Chapter 14 - Is Satan A Red Dragon With Seven Heads?
The Red Dragon With Ten Horns and Seven Crowns
1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
Now what might have John meant by the “dragon” he wrote about. This dragon could be very easily explained if we accept the testimony of the following two theologians. We have the testimony of George Lamsa telling us that the dragon in Revelation 12 is not Satan;
Evil forces; adversary-opposition to the truth. Also a dictator.
We are also given the testimony of Laurence Gardner that this dragon is an Imperial Power intent on obliterating the most potent move of God to be seen in the history of Rome;
We should therefore understand that the archangel Michael’s battle with the dragon, in Revelation 12:7 corresponds to the conflict between the Zadokite succession, and the ‘beast of blasphemy’-Imperial Rome. The ‘second beast’ was that of the rigidly strict regime of the Pharisees, who thwarted the ambitions of the Hellenist Jews by segregating Jews from Gentiles.
The views of these men seem to be rooted in an understanding of the times John was writing in. Isaac Newton is yet another great scholar who understood Imperial Rome to be the dragon as well.
A Dragon or serpent, if called the old serpent or the Devil signiﬁes the spirit of error delusion & inordinate affections reigning in the world. For spirits good or evil are sometimes put for the tempers dispositions & persuasions of men’s minds much after the manner that we often take death for a substance.
We know that John was an apocalyptic writer who wrote in the same genre as Daniel. In fact, John gleaned many of his images from the book of Daniel. Daniel had extremely mystical visions as well but the components of his visions are no more to be taken literally than are the components of John’s. Daniel was also known for interpreting the King’s visions. He spoke about a great statue the King had dreamt about. An awe inspiring statue that had a head of gold, chest of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and ten toes made of iron mixed with clay. This symbol was interpreted to be indicative of successive ruling Empires. Empires that were all connected by their anti-Yahweh philosophies. The common understanding of this prophecy is that each segment of the statue represented a different period of rule. The order was to begin with Babylon, which fell to Medo-Persia, then Greece, and finally Rome.
The Roman Empire ultimately broke into many pieces, as is alluded to by the toes of iron mixed with easily fractured clay. But that world-renowned empire is presently undergoing a restoration. And we find the philosophy of it is alive and well in the Roman Catholic politico-religious system. A system that is rife with pagan additions to a man-made religion, which has given itself the authority to alter Scripture.
Daniel also talks about the horns that proceed from this system of government and the horns are themselves other, less-powerful governments such as kings from other countries. Now as far as John’s Revelation goes, we must keep in mind that his writing was in the same form and spirit of Daniel’s. In Daniel chapter 7, the prophet has a vision that involves the four winds of Heaven bashing against the sea and then four great beasts rise up out of the sea. These mysterious beasts of Daniel’s vision are interpreted a few verses later as being different kings.
And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
Daniel describes the kings he sees in his vision with very graphic imagery. The first was a lion with wings and the second was a bear with ribs in its mouth. Daniel then describes the third beast as like a leopard with four wings on its back and having four heads. The fourth beast of Daniel is given special attention because it is dreadful, terrible, and exceeding strong. This beast not only has iron teeth to crush and break things but it has ten smaller horns on its head. Daniel is clear in stating that this fourth beast is diverse from all the rest, in Daniel’s vision, whatever Empire this fourth beast was representing was truly an ominous and powerful force.
It is logical, that when considering the visions of John, we should relate them to Daniel’s visions of beasts. Visions that represented leaders and thereby correctly show the dragons and beasts in John’s vision as the rulers and governments of the Roman empire. The dragons and beasts are not to be seen as Satan or as monsters; the stuff of myth and fantasy.
What Does A Monstrous Dragon Look Like To John?
These images could also be indicative of a false religious system like Roman Catholicism or Pharisaic Judaism. Not only do we have the testimony of Gardner and Lamsa as to what the dragon is but also we have Daniel’s own interpretation. According to Daniel, these images by way of visions are to be regarded as humans and as the governing bodies comprised of humans. Still further, we are also shown elsewhere in the Scripture that a “dragon” is a metaphorical symbol representing an anti-God, ruling government. John took many elements from the prophets Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. And interestingly enough, we find that in the latter three prophetic writings, there is mention of a dragon and it represents the anti-God governing system. Isaiah speaks of the Pharaoh and army of Egypt as a dragon. In an attempt to let the Scriptures interpret the terms used by the Apostle in his writings, we can see that John can only be trying to communicate one of two things when he says he saw; awar in heaven: and Michael and his angels fighting the dragon and his angels.
Because the Pharaoh is the dragon, John is telling us either Michael battled against the Pharaoh of Egypt, or he is presenting the ruling power as being a dragon that oppresses the people of God by using the dragon aphorism. The false religious system and authority that is seen in Pharaoh the dragon, is now seen by John as the oppressive and powerful Rome of his day. According to John, the beast that is a true adversarial force that imposes its false religion onto the people of God through various means that encourage assimilation, is The Roman Empire. As an example of a false religious system being referred to as a dragon, notice how Isaiah calls Rahab, which is Egypt, a dragon in the following passage. It is no secret that Rahab is understood to be a euphemism for Egypt, which again connects the identity of the dragon to the false religious system of the Pharaoh.
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?
To help us connect the dots on who a dragon is, the Psalms are among the references where we can find out Rahab the dragon is Egypt. Adam Clark spells it out for us in his concise commentary that refers us to Psalm 89:10 as a means to understand what Rahab is;
Psalm 89:10 Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.
Thou hast broken Rahab - Thou hast destroyed the power of Egypt, having overthrown the king and its people when they endeavored to prevent thy people from regaining their liberty.
Jeremiah makes similar claims about the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. He likens this anti-God king to a dragon who has done great damage to its prey. Dragons of course are mythological characters that do not actually exist, aside from the lizard variety of dragons found in pet stores today.
33 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; The daughter of Babylon is like a threshingfloor, it is time to thresh her: yet a little while, and the time of her harvest shall come.
34 Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.
The mytho-poetic language provides rich and understandable pictures of the persecution some suffered under the hand of the anti-Messiah establishment. John Gill notes the metaphorical usage of “dragon” and then connects this idea to the mention of the dragon in Revelation.
and wounded the dragon? that is, Pharaoh king of Egypt, so called from the river Nile in Egypt, where he reigned, and because of his fierceness and cruelty, see Eze_29:3. So the Targum interprets it of Pharaoh and his army, who were strong as a dragon. And that same mighty arm that destroyed Egypt, and its tyrannical king, can and will destroy that great city, spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, and the beast that has two horns like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon, and to whom the dragon has given his seat, power, and authority; and the rather this may be believed, since the great red dragon has been cast out, or Pagan Rome has been destroyed by him, see Rev 11:8.
Another instance of the word “dragon” referring to the ruler of a nation that is opposed to the ways of the Creator, is found in Ezekiel as mentioned above. Ezekiel is told by Yahweh to speak against the Pharaoh, which is in essence speaking against the entire kingdom. Yahweh Himself calls Pharaoh “the great dragon.” Therefore, Pharaoh is either a fire breathing, flight enabled lizard-like creature that invokes fear in the minds of men who come across his path, or God Himself is using a mythological image to sum up the anti-God attributes of this King and Kingdom. The latter of these is the case and Yahweh makes no bones about calling the Pharaoh by the name of a fantasy dragon creature so that He can establish his point.
Boy Pharaoh, You Are Some GREAT DRAGON!
2 Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt:
3 Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.
The word for dragon in the Hebrew is tannin. This word is used a modest number of times in the Scriptures. And John would have used the word not only because he was shown a mythological creature in his vision to represent the Roman rulers, but also because it had a familiar precedent in the images found in the Hebrew Scriptures. The ISBE makes note of the varied use of this term and by noting it, we will be more capable of understanding an upcoming statement by John as to the various label for this.
Ṭannīn and the plural tannīnīm occur 14 times, and in English Versions of the Bible are variously rendered “dragon,” “whale,” “serpent” or “sea-monster”
Interpreting the images of Revelations is important but because there are so many scholars who have already done so, I will not take the time to do so here. The works of many scholars are helpful for understanding the meaning of the images in John’s head. Finding an accurate historical, linguistic, cultural, interpretation of every symbol in John’s letters, must be done by comparing scads of commentaries from historical and contemporary sources, while remaining vigilant to cross-reference any symbol from John’s vision with similar phrases and statements in the Hebrew Scriptures. That is to say, when John writes about a beast, we must look to the other occurrences of the beast in the Scriptures as can be found in the Book of Daniel. Understanding that the dragon represents Rome and her false religion, we must then try to understand what the woman in John’s vision represents.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, which are source material for understanding John’s vision, we find the true Israel referred to as a woman. Some have found a moment in time when there was a sign in heaven that fits the description of what is seen in verse 1. The predominant understanding of this verse is that the woman here refers to the nation of Israel but recognition of the statement referring to “a sign in the heavens” likely refers to the position of the constellation Virgo in the sky. “A sign”, would be a reference to a telling and significant astronomical event.
Who Was This Woman Who Gave Birth According To The Stars?
It is recorded through astronomical retro-calculations that in the early hours of 3 BCE, on what would be the first day of the seventh month in Yahweh’s calendar, the sun was seen to be mid-body over top of the constellation Virgo. And the moon was seen to be under the feet of the constellation Virgo. What we find John talking about is a woman clothed with the sun and the moon is under her feet. Understanding what a sign in the heavens is helps us explain yet another passage in Revelation about a vicious dragon. Knowing that a sign in the heavens is a statement referring to a celestial event involving planets and stars, we can begin to understand another level of the words of John. Let’s not get thrown off here because the English word in Revelation 12 is the word “wonder.” We see the word “wonder” is often translated from the Greek word as sign.
1 And there appeared a great wonder [sign] in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
It is taught that the position of the sun in the middle of the constellation Virgo, and the moon at the base of the constellation Virgo, corresponds to the woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet as we see in John’s revelation. This cosmic sign was the sign present in the heavens at the birth of Yeshua. Ernest L. Martin outlines this theory and his findings in two books. The 1978 title, The Birth of Christ Recalculated, and the more recent work, The Star that Astonished the World. In these works, Martin outlines the alignment of the celestial signs talked about by John.
Another work is the book by the professor of the Astronomical Institute in Vienna. K. Ferrari d’Occhieppo wrote the highly respected book Der Stern von Bethlehemin 1991 where he details the flaws in Martin’s theory and posits an early 7BC date for the birth of Yeshua. Setting the argument aside as to whom it is that is correct on the date of the birth of the Messiah, it is safe to say that astronomers are able to pinpoint the time and date of celestial signs which are recorded in ancient documents. One more recent and splendidly clear presentation of the sign in the heavens is found in the video titled, The Star Of Bethlehem. This 2007 film, featuring researcher Rick Larson, identifies this woman who was clothed with the sun in September of 3 BC. To date, I have no other resource that expounds the astronomical facts about the birth of the Messiah as well as Larson does in his video. I highly recommend you explore it.
This sign spoken of by John is then very likely a symbolic, cosmic timepiece, which identifies the time of the birth of the Messiah. Calling the woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet a “sign in the heavens”, is a direct statement to tell the hearer that this “sign” represents a significant happening at some point in past or future history.
If these celestial events represent realities on the earth, then one might consider the connection of the woman in John’s letter to the nation of Israel. John was using fantastic images to speak of physical realities. It is common to refer to a nation as a female and the prophets practiced this form of identification at times when referring to the nation of Israel. George Eldon Ladd says this of Israel the woman;
The metaphor of Israel as woman is found several times in the Old Testament (Isa.26:17; 66:7-8; Mic. 4:10; 5:3)
The woman and the statement of the birth of a son then, is referring possibly to two things. It seems to be referring to both the Messiah who came from the nation of Israel and was born at a specific time which may be identified by astronomy; and it is referring to the Nation of Israel which brought forth a son metaphorically. The “son” is a nation chosen by Yahweh and was then oppressed and persecuted by Rome at one point and by Pharaoh at another, with both being referred to as the dragon. Interestingly, the Nation of Israel has been referred to as the “first born” of Yahweh as well as being called a “son” and is also spoken of as a “woman.”
Idioms in the Bible Explained and A Key to the Original Gospels, by George M Lamsa page 70, Published by Harperone.
Bloodline of the Holy Grail, By Laurence Gardner, page 44. Element Books, 1996
Newton, Yahuda MS 9.1, fols 19v–20v.
The comparison of the various claims to date the birth of Yeshua can be read in The Birth of Christ, Exploding the Myth By Percey Seymor
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