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The Standing Dragon

There are no redundant details in the Bible. Every word is there for a reason. So what is the significance of the fact that the great red dragon in Revelation 12 “stands” rather than “stood”?

The passage concerning the Woman and the Dragon begins a sequence that describes the response of the Jewish rulers to the “Trumpets” of the Apostolic witness.1See The Dark trumpets of Revelation. Revelation 12:1-17 is the “Genesis” section of these seven “dark trumpets,” and it is the ultimate expression of the frequent attacks upon the Bride – beginning with Eve – in order to cut off mankind and the promised Seed. This sequence revokes the legal authority held by Satan in the court of God thanks to the disobedience of Adam, and ends with the devil being cast out of the “Garden” Sanctuary in heaven into the “Cainite” Land of the Herods.

TRANSCENDENCE (Genesis/Creation)

TRANSCENDENCE
And a sign great was seen in heaven: (Creation / Ark)
HIERARCHY
a woman clothed with the sun, (Division / Veil)
ETHICS
and the moon under her feet, (Ascension / Altar)
and on her head a crown of twelve stars; (Testing / Lampstand)
and in the womb a child, (Maturity / Incense)
OATH/SANCTIONS
and she cries out being in travail, (Conquest / Laver/Mediators)
SUCCESSION
and being in pain to bring forth. (Glorification / Shekinah)

  • The first two lines contradict the characteristics of the Tabernacle furnitures which they represent. The Ark which was hidden behind the Veil was revealed in heaven at the end of chapter 11. Here, the sign is “seen” and the veil of darkness is now a garment of light.
  • Establishing the “Genesis” theme of this cycle, the Woman is faithful Eve. The sun, moon and stars are Jacob, Rachel and the twelve tribes (Genesis 37:9), bearing the true Joseph who would conquer Herodian Egypt. But the sun is also the glory-robe of the Bridegroom (Ruth 3:9; Psalm 19:5), the moon is the fading glory of the now obsolete lunar festivals of Israel (2 Chronicles 36:21), and the twelve stars of her crown are the true sons of Abraham (Daniel 12:3).
  • The “filling” half of the stanza alludes to the Bible Matrix pattern as found in gestation.2See the chart in God’s Kitchen: Theology You Can Eat & Drink, 25. This exact pattern structures the history of Jesus and the Apostolic Church, which is why He refers to “birth pangs” completing the foundations of the New Covenant era (Matthew 24:8). This stanza describes the “delivery” of the Covenant Head, whereas Jesus referred to the subsequent “delivery” of the Body.

HIERARCHY (Exodus/Division)

TRANSCENDENCE
And was seen another sign in heaven, (Creation)
HIERARCHY
and behold, a great red dragon, (Division)
ETHICS
having seven heads and ten horns, (Ascension  Priesthood)
and upon his heads, seven diadems; (Testing / Kingdom)
and his tail draws away (Maturity / Prophecy)
OATH/SANCTIONS
a third of the stars of heaven, (Conquest)
SUCCESSION
and he cast them to the land. (Glorification)

  • A dragon is a “corporate” serpent in the same way that the lie of the devil in the Garden became murder – a devouring of flesh – at the hand of Cain in the Land. This dragon is “great” or mighty, a reference to the “god-like” seed of the serpent in Genesis 6, their violence being the cultural outcome of the devil’s lie.
  • The seven heads, also mountains, are Babylon, Persia, Alexander, Greek Egypt, Greek Syria, Hellenistic Rome and Neronic Rome, and the ten horns are the ten Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to Vespasian.
  • A crown is a reward of victory or a mark of honor while a diadem is an ornamental headband worn as a badge of royalty (Isaiah 28:5; 62:3). The meaning here is that the dragon’s authority in heaven was expressed on earth through human governors who considered themselves to be above the law of God (the seven lights of the Lampstand).
  • As an extension of Rome, the dragon “draws away” the priestly office (a third) of Israel (Daniel 8:10-11) with his “tail” (false prophecies, Isaiah 9:14-15).
  • The position of the Land at Succession is an ironic reference to the possession of Canaan.

ETHICS: Priesthood (Leviticus/Ascension – Altar)

And the dragon stands before the woman, (Sabbath)
being about to bring forth, (Passover)
that when she should bring forth, (Firstfruits)
her child he might devour. (Pentecost)
And she brought forth a male son, (Trumpets)
who is about to shepherd (Atonement)
all the nations with a rod of iron; (Booths)

  • The Priesthood step is split into two stanzas, the Altar and the Table.
  • The sequence here seems to highlight Israel’s annual festal cycle (Leviticus 23).
  • The red (Judah/Edom) dragon “stands” (not “stood”) before the Woman. Standing is a priestly station, a position of service, but this is a false priesthood. In Revelation 5:6, Christ is the “standing Lamb,” the fulfillment of the “standing” or “continual” offering. “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.” (Exodus 29:38-39). After Passover, only a “continual offering” of a lamb by the Levites whom God received on behalf of Israel’s firstborn could protect the promised Seed from the justice demanded by Satan upon the womb of Eve (Numbers 3:12). So the dragon has in a very real sense been “standing” before the Woman since Genesis 3.
  • The child is Moses and Jesus, snatched from the king’s sword and given authority as a Priest-King, a Lamb who has been exalted as the Great Shepherd. The reference to a rod of iron reveals the ascension of Christ to be the fulfilment of Psalm 2. Iron refers to the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. The gates of Solomon’s Temple were made of iron, being the least “holy” yet the strongest, speaking of Kingdom rather than Priesthood.

ETHICS: Priesthood (Leviticus/Ascension – Table)

TRANSCENDENCE
And her child was caught up to God,
HIERARCHY
and to his throne.
ETHICS
And the woman fled into the wilderness,
where she has there a place
having been prepared by God,
OATH/SANCTIONS
that there they should nourish her
SUCCESSION
one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

  • Whereas the Bronze Altar speaks of cultivation on the earth, the blessings upon the Land the womb, the Golden Table speaks of representation, which is why Levites were taken for the firstborn (Numbers 3:12). There are no infants at God’s table. Yet Jesus ascends here as a child to highlight the fact that He not only fulfilled the Levitical priesthood but also the slaying of the firstborn. In Revelation 5, Jesus actually fills the place of the Table which is missing in Revelation 4.
  • Persecution of the Church by the Jewish rulers led to the scattering of the saints, but also the spreading of the Gospel beyond Judea. The Church persevered not on the old “bread” of Israel-according-to-the-flesh but upon the “unharmed” oil and wine of the New Covenant by the Spirit. The 1,260 days also corresponds to Paul’s time of training at Mount Sinai “in Arabia.”

ETHICS: Kingdom (Numbers/Testing)

TRANSCENDENCE
And there was war in heaven: (Creation)
HIERARCHY
Michael and his angels (Division)
ETHICS
warred against the dragon, (Ascension)
(Priesthood: Land and Firstfruits)
and the dragon warred back, (Testing)
(Kingdom: Governing Lights)
and his angels; (Maturity)
(Prophecy: Hosts)
OATH/SANCTIONS
and he had no strength (Conquest)
SUCCESSION
and no place was found for them any more in heaven. (Glorification)

  • The central stanza concerns conflict between the mightiest angels, but it must be understood that the victory depended upon the High Priesthood of Christ in heaven. As the Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, He is the Triune Office fulfilled, just as Joshua prevailed against Amalek when Moses, Aaron and Hur were united upon Sinai.
  • A place was prepared for the Woman but no place was found for the devil and his angels any more in heaven. Both of these refer to Jesus as a better Adam who protects His wife and expels the serpent. Satan had prevented humanity from entering into God’s rest. Jesus now removed all rest from the wicked, beginning with Satan and his angels.

ETHICS: Prophecy (Deuteronomy/Maturity)

And the great dragon was thrown out, (Initiation)
the ancient serpent (Delegation)
who is called the devil (Presentation)
and satan, (Purification)
deceiving the whole inhabited world; (Transformation)
he was thrown down into the land, (Vindication)
and his angels were thrown down with him. (Representation)

  • Where Adam failed to speak prophetically against the serpent, Jesus throws the serpent out. The matrix theme here is sacrificial, a purification of the Sanctuary in heaven from the legal case of our enemy.
  • Satan has seven names in Revelation, and these last three refer to him as a false witness, a slanderer and a prosecutor. These roles were used to condemn Jesus in the courts of men but now Jesus was the judge.
  • Satan had offered Jesus all the nations of the world if He would bow the knee, but Jesus was now inheriting the nations without bowing the knee.

OATH/SANCTIONS (Joshua/Conquest)

TRANSCENDENCE
And I heard (Transcendence)
a voice (Hierarchy)
great (Ethics)
in heaven, (Oath/Sanctions)
saying, (Succession)
HIERARCHY
Now have come (Creation)
the salvation, (Division)
and the power, (Ascension)
and the kingdom (Testing)
of our God, (Maturity)
and the authority (Conquest)
of His Christ, (Glorification)
ETHICS
Transcendence
because
Hierarchy
has been thrown down
Ethics
the accuser (Law given)
of our brethren, (Law opened)
the one accusing them (Law received)
Oath/Sanctions
before our God,
Succession
day and night.
OATH/SANCTIONS
And they
have overcome him
by reason
of the blood of the Lamb,
and by reason
of the word
of their testimony;
SUCCESSION
and not (Transcendence / Law)
have they loved (Hierarchy)
the life (Ethics)
of them (Oath/Sanctions)
unto death. (Succession)

  • The “Oath” is a great (kingly) voice from heaven, and its literary structure is breathtaking.
  • Notice that the line count in the stanzas is 5 – 7 – 7 – 7 – 5
  • The accuser (the “standing” dragon) could be thrown down because the Advocate (the “standing” Lamb) now stood in the court of God.

SUCCESSION (Judges/Glorification)

TRANSCENDENCE
Because of this, (Initiation)
HIERARCHY
rejoice you heavens, (Delegation)
ETHICS
and those dwelling in them.
Woe to the land and the sea,
because has come down the devil to you,
OATH/SANCTIONS
having great fury,
SUCCESSION
knowing that he has a short time.

  • While heaven is now purified, the conflict was transferred to the Land (Jewry) and the Sea (the Roman empire).
  • Christ had humbled Himself as a Man and ascended to the right hand of the Father. The devil had deceived Man and ascended to the court of heaven, but here he is thrown down to be humbled and eventually destroyed. He does this by “incarnating” himself in a Jew-Gentile conspiracy against the Church: the Sea Beast and the Land Beast working to destroy the saints just as Pilate and Herod had become friends over the condemnation of Jesus.

Read more in Moses and the Revelation. As an overview, this new commentary does not deal with the text in the same level of detail as above, but it serves as an excellent introduction to the structure of the book.


If you are new to this method of interpretation, please visit the Welcome page for some help to get you up to speed.

References   [ + ]

1. See The Dark trumpets of Revelation.
2. See the chart in God’s Kitchen: Theology You Can Eat & Drink, 25.

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