33. Michael and the Dragon

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ

The Concordant Version


CHAPTER 12:7-17

MICHAEL AND THE DRAGON

THE second sign in the Unveiling is described as a great fiery-red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads seven diadems. And its tail is dragging a third of the stars of heaven, and casts them to the earth (Rev.12:3,4). The dragon is usually supposed to be a mythical animal, a lizard-like serpent without any representative in nature. But this does not seem to be the case in the Scriptures. Our translators have often used the term as the equivalent of the Hebrew tannin or tannim, which includes all serpent-like monsters, both in the past (Gen.1:21), and the future (Isa.13:22). In Genesis it seems to refer to those monstrous saurians whose skeletons are found in our museums, and who roamed the earth in its early eras. These were sometimes shaped quite like the dragon of mythology. Aaron's rod was turned into a "dragon" before Pharaoh (Ex.7:9-12). Our translators have called the monster a whale, a serpent, and a sea monster as well as a dragon. The Greek translators of the Hebrew have given drakon even a wider application. They use it of a young lion, of leviathan, of a serpent, of a goat, and of an asp, as well as of the monsters usually called dragons. In these cases, it evidently is used to present to the mind the most terrible and dangerous form of animal life. It is the antithesis of the lambkin, which is the most gentle and harmless. As the dragon is also called a serpent (12:14,15) and had a tail (12:3) it can readily be pictured in the mind as a hideous serpentine monstrosity.

The enormous size and bloodthirsty color of this dragon make it a most impressive picture of evil malevolence. It is especially intended to represent Satan's character and activity at the time of the end. In the beginning, he is presented as a subtle serpent, insinuating and deceptive. There was no fiery dragon in Eden's garden. The serpent assumed the role of benefactor, desirous of helping humanity to the highest knowledge and attainment. The object was to beguile their hearts from allegiance to God by false and fatuous promises. But there was no violence. We cannot think of the serpent in Eden as gigantic or dreadfully colored. It did not inspire fear but confidence. There was no resort to force. Eve was not compelled to eat. The great dragon is in marked contrast to this. It signifies ferocious power which attacks all opposition, devours all its opponents, and imposes its will on all mankind.

Satan seeks to attain his ends by diverse means. He suits his character to the occasion. The subtle serpent of Eden is the dreadful dragon of the Unveiling. At one time he is an angel of light (2 Cor.11:14); at another he is a roaring lion (1 Peter 5: 8). There may be room for a difference of opinion as to which is his most dangerous disguise. Of one thing we may be sure, if he were a red dragon or a roaring lion today, few would be deceived. But how many are utterly deluded by his peaceful arts in this era! To them, Satan is always a creature repulsive with horns and hoofs. They cannot conceive of him as an angel of light. To them, angels are always good, and light is always associated with right. The good and the right are the lures he uses in this day to attract worship for himself. And his servants are dispensers of righteousness.

The fatal tendency of the church to fall from spiritual to moral issues, from evangelical effort to social sanitation, are but symptoms that the god of this eon is blinding the minds of the unbelievers in it. These things are good and right, hence, they reason, they must be of God. They cannot see that these are but the bait used to secure their allegiance, and the blind used to assure their worship. Satan, today, is most utterly unlike the great red dragon of the Unveiling. Indeed, if the nominal church were to choose a St. George to slay this dragon, they would probably choose the luminous angel who has displaced Christ in their worship. Thus they would list Satan against himself, so thoroughly has he deceived them!

While this sign is Satan personally, it includes others who are associated with him, just as the figure of the Lambkin with seven horns and seven eyes included the seven spirits, and "the Christ" includes the members of His body. The seven heads and ten horns introduce us to the great Satanic confederacy which will control the earth at the time of the end. In the book of Daniel, the veil is thrust aside for a moment and we are given a glimpse of a spiritual conflict and organization which will help us to see the significance of the seven heads and ten horns of the dragon. There we read of a spiritual prince of Persia and another of Greece, and that Michael was the prince of Israel (Dan.10:20,21).

There is every reason to believe that earth's kings are but shadows of spirit powers, and earth's conflicts but the thunder of celestial lightning. Since Satan claims the suzerainty of all the kingdoms of the world (Matt.4:8,9), and Christ did not dispute his word, he must be the secret sovereign of the world, or, rather, the god of all nations, for it was worship rather than fealty which he required of Christ. Once this is granted, we can readily see that such a stupendous government must be organized and its powers delegated to subordinates. Even in the coming kingdom, Christ will delegate His power to the apostles and to the hundred and forty-four thousand. So, at the end time, earth will be apportioned into distinct administrative districts, differing from one another along religious or military lines.

The wild beast (13:1) is a composite figure with precisely the same features as the dragon, having ten horns and seven heads. The dragon gives it authority over every tribe and people and language and nation. The conclusion is obvious. The earth will be divided into seven divisions of some sort and one of these divisions will be further subdivided into ten powerful parts.

Daniel, in his seventh chapter, undoubtedly deals with the phase of earth's religious organization which immediately precedes the emergence of the wild beast. Indeed, when the fourth monster devours the other three, it necessarily results in one nondescript having the subdivisions of all four. The four wild beasts of Daniel had seven heads and ten horns among them, so the one wild beast of the Unveiling has the same seven heads and ten horns. This vision of Daniel's differs from that of the great image in two important points, time and character. The great image was political and consecutive. One kingdom followed another. The beasts are religious and contemporary. The first three are devoured by the fourth and this is the wild beast seen by John in the Unveiling.

If this be so, then the present arrangement of religious power in the earth should correspond to the seventh of Daniel and should point toward that of the one wild beast in the Unveiling, which corresponds with the composition of the dragon. The moment we turn our thoughts from political to religious power our eyes are opened to a most remarkable correspondence between these visions and the religious divisions of mankind. The first three beasts of Daniel were east (Dan.7:7, "before") of the fourth, hence are eastern religions. The fourth is a western religion. And that is precisely the situation today. The west has only one dominating religion, Christianity. The east has three, Mohammedanism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism. Sects outside of these are negligible.

A more detailed identification of the beasts and the horns does not seem possible at present. In the swiftly moving kaleidoscope of modern events, it is not safe to forsake the seat of a student for the part of a prophet. It would be easy, however, at almost any time to make a list of just ten Christian military powers, though these may change from time to time. And it is evident that all the influence which is being brought to bear with a view to disarmament will do little to clip the brazen nails or pull the iron teeth of the monster which masks under the name of Christianity and flies the pennant of the Prince of Peace.

The identification of the beast and the dragon with "the restored Roman empire" has no scriptural basis. Daniel mentions Babylonia and Medo-Persia and Greece, but never refers to Rome. It never was a world kingdom, even in its palmiest days. It never even conquered Babylon, the seat of previous world sovereignties.

The kingdom of the end time, the sphere of the dragon's sway, is over all the earth, not merely a small section of Europe and Asia. It will be divided into seven administrative heads, or spirit overlords, who will dictate the policy of the human heads of the wild beast. Even now invisible, imperceptible spirit powers control the course of kingdoms and rule republics. Men imagine that they are "responsible," and they control the destiny of nations. They are but puppets in unseen spiritual hands, who, in their turn, are also unconsciously performing the part assigned to them by Him Who overrules where He does not rule, and guides the universe to its appointed goal.

In the A. V., two different Greek words are translated "crown." One of them is stephanos, a wreath, a chaplet. The other is diadeema, diadem. There has been a strong tendency to associate the latter exclusively with royalty, the former with victory and achievement. But the fact remains that stephanos is used freely in the Greek translations of the Hebrew scriptures of a king's golden crown (2 Sam.12:30) and evidently unites the two thoughts or reward and rule, for only those who have conquered are entitled to reign. Diadem, were it the special word for a king's crown, would be used many more times than it is. Diadems are seen only three times in the Scriptures, on the heads of the dragon (12:3), on the horns of the wild beast (13:1), and on the head of the Rider on the White Horse (19:12).

These facts are most suggestive. "Diadem" occurs only in the religious section of the Unveiling. If it is a royal crown it should be frequent in the Throne Section, but it is absent. Why is it here? We submit that it indicates ecclesiastical authority, corresponding to the miter of the chief priest or the papal pontiff. If the seven heads of the dragon supervise seven distinct religious divisions of the earth, it is most likely that their "crowns" or insignia express the character of their authority.

This seems to be confirmed by a fact which, at first sight, seems most incongruous. The diadems are on the heads of the dragon, but not on the heads of the wild beast. Instead, they are on its horns. Its heads are crowned with blasphemous names. Though the dragon should delegate spiritual authority to its heads, it is not likely that Christendom if it conquers the world by the sword, would delegate ecclesiastical authority to any of its subordinate rulers except those who are of that name. Only the horns are nominally Christian, and they reserve all religious authority in their own hands. Instead, in that spirit of compromise which is already corrupting so-called Christianity, an effort will be made to include in it a reverence for all religious leaders and the blasphemous names of Mohammed, of Siva, Vishnu or Brahma or of Gotama Buddha may well adorn the heads of those eastern divisions of the great empire of the end time. This, of course, is only suggestive.

When heaven opens, and the white horse Rider appears (Rev. 19:11,12), His head has many diadems. How significant this is when we recall the seven diadems of the dragon and those on the seven horns of the wild beast! All the ecclesiastical authority which was claimed by them is now His. Theirs will be a bloodless, Bibleless Christianity. He is clothed in a cloak dipped in blood, and His name is called "The Word of God." These are the ground and source of all real religious rule. The power of the blood of Christ and the authority of the word of God will replace corrupt Christianity and sway over a renewed earth for a thousand years. Not only will all political dominion be His, but He alone, as a royal Priest after the order of Melchisedec, will rule in the religious sphere as well.

The tail of the dragon may well signify its following. It would seem that one-third of the starry host will cast in their lot with the Adversary. It is quite usual to apply this beautiful figure to the sons of God. When the earth was first founded "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7). But there undoubtedly has been defection among the heavenly hosts.  It is not safe to draw conclusions from the word "angel." Many times, when it refers to men, it has been made angel. Those kept in imperceptible bonds under gloom for the judgment of the great day, who sinned, and were thrust into the gloomy caverns of Tartarus (2 Pet. 2:4) may be Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Num. 16:1-3). But this sign brings before us a future angelic apostasy, for, at the time when Satan assumes the form of a dragon, he is dragging a third of the stars to earth with him.

The action of this sign takes place at the same time as that of the first sign. Satan assumes the role of a dragon only after he lays aside his luminous robes of righteousness, and leaves the disguise of a deceiver to play the part of a ferocious adversary. The reason is not far to seek. The saints of this economy have no right to rule the earth. They do not come into conflict with Satan here. Theirs is a celestial warfare (Eph.6:12). But after we have been recalled to our place with Christ in the heavens, and Israel is once more in view, as figured by the woman in the previous sign, then Satan's earthly sovereignty is in jeopardy and he hastens to do his utmost to destroy those who threaten his usurpation. Hence his enmity to the male son, who is about to be shepherding all nations with an iron club in that day.

Satan's suzerainty over the earth is real, though unrecognized, even by many of the saints. This is especially true in the religious sphere. He is actually acknowledged to be the god of this eon (2 Cor.4:4). His success has been phenomenal. After the body of Christ has been caught up to be with Him, his goal seems in sight. All the earth seems to submit to his sovereignty and bows before his shrine. Only among the faithful, suffering remnant of Jacob has he failed. Moreover, with a prescience unequaled by many of God's saints, he discovers the danger before it occurs. The future rulers of the earth, when they emerge from the mass of Israel, when they take a stand for God, are in danger of destruction. Satan makes every effort to do away with them at the very beginning. And, doubtless, he would have accomplished his purpose but for direct divine intervention.

The conflict on earth precipitates a corresponding clash in heaven. Milton's melodious numbers have led many to miss the cause of this battle among the celestial hosts and to shift it back into primeval eras before the cause existed. It will not occur until after Satan, as the dragon, has sought to destroy the woman and her male son. This act on his part stirs heaven's hosts and brings Michael to their help, for he is the champion of Israel, the nation of God's choice. Satan does not start a rebellion to overthrow God's throne. He is not on the offensive at all. He is on the defensive. Michael is the aggressor, and he moves against the dragon because it is seeking to annihilate the nation which is his special charge.

Satan is popularly supposed to preside in "hell." He not only has never been there, but there is no ground for believing that he ever will be. Hitherto he has had access to both heaven and earth, as in the days of Job (Job 1:6,7). As the dragon, he first appears in heaven (12:3). Then he comes down to earth. After that we find him in heaven, battling with Michael. Then he is chained in the abyss for a thousand years (20:1,2). Then he reappears on earth for a short period (20:7-9). Thence he is cast into the lake of fire for the eons (20:10). So he is never in the unseen, or in Gehenna, which are translated "hell" in our versions.

His function, as in Job's day, is to accuse the saints. How could he accomplish this without access into the presence of God? But the office of diabolus or slanderer has no place in the coming eons. In them, God's saints will have imparted as well as imputed righteousness. There will be no necessity for a "devil's advocate." His presence in heaven, doubtless to accuse those brethren who compose the male son, who have been snatched out of his grasp, and those who belong to the woman who escaped into the wilderness, with a view to permission from God to destroy them or deal with them as he had with Job, is the signal for his expulsion from the counsels of the Almighty. So Michael leads his messengers against Satan's hosts and ejects him from the heavens.

Our knowledge of the chief messenger Michael is most fragmentary. Thrice he is mentioned in Daniel's prophecy, and twice in the Greek Scriptures. He is always connected with conflict. He is always associated with the people of the covenant. When the marvelous man who was sent to Daniel explained his delayed appearance, he said, "The chief of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days. Yet Behold, Michael, one of the first chiefs, came to help me." Here, as in the Unveiling, he fights for Daniel and his people. Later on, he explains further that there was no one who strengthened himself concerning these things but Michael, their chief (Dan.10:13,21).

Jude tells us that Michael, doubting the Slanderer, argued concerning the body of Moses. Yet he dares not bring a calumniating judgment, but said, "May the Lord rebuke you!" This shows that these two antagonists had met before, and that Michael recognized the power and dignity of his adversary. He might easily have called him a liar, for such he doubtless was. But he evidently did not consider himself his superior, if his equal, in dominion and glory. Moreover, such a charge, even if true, was more in keeping with the Adversary's office, than with the service of a chief messenger. We must not fail to note, however, that Michael considered it his duty to protect the body of Moses, the great prophet of Israel.

In Daniel's last vision, we are brought up to the very time and event which we are at present considering. "And in that era shall stand up Michael, the great chief, standing over the sons of your people. Then comes to be an era of distress such as has not occurred since there came to be a nation on the earth, till that era. Now in that era, your people shall escape--—all those found written in the scroll" (Dan.12:1). How closely this concurs with the account in the Unveiling! Michael "stands up" and casts the Slanderer down to earth, who immediately inaugurates such a furious anti-Semitic persecution as has never yet been known.

Michael is, therefore, the logical head of heaven's hosts against the destroyer of the holy people. He has fought for them before. It is his duty and his privilege. So, when the dragon seeks to devour the male son, he mobilizes his messengers and meets the dragon and his messengers and wins the most momentous victory in the annals of heaven, or indeed, of the universe. Hitherto wrong has been recognized and had a place in the divine providence. Satan had his place among the sons of God in heaven. Now sin is repudiated, Satan is cast down, banished from the celestial courts, imprisoned on the earth. It is the crisis of the eons, the turning point in universal history. The heavens are cleared of sin. It is concentrated on the earth.

No wonder heaven is jubilant! Though the kingdom is still unknown on earth, so far as heaven is concerned, it is established. The Slanderer himself realizes this, for he is aware that he has little time left. All his well-laid plans have been frustrated. His dark deceptions have been undone. He becomes desperate. Cunning gives place to fury. He will do as much damage as possible in the brief era still at his disposal. The male son is beyond his reach. So he concentrates on the woman and on the rest of her seed. He will leave no Israelite alive for the kingdom. He will blot out the name of Yahweh from the earth.

As we shall see, his method for the accomplishment of this hideous massacre was carried out through the agency of the two wild beasts who represent him among mankind. When they set up the "abomination of desolation," the image of the wild beast, in the temple in Jerusalem, that will be the signal for all faithful Israelites to flee to the mountains. Our Lord warned them of this time and told them where to go. We may not be able to give the right explanation to the enigmatic language which describes this flight. As Yahweh brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness on vultures' wings (Ex.19:4), so He will bring them into the almost inaccessible crags of the Judean wilderness. It may be that they will flee down one of the gorges which lead to the Dead Sea and he causes the reservoirs of the city to be emptied in order to drown them in their flight. As the water stood aside to let them pass through the Red Sea, so will the earth open up and swallow the wall of water which is sent after them.

When the dragon sees that the woman has escaped its fury, it turns its attention to those Jews who are still dispersed among the nations, and gluts itself with their blood. There is no intimation that they receive miraculous protection such as is afforded the male son or the woman. They probably swell the ranks of the martyred. All this is in keeping with God's dealings with the favored nation. Not being on the ground of pure grace, such as we enjoy, they are classified according to their faithfulness. The most deserving are the male son, hence they receive absolute immunity from suffering and the greatest reward in the kingdom. Then come the Jerusalem saints, who dwell in the land, where they ought to be. They will be protected through much affliction. Those at a distance receive no protection, nor so high a reward as their more favored brethren.

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