Up until the start of World War I in 1914, the world had never been free of war. The only thing redeeming about this fact is war had never been universal before then. However, from 1914 to 1918, total war was waged, and then again from 1939 to 1945. During World War II, only twelve small nations were not actually or technically engaged in the conflict.
It may come as a surprise, but war has been waged in Heaven, too. In fact, supernatural personalities have waged total war over possession and control of the world. Behind every natural war that has occurred, a hostile supernatural force instigated it.
Revelation 12 speaks of the Conflict of the Ages — the chief of all wars — the war between good and evil — the war determining who will finally and completely rule over humanity’s dwelling place. The 12th chapter of Revelation speaks of three personages of fundamental importance and their relationship to this war. They are a Woman, a great Red Dragon, and a Boy Baby — a Man-Child.
Here is what the apostle John tells us about them:
“Then I witnessed in Heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth.
“Then I witnessed in Heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the Woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born.
She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne. And the Woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place to care for her for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:1-6).
Correctly identifying the Woman in this text is necessary to understand it. Catholicism says the Woman is the Virgin Mary. Protestants often argue that the Woman is the Church. Certain cults have believed their female leadership was the Woman.
The passage says the Woman was persecuted intensely. How was Mary persecuted? She wasn’t. Roman Catholics might argue she was persecuted in that she had to view the crucifixion of Christ, but that doesn’t fit the intense form of maltreatment indicated by the text. Neither did Mary flee into the wilderness or was cared for 1260 days. Moreover, Catholics believe Mary was a perpetual virgin. Yet many places in the New Testament reveal Mary went on to have other children (Mt. 1:25; 12:46-47; 13:55; Mk. 6:2-3; Jn. 2:12; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:4-5; Gal. 1:19). So, these facts alone require excluding Mary.
Does the Woman represent the Church? Many claim the Woman symbolizes the travail of the Church to bring Christ to the nations. The Reformers, who were great men of God, held this view. The Woman is depicted as giving birth to the male child, Christ, the world’s Savior. But the Church didn’t give birth to Christ; it’s the other way around. Neither do the Scriptures anywhere intimate the Church as ever being a mother.
It hardly seems worth mentioning that the Woman couldn’t be someone like Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, who presented herself as the woman. Dr. J. Vernon McGee, in his "Thru the Bible" series, mentions another: “Joanna Southcott, [who] said that she was the Woman in Chapter 12 and that in October 1814, she would have the man child [male baby]. She never did, but she had 200,000 followers.”
McGee sums up these misguided assertions, arguing:
“We can dismiss all these claims unless we want to forsake all intelligent approaches to interpreting Scripture.”
The key to the Woman’s identification is her association with the sun, moon, and stars. The symbolism of these celestial bodies takes us directly back to Joseph’s dream recorded in Genesis 37:9-10. Jacob, Joseph’s father, later named Israel, was the sun, the moon represented Rachel, Joseph’s mother, and the crown of 12 stars represented Joseph and his brothers, which comprised the 12 tribes of Israel. This family was the origin of the nation Israel.
J. Dwight Pentecost, in his book Things to Come: A Study in Eschatology, says:
“The whole context in which this passage is set reveals that John is dealing with the nation Israel … Frequently in the Old Testament the sun, moon, and stars are used in reference to Israel. They are so employed in Genesis 37:9, where the sons of Jacob are clearly understood. Compare Jeremiah 31:35-36; Joshua 10:12-14; Judges 5:20, and Psalm 89:35-37 where heavenly bodies are associated with Israel’s history … [T]his Woman must be identified as Israel.”
Harold Wilmington, in Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible, quotes Dr. Herman Hoyt, who wrote:
“The activity of the Woman from the time of Abraham to the birth of Christ is described in verse 2. The present tense of the verses provides a dramatic setting. The Woman is continuously with child. She is continually crying … in the pain of travail. She is continuously experiencing labor to be delivered … Herein, then, are pictured the experiences of Israel as a nation from the moment she was brought into existence with the call of Abraham until the day Christ was born in Bethlehem. The entire message of the Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi describes what is here set forth in one verse.”
It is the nation of Israel that gave us Christ. It is through Israel God sent him to save the world.
During my lobbying activity in the state legislature for the Christian Action League, I developed an excellent relationship with one of the House members. We had very little in common politically. Nevertheless, we worked together as much as possible whenever sharing common ground. He was a Jew, and I had a lot of affection for him. He was intellectually brilliant, I thought. Moreover, I saw him as a man of integrity.
One day he asked me the reason for my support and esteem. I responded, “Because it was through your race that my Savior came. Jesus, my Lord, was a Jew. You are from a favored people in God’s eyes. Whatever God favors, I favor.” He rolled his eyes at me, but I’m sure it was because he was bewildered by the statement.
Who is the Red Dragon? There is minimal disagreement among serious scholars as to the identity of this contemptible creature. The Red Dragon represents Satan. He is red because he is behind the shedding of so much blood by despots in human history (John 8:33).
Pentecost shares some reasons why the Evil One is referenced as a Dragon. Quoting Walter Scott from Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, he writes:
“Pharoah, king of Egypt, in his cruelty to God’s people, and in proud and haughty independence of God, is termed ‘the great dragon’ (Ezekiel 29:3, 4). Nebuchadnezzar is similarly spoken of in respect to his violence and cruelty (Jer. 51:34). Gathering up the numerous Scripture references in the Book of Psalms, and in the first three of the greater prophets, to the crocodile, the sovereign of the seas, who is identified with the dragon, insatiable cruelty seems to be the main feature. The Egyptians regarded the crocodile or dragon, according to their hieroglyphics, as the source of all evil …The heathen monarchs, Pharoah and Nebuchadnezzar, enslaved and oppressed the people of God, and, thus far acting in satanic power, merited the appellation of a dragon.”
In every dispensation, this vicious, bloody red entity has hated the people of God. They have been the primary target of his fury because they are God’s chosen people and the apple of his eye; therefore, he hates them beyond measure. This explains the mysteriousness of antisemitism. It is nothing other than a bizarre and unaccountable animosity toward the Jew. Behind the abhorrence of them has always been the Red Dragon.
Lucifer, the Devil, the Red Dragon, has seven heads, 10 horns, and seven crowns on his heads. These are emblems of his extreme intelligence and universal power on earth. No earthly mind or government is any contest for him.
Lucifer started the very first war. It was first waged in Heaven, where he became proud and wanted to overthrow God’s throne. He failed and was cast out of Heaven. When the Red Dragon was thrown out of Heaven, John says, “[h]is tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth.”
Angels are sometimes spoken of as stars in the Old Testament (Job 38:7). Since then, this mighty fallen angel and all the angels that fell with him to the earth have conducted war against God and everything he loves.
The Bible teaches the devil deceived Adam and Eve, the first couple, and they sinned, which resulted in the forfeiture of the dominion God had given them over the earth (Gen. 1:26; Gen. 3). When this happened, Satan quickly usurped their place and took the throne for himself. In the Garden of Eden, in grace and mercy, God promised to send a redeemer, who would restore everything the Ancient Serpent, the Red Dragon, robbed from humanity (Gen. 3:15).
The Conflict of the Ages, the chief of all wars, is that cosmic campaign whereby the devil and his demons intend to prevent the fulfillment of God’s purpose of deliverance and liberation. The “Man-Child,” the Baby Boy born from the Woman, is none other than Christ, the One who will ultimately rule the world with a Rod of Iron, the One who, after he completed his work of purchasing back humankind and his domain, was caught up to the Father in his ascension, and will preserve Israel for 1260 days during the Red Dragon’s brutal assault to destroy them during the Great Tribulation.
There are numerous examples of Satan’s purpose to thwart God’s plan of salvation, which are weaved throughout the Old Testament, but the story is too long to tell here. But despite Lucifer’s best efforts, Christ was born.
M.R. DeHaan eloquently covers the New Testament account:
“[Christ] He is the object of Satan’s hatred, and the devil seeks to destroy Him. He sought to destroy Christ before he was born when by a decree of Caesar, he compelled Mary to make the long and arduous trip to the city of Bethlehem from Nazareth at the very time she was to give birth to the child. This plan failed, and then Satan sought to destroy him by murdering all the children of two years and under in Bethlehem through King Herod. Again and again, he sought to destroy Christ at the hands of the wicked Pharisees, but his time had not yet come. Finally, he succeeded in bringing him to the Cross, and there it seemed as if the dragon was finally victorious, for the child destined to rule the nations with a rod of iron died the ignominious death of the Cross. What rejoicing there must have been in the pit, what celebrating among the hosts of the demons, as the Son of God gave up the ghost! But God intervened, and He was raised from the dead and caught up into Heaven to be seated at the right hand of God until He returns to make his enemies His footstool and completely defeats the dragon, Satan.”
It should also be noted that today Satan hates the Church, the faithful followers of Christ. Soon, every Christian will be “caught away” and raptured to be with Christ forever more. When the Church is gone, the Evil One will focus on the nation of Israel. But God will overrule and make everything the devil does work for Israel’s salvation and recovery, and Christ will rule over the nations from the city of Jerusalem.
The Supreme War, a war for the souls of humanity and this globe, continues behind the scenes. Jesus said the devil’s purpose is to rob, kill, and destroy. Jesus’ purpose is to give a rich and satisfying life (Jn 10:10).
The world is in the devil’s crosshairs because God loves people (Jn. 3:16). You are in the Red Dragon’s crosshairs because God loves you.
Therefore, heed the instruction of the Psalmist, who wrote, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Psalm 2:12).
Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.