The Fiery Red Dragon
He’s a deceiver, despot, destroyer, and defamer. He’s the Devil, and he wants your soul.
All he wanted was a sugar apple. He didn’t know it would cost him his life.
Muhamad Anwar, a 31-year-old fisherman, probably knew he was trespassing when he climbed the sugar apple tree in Indonesia’s Komodo National Park in 2009. But the fruit was tempting. Perhaps he would have changed his mind had he known what lurked below—two Komodo dragons.
Komodo dragons are the largest lizards in the world. These carnivorous predators grow up to 10 feet in length; weigh up to 200 pounds; and use their powerful tails, sharp claws, jagged teeth, and deadly venom to destroy their prey. Their venom is so potent it “rapidly decreases blood pressure, expedites blood loss, and sends a victim into shock, rendering it too weak to fight.”1 Although Komodo dragon attacks on humans are rare, they happen—and sometimes with tragic results.
While picking the forbidden fruit, Muhamad lost his footing and tumbled to the ground. The Komodo dragons immediately pounced on him. By the time local residents came to his rescue, Muhamad was so badly mauled he died from his injuries.
Muhamad’s story somewhat mirrors that of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There, a different reptile (a serpent) at a different tree also brought death. But behind that reptile lurked the true culprit—the ultimate enemy of God known as the Devil or Satan.
Unfortunately, Adam and Eve weren’t the serpent’s only victims. Sin and death passed to all their descendants, except for one: the divine, sinless Son of Man, Jesus. Of Him it was prophesied that He would come into the world through the nation of Israel and, by His death and resurrection, crush the serpent’s head, forever rescuing the souls of men.
God said in the first book of the Bible, “I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head [strike a deadly blow], and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15).
This cosmic conflict, which has driven world history, also appears in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. In chapter 12, through a divine vision given to the apostle John, we see an overview of history, including the enmity predicted in Genesis 3:15. The vision involves three main characters who represent actual players on history’s stage. The woman represents Israel, the male Child represents Jesus, and “a great, fiery red dragon” represents “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan” (vv. 2–9).
In both ancient mythology and the Bible, dragons are viewed as giant monsters to be dreaded and opposed. From God’s perspective, a dragon best depicts His archenemy, Satan.
The Dragon’s Description
Lucifer was the highest-ranking angel God created. There was no angel more important. The prophet Ezekiel described him as the anointed cherub, perfect in all his ways until iniquity was found in him (Ezek. 28:14–15). That iniquity was pride: “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor” (v. 17).
The prophet Isaiah recorded his arrogance: “For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’” (Isa. 14:13–14).
Defector. Five times Lucifer said in his heart, “I will.” Until that moment, there had been only one will, one desire, and one purpose in the universe: God’s. When Lucifer rebelled against God, he earned the name Satan, which means “adversary” or “opponent.” Satan is God’s primary adversary in the universe and opposes everything God wills, desires, and purposes. The Dragon has always wanted to be like God––to possess authority and receive worship (Rev. 4:8; 13:4)––and he’ll do whatever it takes to achieve his goal.
The apostle John wrote, “Another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (12:3–4).
God showed John that Satan was ejected from heaven and thrown down to Earth. Jesus commented on that fall when He said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Lk. 10:18). But the Dragon apparently convinced one-third of the angels, known elsewhere in Scripture as “stars” or “demons,” to join his rebellion.
Deceiver. The Dragon “deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9) and has done so from the beginning. Using the serpent, Satan “deceived Eve by his craftiness” (2 Cor. 11:3).
His tactics haven’t changed. He used them on Jesus, and he uses them on us today. He casts doubt on or denies everything God says in His Word (cf. Gen. 3:1, 4), while using the elements of his world system (“the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”; 1 Jn. 2:16) to tempt people to sin against God. He blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4).
The Dragon even disguises himself as an angel of light (11:14). Jesus said he “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (Jn. 8:44).
During the future seven-year Tribulation, the entire world will be deceived into following Satan’s pseudo Messiah, the Antichrist.
Believers in Jesus should know his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11) and stand firm against them (Eph. 6:11).
Despot. The Dragon has “seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads” (Rev. 12:3). These heads, with their accompanying royal power (diadems), represent seven consecutive, historical world empires that have specifically impacted the nation of Israel.2 The 10 horns represent the final world empire, which will be led by 10 kings during the Tribulation until the Antichrist usurps all power and rules the world (Dan. 7:24; Rev. 17:12).
The Dragon will give the Antichrist “his power, his throne, and great authority” (Rev. 13:2). This despot will be the evilest, fiercest, most powerful autocrat the world has ever known. He will be the Dragon’s mightiest attempt to replace God with himself and usurp God’s throne so that he might not only rule on Earth, but also in heaven.
Devourer. “And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born” (12:4). Throughout history, Satan has opposed Christ. First he tried to prevent the Christ Child’s birth. Today he tries to prevent Christ’s Second Coming. The Devil prowls about like a roaring lion, constantly seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8).
Defamer. Satan is “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night” (Rev. 12:10). The word devil means “slanderer.” He attacks the reputations of his enemies. For example, he used the Pharisees to accuse Jesus of performing miracles in the power of the ruler of the demons (Mt. 12:24), meaning himself!
Curiously, even though Satan’s domain is Earth, he still has limited access to heaven and God’s presence (Job 1:6; 2:1). He accuses people who have believed and received God’s salvation. Like a prosecuting attorney, he goes before God the Judge, accusing believers of their sins, trying to demonstrate their unworthiness, and demanding they receive the penalty of eternal death.
But there is good news. As believers, we have an Advocate with the Father (1 Jn. 2:1–2). Whenever the Dragon brings an accusation against us, Jesus, our defense attorney, essentially says, “The penalty has already been paid. I paid it Myself with My own blood. And, Father, You are satisfied with my payment. I rest my case.” Then God, the righteous Judge, declares, “Case dismissed!”
The Dragon can accuse and defame all he wants. But born-again believers have assurance their sins have been forgiven. God’s acceptance of us is not based on our own merits but, rather, on Messiah Jesus and what He did for us.
Destroyer. “The serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman [Israel], that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood” (Rev. 12:15). During the Tribulation, the Dragon will attempt unsuccessfully to destroy all of Israel (v. 16). Such activity conforms to his character. Jesus called him “a murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44). He “does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (10:10).
God is characterized by peace (Rom. 16:20); the Dragon, by war. Through his human proxies, Satan has waged war for millennia. In fact, journalist Chris Hedges wrote,
Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history. . . . Estimates for the total number killed in wars throughout all of human history range from 150 million to 1 billion.3
As terrible as these numbers are, they won’t compare to the number of deaths during the Tribulation (Rev. 6:4, 8; cf. Mt. 24:6, 7).
War is attributed to the Dragon and his proxies 10 times in Revelation 12—20. He wars against Israel, believers in Jesus, and the returning Messiah. He and his angels even wage war in heaven against the archangel Michael and his angels (12:7).
After the Tribulation, Satan will be imprisoned in the abyss (20:1–3); and the true Sovereign of the world, Jesus, will sit on His glorious throne and rule for 1,000 years (Mt. 25:31). At the end of that time, Satan will be released––and will wage war again (Rev. 20:7–8).
His hands are drenched with blood. Perhaps that is why he is portrayed as a great “red” dragon (12:3). But though he destroys people’s bodies, his main intent is to seize their souls (2 Cor. 4:3–4).
The Dragon’s Destiny
Despite the Dragon’s best attempts to thwart God, he will be defeated. He failed to devour the promised Messiah (Rev. 12:5). He will lose his war against Michael and the angels, and he will fail to destroy the Jewish people (vv. 15–16).
When Jesus returns after the Tribulation, He will defeat and judge the Antichrist, False Prophet, and all the armies of the world that have warred against Him and against Jerusalem (Zech. 14:2–3; Rev. 19:19). And it won’t be much of a fight. As the Father says in Psalm 2:9, “You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Jesus will utterly defeat the Dragon’s wicked proxies with just a word from His mouth (Rev. 19:15).
After Jesus’ 1,000-year reign, Satan will foment his final rebellion (20:7–9). It, too, will fail. He will be thrown into the Lake of Fire prepared for him and his angels, and they “will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (v. 10).
The Dragon Slayer
In July 2021, a Filipino man caught one of the most venomous snakes in the world—a Northern Philippine cobra. It had wandered into his village, so the man decided to have some fun with it. Holding it up to a gathering crowd, the man claimed to have tamed the serpent. He then brought the cobra’s head close to his lips, pretending to kiss it. The snake would have none of it and bit the man on the tongue. Tragically, the man collapsed and died in agonizing pain.4
You cannot tame a venomous serpent. It will destroy you, given the chance. The same goes for the serpent of old, the fiery red Dragon known as Satan.
Fortunately for us, we have the great dragon slayer on our side. His name is Jesus. He already has destroyed the Dragon’s power over all who place their faith in Him. And someday, He will destroy the Dragon altogether.
- Carolyn Barry, “Komodo Dragons Kill With Venom, Researchers Find,” National Geographic, May 18, 2009 (nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/Komodo-dragon-venom).
- These nations are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and a future manifestation of Rome during the Tribulation.
- Chris Hedges, What Every Person Should Know About War (New York, NY: Free Press, 2003), 1.
- “Snake Man Who Claimed He Was Immune to Venom Dies When Cobra Bites Him,” Yahoo! News, July 20, 2021 (tinyurl.com/Philippines-Snake).