The Child And The Dragon
by Bruni Wolters, Vineyard Church in Hamburg/Germany
1A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. 7And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9The great dragon was hurled down- that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. 10Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short. 13When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach. 15Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring- those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (NIV)
Images always have something impressive to them. We are thinking in images and dream in images. Images remain deeper in our minds than words do. The Bible is taking advantage of this effect, it is full of images. Images are able to frighten us if we don't understand their meaning. Images don't always speak an explicit language; often, they have to be explained, translated. We should not look at them as if they were reality, instead we should always ask ourselves: what are they telling us? What is their meaning?
I will start with the dragon, as the text itself explains the symbolism. The dragon stands for the devil, who is also called Satan. He is big. He is bigger than a serpent, he's a beast. He is blazing red. Red is the color of rage and of blood. This color reveals something of his being, his character. He is murderous, destructive, cruel.
This is a completely different image people usually have of him. I have spoken with many people who don't know Jesus. They are all believing in a God somehow, but think it's medieval to believe in the devil. It doesn't fit into our modern times, they think. The dragon has done a real good job there. He cheats on people. He causes them to either fear him or to think he doesn't exist at all.
How does the description continue? He has seven heads. He can turn into every direction. Nothing escapes of him, nobody is safe from him. Furthermore, the head is the center of the thinking. He features a brilliant intelligence. One could say, he has 10 different PhDs, that is for lying, cheating and betraying.
He has ten horns. The horn is an ancient symbol of power and strength. The dragon is very powerful. He has seven crowns on his heads: he is a ruler, the prince of this world. He reigns, schemes and his influence reaches out into the political world.
His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky. He jumbles the devine order, the creation order, how much more then is he jumbling the human order? Everywhere he bursts orders, everywhere he destroys and everywhere he causes chaos. He wants people to be in the dark. Stars, lights in the sky are also being interpreted as spiritual leaders, for instance like the pharisees at the time of Jesus, and priests, pastors and preachers in our times. Back then as well as today, there are spiritual leaders who are no real ones. They are those who don't bring order to people, who don't show them the right way to God, but who hinder them with wrong teachings in finding their way to God.
The dragon rejoices about such spiritual darkness; he hates the light and particularly the Light of the world. Yet the dragon is afraid. He is afraid of the child that is due to be born. He stands infront of the woman, but he does not zero in on her. He does not harm her. He is waiting for the child to be born.
There is another scene like this in the Bible where the serpent stands infront of a woman, which is at the very beginning of Genesis. The serpent saps the confidence that man had in God and seduces him to disobey. Back then, man had to leave the paradise. Their fellowship with God was destroyed. And the serpent received a prophecy: one day, a child will be born, the Savior of the whole world, and this child will scrunsch the head of the serpent, which means, this child will demolish it; this child means death.
Our text in Revelation is completely clear in that it is Jesus, who is being born here. Verse 5 says that the woman gave birth to a son who will once rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.
Then the child is born and the dragon immediately tries to kill him. Remember the murder of the children in Bethlehem. Herod feared for his throne, but did he know what was happening in the unseen world? Did he know about the true background of the world's history, the fight between the dragon against the Messiah? The fight between Satan against God? I guess not.
The second trial: After Jesus had been baptized and before He started His official ministry, He was being led into the desert by Satan and put to the test. Satan showed Him all the riches of the world, which implies that he possessed them. And then he said: I will give you all of this, if you fall down and worship me. Jesus knew about His call to be a king one day, but He overcame the temptation to walk the easy, simple way.
There are Christians, who receive a call from God or a prophetic word about how God wants to use them in His Kingdom and they are waiting for it to come to pass as soon as possible. They are totally confused and surprised when being confronted with difficulties and problems and start doubting in God's promise. What is happening here? They are falling into Satans' trap of his suggestions that everything will be very quick, very easy and without problems when being called into ministry. Impatience, frustration, rebellion are the results of this.
We only have to look at the life of Jesus, in order to unmask the lie. What was the cost for His call? It was blood, sweat and tears. It was no easy way, it didn't come by itself. It was reality.
And then came the most nasty trick, as I think, the meanest way of temptation at all. The temptation came in form of a very good friend, of Peter. A man, who truly loves Jesus and only wants the best for Him. Jesus reveals His plan to His disciples, to die for mankind. Peter is appalled and calls out: This shall never happen to you, Lord! But Jesus sees through this attack and does not answer: Peter, you bark up the wrong tree. No, Jesus answers in an unusual sharp way: Get behind me, Satan!
And then, Satan really kills Jesus. The Bible is very clear on the fact that the cross was also Satans' work. For example, in the gospel of John we hear about Jude going away to betray Jesus and Satan went into him. That was a successful attack on the Son of God. Satan has killed Jesus on the cross and he thought of it as his biggest victory. Yet God had planned the salvation of the world by His Son's death already before the creation of the world. Thus, the bogus victory of the dragon became his biggest defeat.
The child was raptured toward God and His throne. Rapture does not simply mean, being transferred to another place in the spur of one moment ("beam me up, Scotty...!"), but rapture is being connected also with exaltation. This means, getting a higher position, more power, more influence. Jesus becomes King of kings and Lord of lords, ruler over all the world.
Here at the latest it gets clear that the events that John sees, belong to the past. It is no insight of the future, yet a figurative explanation of what happened half a century before: Jesus' birth, His death, His resurrection, His ascension. Is it really necessary to show what Christians already know for a long time? Well, God is apparently of the opinion that it IS necessary. Apparently, we have to be reminded again and again of it in order to understand and be able to implement this reality into our personal lives.
Now to the most interesting question: who is that woman? A woman, dressed with the sun and the moon under her feet, a crown of twelve stars on her head. There is nothing obscure on that woman. She radiates brightness, she is wonderful and beautiful. The twelve stars are the twelve tribes of Israel. The woman is a symbol of the people of God in the Old Testament. Jesus was to be born out of this people and we often read of the birth pain (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micha). The sun is the image of God's Glory, concurrently at the times of John, the sun was a symbol of the victory after a fight.
Jesus arose as the victor after the fight against sin, against death and against Satan. His "bride", the church of the New Testament, has a stake in His victory. She is enwrapped in His light, in His glory and is taken into His victory. So there is a double meaning in the symbolism of the woman, she is an image of God's people of the Old Testament, the same as she is an image of the church of Jesus in the New Testament. One can grasp this only in the symbolism, it cannot be explained logically.
The moon under her feet. What kind of image is procured by the moon? The moon has no own light, it only glows weakly and it does so only because it is being spotlighted by the sun. It is cold, and doesn't bear any life. The creator (sun) is pitted against the creation (moon), which involves everything human, the human way of thinking, sinful behavior, iniquity.
The moon is situated under the feet of the woman. Whoever triumphed in a duel, put his feet on the neck of his combatant as a sign of victory. A very clear image of victor and underdog. How can we translate this image? Jesus' victory on the cross transfers His church into a position of victory over human sinfulness.
After easter, a fight breaks out in heaven: Michael with his angels against the dragon and his army. The impression could arise that the angels battled the crucial fight against Satan here. This is not true, of course. Jesus alone has gained the victory through His death on the cross. One could think of the angels as catchpoles, who remove the convict out of the courtroom. Satan loses his position in heaven and is being pitched onto the earth. At the same time, this is a degradation, he loses ground.
Satan is also being called "the accuser of brethren". Not only was he able to seduce people toward evil, but he then went to God accusing those he had formerly tempted. Just remember Job. There was a talk between God and Satan before Job had to experience all those terrible things. Those times are definitely over. Satan cannot accuse anybody anymore who belongs to Jesus. God doesn't listen to him any longer. Now it is imperative what is said in Romans 8: Who could dare accusing those elect by God? Noone. Neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons will be able to seperate us from the love of God.
The dragon finds himself back on earth and reorients himself. He cannot harm Jesus anymore, so he centers his rage toward the woman, Jesus' church. His rage is without limits, because he knows that he only has a little time left. A number that always occurs anew in Revelation is: 3 and a half years or 1260 days or 42 months. It is always the same period of time. Also this number is not to be taken literally, but we have to ask for its meaning. The number 3 and a half is half of seven. Seven is the devine number, the number of perfection. Three and a half is an uneven number, it's a number of imperfection, of calamity.
There is a period of time, a limited time, a short time in God's view - where the church of Jesus (the woman) has to live in this imperfect world. This is about end times. It is about the time span between Jesus' ascension and His coming back. In this time the church is being threatened, hassled, persecuted.
But God is providing for His people. He Himself is providing a place of refuge and shelter. The image of this place is the desert. Also this is not to be taken literally. "Desert" here is not a geographical place. You can live right in the middle of a red-light area and still be protected as God's child. It doesn't make any difference where you are living. God is giving protection and coverage - not for a certain period of time only: the church has experienced this in the past 2000 years and will continue to experience this until Jesus' coming back.
We are reading about the means with which the dragon tries to kill the woman, but he doesn't succeed. God's protection and coverage have a supernatural quality and His promise is true: Satan will not be able to demolish the church of Jesus until the end of this time. Satan realizes this and approaches the individual believer. Wherever he does not succeed to literally kill Christians, he tries to kill their faith. He tries to kill our love for God, to shatter our trust in Him, to paralize our willingness to serve God and particuarly to quench our attempts to tell others about Jesus.
Some weeks ago, I met a young man. He was a very young Christian and said about himself: I was a guru. He was on the way with his bike in India and practized spiritual exercises. He had no troubles fasting for a whole week. Now he says: ever since I am a Christian, I don't even succeed fasting for two days...!
I said: And you wonder why?
He: Yes, sure I wonder why!
I replied: Before, you had to only fight your stomach, now you are fighting your stomach and a grim enemy who tries everything to hinder you in your relationship with Jesus to grow.
As Christians, we don't need to fear Satan, but we have to take him seriously. And we have to realize that we are under fire. We should take the Bible more seriously and stop wondering why. Many Christians have a totally wrong image of being a Christian. They are saying Yes to Jesus and expect God to be busy day and night in taking their problems away. Again, as Christians, we are under fire. Christian marriages are under attack and we wonder why. Christian parents are having problems with their kids or the other way around and we wonder why. Christians are experiencing difficulties at their work place and we wonder why. Christians argue with each other, local churches split and we wonder why.
Let's face the facts and stop wondering why. There is a manipulator behind it all that we are afraid of. There is an invisible enemy. Not my husband is my enemy, not my boss, not my fellow Christians with who I'm disagreeing. The enemy is - the enemy!
If we have seen through these backgrounds we then can learn how to deal differently with conflicts. God knows that we as the church cannot escape the dragon by our own strength, He knows about our lack of protection and of our weaknesses. But He also wants us to have a victorious life, an active life, an effective life and He wants us to stand up for His Kingdom to grow. He will provide for a supernatural solution.
It is said that the woman received the two wings of the big eagle. We humans cannot fly by our human nature. The eagle is not just whatever bird, but it is also called "king of the airs", a majestic animal. Now imagine you are up to your neck in difficulties, you have your back to the wall and don't see any way out. Imagine God giving you those eagle's wings and you are able to lift yourself up the ground. I am not thinking of a charismatic uplift out of reality, like the motto: everything's going to be just fine. I am thinking of looking on problems from a devine perspective.
How does the world look like from above? How do problems look like from above? For starters, they look much smaller than as if being right in the middle of them. The air is clear, the head is free. Flying must be a wonderful feeling of freedom. Life with Jesus means freedom: So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed! What does this mean from a very practical point of view? If a problem is crushing me, then I have the possibility to draw away from the daily routine, I can back out and find the nearness to Jesus. I can talk everything off my chest and hand it all over to Him. Then I can ask Him to show me His perspectives of my problem. This mostly means: correction. To accept the devine perspective of a problem means to discard my own biased and often exaggerated view and face the truth. It is the truth that sets us free. From this new view we can approach our problem and overcome it.
I had a dream a year ago. At once I knew: this is God speaking. This does not happen very often to me, to be exact, this was the 2nd time since I am a Christian, and this means, the 2nd time in 18 years. In this dream, I saw a dog coming up to me. I am afraid of dogs, they are a big threat to me. This dog turned into a bear, which means, the difficulties that came up to me were not only threatening, in fact they stampeded me. I managed to run away from that bear and hide behind a high picked fence. The bear did not go away, instead some construction workers came and began putting service pipes toward me behind the fence, like I know them from when we were building our house. I cried out to God: I don't want to be provided for, I want the bear to disappear! This was my perspective. I was expecting God to put the bear on a leash and take him away. Translating this, it means I wanted God to take my problems away.
God's perspective was different: He wanted to show me that He will provide all that is necessary for me in the midst of my problems. He did not want to keep me from my difficulties, but in my difficulties. It was unbelievably hard for me to accept this. It is exhausting, tedious. It seems to be so much easier to say a prayer and the problem bursts like soap bubbles. But God's goal for my life is His protection, His provision and His preservation in the midst of difficulties so that my faith can grow and I can turn more and more into an overcomer.
The time we are living in is no paradise. It is imperfect and threatening. From our point of view, the end time is enduring endlessly long, from God's perspective it is a short time. Why does He expect this of us? Why doesn't He shorten time? Why this pain? Because there are still lost children straying in the dark, not having found home yet! From God's perspective, the end time is also a time of God's mercy. Would Jesus have returned before my 30th birthday, then I would have belonged to those lost children, being lost forever. It was mercy that God has waited for me. And for everyone coming to faith in the next few years, it is a time of mercy. For if Jesus would come tomorrow, they would not be with those saved. Maybe this devine perspective will help us deal differently with our problems. Maybe one day, we can even say: what are my problems compared to the joy with a person finding to God! This is worth it all! Maybe this devine perspective will help us not to take ourselves so important and to actively take part in that children will find their way home to the Father's house.