Like the woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, a second sign is introduced. These two signs are meant to find juxtaposition and highlight the contest between Gods promise to the woman and the intention of the dragon to undermine Gods work.
fiery red dragon
Red is πυρρὸς [pyrros] meaning fiery red , like the horse which rode forth at the loosing of the second seal (Rev. Rev. 6:4+). The color speaks of blood and destruction.
With what carnage and misery has he overflooded the earth! There has never been a murder, but he caused it. There has never been a sanguinary war, but he instituted it. There has never been a death scene, but it is traceable to him. Every blight of human happiness, every failure of human peace, every sorrow of human life, has come from him. All the fiery passions that rankle in men, and break forth in deeds of violence and blood, are his inspirations.1The dragon is a key player in the events of the end time. He is explained to be that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan (Rev. Rev. 12:9+). It is the dragon who gives the beast his power, throne, and great authority (Rev. Rev. 13:2+) and receives worship along with the beast (Rev. Rev. 13:4+). His words are those spoken by the False Prophet (Rev. Rev. 13:11+). Later, a demonic spirit comes forth from the mouth of the dragon to lead the kings of the earth to the Campaign of Armageddon (Rev. Rev. 16:13+). Although he works intensely during the period of the end (Rev. Rev. 12:12+), he is unable to prevail and is eventually cast into the bottomless pit (Rev. Rev. 20:2+). The dragon is known by several names:
Five names are given to Satan, all describing his person and his work. In the great dragon, his fierceness and ferociousness is seen. The old serpent points back to the Garden of Eden . . . In the word devil [diabolos], Satan is viewed as the accuser of all of Gods children. Satan means adversary and in this he is seen as the opponent to Gods program. As the deceiver, he is pointed out as the great master counterfeiter who attempts to deceive the elect and non-elect alike.2
Professor Milligan says: In these words [devour, Rev. Rev. 12:5+] we have the dragon doing what Pharaoh did to Israel (Ex. Ex. 1:15-22), and again and again, in the Psalms and the Prophets, Pharaoh is spoken of as `the dragon (Ps. Ps. 74:13; Isa. Isa. 27:1; Isa. 51:9; Eze. Eze. 29:3). Nor is it without interest to remember that Pharaohs crown was wreathed with a dragon (the asp or serpent of Egypt), and that just as the eagle was the ensign of Rome, so the dragon was that of Egypt. Hence, the significance of Moses rod being turned into a serpent.3See #15 - Dragon.
seven heads and ten horns
Some see the seven heads and ten horns as representing the original ten kings of the time of the end, three of which are overcome by the little horn leaving seven (Dan. Dan. 7:8).4 We believe it is better to understand the heads and horns as representing different entities rather than different numbers (phases) of the same group of kings. We believe the seven heads represent seven sequential kingdoms of history while the ten horns represent the ten contemporaneous kings which emerge from the final kingdom (Dan. Dan. 7:7). See Beasts, Heads, and Horns.
seven diadems on his heads
Some believe diadem speaks of royalty whereas stephanos a victor. But this may be an oversimplification as these terms are not technical terms, but have an emphasis defined by the context. See Crowns. Here, the seven diadems denote seven kings and seven historic kingdoms. See #4 - Seven Heads/Kings. The ten horns upon the seventh head also wear ten crowns (Rev. Rev. 13:1+). See #22 - Ten Horns/Kings. These are the kingdoms which were delivered to Satan and through which he has dominated earthly history:
Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours. (Luke Luke 4:5-7)At the time of the end, he shares this authority with the Beast who also has these seven heads (Rev. Rev. 13:1+).
1 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), Rev. 12:3.
5 Albrecht Durer (1471 - 1528). Image courtesy of the Connecticut College Wetmore Print Collection. This woodcut does not accurately portray all that is taught concerning the dragon and its horns. The ten horns should all appear on only one of its headthe head representing the final kingdom. See Beasts, Heads, and Horns.