a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon
under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Revelation 12:1
come to a section of the Revelation that is quite familiar among the Church of
God Reformation Movement. It seems that chapters 12 through 13 have been the
most familiar parts of the Book of Revelation taught among the various groups
descended from the original Movement of the late 1800s.
Byers in his book Birth of a Reformation;
Life and Labors of D. S. Warner addresses the beginning of this
understanding in chapter 13, A Prophetic Time. He does not give an exhaustive
exposition of this part of the Revelation but rather gives us a glimpse of how
the understanding developed in the mind of Warner. He traces the terrible beast
of Daniel chapter 7 to the red dragon of Revelation 13 as symbolizing the Roman
Empire. The ten horns and the little horn from this beast were said to be the
various elements of Roman Catholicism that developed into Papalism.
Dates are given that are suggested by the time symbols in these chapters that
conveniently lead up to 1880, which was believed to be the opening of the sixth
seal and the restoration of the biblical church. The teaching was developed and
was promulgated through The Gospel Trumpet
G. Smith established and developed this view of the Revelation as the official
teaching of the Movement in his book The
Revelation Explained. Other teachers came to prominence over time and in
various groups of the Movement that enlarged upon the teaching with what they
termed to be “new light,” but whatever new light they had, the teaching on
these chapters remained virtually unchanged. While the Movement was basking in
the light of these chapters, Uriah Smith, the Adventist writer, had already
written almost verbatim by 1875 essentially the same things the Movement was
teaching. The significant difference between Uriah Smith and F. G. Smith is that
Uriah saw the Lamb on Mt. Zion of chapter 14 as the restored biblical church in
general whereas the Movement saw itself as the restored biblical church.
entering into the study of these chapters we will come to many of the same
conclusions already acknowledged by the Movement but our study will not be just
a rehashing of what has been taught to the degree of boredom. We will apply what
we have learned in our study of the Letters to the Churches of Asia, the seven
seals, and the seven trumpets so that we stay consistent with what we have
already learned. In doing this, some things held sacred by the Movement will be
violated, but violated for the sake of accuracy and consistency and not for the
sake of novelty.
have we learned from the Book of Revelation up to this point? In chapter 1 we
learned that the Revelation concerns the work of Jesus Christ through His church
from its inception to the end of time. We learned some things about the nature
and person of the Glorified Christ. And from what Jesus told John in verse 19,
the correct interpretation of the Revelation is effectively the church-historic
interpretation. Jesus said to John, “Write the things which you have seen, and
the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” To be
honest, there are several different church-historic interpretations, some of
which attempt to justify the existence of certain church or religious movements.
My opinion is that the correct methodology is to follow actual verified church
history without the prejudice of any church, denomination, association, or
group. Let the chips fall where they may.
studied the Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in chapters 2 and 3. Some
interpretations hold that these churches represent seven church ages from
Pentecost to the end of time. To some degree, the conditions depicted in each
church appear replicated in like sequences of the seals and trumpets. But we
learned that the Letters to the Churches depicted spiritual conditions that can
affect any church, denomination, movement or individual congregation at any time
in history. I suggested that applying the conditions only to past ages is
dangerous because it could cause people not to understand a condition working in
their own church in the present.
seven seals depict the general history of the Christian church through
identifiable periods of history. The seven trumpets look back on the history of
the church to answer the WHY behind the success or the failure of the church in
those periods of history. This brings us now to chapters 12 through 14.
call this section of the Revelation Systems of Religion; I call it that for lack
of a better title. Prominent in these chapters are certain symbols from the
animal kingdom: the dragon, the beast of the sea, the lamb-like creature, and
the Lamb on Mount Zion. I thought of calling this section The Four Beasts but
that denotes a negative nature to the symbols, which is especially inappropriate
to the Lamb on Mount Zion of chapter 14. Also, in chapter 12 is a woman symbol
that is obviously a religious system and is not a beast.
to this point in the Revelation, the series we studied each had seven parts. It
has always seemed odd to me that with the different series of seven we are
suddenly confronted with a series of four. At first glance this appears to be
inconsistent. Why, if church history is divided into seven eras do we now have
four eras that cover the same history? Jesus cannot be inconsistent so there
must be some way to conform the Systems of Religion series to the seven eras of
church history we have already seen.
continuing series of seven is in fact seen in the Systems of Religion. The very
first thing we encounter in chapter 12 is “a woman clothed with the sun, with
the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.” Most of
the Revelation charts used among the Movement have the fiery red dragon
prominently displayed on them as if it were the main character in this period of
church history. The main character is actually the woman. The dragon is the
villain. It is not so obvious at first glance but the woman appears in two
conditions during the duration of this part of the vision. In verse 1 she is
clothed with the sun, and so forth. If you will think back to chapter 11 the
first verse concerning the measuring of the temple is equivalent to verse 1 of
chapter 12, the woman clothed with the sun. What is seen here is the early
church in its pristine glory from the Day of Pentecost.
verse 14 of chapter 12 the woman is given two wings of a great eagle to fly into
the wilderness. This corresponds to the holy city being trodden underfoot as
stated in chapter 11, verse 2. This accounts for 2 of the seven church ages.
chapter 13 we see a beast rising up out of the sea. This corresponds to the
witnesses prophesying in sackcloth in chapter 11. We learned this was
Catholicism in both its Roman and Greek forms. This is the third church age.
veerse 11 of chapter 13 we encounter a beast coming up out of the earth having
two horns like a lamb but speaks like a dragon. This corresponds to the killing
of the two witnesses during the Protestant Reformation. We see that this
creature has two horns, which symbolizes the two phases of the Reformation. The
first horn was centered in mid-Europe with Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. The
second horn was centered in England with John Wesley. This account for two more
church eras bring us up to 5.
chapter 14 we see the Lamb on Mount Zion. This corresponds to the introduction
of the Primitive Church Movement or we might call it the restoration of the
concept of the Early Church. One might say, “There are no more creatures after
the Lamb. That accounts for only 6 and we have seen 7 eras in our other
series.” In verse 15 we see the reaping of a harvest. In verse 18 we see the
gathering of clusters of grapes. These two separate gatherings account for the
remaining 2 eras to complete the seven eras we have previously seen.
brief overview of the Religious Systems
we see a woman, which is the church built by Jesus Christ. We see her opposed by
the red dragon which is a system of religion with no Jesus. We then see the
beast of the sea where Jesus is replaced by a man as the head of the church.
Next we see a lamb-like beast that divides Jesus. And then we see the Lamb on
Mount Zion, which is the restoration of Jesus to the practical headship of His
theme of these chapters is the devil’s attempt to destroy or impede the gospel
but against all his attempts, the gospel always prevails. With that in mind, we
who live in this time can look back through history and see that Jesus has
always prevailed in every battle even though on the surface it looks as if His
church has failed. We are given the privilege to have a clearer vision than any
people before our time. Remember, the seventh trumpet says of our time: “Then
the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in
His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and
great hail.” (11:19)
us go out into our world and our age and let God work through us to bring His
church together to meet Christ at His second coming.
Byers, Andrew, Birth of a Reformation, Life and Labors of D. S. Warner,
Gospel Trumpet Company: Anderson, IN,
1921, ppg 229–230.