And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels warred against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels warred, and he did not have strength, nor was a place found for them any more in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown out, the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, deceiving the whole world; he was cast down into the earth, and his angels with him were thrown down.
It seems like the best way to interpret this passage is by concluding it comes before verse 6. It seems as though we have in Revelation 12:1 that the woman is in heaven, and again in verse 3 that the dragon is in heaven, but when we come to verses 5-6, we’re left with both of these signs appearing to be on the earth. Thus, it is my conclusion that we are seeing the overview in the first six verses, and then from verses 7-17 more details are being added.
The obscure Greek is from Hebraicism (see Hosea 9:13, Psalm 25:14, 1 Chronicles 9:25, Ecclesiastes 3:15). “War broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels had to fight with the dragon, and the dragon…” We see this concept of war in heaven in Daniel 10:13 and 20. Though Luke 10:18 and Ezekiel 28:17 attest to Satan already being cast down to the earth, we find in Job 1:6 that Satan still has residence in the heavenly places (see Ephesians 2:1-3 and Zechariah 3:1 as well).
Michael is seen in the book of Daniel alone. In the Old Testament we see Gabriel and Michael, Michael being found only in Daniel 10 and 12. It appears that Daniel 12:1 is somewhat of a parallel to our passage. In Daniel 12:1, Michael stands up. After Michael stands up, there is a time of unequaled tribulation. Here in our text we see Michael warring against the dragon, and the result is that the dragon is cast to the earth to pursue the woman and make war with her “other” offspring.
Satan was not victorious. “A place was not found for them” recalls Daniel 2:35 and Zechariah 10:10. The dragon is called the “ancient serpent”, thus connecting this dragon back to Genesis 3:1. He is also called “the devil and Satan”. In connection to Genesis 3:1, we find in the curse on the serpent a strangely worded promise. In Genesis 3:15 we read about enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Then, when we would expect war between the two seeds, God says that the seed of the woman will crush Satan’s head.
There is general consensus that the serpent’s head was crushed by Jesus on the cross. However, it is necessary to note Romans 16:20, where Paul tells us that God will crush Satan’s head under our feet. Apparently there is corporeity in this promise. While it is true that Jesus was the one to have victory over the principalities and powers and to openly shame them through the cross, it is not true to then say that this is the finality of Satan’s demise. There still waits a time for the Body of Christ to crush the head of that serpent, and that time is when we shall overcome and Michael shall stand up.
To search this out a bit more deeply, let us continue to press this idea of “seeds”. We saw in Revelation 12:5 that the woman gave birth to a man-child. We wrestled with who this man-child might be. The conclusion that seems to fit best is that this man-child is they who overcome. In the book of Genesis we have the two seeds expressed quite intentionally throughout all of the children mentioned. There is Cain, and then there is Abel. Cain slays Abel, and therefore God grants the woman Seth. We see in Genesis 6 that the daughters of Cain intermarry with the sons of God. What does this mean? Some have tried to claim that the term ‘sons of God’ is only used in reference to the angels in the Old Testament, and therefore we should expect this to be true here. The context betrays us, though, because from Genesis 3:15 we know quite well that these are the two seeds of the woman being mixed.
God claimed they shall have enmity one for another. Yet, here we see they intermarry. With that intermarriage, there comes grievous sin. This is the same mystery that is happening with the harlot, by the way. Somehow the harlot is the Antichrist Babylon, but at the same time it is Jerusalem and the unfaithful people of God. The two have married together, and thus created such immorality that God is repentant that he even made man. But, there is a Noah. And in the last days there will be they who overcome, who God will preserve just like Noah while the rest of the world is in chaos. With Noah’s sons we see two get blessed and one gets cursed.
When we follow the story of Genesis, we come to the table of nations in chapter 10, which leads straight into the tower of Babel in chapter 11. All nations come together to build this tower. Does this sound familiar? Just like all nations came together for the purpose of disobedience unto God, so too shall we see at the end of the age that all nations shall give their allegiance to this Antichrist figure. God’s response in Genesis was to call one man out of all nations and to make him a nation. Here we have Babylon as Satan’s seed, and Abraham’s descendants as God’s seed.
Thus we see here again God’s intention for the woman’s seed to be corporeity. Yet, we need to understand Paul’s words. Abraham’s offspring are not only according to the flesh. They who have the faith of Abraham are his offspring. He is the father of us all. Therefore, when we read of his two sons (Ishmael and Isaac) it comes as a surprise that the blessed seed would not be the only one to come from Abraham. How is there Ishmael and Isaac? How did Isaac have Jacob and Esau? We see Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, and ultimately Israel is the stature unto which we are all called. It is an eternal and heavenly dwelling where we overcome the seduction of this world to be brought back into the presence of God lost in the Garden.
These are the two seeds. There are they who go the way of Babylon, and they who follow the culture of heaven. We all have that choice to make, because even Abraham had two sons. The one was the son of promise, but the other was the seed of the serpent. So it is today. Yet, though these two seeds are at war with one another, notice that it isn’t the two seeds mentioned in Genesis 3:15. God says that the seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head. What we see here in Revelation 12:7-9 is that the seed of the woman is beginning to come into the fullness of that calling. There are a corporate people who are living as Jesus lived, and are dying like Jesus died, and thus enacting the cross all over again to defeat the powers of darkness.
While there is a specific moment in time when Michael shall stand up and cast the serpent down, that moment is brought about through the overcoming saints. The war in heaven is not something isolated that we have nothing to do with. We, too, are called to engage the principalities and powers in Ephesians 3:10 and 6:12. It is that casting down of the powers once and for all that strips away the veil that covers the nations (Isa 25:7). That veil is the very thing that keeps the pagans in blindness and unrighteousness. It is that deception brought on by the principalities and powers that causes for there to be two seeds that come from Abraham instead of one.
The law in Paul’s mind was more than the torah. While it consisted of the torah, it is important to note that Paul sees these regulations as something that put you in bondage. Yet, the psalmist saw these things as a delight. You don’t delight in bondage, but in freedom. Jesus tells us that the law shall not pass away until heaven and earth pass away. So, why would Paul then come along and call it bondage? What he is getting at is that behind the law is an entire system of religion that tells you how to be righteous before God. It is righteousness through works that is bondage, and not the law itself. For, the law itself testifies to righteousness through faith.
For those who continue in the law, which is to say, in righteousness by works, they are still under the power of the principalities. We must come out from that. We must be enabled by the Spirit of God to come out from that false mindset of works righteousness. It is what the whole world lives by. “If God exists, I don’t think he would throw me into hell. I mean, I’m a good person, after all…” Or, as my uncle has said, “If you do 70% good and only 30% bad, hopefully your good will outweigh your bad and you’ll make it to heaven.” This is not the righteousness of God. Righteousness is through faith, and through faith alone. Works are only accompanied by faith, and without faith are absolutely dead.