THE DRAGON AND BEAST MAKE WAR ON THE CHURCH
The Period of Great Tribulation
"And there appeared another wonder . . . a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns . . . And the dragon stood before the woman . . . to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child that was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to his throne, . . . and . . . the dragon . . . persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child," Revelation 12:3-13.
It is necessary that we investigate carefully this strange symbol, introduced in connection with the history of the church, for it is this power that began the long period of religious persecutions, during which thousands of true followers of Jesus gave their lives for the true faith.
In verse 6 we read, "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there, a thousand two hundred and three score days." In verse 14 we read, "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."
It is evident that these two verses given above, set forth the same period of prophetic time, covering the sojourn of the church in the wilderness while persecuted by the beast. The phrase, "Time, times, and half a time," in verse 14, must therefore be 1260 days, as stated in verse 6. Furthermore, "time" is the ancient word for year. "Times" always meant two years, and "half a time," one-half a year. There were also 360 days as the common year; therefore we have one year, 360 days; two years, 720 days; and one-half a year, or 180 days, a total of 1260.
The Lord tells us the prophecies are of no private interpretation, therefore we must obtain divine information as to the meaning of all mysterious symbols found in prophetic vision. Daniel beheld four beasts coming up out of the sea, diverse one from another, and each playing an important part in the affairs of this world. The angel came to him and made known their meaning in the following words: "These beasts which are four, are four kings that shall arise in the earth . . . and the fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, Daniel 7:17, 23. Hence, we do not place private interpretation upon these sacred matters when we identify the beast, the persecutor of the church, with the Roman empire.
These four beasts, the angel said, were four kings that would arise in the earth, and the fourth one was the fourth kingdom. As the vision begins with Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon Daniel, chapters two and seven, the first beast would represent this king and his kingdom; the second beast, the kingdom that overthrew the Babylon empire, viz., the Medes and Persians, the bear; the third, like unto a leopard, symbolizes the third kingdom to rule the world, which all history tells us was the Grecian empire, under Alexander the Great. The fourth beast, with ten horns, symbolizing the fourth kingdom, represents the Roman Empire, for it was the fourth in order down from King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Hence, we have located the persecutor of the church, and find that both the Old and the New Testaments tell the same story. In this chapter Daniel 7:25, it says this beast makes war with the saints, and prevails against them for "a time, times, and the dividing of (a) time." This is the same expression used relative to the beast standing before the woman, in Revelation, twelfth chapter, where it is said to mean twelve hundred and sixty days. Compare verses 6 and 14 of this chapter.
In Daniel, seventh chapter, the ten horns upon this beast are said to be ten kings, verse 24, and another, arising among them, plucks up three of the ten horns, and makes war with the "saints of the most High." This beast was the fourth in order. The Roman Empire was also the fourth kingdom, consequently this beast corresponds with the Roman Kingdom. The beast had ten horns, and the angel said the horns were ten kings. History says the Roman Empire was divided; and there are ten kings named in the divisions. How wonderful as history responds to the call of prophecy. A little horn came up among the ten and plucked up three by the roots, and made war with the saints of God. History tells of the Papacy, the Roman Catholic church with its papal government, coming up during the reign of the ten kings of Rome, and plucking up three of the kingdoms, and also of this power persecuting the church, driving the true followers of Jesus into the wilderness. They took refuge, as this work will further prove, in the mountains and forests and caves of the earth.
In Ezekiel 4:5, 6, we are told to take a day for a year in calculating prophetical time periods, and this figures out with wonderful precision and accuracy as history meets prophecy This fourth beast, while carrying the little horn and persecuting the church, continued exactly 1260 years. Three of the ten kings of the Roman kingdom were plucked up by this papal horn, viz. Burgundians, Vandals, and Ostrogoths. The last one of these three horns, or Roman kings, was plucked up in the year 538 A.D., when the period of 1260 years evidently began. It was also this year that Justinian wrote the famous letter to the pope of Rome offering to unite church and state, which was accepted. Consequently, it was this year (538 A.D.) that the harlot woman of Revelation, seventeenth chapter, mounted the beast, and it was this year that the true Church of God fled into the wilderness. The same prophetic period covering her sojourn there, also covers the period of the beast's power and rule. Hence, as she went into the wilderness in 538 A.D., and was to remain there 1260 years, we would add this to 538, and it brings us down to 1798. This was the very year that Napoleon sent General Berthier in conquest of Rome, and the city was captured, the pope taken prisoner and banished in exile, where he died three years later. The Protestant banners were unfurled in the streets of Rome, and union of church and state dissolved throughout Europe. While these events brought us to the end of the prophetic period, and we see history wonderfully responding to the call of prophecy, it is also worthy of note that at this particular time the Constitution of the United States had just been written, granting the persecuted followers of Jesus a refuge, giving them that freedom and liberty of conscience, which they of right possess according to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As the true church fled into the wilderness in the year 538 A.D., and the Lord declares that he fed her there for 1260 days, or years, it is definite proof that the church lived, functioned, and remained down to the time of 1798. It would not be possible for the owner of a herd of cattle to take them to a pasture, and feed them there for six months, during the summer season, unless they lived, and existed for that period of time: neither would it be possible for the Lord to carry the church away into the wilderness, and feed her there for 1260 years unless she lived, and existed for that period of time. The history of the church, therefore, is definitely traced from the days of Jesus, through the sacred writings, down to this eventful year 1798, and even farther, for it is said of the church at the end of her wilderness experience, that "The earth helped the woman, Revelation 12:16. As previously stated, a new nation had been born, and was the only place of refuge for the persecuted followers of Jesus. In the Constitution of that nation, religious liberty was granted, and to the United States of America refugees fled from Europe, and worshiped God according to the dictates of their own conscience. These principles of religious liberty soon spread throughout the world, for indeed the earth had helped the woman. History has again met prophecy: the church is out of the wilderness and enjoying religious liberty, while by her the true gospel light is again being carried to every nation, kindred, tribe, and people.
Continue with Chapter 4.
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