And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having
seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the
woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
Another Wonder in Heaven.—
“The symbol of the great red dragon, like that of the woman, is seen ‘in heaven.’ This is true, first of all, because the war between the two began in heaven.
Primarily the dragon is the devil and Satan who was once in heaven. The first part of the struggle between Michael and the once mighty Lucifer took place in heaven
around the throne of God. Because the war between the two great antagonists began in heaven, the symbol first appears to the prophet as being in heaven. In the second place since the struggle was transferred to this
earth it has continued to be a warfare ‘in high places’ or ‘heavenly places.’ Eph. 6:11-13.” Bunch, TR, 142.
“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18.
“The original word here translated ‘red’ is used only here and in Rev. 6:4 where it is applied to ‘the red horse.’” Bunch, TR, 137.
A Great Red Dragon.—
“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.” Revelation 12:9.
“In a primary sense, therefore, the dragon is the devil and Satan. But it is evident that the great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns does not describe Satan in person, for Satan is described elsewhere in the Bible as the former Lucifer, a mighty and beautiful angel.
It is evident that this Scripture must have both a primary and secondary application. In a secondary sense the great red dragon must represent the kingdom of Satan over which he rules and through which he makes war on and persecutes the church of God.
Satan is designated as ‘the prince of this world’ and therefore in its broad sense the dragon must include the angels, human beings, nations and organizations that partake of the dragon spirit and are under his control. Just as all persons and organizations who are controlled by Christ are Christian in spirit, so all who are dominated by Satan are dragon is spirit. The dragon therefore includes every power used by Satan in making war on the ‘Child’ or ‘Seed’ and the ‘woman’ or on Christ and His church.” Bunch, TR, 138.
“The dragon represents some power which attempted to destroy Christ at His birth. Was any such attempt made: Who made it? No formal answer to this question need be given to anyone who has read how Herod, in a fiendish effort to destroy the infant Jesus, sent forth and slew all the children in Bethlehem from two years old and under. But who was Herod? He was a Roman governor. From Rome Herod derived his power. Rome ruled at that time over all the world (Luke 2:1), and was therefore the responsible actor in this event. Moreover, Rome was the only earthly government which at that time could be symbolized in prophecy, for the very reason that its dominion was universal. It is not, therefore, without the most conclusive reason
that the Roman Empire is regarded by Protestant commentators generally to be the power indicated by the great red dragon.
“It may be worth mentioning that during the second, third, fourth, and fifth centuries of the Christian Era, next to the eagle the dragon was the principal standard of the Roman legions. That dragon was painted red, as if in faithful response to the picture held up by the seer of Patmos they would exclaim to the world, We are the nation which that picture represents.”
Smith, DR, 551-553.
A Great Red Dragon Stood Before the Woman
“The line of prophecy in which these symbols are found begins with Revelation 12, with the dragon that sought to destroy Christ at His birth. The dragon is said to be Satan (Revelation 12:9); he it was that moved upon Herod to put the Saviour to death. But the chief agent
of Satan in making war upon Christ and His people during the first centuries of the Christian Era was the Roman Empire, in which paganism was the prevailing religion. Thus while the dragon, primarily, represents Satan, it is, in a secondary sense, a symbol of pagan Rome.” Great Controversy, 438.
“For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.” Isaiah 7:8,9.
“All the nations of antiquity used the dragon as an emblem. This would show a certain uniformity in their governments and religions. Revelation 12 gives us a picture of the dragon with seven heads. What do heads represent in prophecy? Isa.7:8-9 indicates that they
represent rulers, or systems of government. Hence the dragon had seven rulers, or systems of government through which he worked to carry out his program in the earth. Rev. 17:10 shows that all of the heads had not appeared at the time the prophecy was given. Thus these heads must represent the universal work of the dragon, the entire number used in his endeavors.”
Straw, SR, 81.
“And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.” Rev. 17:10.
[This verse shows that the heads are successive. PJ]
The seven heads are seven forms of civil power which successively bear rule. These seven heads belong alike to the dragon of Rev. 12, the beast of chap.13, and that of chap. 17. This shows conclusively that the dragon and these two beasts are symbols of the same power under different heads; for there are not three sets of seven heads, but it is evident that the heads are successive forms of its power, one of them bearing rule at a time, and then giving place to another. Rev. 17:9,10. It appears that the dragon of chap. 12 and the beast of chap. 13 and that of chap. 17 each represents some one or more of the seven heads; yet as each is seen with the seven heads, they must each in a certain sense extend over all the period covered by the three symbols; for there are not twenty-one heads. The proper period of
each seems to be this: the dragon before the 1260 years, the beast of chap. 13 during that period, and the beast of chap. 17 since the deadly wound and captivity at the close of that period.” Andrews, TMR, 77,78.
“Starting with Babylon, the first head, the second head would be Medo-Persia, then Greece, and the dragon (Pagan Rome) would be the fourth phase, the fourth head, of the seven-headed beast. (See Revelation 17 for the identity of the final three heads.)” PJ.
“The Devil uses earthly powers. ‘The ten horns’ identify the dragon with the Roman empire, with its ten divisions. [Daniel 7:7,24.]” Burnside, RWU, 147.
“The beast of ch. 13 and that of ch. 17 also had ten horns each. Some hold the ten horns of the dragon to be identical with those of these two beasts, and the latter to be identical with the ten horns of the fourth beast of Dan. 7.” 7SDA Bible Commentary, 808. (See further comments in Revelation 13:1.)
Seven Crowns Upon His Heads.—
“Each of the seven heads is represented in chap. 12 with a crown upon it, even as each of the ten horns is thus represented in chap. 13. Each of the heads must therefore represent a kingdom or government, even as the horns represent governments.
“It is evident that the seven heads are successive (that is, the beast has but one head at a time), in distinction from the ten horns, which are contemporary. But the seven hills of Rome are not successive; for it cannot be said of them, ‘Five are fallen, and one is, and the other is
not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.’ The beast itself is the eighth, and is of the seven, which proves that the beast is a literal mountain, or that the heads are not “4. The heads of the beast must, according to Dan.7:6 compared with Dan. 8:22, be explained as kingdoms or governments. Mountains, according to Dan. 2:35,44 and Jer. 51:25, denote kingdoms. But the version of Prof. Whiting, which is a literal translation of the text, removes all obscurity from Rev. 17:9,10: ‘The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth, and they are seven kings.’ Thus it will be seen that the angel represents the heads as mountains, and then explains the mountains to be seven successive kings. Thus
we see that the angel transferred the meaning from one symbol to another, and then gave the explanation of the second symbol.” Andrews, TMR, 40,41.
“The crowns being upon the heads of the dragon thus emphasize the fact that that beast represents the governments which Satan has employed against the Lord’s people down through the ages. In this chapter we are taken back to the war in heaven between Christ
and Satan, and step by step we are brought down from that time through Satan’s persecution of the church during the days of Papal supremacy until his final conflict with the remnant church. It will be observed that it is the same dragon that persecutes down through all the ages. It is the dragon that fought against Jesus in glory (vs. 7-9). It is the same dragon that sought to slay Christ when He was born into this world (v. 4). It is the same dragon
that persecutes the church during the days of Papal supremacy (vs. 6, 13-16). It is the same dragon that persecutes the remnant church (v. 17). Irrespective of the government that existed at the various times when Satan’s fury was particularly manifested, it was the same Dragon. Thus the crowns upon the heads indicated that the emphasis was upon the various governments down the ages that have lent their power to further the purposes of Satan in persecuting the church.” Were, WATB, 133.
His Tail Drew.—
“It was the tail of the dragon that drew a third part of the stars or angels from heaven and cast them to this earth. In Isaiah 9:15 we read that ‘the prophet that speaketh lies, he is the tail.’ The devil is said to be ‘a liar, and the father of it.’ That is, of the first lie. It was through a lie or falsehood that the angels were deceived by Satan into joining him in revolt against the authority and throne of God. It was also through a lie that he seduced Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. It is through lies that he ‘deceiveth the whole world.’ His tail is still casting down those deceived by his falsehoods.” Bunch, TR, 142.
Third Part of the Stars of Heaven.—
“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? …When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Job. 38:4, 7. [This verse equates the stars with the sons of God.]
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14.
[This verse shows that “sons of God” are all who are guided by the Holy Spirit, whether they be angels or men.]
“The seven stars are the angels (angelos = messengers) of the seven churches.” Revelation 1:10. [This verse, too, shows that stars are both angels and human ministers, who are God’s messengers.]
“For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.” Isaiah 14:13.
[This shows that Satan wanted to exalt himself to take the place of God in the minds of the sons of God.]
“For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” 2 Peter 2:4.
“And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Jude 6.
PRIMARILY SATAN: “Angels are called stars throughout the Scriptures. See Job 38:7; Isa. 14:13; Rev. 1:20. We are told that many of the angels sinned and ‘kept not their first estate’ and ‘left their own habitation.’ See 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6. That the stars of our text represent the angels who joined Lucifer in his revolt and warfare against Michael and were cast out of
heaven with him is evident from verse 7-9.” Bunch, TR, 142.
“Satan in his rebellion took a third part of the angels. They turned from the Father and from His Son, and united with the instigator of rebellion.” 3 Testimonies, 115.
“When Satan became disaffected in heaven, he did not lay his complaint before God and Christ; but he went among the angels who thought him perfect and represented that God had done him injustice in preferring Christ to himself. The result of this misrepresentation was that through their sympathy with him one third of the angels lost their innocence, their high estate,
and their happy home.” 5 Testimonies, 291.
SECONDARILY PAGAN and PAPAL ROME:
“And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground and stamped upon them.” Daniel 8:10.
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” Eph. 2:5,6.
[The Dragon = Satan worked through Pagan and Papal Rome to cast down—persecute and kill—those that are guided by the Holy Spirit (the sons of God) who include not only the angels but true believers.]
The Dragon Stood Before the Woman.—
“‘The dragon stood’ or ‘was standing’ (Weymouth), ‘before the woman,’ indicating a waiting posture, an expectant attitude. …How long did the dragon wait in anxious expectation for the birth of Christ? Just as long as the woman or church waited. The statement of Gen. 3:15 was spoken to Satan, and he as well as the woman began to wait for the promise to be fulfilled....
Satan’s only knowledge of the time when the Messiah would be born was the revelations of the prophets, and he was a very diligent student. Later prophecies revealed to both the church and to Satan the time, and when it drew near he was also ‘in expectation’ thinking
that at last his time had come to overcome Him in His earthly state whom he had failed to defeat before His incarnation.” Bunch, TR, 140,141.
“In the light of the total historical perspective of Daniel 7, the dragon in Revelation 12, who stood in front of the woman of God ready to devour the messianic child (12:3,4), functions as the fourth beast of Daniel 7, that is, as the persecuting Roman Empire.” Biblical Research Inst., 2SOR, 166.
“Satan had indeed timed things well that such an empire with such an all-powerful emperor ruling over it, filled the earth when the Son of God was born in Bethlehem. For the time when Christ was on earth was the all crucial day in the history of redemption. If Satan could
destroy the power of Christ, or annihilate him, he knew that his hellish principles must triumph. He marshaled the world-empire under the master hand of the imperial Caesars, absolutely controlling all things religious as well as all things civil. Never were his forces better prepared for the battle.” Magan, VATW, 36.
“Notice that the pure woman [church] is separate from the beast [state], and is not riding the beast.” PJ
To Devour the Man-Child As Soon As It Was Born.—
“Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel,
were gathered together.” Acts 4:25-27.
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the
wise men.” Matthew 2:16.
“When Jesus came into the world, Satan’s power was turned against Him. From the time when He appeared as a babe in Bethlehem, the usurper worked to bring about His destruction. In every possible way he sought to prevent Jesus from developing a perfect childhood,
a faultless manhood, a holy ministry, and an unblemished sacrifice. But he was defeated. He could not lead Jesus into sin. He could not discourage Him, or drive Him from a work He had come on earth to do.
From the desert to Calvary, the storm of Satan’s wrath beat upon Him, but the more mercilessly it fell, the more firmly did the Son of God cling to the hand of His Father, and press on in the bloodstained path. All the efforts of Satan to oppress and overcome Him only
brought out in a purer light His spotless character.” Desire of Ages, 759.
Satan Tries to Destroy Christ’s New Institutions.—
“After the Lord’s ascension, when the disciples were scattered by persecution, Nicodemus came boldly to the front. He employed his wealth in sustaining the infant church that the Jews had expected to be blotted out at the death of Christ.” Desire of Ages, 177.