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The Woman and the Dragon

Revelation 12:1-4
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. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 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.

Following the sounding of the seventh trumpet, John is shown a series of signs which reveal different parts of the conflict between Satan and God's people. In these signs, two women are identified: the people of God (Revelation 12:1-5) and worldly authorities opposed to Jesus (Revelation 17:1-6). The first woman initially appears as Israel, with its crown of twelve tribes (from Isaiah 26:17-18), and later as the church (Revelation 12:17).

The Isaiah passage shows Israel as longing to bring salvation to the world, but over 2000 years of history had been incapable of doing so: "As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, Lord. We were with child, we writhed in labour, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life." And yet, Israel would indeed give birth to the Saviour, as Matthew's genealogy of Jesus makes clear (Matthew 1:1-17). Although some have thought that this woman is Mary, Isaiah 66:7-8 names the woman as Zion – the city of God – the Old Testament people of God. In Revelation 21:1-3, the new Zion is the church including all of God's faithful people.

As Israel's pregnancy was far advanced, with labour pains increasing, the dragon is introduced. Described in frightening detail, he is seen as massively eclipsing everything else, red with fury, with multiple crowned heads, claiming to be all-seeing and omniscient, and multiple horns - claiming very great power. Those are the same characteristics as the beast of Revelation 13:1 and 17:3 (the individual or coalition of nations which carry out the devil's work, the Antichrist). The cosmic conflict is focussed on defeating Jesus and His people (Matthew 21:38-39). But at this stage in the drama, John sees the dragon flexing his muscles. His objective is to devour the child which is to be born. That happened as King Herod massacred all the little boys in Bethlehem in his attempt to destroy Jesus, the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:13-18).

Historically and currently, it is astonishing to see the antagonism that has been directed against Israel and the church. Revelation is a letter to churches under pressure; and the scene in these verses shows Satan as the intelligent evil being behind this focussed opposition. As the dramas develop the good news is that worldly systems will fall (Revelation 18:2), the beast will be destroyed and Satan will be defeated (Revelation 20:10); and evil is judged (Revelation 20:11-15). What encouragement is that to the church? Simply to know that God has a masterplan to eliminate evil and reward His faithful people is encouraging. As believers we are not puppets on Satan's strings, but treasured children of the King. Yes, troubles will come and death may appear to win but the Lord is in command: He holds the keys of death (Revelation 1:18). Job 23:10 says, "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." Be encouraged. Christ's resurrection proves that Satan did not win. The Lord will defeat His enemies and vindicate His people. He is committed to His people, even though many may oppose us. Be encouraged to press on (Philippians 3:14).

Sovereign Lord. Thank You for this assurance that although Satan may do his worst, Jesus is still my Saviour and He will bring me to glory one day. Forgive me when I doubt Your goodness towards me, and when I allow troubles to make me despair. Please help me to keep on trusting that You will win the battle against the devil and all evil; and help me to persevere. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams