When you open up the Bible, you’re not opening up a textbook; you’re opening up a storybook. After all, the bible starts off with, “In the beginning.” A beginning presupposes that there’s an ending. And if you have a beginning and an ending, then you have a story, but the Bible isn’t just any story; it’s the story behind all your favorite stories. It’s the true fairy tale. C.S. Lewis was right when he said, “In the story of Christ, all the other stories have somehow come true.” But how is this possible? Thankfully, John the Apostle summarized the great story of Scripture in Revelation 12.
The main characters
Fairytales are worlds of underdogs and giants, princesses and dragons, heroes and villains. They’re stories of long journeys and great sacrifice, of damsels in distress and princes riding in on white horses. And like a master storyteller, John weaves together the lives of three characters: the woman, the dragon and the child. The woman stands for the Church, the dragon stands for Satan and the child is Jesus. The woman will be rescued because the dragon will be slain by the child who becomes King. Incidentally, these are the three key characters that you find in every beloved fairy tale: the rescued, the villain and the hero, but what John does by including the Church in the story, is he reminds his readers that they’re part of the story. What if the reason people love these ancient tales is because they’re an echo of the tale that they’re already in? What if little boys like to sword fight and little girls like to dress up in gowns because deep down they know the fairy tale story is their story. What if Frank Sinatra was wrong? Fairy tales don’t come true because you’re young at heart; fairy tales are true because you’re born into the epic battle that all of those tales point to.
The great war
Fairy tales are stories where good and evil meet to do battle, where the light side clashes with the dark side. John captures this great warfare with a flashback to the Garden where the serpent brings evil into the world through his deception and lies but is soon told that he will be defeated by the woman’s offspring who will one day crush his head. And this is why John says, “The dragon stood before the woman waiting to devour the child” (Revelation 12:4). This is the theme behind Gothel stealing Rapunzel, of Rumpelstiltskin’s claim on the queen’s child. All of these “children of promise” point back to the child of promise, the King from heaven who came to rescue the bride and break the spell cast over the kingdom, the prince who entered into the dragon’s lair and emerged victorious. But how did he do it? How could a small weak Lamb defeat this massive powerful dragon?
The overmatched Prince conquered through great courage, love and sacrifice, all the virtues that are at the heart of every great fairy tale. Jesus dying on the cross for his people’s sins is what slays the dragon and is the story behind Jack slaying the giant, Frodo defeating Sauron, it’s Prince Phillip slaying Maleficent, Wesley rescuing Buttercup, Anna giving her life to save Elsa to break the Frozen spell and coming back to life. What do all the stories have in common? They reject the notion that the princess can save herself, and instead put forth the most compelling message that only by grace, only through someone sacrificing their life on your behalf can evil be undone and the princess won. GK Chesterton said it best: “That the deepest truth about fairy tales was not that dragons exist, but that they can be beaten.”
The happy ending
There wouldn’t be a once upon a time without a happily ever after. But in the middle of those two, there’s always great struggle and conflict. John tells us that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the decisive war has been won, but now the dragon is ticked and he goes off to make war on the woman. If the devil can’t touch the Christ, then he’ll make trouble for the Church. But the battle isn’t in a land far far away, John reminds his readers that it’s not far away at all; it’s as near as it can be because you’re in it. The dragon goes after God’s people with three weapons: accusation, deception and persecution, but through it all, the church is preserved. It’s like all the great stories when difficulties and tragedy strikes, you keep watching because you know somehow out of the ashes, beauty and good will rise; somehow wrongs will be made right in the end. Revelation ends with war giving way to wedding, with the dragon completely banished and even death is no more. But the question is, what part will you play? Whose side will you be on? The side you take in this battle will determine how your story will end. It’s choose your own adventure, and the only logical choice is to align with Jesus, the rightful and conquering King. What every student of the Bible should realize is that instead of fairy tales competing with the Bible, all these great stories are really just knock offs and reflections of God’s story, the gospel story, the fairy tale that’s somehow come true.
Jeremy McKeen is the lead pastor of Truth Point Church. Jeremy received his B.A. in communications and philosophy from Florida Southern College and his MDiv from Know theological Seminary.