Leviathan in Revelation

One is hard pressed to find a few words go by in Revelation without some kind of allusion to a Bible passage. John, the author, is pulling references from left and right. With this in mind, it’s not unthinkable to see the Leviathan of the Old Testament resurface, especially given the fact that Isaiah said God would deal with Leviathan in the end-times (Is 27:1). And sure enough, we see him boldly and chaotically enter into the story.

And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. (Rev 12:3)

This seven-headed dragon seems an obvious callback to many-headed Leviathan (Ps 74:18), though this time he is identified as “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev 12:9). He and his monster entourage have come to Earth and are wreaking chaos upon it. They are the opposite of God and therefore, the opposite of order. They want the violent and moral ruin of humanity. The creature that Isaiah prophesied God would slay now shows his many faces in Revelation 12, and no one can miss it.

Of course, Satan isn’t the only seven-headed creature in Revelation; for one of Satan’s minions, the first beast, rises “out of the sea, with…. seven heads” (Rev 13:1). In fact, this creature seems even more intentionally linked to Leviathan because of its association with the sea. This beast however, isn’t any less an allusion to Satan, for it is, in a sense, a mirror of Satan. This first beast leads people to worship both himself and the dragon known as Satan (Rev 13:4), further evidencing their connection as the same force, or at the very least, the same theme.

And yet we rarely seem to make these connections—though it’s easy to see why. While it makes sense that John would put an apocalyptic passage from Isaiah into his own apocalypse, there are so many hybrid creatures in his book already that we can easily get lost in the description. We’re so busy counting heads and trying to assign numerological meaning to things that we forget to stand back and stare at the dragon. The Greeks would have recognized him as Hydra, but those who knew their Bible knew that this was the thing Hydra was based off of: Leviathan himself.

This doesn’t mean it’s inappropriate to look for meaning in the dragon and the first beast’s seven heads (for such creatures do not wear crowns and metaphor is therefore implied), but to ignore the image in its whole is to miss the wider portrait John is drawing. The author, in his genius, is painting revelatory layer after layer to create an apocalyptic masterpiece of allegory.

The name Satan is attached to the dragon, whom Leviathan serves. Therefore, everything that Satan represents is found in Leviathan. He wars with God, though God holds all power over him and can (and will) crush him.

And so, in order to end chaos once and for all, God will slay the twisting, fleeing, Satanic Leviathan. He is thrown into a lake of fire (Rev 20:10), along with Death itself (Rev 20:14), and the entire cosmos finally becomes all it was meant to be and more. God makes “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Rev 21:1)—and along with that, everything the sea represented. Chaos is dead. Leviathan is dead. Satan is dead. Even death itself is dead. God has crushed Leviathan’s seven heads and has given “him as food for the creatures of the wilderness” (Psalm 74:14). All that lives on is of God and His order, which includes His people who take on new resurrected bodies.

This is an adapted excerpt from my short, artistic and book, Kaiju of Biblical Proportions, available on Kindle, Paperback, and Audiobook. I may still even have a free audiobook code of it here for you.

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