We have another overlapping portion again here. It appears to start with the birth/ministry of Christ but perhaps a little difficult to determine the time travelled onward for sure. It reveals a deeper truth. It is really satan that is the driving force of the beast.
Let’s meet the next three characters of this ‘play’ in order… First we see the woman. The imagery of sun, moon and stars has been used many times before in Scripture. For example, in the dream of Joseph, all heavenly entities in this instance clearly speak of Israel collectively – father, mother and sons. Next we meet the male child. In the fullness of time (as prescribed in Daniel 9) the messiah is brought forth into the world. The dragon knows the Scripture just as well and he’s prepared for his birthday – literally – and again later for his ministry, and again after that to devour the other children. So we see that the woman had other other offspring too – the younger brethren of the male child, aka His Church.
Satan here takes the form of a seven-headed beast – with crowns upon its heads – the mighty Rome with its seven different forms of government. The dragon is the power behind Rome and uses its might and power to try to destroy Christ and the fledgling Church.
In chapter 11 we were told of a ‘beast’ that would ascend out of the bottomless pit. Here in chapter 12 we meet this beast in the form of a dragon, with seven heads and ten horns. Of course the dragon is none other than satan himself but he has many guises and works through many entities. Clearly he is the driving force behind the old Roman empire and this empire is represented in the heads and horns of this bizarre and terrifying beast. Most historicists think that the seven heads represent the seven different forms/types of government over Rome expanding across the duration of its history. They are generally recognised to be:
The exact list and definition of the seven phases of Roman government may vary slightly but John is alive and writing Revelation at the time of the sixth head. Later we’ll see that this hideous beast sprouts an eighth head!
In this chapter the crowns are said to be ‘on the heads’. In the next chapter we shall see that the crowns have moved from the heads to the ‘horns’, thus signifying a new (later) phase of the development of this beast. We shall explore the meaning of the horns in the next chapter.
Clearly the wrath of the beast is directed at three different targets – Israel, Christ and the Church. Meditation upon this thought leads to some intriguing musings about the persecution, and historical whereabouts, of the natural people of God as well as what was happening to God’s New Covenant Church. I shan’t attempt to pursue these thoughts further in this simple overview but just note that if Revelation wasn’t complex enough already there may also be the thread of yet another story within the story here.