IV. THE SEVEN SIGNS
12, 1 -- 15, 4
We now enter upon the execution of the decrees of the "little
open scroll." These decrees extend to all human history from the birth of Christ to the general judgment, and they present
a recapitulation of 6-11 with the exception that all is now viewed from the side of the Church. John insists
upon the lot of Rome, because his readers were more interested in that, but his vision looks beyond Rome. 12
is the preface of these final visions.
12, 1-6: The Woman and the Dragon.
Cf. note to the text. The woman in pain is the bride of Christ, i.e., the Church. This is not merely the Christian
Church, which did not give birth to Christ, but rather the Jewish Church which, through Mary, gave Him birth, and which, since
Pentecost, has become the Christian Church. Clothed with the sun, etc.: images of unchangeable radiance.
Twelve stars: the illustrious members of the Church, the twelve tribes or the twelve Apostles.
A great red dragon: some terrible and hostile power which, in 9, is identified with Satan. It is a spiritual
power because it is placed in the category of the angels. Seven diadems: the royalty he arrogates to himself
(Matt. 4, 8 f); ten horns: the variety of his powers. Red: the color of fire, destruction.
4. He shuns the light, and hence he tears a third part of the stars out of heaven.
5. A male child: i.e., Christ. His title to rule is taken from Ps. 2, 7-9.
Caught up to God: Christ's ascension. Though the person of Christ is in John's mind, the evil one's hatred
extends also to His Church. A thousand two hundred and sixty days: i.e., the forty-two months of 11,
12, 7-9: Michael Overcomes the Dragon. The battle in heaven
is due to the dragon's effort to reach the Child. He is driven out by the angels. The adherents of the Mystical
School hold that the symbols in this vision are taken from oriental legend. But the serpent in Genesis, many female
personifications in the Prophets, and various metaphors in the Psalms, Prophets and the Apocrypha, are sufficient to provide
the elements involved.
12, 10-12: The Song of Triumph. The
song celebrates Christ's victory over Satan, but it allows for the continuation of the struggle between Satan and the Church.
13-18: The Dragon and the Woman. The woman: i.e., the Church. Two wings: the
power God gives His Church to escape the threat of the evil one. Time and times, etc.: an indefinite period
agreeing with 6. Disappointed at not being able to trap the woman, the dragon turns his attack upon her offspring,
that is, the faithful who keep the commandments of God.
The Woman and
the Dragon 1* And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon was under
her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 And being with child, she cried out in her travail and was in
the anguish of delivery. 3 And another sign was seen in heaven, and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and
ten horns, and upon his heads seven diadems. 4 And his tail was dragging along the third part of the stars of heaven,
and it dashed them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bring forth, that when she had brought
forth he might devour her son. 5 And she brought forth a male child, who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron;
and her child was caught up to God and to his throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place
prepared by God, that there they may nourish her a thousand two hundred and sixty days.
Michael Overcomes the Dragon
7 And there was a battle in heaven; Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels.
8 And they did not prevail, neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And that great dragon was cast down,
the ancient serpent, he who is called the devil and Satan, who leads astray the whole world; and he was cast down to the earth
and with him his angels were cast down.
The Song of Triumph 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven
come the salvation, and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ;
For the accuser of our brethren has been cast
down, he who accused them before our God day and night.
11* And they overcame him through the blood of the Lamb and through the word of their witness,
did not love their lives even in face of death.
12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell therein.
Woe to the earth and to the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you in great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time."
The Dragon and the Woman 13 And when the dragon saw that he
was cast down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had brought forth the male child. 14 And there were given
to the woman the two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness unto her place, where she is nourished
for a time and times and a half time, away from the serpent. 15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman
water like a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. 16 And the earth helped the woman, and
the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the river that the dragon had cast out of his mouth. 17 And the dragon was
angered at the woman, and went away to wage war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God, and hold
fast the testimony of Jesus. 18 And he stood upon the sand of the sea.
A woman: this woman is not the Blessed Virgin, for the details of the prophecy do not fit her. The prophecy
pictures the Church of the Old and New Covenants. The beams of the divine glory clothe her; and the moon is beneath
her feet; she is crowned with a crown of twelve stars, and she must bring forth Christ to the world. By accommodation
the Church applies this verse to the Blessed Virgin.
11: In face of death: a noteworthy expression, meaning they esteemed life as nothing
in comparison with loyalty to their faith, even unto martyrdom.