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In Rev. 12:14 we read that “two wings of a great eagle were given to the woman” so that she could fly into the wilderness for her protection. This is a rather obvious reference to the time when Israel was brought into the wilderness under Moses, for we read in Exodus 19:4,
4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.
The next verses then give us the purpose of God’s act,
5 Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…
If the eagles’ wings were given to Israel in order to bring them to Mount Sinai where they were to be married to God under the Old Covenant, then the purpose is similar with the New Covenant woman in the wilderness. The main difference is that the second woman is brought to Mount Sion (Heb. 12:22, KJV) to be married to God under the New Covenant. In this sense, the wings signified protection and provision, picturing God escorting her to the wedding.
Scripture uses wings as a symbol of covering, which includes protection, as in Matt. 23:37, and healing (Mal. 4:2). But in Deut. 32:10-13 the Song of Moses reads in part,
10 He found him [Israel] in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of his eye. 11 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them. He carried them on His pinions. 12 The Lord alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him. 13 He made him ride on the high places of the earth…
Men had observed from ancient times how an eagle would stir up its nest in order to push its young out, forcing them to learn to fly. They observed how the mother eagle would then spread its wings and catch them as the eaglet fell. The eagle would then carry its young back to the nest, where this training exercise could begin again. All of this was necessary in teaching the eaglets to fly.
So also did God bring Israel out of Egypt in order to teach them to fly. Egypt is thus pictured as Israel’s “nest,” the place where the nation was born. God, as the “great eagle,” did not merely convey them on His wings to Sinai, but pushed them out of the nest by means of the ten plagues, which caused Pharaoh to expel them from the land (Exodus 12:33).
The eagle metaphor, then, is not only about protection, but also about teaching and training. The same can be said of the woman in the wilderness. The church was born in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, but soon God stirred up the nest and she was pushed out of the old land by persecution (Acts 8:1). Jerusalem fulfilled the role of Egypt in this case, because (as Paul tells us in Gal. 4:25) Jerusalem is Hagar, the Egyptian.
The eagle trains her young to fly, and in their struggle to learn to coordinate their wings, they also gain strength to fly. So Isaiah 40:29-31 says,
29 He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. 30 Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, 31 yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.
Here the weary are pictured as young eaglets who lack strength in their wings. If they “wait for the Lord,” they are caught by God (the mother eagle) and “mount up” before they fall to the ground. In this way they gain strength and learn to fly.
So when John pictures the woman in the wilderness being given two wings of a great eagle in order to fly in the wilderness, we understand this to picture the training of the church, or at least those who are overcomers. Even as there are young eagles who do not survive the training, so also are there Christians who never learn to fly. To fly is to overcome, and Jesus makes it clear in His message to the seven churches that not all believers are overcomers.
The strength and coordination of an overcomer’s “wings” is perhaps measured by faith and love. No eaglet wants to be pushed out of the nest and put into a position of danger, but yet this is the only way to teach it how to trust its mother for protection and help. As believers experience such situations, they learn faith which includes trust. It is as if the mother eagle says, “Trust me, I know what I am doing.” True faith is the ability to rest in the midst of trouble, overcoming fear and all of its negative reactions to such alarming situations.
Therefore, during the woman’s time in the wilderness, God intended to train the church and not merely protect her and feed her. There are levels of faith to attain, for the apostles asked Jesus in Luke 17:5, “increase our faith.” Paul says in Rom. 1:17 that the gospel reveals how we are to grow “from faith to faith.” Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), so the more we hear and obey (respond), the more our faith is increased, and the greater is our level of spiritual strength and maturity.
Likewise, one’s ability to love is the second great measure of maturity, as I explain in chapter 3 of my book, How to be an Overcomer. There are three basic levels of love, each having its own Greek word to describe it. As we grow in strength, the underlying purpose of such training is to pass on the character of God to His children. The ultimate purpose of persecution is to teach us how to love our enemies, even as God loved us while were yet His enemies (Rom. 5:10). It is this kind of love that distinguishes overcomers from believers and also from all other religions who lay claim to teachings about love.
The woman’s time in the wilderness is specifically given as “a time and times and half a time,” which, as we have already shown, is a period of 1,260 years. In this case the time begins with the rise of the little horn from 529-534 A.D. and comes to a climax at the French Revolution from 1789-1794.
The French Revolution was planned by a group of disaffected Jesuits who were angry with the Roman Church—and Pope Clement XIV in particular—for disbanding the Jesuit Order in 1773. The 23,000 disbanded Jesuits had to find other organizations to join, but one in particular, Adam Weishaupt, who had been a professor of canon law in Ingolstadt University, founded a secret society on May 1, 1776 which he called The Illuminati.
The Illuminati recognized that they were parasites in need of a host organization to infiltrate and take over in order to gain unsuspecting followers to support them. They chose to infiltrate the Freemasons, which was accomplished by 1782. From this vantage point they planned and carried out the French Revolution, by which they wreaked havoc upon the Roman church, killed about 30,000 of its priests, and established the first secular republic. Because France had been known as the “firstborn son of the church,” this was a severe blow to the Roman church.
The Illuminati ex-Jesuits were allied to certain Jewish bankers who financed them. These Jews were only too happy to weaken the Roman church, for they considered Rome to be their most powerful arch-enemy. Out of the French Revolution came Napoleon, the “neo-Apollyon,” as he called himself, who marched on Rome and took the pope captive in 1798.
This became the “fatal wound” inflicted upon the beast from the sea in Rev. 13:3, and once this wound was healed in 1804, the alliance between the Illuminati (ex-Jesuits) and the Jewish bankers and financiers was expanded to include the Roman church in general. All of these developments in Revelation 13 find their roots a few verses earlier in Rev. 12:15, 16,
15 And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. 16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.
The water and earth in these verses are “inspired” by the two beasts in Revelation 13, the first one rising from the sea (or water), and the other rising from the earth.
In the broader context, these two beasts are part of the “little horn” in Daniel 7, though Daniel saw nothing of this second beast.
The water (flood) pouring forth from the mouth of the dragon was meant to sweep the woman away—that is, to destroy the true Church that brings forth Christ and His body of overcomers. This describes all the persecution in general, but specifically the Inquisitions and the Counter-reformation movement in which Rome attempted to stamp out all opposing views that challenged its own. But when the new beast arose from the (secular) earth through the Illuminati Jesuits and their Jewish allies, they actually helped the woman as well. With Rome’s power greatly diminished, the Protestant churches gained strength.
The flood of water is pictured as coming out of the serpent’s mouth. First, this identifies the Roman pope with the serpent or dragon which had attempted to devour the body of Christ. Secondly, because the flood came out of his mouth, we understand that this “flood” took the form of papal decrees to exterminate all opposition.
Those decrees, however, were largely ineffectual as the result of the earth’s help. The Jewish-Freemasonic alliance, led by angry ex-Jesuits, worked to create secular republics, which negated the papal decrees and diverted much of Rome’s wrath from the Protestants to the new threat. This is pictured as the earth opening its mouth to drink the river of papal wrath.
The chapter then ends with Rev. 12:17,
17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
Being thus thwarted in his immediate goal, the dragon is seen retreating in order to plot further “war with the rest of her offspring.” Hence, the war does not end with the French Revolution, nor even with the “fatal wound” of the religious beast. In fact, as we will see shortly, the fatal wound is healed, and the “war with the saints” (Dan. 7:21) enters a new phase in history. Though Daniel did not see the details of this new phase, John certainly did and was able to add to the revelation.
One thing is clear. When the earth helped the woman, the dragon suffered a major defeat. Our study of Revelation 13 will show that the beast from the sea (Roman Church) was forced into an alliance with the beast from the earth (Jewish bankers and Freemasonry). Although the new beast from the earth caused men to continue worshiping the beast from the sea, the earth beast controlled the sea beast’s financial affairs from that point on. Hence, the earth beast was a financial beast that rose to power during the past 200 years.
This is, no doubt, the final phase of the “war with the saints,” as far as John could see. In my view, even as the little horn itself represented an extension of the Roman (iron) beast, so also is this sea-earth alliance an extension of the little horn. I believe it was meant to last about 200 years. The so-called “Holy Alliance” that was signed on Sept. 26, 1815 gave the appearance of a political document, but in reality it was an alliance between politics and religion, as The Catholic Encyclopedia confirms.
The Emperor Francis I of Austria, King Frederick William III of Prussia, and the Tsar Alexander I of Russia, signed a treaty on 26 September, 1815, by which they united in a "Holy Alliance." Although a political act, the treaty in its wording is a statement purely religious in character….
The world had long learned not to expect from statesmen official documents in which so religious a tone prevailed. When the wording of the agreement became known early in 1816, men saw in the alliance the consequence of the closest union of politics and religion….
During the years 1814-15, a number of treaties were concluded between the various countries of Europe. In this series of compacts the Holy Alliance forms merely one link and in a practical sense the most unimportant one; it was also the only treaty which was religious in character. All these treaties have, however, one trait in common. They revive the conception of a centralized Europe, in which the rights of the individual states seem to be limited by the duties which each state has in regard to the whole body of states.
Biblically speaking, this was an alliance between the sea beast (religion) and the earth beast (secular/political). This treaty was the earliest beginning of the European Union. Others had tried and failed to unify Europe by means of war. The Holy Alliance was an attempt to unify Europe by treaty. The problem is that this unity was still based upon the dragon’s strategies, not upon the laws of Christ.
Perhaps the end of this final phase of the little horn will end with the collapse of the EU, whose modern form is actually based on the more recent Treaty of Rome that was signed in 1957.
Revelation 12 ends with the dragon/serpent being enraged that the earth would actually help the woman and protect her from the dragon’s persecution. Hence, the beast from the earth is helpful, even though it is not a “good” beast as such. In fact, as we will see, the earth beast supports the sea beast’s claim to be worthy of worship (13:12).
When Stephen Langdon divided the New Testament into chapters and verses seven centuries ago, he mistakenly put the last sentence of chapter 12 as part of Revelation 13. Cardinal Langdon, a prolific writer of Bible commentaries, was the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Roman church from 1207-1228 A.D. The present structure of chapters and verses in our Bibles we owe to Langdon. It was a helpful idea, but his divisions were not always correct.
The full thought in Rev. 12:17 reads in Panin’s Numeric English New Testament,
17 And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus. And he [i.e., the dragon] stood upon the sand of the sea.
It was not John who stood on the shore, but the dragon. The dragon’s purpose was to conjure up a beast from the sea after being defeated by Michael, the Archangel, and cast down to the earth. The text here gives us the sequence of events, but does not specify timing. When the “male child” was caught up to the throne in heaven (Rev. 12:5), the dragon had no further power to endanger that son’s life, so he found alternate targets among “the rest of her offspring.”
Here we see a specific reference to the fact that true believers are the younger brothers of Jesus Christ. They are the rest of the woman’s children—Jesus’ younger brothers. These are the children of a common spiritual mother, whom Paul pictures allegorically as Sarah, the New Covenant and the New Jerusalem. Gal. 4:26 says, “But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.”
Hence, we are shown that the dragon’s wrath is really directed at Jesus Christ, but because He was beyond reach after His ascension, the dragon then persecuted His spiritual brothers. No doubt when John received this revelation, he remembered Jesus’ words recorded earlier in John 15:20,
20 Remember the word that I said to you, “A slave is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
In view of this persecution on account of the testimony of Christ, John then describes this “war with the saints” (as Dan. 7:21 puts it). Revelation 13 runs parallel to Daniel 7.