Bible blog 1790

Welcome to this blog which is following the Book of The Revelation. Previous blogs can be found by date from the archive, or at bible reference, or topic word. Comments and questions are always welcome. My other blog, which is more political can be found at

The daily headlines are reminders of the world we live.





12 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. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. 3 Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His 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. 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule[a] all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; 6 and 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 and sixty days.

Michael Defeats the Dragon

7 And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 The 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.

10 Then 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.
11 But 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.
12 Rejoice 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!’
The Dragon Fights Again on Earth

13 So 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. 14 But 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. 15 Then from his mouth the serpent poured water like a river after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. 16 But 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. 17 Then 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.

Image of woman and dragon from Pluscarden Abbey, Scotland

Image of woman and dragon from Pluscarden Abbey, Scotland

18 Then the dragon took his stand on the sand of the seashore.

With this vision, the author, John, presents the final section of his book which in effect recapitulates all that has gone before. These heavenly scenes are nothing less than the counterpart of the life of the seven churches shown in  the opening section of the book, and of their struggles against the evil powers which are reflected in the first series of visions. The central subject of them all, which is more clearly revealed here, is “the victory of God over all evil, through his messiah Jesus and those who follow him.”

The woman who appears in heaven is not Mary mother of Jesus, but the anonymous mother of the Messiah and his messianic people. She is perhaps the personification of the true Israel, out of whose faithful humanity the one who rules for God is born. She is one of a line of Jewish mothers who bear children for God’s promise, Sarah, Hannah, Isaiah’s young woman with child and others, she sums up their stories but goes beyond them, because her child is Is the final revelation of God’s purpose.

The red dragon, whose colour stands for pride and anger, is an image of the The Satan, that is, the Adversary of God, and especially of God’s people, whom he regards as weak and useless, unfit for the role that God has given them. In this book, The Adversary represents evil, but is, as part of heaven, not separate from human evil, but rather the counterpart of it. He and his associates are the arrogance, greed, violence and idololatry of human beings writ large.

Of course evil awaits the Messiah Jesus, whose story is here reduced to his birth and resurrection, depicted as being snatched out of evil and kept safe for God’s future. The woman, the New Israel, mother of the messianic communities, is also taken out of danger into a place of safety where she can await God’s victory. The recurrent use of numerical equivalents of three and a half, is drawn from the book of Daniel’s “a time, times  and half a time” which stands for the time between God’s promise and its fulfilment. The wilderness where she dwells is both the place of testing and of God’s intimacy with his chosen people. She is the origin of the assemblies and also an image of them, in their testing existence within the Roman Empire.image

Their earthly conflict is now presented in its heavenly counterpart, Michael and his angels routing the forces of of the Adversary and throwing him out of heaven down to the earth.

The victory song that follows explicitly identifies this heavenly victory with the victorious faith of the persecuted and apparently defeated assemblies. The victory that overcomes the powers of evil is the “faith unto death” of these men and women. This identification is central to my interpretation of the whole book. Readers must learn to see Michael and his victorious Angels, as John did, in the stubborn and sometimes trembling refusal of ordinary people to bow to the God of Rome.

The attempts of the dragon to attack the Messianic Mother are a counterpart of all the ways in which Imperial culture and government were attacking the messianic assemblies. The difficulty of holding faith in the God of Jesus when surrounded by an idolatrous and successful culture and persecuted by the officials of the state, was keenly felt by the prophet. He was convinced that the source of faith would not be conquered. The human beings who lived by the gospel would never cease to be fruitful in persuading new people to trust God. They  would still bear children no matter how many of them were targeted by the Adversary.

In Revelation, as in many books of the Hebrew Bible, the sea is an image of the chaos  which the  Creator has permitted to exist within bounds. Out of chaos God’s spirit evokes new beauty and life; while the Adversary, as we shall see evokes from it new death and ugliness.

We can only admire the visionary author who could see in the mundane afflictions of his people the birth pains of a woman crowned with the sun, bearing children for a new world. The feminine image identifies the creativity of ordinary people with the eternal creativity of God.

One comment

  1. I have to admit that you have not succeeded in alleviating much of my distaste for Revelation. I PREFER READING YOU THAN JOHN! I hope that doesn’t offend some heavenly scene 😎

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