Who is the Red Dragon of Revelation 12? What does he represent? Find out.
“The Relentless Red Dragon”
If there are words to describe the character of Satan, words you could choose from would be words like, corrupt, defiant, sinister, evil and proud. One word that will strike you in our new series of studies in Revelation is the word, relentless.
If were to choose a symbol or figure to describe Satan, you could choose from – a crafty serpent, a deceiving angel of light, a roaring lion on the hunt for fresh victims . . . or a lesser known symbol of a red dragon, which John the Apostle will describe.
A relentless red Dragon.
If you were to describe one desire of this Dragon that seems to drive every other passion in his fallen corrupted state, you could easily choose one word – hatred; and most especially, hatred for the Jewish people.
But it’s more than hatred of the Jew. It’s a hatred of their election as an ethnic nation of God – they are known as God’s chosen people, right? And Satan hates the covenant established by God with Israel; he hates the coming kingdom and a coming King – the God-man who will one day sit on David’s throne.
One of the greatest proofs to me that a dispensational interpretation of prophecy is correct – which is just another way of saying a literal approach to the meaning of scripture – is the ongoing persecution of the Jew.
Listen, if the church simply absorbed the promises of the Israel; if the covenant promises to Israel of a land and a nation and a throne didn’t matter anymore – if the church voided the future of ethnic Israel in the land of promise, then why is there ongoing hatred and persecution of the Jew which can only be explained in terms of a demonic agenda?
Why the long, historical attempts on nearly every continent to wipe out the Jew?
Why are the pages of history footnoted with atrocities against the Jewish people?
In the second century, Jews in Egypt and the Mesopotamian region were sold into slavery so much so that the price of an able bodied slave dropped to that of a horse.
The crusades that began in the 11th century would slaughter hundreds of thousands of Jews.
A thousand years ago Jews were banished from England; in France and Germany, they were blamed for the black plague and treated viciously.
You say, but that was the 13th century – that’s ancient history.
The same year that Columbus discovered America, Spain had driven all the Jews from their country. / John Phillips, Exploring Revelation(Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), p. 156
But that was the unsophisticated 15th century – people thought Jews were animals but they also thought the earth was flat.
I read only this past week an interesting footnote regarding the late 1780’s as France was in the upheaval of its revolutionary blood bath, Thomas Jefferson had taken the place of Benjamin Franklin as the foreign hero and diplomat from America. As the power of the monarchy was slipping into the hands of the people, he was asked by the National Assembly of France to help write their own Declaration of Independence. He had already been mentoring Lafayette and together they worked on the preamble. Without any reference to a Creator, the first article simply declares that “all men are born and remain free and equal in rights.” However, burrow your way into that original constitution and you discover that civil rights were denied to three specific categories of people; actors, Protestants and Jews. / Jay Winik, The Great Upheaval: American and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800 (Harper Collins, 2007), p. 230
An actor is an occupation and you can change that. A protestant is a member of a religious sect and you can leave that; a Jew cannot change who he is and as a result, the great revolution of France left one race of people without the protection of the constitution, much like our own country refused to protect the African race.
But that was the 1780’s . . . surely things would change for that race of people after centuries of persecution.
About 130 years after the French ratified their constitution, a young man stood in the Hofberb Library in Vienna, standing as he often did before the encasement of what many believed to be the spear that pierced the side of Christ. He hated Jesus Christ and he hated the Jewish people. In his early 20’s, he had overheard a tour guide at that Library say to his group, “This spear is shrouded in mystery and whoever unlocks its secrets could rule the world.” That young man would later say, “Those words changed my life.” Standing before that spear, this young man made a pact with Satan, inviting the powers of the spear that pierced Christ to invade his own life. One of his friends by the name of Walter Stein, who befriended this young Adolph Hitler wrote that as Hitler stood before that spear (and I quote Stein), “he stood like a man in a trance . . . the very space around him seemed enlivened with some kind of [strange] light. He appeared transformed as if some mighty Spirit inhabited his very soul, creating within and around him an evil transformation.” / Adapted from Erwin Lutzer, Hitler’s Cross (Moody Press, 1998)
I found it interesting to learn that when Hitler victoriously marched through Vienna, he went into that library took out the spear for himself and then said, and I quote, “I now hold the world in my hands.” / Ibid
Without question, this demonically inspired and empowered man would one day march through much of Europe, triumphant in victory with millions raising their hands toward him shouting, Heil Hitler while at the same time, millions of Jews were being burned to death in ovens deep inside concentration camps.
But that was the early 1900’s . . . the world knows better now.
Oh no; you see that same hatred for Christ and the Jew has not gone away for the Devil has not retired from his primary passion – even though at the moment he lacks a global crusader, he is still fomenting and organizing and luring people into his crusade.
An article in the New York Times reported a number of years ago on the popularity of video games in Germany and Austria – more than 100 different video games – categorized as “KZ Manager”; “KZ” is shorthand for the German words, concentration camp. The games allow a player to run a concentration camp complete with a castle topped by a swastika. They player manages the camp and earns points for gassing prisoners and selling gold fillings, taken from the victims. He needs to earn money by also selling a series of products crafted by prison labor in order to buy more gas to operate the gas chambers . . . all of which he must do, by the way, without raising the awareness of people outside the camp. A Jewish Watchdog organization called the Wiesenthal Center reported the popularity of the games among European youth. In fact, Austrian newspapers announced that polling students in one city along found 61% of the students either knew about the games or had played them. / The New York Times, May 1, 1991
But that was 17 years ago. Surely Satan has tired and people are now tolerant of all religions and races. This has been going on for centuries and by now the persecution of this one particular race should have stopped.
Not quite. A CNN report dated this year announced in bold headlines, “Anti-Semitism on the rise globally.” It went on to report current anti-Jewish incidents have been documented in Argentina, Australia, Canada, South African, Russia, France, Germany, England and, of course, in the Middle East during 2008 and these incidents are increasing in number and volatility. / CNN.com, Report: “Anti-Semitism on the rise Globally” Friday, March 14, 2008
One of the greatest proofs that God is not finished with Israel is that the devil will not leave her alone.
Listen, one of Satan’s premier passions is the extermination of the Jew.
And Satan will try to destroy the Jew long after the church has been established, in fact, even after the church is raptured.
Why? Because Satan also interprets prophecy literally.
Therefore, Satan must get rid of the Jew and if he can, he will erase the possibility of God’s covenant with Israel from coming to pass. And if God cannot keep His covenant promises of the coming land and the coming kingdom and the coming King, then God is less than God; in fact, God then becomes a liar; He promised something He cannot produce.
Furthermore, Satan fully understands the ramifications of this Book of Revelation we’re studying.
If 144,000 Jewish evangelists are gonna comb the earth for converts and multiplied millions from every tongue, tribe and nation will believe in Christ, then he must stamp out the Jew so that it cannot happen in the future.
If Israel will one day be called back to Jerusalem, then the Devil must keep Jerusalem out of the hands of the Jews.
Satan will attempt to thwart the plan of Christ and he will attempt to kill the Jews until Christ banishes him to hell forever.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason behind the headlines . . . the red dragon is the reason that the pages of history are literally stained with the blood of the Jewish people.
And not just the red dragon will be in the headlines of the Tribulation. We’re about to be introduced to the antichrist and his false prophet.
In fact, chapters 12 and 13 of Revelation are primarily devoted to introducing to us the key players – what I’m going to simply call the many faces of evil – as we continue toward the final days of the Tribulation and the Battle of Armageddon.
A new global killer of Jews is about to make his appearance.
But before we’re introduced to him, John has several introductions to make.
- The Woman
Let’s begin with Revelation chapter 12 and verse 1. A great sign appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2. And she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.
The wonderful thing about interpreting prophecy literally, is that you literally interpret every metaphor, simile and figure of speech whenever the text informs you that this is the intention.
We’re clearly told in verse 1 that this is a sign – the Greek language calls her a semeion mega (shmeion mega) – a great sign – which immediately tells us that the woman is not an actual woman but symbolically represents some other person or entity. / Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 119
John writes, “A great sign appeared in heaven” – and in this symbolic vision, John sees a woman in labor, dressed in light, the moon under her feet wearing a crown with stars.
She isn’t the first symbolic woman to appear in Revelation, by the way.
In chapter 2 we discover a literal woman named symbolically as Jezebel because she was leading the church into error and sin. Later in chapter 17 we’re introduced to a harlot who symbolizes the false religion of the antichrist; in chapter 19 we see another woman who symbolizes the wife of Christ – she’s called the bride of the Lamb.
And here in chapter 12 we see another symbolic woman, this one in the pain of childbirth, dressed very differently than your wife when she went into the delivery room to deliver your child. There were no crowns and stars and moon.
The question then becomes, who does this woman represent?
In my research I found at least 5 different opinions. I’ll give you the four wrong views and then the correct view – you don’t have to believe me, of course, you can choose to be wrong. And you’ll get a bad grade on the final exam.
Mary Baker Eddy believed she was the woman herself and the child she bore was the Christian Science Movement that came into being in 1879. Unfortunately, she now knows she wasn’t the woman. / Sam Gordon, Worthy is the Lamb (Ambassador, 2000), p. 259
The Roman Catholic Church believes the woman is Mary, whom they often refer to as the Queen of Heaven and believe she was taken to heaven without dying. The problems with that view are many, not the least of which is the virtual deification of Mary to equal status with Christ, but more specifically as it relates to this text, you have Mary already crowned in heaven, but still carrying Jesus who has yet to be born, crucified, resurrected and ascended into heaven.
A third view holds that the woman represents God Himself. This would leave unexplained how God brings forth God and then has to flee from the dragon as we’ll see later on. / Thomas, p. 120
A fourth view is that the woman is the church. Though the church is certainly represented as a woman –the bride of Christ, keep in mind she is the bride of Christ, not the woman giving birth to Christ.
The church did not give birth to Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ gave birth to the church. / Edward Hindson, Revelation: Unlocking the Future (AMG, 2002), p. 137
The view that fits the context of this chapter, as well as the rest of scripture is that this woman represents Israel.
This woman symbolizes Israel because Christ was born of the seed of Israel – the God-man was of Jewish kin – in fact, the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah both use the imagery of Israel being a woman in labor.
Israel was under the heel of Rome when Christ was born – and the added persecution by Satan to wipe out the Christ child is one of the underlying dramas of the Christmas story.
The anguish of Israel was heard as Herod had all the Jewish boys under the age of two killed in and around Bethlehem in order to destroy the one who was born, King of the Jews (Matthew 2:16)
You’ll notice again in verse 1 that her symbolic appearance is clearly tied to Israel as well with the sun, moon and 12 stars.
In fact, there is only one other place in Scripture where you find all these symbols clustered together in one place in the Bible and that passage wonderful commentary for John’s vision. That one other place is Genesis 37 where Joseph describes his dreams to his brothers and father. / Ray Stedman, Understanding Revelation: God’s Final Word (Discovery House, 1991), p. 231
There you have the sun, the moon and 12 stars representing the nation Israel.
Parallel the symbols in the first Book of the Bible with the last Book of the Bible and you have:
- Israel clothed with the sun – an allusion in Genesis 37 to Jacob who stood in the lineage to inherit the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant;
- the moon – referring to Rachel, Jacob’s wife and the mother of Joseph;
- And you have the twelve stars – representing the twelve tribes of Israel and from them comes the birth of the Messiah. / Adapted from Thomas, p. 120
And now the introduction of what we’ll simply call the first face of evil.
- The Dragon
Notice who’s lurking about in verse 3. Then another sign appeared in heaven; and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
Now you’re thinking this is where it starts to sound like a monster movie, right?
This is why we stay away from Revelation; horns, multi-headed dragons waiting to eat newly born babies.
Well, before anybody thinks of this as pure fiction or worse yet envisions the devil in a red suit with a tail and horns, remember this is yet another semeion (shmion) - sign. This is a symbolic scene that represents an invisible drama.
If we take one step at a time, we’ll easily discover what this sign intends to represent.
This sign appearing to John does not tell us what Satan looks like, this tells us what he acts like.
Let me give you four descriptions from this sign given to John:
- First, Satan is seen as a destroyer.
He’s referred to as a red dragon. A red beast that kills and maims his victims. Only in the Book of Revelation is Satan referred to as a Dragon.
How do we know for certain that this Dragon represents Satan? John answers that later on in verse 9 of this same chapter where we’re told, “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
He’s described in verse 3 with the color red – the red dragon. That word appears only one other time in the Bible and we saw it in chapter 6 verse 4 where the horseman rides upon a red horse to bring war to the planet.
So Satan is seen here as a destructive beast, destroying all who oppose him.
- Secondly, Satan is seen as a dictator
Notice verse 3 again. Behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns and on his heads were seven diadems.
Let’s break down these symbols one at a time. The seven heads of Satan are the 7 consecutive world empires that we’ve observed in history beginning with Egypt, then Assyria, then Babylon, conquered by Medo-Persians; then Greece became the world power, then Rome ruled the Western world. The final, seventh kingdom will be the kingdom ruled by the Antichrist. / John MacArthur, Because the Time Is Near (Moody Press, 2007), p. 201
And that kingdom will be made up of ten horns – John tells us. Daniel chapter 7 clears the fog away by letting us in on the fact that these 10 horns are 10 kings who create a confederacy under the sway of the Dragon and his puppet dictator, the Antichrist. (Daniel 7:24)
So Satan is pictured here as a destroyer of all who oppose him; secondly, as a dictator of a new confederation of 10 nations. This 10 nation union will be studied more closely later on, but this coalition of nations will be ruled by the Antichrist who is empowered by Satan himself.
So the red dragon is a destroyer, a dictator and:
- Next, Satan is pictured as a deceiver.
Notice verse 4 again. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.
When Satan fell, both Isaiah and Ezekiel inform us that many angels fell with him, having conspired with him to unseat God and place Satan on the throne of heaven.
John informs us here that Satan was able to deceive one third of the angels to follow him, believing he would succeed. Since that time they have been confirmed in their unholy state and await their sentence in an eternal hell.
We’re never told how many angels God created before the creation of the universe (Job 38:7), but we have been told in Revelation 9 has however revealed that at least 200 million demons terrify the earth in the judgment of God and we’re given the impression that this isn’t the total number of demonic beings.
Imagine then, if 2-300 million demons represent only one third of the angelic host created by God – we’re pressing toward one billion angelic beings, at least.
No wonder when Elisha asked God to open the eyes of his servant so that he could see they were protected from enemy soldiers, that servant was stunned to see the heavens literally filled with angelic beings in chariots of fire. (2 Kings 6:17)
We have no idea.
What we do know is, greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4) – even if the evil one is a vicious destroyer and world dictator and persuasive deceiver.
Finally, Satan is described in John’s vision as:
- A devourer of the seed of Israel
Notice again the graphic picture of Satan’s all consuming desire; middle of verse 4. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
In other words, he wants to do anything to kill the Messiah as soon as he is born.
Herod was merely a pawn in the talons of the Dragon as he sent soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all the Jewish boys 2 years and under (Matthew 2:16)
Now notice what happens, in verse 5 as the male child is delivered.
- The Son
5. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
Notice how John’s vision skips everything between the incarnation and the ascension of Christ.
The Gospel of John will fill in the details.
Of course, the failure of the Dragon to kill the seed of Israel only infuriates him and verse 13 tells us that he wages war against the woman who bore the child.
In other words, He couldn’t kill the Jewish Messiah and so he vents his hatred and still does to this day against the Jewish people.
It will require the unique, supernatural protection of God to keep any Jews alive at all, as we’ll study in our next session.
World news informs us that anti-Semitism is growing. The President of Iran is open about his desire to exterminate Israel and push her into the sea. Countries around our world are registering anti-Jewish sentiment and ridicule.
The Muslim world is currently personifying so much of the murderous hatred. So bent on killing Jews that they sacrifice their own sons and daughters as suicide bombers.
One commentator quoted from an article first published in Harper’s Magazine where a Muslim mother was interviewed after she learned of her son’s death in a suicide bombing that killed her son and ten Jews. She said, and I quote, “Because I love my son, I encouraged him to die a martyr’s death for the sake of Allah. Jihad is a religious obligation encumbered upon us and we must carry it out. I sacrificed my son as a part of my obligation. I asked Allah to give me ten Israelis for my son and Allah granted my request, and my son made his dream come true, killing ten Israeli settlers and soldiers. Our God honored him even more in that there were many Israelis wounded.” / Adrian Rogers, Unveiling the End Times in our Time (Broadman, 2004), p. 146
That summarizes the difference well, doesn’t it? We happen to be living in a world where the gospel of Jesus Christ is desperately needed – and more and more obvious.
Islam is a religion where its sons are called on to die for God; Christianity is a religion where God sent His Son to die for us.
Muslim extremists are sacrificing their lives so others will die; we are to sacrifice their lives so that others will live.
Casper ten Boom, the godly father of Corrie, was finally caught by the Gestapo, along with his family for hiding Jews in a secret upstairs chamber. I’ve had the privilege of walking upstairs and into that room with the fake wall and the entrance through the bottom of the linen closet. They were finally caught and the entire family arrested. Before being separated and taken away – he would not survive the concentration camp – Casper ten Boom said, “If I die in prison, it will be an honor to have given my life for God’s people.” / David Jeremiah, Escape the Coming Night (W Publishing, 1990), p. 169
Muslims are not our enemies by the way, they are our mission field. In fact, so are Jews. For a Jew living in this age of grace must come to faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Messiah if they ever hope to inherit the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus came to Jesus Christ that night, you remembe3r, believing the kingdom was his simply because he was a son of Abraham – simply because he’d been born into a Jewish family. But Jesus Christ told him, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3).
“How are you born again,” Nicodemus asked? And Jesus told him in their private conversation, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
Now we’re told in verse 6 that the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days – that just so happens to be 3 and ½ years; the last half of the Tribulation where Israel flees after the Antichrist desecrates the Temple and begins to kill the Jewish people.
Many believe Israel will flee to Petra, a city cut into a mountain of rock where God will protects them and provides for them. We’ll explore that in our next session together.
What I want you to notice is that phrase I just read in the middle of verse 6; “to a place prepared by God”.
The only other time this phrase appears in the New Testament is in John 14 where the disciples are promised that they will be taken to a place prepared for them – same expression – a place where they will be protected and provided for – a place called heaven.
Listen, if we can draw an analogy from the chosen nation of Israel to the chosen bride of Christ, it would be this:
Just as God will keep every promise to Israel, He will keep every promise to you.
- Jesus Christ promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
- He promised, “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
- And He gave that ultimate promise to those who believe in Him, “I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also.” (John 14:3)
These are His promises to you . . . count on them . . . lean on them . . . depend on them . . . hang onto them . . . rest in them . . . these are His unchanging promises to you.
And He will never fail to keep His word.