Leyland Ryken is a professor emeritus of English at Wheaton College. In his opinion, Visionary Literature can be generally categorized as prophetic or apocalyptic. However, there is a lot of overlap. As I stated in my book, Eyes To See the Revelation, the Book of Revelation is an example of both prophetic and apocalyptic literature. As apocalyptic literature, it uses other worldly images to teach us about higher spiritual realities. Additionally, in apocalyptic literature, numbers are used symbolically. For example, Revelation 12:3-4, described Satan as follows:
Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven crowns. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and hurled them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
Symbolically, the 7 heads of the dragon represented the fullness of creaturely authority. The 10 horns were symbolic for maximum creaturely power, and the 7 crowns were symbolic for the fullness of creaturely splendor. Greatness in humans or angels is most often measured by (1) authority, (2) power, and (3) splendor. Splendor includes things like beauty (or handsomeness), magnificence, impressiveness, elegance, resplendence, and brilliance.
Notice that in the above verses (Revelation 12:3-4), the “stars” clearly symbolized angelic beings. Similarly, in my opinion, God’s creation of the “stars” (mentioned at Genesis 1:16) can refer to both astronomical bodies and symbolize heavenly beings (angels). As stated at Revelation 12:3-4, Satan led away or led into rebellion a sizable minority of the heavenly hosts (angels) against God. (Rev. 12:4). When Jesus was born, the Dragon (Satan) was waiting to destroy the Messiah (Rev. 12:4). He acted through the agency of Herod, the Great, who destroyed all of the male children two years and younger who resided in the area of Bethlehem (Matt. 2:16). It is important to note that more than a few humans function as agents of the Snake. The slaughter of the innocent children is demonstrative of Satan’s hostility and enmity against God and humanity. Despite the Satanic opposition, Mary (a representative of authentic Israel) victoriously gave birth to the Son of God (Rev. 12:5). This Jesus is the absolute ruler over all (Rev. 12:5). He is depicted as ruling over all of the nations (not just Israel) with a rod of iron (Rev. 12:5). After His death and resurrection, He ascended to the right hand of the Father where He is presently ruling with His Father (Rev. 12:5).
In the above featured image of the dragon on this page, we are missing the 7 heads, 10 horns, and 7 crowns, but the image does have some features worth highlighting. For example, the image is red, and it has a snake-like body. The Greek word drakōn is defined as both a “dragon and a fabulous kind of serpent.” At Rev. 12:9, the great dragon is also called the “the old serpent, called the devil.” The Greek word ophis is defined as a “snake or serpent,” which figuratively describes someone or something that is “sly, cunning, and artful.” The Greek word diabolos is defined as a “slanderer or false accuser.” The Greek word satanas is defined as an “adversary,” and Revelation 12:9 specifically states that Satan functions as a “deceiver of the whole world.”
Revelation’s depiction of Satan as a sea monster serpent did not arise out of a vacuum in the First Century AD. These powerful images had Old Testament roots. At Isaiah 27:1, we read,
On that day the Lord will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, with His fierce and great and mighty sword; even Leviathan the twisted serpent; and He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.
In the above verse, Isaiah connected several Old Testament Biblical images for the purpose of describing Satan and his agents. The Hebrew noun livyāṯān is defined as a “serpent sea monster.” At Isaiah 27:1, both Satan and the enemies of Israel (like Assyria or Babylon) are referred to as Sea Monsters. In the above verse, the Hebrew noun nāḥāš is actually used 4 times. Nāḥāš is defined as a “serpent or snake.” This is the same noun (nāḥāš) used to describe the being who deceived Eve and Adam and prompted them to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden (Gen 3:1-14). Additionally, Isaiah 27:1 used the Hebrew noun tannîn, which is defined as a “dragon, sea monster, or serpent.” At Isaiah 27:1, the NASB translated tannîn as dragon. At Genesis 1:21, the NASB translated tannîn as “great sea creatures.” It should be noted that the Chaos Monster can be either a sea monster (Gen. 1:21; Job 7:12; Ps. 74:13) or a land monster (Jer. 9:11; 10:22). The Sea Monster can produce a storm at sea or a storm from the sea directed against the adjacent land. A Land Monster can create a desert or wilderness, also a place unfit for human habitation. Because of lust (inordinate desire), we are inclined to chaos and self-destruction. The Chaos Monsters of this world exploit this known weakness.
The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery states, “In the OT [Old Testament], three terms are found for monsters that symbolize the threat to the divine order of the world; Leviathan (livyāṯān), Rahab (rahaḇ), and dragon or sea monster (tannîn).” At Job 26:12-13, we read:
With His [God’s] power He quieted the sea, and by His understanding He shattered Rahab. By His breath the heavens are cleared; His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent [nāḥāš].
The Hebrew noun rahaḇ is defined as a “storm, blusterer, arrogance, and prideful.” Through Biblical Imagery, we can gain a fuller description of Satan and his emissaries. Satan is a deceptive and arrogant enemy of God. He is highly intelligent and powerful, but he espouses a false and counterfeit wisdom. He is a Chaos Monster that stirs the cosmos as so often seen in world history. The word “Zeitgeist” is a fitting description of Satan’s hidden influence on world history. Merriam-Webster defines Zeitgeist as “the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era.” Nevertheless, despite Satan’s intellect and power, he is no match for the Creator God, and he (Satan) has been defeated.
As shown at Revelation 12:3-4, there is a certain splendor associated with Satan, the twisting serpent. In Isaiah, chapter 6, the Prophet Isaiah had a vision of the Throne Room of God. Isaiah’s vision included his observation of certain supernatural beings (angels) called Seraphim (Isa. 6:2-3). The Hebrew word śārāp̄ is defined as a “fiery serpent.” These majestic beings were described as having 6 wings, with a face, and with hands and feet like humans, who served God (Isa. 6:2-3). In my opinion, Isaiah’s vision implies that angels have a certain serpentine appearance, but as shown in Isaiah’s vision, not specifically in the form of a snake. As shown in the Book of Revelation, John was so awed by the angelic emissary sent from God that he “fell down to worship at the feet of the angel…” (Rev. 22:8).
At Isaiah 14:12-15, we read of a certain prideful creature that sought to compete with God. Isaiah wrote as follows:
How you have fallen from heaven, you star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who defeated the nations! But you said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God. And I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. I will make myself like the Most High.” Nevertheless, you will be brought down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.
Satan is going to be brought low and made weak (Isa. 14:9-15). Because of his arrogance and disobedience to God, Satan will lose his power to be a Chaos Monster. This has not happened yet, but Isaiah proclaims with confidence that Satan will be completely subjugated to God’s authority. By the Cross, God defeated Satan, but now Satan is trying to delay the inevitable.
The above verses (Isa. 14:12-14) are a fitting description of both humans (like the King of Babylon) and angels (like Satan), who seek to function as the Most High God and compete with God. No matter how brilliant, neither humans nor angels have the capacity to function as God. Perhaps some of you have watched the video clip of Bill Maher mocking Christians for believing in a talking snake. Maher, like many Christians, has over-literalized Biblical Imagery. Like in the case of Balaam’s ass, God, if He so chooses, can speak words through an animal, but more importantly, the Bible uses Biblical Imagery to provide us insight into the invisible world and higher spiritual realities that are all around us and impact us every day.
 Ryken, Leland. How to Read the Bible as Literature, ePub Ed. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2016, p 165 of 208.
 Smith, T. Kenan. Eyes to See The Revelation: A Spiritual Journey. WestBow Press, 2019.
 “G1404 – drakōn – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 6 Sep, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1404/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G3789 – ophis – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 6 Sep, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3789/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G1228 – diabolos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 6 Sep, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1228/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G4567 – satanas – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 6 Sep, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4567/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G4567 – Satanas.
 “H3882 – livyāṯān – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 6 Sep, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h3882/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “H5175 – nāḥāš – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 6 Sep, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h5175/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “H8577 – tannîn – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 6 Sep, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h8577/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “Monster.” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, edited by Leland Ryken, et al, InterVarsity Press, 1998, p. 562.
 “H7293 – rahaḇ – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 6 Sep, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h7293/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “Zeitgeist.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zeitgeist. Accessed 6 Sep. 2023.
 “H8314 – śārāp̄ – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 6 Sep, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h8314/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.