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 any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.Revelation 12:7-9 ASV
The war and its issue are introduced as an explanation of Satan’s fury in these last times and a prediction of his final overthrow.
This war does not merely explain Satan’s fury during “these last times” but also the fury of Satan from the garden of Eden until the end of time, thus providing the true key to the problem of just “when” this conflict occurred.
The events of this encounter lie totally outside the perimeter of the Judeo-Christian religion.
The Bible reveals very little with reference to it, except a few references here and there.
That these verses concern a past event, prior to all history, and perhaps even prior to the human creation itself, is absolutely certain.
No other possible understanding of it is either intellectually or theologically tenable. That the Apocalyptist thinks of it as past is evident.
It (Revelation 12:7,8) is included here to account for the relentless hostility of the devil towards God and his church. It relates to the period anterior to the Creation, concerning which we have a slight hint in Jude 1:1:6.
Inasmuch as this interpretation is rejected by some, a glance at the reasons for its adoption here is appropriate.
(1) It explains the reason for the passage’s appearance in this context.
(2) The war is between the devil and Michael, not between the devil and Christ.
(3) This removes it from the period of the Incarnation, during which the war is between Christ and Satan.
(4) Spiritualizing this passage to make the war a post-resurrection conflict contradicts Matthew 28:18-20. This device is also ridiculous in other ways. These verses require a much more literal interpretation.
(5) The transfer of Satan’s activities to earth did not occur either during Christ’s ministry, nor after his resurrection.
It existed before the birth of Christ (Revelation 12:4), and for ages prior thereto.
(6) The heavenly doxology in Revelation 12:10,12, is at once both proleptic and retrospective, a common feature in this prophecy, and makes no sense at all unless it is so understood.
Furthermore, this doxology begins with Revelation 12:10, and should be separated from the account of the war and made the beginning of a new paragraph.
(7) The “strongest argument” opposed to this view is based on Luke 10:18, where Jesus said, “I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven,” a statement made by our Lord upon the return of the seventy; but that verse is a reference to a past event, not to a future one; and it is inconceivable that Jesus meant the casting out of a few demons by the seventy was the equivalent of Satan’s being thrown out of heaven!
When Jesus said, “Now shall the prince of this world (Satan) be cast out” (John 12:31), he did not mean, nor did he say, “out of heaven.”
Satan was about to be cast out of the earth, not in the final sense, but in the sense of the enabling victory of the Cross about to be consummated.
This apocalyptic account of Satan’s being thrown out of heaven has absolutely nothing to do with the passages in the gospel.
Two different wars are in view:
(1) that of Michael and Satan which issued in Satan’s being thrown out of heaven, and
(2) that of Christ and Satan with the final result of Satan’s being thrown out of the earth and into the lake of fire.
(8) Advocates of other views are not easily dissuaded, attempting to show that in the Old Testament Satan is represented as having access to the presence of God (in the sense of heaven, of course) quoting Job 1:6-9; Job 2:1-6 and Zechariah 3:1,2.
The inference drawn from such passages is that Satan was “still in heaven” during Old Testament times, and that the war in this passage had not yet occurred.
But what about those passages in Job? There is no hint whatever of the events there being “in heaven.”
Twice in that passage Satan confessed that he was “walking up and down in the earth” (Job 1:7; 2:2).
Job was a citizen of the earth at the time of those events; and the access that Satan had to God in that passage was exactly that of “the sons of God” who were also living on the earth.
The same truth is evident in Zechariah where Satan was in the presence of the high priest (during the high priest’s lifetime on earth).
But were they not also standing before the angel of the Lord? Indeed they were; but the ministry of angels itself is for the saints on the earth (Hebrews 1:14).
Returning again to Luke 10:18, if Jesus meant that Satan had only recently been cast out of heaven, what possible event in the ministry of Jesus was the occasion of it?
No! Jesus definitely referred to the event related in these verses, and for exactly the same purpose, that of encouraging his followers.
Satan’s being cast out of heaven was the prophecy of his final overthrow in the lake of fire.
(9) The name Michael can hardly be construed as a “figure” of anything. To do so would send us in search of figurative meanings for hundreds of Biblical names.
Michael stands in the Old Testament as a mighty angel, the prince of God’s Israel (Daniel 10:13), and in the New Testament as the archangel (Jude 1:1:9).
Michael appears as the leader of the heavenly host … his angels. This accords with his description as archangel (Jude 1:1:9).
The dragon also leads a band of angels, spoken of in Matthew 25:41.
Presumably, these angels who followed Satan are the same as those of Jude 1:6,2 Peter 2:4.
We consider these verses historical, despite the objections of some scholars who go out of their way to deny it.
This paragraph must be interpreted in its context in Revelation rather than in relation to obscure Old Testament passages, or Milton’s Paradise Lost.
This is not a historical account of the original state of the devil and his fall from that state.
As for the conceit that this prophecy must be interpreted without benefit of the light shed upon it from other passages of the word of God, such notions should be rejected.
What kind of nonsense is it that would deny the light shed by other passages in the Bible, while at the same time dragging in every old pagan myth ever heard of and basing a so-called interpretation on that!
The apostles and the Lord himself appealed to the holy Scriptures as supplying enlightenment upon what they discussed; and Christian scholars should do likewise.
Michael is a valid, historical name of the archangel, used in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Also, there are clearly historical references to fallen angels in both 2 Peter and Jude, which leads us to inquire, why this prejudice against the historical understanding of this?
Besides that, any figurative interpretation winds up in all kinds of insoluble difficulties.
For example, if it is supposed that this “war” came after the resurrection and enthronement of Christ, and that, “It was an effect of Christ’s resurrection and enthronement, how can the previous verses here be true; for this chapter clearly reveals that Satan’s being on earth and hating and persecuting the radiant woman was already a fact long before the birth of Christ.
And they prevailed not … Nothing is revealed to us of this cosmic struggle; but the implication of the great power, daring, and ability of the evil one are evident. Sufficient to us is the truth that he could not win.
Neither was their place found any more in heaven … The implications are here, likewise, profound. This says that Satan once had a place in heaven and provides the clue to understanding Ezekiel 28:12-19 as a description of Satan in his heavenly abode.
Furthermore this passage reveals Satan already to have been at the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy a fallen being utterly under the condemnation of God, adding another prophecy of his ultimate overthrow in the lake of fire. It is impossible to suppose that, when Ezekiel wrote, Satan was still in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast down … he was cast down to earth … It is important to note the difference in being “cast down to earth,” which occurred in the “war” of this passage, and in being “cast out” of the earth, as in John 12:31.
The old serpent … This word carries us back to the garden of Eden, where Satan, under the guise of a serpent, successfully tempted Eve to disobey God’s command.
That is called the devil … There is only one devil, namely Satan. The word “devil” means “slanderous one, false accuser.
And Satan … This is a Grecized transliteration of the Aramaic [~Satana], which originally meant one lying in ambush for.
The deceiver of the whole world … “This means the one continually deceiving, not merely an erratic deception, but a perpetual, never ceasing program.” This is one of ten times that this expression occurs in the New Testament.
No one who actually believes the Lord Jesus Christ and the New Testament can deny it.
After the victory of Christ on the cross, and subsequent to his glorification, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, no further victories were needed, whether by the archangel Michael or any other being in heaven or upon earth.
Therefore, it is theologically impossible to make this war, or battle, in heaven a post-resurrection event.
The mingling of the victory of Michael and that of Christ in the following doxology should not be allowed to obscure this fact.