Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Why is there a dragon in the nativity?

When John described the nativity in the book of Revelation, he included an enormous red dragonNativity scenes usually included animals like sheep and cattle. But what about a red dragon! That would look out of place. But when John described the nativity in the book of Revelation, he included an enormous red dragon.

The structure of the book of Revelation is given in the verse, “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later” (Rev. 1:19NIV). John had seen a vision of the glory of the Lord Jesus (Ch 1). Then he wrote messages to seven churches in Asia Minor (Ch 2-3). Finally he records future events (Ch 4-22). The future events are the rapture of believers to heaven (between Ch 3 and Ch 4), the tribulation (Ch 6-18, where the church is not mentioned), the second coming of Christ to earth (Ch 19:11-21), the millennium (Ch 20), and the new heaven and earth (21:1 – 22:5).

It the context of predicting Satan’s attacks on Israel in the tribulation, John writes “A great sign [symbol] appeared in heaven: a woman [Israel] clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth [to Christ]. Then another sign [symbol] appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon [Satan] with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its 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 it might devour her child the moment he was born” (Rev. 12:1-4).

Here Christ is presented as the long promised Jewish Messiah. And the red dragon is identified soon after to be Satan (Rev. 12:9). It is a symbol of Satan. The dragon was probably a type of dinosaur (Appendix A). The dragon is poised ready to devour the child the moment he is born. We know that king Herod planned to have the child killed (Mt. 2:7-8). When his murderous plan was thwarted, He was furious, “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more’” (Mt. 2:16-18). So Herod had all the young boys killed because the magi didn’t report the location of the infant Messiah.

King Herod wasn’t the dragon. It was Satan acting through a world-ruler. He is the unseen supernatural power who orchestrates the evil perpetuated in the world (like murder). Spiritual forces are at work. At the first Christmas, a dragon was pitted against a newborn (Appendix B). Who won this battle?

Even though Satan’s attempt to destroy Jesus when He was a child failed, the devil did not give up. Prior to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Mt. 4:1).

John continues, “She [Israel] gave birth to a son [Christ], a male child, who ‘will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.’ And her child was snatched up to God and to His throne.” (Rev. 12:5). He jumps from Christ’s birth to His ascension. And he mentions future events in the tribulation, second coming and millennium. John is in a hurry to get to chapter 19 where the baby wins and the dragon loses.

Ruling over all nations with an iron scepter is a reference to the second coming of Christ, which is mentioned in Psalm 2. Revelation 12:9 quotes from Psalm 2:9.

The Welsh flagThe second coming

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” (Ps. 2:1-9).

Near the end of the tribulation the rulers of nations will unite and endeavor to prevent Christ from coming to rule over the world. They declare war on God! But the psalmist recognizes that this is futile. How can they succeed in rebelling against the God who created everything in the beginning? God laughs at such insolence. And at His second coming Jesus Christ will destroy all opposition like a rod of iron breaks pottery into shards. The image is that God is armed with an iron rod (crowbar) and the nations have pottery. They are deluded.

So the image of the baby with a crowbar (Rev. 12:5) relates to the second coming of Christ when He will come with great power and glory (Rev. 19:11-21).

The two advents

The two advents of Christ are mentioned together in some passages of scripture.

For example, Isaiah 9:6-7:
First advent: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,”
Second advent: “and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

And Revelation 5:5-6:
Second advent: “Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’”
First advent: “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain”.

Here Jesus is referred to as a Lion and a Lamb. The image of the lion conveys kingship. He is the conquering King who will slay all the enemies of God when He returns to the earth. The image of the lamb looking as if it had been slain conveys His sacrificial death that enables people to be reconciled with God.

In Revelation 12, John writes “They [believers] triumphed over him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb [Jesus]” (Rev. 12:11). The lamb is Jesus, and the reference to His blood points to his sacrificial death on the cross. At Passover Jews remembered how God rescued them from the tyranny of Pharaoh in Egypt. Because the sacrificial lambs died, the Israelite firstborn didn’t experience the last plague. Because Jesus died, Christians will not face God’s judgment. Jesus’ death saves those who trust in Him.

A carol

An ancient Christmas carol expresses the peace and joy received by those who trust in Christ’s rescuing them from God’s judgment. The first line meant, “may God grant you peace and happiness”.

1 God rest you merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay!
for Jesus Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day,
to save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray:
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy!

2 At Bethlehem in Judah the holy babe was born;
they laid Him in a manger on this most happy morn,
at which His mother Mary did neither fear nor scorn:
O tidings …

3 From God our heavenly Father a holy angel came;
the shepherds saw the glory and heard the voice proclaim
that Christ was born in Bethlehem and Jesus is His name:
O tidings …

4 Fear not, then said the angel, let nothing cause you fright;
to you is born a Savior in David’s town tonight,
to free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might:
O tidings …

5 The shepherds at these tidings rejoiced in heart and mind,
and on the darkened hillside they left their flocks behind,
and went to Bethlehem straightway this holy child to find:
O tidings …

6 And when to Bethlehem they came where Christ the infant lay;
they found Him in a manger where oxen fed on hay,
and there beside her newborn child His mother knelt to pray:
O tidings …

7 Now to the Lord sing praises, all people in this place!
with Christian love and fellowship each other now embrace,
and let this Christmas festival all bitterness displace:
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy!

Do you have this lasting peace and joy?

Appendix A: Is the dragon a dinosaur?

The sign of the great dragon is explained in Revelation 12:9. He is “that ancient serpent, called the Devil, or Satan,” who has tried to destroy the woman and her spiritual seed ever since Eden. In order to be used as a sign, the dragon itself must have been a real animal, well known and feared by the ancient world but now extinct (see Gen. 1:21; Job 40:15-24; Isa. 27:1). Note that the symbols of Jesus were a lamb and a lion. Though evolutionists would disagree, dragons almost certainly were dinosaurs, universally known by the nations of antiquity to exist as real creatures.

There’s a dragon in my nativityAppendix B: There’s a dragon in my nativity – a poem

There’s a dragon in my nativity, dreadful and immense
The shepherds quake, the wise men shake and spill their frankincense
The cattle are a lowing and the baby is awake
While Joe and Mary tremble, O this must be some mistake
There’s a dragon over Bethlehem, I don’t know how he came
I didn’t think a donkey could have borne the dragon’s frame
I don’t believe the census has been called for such as him
And I’m certain that when dragon knocked, no room was at the inn

There’s a dragon by the stable, I don’t know why he’s there
He hasn’t brought a present, and he only seems to glare
He hovers over David’s town that still beneath him lies
Yet no one’s sleep is dreamless underneath his piercing eyes
This dragon is invisible with ordinary sight
You cannot snap a selfie or televise his flight
Unseen he stands for every power that stands against the earth
Death, disease and darkness overshadowing each birth

This dragon is an enemy of all that’s good and true
This monster lies and steals and kills; he‘s coming after you
Above each crib the dragon hovers, sure to swallow whole
Rulers, empires, beauty, joy; a flesh and blood black hole
But dragons always meet their match, they always meet their due
The hero rises to the fight, to cast them into gloom
And so at this nativity arose another player
A baby wrapped in swadding cloth, He was a dragon slayer

He’d come to fight through Herod’s plot through dangers big and small
He took on evil, sickness, death; and triumphed over all
A dragon or a baby, who will win the fight?
It wasn’t really fair, the child was a knight
And high above and long before He knew what must be done
He knew the dragon waiting here, and still He choose to come
There’s a dragon in my nativity, a fierce monstrous danger
But fiercer still the bravery and love within the manger

Acknowledgement

This post was inspired by a book, “The weirdest nativity” by Andrew Sacha and Jonathan Gemmell (10Publishing, Leyland, England, 2019).
The words of “God rest you merry gentlemen” are from Jubilate.
Appendix A comes from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). And Appendix B was written by Glen Scrivener.

Posted, 25 December 2022

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