Summary: An Exposition of Rev. 12
The Dragon Wars
I suppose it’s not unusual for monsters to come up in conversation on Halloween night, but you probably didn’t expect to hear about them at church. Nevertheless, that’s just what we’re going to talk about—a monster, more specifically, a dragon.
Dragons are mythical creatures that haunt the culture of almost every civilization, from the Babylonians to the Chinese to the Europeans. Long ago, when much of the world was still undiscovered, mapmakers when they reached the edge of their knowledge, would insert the ominous lines—“here be dragons.” Today most of us leave dragons for fairy tales, or books or movies. But the dragon I want to talk about is no fairy tale. He is real. He’s been around a long time, and he’s just as deadly and diabolical as he’s ever been. He is the monster behind all other monsters, the bogeyman who really is there, the ultimate horror of the universe. And this monster, this dragon wages war right now against the church of Jesus Christ, against the very God of the universe, and against you and me. Tonight we’ll take a look at 3 aspects of the dragon wars, and look at how you and I can win against this ancient monster. Let’s begin in Rev. 12:1-6., where we read about the first war of the dragon.
John begins by clarifying the nature of his vision. He describes a great and wondrous sign…another sign…John’s vision is expressed in symbols, but don’t forget these symbols represent reality, not fantasy.
The first symbol in vs. 1-2 is a woman in labor, about to give birth. Her clothes shine like the sun, the moon is at her feet, and on her head is a crown of 12 stars---all of which remind us of Joseph’s dream back in
Ge 37:9 “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
Any Jew reading this for the first time associated this woman with the nation of Israel—an image used by the OT prophets many times.
Is 54:5 For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name…
As these birth pangs keep coming, another image comes into John’s view: a huge, red, seven-headed dragon. On each head is a crown, symbolizing great authority, and ten horns, symbolizing great strength. The dragon’s tail sweeps 1/3 of the stars from heaven. Again, the first readers would immediately associate this image with the serpent of Gen. 3, Satan, the devil, who led a third of the angels in revolt against God. Peter describes it this way:
2 Pe 2:4 …God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
This dragon stands in front of the woman, waiting greedily to devour the child as soon as He is born. Suddenly the pains increase, and the Child enters the world---a Son, whom John describes in vs. 5 …who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. Aha—here is another OT reference, referring to the Messiah described in
Ps 2:9 You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.
Before the dragon can destroy the Child, He is snatched up and taken to heaven, to God’s throne, and the woman flees into the desert to a refuge prepared by God for 1260 days.
What does it all mean? Some of it is pretty easy to figure out. It seems obvious the woman is the nation of Israel—God’s people. The dragon is obviously Satan. The Child is obviously Jesus Christ, born an Israelite baby. We all remember the Christmas story of how Herod tried to kill Jesus after He was born—apparently under the influence of Satan himself.
But there are some loose ends that aren’t so easy to tie up here. This vision bypasses all of Jesus’ life—including the Cross---and moves straight from His birth to His ascension. What is the significance of the woman fleeing into the desert?
We really don’t know the answers to these questions for certain. But the main point is the dragon is at war with the Child. Whatever the details, this vision reminds us that Satan is at war with Christ. He fought against Jesus not only through Herod, but also in the wilderness, when he tempted the Lord, and later on when Peter tries to talk Jesus out of going to the Cross. Satan used every weapon at his disposal to defeat the Lord---even death on the Cross. That is the main point of this vision.
That’s the point you and I must grasp---the dragon is still at war with the Son. He is still fighting with everything he’s got to try and defeat Christ’s purpose and plan. He is blinding the eyes of unbelievers, using whatever he can—including the media, science, philosophy, history---all in an attempt to destroy the influence of Jesus Christ in this world. He cannot ultimately defeat the Lord but he can lead people to ignore, mock, or hate the Name of Jesus Christ.