The Dragon Spits Out a Flood, Fails, and Gets Angry
Revelation 12:15, 16

Escape from the flood

   "And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood [or river] after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth." (Rev. 12:15, 16)
    Compare ps12404.
    Notice that the dragon is again called a "serpent." From the mouth of the serpent in Eden, Satan brought intriguing, false doctrine to the woman (Eve) and she, with Adam, was swept away from the security and happiness of God's presence.
   So how does that fit our picture here? Near the end of the allotted 1260 years, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, and other reformers were convincing many people that doctrines of the dominant church were not in harmony with the Scriptures. Because the church's power was eroding, it initiated what we know of as the Counter Reformation. As a part of this response, Pope Paul III confirmed the Jesuit order and convened the Council of Trent in 1545 to deal with the challenges from the Protestants. Among the decisions made was confirmation of the idea that Scripture must be interpreted by the church and in its tradition. Of course Catholic leaders also rejected the Protestant teaching that the papacy was described by the little horn of Daniel 7:8, 24, 25  and the beast of Revelation 13.
    The dragon is pictured as a sea animal in ps7413 and ez2903.

New doctrine
   A Jesuit priest, Francisco Ribera (1537-1591) helped take the heat off of his church by devising a new interpretation of the Bible passages. He declared that they were not currently being fulfilled, as the reformers claimed, but that the antichrist would arise to fulfill them during a seven-year period at the end of the millennium. To arrive at this idea, he claimed that the final week of the seventy described in Daniel 9 was cut off from the rest. His teachings also countered the contemporary Protestant belief that the millennium was future and that Jesus would come at its beginning. During the early 1800s, another Jesuit in Chile by the name of Lacunza wrote about the second coming of Christ and included Ribera's ideas.
   John Darby, in England (who founded the Plymouth Brethren in 1830), evidently read a translation of Lacunza's work and began to promote the idea that Christ's second coming would occur in two stages with a pre-tribulation rapture and a later visible coming to rescue the converted Jews. From there the basic idea was picked up by C. I. Scofield who brought it to America and incorporated it into his Bible study helps, first published in 1917.

Were such new ideas part of the flood that threatened to sweep away the woman?
   I believe they were, although the serpent had been busy for centuries before this. Also, new ideas are not necessarily bad ideas if they clarify the teachings of Jesus and the Bible writers. I'm just sharing my perspective for you to test by the light of the Scriptures.

Order of events at the end of the chapter
    9  Dragon is cast out 
   13  He persecutes the woman who gave birth 
   14  Woman given wings and flies to the wilderness for 3½ "times." 
   15  Serpent spits water trying to drown the woman 
   16  Earth helps the woman then swallows the flood of the dragon 
   17  Angry dragon goes to make war with the rest of the woman's seed 

    The order of symbolic events in the box above describes the flow of history, as I see it. The opening of the earth in verse 16 illustrates the opening of a new way of escape from religious oppression. So we may expect that the flood came just before help from the earth. This would have been around the end of the 1260 years.
   I believe that the Counter Reformation and its spin-offs have created the new interpretations of Scripture and that they are again gaining momentum to neutralize the Protestant witness. I see this illustrated in movements to break down walls of religious separation which will eventually include losing the separation of church and state and the freedom to hold personal convictions.
   It is interesting that the 1998 encyclical of Pope John Paul II calls for Christians to "strive to ensure that civil legislation respects their duty to keep Sunday holy." (Article 67). In other words, as in the history of the Catholic church, civil force is to be used to force conformity to the dominant religion.


Help from the earth

   "And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood. . . ." (Rev. 12:16)

   The 1260 years ended in the French Revolution marked by the French Directory's decision to abolish the papacy (seen in their sending Berthier to Rome which resulted in the 1798 captivity of the pope) (See re1305a). Before that, Puritans (who wanted to see the Church of England purified) and others found freedom to worship, in the New World colonies of North America.
   Notice two actions of the earth (which we conclude from re1311 to represent the United States). It helped the woman as the New World accepted religious refugees; and it swallowed the flood as the US led the way by establishing a constitution guaranteeing religious freedom.

   The migration of the Mennonites is an example of the help provided by the earth. This group developed from the Anabaptists (meaning twice baptized) who believed that the practice of infant baptism is wrong, that the ceremony is needed as an expression of faith for those capable of understanding and accepting salvation for themselves. Adult baptism had long since been abandoned by the state church. Now it threatened the control exercised by both the Catholic and Protestant churches, and large numbers of believers were tortured and killed for their faith.
   In 1681 William Penn, an English Quaker, received a large grant of land in the New World from King Charles II. Immediately Penn declared that his new territory would be a place of religious and civil freedom. Anabaptists living along the German Rine heard about this and in 1683, the first group sailed across to settle in what we know today as the State of Pennsylvania. They became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. Of course Quakers and others also came to escape persecution in the New World.

   Explanations as I have suggested involving specific events in history as fulfillment of prophecy need careful consideration. It's easy to make up interpretations for a verse or a few verses, but they must fit a larger consistent picture in the Bible. Also, my remarks about errors in doctrine are not intended as unkindness. Catholics also have true doctrines and many wonderful people. As a person of European descent, I'm writing about my own ancestors. Their mistakes are my heritage.
   We will be able to study more prophecy about this same time in history when we look at the next chapter. One thing we may accept as absolutely certain: God has given us the Scriptures. Those who read and hear and follow the words of Revelation and of the Bible will certainly be blessed. The time is near! (Rev. 1:3)

Rev. 12 home
Rev. home
Commentary home