Ancient Serpent

SYNOPSIS - The “beast from the sea” is the latest incarnation of an ancient creature that has been stalking the "seed of the woman" since the fall of Adam

Green Python - Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
In the book of Revelation, the “Dragon, that Ancient Serpent” was poised to make “war” on the “seed of the woman.” Satan was standing on the seashore, summoning his “seed” from the sea to execute his “war” - The “beast from the sea” and the “beast from the earth.” His intended victim was the “seed of the woman,” a group composed of men and women that had the “testimony of Jesus” - 
(Revelation 12:1-17). [Photo by David Clode on Unsplash].

The reference to the “Ancient Serpent” and its war against the “woman's seed” evokes the story of the fall of Adam and Eve caused by the “serpent”:
  • (Genesis 3:14-15) – “ And the woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I did eat. And Yahweh said to the serpent, Because you did this, cursed are your above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life: and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seedhe will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel. To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy conception; in pain thou shalt bring forth children.
  • (Revelation 12:1-2) – “And a great sign was seen in heaven: a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she crieout, travailing in birth, and in pain to be delivered.”
  • (Revelation 12:9, 17) – The great dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole habitable earthhe was cast down to the earthAnd the dragon was enraged wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed.
  • (Revelation 13:2-3) – “The dragon gave it his power, and his throne, and great authority. And one of his heads as though it had been smitten unto death.”
John was NOT retelling the story of the Garden of Eden, but illustrating a pattern, the ongoing conflict that now manifests in the daily struggles of the “saints.” History “repeats itself” because the same malevolent creature has been working against the people of God since the fall of Adam. But this “war” is waged now in the lives of believers. It is Satan, the “Ancient Serpent,” who has been at war with the “seed of the woman” from time immemorial. His tactics may change, but his goals and strategies remain the same.

The “woman” represents either ancient Israel or the faithful remnant of Yahweh within her that produced the “Son.” The application of the messianic prophecy from the second Psalm to this “Son” leaves no doubt about who it is - Jesus. The attempt by the “Dragon” to destroy him failed – God raised him from the dead and elevated him to His Throne. Thus, Satan “bruised” his “heel,” but his victory over death “bruised” the head of the “serpent.” Having failed to destroy both the “son” and the “woman,” the “Ancient Serpent” redirected his “war” against her “seed” – The overcoming saints who “have the testimony of Jesus.”

Beast ascending out of the sea.” This clause borrows language from Daniel’s vision of “four beasts ascending from the sea.” “Ascending” translates a Greek participle in the present tense (anabainon), which stresses action in progress - An ongoing process.

In his vision, Daniel saw four “beasts” ascending from the sea, symbolizing four consecutive kingdoms “diverse one from another.” In contrast, John saw a single beast with the animal characteristics of all four of Daniel’s beasts – The lion, the bear, the leopard, and the unnatural monster with ten horns.

But John listed the animal characteristics of his single “beast” in reverse order from the four separate “beasts” that Daniel saw “ascending from the sea.” In Revelation, the beastly features are listed as the monster with ten horns, the leopard, the bear, and the lion, as if John is looking back over time from his first-century perspective.

The single “beast” of Revelation is an amalgam of all “four beasts” from Daniel. This “beast” is related to the four earlier “beasts,” but also is something beyond them, presumably, something far worse. The single “beast” is related to, but not identical with, the “four beasts” of Daniel.

The combination of Daniel’s “four beasts” into a single creature suggests the “beast” is a trans-historical reality, a thing that has existed from the fall of humanity and appeared periodically ever since, although in different guises. There are scriptural precedents for this understanding.

Dragon Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash
Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

In his interpretation of the “
great image” from the king’s dream, Daniel explained that four kingdoms would arise on the earth in succession, beginning with the king, Nebuchadnezzar. The “great image” consisted of four distinct sections; nevertheless, it was ONE “great image.” In the end, the kingdom of God destroyed all four kingdoms when the “stone cut from a mountain” struck the ONE “great image” on its feet and shattered the entire structure:
  • (Daniel 2:44) – “And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
In his dream of the “four beasts,” Daniel saw the “fourth beast” destroyed and “burned with fire.” However, although they had lost their “dominions,” the lives of the “rest of the beasts” were “prolonged for a season and a time.” In the interpretation, the “kingdom, even the greatness of the kingdom,” singular, was given to the “saints of the Most-High” - (Daniel 7:11-12, 7:27).

Likewise, in Revelation, when the “seventh trumpet” sounded a voice proclaimed - The “kingdom of the world,” singular, had become the “kingdom of our Lord and his Christ” - (Revelation 11:15).

The understanding that the “beast” is an ancient reality becomes clear in the interpretation of the “the Great Whore” that was riding the “beast”:
  • (Revelation 17:8-11) “The beast that you saw was and is not, and is about to ascend from the abyss, and goes into destruction…The inhabitants of the earth saw the beast, how he was, and is not, and will come. Here is the mind that has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sits. And they are seven kings; the five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come; and when he comes, he must continue a little while. And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he is going into destruction.
The “seven heads” of the “beast” represent seven kingdoms, which means the “beast” is something more than a single human ruler - “beast” refers to the entire structure.  It “was, is not, and will come.” It has appeared in history more than once and will appear again.  Of the “seven heads,” five “are fallen,” one “is” in John’s day, and another is yet to come. That is, five of the kingdoms were already in John’s past.

The “beast” is “of the seven,” but he is also “an eighth.” This indicates the final “beast” will be of the same nature as its predecessors, but also will be something beyond them, something even worse. It will wage “war on the saints” in Satan’s final attempt to destroy the people of God.

This reading of the “beast” is not allegory.  There is a definite prediction of a coming final “beast” that will attempt to annihilate the church. But Revelation also wants us to understand this is an ancient battle, a repeating pattern that has appeared numerous times in the daily tribulations of the church, one that will appear again in the final “short season” at the end of the age when the “Ancient Serpent” gathers the nations and the “kings of the earth” for one last assault against the “saints.”




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