Summary: Apocalypse 12-20: the Dragon Works over ALL of Church History
In preterism, the Woman of Apocalypse 12 is mostly the Virgin, and most of the dragon scenes are symbolizing early events in Mary and Jesus’ life as the dragon pursued them with Herod and the wicked empire, etc.
In futurism, the Fundamentalists think the Woman is modern Israel, etc, which is absurd for Catholics.
In idealism, the Woman is largely the Catholic Church, and no chronology is claimed, simply, rather, viewing each scene of the dragon as something that can apply many times in Church history, like a type!
But this then brings us to the final layer not much explored in modern times: historicism, or, in my take, spiritual historicism, ages of the Church! That is, what if the scenes of the dragon, starting right after the Ascension of the child, and all the way across to the final rebellion of the dragon after the “millennium”, can be seen as a perfect chronology of the history of the Church, from beginning to end? Sound crazy? It is not!
For, in light of the now evident mystics' scenario, if we see the millennium as a symbol of the coming age of peace--the coming indeterminate period of substantial diminishing of serious sin in history, a glorious near worldwide renewed, voluntary Catholic Christendom, in which Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart reigns--then seeing the scenes of the dragon from the ascension of the child of the woman till the last judgment as complete symbol of all Church history, from the Ascension to the Second Coming, there is no need to argue lack of chronological order. Everything fits perfectly!
On the Dragon Scenes of Apocalypse and Spiritual Historicism
In a previous article on the Joyful Mysteries as image of all ages of the world:
…where I critiqued both Dispensationalism and a "amillennialism is the be all end of all of Apocalypse 20", I made reference that I believe the scenes of the dragon, from Apocalypse 12, all the way to the conclusion of Apocalypse 20, can image, in perfect chronology, the whole Church history. I would like to put forth my efforts now to show that it is not far fetched.
Now, we all know the wondrous imagery of Apocalypse Chapter 12: The Woman clothed with the Sun and the Moon under her feet, and the great flaming red dragon that seeks to destroy her and her child. Now, so far in most theology across Christendom of modern days, three ways to approach the profound imagery exist, according to three of the four possible layers of apocalypse: preterism, futurism, and idealism.
Let us look at each of them:
In futurism, or the Fundamentalists, the book is being almost totally compartmentalized to the very END of Church history, and the Woman is seen as modern day Israel. Hence, in their highly speculative and ridiculous view, the dragon scenes are describing events at the very end of the world surrounding the Jewish People. Obviously, for Catholics, this is absurd. The Woman, or the People of God in one context, is the Catholic Church, not the Jewish People, who are stepping out of the primary spotlight of human history until the very end, when they will convert in the times of the Antichrist.
For preterism, and idealism also, the Woman is the Virgin. This interpretation is probably most common to Catholic knowledge. In that vein, much of Apocalypse 12 is describing the events we already know about in the Gospels: how Mary and Jesus had to “flee into the desert” to escape Herod, who was like a “dragon”, the Roman Empire. The beast scenes of Apocalypse 13 then, appropriately shew forth the Roman Empire and its vicious persecution of the “other offspring of Mary”, Christians. This leaves the chaining of the dragon after the conquering of the beast and false prophet in late chapter 19 and chapter 20 as the conversion of the Empire to Christianity and the general age of the Church’s renewal of humanity, in which diabolical activity is diminished for a great period, until the end of the world, when the dragon is “loosed” from his prison beneath the earth to raise the great apostasy and assault on the Church, after which, “eternity commences”, the actual Second Coming, and the Eternal New Creation.
As for idealism, the Woman is primarily the Catholic Church herself, who is the Apocalyptic Bride of Christ, journeying toward consummation with Her Maker at the end of time. Here, after the early scene in Apocalypse 12 of what is clearly, on one layer of meaning, the Ascension, [“But the child was caught up to God and His Throne, destined to rule the nations with a rod of iron...”], the Woman becomes, primarily, as we have just seen, the Catholic Church. HOWEVER, in IDEALISM, one is not seeing a strict CHRONOLOGY of Church History but rather images of different WAYS to look at how the dragon RELATES to the Church REPEATEDLY in Her history.
For example, the dragon many times “wages war in heaven” against the Church, as in Pagan Rome, or how Islam constantly warred with the Church. Other times, he “pursues her.” Other times, she gets some “rest”, for example, possibly, the Middle Ages; or brief periods of restoration, like how our beloved Saint Francis De Sales brought back tens of thousands of Calvinists in France back to the Church; or how there was a brief resurgence of faith in France after the catastrophes of the Revolution; or how priestly vocations boomed after WWII, since many men had seen horrors enough on the battlefield to shock them into a hard-core consideration of the meaning of life. Too, these scenes can be reminiscent, again, of the so called “Millennium”, where diabolical activity diminishes for a time.
Also, there are scenes like the dragon spewing a flood of heresies after the Church. In the first 300 years of post-Constantine history, the dragon spewed many heresies after Her in the form of attacks on God and His Nature as Trinity and Incarnate One. In Protestantism, he spewed a whole horrendous river of lies and confusion, and ditto for the Enlightenment, where Reason was confounding ad infinitum.
But here, again, no chronology is claimed, simply, rather, viewing each scene of the dragon as something that can apply many times in Church history, like a type!
But this, then BRINGS us to the final layer not much explored in modern times: HISTORICISM, or, in my take SPIRITUAL HISTORICISM, ages of the Church! That is, what if the scenes of the dragon, starting right after the Ascension of the child, CAN BE SEEN as a PERFECT CHRONOLOGY of the HISTORY OF THE CHURCH, FROM BEGINNING TO END? Sound crazy? It is not!
Well, most modern Catholic scholars do not believe that a fully chronological interpretation can be given of the cumulative dragon scenes, seeing as amillennialism, as it is called, is the prevalent view. Meaning, you cannot take the Millennium of Apocalypse 12, in their view, as anything OTHER than the WHOLE age of the Church, or at least between pagan Rome and the Antichrist at the end.
BUT, in light of the now evident mystics' scenario, if we see the millennium as a symbol of the age of peace--the coming indeterminate period of substantial diminishing of serious sin in history, a glorious near worldwide renewed, voluntary Catholic Christendom--then seeing the scenes of the dragon from the ascension of the child of the woman till the last judgment as a complete symbol of all Church history, from the Ascension to the Second Coming, there is no need to argue lack of chronological order. Everything fits perfectly!
For a full discourse on how to look at the Millennium as the age of peace of Our Lady, see the above article on the Joyful Mysteries as all of Human History:
The First 3 Joyful Mysteries: Analogy of all Human History?
With this view in mind, the whole of the dragon scenes can be seen in a fully chronological light for Church history, from beginning to end!
The effective parts are as follows:
The War in Heaven, Apoc 12:1-12
Pagan Rome, the dragon persecutes Church to prevent conversion of empire.
Up until the Coming of Christ, the dragon ruled the world, the Gentiles being in darkness and sin. He is "in heaven", shewing forth, symbolically, this domination. He is the "ruler of the world." But with Christ's Ascension and Pentecost ["And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne."], the Church is founded and is now going out to change the world forever, to bring the near whole of humanity into the Gospel, the fullness of light and love. This will spell doom for the dragon, but he will not go down without a fight! Hence, the war in heaven! The dragon instigates false accusations against the Christians to spur persecution [cannibals, traitors, insurrectionists], in order that the Church might be destroyed before it ever brings renewal. ("Day and night he accused them before our God"). But [Tertullian], “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians!” ("But they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and they loved not their lives UNTO DEATH"). The martyrs only backfired the dragon’s war back to himself: the witness of their blood, courage, and love of enemies progressively moved the hearts of the Empire and won its conversion. The dragon was cast out, and the Church now rules the world, the Christ also, from above, while, nevertheless, tribulation will continue, but on a level playing field: the woman and dragon on the same plane of earth.
Notice, too, the striking similarities between the victory speech of the angel in Apocalypse 12 here, and the two victory speeches of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, respectively, both of which already in orthodox Catholic scholarship refer prophetically to God's destruction of Pagan Rome, the final, or fourth, godless kingdom that God would destroy and conquer with His People, the Church:
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: because the accuser of our brethren is cast forth, who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of the testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death.
But in the days of those kingdoms the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, and his kingdom shall not be delivered up to another people, and it shall break in pieces, and shall consume all these kingdoms, and itself shall stand for ever.
And judgment shall sit, that his power may be taken away, and be broken in pieces, and perish even to the end.  And that the kingdom, and power, and the greatness of the kingdom, under the whole heaven, may be given to the people of the saints of the most High: whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all kings shall serve him, and shall obey him.
Dragon on earth, pursues Woman, Apoc. 12:13
The Dark Ages
Europe is progressively Christianized, the Divine Nature of God as Triune and Incarnate is attacked: Arianism, Monophysitism, Monothelyte heresy, Nestorianism, Islam.
Woman flies to temporary rest from Serpent, Apoc. 12:14
The Middle Ages.
The woman is, as it were, resting from the serpent, yet a time of tribulation ["a time, times, and a half time", in that, 3 1/2 is half of seven, a time of great imperfection, per Biblical scholarship].This adequately describes the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, the Church's influence on humanity in terms of concentrated degree for Europe was greater than it has ever been. The Age of Faith, Scholasticism, Sacred Art, the many saints. It seems that persecutions of the Church were the least in this age compared to Pagan Rome, Islam, Protestantism, French Revolution, and the horrors of the 20th Century.
About the wings she gets: The woman acquires the wings of the eagle, and flies to a trying time, but nevertheless one in which the dragon is eluded for a time. Let us revisit: Firstly, the Middle Ages were the pinnacle of Catholic influence in the world so far in history. The Church, while having some tribulation, such as the Crusades and Inquisitions, nevertheless flourished like no other time since then. So how might we see the wings: Well, Scripture has seen many times wings as things of the transcendent.
In Daniel 7 , the leopard with four heads and four wings was Greece. We know that leopards are swift, and so was Alexander's conquering. After Alexander died prematurely, his kingdom was split up into four divisions according to his four main generals, hence four heads. What about wings, well this is me speaking: What four great things "elevated" Greece above a brute materialism like no other. Bingo, was it not these:
And if the Church perhaps BORROWED TWO WINGS FROM GREECE, which ones did she BORROW? Well! The transcendent soul of the human has two faculties, intellect and will. The Church, in the Middle Ages, borrowed the two great pillars of Greece in a natural sense to elevate and develop the marvel of the Church’s intellectual and heart-felt life that relate to the faculties of soul: Philosophy and Art!
Philosophy elevates the mind and assists in arguing and defending the truths of God, Scholasticism. And Sacred Art elevates the mind and heart to God: paintings, statues, magnificent edifices: These two great features--Scholasticism and the intellectual life of the Church, marvelously propped up by natural philosophy, and Sacred Art, which, following the victory against the Iconoclastic heresy of old, transformed the blasphemous pagan idols into images of our Lord and the Saints—enabled the Church to flourish and “rest from the serpent” for a time.
Dragon spews flood after Woman, Apoc 12:15-16
The period of relative rest and flourishing for the Church in the Middle Ages abruptly ended fiercely with the great heretical rebellion. Never before had the Church been so recklessly assaulted with heresies and confusion. Even the Catechism corroborates this: Yes, from the outset, even in Apostolic days, the Church has those separated, BUT, "in subsequent centuries, must much more serious rifts occurred in which large communities became separated …" Without naming names, the CCC is clearly referring especially to the two great epic divisions: the Great Schism of East and West, and the PROTESTANT REBELLION. Moreover, the Great Schism simply isn't a river to carry away the faithful. Orthodoxy still has a pretty firm earth. It has Tradition and Bishops. Yes, Orthodoxy was wide geographically, but its differences with us are quite minimal. BUT PROTESTANTISM! Protestantism was nothing SHORT of an epic flood of division! It was indeed a great river or flood of heresies. Now, the dragon is spiritual, and what proceeds from him can only be spiritual. Too, water is the substance of the ocean, which tosses heretics to and fro by every wave of doctrine. Only the stable pillar and “ground” of truth (1 Tim. 3:15), the solid earth of the Magisterium, the infallibly guided Bishops, Tradition, and Pope, can hold the Church together in the face of a torrent of false teachings intended to carry the faithful away into error and oblivion. Too, the lies only multiply in more deadly form with so called “Enlightenment”, and age of solo-Ratio, where the world is no longer seeking a Christian solution to man’s troubles, but only natural, Reason. That is, if it was true that there were as many opinions on Scripture as their were interpreters, so in the age of worldly solo-Ratio, there are were as many forms of rational thought as thinkers. Hence, again, a flood of errors, a torrent.
What will save the Church?! THE EARTH. The pillar and GROUND of truth, the Magisterium! Hence, the deluge coming forth from the dragon in order to carry her away is a deluge of lies and heresies, of the Protestant Rebellion and Enlightenment and age of Solo-Ratio, and the earth, or foundation of truth, the Magisterium (1 Tim. 3: 15), opens its mouth at Trent and Vatican I, and swallows the lies of the dragon.
Indeed, Trent so wonderfully synthesized the deeper truths of justification, the sacraments, Apostolic Succession, the canon, and other things contested by Protestantism, that a subsequent council was not needed till some over 300 years later. Too, as the Enlightenment tried with vile attempts to solve economic and social issues with purely worldly thought, or Reason, divorced from the light of the supernatural Gospel, the Church progressively responded with teachings that clarified the social and political order, culminating with Vatican I, which solidified Papal Authority, answered atheists' false claims that God’s existence cannot be known by reason alone, and other things.
The earth, or solid foundation of the Apostolic College, infallibly guided by the Spirit, swallowed all these errors and preserved the dear faithful Catholics in the world from being “carried away” by the confusion of this great setting the sun toward the greatest spiritual war, the modern times of near utter darkness!
Dragon runs off to make war with the Woman, Apoc. 12:17-18
Leo XIII Locution on 20th century.
Following the witness of the Church in the great time of spiritual distress and intellectual confusion, at the close of Vatican I, the dragon stood poised to raise up the supreme assault until that time he was on earth: the terrible secular destruction of our last century: war, godlessness, apostasy. Toward that end, we are all familiar with Pope Leo XIII’s frightening locution on the verge of the new century, where the dragon challenges God that he can destroy the Church. He is effectively given 75 to 100 years. There is no question that from the last century unto our own day inclusive, the Church has not faced such assaults on the Gospel since pagan Rome. Atheism, which ran terrible darkness and persecution on the East, for half to nearly a full century, and, in the latter half of the last century, the hedonistic, relativistic materialism, has dragged much of the former Christendom into a culture that is effectively utterly opposed to the Gospel. This is very appropriately imaged by how the dragon, having waged the flood against the woman and failed, runs off in anger and takes his position on the shore of the sea, preparing to raise up the ultimate confrontation in the forthcoming beast, false prophet, persecution, and tribulation of the bowls.
Beast and False Prophet, Apoc 13, 16:12-14
Our modern secular apostasy in last century (or any godless age or kingdom).
We have already described this beast in the former scene. Effectively, if the dragon is the father of lies, then the beast from the sea is like the incarnation of these lies in human history in any age that is largely opposed to God, and the False Prophet, the beast from the earth, then images these lies themselves, like a diabolical Trinity. Too, there is meaning in the shore, the sea, and the earth. We have seen that the earth is like a foundation, the Church. The sea is a place of chaos, heresies and lies, tossing man to and fro. The shore would seem to be somewhere in the middle: part lies, part truth. In this view, the devil hides behind half-truths to confound the world, much like extremes of right and left, each of which has some good and some bad.
From this, total godless indifference arises, the beast from the sea. This would image the objective reality of godlessness. It has no foundation, only lies, and in the end, it will be tossed and drowned to its death.
This is in contrast to the second beast, from the earth, the false prophet, which, again, can be seen as the lies themselves. This is the lies as seen in their SUBJECTIVE presentation by the dragon, the DECEPTION! The dragon presents his lies as a supreme foundation for prosperity and peace, hence, the foundation of the earth! (Do not listen to God, decide for yourself what is true, do as you wish, and live for the Creation rather than the Creator, or materialism [desire the fruit made by God rather than God Himself]) But this is a DECEPTION. The REAL end of such is the OBJECTIVE first beast, in the SEA: the passions of man and his selfishness will toss him into tribulation and ruin!
The deception takes root in humanity! The world says, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with it?”, i.e, “Behold, we have a supreme materialistic power and grandeur, and we have no need of God or religion. What will stop us from the ultimate paradise, or utopia?” God says of Babel: “There will be nothing they shall not be able to do!”
What about the sixth bowl in Apocalypse 16: the frogs, or unclean spirits, emerging from the mouths of the diabolical trinity in the sixth bowl of wrath also fit here:
Frogs were considered divine by the Egyptians. Hence, man considers the frog above himself! But then, man, too, when he is fallen, does the same thing to himself relative to God! Man considers HIMSELF like a DIVINE FROG to GOD! ABOVE God, even though man is INFINITELY beneath God, just as a FROG is INFINITELY beneath man!
Too, the frog has a peculiar nature: it is amphibious, that is, able to live on land OR water.
Now, a man can only live PHYSICALLY on the PHYSICAL earth. In the LITERAL sea, he will LITERALLY drown! Similarly, from the standpoint of our earth/sea analogy, man can only truly live in peace and prosperity on the SPIRITUAL earth of truth and grace, the Catholic Church. Man will SPIRITUALLY drown with the SPIRITUAL sea, the chaos of SPIRIUTAL waves of error and sin and passions!
Yet, the frog CAN live in water. And so man believes this, too! He considers himself a FROG relative to God: of higher divinity than God! Hence, the dragon effectively tells man, with the false prophet, and the seduction of the frogs, that he can live in the water, that is, without God’s truth and grace. So man says, I am a frog relative to God: I can live on earth with God, or I can live in the sea without God. Either way I will live. We can have the earth of religion if we LIKE, but we ultimately don't NEED It. We can live in the water if we don’t like the earth.
And this is a supreme lie, since the water ultimately brings death. Herein, then, the seduction of the diabolical trinity is made manifest!
Dragon, Beast and False Prophet Armageddon, Apoc 16
Minor Tribulation (any tribulation following intrinsically from godlessness).
A above, the seduction of the frogs tells humanity that they can preserve the foundation of peace and prosperity without regard for God and His truths and laws, and merely with materialistic power and dominion, with merely secular means.
The CCC corroborates this, in saying that the modern form of secular messianism is a perverse lie of antichrist (see a section of the creed on the Second Coming).
But we know that God's 10 commandments are not arbitrary or senseless or mutable. They are truly necessary to preserve peace in the world, stability in the world! Hence, eventually, if man gets irreligious and immoral, the ANTI-ten commandments will come back to bite him, since moral corruption always brings down great kingdoms and empires that grow corrupt.
In other words, societies that turn away from God and except to stay strong and stable despite this always collapse.
This is well pictured, like a recent article of mine, about the harlot and the ten horns that eat her up and burn her.
Recall that, there, if the Woman is the Church, the Spouse of God, the Harlot is then obviously the opposite: she doesn't want to marry God, her CreaTOR in the next life, but to get her kicks with the CreaTION in THIS life, materialism. That is, the whore is great kingdoms of material wealth and wonder that have left God out.
Then, from this, whereas the decadence and illusory prosperity in the godless Whore can last for a time, eventually the negation of God’s morality and truth brings corruption, and man, not having peace with God, all the more becomes an enemy of his fellow man. Hence, again, all the more has every corrupt empire or godless society suffered collapse.
Too, the Whore is seated on the beast, a symbol of godlessness. The ten horns, the "anti-ten commandments", prop her up. But later, as mentioned, the negation of the ten commandments brings corruption and selfishness, which disturbs the peace of the society. Finally, at its peak, it brings about the collapse of the kingdom: economically, politically, socially, morally. Then do the "ten horns" of the beast, upon which the woman is seated, burn her up and consume her flesh. The immorality of the anti-ten commandments “carry out the will of Christ” by allowing the world to see the true fruits of its blindness. In this way, the Lamb conquers both the Woman and the ten “kings”, for in the fall of the Whore, the society sees the fruits of the antithesis of the Decalogue, and comes back to God.
Dragon chained, reign of resurrected saints, Apoc 19-20
Age of Peace, Resurrection of faith.
The mystics have prophesied that after the coming minor tribulation--a result of the errors and sins of the modern world in apostasy--they will see the error of their ways and repent. Christians will be reunited, and a glorious age of peace, the Triumph of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, shall be ushered in. This wondrous renewal of faith and love in the world can be seen in the resurrection of the martyrs of Apocalypse 20 as well as the casting of the beast and false prophet into the fire. The Gospel Spirit of those who persevered in faith in the dark times is brought to life again and rules in the age of Our Lady.
Here, the beast and false prophet are cast into the fire! Sin, iniquity, and lies in history are conquered in the greatest manner WITHIN human history. The period of peace where Catholicism is vindicated and lived in peace is then imaged by the chaining of the dragon in the abyss, his activity utterly suppressed for a great time.
However, that the dragon is not cast into the fire like the beast and false prophet indicates that the ultimate vanquishing of evil yet remains, in the destruction of the great apostasy.
Hence, the dragon emerges a final time after the “thousand years” [age of peace] to deceive and attack, the great apostasy, where, effectively, in one layer, Apocalypse 13-16 are relived all over again, but this time, for good, the final assault of evil. Here, then, is the eschaton: Christ literally returns to utterly destroy all evil and usher in the New Creation: The dragon is seized and cast into the eternal fire: the General Judgment, the ultimate defeat of evil, the end of human history, the General Resurrection, the New Creation.
Dragon released at end of Millennium: Great Apostasy and Tribulation
Dragon in fire forever, last judgment: Second Coming, General Judgment
Note, then, that the progressive defeats the dragon are imaging the greater sequential victories of the Church over the substantial phases of error, sin, and tribulation. The dragon is ever thrown further down in each successive greater victory: in the fall of pagan Rome and the conversion of the empire, the dragon is cast from heaven to earth. In the coming triumph of Our Lady’s Heart over our modern fulfillment of the beast and false prophet, the minor apostasy, the dragon is placed from earth to the abyss below. And finally, at the destruction of the great apostasy, the dragon is cast from earth to the lake of fire, utterly vanquished forever.
Note, also, there is absolutely no need for any portion of the discourse to be out of chronological sequence. It all fits one, two three, from the ascension to the Second Coming, inclusive.
This concludes our analysis of the dragon.