War in Heaven

The saints overcome the Dragon through the death of the Lamb and their faithful witness even unto death – Revelation 12:11. 

Dinosaur Toy - Photo by Hannah Pemberton on Unsplash
In Chapter 12 of the book of 
Revelation, the “sign of the Great Red Dragon” appears in the heavens, signifying that the “war” has commenced between his forces and those of the “son” who is destined to “shepherd the nations.” But the result of Satan’s attempt to destroy the “son” is his expulsion from “heaven,” and the proclamation of the victory of the “brethren” - [Photo by Hannah Pemberton on Unsplash].

The “war” between the “Dragon” and “Michael and his angels” is the heavenly counterpart to the conflicts on the earth described in the larger passage - the Devil’s attempt to destroy the “son,” the woman “clothed with the sun,” and the “rest of her seed.”

And this cosmic battle is also echoed in the daily struggles of the seven churches of Asia, as recorded in the seven letters in chapters 2 and 3, both in the persecuting activities of their opponents and the deceptions propagated by deceivers within the churches (e.g., “Jezebel… who teaches my servants to eat things offered to idols”).

EXPULSION


And the description of the “war” uses language from the prophet Daniel’s vision of Michael when he stood firm in his fight on behalf of God’s people:
  • 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” - (Daniel 12:1).
  • And there was war in heaven: MICHAEL and his angels going forth to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels, and they prevailed not, NEITHER WAS THEIR PLACE FOUND ANYMORE IN HEAVEN” - (Revelation 12:7-8).
  • Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken in pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away so that NO PLACE WAS FOUND FOR THEM: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” - (Daniel 2:35).

Having failed in his attempt to destroy the “son,” no place remains for the “Dragon” in the courts of heaven. The description of his expulsion alludes to the interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream by Daniel.

The Babylonian ruler dreamed of a great image composed of several materials, which represented four “kingdoms.” A “stone cut out without hands” smote the image, meaning all four kingdoms represented by it, and it crushed them into dust. After that, “NO PLACE WAS FOUND FOR THEM” and the stone became a great mountain that filled the whole earth, representing God’s everlasting kingdom - (Daniel 2:35).

The book of Revelation graphically portrays the victory of God’s kingdom, beginning in chapter 12 with the birth and exaltation of the messianic “son.” But first, the “Dragon” must be defeated.

THE SERPENT


Satan is called “the Ancient Serpent,” an identification that links him to the “serpent” in the Garden of Eden. Like Eve, the “woman clothed with the sun” is the mortal enemy of the “Dragon” - (Genesis 3:1, 3:14).

But he is also named the “Devil and Satan.” The terms mean “slanderer” and “adversary,” respectively. In Eden, he claimed that God’s warning not to eat fruit from the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” was untrue, and thus, he slandered Yahweh by insinuating that He had ulterior motives and spoke falsely - (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.” The reference to the “habitable earth” demonstrates that humanity has always been the target of the Serpent’s deceptive activities - (Genesis 3:13).

Satan is also called the “Great Red Dragon,” an echo of Ezekiel 29:1-3 in which the king of Egypt is compared to a “great dragon.” This is an example of how Revelation folds imagery from the history of Israel into its narrative about the “Lamb” and his “saints.

CHRIST’S VICTORY


In the vision, the expulsion of Satan did not occur at a point in the remote past, nor is it still waiting for a future event. As elsewhere in the New Testament, his defeat resulted from the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus, the Lamb - (Luke 10:18, Colossians 2:14-15, Hebrews 2:14, Revelation 5:5-14).

The “casting” of the Dragon from heaven parallels the earlier image of a “great mountain burning with fire that was cast into the sea,” and the picture of Satan being “cast into the Abyss” at the start of the thousand years- (Revelation 8:8, 20:3).

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.

Victory - Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash
[Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash]


The hymn declares the defeat of the “Dragon” by “Christ” and the latter’s resultant victory. The Devil has lost his legal basis to accuse the “brethren” before God. Now, they are declared “not guilty” in the heavenly court, and therefore, they are exempt from the “second death” - (Revelation 1:10, 2:11, 5:6-14, 7:9-17,14:2-5, 15:3-4, 20:6).

With Christ’s victory, the Devil’s role as the “accuser of the brethren” has come to an end. No longer does he or death have a legal claim on their life.

Moreover, his defeat means the inauguration of the “kingdom of our God” and the commencement of Christ’s reign (“Now, has come the salvation, the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ”).

However, though knocked down, the “Dragon” is not yet out of the fight. Following his expulsion, he assumes the role of the deceiver of the “whole habitable earth,” and he uses it to persecute the “woman” and her “seed.”

HIS REIGN


The hymn’s language echoes the messianic promises from the second Psalm, and it reiterates words heard earlier 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.”

While the kingdom may wait for its consummation at the end of the age, its commencement began with the death and exaltation to the “throne” of the messianic “son.”

The martyrs of the fifth seal were told to 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” during which he deceived the “habitable earth” refers to this same period, as do the “twelve hundred and sixty days,” the “forty-two months,” and the “time, times and half a time” during which he wages “war” on the “saints.”

However, from now on, as the Devil persecutes “those who have the testimony of Jesus,” he only succeeds in sealing his own doom, and thus, demonstrating the victory achieved already by the “son” - (Revelation 6:9, 11:2-3, 12:6-14, 13:5-6).

Those who are “tabernacling in heaven” refers to the righteous in contrast to the ungodly, “those who dwell on the earth.” The reference is not spatial; it does not refer to angels or disembodied spirits.

Instead, the “saints” who follow the “Lamb” are the ones who now “tabernacle in heaven.” Their lives are oriented toward and belong to God, not the fallen world order or the “Dragon.” They belong to the realm from which Satan has been ejected, and no longer are they under his legal jurisdiction - (Revelation 7:15, 11:1-2, 13:6).

Finally, the declaration of victory for the “saints” provides the explanation for how they “overcome” their “accuser,” the Devil. They “overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death.”

The “brethren,” including the overcoming “saints” from the “churches of Asia,” overcome the “Dragon” because of the sacrificial death of Jesus, and by giving faithful “testimony” before their accusers even if doing so means personal loss, economic deprivation, and martyrdom.



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