Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Dragon and the Beast of Revelation

Alice C. Linsley

Since ancient mythology had many references to antagonistic dragons and sea monsters, John's readers would have recognized the dragon as a cosmic enemy. In ancient Egyptian mythology, Apopis was a water serpent and a symbol of chaos.

The Apocalypse of St. John identifies the dragon or monster as "that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray" (Rev. 12:9, 20:2). In John's vision the serpent is associated with the serpent of Eden. However, the association goes beyond Eden to the creation narrative of Genesis 1 where the serpent is associated with chaos and the dark abyss. 

In Genesis 1 we read that the primal substance covering the earth was water and it was disordered, that is, it had no boundaries. God’s breath (Ruach/Logos) created order from the chaos, separating the waters above from the waters below, and the dry land from the seas. The chaotic waters are called Tehom and the ordering word of God is called Tehut. In the cosmic struggle, Tehut is victorious over Tehom. The oldest known law code is the Law of Tehut (c. 3500 B.C.) and it was said to express the wisdom of God by which boundaries were established. Among Abraham’s Nilo-Saharan ancestors boundaries were not to be violated. Such transgression carried serious consequences.

The ancient Egyptians believed the great serpent that created chaos lived south of Elephantine Island and therefore never wanted to sail that far south. There was an ancient temple on Elephantine Island at which priests offered sacrifice and prayers daily. Their presence was seen as a restraint against the serpent. Further, Elephantine Island was known as a seat of wisdom and justice whereby divinely established boundaries were honored and enforced.

Elephantine, the largest of the Aswan islands

Elephantine Island was the center of Nubia's international power. Pepinakht-Heqaib (third millenium BC) rendered judgement from Elephantine and waged wars. He claimed that when judging between two brothers, presumably first-born sons, he never deprived a rightful heir of his inheritance. Since he lived before the time of Joseph's rule in Egypt, it appears that he was honoring a long-standing custom among his Nubian/Kushite people. This suggests that the practice of chiefs having two first born sons by two wives predates the Asiatic Hyksos' domination of Egypt.

Revelation 12:17 we are told that “the dragon was angry with the Woman and with her Seed, those who keep the commandments of God and have the witness of Jesus.” Here the Woman’s Seed is not only the Son of God but also all who are “in Christ”, the Church.

When the dragon failed to destroy the Woman and her Seed, it called forth an assistant from the deep. “And he [the dragon] stood upon the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast coming up from the sea, having ten horns and seven heads…and upon its heads were the names of blasphemy… And the dragon gave it his power and his throne and great authority.” (Rev. 12:18-13:2)

The Serpent and the Tree of Life

Recalling that there are two trees in the garden, we see that the serpent led Eve from the right choice - to eat of the Tree of Life - to the wrong choice - to eat of the Tree by which she hoped to become like God. This has been the Devil's primary approach throughout history. He attempts to lead us away from life by promising what he cannot give - divinity and immortality.

The Church Fathers understood the Tree of Life in Eden as representing the Cross. Satan employs many methods to distract us from the Cross and in these days there are more distractions than ever. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that young Americans on average spend over seven and one-half hours a day on entertainment media. This translates into more than 53 hours a week as compared to 30 hours a week in school. Cell phones are used to listen to music, play games, text friends, take photos, and watch TV, even in schools where cell phone use is prohibited during the school day.


  1. Could you elaborate further on the assistant Satan called? Thank you

  2. The powers of this world. Spotted like a leopard, but note the wounded head, a reference to Genesis 3:15.

    Revelation 13:2-9
    And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

    3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

    4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

    5 And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.

    6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.

    7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

    8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

    9 If any man have an ear, let him hear.

  3. Who is the beast mentioned in Revelation 13:11-18? Thank you

  4. Notice the Beast is described as "they" in verse 4. They prostrated [bowed down] in front of the dragon because he had given the "beast" with 7 heads his authority.

    The "sea" spoken of is the Mediterranean. The beast is ancient Rome with its 7 hills or heads. Rome was also called the great Babylon.


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