War in Heaven

WAR IN HEAVENAnd there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” (Revelation 12:7-12)

Celestial Conflict – What is this celestial conflict all about? The fact that Michael led God’s angels to victory is significant, because
Michael is identified with the nation Israel (Daniel 10:10–21; 12:1; Jude 9). There is also a touch of irony. The name Michael means who is like God? This contrasts with Satan’s egocentric boast – “I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). Apparently, the devil’s hatred of Israel (and perhaps realizing that his time is short) will spur him to make one final assault against the throne of God. But he will be defeated by Michael and a heavenly host.

Another factor is possibly involved in this war. After the church is taken to Heaven (assuming a pre-or-mid tribulation Rapture), believers will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and have their works examined and rewarded (Romans 14:10–12; 1 Corinthians 3:10–15; 2 Corinthians 5:10–11). If Satan still has access to heaven at this point, he will likely accuse the saints, pointing out all their spots, wrinkles and blemishes (Ephesians 5:24–27). The term devil means accuser, and the name Satan means adversary. Today, Satan stands at the throne of God and fights the saints by accusing them (Job 1–2; Zechariah 3). But Jesus Christ is our Advocate (1 John 2:1–2). He represents the Church before God’s holy throne. Because Jesus Christ died for us, we can overcome Satan’s accusations “by the blood of the Lamb.” Our salvation is secure, not because of our own works, but because of His finished work at Calvary.(1)

Satan Hurled Down to Earth – Once he was the highest of God’s angels. But he rebelled against God and was cast down (Isaiah 14:12–15) from his Heavenly position. While Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection resulted in Satan’s ultimate defeat (John 12:31–33), he apparently still has limited access to Heaven. He remains active today, but will one day be cast out of heaven for good (Revelation 12:7–10) with no further access. Finally, he will be cast into hell (Revelation 20:10). Meanwhile, his strategy is to persecute God’s people and devour them if possible (1 Peter 5:8).

Some see the description here in Revelation as Satan being cast from heaven originally. However, the passage associates these events to the 42 months of Tribulation on earth. The woman, probably representing Israel, in this context, is taken to a place of safety in the desert while the war in heaven is fought. When the enemy loses the battle in heaven and is cast down to earth, he pursues the woman.(2) He can no longer accuse in Heaven, so he pursues on the earth.

Although the timeline is somewhat obscure, and interpretations may vary, the sequence of events surrounding Satan appears to be as follows.

Satan Loses His Place – Ezekiel 28:12–15 describes Satan prior to his fall where he enjoyed a position of highest honor before God. After the fall, he became God’s chief adversary (in Hebrew Satan). In his pre-fall splendor, he was filled with wisdom and beauty, and he was blameless. Satan’s fall is also described in Isaiah 14. Because of his sin, Satan was cast from the presence of God (Ezekiel 28:16). The reason for Satan’s downfall was his pride over his beauty and his wisdom. Isaiah 14:12–14 provides further insight into the sin that led to his downfall, reciting five “I will’s” that emphasize his sin.

I will ascend to the heavens.”
“I will raise my throne above the stars of God.”
“I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon [The sacred mountain of the god Baal or Baal-Hadad in Canaanite religion].(3)
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds.”
“I will make myself like the Most High.”

He desired to enter the very presence of God and establish his throne on God’s throne above the other angels. He wanted to be like the Most High. For that reason, God cast him out of heaven. Satan led a host, possibly as much as one-third of the angels, from heaven in his fall (Ezekiel 28:16–17).(4)

Satan Loses His War – In Genesis 3:15 God put Satan on notice that he would have a minor and temporary victory (“you shall bruise him on the heel”), but that Christ would have a major and permanent victory through the cross (“He shall bruise you on the head”).(5)

Satan Loses His Power – Christ became flesh, and through His substitutionary death He defeated Satan, rendering him impotent in the believer’s life. Satan had the power of death over people, but that power was broken through Christ (Hebrews 2:14).(6)

Satan Loses His Access – Scripture makes it clear that Satan has access to heaven (Job 1–2, Revelation 12:10) where he accuses God’s people.(7) His casting out of heaven in Revelation 12:13 is an act of judgment. The “war in heaven” probably refers to the stellar heavens, also known as the second heaven,(8) as there is no indication that Satan’s demons have any access to God’s Heaven. It is also difficult to conceive of warfare occurring in Heaven itself.

Up Next – The Dragon’s pursuit of the Woman.

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References

  1. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 603). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  2. Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (p. 1081). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Major Contributors and Editors. (2016). Zaphon, Mount. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  4. Enns, P. P. (1989). The Moody handbook of theology (p. 294). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.
  5. Enns, P. P. (1989). The Moody handbook of theology (p. 294). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.
  6. Enns, P. P. (1989). The Moody handbook of theology (p. 294). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.
  7. Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (p. 1081). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  8. Enns, P. P. (1989). The Moody handbook of theology (pp. 294–295). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

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