Revelation 12:5-12 – The War in Heaven

(5)  She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,

                   The male child is born. He is identified as the “one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” This is the prophecy of the Son of God given by David in the second psalm. The psalmist spoke of the nations raging (also seen in 11:18) and the Jewish people plotting against the Lord (Acts 4:25-28). But God laughed at their schemes and held them in derision (Psalm 2:4-6), saying to them “I have sat my King on Zion.” Then we hear the decree from God to the Lord begotten from the dead:

“You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2:7-9).

The Lord was declared the “Son of God in power” by “his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). When he came out of the grave, he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18). His “rod” of rule, is that of iron, unbreakable (see also 2:27, 19:15).

                   “But her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” The ESV says “but her child,” while the KJV says “and her child.” It is harmful to the message to translate kai as “but.” It suggests that the Son came to rule but failed and was caught up to God instead (which is what the premillennialist need for their doctrines). Kai is used 1,911 times in the Greek New Testament and it is never translated “but;” it is the conjunction which agrees with the English word “and.” This text is speaking of his resurrection and ascension into heaven to rule over all with his unbreakable rod.

(6)  and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

                   In the timeframe of the context, this verse would have taken place after the Lord’s ascension to heaven. Thankfully, verses 13-16 will elaborate on this verse with more details. At this point, we don’t know why the woman fled (though we could assume it is because of Satan), nor what this wilderness is (we find out later that it is the rest of the earth). The details which we are given is that this is “prepared by God;” i.e. it was his plan for this to take place. And we know that she would be “nourished for 1,260 days.” The symbolic number is a common figure for dark times, or times of persecution (see comments on 11:2). Here, the number symbolizes the persecution of the woman, which she escapes, and, by the preparation of God, is “nourished.” So, while the persecution seemed like a terrible thing for the woman (i.e. the faithful), God turns it into something to trepho (to feed, fatten, and enlarge) her; i.e. she grew. The faithful grew! We will talk more about this when we get further details (see verses 13-16).

(7)  Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, (8)  but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

                   The vision interrupts to another scene; the purpose is to explain why the woman fled in the previous verse. The explanation begins with Michael (who is a chief angel, Jude 1:9; Daniel 10:13, 21, 12:1) and his army of angels fighting against the devil and his angels. It is important to recognize that Satan is not seen as chasing the Lord up to heaven at his ascension to fight him; This is what some have understood from their imaginations, but that is not what John saw. It was Michael (by the order of God, of course) who started this war against the devil, and while the devil fought back, “he was defeated.”

“And there was no longer any place for them in heaven.” As a reminder, this is still a symbolic illustration which represents spiritual realities; so, if it says, “now war arose in heaven,” then we know that didn’t literally occur, but it gives us a figure of the truth. The truth is (as it comes out later in verse 10), that Satan can no longer accuse the faithful before God, because of the gracious work of Christ. Remember how Satan accused Job before God (Job 1:9-11)? Yeah, that can’t happen anymore. Satan is done, his work is destroyed (1 John 3:8), and there is “no longer any place” for him accuse the faithful, for they are guiltless in Christ. See also 12:10.

 (9)  And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Satan has no place in heaven, and he really shouldn’t have a place anywhere (Ephesians 4:27); but he found a place in the earth. Satan found a place in all the earth, as will be evident in his activity with the Roman Empire in the next chapter; but the immediate context will speak of his activity in the land of the Jews.

(10)  And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

       The loud announcement in heaven gives the explanation of the things seen in the vision. Now salvation has come, along with the power, the kingdom, and the authority of Christ. This chapter has briefly outlined the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Savior. Alongside these events, we see the devil defeated, and defeated, and defeated again. Point taken. So, in application (because this is a book meant to be applied, 1:3), the defeat of Satan is to be well understood by these brethren who must endure the tribulation of those days. From an earthly perspective, it appears that Satan is a great power, and impossible to defeat, but this book was given to show Christ’s servants a better, heavenly perspective on the events of those days. On this premise they are told to endure and overcome.

“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:15)

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14).

“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8).

“Who accuses them day and night before our God.” What a relief it is to know this! This beautiful idea is envisioned for us in Zechariah’s vision of Joshua, the High Priest, who was accused by Satan before God.

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. (2)  And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” (3)  Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. (4)  And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” (5)  And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.” (Zechariah 3:1-5).


(11)  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

                   Notice how the text has turned from the victory of Christ to the victory of the saints. They have the victory over Satan because of the Lord’s victory: “they conquered him by the blood of the Lamb.” But look again, victory is ensured by the blood of the Lamb, but there is another element to their victory: “and by the word of their testimony.” This is a critical point that is often missed today, for we see many “pew warmers” who “attend church” (as if that’s biblically possible), instead of being a portion of the church, the body of Christ. This seems to be satisfactory for them, but I can assure you that it is not fitting to Christ. The conquerors are those who have the testimony of the word of truth; i.e. they testify! They testify of the Lord in their lives, by word and deed. They don’t hold back; in fact, in connection with this, he says, “for they loved not their lives even unto death.” They were not concerned with the preservation of their physical lives, they were concerned with their eternal lives with God (Matthew 10:28).

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17).

(12)  Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

                   While there is joy for those who dwell in the heavens (this includes the Christians who are still on the earth, Ephesians 2:6). There is woe for the world, land and sea, Jew and gentile. For the devil is with them, and anyone who is with the devil is doomed.

                   “He knows that his time is short!” How does he know this? It is not revealed to us; all we know is that he knows it. His time is short, and his aim is to do as much damage as he can before he can before his time is up.

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