What Does "the Dragon" in Revelation 12 Represent?

The Dragon with Seven Heads in Revelation

Meaning of the Dragon in Revelation

The following is a transcript of the video above featuring Brandon Crowe of Westminster Theological Seminary:

Revelation 12 shows us a dragon who attacks a child, and this can be a confusing image, but we should remember that Revelation is an apocalyptic work that shows us things in images and pictures, in word pictures. And the dragon in Revelation 12 represents Satan. And this dragon is seeking to attack the special child, which is representative of Jesus, the Messiah. And what we find in Revelation 12 is the dragon is not able to defeat the child, but the dragon then attacks the woman, who represents God's people. And so we see that although the child overcomes the dragon, the dragon does seek to attack the people, who are God's people.

But the hopeful part of this picture is that the child has overcome the dragon. And the dragon, by the way, is also helpful to keep in mind as we come to Revelation 13, where the beast from the sea and the beast from the land work in tandem with the dragon, as sort of an unholy Trinity with the dragon being the head. So the dragon leads the beast from the sea and the beast from the land in a way that, in some ways, tries to imitate the way that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit relate to one another and work in our world.

Revelation 12 (ESV)

The Woman and the Dragon

1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Satan Thrown Down to Earth

7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!" 13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

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