A Great Red Dragon – Revelation Bible Guide Day 17
March 13, 2018
Previously in Revelation
19Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
Day 17 – 4th Tuesday
A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. 3Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. 5And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; 6and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.
7And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, 8but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
10Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,
“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 comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.
11But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.
12Rejoice then, you heavens
and those who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you
with great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!”
13So when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15Then from his mouth the serpent poured water like a river after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. 16But the earth came to the help of the woman; it opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.
Points of Interest
- “a woman clothed with the sun” – Have you seen Mother, the Darren Aronofsky/Jennifer Lawrence horror movie? This scene reminds me of that film. An innocent woman is pregnant, and everything in her world conspires to ruin her idyllic life and destroy her baby. It’s an old symbolic story, as John’s writing here evokes the ancient story of Isis and other Egyptian and Greek myths told in first century Western Asia.
- “a great red dragon” – In John’s retelling of the myth, the woman and her baby are up against an impossibly powerful and evil force. This is David and Goliath, this is itty bitty house churches trying to pursue faith under the watch of a hostile Roman Empire, this is baby Jesus at the mercy of a cruel world, hell-bent on wealth and power and rarely kind to innocent, vulnerable love and truth.
- “rule all the nations with a rod of iron” – Almost every time you read something strange in Revelation, it’s because John is living in a literary, symbolic universe that you don’t know about. That’s both the challenge and the delight of this odd book. Here John is quoting Psalm 2, which had become famous by John’s time as speaking to a human leader who’d double as God’s leader on earth: God’s Messiah, or in Greek, the Christ. So John says this vulnerable human, protected by God and born to rule the earth, is Jesus.
- “the great dragon .. who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” – In Revelation’s universe, the world a battlefield. In one corner, the mighty forces of human Empire, who rule through violent force and deceptive propaganda. The spiritual force behind that is called Satan. In the other corner is the beauty and wisdom and goodness of God – immensely powerful but visible on earth only through a Christ born as a baby and crucified like a lamb, and through communities gathered in Jesus’ name that struggle to live faithfully, rather than getting caught up in the world’s ways of greed, violence, and false worship of money and sex and security.
- “Now have come the salvation and power” – John’s witness is to say that though the odds look bad, God’s way of love works. Resurrection follows death. The crucified Jesus looked like a symbol of defeat but was in fact a victory. The ancient church called this “Christus victor” – Christ in his death defeated the power of evil, submitting to it only to defeat it in resurrection, liberating his followers from fear.
- “Then the dragon was angry” – This is John’s serious realism within his symbolic universe. Just because Jesus wins doesn’t mean a life of faith will be easy. We live in a hostile world, where humility and love and kindness get crushed sometimes. John encourages us: hold on, it’s temporary.
This week, we’ll respond to the idea of judgment by practicing critique and truth telling – noticing places in our own contemporary American consumer empire that overpromise, lie, or do violence. Think of a force in our society that uses power and violence to oppose good for the vulnerable. Pray for Jesus’ help for the vulnerable in this scenario.
A Direction for Prayer
For your six, that God will help them be alert to the stakes of the times we live in and give them the opportunity to serve God’s purposes in our generation. Pray for their protection from evil and harm as well.
The Bible Guide
This blog post is part of a Lenten journey through the book of Revelation. Every year during the season of Lent, we take a focused look at a portion of Scripture as part of our communal spiritual practice. This year, we are exploring what it means to be Children of God in a Fractured World, with Revelation as our lens. On Sundays, we’re exploring this with our sermons; on weekdays, we’re doing so with our bible guide. The bible guide series starts here.