The Seven Personages: The Woman, the Man-Child, and the Dragon
A New Vision
The prior set of visions started with a door in heaven opening (Revelation 4:1). Here we have another opening, but this time it reveals the temple of God in heaven. John sees the ark of the covenant. The ark of the covenant was where God’s glory was seen between the two cherubim (Exodus 25:22). It was located in the inner sanctuary where only the high priest could enter and then only once a year. John no longer lives under the Old Law, nor is he a high priest; yet, he can draw near to God’s presence because of the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 12:19-23).
Thus, we have the start of another major vision. The meaning is the same as what we have already seen, but the symbols are different because the story is being told from a different point of view. The fact that it starts in the temple hints that this vision will be showing the spiritual forces at play behind the scenes.
In this vision we are introduced to seven beings or personages:
- The Woman
- The Dragon
- The Child
- The Sea Beast
- The Land Beast
- The Lamb
We are shown, through the eyes of John, a woman clothed in the sun, standing on the moon, wearing a victory crown of twelve stars on her head. The brightness of her clothing indicates glory (Psalms 84:11), as opposed to darkened heavenly bodies representing despair (Isaiah 13:10). Stars representing God’s messengers was seen in Revelation 1:20, but there it was seven stars to represent the seven messengers of the seven churches. Here it is twelve stars and twelve is strongly associated with God’s people (Zechariah 9:16).
Notice that the woman is lit by three different sources of light. One thought is that they represent the three main ages of the world: starlight for the patriarchal age, moonlight for the Mosaical age, and sunlight for the age of Christ. The amount of light would indicate how well people see God’s will. There were vague hints during the patriarchal age. In the Mosaical age, God’s will is better seen, but still not clearly understood (Ephesians 3:4-5). But it is in the Christian age that God’s purpose is fully revealed (Colossians 1:26).
The woman is not a specific person but a representation of all of God’s people through all the ages. Israel was seen as God’s wife (Isaiah 54:5). The church today is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:23-32; II Corinthians 11:2; Romans 7:1-4). The remnant of Israel was seen as a woman in birth pains (Micah 4:8-10). Isaiah prophesied that the spiritual remnant of Israel would bring forth a male child (Isaiah 66:7-9). The point is that the troubles Israel faced with the captivity and other struggles would lead to the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Later in Revelation 12:17, the woman is said to bring forth other children who are those who keep the commandments of God (Revelation 12:17). Jesus was to be the firstborn among man (Romans 8:29). He saved those born under the first covenant by the same death that saved us (Hebrews 9:15). Thus, those born in prior ages were not perfected without the church (Hebrews 11:39-40).
The woman, being with child, is confronted by a dragon who is ready to devour her child as soon as he is born. Later, the dragon is identified as Satan (Revelation 12:9). He has seven heads; that is, perfectly intelligent or crafty (II Corinthians 11:3). He has ten horns; that is, he is full of power (Psalms 89:17). He wears seven crowns. These are not victory crowns, but royal crowns (diadem). Thus, he has complete authority, as Jesus referred to him as the ruler of this world (John 12:31). His red color is the color of war and bloodshed, which fits as Satan has been a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).
Even his tail is a destructive force. The image is of an immense dragon wagging his tail while waiting for the child to be born. His tail knocks a third of the stars in heaven down. The destruction is portrayed as careless and not purposeful. There are different possible explanations:
- If the stars are seen as rulers, then Satan sweeps away a large portion in his attempt to destroy Christ.
- If the stars are seen as angels, then Satan’s rebellion led many astray (II Peter 2:4; Jude 6).
No matter the explanation, what is being emphasized is Satan’s power. Even his carelessness is destructive.
The Male Child
Micah prophesied that Christ would be born of a woman in travail (Micah 5:2-4). Even though the travail was long, the birth was quick (Malachi 3:1). Christ was born in Israel, which has been subjugated bu first the Greeks and then the Romans.
Satan, through Herod, sought to destroy Jesus at his birth (Matthew 2:16), but he failed. He continued to try and thwart the work of Christ, right up to killing the Savior on a cross. At that moment, Satan must have thought he triumphed over God. However, Jesus was caught up to the throne of God where he rules all nations.