14 The Woman, the Dragon and the Man Child
The 'signs' section of Revelation begins with chapter 12. The opening scene is about a woman and a dragon.
Echoes of Eden are loud and clear. The woman in travail; the hostile serpent; the casting out of the serpent; the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; the victory of the seed of the woman — both the events and edicts of Eden are recalled in this drama.
To digress for a moment: it may be remembered that the language of the last two chapters of Revelation is also reminiscent of Eden. A glance at these chapters will be sufficient to convince those who may not have noticed this feature before. It is appropriate that the concluding chapters of Scripture should provide a picture of paradise restored. The fact that Eden is a theme common to chapter 12 and the end of Revelation may be an indication that the section of the book that begins with Revelation 12 extends to the end of the book.
The events of the Exodus are also echoed in Revelation 12. One is reminded of Israel's travail in Egypt; of Pharaoh's cruel, draconic role; the man child destined for rulership, snatched from destruction — Moses comes to mind here, as does the 'firstborn' nation in Egypt; Israel's flight into the wilderness is surely the prototype of the flight of the woman of the Apocalypse, and each in its turn is borne on eagle's wings;1 the provision made for the woman's sustenance in the wilderness — this is also a feature of the Exodus that recurs in Revelation 12.
This apocalyptic drama also takes our minds back to the circumstances of the Lord's birth, with Herod waiting to devour. Indeed there are those who think that the beginning of Revelation 12 is a dramatised representation of this very occasion.
Here then is a typical picture and a recurring Bible theme — the mutual hostility between carnally-minded and spiritually-minded people. The enemy is ruthless and has a great facility for adapting himself to changing circumstances.
Not only does the church suffer persecution, but she also travails as flesh and spirit do battle within each member. The struggling community is helped by the angels and prevails. But even before the ultimate victory there is joy in the midst of suffering. Impressions like these come over clearly, and they are full of exhortation. Yet frankly, the interpretation of detail is difficult, and one dare not be too dogmatic.
Because Israel was the mother of the man child born in Egypt, and also the mother of the man child of Herod's day, it could seem reasonable to conclude that the woman of Revelation 12 also represents Israel. But is this altogether adequate?
The woman is clothed with the sun, the moon is under her feet, and she wears a crown of twelve stars. Many students have been impressed by the fact that these symbols are features of Joseph's dream concerning the children of Israel,2 and have taken this as proof positive that the woman is a symbol of the people of Israel. Moreover the twelve stars are taken to be a reminder of the special importance of the number twelve in Israelitish contexts — the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles come instantly to mind.
Israel is undoubtedly very much involved — but can we be more precise? In New Testament times the name Israel stood for mutually hostile elements. Both the people of God and the enemies were of Israelitish stock.
Observe that this woman is not clothed with inadequate, improvised garments, like Eve, nor with the gaudy attire of a harlot. The Almighty Himself is described as being clothed with light, as with a garment,3 and this woman is likewise enveloped in the light of the sun. She has been clothed by God Himself. The imagery could well be drawn from Isaiah 60:1,2:
"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee."
The woman is with child. This is a dignified picture, and the omission of specific mention of her husband does not entitle us to leap, as some have done, to the repugnant conclusion that she is a harlot. The link with Isaiah 60, the elevated status of the woman, and the destiny of her son direct us, rather, to the conclusion that God is her husband, and that her child is conceived of the Spirit. The words of Isaiah 54:5,6 have relevance here:
"For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called." Another helpful quotation is Isaiah 9:6:
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful. . ."
Note the use of the word us. The child is born to a company of people. The fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy is likewise expressed in plural terms in Luke 2:11: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." It is not unreasonable, therefore, to regard the woman of Revelation 12 as symbolical of a group or a multitude of people with Israelitish associations; but can we be more exact in our identification?
The woman travails in sorrow. This is a recurring prophetic theme which the Lord makes use of and applies to the apostles and their fellow disciples:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you" (John 16:20-22). The apostles and their contemporaries certainly played a maternal role in God's purpose. By the operation of the Holy Spirit upon them they gave birth to the Christian community.
But were they not members of the Christian community themselves? Indeed they were. The Christian church may be thought of both as a mother and a child. See how this dual role is expressed in the following passage:
"My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? for it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with ner children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband" (Galatians 4:19-27). Several points from this passage are worth noting:
1. Paul speaks of himself travailing in birth. He performs -the duty of a mother.
2. ".. . until Christ be formed in you" — the Galatians also fulfil a maternal role. They and Paul (who is labouring on their behalf) are in process of giving birth to Christ.
3. Obviously the title Christ must be understood in the larger sense here, and not confused with the personal name, Jesus. Christ is born in every true believer.
4. In the same context, Paul refers to Abraham's two wives and their respective sons. The interests of Hagar and Ishmael are diametrically opposed to those of Sarah and Isaac. The first mother and son, though in bondage, despise and persecute the second, free-born mother and son. Yet, by God's grace the second son ultimately triumphs.4 The rival parties both have an important relationship to Abraham. With regard to the first, the emphasis is on the Law of Moses and Israelitish nationalism (how ironical that Ishmael, the father of the Arabs, should symbolise aggressive Jew-ishness!). With regard to the second, the emphasis is on spiritual descent from Abraham and identification with Christ, the true seed — blood descent from Abraham is not important.
5. In a figure, Sarah is the spiritual mother of Abraham's spiritual seed. This mother is also called "Jerusalem which is above", and she is described as "the mother of us all". This is particularly interesting. Although Paul and other believers perform the duty of a spiritual mother, here, in the very same context, Paul speaks of himself and other believers as children of a spiritual mother. "Jerusalem which is above", he says, "is the mother of us all." This brings us back to the earlier thought that the members of the Christian church play the dual role of mother and child. It is an idea that is solidly based on Scripture.
6. Now see the effective use that Paul makes of Isaiah 54 — "Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not . . ." This is the first verse of the chapter where that statement occurs: "Thy Maker is thine husband". In Paul's interpretation of Abraham's domestic circumstances, Abraham is represented as a spiritual husband and a spiritual father. But in a higher sense, that Paul allows for by quoting from Isaiah 54, God is the spiritual husband and father. He is the husband of "Jerusalem that is above", and the father of the Christ-community.
All this is too deep and wonderful for us. Such profound thoughts should keep us humble, as well as help us to understand the imagery of Revelation 12, which is drawn from Old and New Testament scriptures.
Let us now return to the idea that the Christian community is to be thought of as both a mother and a son. When the emphasis is on receiving God's Spirit and travailing to produce a Christ-like character, and when there is temptation and persecution, the appropriate figure is that of a mother. When the emphasis is on the Christ-like character that is produced, and on a mature Christ-community destined to rule, the appropriate figure is that of the man child. The figure of the mother applies more to the present — the time of preparation; and that of the son applies more to the future — the time of fulfilment.
Both figures are used in Revelation 12. The Christian community travails to produce Christ in itself. This travail is an inevitable feature of discipleship, but the immediate application, in Revelation 12, is to the intense labour pains of the early church. In the beginning the members of the church are of Israelitish stock, and the crown of twelve stars may well be a reference to the leadership provided by the apostles. However, the woman is not exclusively Jewish. It has been noted that the Galatian churches, where there would have been both Jewish and Gentile Christians were, with Paul, labouring to produce Christ in themselves. Indeed, this applies to all true believers.
The tribulation of the woman is two-fold. There are the birth pangs within her, and the hostility of the dragon without. To change the metaphor, all true Christians encounter hostile flesh on two fronts — in their own beings and in the world.
A word here about sequence. Notice that a statement which occurs in verse 6 concerning the woman is repeated in verse 14. There it is fitted into a programme of events, repeated and amplified:
"And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that
"And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wil-
they should feed her tnere a thousand two hundred and threescore days."
derness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood 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. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
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Obviously verse 6 is a summary statement concerning events which do not happen immediately. This could also be true of verse 5. Here the simple statement is made that the man child, destined to rule all nations with a rod of iron, is caught up to God and to His throne. The ultimate fulfilment of this could come much later — after many of the events delineated in the chapter.
"The dragon, that old serpent..."
The woman's enemy has four names: dragon, serpent, devil and satan. Clearly this is a power motivated completely by sin. Its beast-like appearance and deportment, recalling the beasts of Daniel's prophecies, indicates that this is an organisation, a political power — or, more strictly, a series of political powers — motivated by sin.
Seven heads and ten horns! The heads represent phases of government. Generally, though not invariably, the heads appear in sequence. It is not usual to see a number of heads together at the same time (though four heads do appear together on the leopard of Daniel 7 —a symbol of the divided Grecian kingdom). Certainly the seven heads of the dragon would not all be there are the same time. The picture is a 'panoramic' one.
The seven heads are crowned. Do not miss the difference in chapter 13 where the ten horns are crowned. Digressing for a moment, the crowns on the horns indicate that the kings thus represented have, at the time of the dramatic action of the vision, received their kingdom. Compare this passage in Revelation 13 with Revelation 17 where reference is made first to a time when the powers represented by the ten horns have not yet received their kingdom, and later to the time when they receive power as kings.
Applying this logic to Revelation 12, the fact that the heads are crowned, and not the horns, points to the conclusion that the time of the horns, and of the beast whom they acknowledge as leader, has not yet come. It will be remembered that the head which is associated with the ten horns is the eighth head, and that it is the sixth head revived.
Revelation 12 is therefore concerned with the time of the seven heads, but not of the eighth head and the ten horns. Can we be more precise? The travail of the woman covers a long period, and during this time successive human governments are ready to devour the Christ-community when it is born. So the first, general picture describes a long-standing hostility against the people of God even before the Christ-community is born — the period of the first five heads.
But the 'action' of the prophecy — the war in heaven, the casting out of the dragon, the persecution of the woman — concerns the latter part of the 'head' series. The fact that all the heads are crowned means that the sixth and seventh heads are also crowned, and are probably involved in the action of the chapter. The dragon is rampant during the sixth (Jewish-Roman) head and the seventh (Roman) head phases. It was first the Jews, helped by the Romans, and later the Romans without the Jews who tried to destroy the infant church.
Concerning dragons and wild beasts
There is a remarkable elasticity about the way that the Spirit likens nations to wild beasts. Unless we ourselves have a measure of mental elasticity in interpreting these symbols, we shall find ourselves in difficulties.
Here are examples of the elasticity of Scripture in this field:
1. That which is represented by a montrous human image in Daniel 2 is represented by four beasts in Daniel 7.
2. That which is symbolised by a bear in Daniel 7 is symbolised by a ram in Daniel 8.
3. A leopard in Daniel 7 becomes a he-goat in Daniel 8.
4. The four heads of the leopard of Daniel 7 become the four horns of the he-goat of Daniel 8.
5. The four beasts of Daniel 7, with heads totalling seven and horns totalling ten, invite comparison with a composite beast in Revelation 13 and 17, with seven heads and ten horns.
This easy transition from one symbol to another is remarkable. Thus Medo-Persia is symbolised by the breast and arms of a human image in Daniel 2; by a bear in Daniel 7; by a ram in Daniel 8; and presumably by one of the heads of a multi-headed composite creature in Revelation.
From these observations the following conclusion can be. drawn: the beast forms of Daniel and Revelation are likenesses that must be taken in context. In a certain context a certain political power can be likened to a leopard; in another context it can more effectively be compared to a he-goat. If we have a leopard fixation in our minds, the he-goat similitude, though just as scriptural, will not be acceptable to us and will not give us the intended enlightenment.
Sin is remarkable for its many manifestations, and also for its great facility for disguise. Its diverse appearances usually belie the hideous, hidden reality.This may be another reason why, in Scripture, the symbols for the same sin-power are changed as occasion requires.
Pursuing this thought a little further, in Revelation the devil — the New Testament personification of sin — is represented by a dragon and a serpent; yet Peter likens the devil to a roaring lion.5 Each similitude is appropriate in context.
Another example of sin's facility for appearing in different guises (not to say disguises), and of the Spirit's facility for recognising this fact, is provided in Isaiah 14:29:
"Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent."
Returning to Revelation, if we work too inflexibly on a one beast/one power principle, we shall find ourselves in difficulties. See how easily the symbols are changed in Revelation 12. When in heaven, the power is called a dragon. When cast to the earth, it is a serpent — recalling the belly-sliding propulsion of the disgraced serpent of Eden. Yet when the serpent phase is under consideration the dragon aspect is not forgotten, for the name is picked up again later in the chapter and carried forward in the book.
The dragon/serpent of Revelation 12 has seven heads and ten horns. However, in Revelation 13 another creature appears — a composite beast, having elements of Daniel's four beasts. Yet, remarkably, this hybrid monster also has seven heads and ten horns!
Does the beast of Revelation 13 represent a different series of political powers from the dragon of Revelation 12? Surely not! Remember that these beast bodies are likenesses that must be understood and interpreted within the limited contexts. They are not to be thought of as invariable clues to identity. The fact that seven heads and ten horns are common to dragon and beast should be sufficient to assure us that the same series of powers is under consideration. It would be strange indeed if there were two separate series of powers, each represented by seven heads and ten horns, in the political arena at the same time. One could perhaps imagine a single, sin-motivated power running parallel with the series of powers represented by the successive beast heads; but hardly two parallel series, each with phases represented by seven heads and ten horns.
There is just one series, represented by the seven heads and ten horns. Not only do heads change as the sequence of kingdoms proceeds, but when appropriate, body likenesses change as well. According to scripture usage, dragons devour and serpents deceive. Thus in certain contexts the power hostile to the people of God can best be represented as a dragon; and in other contexts it can be more fittingly be likened to a serpent. In its final phase before the kingdom, the God-defying power is likened to a wild beast, more like a leopard than anything else, but having lion and bear characteristics as well.
A careful reading reveals that the change in body likenesses does not necessarily take place at the same time as the change of heads. The dragon likeness has some relevance during the earlier 'head' phases, but it is specially appropriate when there is an infant Christian church to devour. The dragon is rampant during the sixth-head phase and during the first part of the seventh-head phase. During the second part of the seventh-head phase, when this God-defying power carries the woman that represents apostate Christianity, a scarlet-coloured beast is a more appropriate symbol.
The man child
It has been intimated that the man child represents the Christ element in the Christian community. Revelation itself confirms this conclusion.
The child is destined to rule all nations with a rod of iron; he is caught up to the throne of God. It needs no proving that these words could be applied to the Lord Jesus himself.6 But it is important to note that, in Revelation, they are also applied to those of the Lord's followers who overcome. The promise to Thyatira is: "He that overcometh ... to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron" (2:26,27), and to Laodicea: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (3:21).
Because the destiny of the man child is expressed in terms that can be applied both to the Lord Jesus and to the Christian community, there has been a tendency to argue for the one or the other. Yet the two thoughts are one. It is altogether fitting that principles which first apply to the man, Christ Jesus, should have an extended application to the people who bear his name. And because , at the time when the Revelation was communicated to John, the birth of the Lord Jesus was history, the emphasis in Revelation 12 is on the plural Christ — the community.
Consistent with this are the comments concerning the victory of the saints:
"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (12:11). Here is an extension of the principle expressed in Hebrews 2:14:
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil."
As far as he personally was concerned, the Lord destroyed the devil by his death. Here, in Revelation 12, the principle is given a larger application to those who are Christ's. The members of the Christ-community overcome the devil of their day 1) by the blood of the Lamb (they have identified themselves with the Lord's death); and 2) by being willing to accept death themselves.
See how the battle against evil is fought on two fronts. The angels wage war, on behalf of the believers against the dragon; and at the same time the believers destroy sin in themselves. If there were no personal battle there would be no reason for a political battle.
There is an urgent need to establish the meaning of heaven in this context, because, at various times, woman, dragon and man child are seen there.
The word heaven is often used in the New Testament to describe a relationship, rather than a location. Those who are "in heaven" enjoy a privileged relationship with God.7
Incidentally, in Revelation the word earth, like the word heaven, expresses a relationship. It is the human environment of the people of God, and it can vary according to context. Earth dwellers are usually hostile to God's servants and witnesses. Often they are people who are responsible to God, but act unworthily.
The woman is in heaven when the action begins. At first the Christ-bearing community is Jewish, though later, as we have seen, Gentiles are also involved. During the ministry of the Lord and of the apostles, the Jews enjoyed a privileged relationship with God: they were "in heaven". Living in their own land, they enjoyed His protection. In their midst was the temple where the priests offered sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. In common with the rest of the nation, the Christ-bearing minority, the apostles and their fellow believers, had this special relationship.
In common with the rest of the nation! The enemies of the Christ-bearing community received the same privileges and enjoyed the same elevated status. The dragon was in heaven!
Yes, one of the phases of the organised opposition to the people of God was the Jewish phase. Indeed, the hostility of the Jews was more wicked than that of any other nation. For this reason one of the seven heads of the sin-power that appears in so many guises is a Jewish head.
The dragon is cast out of heaven. In other words, Israel is driven from the presence of God. The implacable enemies of God, who not only crucified His Son but afterwards tried to destroy the apostles and their fellow Christians, were thrust out. The Lord's prophetic words come to mind: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (Luke 10:18).
The pilgrim church
Persecution drives the woman into the wilderness. This means that the Christ-bearing community, struggling within and oppressed without, enters into a pilgrim phase. She is no longer Israel-based. Providentially this has great advantages. No longer is Christianity exclusively Jewish —the call to salvation goes forth to the Gentiles. And the scattering of God's people spreads the Word.8
The woman no longer depends upon the ministrations of Levitical priests. Her relationship to God is through the Great High Priest. In the wilderness she is sustained and protected by God.
The man child in heaven
But what about the man child? Of him it is written that he was caught up to God and to His throne. It has already been intimated that the ultimate fulfilment of this prophecy comes after the other events described in the chapter. The elevation of the Christ-community is to rulership over the nations, and many things must happen before this.
However, there is an important immediate fulfilment as well. Remembering that "heaven" can describe a relationship, we note that the man child is brought into a higher relationship with God than the woman and the dragon. He ascends not just to heaven, but to the throne of God; and he does so now, as Paul explains in Ephesians 2:6:
"And [God] hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
In one sense — in a spiritual sense — the people of God are in heaven with Christ now. The new creature in Christ is in heaven with Christ. In another sense — a literal, physical sense — the people of God are on the earth. These two complementary ideas are implicit in Paul's exhortation to the Colossians:
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth . . ." (3:1-5).
In terms of Revelation 12, the appropriate figure for the heavenly status of Christians is the man child; and the appropriate figure for their earthly tribulation is the woman.
When the dragon is cast out of heaven, the announcement is made: "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God ..." It could be thought from these words that the coming kingdom of God is established at this point, if one did not take note of the words that follow: ". . . Therefore rejoice, ye heavens . . . Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (12:10-12).
The kingdom is come; and yet the devil is rampant on the earth, and there is great trouble. How are the two ideas reconciled? The inescapable conclusion is that the kingdom has come to those who enjoy this heavenly status. They recognise Christ as king already, and enjoy a foretaste of ultimate kingdom blessings. But the awaited establishment of God's kingdom on the earth does not take place yet: indeed, the woman is in the wilderness. The establishment of God's kingdom on the earth is referred to in Revelation 11 — the climax of the first section of Revelation — when "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ"; and again in Revelation 20 where the dragon, that old serpent, is bound and cast into the bottomless pit.
The woman in the wilderness
The woman is protected and sustained by God in the wilderness. It must be remembered that the community represented by the woman is no longer exclusively Jewish. In fact, the Jewish element dwindles and disappears, and an international fellowship takes its place.
The frustrated serpent casts from its mouth a flood of water after the woman. According to scripture symbolism, that which comes from the mouth of a serpent is poisonous, lying words.9 A whole flood of propaganda is directed against the church in the wilderness. However, she is saved by the timely intervention of "the earth", who opens her mouth and swallows the flood.
How does the swallowing of ungodly propaganda by the earth help the church of God? Here is a suggestion. Think of the earth as the human environment of the exiled church. During the early centuries of the Christian era, the church was subjected to cruel persecution. But when the earth -• in this context the Roman Empire — became nominally Christian, it just "swallowed up" the anti-christian propaganda with one contemptuous gulp. To change the metaphor, when the Roman Empire accepted nominal Christianity, the pressure was now lifted from true Christians. As Christians in a society that also claimed to be Christian, they were protected and not persecuted.
Alas, the woman herself is ultimately corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ, and becomes the whore of Revelation 17. The God-defying political power of the time now supports the compromising community, and its movements are directed by her. The political power that supports the woman and is directed by her is the seventh-head (Roman) phase of the beast.
Persecution of the remnant of the woman's seed
"And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17).
More echoes of Eden! How does the dragon persecute the remnant of the woman's seed? But first, who is this remnant?
By this time there is an important distinction between real Christianity and counterfeit Christianity. Existing at the same time are the harlot daughters of the apostate church (Revelation 17) and the faithful remnant of the seed of the woman.
The faithful remnant have often been persecuted, but it may be that Revelation 13 provides the extra information concerning the persecution in question. Here, however, the symbolism changes. Not now a dragon but a beast that comes forth from the sea, whose deadly wound is healed. He is the latter-day persecutor of the people of God. But it is the dragon who gives him "his power, and his seat, and great authority" (13:2).
Do the dragon and the beast exist at the same time?
How are we to understand this relationship between the dragon and the beast? Do the words just quoted imply that the dragon and the beast exist at the same time? Not necessarily. The dragon symbolises a power that tried to destroy Chistianity at its birth, and tried again to destroy it in its infancy. Had it not been for the protection of God, it would have succeeded. The dragon was cast out by Michael and his angels.
But this is not the end of this God-defying, anti-Christian power. It emerges again, and in a later phase it is more appropriately symbolised by a scarlet coloured beast.
The beast is the latter-day representative of the dragon power. Its hostility is directed against Christianity; and the power that at one time belonged to the dragon is now transferred to the beast. The fact that the dragon also gives his seat to the beast implies that the centre of the beast's operations is the same as that of the dragon. We must look to the same region.
What then of the statement: "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet" (Revelation 16:13)? Does not this indicate that the dragon and the beast are there at the same time? Not necessarily. It could mean
that the wicked philosophy that emanated from the dragon when it held sway still influences people at the time that the beast and the false prophet are making their God-defying utterances. They all stand for the same anti-Christian thinking.
References and Notes
1. Exodus 19:4
2. Genesis 37:9,10
3. Psalm 104:2
4. See Genesis 16 and Genesis 21:1-14
5. 1 Peter 5:8
6. See Psalm 2:9.
7. Part 2, chapter 12 — page 142
8. Acts 8:1-4; 11:19-21
9. Romans 3:13 etc.