The Woman, the Child, and the Dragon
Open Your Bible
Revelation 12:1-18, Genesis 3:1-15, Colossians 2:13-15
BY Guest Writer
One of my favorite hymns is “For All the Saints.” I was reminded of it when reflecting on today’s reading. Every verse of the song compels us to cling to “our Rock, our Fortress,” and “our Captain” in the battle, as we keep our eyes trained toward a more glorious day yet to come. It echoes this truth from Revelation: God is and forever will be seated on His throne, and all the heavenly hosts give glory, honor, and thanks to Him. The hymn continues:
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long;
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song.
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
The strife really is fierce, and it has been since the serpent sowed deceit and destruction in the garden of Eden. Our fear of God, alienation from Him and one another, deceit and pride and endless greed—these things tore the fabric of our human existence before the curse was pronounced upon the serpent.
And yet in the midst of Genesis 3, God declared a message of hope that has echoed throughout human history: the offspring of the woman would one day “crush” the serpent’s head (v.15). True, the serpent would “crush” (yes, it’s the same word in Hebrew) the heel of Eve’s offspring—a lethal blow, but one that would end in the greatest, most victorious event in human history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
That malevolent serpent has since donned many hideous characteristics, and Revelation 12 does not mince words when describing the evil one. We read that the “great fiery red dragon” has been intent on devouring the woman (representing Israel, God’s people) and her Son, Jesus the Messiah. There is an appallingly fierce war in the heavenly realms, one we can hardly imagine. The grim powers of evil and the mighty forces of good tangle with each other. The dragon is identified as the ancient serpent, the devil, who leads the whole world astray. This is serious in the extreme, not to be dismissed with a wave of our enlightened hand. (We often do that.)
In other words, our battle here on earth is not done. We face the rage of the devil who knows his time is short and his end sure (v.12). But we also know the perspective from God’s throne:
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say, “The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have now come, because the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been thrown down” (v.10).
As painful as our suffering here on earth is, victory is ours by the blood of the Lamb (v.11). We are empowered by and rest in the assurance that God has made us alive in Christ, that Lamb sitting on the throne. His shed blood has cancelled out the debt we owe, and the enemy has been disarmed completely. The serpent’s head has been crushed at the cross (Colossians 2:13–15).
Elaine A. Phillips received a BA in social psychology from Cornell University, an MDiv from Biblical Theological Seminary, and an MA in Hebrew from the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, where she and her husband, Perry, studied and taught from 1976–79. She holds a PhD in rabbinic literature, and teaches Biblical Studies at Gordon College. She also serves as a historical geography field instructor for Jerusalem University College. She has published a commentary on Esther in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary; a devotional book, With God, Nothing Is Impossible; and, most recently, An Introduction to Reading Biblical Wisdom Texts.