Who was St George? A full account can be found in the book written by the late Mrs Isabel Hill Elder entitled “George of Lydda – Soldier, Saint and Martyr” which is published by the Covenant Publishing Company. In it she helpfully separates fact from fiction. However, for the purposes of this article, only a brief outline of his life will be given.
George was born in the year 280 AD at Lydda in Palestine. Lydda was located 23 miles north west of Jerusalem and 12 miles south east of the sea port of Joppa. His mother was a devoted Christian, her father being the Count of Lydda. She was a descendant of those written of in Acts 9 v 32: “And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwell at Lydda.” George’s mother was of the Israel people at Lydda who had received the Gospel of Christ. His father was also a Christian, from a noble Cappadocian family. Cappadocia was among the places where dispersed Israelites dwelt to whom the Apostle Peter addressed his Epistle: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” (1 Peter 1 v 1).
George was brought up in a Godly Christian Israelite family, but sadly his father died while he was still a youth. Due to the prestige of the family, the Governor of Palestine took him into military service. Such were George’s abilities that, although still young, he was appointed as a General over 5,000 men. It was said of him at the age of 20 that “he was so exceeding strong and valiant that he was the leader in battle; there was no one among all the company of soldiers who could be compared with him for strength and beauty, and the grace of God was with him……..all who saw him marvelled at his power and youth, and God was with him in all his ways”.
But, all was not well. The Roman Emperor, Diocletian, had issued edicts against Christianity throughout the Empire (which included the land of Palestine) and persecution of Christians was severe. By the end of the 3rd Century AD, persecution was intensifying to a terrible extent.
Like his parents, George was a fervent and zealous believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. He bravely sought to appeal to Diocletian against the increasingly tyrannical edicts against Christianity at a time when most would not have dared to do so for fear of torture and death. Appealing to the Emperor, he boldly declared: “I am a Christian and I believe in my Lord Jesus Christ”. Because of his status, character and military renown, strenuous attempts were made by the powers of Imperial Rome to persuade him to renounce his faith. These all failed. Eventually he was brought before a cruel individual named Galerius who has been described as “more wicked than any other man upon earth at that time, and the most fearsome persecutor of Christians.” Interestingly, at the trial, Galerius referred to George as “chief of the Galileans” which is another evidence of George’s Israel identity. Sadly the trial ended with Galerius pronouncing the sentence of death. On April 23rd, 304 AD George, the mighty warrior, faithful Christian and valiant opponent of evil, was beheaded at the age of 24. As he was being led to his death he prayed for his persecutors and then turning to the guards said “Come with me brethren and fulfil your order, do what ye have to do”.
From the time of his death George’s memory was revered. Accounts of his life and martyrdom were passed down from generation to generation. Illustrations and paintings of George began to appear, portraying him as a mighty, noble warrior mounted on a white horse slaying a hideous dragon with a spear or a sword. These paintings increasingly became a feature in many church buildings in the East. However, as a result of the exploits of the English Knights under the command of Richard the Lionheart in Palestine during the Crusades, George became the Patron Saint of England and the symbol of the warrior on the white horse slaying the dragon became a common emblem in the “isles of the west”.
The stories of the valour of George of Lydda so impressed Richard the Lionheart and his English Knights that the cry “For St George” was used to inspire them as they advanced under the banner of a red cross on a white background. This became the ensign of English Crusader Knights. On his return to England, Richard decided that the Order of St George should be founded and the title “Companions of St George” conferred on those crusaders who succeeded in scaling the walls of Jerusalem as they liberated the city from the Moslem Infidel.
Sadly, Israel did not remain faithful to her Divinely appointed role
It was from the time of the return from the Crusades that the banner of the Red Cross (speaking of blood shed in battle) and illustrations of St George on the white horse slaying the dragon began to appear on the walls of many Parish Churches in England. While there is no historical record of George slaying a beast, as depicted in these paintings, the image represents his fight against wickedness and evil. While the forces of darkness put him to death, yet in his death he symbolised all that was true, righteous and Godly. His life and death was to inspire multitudes in subsequent generations in the belief that, ultimately, evil will be defeated and good will triumph.
What then is the prophetic significance of St George’s Day, April 23rd? Why is it that this noble Christian Israelite warrior-martyr is Patron Saint of a nation that is almost 2,000 miles North West of his Palestinian homeland? What really is being declared when England celebrates St George’s Day every year?
The answer begins in Genesis 3 v15 when God said to the serpent: “and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heal.” Prior to these words being uttered, God’s man Adam had fallen from his high calling as head of all creation through the beguiling of the one who is described as the serpent. In Revelation 20 v 2 the serpent is also referred to as the dragon: “and he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan….”
The serpent/dragon appeared to win a great victory when Adam and Eve succumbed to his subtlety, bringing about their ultimate death. However, God declared in Genesis 3 v 15 that this was but the start of a terrible age-long battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the dragon.
The seed of the woman has a two-fold aspect. The first manifestation was in the line of Seth from whence came Abram the progenitor of the nation that would do battle against the powers of darkness: “Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations and with thee will I destroy kingdoms”. (Jeremiah 51 v 20).
Sadly, Israel did not remain faithful to her Divinely appointed role as the righteous nation wielding the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Their failure did not thwart God’s purposes. The prophecy regarding the seed of the woman was to have a second manifestation. Israel (the seed that failed) was to bring forth the seed of the woman who never fails, the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to deal once and for all with the dragon who had wrought such havoc in bringing sin, misery, disease and death upon all creation. The Lord Jesus Christ, the mighty one, the good and upright one, the one to be admired, was willing to lay down His life for the cause of Truth. He was taken (yet he went willingly) to the cross of Calvary, having been sentenced to death by wicked men. But through that death He destroyed the power of the devil (the dragon/serpent) that had brought death into the world: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (the Lord Jesus Christ) also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2 v 14).
When George of Lydda, whose life and character was such a reflection of the Christ he honoured, was put to death it seemed that the dragon (the devil) had triumphed in the form of pagan Rome. However only a short while after George’s death, pagan Rome lost its power. Likewise, after Christ’s death, the apparent victory of the dragon was shattered when Christ rose from the grave and the Gospel of Truth began to spread like wildfire as recorded in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. The battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent has continued to rage down all the centuries of time, right to the present day. At times the forces of good have gained the ascendancy; at other times the power of the dragon has seemed almost overwhelming.
Genesis 3 v 15 declares that the head of the serpent/dragon will be crushed, speaking of his ultimate destruction. The sign of this certain victory was the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. The manifestation of this victory will be revealed to the world when the words of the two angelic beings to the disciples beholding the ascension of Christ are fulfilled: “…this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1 v 11).
What happens when Christ comes again?: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.” (Revelation 19 verses 11 – 13).
The phrase “dipped in blood” represents the shedding of His blood in the terrible battle with the powers of darkness. He deals with those who are the willing servants of the dragon (Revelation 19 verses 17-21). Then, in chapter 20, we read of the dragon being bound and the commencement of the millennial reign of the great warrior on the White Horse. For one thousand years the earth will experience the blessings of Christ’s righteous rule. The dragon is then released for “a little season” and makes one last vain attempt to thwart his ultimate doom, but to no avail. His final and eternal defeat is inevitable: “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone….” (Revelation 20 v 10).
What then is the prophetic significance of St George’s Day? It is an annual witness by the people of England (although they know not its significance) to the eternal triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ and the destruction of Satan. It declares the wonder of Christ’s death and resurrection, and the sure and certain hope of His return to bring to this earth all the blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven.
How often have Israel believers said that although blind to their identity, the Israel people are still God’s witnesses in this world? If only our people realised the significance of St George’s Day and the symbolism of George slaying the dragon! Despite their blindness, each year on April 23rd the witness is there for all who will open their eyes and unstop their ears.
One day the Israel people will be blind and deaf no longer. They will know who they are and who their God is. In that day they will look no longer at paintings of St George the mighty warrior on a white horse, but on THE MIGHTY WARRIOR Himself. He, their King and their Redeemer, will return in triumph to set up His victorious kingdom which will never be destroyed, and He shall reign for ever and ever!