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Who is the ancient serpent of Revelation 12:9?

ancient serpent

Revelation 12:9 tells us who the ancient serpent is: “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” The phrase that ancient serpent refers to Eden, where the serpent deceived Eve into rebelling against God (Genesis 3). In Revelation, the ancient serpent has become a “great dragon,” still leading the world astray. The ancient serpent’s deception does not cease.

In Revelation 12, John introduces this vision by declaring that “a great sign appeared in heaven” (verse 1). Therefore, the devil is not a literal serpent or dragon, but the imagery of the vision symbolizes his nature as a devourer and deceiver. Other characters in the vision are a woman, a male child, the archangel Michael, and the other offspring of the woman. The vision of chapter 12 encompasses a vast span of time, both past, present, and future. The woman symbolizes Israel, the male child is clearly Jesus, and the other offspring represent faithful believers of Jesus. In this narrative, we witness the devil’s relentless effort to thwart God’s plan, his assaults on Israel, his ultimate expulsion from God’s presence, and his desperate attack at the “rest of her offspring,” likely signifying Jewish believers during the tribulation period.

The next mention of the ancient serpent occurs in Revelation 20:1–3: “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.” At the end of the millennium, the ancient serpent is released for a short while, managing to instigate a final worldwide rebellion against God (Revelation 20:7–9). This final uprising demonstrates not only the devil’s prowess as a great deceiver but also the capacity of humans to consciously reject God even after extended periods of blessing.

What can we learn from these passages? First, the ancient serpent remains active. The creature that beguiled Adam and Eve continues to lie and tempt and entice people away from God. The moral decline in our era shows that his influence is as strong as ever. Consequently, we must remain alert (1 Peter 5:8), aware of his tactics (2 Corinthians 2:11) and equipped with the armor God has provided for us (Ephesians 6:10–18).

Second, God is sovereign. While we may not fully comprehend why God permits the ancient serpent to run free or why He tolerates the devil’s accusing presence (as seen in Job 1:9–11), we can trust that He is in control, as evident in the Book of Revelation. The book offers a glimpse into the culmination of the entire narrative, and its message fortifies us amid conflict.

Finally, humans have an active choice, either to be with God or to reject Him. While the cliché “the devil made me do it” holds an element of truth, we are not mere puppets. Moreover, our choices carry eternal consequences, determining whether we remain in God’s presence or face separation from Him.

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Who is the ancient serpent of Revelation 12:9?
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This page last updated: May 8, 2024