In the Book of Revelation, the dragon means Satan, in other words, the devil (12:9; 20:2). So, the description of the Ďgreat red dragoní in Revelation 12:3 is a special description of Satan.
In former times, people used the word Ďdragoní to refer to huge and terrible animals that they had never seen. Especially, people were afraid of the strange, giant animals that live in the sea (compare the references to the sea in Revelation 13:1 and Revelation 21:1). This dragon was not like the pictures of dragons that people draw for children today. It was more like a serpent (a snake), as Revelation 12:9 says. The serpent is also the Bibleís first description of Satan, in Genesis 3:1-15.
This dragon has 7 heads and 10 horns (bony points, as grow on the heads of certain animals). So does the beast (terrible wild animal) in Revelation 13:1, and the beast that carries the woman in Revelation 17:3. Heads express the idea of authority, because the head rules and guides the body as in Isaiah 7:8. Horns express the idea of strength, because animals use their horns to fight. So, the word-picture means that the devil has great authority and strength. In Revelation 13:2, he gives his authority and power to the first beast.
In Daniel 7:6-7, Daniel also saw beasts with many heads and horns. As Daniel 7:24 shows, these things had particular meanings. For example, the 10 horns in that passage meant 10 kings.
So, in the Book of Revelation, the dragonís 7 heads and 10 horns probably have both a general and a particular meaning. The general meaning is the devilís great power and authority. The particular meaning appears in Revelation 17:9-14, in reference to the beast that carries the woman. There, the horns and heads refer to particular kings who rule the world in the period before Christís return. It is by means of those evil rulers that the devil will show his power and authority.
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© 2016, Keith Simons.