Saturday, 26 August 2017 18:26

79. A woman, a dragon and a child: the second sign * Revelation 12:3-4 Part 2 of 3

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3 And there appeared another sign in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born.

 

PART 2

 

*** The second sign: a great red dragon ***: The description of second sign follows the same pattern as the first sign (study #78). John sees a symbol; he describes the symbol and the situation in which the symbol is found. The second symbol is a great red dragon. This is not the first time in the Bible where a terrible beast is the symbol of an enemy of God’s people. We find two sea monsters in the Old Testament, Leviathan, and Rahab. These two beasts are a symbol used to refer to the Pharaoh from the time of the ancient Israel (Leviathan: Psalm 74:14; Isaiah 27:1; Rahab: Psalm 89:10; Isaiah 30:7; Isaiah 51:9). There are also other references to monsters used as symbols for Babylon (Jeremiah 51:34), and Pharaoh (Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 32:2). The color red was often used as the color of bloodshed (2 Kings 3:22-23; Nahum 2:3); and of sin (Isaiah 1:18). This color is also associated with the beast (Revelation 17:3); a prostitute dressed in scarlet “having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication”, and “the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (Revelation 17:4,6). Not all mentions to the color red, however, are linked to sin and evil symbols. Numbers 19:2 tells us that God commanded the Israelites to bring a “red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came a yoke”. They were to bring it to the priest, so he could offer it as a sacrifice to God. And so, red was also associated with sacrifice. In Revelation 6:4, we had a red horse, coming from Haven, going to the Earth, representing the opportunity people have to present themselves to God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus (see study #39). The symbol used in Revelation 12:3, however, does not seem to indicate that the color red is being used as a symbol for redemption because it is a reference to the dragon. The meaning seems to fit more with bloodshed, sin, and abomination. Why this conclusion? Because the Bible is very clear about who the dragon is: “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9).

*** What the dragon looks like ***: Besides being the color red, the dragon has a very strange appearance. It has “seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.” We have here more symbols explaining another symbol. So, let's break it down in order to understand this text.

- Seven heads and ten horns: This expression is drawn from the book of Daniel. Daniel received a vision about the kingdoms of the Earth that would follow after the demise of the Roman Empire (Daniel 7:7-8). The Angel explained to Daniel that “the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise” (Daniel 7:24-25). With the fading away of the Roman Empire around the year 476 AD, ten tribes emerged in Europe, taking over what was once a united Roman territory. These tribes were: Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks, Vandals, Alemannians, Suevi, Anglo-Saxons, Heruli, Lombards, and Burgundians. Just as Daniel’s prophecy predicted (Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:24), seven of these still remain to this day but three were destroyed. The remaining tribes evolved into some of the European countries we have in modern times. The Franks became the French, the Alemannians became the Germans, the Anglo-Saxons became the English, the Lombards became the Italians, Suevi became the Portuguese, the Visigoths became the Spanish, and The Burgundians became the Swiss. The three extinct tribes are the Heruli, Vandals, and Ostrogoths. In Revelation 12:3, the dragon has seven heads and ten horns. There are more horns than heads. The ten horns are likely a reference to the ten horns seen originally in Daniel 7:7, before three of them were destroyed. The seven remaining heads seem to be a reference to the seven remaining European powers. Revelation is linking those European tribes to the red dragon, indicating that satanic activities were taking place in that area. It is important to distinguish the satanic activities from the citizens of those countries. In no way is the Bible calling the citizens of a particular country evil. The book of Revelation deals with systems, ruling powers which exist in an organized fashion. Revelation is not a book about anyone specific human being.

- Seven crowns upon his head: The word used for crown here is the word diadems, diadēmata in Greek. This crown is very different than the crown of victory (stephanos) the pregnant woman had in Revelation 12:1. The diadem is a royal crown, like the many crowns on Jesus’ head in Revelation 19:12-16. Satan, the dragon, is portraying himself as the one worthy to wear the royal crown. Satan's objective, from the beginning, was to “ascend above the heights of the clouds” and to “be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14). The dragon positioned himself behind the powers of Earth, as an authority figure with the objective of oppressing God’s people throughout history.

*** The situation ***: Revelation 12:4 describes the situation the dragon is found. Later in this chapter, the text will expand more on the first portion of the verse, where it says: “And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth”. The events described in the first half of Revelation 12:4 led to the scene described in the second half: “and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born.

- And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven: Going back to the study of the trumpets (#57, #58, and #59), we saw how the army of locusts had poisonous tails that attack people on a spiritual level. The Bible says: “the prophet that teaches lies, he is the tail”, and he will be cut off from among the people of God (Isaiah 9:14,15). The dragon’s lies deceived one-third of the stars of Heaven. Stars is used in Revelation as a symbol for messengers (Revelation 1:20), in this case, heavenly messengers: angels. In the study of the trumpets, we saw the satanic army ready to attack and torture those who do not have the seal of God (Revelation 9:4, study #58). The locust attack described in Revelation 9 is inflicted on those who reject the pure Gospel (Christian Era). In Revelation 12, that army is ready to attack the son of the woman, as soon as he is born. The events described in the first verses of Revelation 12 happen before the locust attack on the wicked, before and during the first coming of the Messiah. The fall of Lucifer and his angels from Heaven led to his first attack on humans, at the Garden of Eden. Lucifer, who became Satan, deceived Eve and convinced her to eat the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3). The judgments contained in the first 4 trumpets are always aimed at just one-third of the Earth (Revelation 8:7-13), never over all the planet. When the ancient Israel turned to paganism and disobedience, God used His prophets to deliver a message about God’s judgments that would fall over them. Those judgments were to affect one-third of the nation (Ezekiel 5:11-12; Zechariah 13:8-9). The expression one-third is used to refer to a group of beings that oppose God’s Truth and side with Satan's false teachings. In other words, the first half of Revelation 12:4 says that Satan’s lies deceived a considerable portion of the heavenly angels, but not the entire angelic population. Satan and the angels who sided with him were cast down to Earth (Revelation 12:9). They no longer wished to follow Heaven’s way of life.

- The dragon was ready to devour the child: After Adam and Eve sinned, God gave them the first promise of a Savior, who would smash the head of the serpent, forever solving the sin problem that had entered the earth. Since then, Satan had been awaiting the coming of the Messiah. He was unhappy with his situation. He no longer held his position in Heaven and he had embarked on a mission to deceive God’s precious creation, who had been fashioned after God’s own image: humans. Since Eden, he had lived with the knowledge that God would send someone who would be able to inflict a deadly injury to his existence. The head of sin would be permanently crushed by the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15, see study #78 for details on this promise). Satan’s ideals to be like God consumed him in such a way that led him to stand before the woman, God's church, ready to attack her. Israel was about to give birth to the Messiah (see study #78 for details). The second portion of the verse gives us the idea that Satan was eagerly waiting for that moment to happen. He was preparing an attack. He was ready to devour. He had a plan to defeat the Messiah.

*** Overview ***: Lucifer’s rebellion against God led to the spreading of great lies in Heaven. Lucifer managed to deceive a significant number of angels and convinced them to join his cause. Lucifer became the dragon, the old serpent, the father of lies (Revelation 12:9). He went on to cast his lies over the humans. He waited for the moment when God would send a Savior to Earth. The Redeemer would be born as a baby. A newborn seemed to be an easy target. So Satan positioned himself to attack. He wanted to destroy the Messiah before the Messiah could smash his head once and for all. Satan infiltrated the earthly powers of the time with his lies and deceptive ways, in order to achieve his goal. But he failed to realize that God had already foretold how successful Satan’s plan of attack would turn out to be: the Messiah would win and fatally crush the serpent. No matter how hard the dragon works on his plans of attack, his end has already been revealed to the Universe: Satan will be destroyed forever (Revelation 20:10). God will heal all the scars caused by sin. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). Christ will reign for all eternity (Revelation 11:15). Amen.

   
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