Clifford Goldstein |
The final book of the Bible, called Revelation, works in a similar way: symbols and images are used to represent truths and themes greater than the symbols and images themselves.
For instance, in Revelation 12, a woman appears in heaven “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Revelation 12:1). This woman in heaven is pregnant and, as she is about to give birth, “an enormous red dragon with seven heads and 10 horns and seven crowns on his heads” (Revelation 12:3) appears, sweeps with his tail “a third of the stars out of the sky,” and casts them to the earth (Revelation 12:3). The red dragon then stands before the woman who is about to give birth so that it can “devour her child the moment it was born” (Revelation 12:4). The child is spared but the dragon goes after the woman, who hides someone on the earth. This phase of the narrative ends with the line: “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).
The symbols here are easily understood when interpreted through other texts in the Bible. The dragon represents Satan (Revelation 12:9), the source of all evil. In Scripture, a woman often represents God’s church of old, while an impure one represents apostasy (Ezekiel 16). Thus, what we see here is a picture of theme that appears all through the Bible, what has been called “the great controversy” between Christ and Satan. And these verses show it now being fought out here on earth.
This narrative ends with this great controversy entering a new phase: the dragon, Satan, goes after the “remnant” of the woman’s seed. If the woman represented God’s faithful church of old, her seed must be those who came out of her, that is, those Christians through the ages who remained faithful to God’s Word.
What, then, is “the remnant of her seed? The word “remnant” means “a small remaining quantity of something.” Thus, there will be in the last days a small remaining group of people who remain faithful to God and yet who will face the devil’s wrath.
According to this text, two characteristics of this remnant are that they “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17). Though much can be said about these two characteristics, the crucial point for now is that the Bible does teach that God will have a faithful, loyal remnant people in the last days. This concept is important because, so often today, we hear that beliefs and doctrine don’t really matter. All that matters is, we are told, that we love others and be kind. And though it’s true that loving others and being kind are important, the concept behind “the remnant of her seed” points to the idea of a distinct group of people whose beliefs are reflected in how they live. If it weren’t important, the Bible wouldn't have specifically talked about this in the way that it does. This remnant people do what they do because they believe what they believe. In the Bible, belief and actions are inseparable.
Thus, the concept of the remnant of the woman’s seed, the faithful church’s progeny, clearly points out that beliefs, and how they impact our lives, really do matter. Nothing symbolic about that idea!