30 December 2018

War in Heaven and on Earth – (Revelation 12:7-17)

Beast from the Sea
The battle between the Dragon and Michael is the heavenly counterpart to the earthly conflict described in verses 5-6; the Dragon’s attempt to destroy the son and the latter’s exaltation to God’s Throne. This passage interprets the vision described in verses 1-5.
(Revelation 12:7-9) – “And there came to be war in heaven, Michaeland his angels going forth to war with the Dragon; and the Dragon fought and his angels, 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 Devil and Satan who is deceivingthe whole habitable earth; he was cast to the earth and his angels were cast with him.”
     The picture of the war between the Dragon and Michael the Archangel is derived from Daniel’s vision of Michael standing up to fight for God’s people:  (Daniel 12:1) - “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.”
      The Dragon and his angels “prevailed not, neither was place found for them any longer in heaven.” This alludes to Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great image. Its four sections represented four kingdoms.
    In “latter days” a stone cut out without hands would smite those kingdoms, break them in pieces and make them like chaff, “so that no place was found for them” (Daniel 3:25). The stone that smote the image became a great mountain that filled the whole earth. Before the kingdoms of the world can be defeated, the Dragon and his army must be overthrown and expelled from heaven.
     The Dragon is “the Ancient Serpent,” a reference to the serpent that deceived Eve in Eden (Genesis 3:1, 3:14), the mortal enemy of the “Woman.” He is also “the Devil and Satan,” meaning “slanderer” and “adversary.” Both terms echo the story of Adam and Eve. The serpent claimed God’s command was untrue and so slandered Him by insinuating His motives were deceptive (Genesis 3:1-5). The Devil who “deceives the whole habitable earth” likewise reflects Genesis 3:13; when confronted Eve explained, “the serpent deceived me and I ate.”
     The expulsion of Satan from heaven is thus located not at some primordial point in remote history, but as a result of the exaltation of the Son to God’s throne. This notion is found elsewhere in the New Testament:
(Luke 10:18) – “And Jesus said, I beheld Satan fall as lightning from heaven.”
(John 12:27-32) – “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”
(John 16:11) -  “Of judgment, because the prince of this world has been judged.”
(Colossians 2:14-15) – “Having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he has taken it out the way, nailing it to the cross; having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”
(Hebrews 2:14) - “Since then the children are partakers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to nothing him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
The “casting out” of Satan parallels the “great mountain burning with fire that was cast into the sea” during the second trumpet (8:8), the “casting down” of Babylon(18:21), and the “casting” of Satan into the Abyss (20:3). In each case the same Greek verb is used, ballō.
     The Dragon’s “angels” were cast to the earth with him. This alludes to Daniel’s vision of the “little horn that waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the earth, and trampled upon them” (Daniel 8:10). This little horn acted against God by desecrating the Jerusalem Temple and causing the cessation of the daily sacrifices.
     What Daniel called “host and stars” Revelation interprets as “messengers” or angeloi. It is not always clear whether by “messenger” Revelation refers to angelic beings or human messengers. For example, commentators still debate whether the seven “angels” of the seven churches were angels or human messengers (Revelation 1:20). However, in context, the seven “messengers” likely were men sent to deliver the seven letters to the seven churches of Asia (“blessed is he that reads and they that hear the words of this prophecyJohn to the seven churches” [1:3]).
     In the interpretation of Daniel’s vision the downfall of the “host and stars” occurred when a fierce king “destroyed the mighty and the holy people” (Daniel 8:20-25). The same ruler who desecrated the Temple appears in a later vision as a malignant ruler who in addition “corrupts by flatteries they who do wickedly against the covenant,” that is, he causes apostasy in Israel(11:31-32).
    In Daniel, the “host and stars” represent men from Israel caused to apostatize by the “little horn.” This background makes it likely that the “stars” cast out with the Dragon represent human beings, and very possibly fallen saints.

The Victory of the Saints
(Revelation 12:10-12) – “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now has come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ; because the accuser of our brethren has been cast out, who was accusing them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and because they loved not their life even unto death. For this cause be joyful, O heavens, and you who are tabernacling in it. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the Devil has come down to you having great fury, knowing that he has but a little season.”
The “loud voice” interprets the vision, a usage found elsewhere in Revelation (1:10; 19:1). The voice breaks into a hymn to summarize the result of the vision, a pattern seen elsewhere (4:8-10; 5:6-14; 7:9-17; 14:2-5; 15:3-4). It portrays Satan’s defeat in “heaven” as a result of Christ’s victory on the earth. The Devil lost the legal basis on which to accuse the saints (Revelation 2:11, 20:6).
     The voice declares that now has come the “salvation, power and the kingdom of God,” things previously assigned to the victorious Lamb and attributed to his overcoming death (5:5-12). This is a further indicator that in view is the victory over the Dragon, a result of the Son’s death and resurrection.
     Satan’s role under the Law as the ‘accuser’ has come to an end (Job 1:9; 2:5; Zechariah 3:1-2; Luke 10:18). The Devil’s final defeat is now certain but he is not yet out of the fight. His expulsion from heaven means he carries out the role of a deceiver on the earth. Note well the present tense in verse 9: “he who is deceiving the whole habitable earth.”
     Satan’s defeat means the inauguration of God’s kingdom and the start of the Messiah’s reign. The language echoes Psalm 2:6-10 already heard when the seventh trumpet sounded: “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (11:15). Christ’s reign begins with his exaltation but awaits consummation at the end of the age, along with the final victory over the Devil (20:10).
     The clause, “for they loved not their lives even until death (archi thanatou),” parallels the promise to believers in Smyrna who persevere in testimony and thereby “overcome”: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Become faithful until death(archi thanatou), and I will give you the crown of life” (2:10). The same idea is present in the fifth seal with the souls under the altar “slain because of the word of God and because of their testimony” (6:9-11).
     Satan is furious because he knows “he has but a little season.” This time period parallels that from the fifth seal when the souls under the altar were told they must rest “yet a little while” until the full complement of martyrs was assembled, “their fellow-servants who were going to be slain as even them.” This “little season” corresponds to the period measured as twelve hundred sixty days (11:3, 12:6), forty-two months (11:2, 13:5-6), and “time, times and half a time” (12:14). The idea is based on Daniel 7:21-25 where the “little horn” prevailed against the saints of God, “until a time, times and part of a time.”
     “Rejoice, O heavens, and you who are tabernacling in it.” “Tabernacle” translates the Greek verb skėnoō, which is related to the noun skėnė or “tent, tabernacle.” This is different than the verb translated elsewhere in Revelation for “dwell” or “inhabitant,” as in the “inhabitants of the earth.” The innumerable multitude of the redeemed was seen before the throne where God “tabernacles among them” (7:15). Later the Beast slanders God’s tabernacle and “them that tabernacle in heaven” (13:6). In New Jerusalem, the “tabernacle of God is with men and He will tabernacle with them,” which occurs in the new heaven and new earth (21:3).
     The reference is not to a geographical location but to believers with whom God dwells, regardless of location. The only group directly addressed in this verse is: “you who are tabernacling in it.” The pronouncement of “woe” is not to another group of humans but to “the earth and the sea.” Again, no mention is made here of the “inhabitants of the earth,” a group hostile to God elsewhere; the warning is not for them. The target of his wrath becomes clear in verse 17, the “woman, and he went away to make war with the rest of her seed, them who keep the commandments of God and have the witness of Jesus.”

His Pursuit of the Woman’s 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 male. And there were given to the Woman the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly into the Wilderness to her place where she is nourished a time, times half a time from the face of the Serpent. And the Serpent cast out of his mouth water like a river after the Woman, 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 that 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 testimony of Jesus.”
The Dragon is enraged because of his inability to thwart the Son and the short time left to him. He vents his rage by persecuting the Woman. But she is nourished in the wilderness for a “time, times half a time,” another allusion to Daniel 7:25. Her nourishment echoes the story of Yahweh feeding Israel in the Wilderness with “manna” (Exodus 16:15-35).  Jesus earlier promised the “hidden manna” to the one who overcomes (Revelation 2:17). This is a picture of God sustaining the Woman despite the persecuting activity of Satan.
     The “two wings of the eagle” that transport the woman 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” (Deuteronomy 1:31-33; 32:10-12; Isaiah 40:31). Just as Pharaoh chased the Israelites after they left Egypt, now the Dragon pursues the woman into the wilderness. Pharaoh previously ordered the drowning of Israelite children, likewise, Satan now sends out a “river” to overwhelm the woman.
     Elsewhere in Revelation words issue out of the mouths of creatures, whether good or evil (1:16; 2:16; 9:19; 11:5; 13:5; 14:5; 19:15). This “flood” represents attempts to destroy the Woman by deception; lies and slanderous accusations (cp. 2:2; 2:9; 2:13-14; 2:20-24; 3:9). In each case the assault is connected to Satan; the “synagogue of Satan” (2:9; 3:9), the “throne of Satan” (2:13), and the “deep things of Satan” (2:24).
     God intervenes to thwart the Dragon’s effort to destroy the Woman. Enraged even further, Satan 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.” Another allusion to Daniel 7:21 is included (the little horn “made war with the saints and prevailed over them”).
     Verse 17 is a transition to the next section in which a more detailed picture of the Dragon’s attack on the saints is provided (13:1-10). It is also a link to the Two Witnesses against whom the Beast from the Abyss waged war (11:7).
    The “rest of her seed” is comprised of them who “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.” Similarly, the souls under the altar in the fifth seal were slain “because of the word of God and because of the testimony they had” (6:9-11).

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