Revelation 12:3-4(2)

Sermon preached on November 10, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

In 1979 I saw the movie Alien. It was a great horror film, one of the best I've seen. Some horror films follow a predicable pattern in that if there is some sort of monster in the movie, you don't see him in all his horror in the first part of the film. Alien followed that pattern. The first glimpse you got of the monster was not all that scary. It was just a little blob, just enough to fit over a man's face. The second glimpse you got of the monster wasn't much scarier. The scene that introduced him was a little gross but the monster itself wasn't much—just a little thing that could move very fast. But at some point in the movie the alien in finally showed to you in all its horror. In Alien that was a really scary scene. The monster had grown to be very big and he was absolutely hideous. But it wasn't just ugly, it was scary because monster was so threatening. He was extremely hostile and wanted to kill everyone on the ship. It sent chills down my back.

In our text we get our first good look at Satan in the book of Revelation. He had been mentioned in Revelation 2 but only in passing. In the message to the church at Smyrna Jesus told the church that the devil would put some of them in prison to test them. (Rev. 2:10) Jesus told the church at Pergamum that they lived in the city where Satan had his throne. (Rev. 2:13) We were given little hints of this horrible enemy but it's not until, here, in chapter 12 that he's described in detail. It's a dark and hideous picture. We read, (Rev. 12:3–4)

"Then another sign appeared in heaven:
an enormous red dragon
with seven heads and ten horns
and seven crowns on his heads.
His tail swept a third of the stars
out of the sky and flung them to the earth.
The dragon stood in front of the woman
who was about to give birth,
so that he might devour her child
the moment it was born."

What we see here is that

Satan is pictured as a most horrifying and evil creature.

Words fail to do justice to the almost unspeakable evil that we see here. Perhaps we are tempted to pass over in quickly, because it's so horrible—like those scenes in the movies where some people close their eyes during the scariest scenes. This is a horrific creature. Our first detailed picture shows him as the great enemy of God, the great enemy of angels, and the great enemy of mankind. He is most monstrous.

But we need to dwell on this. But God gave us this picture for a reason and there is great benefit from looking at this terrible creature. But before we get to the benefits, let's consider in some detail how Satan is described.

Note the evil that we see here.

First of all, Satan is described as an enormous red dragon.

That the dragon is Satan is made clear from verse 9. We read,

"The great dragon was hurled down—
that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan,
who leads the whole world astray.
He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him."

The picture here is of a monster—a dragon. He's an enormous. R.C.H. Lenski says that the word that is translated here as 'great' or 'enormous',

"indicates monstrous size and power."

His appearance is frightful. This in not an insignificant or merely a nuisance enemy that we face. He's powerful and full of fury. 1 Peter 5:8 likens the devil to a 'roaring lion'. In other places in Scripture he is likened to a 'serpent'. Some snakes, like pythons can be extremely large and powerful. Many of them are deadly. Satan is so powerful that after Moses died, he wanted Moses' body—and God sent no less that the archangel Michael against him. (Jude 9) No ordinary angel would do.

You Christians must never underestimate the power of the devil.

We cannot stand against him on our own. He can blow us over with just a slight breath of his mouth. He doesn't even need to huff and puff. One little exhale and we fall. In order to stand we need God's grace, God's power. You need to be standing by Jesus. Daily you need to be using the means of grace—reading the Word, praying to God for His strength. Satan is so powerful that Jesus told us that when we pray one of our petitions is to be that God would, (Matthew 6:13)

"deliver us from the evil one.'

We need to be rescued from him. On our own we can do nothing.

We are also told that the dragon is red in color. Simon J. Kistemaker says that red often, (Revelation, BNTC, p. 356)

"symbolizes the color of warfare."

Red is often the color of war. The color of blood is red. This indicates that the dragon is violent. We see this from the red horse of the four horsemen from Revelation 6. When the Lamb opened the second seal, a fiery red horse came out. Revelation 6:4 says,

"Its rider was given power to take peace
from the earth and to make men
slay each other.
To him was given a large sword."

The fact that the dragon is red indicates that he is violent. He delights to make war—to injure, maim and kill. We see this in the verses that follow. When the dragon is cast out of heaven, we read that there was a loud voice in heaven that said, (Revelation 12:12–17)

"'woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.'
When the dragon saw that
he had been hurled to the earth,
he pursued the woman
who had given birth to the male child.
The woman was given
the two wings of a great eagle,
so that she might fly to the place
prepared for her in the desert,
where she would be taken care of
for a time, times and half a time,
out of the serpent's reach.
Then from his mouth the serpent
spewed water like a river,
to overtake the woman
and sweep her away with the torrent.
But the earth helped the woman
by opening its mouth and
swallowing the river that the dragon
had spewed out of his mouth.
Then the dragon was enraged
at the woman and went off to make war against
the rest of her offspring—
those who obey God's commandments
and hold to the testimony of Jesus."

Red symbolizes not just warfare, but the fact that he is the bloodthirsty. He initiates war against those that are peaceful. Robert Mounce says that the color red here, (Revelation, NICNT; p. 233)

"symbolizes the murderous character of Satan."

In John 8:44 Jesus said that Satan was,

"a murderer from the beginning…"

The dragon is a horrible, violent, malevolent creature.

But even more than that, the dragon is presented in Scripture as
the enemy of God's people. He targets the people of God. He seeks to destroy them. Jesus said to Peter, (Luke 22:31–32)

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
But I have prayed for you,
Simon, that your faith may not fail."

The Old Testament background of the dragon shows us this as well. G. K. Beale and Sean M. McDonough write, (Revelation, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson; p. 1123)

"The imagery of the dragon is used throughout the OT to represent evil kingdoms that persecute God's people, and this is in mind here. 'Dragon' … is another word in the OT for the sea monster that symbolizes wicked kingdoms that oppress Israel. Often the wicked kingdom of Egypt is portrayed by this emblem. God is spoken of as defeating Pharaoh as a sea dragon at the exodus deliverance and at later points in Egypt's history…"

Thus the dragon symbolizes, (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

"the forces of chaos and evil in opposition to God's creative and redemptive work…"

Robert H. Mounce tells us that against the Old Testament background, (Revelation, NICNT; p. 233)

"the dragon of John's vision would immediately be understood as the archenemy of God and his people."

The dragon hates God's people. He seeks to destroy them. He got Eve to tempt Adam to sin. He is the one that is seeking to cast each one of us in hell.

That's what the red dragon shows us.

The second thing we see about this dragon is that he has seven heads and 10 horns and seven crowns on his head. Crowns are symbols of royalty—denoting majesty and dominion. R.C.H. Lenski writes,

"In his monstrous hellish power and malignity the devil usurps and arrogates to himself the dominion which is God's alone. The 'horn' is the regular symbol of power, and 'ten' is the number of completeness. Thus the ten horns of the dragon = the complete power arrogated by Satan in this usurped dominion over men. This dragon, the devil, would be God so that all men might bow before him."

Grant R. Osborne writes, (Revelation, BECNT; p. 460)

"In 5:6 the Lamb is described with "seven horns" as the conquering ram, so the ten horns of the dragon are another great imitation, a parody of the military strength of Christ."

Thus the dragon is one who tries to usurp what rightfully belongs to God.

The dragon wants glory that is not his. In one of the temptations of Jesus he wanted Jesus to worship him. Isaiah 14:12–15 describes Satan's fall,

"How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.'
But you are brought down to the grave,
to the depths of the pit."

Satan wants the glory that belongs to God alone. He seeks to steal it.

Those who watched cycling in the Lance Armstrong era know that he stood on the podium of the Tour de France 7 times and took the glory that belonged to someone else. Floyd Landis did the same thing.

It's horrible to take credit for something someone else did. They're stealing someone else's glory. It despicable.

On April 21, 1980 Rosie Ruiz appeared to win the Boston Marathon's female category with a time of 2:31:56. Her time was the fastest female time in Boston Marathon history as well as the third fastest female time ever recorded in any marathon. She stood on the podium and took all the glory. But soon afterward suspicions were raised about her victory and it was found that she cheated. She didn't run most of the race. She walked onto the race course a half mile from the finish and just ran the last half mile.

To cheat another human being out of glory is a horrible thing. How much more to rob God of the glory that belongs to Him. It is most evil to try to take God's glory to oneself.

Further, we see that

the dragon sweeps a third of the stars of heaven after him.

Most likely this refers to Satan sweeping away a third of the angels in the original war in heaven. When Satan rebelled against God, one-third of the heavenly host followed him. This was an incredible event. Satan convinced one-third of the angels to rebel with him.

If you contrast this with chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation, which depicts God on His throne and the whole heavenly host praising and adorning Him, which depicts, perfection, rightness—the evil of what Satan did when he led other heavenly beings into rebellion against God is brought into incredible relief.

I've long known that Satan led a rebellion in heaven against God. But it wasn't until this past week that I realized as never before the evilness of such an event. Consider what verse 7 says,

"there was war in heaven."

The harmony of heavenly glory was interrupted. The chorus of continuous praise to God my all the heavenly creatures was stopped. We won't be able to appreciate the evilness of Satan's rebellion until we get to glory. His rebellion was most horrific.

The third thing that shows us the evilness of the dragon is that

he seeks to kill the baby the moment it is born.

Verse 4 says,

"The dragon stood in front of the woman
who was about to give birth,
so that he might devour her child the moment it was born."

Two things are so evil here. First, as we saw last week,

in Jesus was the only hope for the salvation of the world.

Satan wanted to stop any human beings from getting to heaven. If Satan had managed to kill Jesus the moment He was born, it would have meant the doom of the whole human race.

But, secondly, and even worse than that,

consider who Jesus was.

We have to pause here and consider the character of Jesus. The baby born in Bethlehem—what was He like, what was His character like, what was His person bringing to the world?

In Him was love like the world had never seen. He came to die for sinners. He was full of kindness, compassion. In Him was truth. In Him was righteousness. In Him was glory—such glory. As John 1:14 says,

"We have seen his glory,
the glory of the One and Only,
who came from the Father,
full of grace and truth."

There was no one ever like Jesus who came into this world. In Him was such delight to do the Father's will. It was His food and drink. No wonder that when Jesus was born, the angels of heaven cried out, (Luke 2:14)

"Glory to God in the highest…"

This was one of the greatest events in the history of the world—the Father sent His Son—and what a Son—into the world. Wonder of wonders—light had come into the world! (John 3:19)

And what did Satan try to do? He tried to kill Him. Such incredible, such irrational evil.

Now the great question is, what benefit is there for us in this?

First of all,

it means that every day that you get up you ought to thank God for who He is.

How different God is than this red dragon! The dragon is evil. He is full of hate. He is bloodthirsty. He wants to injure, main, kill and destroy us forever—having us perish in hell's fires.

How different is our God! He dwells in light inaccessible. (1 Timothy 6:16) Our God is good. He is a God who is full of love. He loved us when we were His enemies. He is full of mercy and compassion. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10) As the prophet Micah to God, (Micah 7:18–20)

"Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives
the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago."

Secondly, this means that

you need to stay away from anything to do with the occult. Instead you need to draw near to God.

It's incredible to me that there are witches, wizards, and people that worship the devil. The devil is not your friend. He's not going to bless you.

It's incredible that people seek enlightenment in horoscopes, ouija boards and the like. We need to be delighting in God's Word, in His revealed will.

In this life we have two choices—light and darkness. You can either seek knowledge in God and His will—or you seek it from Satan.

To seek it in Satan is the utmost foolishness. Satan hates mankind. He is doing everything he can to destroy you. Get away from Him. Don't seek light in the way of darkness.

For those of you who are not Christians—go to Jesus. There's no one like Him. Only He can save you.