After the great reveal in Revelation, chapter 11, when the finally opened scroll tells just how the Kingdom of Heaven will come to earth, the bitter-sweet message of the church’s suffering, Revelation 12-14 takes a step back to survey the battle for the Kingdom in history. We saw in the last post how John’s vision takes us back to a great sign, not only of Creation but also of Christmas. He sees the intergendered paradigm of history playing out before him in the sky.
1And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron… 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world…
This story found expression in virtually every religion in ancient world. In Egypt, the goddess Isis was pursued by Set, associated in the first millennium BC with the red dragon, Typhon, but she escapes to an island to give birth to the sun god, Horus. In the Ugaritic myth, the goddess, Anat, is the instrument of Baal‘s rise to power. Baal then defeats 7-headed serpent, Leviathan. In Greece, the great dragon, Python, pursues the goddess Leto, pregnant w/Apollo. After Leto escapes to an island, she gives birth to Apollo, who comes forth to slay Python. Even in Mesopotamia, Marduk, god of light, kills the 7-headed dragon Tiamat, who had thrown down 1/3 of the stars.
All these religions in some form recognized the archetype we get in Genesis, fully realized when Jesus Christ was born. The Dragon-Serpent’s strategy is to wreck this story. He strikes at the most vulnerable part: the birthing of the man-child. So we have this horrible nightmare of a scene, the reptile waiting as the woman gives birth to devour that for which she cries out in labor. When giving birth, any woman wants two things: clean and safe. Because when you are opening your body to world, you are at your most vulnerable. But this is the birth plan from hell.
Why does the dragon attack at this moment? Because, back in the beginning, God promised Eve a redemption through this moment. He kindly (and rather quickly) promised that the war we began with the dragon-serpent will have an end. The end will come through the paradigm of gender. Eve, if you continue with your husband in intergendered love there will be a man-child. That man-child will crush serpent’s head! (Gen 3:15).
The job of the man and the woman, ever after Eve, was to continue together in intergendered love, to bring forth the line of Messiah. Eve knew this, which is why, when she later has a child, she exclaims, “I’ve gotten a man!” (Gen 4:1). She expects their salvation through the man-child. After the serpent kills Abel through Cain, she exults again over her “replacement” in Seth (Gen 4:25), who will begin the victory by calling on the name of the Lord (Gen 4:26).
The first Christmas was when, at last, Mary arose from the line of Seth to bring that salvation through her womb. This is the meaning of Christmas. Mary fulfilled the feminine of the paradigm of history. She gave herself, her body, to bring forth the precious life of the Man-child. She then made a place for him. The dragon stood before manger, slaughtering all the babies in whole town of Bethlehem to devour the Masculine Who would crush his head (Mat 2:16). But the Man-child was rescued. He came forth to rule with a rod of iron, to vanquish evil. Christmas is the gendered fulfillment of the thwarting of the dragon. That is why we worship!
This deep paradigm, celebrated in gender, continues for us today, as redemption is worked through us. The woman clothed with the sun can now be seen in the Church of Jesus Christ. She is pursued by dragon (Rev 12:13), preserved by God (Rev 12:14), bravely making a place for the precious life of Christ in this antagonistic world. Her “other offspring” are those who acknowledge Christ’s ruling rod of iron and hold to His testimony (Rev 12:17). That is, we are victorious as we follow the Man-child’s rulership and suffer for it. As the apostle Paul put it, “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20).
The paradigm will endure.