The Woman, the Child and the Dragon

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I expect you’ve read the account of the woman and the dragon. There’s the woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and with a garland of twelve stars adorning her head. She’s pregnant, in labour pains and about to give birth.

Standing before her, ready to devour her Child as soon as it is born, is a great fiery red dragon. It has seven heads, each with a diadem, and ten horns, and a massive tail that sweeps a third of the stars out of heaven to the earth.

The woman bears a male Child, destined to rule all nations with an iron rod. This Child is caught up to God and His throne and the woman flees into the wilderness, to a place assigned to her by God, where she would be fed for a period.

Enraged that the Child is out of his reach, the dragon, accompanied by a host of evil angels, tries to reach the Child in heaven, but there he faces Michael and his angels. War breaks out. It’s the good angels with Michael as their head versus the bad angels led by the dragon. The battle results in the defeat of the dragon and his angels. They are kicked out of heaven, unable ever to return. And the angels in heaven rejoice greatly.

The events of the story are described by John in Revelation 12.  John tells us that the characters and events are a sign. And we know about signs from Holy Supper and baptism where the signs of wine and bread and water all represent something. The characters in Revelation 12 symbolise the three main players in the history-long world drama. The woman represents the church, the Child represents the Lord Jesus born in the church, and the dragon represents Satan who is accompanied by a host of fallen angels called demons.  

Rev C Bouwman in a sermon on this text says that signs also represent the validity or reliability of something. Gideon asked for a sign in relation to the fleece. He wanted assurance that the angel’s message was really from God. In the context of Revelation 12 “the Lord says, let me show you the sign to demonstrate that in fact Christ is King. The way the conflict between these two—dragon and woman—plays out is proof that Christ is King.” [i]

The events described in Revelation 12 give a brief sketch of all history. Its account began way back in Paradise with the ‘mother promise’ of Genesis 3:15. There God said that he would put enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The seed (being Christ) of the woman (being Christ’s church) would crush the head of the serpent (the dragon, Satan).

When you look at history, says Rev Bouwman, it seems that Satan wins. Didn’t Adam and Eve fall for his temptation in the Garden of Eden? Didn’t Cain kill Abel? Didn’t Ishmael tease Isaac? Didn’t Pharaoh kill the babies in Egypt, and later Herod kill the babies in Bethlehem? All examples of the enmity and which so often seem to suggest a victory for Satan. Yet God promises that the seed of the woman will crush Satan’s head. For despite what appears to be happening to the human eye, the Lord is busy moving through this enmity of the Old Testament era towards the day when Christ comes, establishes His kingdom and kicks Satan out of heaven.

The remarkable thing about this history is that it’s governed not by the things the people, such as the secular media, find important but by the relation between Christ and Satan, between those who belong and submit to Christ and hence form His kingdom and those who follow Satan and hence form his kingdom. For just look at what happens, says Rev Bouwman:

“Always through history the hostility, enmity, antithesis. Always the serpent trying to kill, destroy, devour the seed of the woman. If not physical murder, then spiritual murder. Time and again parents feel helpless. It’s the dragon in the delivery room, being the bully in our home.

But remember that in Genesis 3:15 the Lord says more than that the seed of the serpent would bite the heel of the woman. He said the seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent. And that’s what happened. Yes, Cain killed Abel. Tragic. But God gave Eve another son, Seth, and in his days they began to call upon the name of the Lord.

Ishmael bullies Isaac. What grief, what pain. But the Lord says to Isaac: send Ishmael away, because Isaac needs to grow in the fear of the LORD.

Esau and Jacob: where’s the godliness there? But God is busy in Jacob’s life. And the moment comes when the man comes to faith and repentance, confesses his dependence on the LORD and become a patriarch in the house of the LORD – the father of 12 sons whom he raises as best he can in the fear of the LORD.

The people of Israel are in Egypt, and have to drown all the baby boys. Yet Moses became Pharoah’s daughter’s son and God raises up a deliverer for Israel. Herod sends his soldiers to Bethlehem yet Jesus escapes to Egypt.

The serpent is after Jesus and in our minds we think that when the serpent captures Jesus, arrests Jesus, has Him crucified, that Satan is going to devour Him. Yet on the cross, what does Jesus do? Disarms the principalities and powers. Binds Satan. Who wins? Not the devil, but the seed of the woman bruises, crushes, the head of the serpent.

And that is why there can be the cry from Rev 11:15: ‘The Kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ’.

Yes, he’s King of Kings, Lord of Lords. And that’s the truth of the matter today in 2023!”

Throughout history people focus on what they see as the big events in the world—such as the wars between Assyria and Babylon, or between Greece and Rome. Today they focus on the war between Russia and Ukraine, or the tension between China and USA. But the Bible says, the real dividing line is not between such nations, because despite their differences and battles they are, on the whole, on Satan’s side. No, says the Bible, the real dividing line is between the church and the world, between those who confess that Christ is King and those who deny His kingship, between Christ’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom.

The LORD wants us to know that the seed of the woman triumphs, says rev Bouwman, adding that this is the point of Revelation 12. And here’s further evidence of the triumph of the seed of the woman:

“What’s happening in this building today? The seed of the woman, people of God, gathered together on the Word, yes. And how many generations are sitting in this building today? Four generations in some families.

Could the dragon devour your children? Oh, he’s tried as generation after generation strive to bring up their children in the fear of the Lord. Yet by the grace of God there is a new generation of His children by covenant that grow in Him, confess their faith, get married, bring forth children and seek to raise them again in the fear of the Lord.

Do you really think that pleases the dragon? It is the triumph of the seed of the woman over the seed of the serpent. Confirmation of Revelation 11:13: “The kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of Christ. He is King, sovereign; yes, in Australia too.”

Christ, the Seed of the woman, stands at the centre of history and all history revolves around Him. All the Old Testament awaited His birth. He would be born from the woman, the church, which is privileged by God to be the mother of life through the birth of Christ. All the Old Testament, all those animal sacrifices, the rivers of blood, all the ceremonies, were a continual reminder of the need for a Saviour, the Messiah, to take away the people’s sins and usher in the kingdom of Christ. And all the secular wars, all that struggle by unbelieving nations for power and dominion, had one aim: the prevention of that kingship of Christ. For the last thing the gentiles wanted was to submit to His rule, to be governed by the gospel and to submit to the authority of God’s Word.

That’s why the church, despite all her sins, is the queen of light. Her light is that she serves the revelation of the kingdom of Christ. That’s her desire and her struggle. Her people confess Christ, serve Him according to His Word and fight against sin and the devil. They know there’s a battle going on. As Rev Bouwman said:

“We train ourselves to see the reality of this battle. Not in the sense of: look how the devil is growing, getting more powerful, influence, gaining ground.

No, he is not gaining ground. See verse 5: her child was caught up to God and to His throne. The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of the Christ. And the devil can’t change that. Though Satan’s seed continues to destroy the seed of the woman, he’s not gaining ground. Look around you in this building. The church is still here because Christ is an eternal King, so he shall have subjects despite the appetite of the devil.

Even if this present world is birthing a new world order.

And so, let’s be greatly encouraged. The Lord doesn’t want His people pessimistic but optimistic, confident. Go, have children, raise them in the fear of the Lord in 2023. For Christ is King.”

Hence we may confidently sing with Martin Luther:

“And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.” [ii]

 

[i] Sermon by Rev C Bouwman on Revelation 12:1-8 held in FRC Mt Nasura 12 February 2023.
[ii] Verse 3 of Martin Luther’s hymn “A mighty fortress is our God”.