I told a dramatized version of the Bible’s Book of Revelation (also called the Apocalypse of John) during a large family gathering in Mexico. Children sat on the carpet, adults on the couches and teenagers on the windowsills and floor around me. It can be difficult to make some parts of the scriptures come alive. This is not one of those sections.
A marvelous sign appears in the heavens: a woman dressed in the sun and standing on the moon – with a crown of 12 stars on her head.
The woman is pregnant and cries out in pain because her time of birth is at hand.
At this moment, a fiery-red dragon appears – with seven heads, ten horns and seven jeweled headbands.
He waits… planning to devour the child while she recovers from childbirth.
The dragon is so powerful that he has a third of the stars wrapped in his tail.
The woman brings forth a male child who is destined to rule all nations.
Before the dragon can strike, God snatches up the baby and places him on the throne.
And the mother flees into wilderness where God can protect and nourish her as well.
The great general Michael rises up with his armies of angels and fights the fiery-red dragon.
Michael wins the battle and casts the dragon down to the earth. The creature drags down the stars coiled up in his tail.
And as he falls, the dragon burns like a lamp and poisons one-third of the Earth’s rivers.
On impact, he opens up a bottomless pit. Smoke billows out darkening the sun and obscuring the sky.
Locusts and scorpions also rise out of the pit and torment mankind.
A beast emerges from the sea. It appears like a leopard – with the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion and power over the nations.
And another beast rises out of Earth – a lamb with horns who has the power to deceive.
[Consider removing the seductress section for younger audiences] And finally, a seductress dressed in purples, scarlets and precious stones covers the Earth. She carries a golden cup filled with filthiness and seduces the land’s inhabitants.
The beast and the false lamb unite with the rulers of the earth to make war against the mother’s children.
The Son, now grown, meets them on a white horse. His eyes are a flame of fire and he wears many crowns. The son’s clothes are the color of blood. And a sharp sword continually comes out of his mouth.
His armies follow him on white horse and are dressed in clean white linen. They shine like angels.
All the peoples of the earth gather to fight in the great battle – the deceived on the side of the dragon and the pure on the Son’s.
Their dragon’s armies are killed by the sword from the Son’s mouth. And the vultures are filled.
The beast and false lamb are thrown into a lake of fire and sulphur as their punishment. The dragon is sealed in the bottomless pit.
And the son and his white armies rule in happiness and peace for a thousand years.
All in white are invited to the marriage feast of the Son. A great and glorious city is established on a high mountain. And there is no more death, sorrow or tears.
I love John’s story of our world and the rich symbolism within it. You are welcome to share my version. Or better yet, go to the source and make your own version that is truer to the scriptures or brings in other symbols from John’s work. It makes a good bedtime story.
So what does it all mean? The beauty of symbolism is that there are layers of answers. Here is one imperfect interpretation that just scratches the surface.
The woman is the glorious kingdom of God, which rules over the cosmos. Jesus comes from the kingdom of God and sits on is father’s throne. The kingdom of God comes down to this Earth not in completeness but in a weakened state. Here it is incrementally growing and being restored.
The dragon, or Satan, represents chaos and the supernatural opposition to God’s will. The dragon has seven heads, meaning that it controls the major kingdoms of the Earth. He has ten horns showing he has great but incomplete power. The jeweled headbands convey his political sovereignty. He wants nothing but to annihilate the Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ.
Michael is the first and representative man – like Adam in the Garden. His armies include all the people who chose to come down to this Earth so that they can progress in the wilderness. The stars wrapped up in the devil’s tail are people who chose not to participate in the Earthly experience.
The dragon creates a bottomless pit of evil on this Earth and makes our lives bitter instead of sweet. The vapors and billowing smoke are the uncertainties and confusion that surround us. The locusts and the scorpions are the temporary pain and suffering endemic on this planet.
The sea beast symbolizes the kingdoms of the earth that stand in opposition to the kingdom of God. The lamb with horns is the great deceiver – the false but convincing word of Satan. The seductress is dressed in symbols of nobility, wealth and false religion. She represents the philosophies and false theologies of the world standing in opposition to the kingdom of God.
The man on a white horse is the Son of God, now grown. He burns with wisdom and light and is the king of kings. His garments are soaked in the blood of those who gave their lives for him and from his own sacrifice. The swords continually coming out of his mouth are his word and guidance. They cut between truth and falsehood and guide us individually down the correct path.
The son’s armies are clean and dressed in white because they repent and perform sacred rites. Satan employs his wiles and philosophies to deceive the nations and gather them together to fight against the Son and his armies.
A lifelong battle ensues. The Son defeats and punishes Satan, who is locked away for an extended period of time. With him go all sorrow and pain. The feast and the city on the mountain represent the blissful state of those who follow Jesus Christ. They rejoice and build together.
What are some morals of this story?
- We should be wary of the attractive lies, philosophies and popular religions the world has to offer. We should look to Jesus Christ and the truth of his word.
- God allows our mortal experience to be filled with difficulties. Some will grow and overcome. Others will be deceived and stagnate. The necessity of progression is stressed in multiple symbols