Monday, 1 March 2021
And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, Revelation 12:7
John has been describing the events, most probably future to us now, concerning Israel’s birthing of Jesus as their Messiah. This is symbolized by the woman bearing a Child. It said in the previous verse that “the woman fled into the wilderness.” There she will be kept by God for a set period of time. Now, John’s eyes are directed to another vision that is not necessarily chronological, but rather it is topical. He says, “And war broke out in heaven.”
It is an aorist verb. At a particular time, not necessarily at the time of the events previously described, war broke out in heaven. There are innumerable ideas about the event, but the two most likely scenarios are either 1) that this was at the beginning when the heavenly hosts rebelled against divine authority, or 2) that this occurred at the time of Christ’s work – His incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.
It seems most likely that the first scenario is what is being described. It is what Jude 1:6 appears to be referring to –
“And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”
The words of Jude are speaking of heavenly beings, and they follow after Peter’s words found in 2 Peter 2:4 –
“For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.”
It is the same thought presented by Jude. Peter did not state precisely what sin was involved, but Jude expanded upon it, saying, “who did not keep their proper domain.” The word translated as “domain” is arché. It signifies “beginning,” as in time, but also the first as in principality or rule. Some translations will choose one option, others the other option. As this is speaking of angels that are in a place of authority, it is certainly speaking of the latter. Paul uses it this way in Ephesians 6 –
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12
These angels departed from their place of rank and authority. It is these angels which today are known as demons, and it is these unholy forces that Paul refers to. Jude next said, “but left their own abode.” The word he used speaks of a place of habitation; a house. The obvious conclusion is that in leaving their place of rule, they left their place where the rule occurs, meaning heaven.
In heaven, they were in a particular authority where angels were created to minister to man (see Hebrews 1:14). However, rather than ministering to man, the angels wanted to rule over man. This is clearly indicated in Paul’s words of Ephesians 6, but it is also found in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8 in regard to the demoniac in the country of the Gergesenes (also known as the Gaderenes).
In these passages, it is seen that having left their heavenly abode, the angels came to earth, not as ministering spirits for God, but as invaders under Satan. Instead of being servants for the benefit of men, they came as tyrants over men. Understanding this, John continues with his words concerning this, saying, “Michael and his angels fought with the dragon.”
Michael, which means “who is like God,” is the archangel, or chief of the angels. He is mentioned four times in the Bible. He is first mentioned in Daniel 10:21 where it is said to Daniel that he is “your prince.” This is a little vague, but it is explained more fully in Daniel 12:1. In that verse, Michael is called “the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people.” Thus, the connection is with Israel. Daniel, being of the nation of Israel, shows that Michael is the protector of them.
Michael is also mentioned in the 65th book of the Bible, Jude. It is there that his designation as the archangel is made. John noted that Michael, along with his angels, fought with the dragon. The question is, “Is this ‘dragon’ the same as that referred to in verse 12:3?” The answer is, “Probably not.” And yet, the dragon of verse 12:3 is under the authority and rule of this dragon here in verse 12:7. In other words, and as noted in verse 12:3, the dragon can represent Satan, or it can represent the powers of Satan as worked out in governments. The dragon now being referred to in verse 12:7 is explicitly said to be “the Devil and Satan” in verse 12:9.
And so, what appears to be happening here in verses 12:7-9 (and which then includes a continued explanation of the event even through verse 13) is an accounting of why there is the great hostility of Satan towards the redemptive plan of God as is being worked out in history, and most especially as is recorded in the book of Revelation. God is working through a specific group of people, Israel, as He works out His plans. Those plans continue even after the rapture of the church as Israel is brought back into the focus of the redemptive narrative. With that understanding, the words of John continue, saying, “and the dragon and his angels fought.”
This concerns the events that begin during the angelic rebellion. Satan (the dragon) rebelled, and Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. Again, as stated previously, this part of the narrative is included to show us why there is hostility against the people of God. In thwarting God’s plans, it would show that He is incapable of keeping the promises He has made, promises which include protecting Israel and maintaining them as a people.
Life application: There really are spiritual battles being waged and they have occurred since the beginning, even as is recorded in Chapter 3 of Genesis. They will continue until the 20th chapter of Revelation. For those in Christ, we continue in that spiritual battle, as Paul reveals in Ephesians 6.
Through Christ, we have an assured victory, but until we are taken to glory, we still must face the attacks of the devil. The way to be prepared for those attacks is to know the word of the Lord and to put on the full armor of God as is described in it. If we do this, our effectiveness in thwarting the devil’s attacks will be possible. In the end, let us pursue this path standing firm in our faith in the Lord. Yes, let us be confident in our Lord JESUS!
Lord, help us to properly balance our spiritual lives, understanding that there is a devil and that we are in a battle against him and his forces as we continue our walk towards glory. But at the same time, help us to remember that we already have the final victory in Christ. Help us to not have unbalanced priorities by focusing too much on a battle with a defeated foe. In Christ, the victory is assured! Amen.