The Dragon and The Woman

John,having proclaimed the Lordship of Christ, now turns his attention to the continuing struggle within the church, and between the church and the world. If, for example, we were to see the war in heaven, verses 7-12, as a heavily veiled allusion to an internal conflict in the church, we would conclude that one faction was expelled, taking the conflict outside the church, but still aimed at the teachings and practices of the church. In the concluding section of chapter 12, John indicates once more that the church survives the battle. The dragon who was unable to kill the male child, goes after the mother. The woman is given wings to escape, indicating that it is the divine that delivers her from the demonic. Again, the implication is that the church is being delivered constantly by the divine from the tribulation facing it. The woman flees into the wilderness and is pursued there by the dragon which intends to slay her. John is informing us that the church disperses and seeks shelter away from its normal settings, but no place is safe for the believers. The dragon unleashes a flood from its mouth to drown the woman, but the earth comes to her rescue, opening up its mouth and swallowing up the water, thereby saving the woman. The struggle between the dragon and the earth reminds us that the dragon is associated with water, which is the enemy of the divine. John employs mythological motifs to make his point that the divine delivers the church from its trials. Having failed now to destroy the woman, the dragon in frustration goes after her other children, “who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.” The dragon goes after the dispersed members of the church. In the closing scene, he is seen standing alone on the sand of the sea, that is, the dragon seems to find itself caught in the middle of something, between the sea and the dry land. If the dragon here represents a faction of the church that has been expelled, John may be telling us that for the time being this faction has become powerless, and that the faithful have been delivered, that is, preserved by the divine, the Lamb who was slain and who now reigns as Lord of all creation.

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