The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” - Genesis 3:14-15
Let’s take stock of what we’ve seen in the first half of this book. There’s the prominence of the number seven: seven spirits, churches, golden lampstands, stars, torches of fire, seals, angels and trumpets. There’s the ever-presence of heaven, of angels, of whirring action. The emphasis on endurance, and repentance, and on the activity of Satan… The symbols: the thirds, the three-and-a-half days, the Euphrates, the 144,000. The characters: the elders and the angels, the horsemen, the two witnesses, the beast, the Lamb… and even John himself.
Remember that this is a vision, conveyed to people who may have understood the symbols, or who may have, like us, wondered at them. Like all prophecy, there is no guidebook that simplifies it, no class that reduces it. John is recording what he sees – nothing more. Reading through, as I’ve said before, reveals a spiral that goes still deeper today. Stick with it.
Chapter 12 opens with the appearance of two signs: a woman, “crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth…” And a great red dragon, whose tail “swept down a third of the stars and cast them on the earth.” A male child is born, “who is to rule all the nations…” There is war in heaven; the dragon – that ancient serpent – is cast out. But while the heavens rejoice, the dragon takes hold of the earth. His pursuit of the woman thwarted, he becomes furious, raising a beast which all nations worship.
Revelation 12 through 15. Now let’s read it!
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’