A massive heavenly conflict took up all of John’s vision, the ultimate in cataclysms. Was it historical? Allegorical? Prophetic?
Is this oracle a glimpse into the prehistoric dawn of creation, long before humanity entered the stage? Or is it a harbinger of the terrifying time to come, the Tribulation?
Then came war in heaven, Michael and his angels to engage in battle with the dragon. And the dragon engaged in battle, and his angels, and he did not have power, nor was a place yet found for them in heaven.
And cast out was the great dragon, the ancient serpent, the one who is called Devil [Opposer], and the Satan [Accuser], the one who is leading astray the whole world—he was thrown down into the earth, and his angels with him were thrown down.
And I heard a great loud voice in the sky saying, “Even now came the salvation and the might and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ, because he was cast out: the accuser of our brothers and sisters, the one accusing them in the presence of our God, day and night.”
And these conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the Word of their witness and they did not love their life as far as death. Because of this be gladdened, the heavens and those dwelling in them.
Alas the earth and the sea, because the devil went down to you all, having colossal rage, perceiving that he has little time.Revelation 12:7-12
Friday, I looked at the historicist and preterist perspectives.
Today, we look into the future.
Because these two visions are given sequentially, there must be a connection between them. And because Michael is named (the only angel entitled “archangel”), there must also be a connection to Daniel’s vision of this very scene.
Daniel 12:1-4 (NRSV, modifications mine)
- At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. [John’s vision of cosmic cataclysm]
- There shall be a time of anguish such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. [The great seven-year Tribulation]
- But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. [The Rapture]
- Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. [Final Judgment]
- Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. [Life in the new heavens and new earth]
- But you, Daniel, keep the words secret and the book sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be running back and forth, and evil shall increase.”
Daniel saw the things John now recorded, but Daniel was not to describe his vision. Instead, he was to seal it up and keep it a secret.
For futurist interpreters, what both Daniel and John observed was the the hurling of Satan to earth with the remnant of his rebellion, which will trigger world tribulation.
Other expositors place heaven’s war at the fifth trumpet, which heralds the plummeting star, unlocking the abyss, belching smog, and locust swarms.
Some commentators place the expulsion of Satan from heaven with the rapture of all believers into heaven, associated with the starting point of Daniel’s seventy weeks.
“Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.”Angel Gabriel, Daniel 9:24 (NRSV)
The reason this is a great salvation – despite the horrors now being visited upon the earth – has to do with the decisive conquest of the forces of evil. This battle has been won, God’s ascendancy is conclusive.
Nevertheless, combat continues. Satan will bring his malevolent campaign to earth, grimly intent on the destruction of God’s people and God’s presence in the world. But, the great voice in heaven cries, “Even now came the salvation and the might and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ, because he was cast out: the accuser of our brothers and sisters, the one accusing them in the presence of our God, day and night.” Satan cannot even win the earth for his own, no matter how grisly his attacks, how sadistic his salting of every ravaged field.
And these embattled saints conquered even the Prince of Darkness, the great voice explains, because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the Word of their witness.
Tribulation saints, those who come to saving faith in Christ during this ghastly era, did not love their life as far as death. Death will have no sting for them. Instead, Christians will come full circle to the first centuries of the Jesus movement, and welcome martyrdom for the sake of Christ.
The victory of the saints will be spiritual, certainly. Satan will have no hold over them, his accusations will fall empty away. But physically there will be bloodshed, rivers of it, because the devil went down … having colossal rage, perceiving that he has little time.
Satan will have a mere seven years of Tribulation to win or lose his war for the world.
Theologians who view Revelation from a spiritualized perspective see the story of the woman and the story of the war as the same spiritual conflict, simply employing different imagery.
Compare these two verses from the same chapter:
Then another portent was discerned in the sky, and behold! A gigantic fiery dragon, having seven heads and ten horns and upon his heads seven diadems, and his tail drags the third of the stars of the sky, and he hurled them onto the earth.
… And cast out was the great dragon, the ancient serpent, the one who is called Devil [Opposer], and the Satan [Accuser], the one who is leading astray the whole world—he was thrown down into the earth, and his angels with him were thrown down.Revelation 12:4, 7
Since this is John’s oracle, it makes sense to look in John’s Gospel for a corollary, and there is one, as the time of the cross neared for Jesus.
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say: ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.
“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.John 12:27-22 (NRSV)
As Jesus did the greater work of the cross and resurrection, the archangel Michael enacted the overthrow of Satan, inaugurating the New and Better Covenant. Satan’s accusations can no longer be heard in any heavenly court for Christ has rendered the old covenant of law obsolete.
Satan continues to accuse, seeking to cause spiritual and emotional harm. But those who are in Christ by faith by grace turn to the armor of God for strength. Thus arrayed, Christians successfully engage in defense and offense in the ongoing struggle against the devil.
- The blood of the Lamb—saves believers from the devil’s indictments.
- The Word of their witness—spreads the Gospel to others, saving them.
Christians will die for their faith – are dying today, by the hundreds and thousands – because Satan’s malice is untinctured fury, knowing his time is limited and will soon be up. But death for Christians, no matter how painful and horrific on earth, is the ultimate spiritual victory, for each is welcomed in heaven with great rejoicing.
Because of this be gladdened, the great voice cried out, the heavens and those dwelling in them.
The four perspectives taken from Revelation: Four Views A Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg