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The Apocalypse is a book in the New Testament rich in symbolic imagery and deeply rooted in the Old Testament Scriptures. The twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse describes a terrible struggle that affects the life and history of all humanity. Three protagonists appear in the story: a woman, her newborn son, and a dragon. What does it mean?
First, let’s try to figure out what is represented by the woman. John the Apostle refers to her as a “sign.” “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman” (Rev 12:1). We should not get sidetracked thinking this refers to a literal (historical) woman. It is a symbol. By saying it is a symbol, I am not saying she is not real, just that the reality pointed to is not a literal woman in time and space. It refers to another reality.
Most biblical scholars believe she is represents a community that belongs to God, a community that has existed from the beginning of history and continues to express itself in various forms to this day; she is the community of those who call upon the name of the Lord.
The woman represents what God sees when He looks at his people. And what a description it is! She is beautiful and glorious: as though she were “clothed with the sun.”
Not only is she beautiful, but this woman is powerful. She is the ultimate powerful woman. She stands on the moon and she wears a crown of twelve stars (Rev 12:1).
[What does this have to do with Christmas? Hold on… I plan to get to that in a moment.]
This woman is of royal lineage. She wears a crown of twelve stars—the number twelve is important in the Bible as it describes both the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles of the New Testament (You might want to take a look also at 1 Peter 2:9 where Peter refers to the community of God as a royal priesthood.).
Now let’s look at the child in the story. There are many prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming of a child or son who would bring hope and joy to the community of God. One of the most intriguing of these prophecies occurs in the first book of the Bible, Genesis 3:15. “I’m declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers.”
War… Woman… Offspring… All elements of the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse. Coincidence? Not likely. This passage describes God’s curse upon Satan brought on by Satan’s enticement of Adam and Eve into disobedience and sin. From the beginning, human history has been characterized by one continuous war between spiritual forces of darkness and the community of God.
Sometimes this warfare takes the form of seemingly benign bantering about words and policies. Other times, it erupts into unrestrained bloodshed and horror beyond comprehension.
Let’s get back to the Apocalypse.
The community of God expects a child who would bring hope and great joy. Is that what happens? Strangely, that is not what the story reveals. Instead, we find that the birth of the child unleashes one of the fiercest conflicts in the war between Satan and God’s community ever before witnessed in human history.
A great red dragon appears, with seven heads and ten horns, and on the heads seven diadems (Rev 12:3). A giant lizard-like creature, like the creature in the movie Aliens, appears. With its powerful tail it sweeps one third of the stars from the skies and casts them down to earth.
Again, is this language to be taken literally? Are we to think that the Apostle John believed in dragons? Absolutely not. John knew he was using mythological language to describe spiritual realities.
What we do see here is that the birth of Jesus Christ ignited a terrible spiritual upheaval. The birth of the baby Jesus, together with the joy and peace, also brought pain and anguish.
God introduced the Savior to the world, but that introduction also triggered a terrible unleashing of hatred against all that is innocent and good in humanity. “She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth” (Revelation 12:2, ESV).
What is this horrible thing that happened? John is describing what it looked like in spiritual-symbolic language. What did it look like here in the visible, tangible, world of history? The New Testament writers spoke about a Jewish King, named Herod (not a true king of Israel, by the way, but a surrogate king appointed by Rome).
Herod was a great politician and a great leader in many ways. He was successful in bringing a semblance of prosperity again to Israel after centuries of slavery and poverty. But Herod had a dark side. He was extremely narcissistic and willing to do anything to protect his power.
When he found out about the possible birth of an alternative king, he sent his death squad to find him and kill him. But God had warned the sacred family and they fled to far-off Egypt to hide. Herod was not deterred in his crazed obsession to rid the world of any possible rival to his kingdom; he ordered his men to go to the place where this supposed savior of the people had been born and kill all the babies in that town.
With the typical non-embellishment of the New Testament writers, Matthew simply cites a verse from the prophet Jeremiah, written during a time when Israel was being taken as slaves to a foreign land. Matthew evidently saw a parallel reality in what the Jewish mothers in the time of Jeremiah had experienced and what they were experiencing in Bethlehem that night.
A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15, ESV).
That voice continues to weep bitterly today in Sandy Hook Connecticut.
We must go deeper than gun control if we are to understand this horrific event. Ask yourself, “What could have driven a young boy to kill 18 children?” The absence or presence of gun laws explains nothing about this situation.
This is a modern-day manifestation of the ancient war in which Satan is engaged against God’s creation. He hates innocence and gets a thrill out of destroying all that is beautiful, like the beautiful faces of those children.
The human race has an enemy. It is not the Democrats or the Republicans. It is not the Muslims or the Illegals. The enemy is the Dragon described so graphically by the Apostle John in the Apocalypse. The enemy is spiritual.
There is a sense in which Adam Lanza did not kill those children. Somehow Satan entered the soul of that boy and went off on a blood bath binge, destroying the most beautiful, sacred, and precious of all God’s creation: children.
In addition to talking about guns, violent video games, and easier help for the mentally ill, perhaps we should all first bow our heads and ask God to deliver us from the evil one.
If you would like to know more about the community of God and how to enter that community, send me an email at GregWaddell@LeadStrategic.com. I would love to talk with you about it.