Did Michael defeat Satan in the War in Heaven by physical force?

Michael defeated Satan in the War in Heaven through Christ’s death.  Satan deceives & accuses.  How did the cross overcome Satan’s accusations?

This is the third article on the War in heaven.  The first article concluded that the Male Child in verse 5, who was caught up to God, is Jesus.  The pure woman, who existed both before and after Christ, represents God’s people in all ages.  The Dragon, that stood ready to devour the Child as soon as He is born, is a symbol of Satan, but also of the earthly kingdoms used by Satan to persecute the woman and her child.  The Child was caught up to God, indicating that the Dragon failed to devour the Child.  In heaven Michael, the archangel, wages war against Satan, who deceived many angels to his side.

The second article discussed the chronological sequence.  The text seems to indicate that the war broke out after Jesus was caught up to God, but this article showed that the war existed before Christ, while the victory was won after Christ was caught up.  The text also seems to indicate that Satan was defeated after the woman had to flee to the wilderness, but it actually happened the other way round: the woman flee to the wilderness after Satan was defeated in heaven, and thrown down to earth.  Michael therefore won the victory over Satan soon after Christ’s ascension.

The Cross won the victory in heaven.

Michael won the victory through the Cross.  This is indicated by the following:

Main Concepts -Two of the main concepts in Revelation 12 are Christ’s ascension (verse 5) and the victory in war in heaven (verse 8-12). The emphasis placed on these two events implies a causal relationship.

The Chronological sequence of events, as discussed in the previous article, shows that the victory in heaven was won after Jesus was “caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev. 12:5).

Lamb of GodBlood of the Lamb In the explanation of the victory it is said that “they overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb” (v11).

The Bible also elsewhere teaches that God overcame Satan through Christ death and resurrection:

Ruler cast out – When talking about His approaching death, Jesus said “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:27, 31).

Rendered the devil powerless – “Since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).

God “disarmed the rulers and authorities” when He “canceled out the certificate of debt” by nailing it to the Cross (Col. 2:14-15).  Rulers and Authorities are supernatural beings that oppose God.

The victory in the war in heaven was therefore won through Christ’s death.  After Christ was caught up from earth to God’s throne (v5), Satan went down from heaven to earth.  From an earthly perspective, the Son of God was defeated  at the Cross, but Revelation 12 reveals that it was His victory.

Nature of the War

The question in this article is how Satan was defeated.  Since he has been defeated by the Cross, the question is how the Cross defeated him.  To answer this, we first have to ask what problem had to be solved.  What was or is the nature of the war in heaven?

Sin did not originate on earth. 

Sin originated in heaven.  From heaven it was transferred to earth.

Lucifer was blameless in his ways.  As discussed in the article on the Origin of Evil, Lucifer probably was or is the most brilliant mind ever created. He was a covering cherub (Ezekiel 28:14), which means he served in God’s immediate presence.  The angels trusted, loved and admired him.

But Lucifer became God’s enemy.  God said to him, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor” (Ezekiel 28:17).  Lucifer became the selfish and proud Satan, who desired to receive honor like the Son of God (Isaiah 14:14, compared to John 17:5).

God made the humans in His likeness (Gen. 1:26), and “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7).  At that time Satan already was God’s adversary, but God still allowed Satan access to the humans.  Satan appeared to Eve in the form of a talking serpent.  Through deception he led Adam to sin, and through sin, he obtained power over the human race: “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19; cf. Genesis 3).

Satan’s deceives and accuses.

Satan’s techniques are deception & accusations (Rev. 12:9-10).  He is “the accuser of our brethren” (Rev. 12:10), prowling around like a lion (1st Peter 5:8), seeking to deceive believers into sin so that he may accuse them before God.

Accused God

Satan does not accuse all people:  He specifically accuses “our brethren,” namely the people whom God claims as His own, like Job and Joshua.  Satan thereby effectively accused God of unfair judgment.

To defend himself

Satan is not trying to make sure that God justifies the right people.  His real purpose is to defend himself against God’s judgment.  Satan has been condemned to the “eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mat 25:41).

Romans 3:23-26, read with Revelation 12, tells us that Satan accused God of being unjust when He justifies sinners only on the basis of their faith.  His argument is that sinners may not be justified at all.  However, his real argument is that, if he and his angels are to be condemned to the “eternal fire,” then the same must apply to the entire human race, for they all sinned.  And if God’s people are “justified as a gift by His grace” (Rom. 3:24), then he and his angels must also be justified.

Our sins give Satan power.

In other words, Satan uses the sins of human beings to convince the universe that God judged him and his angels unfairly.

How did the cross overcome Satan?

Not by force

Many people understand the war in heaven as physical in nature; not fought with earthly weapons, but by supernatural physical means; using powerful physic-spiritual energies of which we have only vague intimations; energies which can move mountains and change planetary orbits.

If Satan uses physical force, that is not stated as such.  His weapons of deceptions and accusations explain the nature of the war in heaven.

God responds with two techniques; the death of His Son and the testimony of the brethren (Rev. 12:11).  Physical power does not win the victory.

In Daniel 10 Satan delayed one of God’s mighty angels for three weeks.  It is proposed that he did not do this by physical force, but by verbal arguments.  The war in heaven is therefore similar to a courtroom, where evidence is brought, and the jury decides.

By Proving Evidence

But the question remains, HOW did the “blood of the Lamb” overcome Satan?

This is a war of deception and accusations, and evidence is required to counter the accusations.  This means that Jesus, by remaining true to God to the end (His death) provided evidence to show that Satan’s accusations were false.  The same applies to the testimony of our brethren.  God was accused of unfair judgment, and through Jesus, and through the testimony of our brethren, God provided evidence to show that His judgments were fair.

This is confirmed by Romans 3:25-26:

God “displayed (Christ) publicly … for the demonstration … of His (God’s) righteousness … so that He (God) would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

This supports the conclusions that:

(1) God was accused of being unjust, specifically, for justifying sinners on the basis of faith.
(2) Christ’s death provided evidence to show that God is just.

In Colossians 2 we find that the Cross destroyed the evidence against sinners:  “The certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us” was nailed to the Cross (Col. 2:14).  In this way, God “disarmed the rulers and authorities” (v15).  See Certificate of debt consisting of decrees.

The sealed scroll

This conclusion is further supported by the sealed scroll of Revelation 5.  Before Jesus’ death “no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it” (v3).  It was a time of extreme sorrow in heaven (v4).  But then Jesus appears as “a Lamb … as if slain” (v6), and the heavenly beings sang a new song, saying to Jesus: “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (v9).

A closed book symbolizes concealed information. The article Introduction to the Seven Seals concludes that the sealed scroll of Revelation 5 is the Book of Life.  In other words, before Jesus died, nobody was sure who will be saved.  But through His death Jesus provided the evidence required to open the book.

Why would the heavenly beings not understand?  Remember that Satan was a covering cherub and possibly the most brilliant being ever created.  His genius, combined with his use of deception and accusations, explain the lack of understanding on the side of the angels.  Through his genius and deception, he convinced many of God’s beautiful and mighty angels to side with him (Rev. 12:4), but most angels refused to accept Satan’s insinuations and allegations against God.  But even then the loyal angels were unable to fully understand and answer Satan charges.

Michael and his angels overcame Satan.

But Revelation 12:7 describes the war in heaven as between two groups of angels, and indicates that archangel Michael and his angels defeated Satan.  Why would God’s loyal angels defeat Satan if he was defeated by Jesus’ death?  Why did God Himself not drive Satan out of heaven?

The importance of evidence explains why Satan was overcome by Jesus, but thrown out of heaven by Michael and his angels.  Satan deceives and accuses.  As stated, even Michael and his angels were at least partly deceived by Satan.  But because of the evidence provided by Jesus’ death, Satan was no longer able to confuse them.  Satan was now unable to accuse God’s people before God.

There was no longer a place found for them (Satan and his angels) in heaven” (Rev. 12:8).

Perhaps Satan was not physically thrown out of heaven, but was driven out in a figurative sense in that nobody believes him.  Michael and his angels now understood and were fully convinced of God’s justness.  Satan was no longer able to accuse God’s people before God.  Satan no longer had any support in heaven.

Conclusions

Heavenly councils

The fact that evidence was required implies that decisions are made in heavenly councils.  Examples there-of are:

● In Revelation 5 it was not God, but the council’s decision that Jesus is “worthy … to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain” (vv8-9).
In Daniel 7, “the court sat, and the books were opened” (Dan. 7:10).
Satan brought his charges against the humans in the meetings of the “sons of God“ (Job 1:6).

God gave Satan time. 

In consequence of his rebellion, God cast Satan “as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire” (Ezekiel 28:16).  God condemned Satan and his angels to “the eternal fire” (Mat. 25:41).  But because the angels did not completely understand what Satan did wrong, the angels would not have understood if God executed His judgment on Satan and his angels before the allegations against God were clarified.  Doubt would have remained, providing the seed for a future rebellion.  Because God wants His intelligent beings to understand, He had to allow Satan to continue until the nature and consequences of Satan’s ways are clear to all.

Freedom

The requirement for evidence means that physical power is not decisive.  God did not set Satan’s criticism and questions aside by physical force.  Satan deceives, accuses and slanders.  “Our brethren” respond, not by physical force, but by a faith (testimony) so strong that they are willing to die for what they believe (Rev. 12:11).  God has all power, but the outcome of the war in heaven is not determined by who has most physical power.

The explanation of Christ’s death, as provided by this website, implies that God’s creatures have freedom.  On the basis of this principle God grants Satan time and allows His own judgments to be tested.  God even became the accused and the universe became the judge.

Summary

The victory was won immediately after Jesus was caught up to God.  Furthermore, the loud voice explicitly states that they overcame Satan because of the blood of the Lamb.  Christ’s death therefore won the victory in the war in heaven.  Further support for this conclusion is that Jesus said that His death would cast out the ruler of this world.  Paul similarly wrote that Christ’s death rendered the devil powerless and disarmed the supernatural evil forces.

But, HOW did the Cross defeat Satan?

Evil originated in heaven.  Lucifer was without sin, but became proud because of his splendor, and desired to be worshiped like God.  Earth was later infected when Satan deceived Adam and Eve and gained control over the human race.

Satan’s techniques are to deceive and to accuse.  He accuses God’s people, effectively accusing God of unfair judgment.  To defend himself against God’s judgments, he argues that all people have sinned and that sin cannot be forgiven; if he is to be condemned, then the entire human race must also be condemned.

That is the problem which Christ’s death solved.  God did not solve this problem by force.  He did not use His infinite power to stamp out resistance.  God solved the problem by the blood of the Cross and the testimony of His people.  He solved the problem by providing evidence that Satan’s accusations are false.

Father of liesIt is Michael and his angels who expelled Satan from heaven; not God.  Previously they were unable to counter Satan’s brilliant arguments, but Christ’s death provided the evidence they needed.  Now they were convinced that God is just in His judgments and that Satan is the father of lies.  With this evidence they drove Satan and his angels out of the court rooms of heaven.

Articles on Revelation 12’s War in Heaven:

1. Who are the Male Child, His mother, the Dragon and Michael?
2. When was Satan Defeated?
3. How did Michael overcome Satan? (Current)
4. Who are they who overcame Satan because of “their testimony?” (Next)
5. What evidence did Christ provide that refuted Satan’s accusations?
6. Why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross?

What book is this?

In Revelation 5 Jesus receives from God a book that is sealed with seven seals. What book is this? When did He receive it? Why is only Jesus able to open the book?  Why did He not immediately open the book?

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the NASB translation of the book of Revelation.  Italics are used for quotes; not for emphasis.

Summary of this article

The seven seals – in Revelation 4 to 7 – is the second of the seven main divisions of the book of Revelation.

Revelation 4

In Revelation 4 John is called up to heaven, where he saw God’s throne. The throne is a symbol of God’s authority to rule.  God is described in rather vague terms becauseno man has seen or can seeGod (1 Tim. 6:16).

Around God’s throne 24 elders sit on 24 thrones.  They are interpreted in this article as human beings.  Their task is to judge.

Seven lamps, “which are the seven Spirits of God,” burn before the throne (4:5).  The number seven symbolizes time; more specifically all time; from the beginning to the end.  The seven Spirits mean that, through His Spirit, God is always with us.

Revelation 4 shows the joyous worship of the four living beings and the 24 elders.

Revelation 5

While Revelation 4 presents a continuous state, Revelation 5 presents a special event in which “every created thing” (5:13) is gathered around God’s throne to watch the Lamb take the sealed book.  A sealed book symbolizes concealed information.  This caused much sorrow in heaven.  But then Jesus arrives at the Father’s throne and it is announced that He “overcome so as to open the book” (5:5), causing much joy.

Enthronement

This event, when Jesus received the sealed book, was when He was exalted or glorified at His father’s right hand at His ascension, about 40 days after the Cross.  This is indicated by the following:

  1. The New Testament often mentions that Jesus, at His ascension, was exalted at the Father’s right hand, and in Revelation 5 He took the sealed book from God’s right hand.
  2. Jesus appears as a slain Lamb.
  3. Jesus appeared “in the midst of the throne” (5:6 KJV).
  4. He became worthy to open the book because He overcame.  “Overcame” is what He did during His life on earth.  According to 3:21 He sat down with His Father on His Father’s throne after He overcame.
  5. In Revelation 4 the Holy Spirit is seen before the throne. But when Jesus appears in Revelation 5, His Holy Spirit has been “sent out into all the earth” (5:6), apparently a reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

In the dispensational approach Revelation 4:1 is the rapture, which would mean that Revelation 5 refers to an event after the rapture.  According to the arguments above, this view is not correct.

Jesus did not open the scroll immediately.

The Cross gave Christ the authority to open the book, and He received the book immediately after His ascension, but He did not open the book immediately. The Cross did not open the book.  Revelation 6 describes what happens when the Lamb breaks open the seals.  This relates to the question why God has not yet made an end of sin.

The Book of Life

The sealed book is the book of life.  This book indicates who will live and who will die.  This conclusion is supported by the following:

1. Revelation 5:9 indicates that Jesus purchased for God with His blood men from every nation and consequently became worthy to open the sealed book. The sealed book is therefore about redemption.

2. The book of life is called “the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (13:8) and “the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27), linking it directly to Revelation 5, where a slain Lamb receives a book (5:6, 9).

3. The sixth seal will be opened at “the great day of their wrath” (6:17; 8:1), which is the return of Christ, which means that one seal remains to be opened even after the return of Christ. The book of life will similarly only be opened in the final great judgment (20:12)—one thousand years after the return of Christ (20:7).  Both books are therefore opened after the return of Christ.

Series of articles

This is the first article in a series on the seven seals.  These articles, which will also explain the relationship of the seals to other parts of Revelation, are:

  1. Introduction (this article), which identifies the book and defines the historical starting point of the seals;
  2. The sixth seal, identified as the same as the seventh plague and as the great day of God’s wrath at the return of Christ;
  3. The fifth seal identifies the plagues as the revenge requested by the souls under the altar.
  4. The sealing of the 144000; who are they, when are they sealed and for what purpose?
  5. The first four seals, identified as the experience of God’s people;
  6. Why questions; asking why was the book sealed?  Why was Jesus not “worthy” before the cross to open the book?  Why is the book only opened 1000 years after Christ’s return?
  7. Summary

Main Divisions of Revelation

The main divisions of Revelation are:

  1. The seven letters in chapters 1 to 3;
  2. The seven seals in chapters 4 to 7 including 8:1;
  3. The seven trumpets in chapters 8 to 11;
  4. The seven wars in chapters 12 to 14;
  5. The seven plagues in chapters 15 to 19 (*);
  6. The millennium in chapter 20;
  7. The new heaven and new earth in the last two chapters;

(*) Babylon receives God’s fierce wrath in the seventh trumpet at the end of Revelation 16 (16:17-19).  Revelation 17, 18 and 19:1-10 are an interlude that explains the origin, nature and end of Babylon.  The return of Christ is described in the latter half of Revelation 19 (19:11-20:3), and therefore chronologically follows immediately after the plagues of Revelation 16.  Stated differently, the plagues conclude with the return of Christ.  For more information about the relationship of the plagues to the return of Christ, see Return of Christ in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 4

The first three chapters of Revelation focus on the church on earth, but in 4:1 John saw “a door standing open in heaven”, and hears the invitation:

Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.

God’s throne 

This shifts the focus away from earth to heaven and away from John’s time to a different time.  In heaven John saw God’s throne.  A throne is a symbol of authority.  God’s throne symbolizes His authority to rule the universe. God’s throne is mentioned many times in Revelation—in 16 of the 22 chapters.  In Revelation 4 everything is described relative to the throne:

24 elders sit on 24 thrones around the throne (4:4).
Out from the throne come lightning, sounds and thunder (4:5).
Before the throne there was something like a sea of glass (4:6).
In the center and around the throne are four living creatures (4:6).

In Revelation the throne often signifies God.  For instance, “a loud voice … from the throne” (16:17) means that God speaks, and to stand “before the throne” (7:9) means to stand before God.

God

Jesus is described in much detail in Revelation 1:13-18, but God is described rather vaguely in Revelation 4:3.  God has created everything that can be seen and cannot be described in terms of things that can be seen.  God does not exist somewhere in the universe.  The universe exists somewhere within God:

who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1Ti 6:16).

24 elders 

John also saw 24 elders sitting on 24 thrones around the throne, clothed in white and with golden crowns on their heads (4:4).  Some believe these elders are a special class of angels, but for the following reasons it is proposed here that they are humans:

  • The title “elder” is never used in the Bible for angels—only for humans.
  • The Bible never says that angels will sit on God’s throne, but does say that humans will (3:21).
  • The elders have stephanos-crowns on their heads, which is used in Revelation as the crown of the overcomer—which is the crown of life (9:7; 2:10; 3:11; 12:1; 4:4; 6:2; 12:1; 14:14).
  • The number 24 is derived from the number 12, which is the number of God’s people. The New Jerusalem has 12 gates with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel written on them (21:12).  It also has 12 foundations with the names of the 12 apostles written on them (21:14).  The number of the sealed is 144000 (7:4), which is equal to 12 x 12 x 1000.

For these reasons the 24 elders probably are human beings.  They might be the beings to whom the responsibility for judgment is given in Daniel 7:9, 10, 26 and in Revelation 20:4.

The number seven

Seven lamps—“which are the seven Spirits of God”—burn before the throne (4:5).  God does not literally have seven Spirits.  The number seven must be interpreted symbolically.  It originates from the seven days of the week, is mentioned may (56) times in Revelation, and is interpreted as a symbol for ‘the full period’.  Many of the sevens in Revelation are different from the other numbers in Revelation in the sense that the seven stands in chronological sequence to each other—the second follows after the first—the third after the second, and so forth, with the seventh as the last or end.  The same cannot be said of the other important numbers in Revelation, such as 4, 10 and 12.  The number seven therefore has to do with time, and should be understood as completion or perfection of time—the full period.  The seven Spirits of God therefore perhaps symbolize that He is present from the beginning to the end.

Worship

Before the throne is a sea of glass (4:6).  In the center and around the throne are four living creatures; full of eyes in front and behind (4:6-7).  They ceaselessly say (4:8):

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, Who was and Who is and Who is to come.

One may think that continual worship is boring, but to be in the presence of God is an extremely emotional experience, because God is the most emotional Being in the universe.  To be in His presence is the highest joy possible.

When the living creatures give glory to Him who lives forever and ever (4:9), the 24 elders fall down and worship Him, saying (4:10-11):

Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.

Revelation 5

Specific EventWhile Revelation 4 presents a continuous state, Revelation 5 presents a special event in which “every created thing” (5:13) is gathered around God’s throne to watch the Lamb take the sealed book.

Sealed book –  John saw, in the right hand of God, a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals (5:1).  This is not a real literal book.  A book is a symbol of knowledge and a sealed book is a symbol of concealed information—something that is not understood.  Daniel was similarly told “seal up the book until the end of time” (Daniel 12:4) and “these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time” (v9).

Sorrow in heaven At first nobody is “worthy” to open the book (5:2-3), and John began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book (5:4).  John’s tears symbolize the sorrow of the entire universe.  We see the universal nature of the sorrow when Jesus arrives at God’s throne and, by taking the book, converts the sorrow to joy throughout the universe (5:8-14).  The sorrow therefore represents the time before the Cross, when no one was able to open the book.

Worthy – John saw a “Lamb …  as if slain” (5:6), and heard “one of the elders” say that Jesus “overcome so as to open the book” (5:5).  Then John saw millions and millions of angels around the throne (5:11), saying with a loud voice (5:12):

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.

Then John heard every created being say (5:13):

To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.

At His Ascension

Revelation 5 depicts a special and critically important heavenly meeting, as indicated by the millions and millions of angels looking on (5:11) and by the interest of “every created thing” (5:12).  They are gathered to see Jesus receive the sealed book from God.  For the reasons provided below, this was when Jesus was exalted at His Father’s right hand at His ascension (12:5), about 40 days after the Cross:

FIRST: He appears as a slain Lamb, which implies that the event described by Revelation 5 followed immediately after He was slain.

Jesus is described as a “Lamb, as if slain” (5:6) and the beings in heaven said to Him, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain” (5:8-9). 

SECOND: He earned the right to open the book because He overcame, and therefore logically received the book immediately after He overcame.

In Revelation 5 Jesus is declared worthy to receive and open the book because He overcame (5:5):

Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.

The “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” is Jesus.  He overcame on earth, as a human being (3:21).  Since He overcame during His earthly life, He logically received the book immediately after the end if His earthly life.

THIRD: He appears on God’s throne; on God’s right hand, which the New Testament indicates happened at His ascension.

The New Testament frequently mentions that Jesus was glorified at the Father’s right hand at His ascension to heaven, for instance:

when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority“ (Eph. 1:20-22; cf. Acts 2:32-36; Rom. 8:34; Hebr.  8:1; Acts 5:30-31; Phil 2:6-11; Col 3:1; Hebr. 1:3; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet 3:21-22; Rev. 3:21). 

In Revelation 5 we see Jesus at the Father’s “right hand”:

The NASB reads that the book is in the Father’s right hand (5:1), but this can also be translated as “on” (epi Strong G1909) God’s right hand.  The point is that, to receive the book, Jesus had to take up His position at the right hand of God. 

In Revelation 5 we also see Him sitting on the Father’s throne:

Jesus appears “in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts” (5:6 KJV).  The four living beings are “in the center and around the throne” (4:6).  Jesus therefore appears at the center of the throne. 

In Revelation 5 Jesus is furthermore glorified.  He is—along with God—praised by “every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them” (5:13).

Revelation 5 is therefore very similar to the statements elsewhere in the New Testament, that Jesus was glorified and seated at the Father’s right hand when He ascended to heaven.

FOURTH: His appearance on God’s throne sent out the Spirit of God into all the earth as His eyes (5:6), which the New Testament indicates happened at His ascension.

The New Testament links Jesus’s glorification at the Father’s right hand to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, about ten days after His ascension:

for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).

Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

In Revelation 4 “the seven Spirits of God” are “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne” (4:5).  But in Revelation 5, when the Lamb appears on the throne, “the seven Spirits of God” are said to have been “sent out into all the earth” (5:6), apparently a reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.  This links the outpouring of the Spirit to the event described by Revelation 5.

In summary, for the following reasons the event described in Revelation 5 is Christ’s enthronement at His ascension to heaven:

  • He appears as a slain Lamb, which implies that the event described by Revelation 5 followed immediately after He was slain.
  • He earned the right to open the book because He overcame, and therefore logically received the book immediately after He overcame.
  • He appears on God’s throne; on God’s right hand, which the New Testament indicates happened at His ascension.
  • His appearance on God’s throne sent out the Spirit of God into all the earth as His eyes (5:6), which the New Testament indicates happened at His ascension.

Rapture – In the dispensational approach 4:1 is the rapture, and Revelation 5 therefore refers to an event after the rapture.  This seems to do an injustice to the text, and cannot be supported by Revelation 5.  The following are some further reasons for not agreeing with the view that 4:1 is the rapture:

  • The interpretation of 4:1, where John is called “Come up here”, as the rapture of the Church, rests on very slender evidence. It is much more likely that 11:12, where the two witnesses are also called “Come up here“, represents the rapture of the church. 
  • The purpose of John’s ascension to heaven in 4:1 is not to rescue the church from tribulation, but, as explicitly stated, to show John “what must take place after these things” (4:1).
  • In 10:1 John sees an angel coming down from heaven. He therefore is again or still on earth.  John represents the church when he receives the little book (Revelation 10).  The church is therefore still on earth in Revelation 10.

Judgment at Christ’s return – Many understand Revelation 5 as the judgment prior to Christ’s return to the earth, as in Daniel 7, but:

  • No books are opened in Revelation 5, as in Daniel 7:16. Jesus is praised for taking the book, but He does not open it in Revelation 5.  The books are only opened in 20:12.
  • We find no typical judgment language (judge, avenge) in Revelation 5. Such language we only find in the second half of Revelation (except for the fifth seal—but this is only a request for judgment).
  • If Revelation 5 was the judgment before Christ’s return, then Revelation 6 would have been His return, but, as discussed below, the first five seals represent the history of the Church.

Still sealed – The Cross gave Christ the authority to open the book, and He received the book immediately after His ascension, but He did not open the book immediately. The Cross did not open the book.  Revelation 6 describes what happens when the Lamb breaks open the seals.

The Book of Life

Many books will be opened in the last judgment, one thousand years after the return of Christ (19:11-20:12).  The book of life is one of these books (20:12).  It contains the names of the saved (Ps. 69:28; Ph. 4:3; Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27).  It indicates who will live and who will die (21:2, 27; 20:14-15):

and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it (the holy city, new Jerusalem), but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.   This is the second death, the lake of fire.

A fundamental concept, which will greatly influence the interpretation of the seals, is that the sealed book, which Jesus receives in Revelation 5, is the book of life.  This statement is justified as follows:

Both the sealed book and the book of life are about redemption. God’s Lamb was slain, with two consequences.  The first is that He purchased for God with His blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (5:9).  The second and subsequent consequence is that He is considered worthy to open the sealed book (5:9).  This context indicates that the sealed book is about redemption, and therefore could easily be the book of life, which contains the names of God’s redeemed people (20:15).

The book of life is called “the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (13:8) and “the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27), linking it directly to Revelation 5, where a slain Lamb receives a book (5:6, 9).

The book’s sixth seal will only be opened at “the great day of their wrath” (6:17), which is the return of Christ, which means that even then one seal remains to be opened. The book of life will also only be opened in the final great judgment (20:12)—one thousand years after the return of Christ, which is described in Revelation 19:11 and following.  Both books are therefore opened after the return of Christ.

Conclusion

In Revelation 5 we read about sadness in heaven due to a sealed book, which nobody is able to open.  A sealed book symbolizes concealed information.  It was concluded above that the sealed book is the book of life.  The concealed information is therefore the names of the people that will receive eternal life (20:14-15).  The questions remain, why was this information concealed, and why did the fact that it was sealed cause so much sorrow?

After the sorrow was mentioned, Christ appears on the Father’s throne in the form of a slain Lamb (5:6), and we are told that He “has overcome” (5:5).  It was concluded above that the heavenly meeting in Revelation 5 describes what happened when He ascended to heaven, 40 days after the Cross.  As Jesus said “I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (3:21).  He was slain when He died on the Cross.  The sorrow therefore refers to the time prior to the Cross.  He overcame Satan’s temptation by being faithful to God, even to death.  In this way he purchased men from all nations for God (5:9).  These things are not new to us, but we would like to ask: How did His faithfulness purchase men for God?  Why was it necessary for Him to die?

What Revelation 5 further adds is that, because Jesus overcame, and because He was slain and purchased men for God with His blood, He became worthy to open the sealed book (5:5, 9).  We might have expected Him to open the book immediately, but He does not open the book in Revelation 5.  The seven seals are things that prevent the book from being read, and they are only broken in Revelation 6.  This is a bit strange, for it means that, although He bought people for God with His blood, something else must still happen before it will be known who those people are.  We may also ask what things prevent the book from being read, and why was He not worthy to open the book before He was slain?  The seven seals are broken by the happenings described in Revelation 6.  Only after those things happened will we know the names of the saved.  We will next investigate Revelation 6 with these questions in mind.

TO: General Table of Contents