Given For the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 10/1/06.
"In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea" (Isa. 27:1).
This writing has a few twists and turns in it, but stick with me and perhaps you'll be as blessed as I was with the treasure the Spirit revealed at the end of my quest. According to Strong's Concordance, the word translated as "dragon" in Isa. 27:1, means "a marine or land monster, i.e. sea-serpent or jackal: dragon, sea-monster, serpent, whale." Dragons? Sea monsters? Are these real varmints, or just scrapings from the bottom of a Sci-Fi writer's imagination? Our friend Rusty got me thinking about dragons when he pointed out in an e-mail that in Job, chapter 41, God asks Job, "Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook, or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose, or pierce his jaw with a hook?" (Vs. 1-2). The study note reads, "Literally, the leviathan was a large marine animal (see Ps 104:26), here perhaps a crocodile."
Whatever it was, this monster has some very uncrocodilian characteristics: "His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn. Out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth. Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth" (Vs. 18-21). A fire breathing crocodile seems more like something a crypto zoologist searches for rather than a real beast. Whatever it was, after telling Job how fierce it was, how terrifying its teeth, and how impenetrable its scales, God declares, "No one is fierce enough to rouse him. Who then is able to stand against me? Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me" (Vs. 10-11).
The writers of the Bible used metaphors and symbols to tell their stories, rather than logic and analysis. It is possible to understand what God is saying to Job whether or not the beast is literal or symbolic. God is emphasizing here that all things were brought into being by Him, another way to claim full responsibility for everything that happened to Job after Satan challenged God (Job 1:6-12). Rusty, like Lenny, suffers from unremitting pain, which at the time he wrote us, was driving him crazy. He saw plainly what God said to Job and wondered, "What's it all about? Why do I have to suffer so? When will God bring it to an end? He has the power to do it, so why doesn't He?"
The Apostle Paul understood suffering, as he frequently dealt with pain, rejection, violence, criticism, false accusations, and imprisonment for the cross of Christ. Like Rusty and Lenny, Paul knew the author of all that happened to him was God and the outcome was His perfect will. The Spirit had sent him to Ephesus to unveil the mystery of Christ and the glory of God revealed in the church. To them, he wrote, "that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory" (Eph. 3:10-13).
Located near the Aegean Sea, Ephesus was the leading commercial city of Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. Its major attraction was the temple of the Greek Goddess Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, here in this large city, that Paul held daily discussions where he declared the name of Christ to the Gentiles. "This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them" (Acts 19:10-11).
Dedicated to the pagan goddess Diana (Artemis), Ephesus was under the influence of what Paul called "principalities and powers." Once the true nature of God was manifested to them, "...the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power" (Acts 19:17-20).
The ancient world was awash in pagan gods and goddesses, superstition, myth, or you might say, under the power of the evil dragon we read about in Revelation, chapter 12. The serpent who deceived Eve, had matured into the great red dragon of John's account, which describes the war in heaven between this symbol of all that stands against the authority of God, and Michael and his angels. John saw the dragon/devil/Satan hurled down to earth, as did Jesus (Luke 10:18). Many believe this describes a literal event. Whether this is true, or it is merely a powerful metaphor used to depict God's great power, the end of the battle is no surprise to anyone who knows our Father: The Apostle John heard a loud voice in heaven saying: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death" (Rev. 12:10-11).
Once thrown down to earth, John reports, "Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring, those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 12:17). And from this account, we see the reason that slaying dragons has caught the imagination of the west ever since. I say it that way, because in eastern mythology, dragons are not always associated with evil. Sometimes they were considered bringers of good fortune. One way to look at this, obviously, is that the east is mostly not Christian, and therefore, not aware of the trouble the serpent has caused mankind from Genesis onward. Paul was stopped by the Holy Spirit from speaking the word in Asia (Acts 16:6), and thus even today, Christianity is not wide spread there, though growing at a greater rate than ever before.
There are even snake cults in eastern countries where serpents are worshipped, but in the west, the snake has gotten a very bad rap indeed, and countless Christians have been indoctrinated in the correct way to "slay the dragon," defeat the devil, and gain the victory.
"The History Channel" had a fascinating piece on the cities where the Apostle Paul preached the gospel, including Ephesus. The statement was made on the program that Christianity helped bring down the Roman Empire. I had never heard anyone say that before, but as I pondered it long after the program was over, it came to me that in one way, this is obvious, and foretold long before by Daniel. He had interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the statue with the head of gold, the chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs and feet of iron and clay (Dan. 2: 31-33).
The Babylonian monarch himself was symbolically the head of gold, and the legs and feet are assumed to be a metaphor for the Roman Empire. In the king's dream, a stone, not made with hands, struck the giant statue and smashed it to bits. The wind blew away the fragments so that there was nothing left, "But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth" (Vs. 35). Daniel's interpretation of the dream is found in verses 36-45. Of particular interest to this discussion about slaying dragons and defeating the devil is his explanation of this stone not made with hands: "...the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever" (Vs. 44).
When Rome swallowed up peoples and nations in their constant grasp for power, they incorporated whatever gods the conquered peoples worshipped. That gave the people some little straw to hold onto while they were being swept up into the mighty Roman Empire. There were financial as well as emotional benefits for the subjugated peoples in this plan. In Ephesus, for example, the temple of Artemis (Diana) was a rich source of revenue for the large city. Craftsmen made silver statues and images of the many breasted goddess of fertility, and sold them to the numerous pilgrims who came to view the temple, which as mentioned previously, was one of the seven wonders of the world. Into this flourishing financial enterprise, the Apostle Paul strode and began to preach "the Way." As people came to Christ, they no longer looked to or bought images of Diana. A silversmith named Demetrius became alarmed at the loss of revenue caused by this "new religion." He whipped the whole city into a frenzy over this Jewish upstart who preached that "man-made gods are no gods at all" (Acts 19:26).
As a result of his rabble rousing, the whole city was soon in an uproar, with people shouting "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians" (Acts 19: 28). By God's grace, the city clerk, a representative of the Roman Empire, stepped in and urged the townspeople to take the matter to court, rather than risk being charged by the Roman authorities with inciting to riot. Paul was able to take his leave without bodily harm, for once (Acts 20:1), but it is an interesting context in which to consider what he later wrote the Ephesians about the forces of darkness: "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:l1-12, Phillips).
Clearly, Paul knew that it was not a human agency which threatened him, but he stood fast in the Lord's words which had come to him in a vision at Corinth: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you..." (Acts 18:9-10).
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul addresses cosmic themes: the absolute sovereignty of God, the mystery of His will written before the foundation of the world, and the position of the believer in Christ. He reveals that it is God's intention "to bring ALL things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ" (1:10). When the Spirit revealed to me the majesty of the plan of God revealed in the next verse, I was able to enter into rest: "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory" (Vs. 11-12).
The message of hope we rest in, illuminated by Paul's life and teachings, is that this world is not our home and the "momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (II Cor. 4:17), which awaits us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When the truth of Paul's affirmation that God works ALL THINGS after the counsel of His own will floods our spirit, we understand what God was saying to Job about this fire breathing beast with fearsome teeth He had created: "Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me" (Job 41:10-11). Leviathan, sea-monster, dragon, or antichrist, all metaphors for Satan, have all met their match in Christ.
To me, the images and myths concerning knights slaying the dragon reflect in some dim way the truth that scripture proclaims, which is that Christ IS the dragon slayer. The devil is a "done deal." The credits are rolling on the screen of his life and he's a finished foe. The Apostle John said of Christ's mission to earth, that He came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8).. His success in that mission IS the treasure which awaited me at the end of my research on dragons in scripture.
When you look at the present world with your physical eyes and natural mind, you may be tempted as some Christians are to wring your hands over the devil's works, which seem to be greater and blacker and more sinful than ever. When your spiritual eyes are opened, you see the One riding on the white horse, who is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and whose name is "the Word of God" (Rev. 19:13). "On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (Vs. 16). This glorious imagery always thrills me and comforts me when I feel afraid or nervous. This One on the white horse is my Lord and your Lord, my King and your King. He came in flesh to introduce us to our heavenly Father, whose name and likeness we bear. He has already slain the great dragon for us and in us, allowing us to live overcoming lives by the power of Almighty God and the indwelling Spirit. Hallelujah!
When trials come, and they will, when death and disaster threatens, which it sometimes does, I draw strength from the promises we find in the Bible, but make no mistake, the leather bound BOOK on your coffee table or night stand is NOT the word of God, for John the Beloved has shown us WHO the Word of God is: it is Christ Jesus our Lord (John 1: 1,14). When that WORD comes to live in us, love flows in and fear flows out. Even so, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20). In the Name above all names, we ask it. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Incorruptible Corinthians (Corinth)
The Galatian Conundrum (Galatia)
The Macedonian Call
The Heavens Declare (Athens)
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 9/27/06
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/09/08.