Thursday, January 24, 2013

Revelation 12: More Crazy Stories

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The Woman and the Dragon (v. 1-6)

A great sign appeared in heaven.

Is this significant? What follows is some crazy stuff that happens up in the sky. Is the fact that it starts off by saying it is a "great sign" an indication that the claim is not that these things happen up in the sky, but rather that it is some kind of cosmic light show? Is this the equivalent of God saying "this is just a special effect"?

Again, we will get help from Guzik to understand this stuff. Apparently there will be 7 signs,
  • The woman, representing Israel
  • The dragon, representing Satan
  • The man-child, referring to Jesus
  • The angel Michael, head of the angelic host
  • The offspring of the woman, representing Gentiles who come to faith in the Tribulation
  • The beast out of the sea, representing the antichrist
  • The beast out of the earth, representing the false prophet who promotes the antichrist
So that is helpful. And remember, I read the passage myself first and write down my thoughts, then I dig through the Christian commentary and insert the blue bits afterwards :)

A pregnant woman appeared in the sky, clothed with the sun, feet on the moon, a crown of 12 stars on her head. She was in the process of giving birth. Another sign appeared in the sky, a great red dragon with 7 heads, 7 diadems (crowns essentially) and 10 horns. The tail of the dragon knocked down a third of the stars in the sky. The dragon positioned himself so that when the woman gave birth he could eat it. She gave birth to a male child who would rule all nations with an iron rod, but the child was caught up to God, the woman fled into the wilderness where she would be nourished for 1260 days.

So...drugs? As to what all of this means? I have no idea.
“From the similar description given in 13:1 and the parallel references in Daniel 7:7-8; 7:2, it is clear that the revived Roman Empire is in view . . . The seven heads and ten horns refer to the original ten kingdoms of which three were subdued by the little horn of Daniel 7:8, who is to be identified with the world ruler of the great tribulation who reigns over the revived Roman Empire.” (Walvoord)
Apparently some people think the dragon knocking out a third of the stars means that a third of the angels were on Satan's side. Some people think the dragon trying to kill the child was fulfilled by Herod trying to kill Jesus. The wilderness establishes that the woman is not Mary, but instead Israel. Apparently the 1260 days connects it to some prophecy from Daniel.

Satan Thrown Down to Earth (v. 7-17)

There was a war in heaven, michael and his angels against the dragon and his angels. Team dragon lost and was cast down to earth.

A lot of fiction says this war happened way in the past and Satan was cast down to hell. Apparently in the bible it happens at the end times. Strange.

The dragon is called Satan and the devil, the ancient serpent, and the deceiver of the whole world.

So is this the serpent from Genesis?

A voice from heaven says that the salvation of the kingdom of God has come as the accuser has been thrown down, he had accused them day and night before God. They have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and they were willing to sacrifice their lives to get it done. Those in heaven should rejoice, however woe to those on earth as the devil will cause great wrath as his time is short.

Wait, so there was a battle in heaven and some angels gave their lives? What is the deal with the accuser? I just find this whole thing confusing.

When the dragon realized he was on earth, he pursued the woman. She was given wings of an eagle so she could get away to a place where she could be nourished for "a time, and times, and half a time". Then the serpent created a river to capture her in the flood, but the earth helped the woman by swallowing up the river. This angered the dragon so it went to war with the rest of her offspring, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.

I just...I don't...what?! Is she supposed to be Eve, or maybe Mary? Why is this crap in the bible?

I'm gonna be honest. The Christian commentary got a fair bit preachy in there and I basically just skimmed it. I didn't see anything terribly interesting in it. I think the bulleted list up above which says what each element of the story is supposed to represent is probably good enough here.

What are the lessons from today's reading?


  1. I love the lesson of the day...seriously, whichever John wrote Revelation clearly was out of his mind--either naturally (brain disease of some sort) or artificially (drugs). This stuff is seriously strange.

    What is more strange is how people try to interpret it as meaningful. It is clearly jibberish to me. If anyone wrote anything like this today, no one would take is seriously.

    I also think your question of "why is this in the bible?" is a great one. I really see no other purpose for this book except furthering the notions that a) Jesus is coming back and b) you had better be a believer at that time. I suppose that at the time it was written and again at the time it was included in the NT people were still pretty superstitious and perhaps feared things like this could really happen. Today, it is more fantastic than any "fantasy novel".

    1. I think it was meant to be an elaborate allegory myself.

    2. It's definitely possible Sheldon, the more I think about it the more I think you are probably correct. Still, I think it is possible the guy had a dream or a drug induced hallucination and he thought he was looking into the future. There are certainly people out there who think it literally happened. I have this vague memory of my dad saying that some of the imagery in Revelation was actually describing helicopters, but John obviously didn't have the proper words for it.

      But I also am not sure how much that really matters. As ReasonBeing pointed out, the real purpose of this book seems to be scaring people into believing. I think this applies whether it is just an allegory or if it is supposed to be a literal telling of the future. In either case the message seems to be "believe or suffer". I might be spending too much time thinking about this

  2. Hi Hausdorff. There is definitely a lot allegory here, but it's got literal aspects too. I don't claim to understand all of it, but here is what I do think I understand:

    1) John may have felt that he had to write like this. Several of the OT prophesies, especially from Daniel, used this kind of metaphorical language. So to copy that style would seem to provide some inherent credibility that this was from God as opposed to being from some guy on drugs.

    2) 1260 days = 3.5 years (lunar years = 360 days) So this does tie into Daniel in a few places where he mentions that time frame; i.e. "time, times, and half a time" in Daniel 7:25 and "in the middle of the week" in Daniel 9:27.

    3) Speaking of Daniel and copying styles, that's not all John copied. He essentially rewrote some portions of prophesies straight from Daniel. Referring back to Daniel will help define metaphorical meanings, like in verse Daniel 7:24

    "The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings." NIV

    4) The dragon with the horns (as kings) undoubtedly means that Satan was really the person ruling the Roman Empire by proxy.

    5) The battle where Satan was cast out of heaven resulted in him landing on earth, not in Hell. (Again, this shows the simplistic universal view the faithful had back then; Heaven above earth, Hell below earth.) The third of the stars represents the angels who Satan convinced to follow him instead of God. In their new home on earth, they are the demons.

    6) The "accuser" is likely another reference to Satan, as in Job this being of "ultimate evil" goes by the name "hassatan" (transliterated from the Hebrew) which literally means "accuser" or "adversary."

    7) The gist of the story here is that Satan got kicked out of Heaven and landed on earth. He knew that Jesus was critically important, so Satan tried to kill Jesus, but God protected Jesus. I'm not sure what the woman/flood thing is, but the last bit about the war with the offspring probably is just a reference to (surprise!) persecution of the Christians.

  3. Lunar years! That makes more sense. Still seems like they would just say 3 and a half years, but at least it's not some random number of days like I thought.

    It's interesting that he copied so much from daniel. I guess you gotta do what you gotta do to get credibility.

    Interesting that the dragon would represent Satan ruling rome.

    Thanks for the insights as always :)


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