‘half a time’ one half year. Thus, they make the ‘1260 days,’ the ‘forty two months,’ the ‘times, time, and half a time,’ to be 3 ˝ literal years, imagining it to be the time of Antichrist’s reign at the end of the world, when the Church of Rome is thrust out of her seat in Rome to flee into the wilderness. This is a manifest error as I have before proved.

        I, on the other hand, must agree with Bibliander that ‘time, times and half a time’ does not make 3˝ years. Rather it is an indefinite time period, as the Hebrew idiom suggests, one hidden from man and known only to God. However, I do not necessarily disagree with those of our brethren who believe the ‘time, times and half a time’ to be of 1260 years duration, converting 3˝ years into 1260 days, and then, according to the Year-Day Principle, converting the days to years.

        One must remember that the Woman’s flight into the wilderness did not occur on one specific day, month or year. Rather, it was gradual and by degrees, as the apostolic faith wore out and the heathenish corruptions were brought in, from the time of Constantine until Phocas, a period of 300 years.

And the serpent cast out water as a flood after the woman = I agree with those of our commentators who view the ‘waters’ as foul heresies, schisms, blasphemies, and monstrous doctrines, by which the Dragon attempted to drown the Woman while she fled.

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed = The Dragon, being angry that he could not drown the Woman by the flood of heresies, stirs up a new war against the rest of her seed by means of the Beast, which account follows in chapter 13. There it is said, verse 7, that it was given unto the Beast to make war with the saints. They who are called ‘Saints’ there are called the remnant of her seed here. Now these Christians are those faithful who, seeing all public congregations of the Papacy corrupted, withdrew themselves, privately worshipping the Lord at home, amongst their own families, some of whom openly opposed the Beast from his first rising. This opposition continues even to this day.

        What manner of war the Beast waged, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs plentifully declares, as do the Spanish and Papal Inquisitions, which have drawn many thousands of Saints unto the gallows, fire and other exquisite torments.



[1] For reasons unknown, Pareus prefers to use the expression of a  ‘4 year reign’ of Antichrist and not a 3 ˝ year reign, which is the more accurate.

[2] He shall never come because Ribera’s Antichrist is not the Pope. Thus, he looks in vain for another.

[3] John 16:20.

[4] This is the typical Futurist interpretation today.

[5] 1 John 2:18. The KJV translates the phrase as ‘the last time’ though the Greek reads ‘the last hour.’

[6] Here Pareus argues against Ribera’s hypothesis that Rome is the true Church, which will, upon the rise of Antichrist, leave its seat and flee into the wilderness. According to Ribera, this will occur at the last four years of the world.

[7] Isaiah 40:3.

[8] Hilary Contra Auxen.