Previously, I mentioned that Revelation 12 comes across as a cryptic history lesson. How else do you explain rapidly why we have this hope?
If you have read Paul's writings in the New Testament, then you know that this HOPE we have is one the major themes being preached. Try to absorb the book of Acts and you come to realize that Paul's primary audience were Jewish followers of the Law and the Prophets that had gathered on the Sabbath, in the synagogue of the city he was now in. Speaking to men educated in the Torah and Tanach, many through oral history, Paul spoke a language they understood. And, since the Law and the Prophets spoke of the Messiah that was to come, Paul made it clear that He had come already; there was clear evidence of that and many of those who were eyewitness are still alive today (he would tell them) and you can speak with them should you wish to pursue that.
In my last post, I mention these two verses as I talked about how we were jumping backward in time; where and when this action might have taken place; and what some of the possibilities are concerning the dragon's attempts to devour the child Israel was to give birth to.
Today I had a thought that may tickle you as we try to understand the language being used.
My constant admonition – keep in mind that this is a Jewish book, written to Jewish converts within the early churches. Yes, it was meant for us to see and understand.
Revelation 1:3 ESV Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
John wrote at the direction of the Holy Spirit of God and therefore fully intended for us to figure this stuff out.
The second half of my admonition is that John wrote in a terminology they were familiar with. So, when he writes about a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, the learned, Jewish mind has an immediate association with some passage from the Old Testament. And, this is not just some mere, worthless symbol, this is prophecy. For prophecy to the Jewish mind is a pattern, not flash and pizzazz, but solid, repeatable evidence. That evidence came as God's word. Now consider that before the days of books history was oral tradition. Therefore, what the “prophets” did and said might have been transcribed and then orally passed along for generations. That sort of demands that you show some belief and faith.
Can you see a problem here? I can and examples of that problem show up at the birth of Jesus. How you ask?
- Magi/wise men/game changers – come from another nation. Following evidence in the scriptures and a sign in the heavens, that was noted in the scriptures, they pursued the birth of the Messiah, the King that was to come, and they worshiped him.
- Follow that story in scriptures and you will find Herod and all Jerusalem in a panic as these men came. Herod questioned the Jewish Chief priests and elders what this was all about, and they told him. Did they pursue the Messiah as the Magi did? Not at all, in fact, they were all in favor of having him eliminated. Are you kidding me; why? Because they knew they would lose their place and power, the same thing Herod feared.
- Simeon the priest recognized the Messiah and worshiped him.
- Anna the prophetess, longed to see the day he would come, and she too recognized that it was him.
So, Israel has a problem with belief. Do you actually believe we are so different? And yet, as you saw above some believed and waited anxiously for the Messiah.
Even though I covered this to some degree before, I want to discuss the bizarre description. There is a humorous reason for this, as well as the desire to understand. The men's bible study I attend off and on has a variety of men and their thoughts, but most are deeply entrenched in some old twisted traditions. One guy, he was a gunnery Sargent in the military, asks questions and challenges what he hears because he either does not or will not open his bible. As we spent time some time talking about end times events, he goes on a short rant saying, “who can understand this stuff anyway. What is this red dragon with seven heads and ten horns? No one can figure this stuff out.”
Well, that is not a true statement. You can understand it if someone tells you what is going on in common language. The other aspect of his dismay was the imagery. As I said, John wrote with the intent and purpose of being understood. The problem is that we do not recognize that fact and we do not read for ourselves.
Revelation 12:3-4 ESV And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. (4) His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.
Time to tear it up:
“ behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.”
This was not a new concept to John's audience. Although the terminology is not exactly the same, the 'monster' has some similar characteristics.
Daniel 7:19-22 ESV "Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, (20) and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. (21) As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, (22) until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.
Both of these beasts have ten horns. Just because we do not see all the details, does not mean they are different.
Ezekiel 29:3 ESV speak, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lies in the midst of his streams, that says, 'My Nile is my own; I made it for myself.'
Isaiah 27:1 ESV In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.
There is no physical dragon in the sea or streams, therefore, this is either symbolic or a fallen angel. We do have a huge clue to help our understanding and it comes from passages we are looking at.
“His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth.”
Since we know that Satan was cast out of his permanent home, heaven. We should also comprehend that this dragon being cast out, sweeping a third of the stars with him, is Satan.
Take a moment to read this and then ask yourself some questions:
Ezekiel 28:12-19 ESV "Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. (13) You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. (14) You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. (15) You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. (16) In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. (17) Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. (18) By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. (19) All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever."
- Is he really talking to the king of Tyre, for that was a real king born long after the garden disappeared?
- If this is the king of Tyre, how did he get to wander in the garden of Eden?
- You know how certain religions claim that Satan is the brother of Jesus. What do they do with this? “ On the day that you were created”
- People struggle with how Satan even got into the garden. I never really noticed this before, but it certainly makes sense. Obviously, his corruption into Satan happened during this time.
“You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. (14) You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. (15) You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.”
Take your time and ponder what Ezekiel 28 conveys about Satan's beginnings.
While I admit I have offered you no great definitions about who the great red dragon might be, I think it is safe to say it is conglomeration of powers and leaders throughout many ages, backed by Satan himself, who have but one purpose – whether they know it or not, and that is to try to destroy the Woman and her child. Since the child, fortunately, included those of who were grafted in, then we have become the targets as well.
On the plus side, we have this closing statement from Ezekiel.
“Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. (18) By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. (19) All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever."
Although our hope is based on the promise of a peaceful life with the Father, there is joy in knowing that Satan and all his cohorts will be put away permanently someday.
If you do not have that hope in you, you can. Just ask Jesus to make himself real to you. He will come into your life and be a part of it if you merely ask Him to. But I warn you, your life will change.