Article XXII: The Red Dragon

Written by:
Jacob King

Thirty years before John wrote his Gospel, he wrote an unsettling prequel called Revelation. Revelation, which means the unveiling of secrets, is easily the craziest book in the Bible. And when I went on this wild literary ride, it seemed less like a ride-along with John and more like Stephen King was in the driver’s seat leading us into The Shining… red rum… red rum…

With a seven-headed red dragon, a great whore and a beast, and a trumpet full of world-ending toils by boils, John’s book of secrets has enough nightmare fuel for an entire horror series. Except this book is different from Mr. King’s in the most important way: John based it on a true story… And this is a story you might not want to read to your kids before bedtime… “With a loud voice he called to all the birds […] to eat the flesh of kings […], the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men.” “Dad?!?” “Billy, it’s the word of God, please, soak in the goodness. Please. Now where was I? Oh! ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot. They will […] devour her flesh and burn her up with fire.’” And all God’s people said, amen.

The story behind this veiled tale is just as interesting: John had been exiled to a small island used by the Romans as a penal colony for criminals. And while John was imprisoned on this island only a short distance from the Holy Land, the Romans began to stalk the city… to cut it down to its roots. The violence they waged cannot be exaggerated: the great historians of the time report that the citizens were starved to such an extent by the surrounding Romans who cut off any imports of food and water that the only way to survive was to… eat each other. And eat they did.

With this vicious war as a backdrop, John reports to have been “taken up in Spirit” and given a vision by “a slain lamb.” A lamb that had died and now lives “forevermore, and has the keys to Death”. ( I am no John Nash but I think even I could break the code on this living lamb chop.) John was entrusted with a peek into the Wardrobe’s past, present and future by this “slain lamb” who instructed him “to write what you see, what is and what is to take place.” And at the climax of what John saw was…

The “great red dragon” who waged the war that began all wars…

John’s cryptic details of the great “war” and “the red dragon” have confused a great many, but with his extensive work in exorcisms, Fr. Amorth knew exactly what this huge horned thing was, where it was from and the evil it had committed. Amorth was a supernatural detective able to walk straight into hell fire, analyze it, and walk out of the flames like some real-life Targaryen descendent… badass.

Honestly, I was a bit hesitant to go into King’s Landing with him. I definitely wasn’t some tenured exorcist with dragon’s blood flowing through my veins. But, sometimes, curiosity is just too powerful a force, and eventually I couldn’t resist. Plus, with someone like Fr. Amorth-Targaryen as a guide, I thought I would be safe enough… I mean what could go wrong when conjuring up the ancient red dragon that began the great spiritual war? I’ve never been one to shy away from trouble. Why start now? And with a quick trip to Costco for a pallet-load of Depends, I was ready:

Here’s what I found while traveling through the House of the Dragon with Amorth…

Lucifer, which means brightest morning star, was, and still is, an angel. I know what you're thinking. I thought the same thing, too: a chubby baby-like thing with wings. So cute. So fat. So cuddly.

But it seems cheap QVC religious art has failed our collective understanding of these beings. Angels are anything but “cute.” As “messengers” from another realm, they are described by all who have encountered them as truly terrifying. They are pure spirit, non-material beings, similar to God. So why are they always depicted as winged-beings with Fabio hair? Because they can shapeshift. (Probably because we low-on-the-brain-chain man-monkeys need some ‘flesh’ on a messenger to receive the message – hence Jesus taking on “flesh”). Padre Pio reported that Lucifer would appear to him in all sorts of threatening and frightening guises. Pio once told a close friend: “If you saw what I saw, you’d be dead.”

Although they are spiritual creatures, these angelic beings nonetheless are “gifted with intelligence, will, freedom, and initiative.” And their intelligence is unequaled among creatures; their power is unmatched as well. There is an old Latin phrase: “Corruptio optimi pessima,” which means “the best, when corrupted, becomes the worst.” Think Darth Vader or Voldemort. Lucifer, as a corrupted angel, now has unimaginable power to do evil. Augustine of Hippo once said, if God gave Lucifer a free hand, “no man would be left alive.” Yikes.

This brightest star of the spirit realm was once the most perfect one of these extraterrestrial spiritual beings. Angels, just like men, have a range of abilities and gifts. And just like Stephen Hawking and Pee-wee Herman are somehow the same species, so too are there levels to this whole messenger race. Lucifer was the head honcho and at the top of the messenger food chain; he was the Einstein among these Einsteins. 

Yet, as lived experience has proven even on our side of the Wardrobe, pride goeth before the fall…eth.

Lucifer, being the brightest and (he thought) the rightest, wanted to continue to be the absolute first, the center of creation, the CEO of God’s think-tank. Yet, even though his intelligence outranked all the others, this was not in the cards… (If there was one thing I learned on this journey with Amorth, it’s that you can’t control nor fully understand the mind of God. It’s wild like a lion. It does as It pleases.)

God revealed that there was another mind that this being would have to bow to; another’s ideas that he would have to deliver. And what made this pill almost impossible for Lucifer to swallow was that this mind was to be outside their genius species. It wouldn’t be an angelic intellect he would have to genuflect to but a mind… of human origin.

I get the immediate hesitancy towards this… Einstein, too, might have a problem with thinking that the Blue’s Clues dude was about to be made the head of his scientific lab…

Our mind compared to an angel’s is like an ape’s brain vs. that of an alien who beamed here to probe us. Yet God’s mind is different, and his infinite wisdom can sometimes seem jarring and confusing when entering our finite noggins. Preach. 

I remember reading through scripture for the first time wondering why it urged, ad nauseam, trust in God’s ideas, especially when you at first don’t understand them: “Do not rely on your own intelligence”; or, “Be not wise in your own eyes…” ‘I get it, sir-holiness, next teaching please…’ But Lucifer’s struggle to accept God’s will makes it clear why such a message needed to be shouted over and over from the rooftops.

“Now war arose in heaven…”

We don’t know on this side of the Wardrobe exactly what unfolded when the angels had their heavenly brawl, but we do know Lucifer’s ego was triggered… and that led to all hell breaking out. 

Spiritual warfare isn’t like physical warfare with tanks, fighter-jets and bombs. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. In fact, from what I learned, this type of warfare has the power to do the most harm. It’s hard to imagine a non-material, purely spiritual war, but I could see that it’s more like a battle of minds with the main weaponry being ideas. Joe Rogan just said recently on his podcast that “the most important and powerful thing that human life has ever had is ideas.” Fr. Amorth would agree.

This was a battle Lucifer seemed all too prepared for with his absolute Goliath of an intellect. 

Although we don’t have the exact transcription, we do have enough bits and pieces of the idea that Lucifer unloaded upon his fellows, and it went something like: ‘You don’t need God’s mind, or any one else’s mind, to think for you. Become the god you were always capable of being and be the sole ruler of your destiny… at all costs.’ And his idea seemed to be slick enough to surround their minds and starve their trust in their creator.

Yet in this realm, there was a David among them; one of the lowliest of these beings, Michael, summoned the courage and was ready to fight this slick serpentine proposal that, if accepted, would have eaten away at their relationship with God and each other. This brave messenger launched another idea:

 “Quis et Deus?” 

Which, teased out, goes something like this: ‘Even though we don’t yet fully understand God’s reasoning for this, none of our minds or ideas, even Lucifer’s, hold a candlestick to His. And because of this, me and those with me… we will serve the Lord…'

“Michael and his angels [fought] against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels […] were defeated…” 

This lowly angel, with humility as his sling and wisdom as his rock, slayed Lucifer’s terrible plan. Michael won over the majority of these intelligent messengers with his simple but brilliant idea grounded in reality, while Lucifer and his minority entourage, with delusions of grandeur, ate away at their connection to God and each other.

John reports what happened next:

“His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth…”

Which, when translated, simply means these crazy evil things have come into our realm… seeking to convince, subjugate and possess that very human mind they refused to follow. And, because vengeance doesn’t marry temperance, they are after all of us as well…

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