Monday, January 9, 2012

Revelation 12 - What a Story!

I include the entire text of the 12th chapter of the Revelation of John because it really needs to be read and re-read as a single narrative to be appreciated. It is a vivid, exciting story. As an allegory it is clear enough in its broad meeting, but, pardon the pun, the devil is in the details.

The Woman and the Dragon
 1 A great 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. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its 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 it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”[a] And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
 7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The 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.
 10 Then 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 Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
   who accuses them before our God day and night,
   has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over 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.
12 Therefore 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.”
 13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. 15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.


I see it this way: Satan, a powerful, evil dragon, tries unsuccessfully to kill the infant Messiah. (On earth as it is in heaven: King Herod tries to kill Baby Jesus, but Joseph, acting on angelic intel, brings Mary and Jesus to Egypt, beyond Herod’s reach.) In defense of the child, God’s warrior angels drive Satan from heaven to earth. Lucky heaven, but woe to the earth! The enraged dragon then turns on Messiah’s brothers and sisters, falsely accusing and killing them. Yet they too triumph over him by staying true in heart and word to Christ their savior, even unto death.

Sometimes – you gotta wonder about Satan’s smarts. Rebelling against God? Am reminded of one of my favorite Loony Tunes lines, by Yosemite Sam: “Dragons is sooooo stupid.” But then when I read about post-modern philosophers declaring that they have “learned” that reality cannot exist and it is impossible to actually know anything……

Who is the woman? The most literal answer: Mary. Also/or Israel (12 crowns/tribes/apostles under her feet). I’m not trying to be a political compromiser here but I think the answer is “both”. Mary in her flesh represents Israel, the mother of the church. Israel is our mother, and therefore holds a special place of respect and kinship in our heart, and God’s. She is still Chosen, even if many of her children reject Messiah.


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