War in Heaven and on Earth

SYNOPSIS:  Expelled from Heaven, the Dragon attempts to destroy the Woman by persecuting her “seed,” followers of Jesus - Revelation 12:7-17

Mateus Campos Felipe - Unsplash
Mateus Campos Felipe - Unsplash
The battle between the Dragon and Michael is the heavenly counterpart to the earthly conflict described in verses 5-6 of Chapter 12, the attempt by the Dragon to destroy the son and his subsequent exaltation to the Throne of God. This passage interprets the vision described in verses 1-5.

The start of this period coincides with the exaltation of the Son to the Throne. The period ends when the two witnesses have “completed their testimony” and the sounding of the seventh trumpet. Similarly, unable to destroy the Woman during the twelve hundred and sixty days, the enraged Dragon makes war with the “rest of her seed.” After the forty-two months, the Beast “makes war with the saints and overcomes them” (Revelation 11:7, 12:17, 13:7-10).

The victory of the Saints – (12:7-12)
  • (Revelation 12:7-12) – “And there came to be war in heaven: Michael and his messengers [going forth] to war with the dragon; and the dragon fought, and his messengers; and he prevailed not, neither was place found for them any longer in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out — the ancient serpent, he that is called Adversary and the Satan, that deceiveth the whole habitable world — he was cast to the earth, and his messengers with him were cast. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying — Now, hath come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ; because the accuser of our brethren hath been cast out, who was accusing them before our God day and night; And they overcame him by reason of the blood of the Lamb, and by reason of their witnessing word, and they loved not their life, even unto death. For this cause, be joyful, O heavens, and ye who therein are tabernacling. Woe! unto the earth and the sea, because the Adversary hath come down unto you, having great wrath — knowing that but a little season he hath” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The paragraph in verses 7-9 explains the “sign of the Great Red Dragon,” which signaled that war had arrived “in heaven.” The battle between the Dragon and Michael is the heavenly counterpart to the earthly events described in verses 5-6: The Dragon’s attempt to devour the son and the latter’s exaltation to God’s Throne.

The battle between the Dragon and Michael is based on the vision from the book of Daniel of Michael standing to fight for God’s people. The victory of the son by means of his death and resurrection has its heavenly counterpart (Daniel 12:1).

No place was found for the Dragon and his angels, an allusion to Daniel 2:35 where the prophet interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great image. Its four components represented four kingdoms. A “stone cut out without hands” smote the image and the kingdoms its represented, smashing them into dust, “so that no place was found for them.” That stone then became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
The book of Revelation portrays the fulfillment of that vision beginning with the exaltation of the son. Before the kingdoms of this world can be overcome, the Dragon and his army must be defeated and expelled from heaven. The Dragon is “the Ancient Serpent.” This identifies him with the Serpent from the Garden of Eden. Like in the case of Eve, this serpent is the mortal enemy of the “Woman” (Genesis 3:1, 3:14).
He is the “Devil and Satan.” The terms mean “slanderer” and “adversary,” respectively. The Serpent claimed God’s command to Adam was untrue and, thus, slandered Him by insinuating that He had ulterior and deceptive motivations (Genesis 3:1-5).

The Devil is the one who “is deceiving the whole habitable earth.” This, also, echoes the Genesis story when Eve excused her disobedience by blaming the serpent - “The Serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13).

Satan is the “Great Red Dragon,” which echoes language from Ezekiel 29:1-3 where the king of Egypt was compared to a “Great Dragon.”

The expulsion of Satan from heaven did not occur at some point in the remote past. It is the result of the exaltation of the Son to the Throne (compare - Luke 10:18, John 12:27-32, 16:11, Colossians 2:14-15, Hebrews 2:14).

The casting out of Satan from heaven parallels the “great mountain burning with fire that was cast into the sea” when the second trumpet sounded, the “casting down” of Babylon, and the “casting” of Satan into the "Abyss." In each case, the Greek verb used is for “cast” is ballō. Note the following parallels:
  • (Revelation 12:9) – “And the great dragon was cast out — the ancient serpent, he that is called Adversary and the Satan, that deceiveth the whole habitable world — he was cast to the earth.”
  • (Revelation 8:8) – “And the second messenger sounded; and, as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea.”
  • (Revelation 18:21) – “And one mighty messenger lifted a stone, as it were a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying — Thus, with main force shall be cast down Babylon the great city.”
  • (Revelation 20:3) – “And cast him into the abyss, and fastened and sealed [it] over him — that he might not deceive the nations any more, until the thousand years should be ended: after these, must he be loosed for a short time.”
The “loud voice heard in heaven” interprets the vision as it breaks into a hymn of praise, an interpretive pattern found elsewhere in the book (Revelation 1:10, 4:8-10, 5:6-14, 7:9-17,14:2-5, 15:3-4, 19:1).

The hymn declares Satan’s defeat in “heaven,” then reflects the victory of Jesus on the earth on his Death and Resurrection. The Devil lost his authority and the legal basis to accuse the saints before God. They are declared “not guilty” in the heavenly court and are now exempt from the “second death,” regardless of what the Dragon does to them on the earth (Revelation 2:11, 20:6).

With the victory of the Messiah, the traditional role of Satan under the Old Covenant of ‘accuser’ has come to an end. However, though knocked down, he is not yet out of the fight. Following his expulsion, he assumes the role of the deceiver of the world - “He who is deceiving the whole habitable earth” (Job 1:9, 2:5, Zechariah 3:1-2, Luke 10:18).
The defeat of the Dragon means the inauguration of the “kingdom of our God” and the commencement of the Messiah’s reign. The language reflects Psalm 2:6-10 and, also, echoes the words heard when the seventh trumpet sounded: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign unto the ages of ages” (Revelation 11:15).
The martyrs from the fifth seal were told they must wait for vindication “a little while until the number should be made full of their fellow-servants also…who were going to be slain as even they.” The “little time” allotted to the Dragon refers to the same period. The “little time” remaining is the same as the "twelve hundred and sixty days," the "forty-two months," and the “time, times and half a time,” (Revelation 6:9-11, 11:2-3, 12:14, 13:5-6).

You who are tabernacling in heaven.” This group is contrasted to the ungodly, “those who dwell on the earth.” It is not a question about geographic location and the clause does not refer to angels or disembodied spirits dwelling in heaven. Instead, it refers to saints; the ones who are “tabernacling in heaven.” That is, their lives are oriented toward God and not the world order. They belong to the realm from which Satan was ejected and, therefore, are no longer under his legal jurisdiction (Revelation 7:15, 11:1-2, 13:6).

The warning, “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the Devil has come down to you having great fury,” has in view the assaults of the Dragon against the saints, not against the “inhabitants of the earth.” In Revelation, “wrath” and punitive judgments directed against the “inhabitants of the earth” occur at the instigation of the Lamb, not the Devil. In contrast, Satan’s attacks are launched against the followers of the Lamb (Revelation 6:1-8, 8:5-9:21, 11:7, 13:7-10, 16:1-21).

The Pursuit of Her Seed
  • (Revelation 12:13-17) – “And when the dragon saw that he was cast to the earth, he pursued the woman who had brought forth the manchild. And there were given unto the woman the two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the desert, into her place—where she is nourished, a season and seasons and half a season, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth, after the woman, water as a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the stream. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was angered against the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed—with them who were keeping the commandments of God, and holding the witness of Jesus;—and he stood upon the sand of the sea” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The Dragon vents his rage by persecuting the Woman. She is nourished in the wilderness for a “time, times half a time,” Daniel’s period of persecution of the saints (Daniel 7:25, 12:7). God’s “nourishing” of the Woman alludes to the story of Yahweh feeding Israel in the Wilderness with “manna” (Exodus 16:15-35).

The description of the “two wings of the eagle” alludes to Exodus 19:3-4:
  • You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you to myself” (compare - Deuteronomy 1:31-33, 32:10-12, Isaiah 40:31).
The “Serpent casting water out of his mouth like a river” does not refer to a “literal” flood; this is a simile (“like a river”). Elsewhere, things that issue out of a creature’s mouth are words, whether for good or ill. In view are satanic attempts to overwhelm the Woman by deception, false doctrines, and false teachers (Revelation 1:16, 2:16, 9:19, 11:5, 13:5, 14:5, 19:15).
Several of the churches of Asia already had experienced such deceptive onslaughts. In each case, the attack was linked to Satan: the “synagogue of Satan,” the “throne of Satan,” and the “deep things of Satan” (Revelation 2:2-9, 2:13-14, 2:20-24, 3:9).
God intervened on behalf of the Woman to thwart the Serpent’s attack. Enraged, he turns his fury against the “rest of the Woman’s seed, to make war with them who were keeping the commandments of God and holding the testimony of Jesus.”

To make war with them” is an allusion to Daniel 7:21, the "Little Horn that made war with the saints and prevailed over them” (cp. Revelation 11:7). The description in Verse 17 also serves to transition to the next section that will provide a more detailed picture of the onslaught of the Dragon against the Woman’s “seed” (Revelation 13:1-10). This last verse is also a link to the "Beast from the Abyss" and its war against the "two witnesses." The ascent from the Abyss corresponds to the Beast’s ascent from the sea (Revelation 11:7, 13:1).

The “seed” of the woman is comprised of men and women who “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.” This is a verbal link to the fifth seal opening when John saw the martyrs under the altar “who had been slain because of the word of God and because of the testimony they had.” When they asked “how long” they must wait for vindication, they were told to wait until the full number of their brethren “who were going to be slain as even they” was assembled. The war of the Dragon against the Woman’s “seed” serves to fill up that number (Revelation 6:9-11).