Jesus is Sovereign over the Future (Revelation 4-22), cont’d.
Revelation 10-13 Information about the Tribulation, cont’d.
Revelation 12 The War between God and Satan (Content Chapter)
Remember, this is a Content Chapter. While it follows chapter 11 in the order of the pages in the book of Revelation…it does not do so chronologically. In a way, it is the panoramic picture for the historical setting of the entire book of Revelation, the view from 60,000 feet. It backs up historically to God’s original choice and purpose for Israel to be the people through whom the Messiah would be born (:1-2)…tells of Satan’s intention to destroy the Messiah at His birth (:3-4)…moves to the birth and ascension of the Messiah, Jesus (:5)…then jumps ahead to the second half of the Tribulation period (:13-17). This chapter helps us to remember the context and origin of the war between God and Satan that is described in the book of Revelation.
This chapter is an account of that ongoing war. It began long ago…when Satan attempted to overthrow God’s reign in Heaven (battlefront Heaven, Ezekiel 28). He was unsuccessful, and yet, one-third of the angels of Heaven followed him. He, and these angels, fled Heaven and sought refuge on earth. There, he continued in a form of guerilla warfare to try to disrupt God’s plans. On earth, he led another rebellion…successfully tempting Adam to sin against God…resulting in mankind’s separation from God and their eternal exclusion from Heaven. But God was aware of his conspiracy even before Satan had devised it…and had already prepared a means for mankind to be saved and to be reunited with Him for all of eternity in Heaven. He would send His own Son, Jesus, to be the Messiah (the One who would save the people from their sin) to pay the price for man’s sin and to provide them with eternal life in Heaven. Out of all the nations on earth, God chose Israel, to be at the center of His prophetic plan. Israel would be the nation through which the Messiah would be born. Satan then launches a war against Israel (battlefront Earth)…seeking to destroy it and prevent God’s plan.
This chapter picks up the saga of this war at the time of the choosing of Israel…proceeds to the time of the birth of Jesus…and then continues until the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of the Tribulation period. There is an Earthly battlefront of this war and a Heavenly battlefront…taking place at the same time. While there is no actual break in this ongoing battle…the description of the Heavenly battlefront is interjected in the middle of the description of the Earthly battlefront. The time of the Heavenly battlefront depicted here is the middle of the Tribulation period.
The War between God and Satan…battlefront Earth (12:1-6)
The War between God and Satan God…battlefront Heaven (12:7-12)
The War between God and Satan God…battlefront Earth cont’d (12:13-17).
What is this battle about? Satan knows that God’s plan for the redemption of mankind involves Israel. It is through Israel that the Messiah (Jesus) will be born. And, God has chosen Israel to be the poster child of His grace and sovereignty. Over and over, throughout the ages, Satan has tried to destroy Israel in any and every way possible. They have been conquered, enslaved, forcibly removed from their land, dispersed among other nations, and led into apostasy. And yet, once again, Israel is a nation and is continuing to be the center of the progression of prophetic history in the world. Sovereignty. We see it yet another time. God is in control…and Satan hates that. So, he continues to do all that he can to destroy the nation of Israel and thus, to disrupt the plan of God.
In chapters 12, 13, and 14 the main figures of the period of the Great Tribulation are described. In order to understand Revelation it is important to keep the identifications of these individuals in mind.
- The woman…representing Israel
- The dragon…representing Satan
- The man-child…referring to Jesus
- The angel Michael…head of the angelic host
- The offspring of the woman…representing Gentiles who come to faith in the Tribulation
- The beast out of the sea…representing the antichrist
- The beast out of the earth…representing the false prophet who promotes the antichrist
Revelation 12:1-6,13-17- The War between God and Satan…battlefront Earth
The war against God…as it progresses on earth is described here. A woman (Israel) gives birth to a child (Jesus). Women often represent religious systems in Revelation.
- Jezebel is associated with a religious system of false teaching (Revelation 2:20)
- The Great Harlot is associated with false religion (Revelation 17:2)
- The Bride is associated with the church (Revelation 19:7-8)
This woman (Israel) is attacked by the "great red dragon" (Satan). One third of the angels in heaven had followed him in his original rebellion against God (:4, Ezekiel 28)...and though they had failed, they had then followed him to earth. There, they help the dragon (Satan) in his war against the woman. In reality, it is a continuation of the war against God.
This war continues until the mid-point of the Tribulation. This is where the War in Heaven is presented. It has been going on even longer than the War on Earth…but now, it reaches a culmination point. Satan is finally and permanently expelled from Heaven and confined to earth. Once there, he goes on a rampage against the people of God. No longer is he content with disrupting God’s plan…but now he is intent on destroying God’s creation. Follow the flow of the chapter…
12:1 God elected Israel out of all the nations to be His chosen people.
12:2 God announced through His prophets that the Messiah would come through Israel. It says here that, “she was with child”…meaning that as a nation she was expectant, that one day she would bear a baby. She actually has the baby in verse 5.
12:3-4 In some past age (an undesignated time), Satan had rebelled against God in Heaven. When he did so, he convinced one-third of the angels to follow him. When their rebellion failed they fled to earth.
12:5-6 Israel gave birth to the Messiah…a reference to the birth of Jesus. Jesus was “caught up to God and to His throne”…a reference to the ascension of Jesus into Heaven after the resurrection. There is no mention here of the time or events that took place from the ascension of Jesus until the mid-point of the Tribulation period.
12:7-12 (This is the same War, but it is being carried out on another battlefront…in Heaven. See below.)
12:13 Verse 13 picks up from the ascension of Jesus in verse 6…and jumps ahead to the mid-point of the Tribulation period. At that time, Satan will be cast out of Heaven and is confined to earth (:7-12). In verse 4, Satan had taken those angels who had followed him in his original rebellion and “threw them to the earth”. He had fled the presence of God and taken refuge on earth…taking his army of angels with him. Now, in this verse, Satan is “thrown down to the earth” (see also :10)…meaning that he is restricted to the earth by God. Satan is infuriated and launches his most destructive, evil campaign against Israel and the people of God that he has ever attempted.
12:14-17 These verses describe the days of the second half of the Tribulation period…referred to as the Great Tribulation…the word “Great” meaning “intense, extreme”. In descriptive terminology that portrays the outcome, but not the specific process, John tells us that during this time frame God will continue to protect those who “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus”. Despite the intensity of the attack (“water like a river”) of Satan on God’s people…they will prevail because of His protection. The phrase “a time and times and half a time” speaks of the same time frame as “one hundred thousand two hundred and sixty days” (:6), and “forty-two months” (13:5)…the last 3½ years of the Tribulation, the Great Tribulation.
Revelation 12:7-12- The War between God and Satan God…battlefront Heaven
12:7-8 The events described in these verses take place half way through the Tribulation period. They are actually the catalyst for the events of the Great Tribulation.
What is the nature of this “war in heaven”? First, it appears to be a war between Satan (representative of himself and those angels who had previously rebelled against God) and Michael (and those angels who had remained faithful to God). Could it be that this war is a continuation of the rebellion that Satan had instigated long ago? Is Satan still trying to convince more of the angels in Heaven to follow him? Is he still intent on usurping the throne of God and taking over Heaven? Yes, absolutely! How does he wage this war? He attempts to make God’s plan of redemption of mankind to appear to have failed. Notice that he is called “the accuser of our brethren” and that he “accuses them before God day and night”. He is constantly berating God…claiming that He is unworthy to rule because He has failed at saving mankind. To make his point…he continuously points out the sins of mankind. In other words, “Where is this salvation that You have promised? They are still sinners and all of creation is still enslaved to sin. You sent Your own Son to take care of the problem and all that He managed to do was to get Himself killed. What a disgrace for a heavenly being. And, if You cannot manage the affairs of one single planet…how can You expect to be sovereign over the entire universe? You have failed miserably and are not worthy to be God!”
12:9 Finally, God is through with the accusations. Actually, perhaps the only reason why He had even allowed Satan to continue this long is because He was ultimately using him to accomplish His own purposes. There now comes the time (at the 3½ year point of the Tribulation) when God will no longer allow Satan to enter into Heaven…”there was no longer a place found for them in heaven” (:8). He and the angels that had followed him in his rebellion are, “thrown down…thrown down to earth…his angels were thrown down with him…thrown down…come down…thrown down to the earth” (:9,10,12,13). By repetitively making reference to this fact…John makes it clear that Satan has been forcibly expelled from Heaven and interned to the confines of earth.
12:10-11 A voice in Heaven announces what has taken place. Not only has Satan been cast out of Heaven…but, God’s redemptive plan has been vindicated and His sovereign rule has been validated. It almost appears that there was something of a courtroom scene in Heaven. Satan, “the accuser of the brethren” was the prosecuting attorney. Michael (the only angel designated as an archangel in the Bible, Jude 9) was serving as the defense attorney. Satan did everything he could to discredit God’s plan of redemption and to defame those people who had accepted Jesus as their Savior. Then Michael brought in his witnesses…men and women from throughout the ages who had accepted Jesus as Savior. The verdict was in…”They overcame him (Satan) because of…”
- “the blood of the Lamb”…Jesus had not failed at all. In fact, He had perfectly and completely fulfilled His role to be the sinless sacrificial lamb that would pay the price for the sins of the world. They stand before this court as visual proof of the effectiveness of salvation through Jesus…having had their sins forgiven and having been washed clean, even as those in 7:14 (“they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”).
- “the word of their testimony”…These witnesses gave testimony that they had received Jesus as their Savior and had their sins forgiven. The tell the story of their transformed lives. God knew that Satan is the one who “deceives the whole world”. That he had sought to lead men to believe in many other messiahs, many other religions…but he had failed and his efforts had been made public. Here, in their presence, were men that had believed in the message of Jesus and who lives had been radically changed.
- “they did not love their life even to the death”…And here was the final, ultimate proof, the coup de grâce. These men were not just faithful because of what they thought they would gain in life if they believed in Jesus (an accusation probably made by Satan). No, these men were faithful even if that faith meant that they would die.
12:12 Notice the two different responses to Satan being cast out of Heaven to earth. In Heaven…there is joy. But on earth…there is sorrow. Satan is aware that he is finished. He only has a short time left (less than 3½ years) and he is intent to do all that he can to destroy the creation of God.
Prayer: Lord, please give me Your spiritual wisdom to recognize the attacks of Satan, and Your spiritual strength to fight of his attacks.