War in Heaven

Revelation 12 mentions a war in heaven between two groups of angels. Why did they fight? What weapons did they use? When and how was the victory won? Why is the war continued on earth?

Purpose – Revelation 12:7-12 mentions a war in heaven between two groups of angels.  The purpose of this article is to explain the cause, the time, the place, the nature and the weapons of that war, how the victory was won as well as the consequences of the victory.

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the book of Revelation and from the NASB translation.

SUMMARY

The conclusions in this article may be summarized as follows:

Male Child – Verse 5 is a good place to start the discussion because it gives us a definite point in time.  The “male child” is Jesus.  He was “caught up to God and to His throne”.  This is His ascension.  Verse 5 covers the entire time from Christ’s birth to His ascension to heaven.

Woman, clothed with the sun

The woman in verses 1-2 is “clothed with the sun”.  Since the child she is expecting is Christ, she is a symbol of all believers in the time before Christ that were looking forward to God’s deliverance.  After Jesus was “caught up to God and to His throne”, she and her other children are persecuted (v6, 14, 17).  Now she represents God’s New Testament people.  She therefore represents God’s people in all ages.

The dragon in verses 3-4 is identified in verse 12 as “the devil and Satan”.  It “stood before the woman … so that when she gave birth he might devour her child” (v4).  Ever since God told the serpent that the seed of the woman “shall bruise you on the head” (Genesis 3:15), Satan has been standing ready to thwart Christ’s mission.  The dragon also represents the earthly kingdoms through which Satan persecutes God’s people.

Caught up to God – Satan stood ready to devour Him as soon as He was born (v4), but Jesus was “caught up to God and to His throne” (v5).  This means that Satan failed and that Christ won the victory when He came to this earth.

WildernessVerses 6 and 14 both describe the woman’s wilderness period.  In both verses the woman flees into the wilderness where she has a place prepared where she would be nourished for the same period of time.  The wilderness is a place of suffering.  The holy city (Rev. 21) is her destination, but she must go through the inhospitable wilderness to reach her city.

War in Heaven – The verses between verses 6 and 14 describe the war in heaven.  The name of the leader of God’s angels is “Michael” (12:7).  He is “the archangel” (Jude 1:9).  He wars against Satan and his angels.  Satan has deceived a large number of God’s beautiful angels to side with him.

Satan’s weapons in this war are deception, accusations and slander.  Satan would like to use physical force, but God would not allow him.  Satan deceives angels and people into sin, and then accuses the people whom God’s identified as His own, effectively accusing God of unfair or bad judgment.  This describes the nature of the war in heaven.

War – We should distinguish between the war and the victory.  The war existed before the “male Child” was born.  For instance, we see evidence of the war in heaven in the time of Daniel, where Michael and Gabriel are at war with the supernatural “Prince of the Kingdom of Persia“.  And in Jude “Michael … disputed with the devil … about the body of Moses”.

Victory – The war existed before Christ, but the victory was won after Christ’s ascension and as a consequence of the Cross.  From an earthly perspective the Cross was a defeat for the Son of God, but Revelation 12 reveals that it was a major victory, causing Satan’s downfall.

Who? – But who won the victory?  The text seems to contradict itself.  The victory was gained through Christ’s death, but according to verse 7 it is a war between two groups of angels. To complicate matters further, verses 10 and 11 seem to say that God’s people won the war.

Angels and Our Brethren – But this is not a war between angels in heaven, it is a war fought in both heaven and on earth, involving both angels and people.  Michael does not fight for himself; he is the guardian of God’s people on earth and he fights for them.  His angels are “all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (Hebr. 1:14; cf. Mt. 18:10).

Christ and Our Brethren – Revelation 12 teaches that Christ’s ascension was Satan’s downfall.  But why does Revelation also teach that “our brethrenovercame him (Satan)?

Principles – Before we answer this question, note also the following principles from the text:

Accuser of the Brethern

The war in heaven is a war of accusations.

Our brethrenovercame him … because of the blood of the Lamb”.  Without Christ’s death it would not have been possible to overcome Satan.  They secondly overcame “because of the word of their testimony … even when faced with death”.  The testimony that overcomes Satan is a testimony that is proven real in adversary.

By specifically accusing the people whom God calls His own, Satan effectively accused God of bad judgment.  Since Christ’s death made an end to the war in heaven, His death confirmed the accuracy of God’s judgment.

Satan is not overcome by physical force.  Satan was not literally or physically thrown out of heaven; he was thrown out of heaven in the sense that he was no longer able to accuse God’s people before God.

Through the blood of Christ the Father made peace with the “things in heaven”, but the war continued on earth.

The traditional explanation – The traditional explanation for why Christ had to die is that the death of Christ satisfied God’s need for justice, implying that God is angry and needed to be changed and was changed by Christ’s death.  But the Bible reveals God as love and as the Driver behind salvation.  The traditional view is therefore not accepted here, but viewed as unbiblical.

Who overcame Satan? – Considering the principles above, and also considering the previous articles in this series, the question who overcame Satan—Christ or “our brethren” —may then be answered as follows:

  1. Lucifer probably has the most brilliant mind ever created. Before his fall, all angels trusted, loved and admired him.
  2. But he became selfish and proud, desiring to be worshiped like God.
  3. By slandering God he convinced many angels to side with him, but even the loyal angels were unable to fully understand and answer Satan charges against God.
  4. God condemned Satan and his angels to “the eternal fire”. But because the angels did not fully understand what Satan did wrong, God allowed Satan to continue until all understand.
  5. To defend himself and his angels against this judgment, Satan also deceived mankind and claimed that they must now also be condemned to the eternal fire.
  6. But God forgave many people their sins.
  7. Satan consequently accused God of unfair judgment.
  8. God, on the basis of His principle of freedom, allowed this.  He became the accused and the universe had to judge.
  9. The evidence required, to confirm God’s judgments, is that His elect will remain faithful to Him, “even when faced with death”. Through the centuries many of God’s people remained faithful, but no one remained perfectly faithful.  Satan was always able to point to sins in God’s people.
  10. But then Christ became a human being and remained perfectly faithful through every test, “even when faced with death”. This decidedly confirmed the fairness of God’s judgments.

To summarize, “our brethren” overcame Satan, but “our brethren” include our brother Jesus.  Without Jesus’ perfectly sinless life, the testimonies of “our brethren” would not have overcome Satan’s accusations.  But since Jesus confirmed the accuracy of God’s judgment, the testimonies of His brethren become very valuable.

War continues on earth. – The Cross brought peace and unity in heaven, for no longer are evil angels able to justify their own sins by pointing to the sins of God’s people, but the war continues on earth.  That is the subject of the next article in this series.

SERIES

This is the fourth of the following series of articles:

  1. Origin of Evil
  2. Satan thought he could succeed
  3. Why did God not destroy evil immediately?
  4. War in Heaven
  5. Why was evil not destroyed after the Cross?
  6. Why does God not create a separate galaxy for Satan and his followers?

Male Child (12:5)

Verse 5 is a good place to start this discussion because it gives a definite point in time.  It reads,

she gave birth to a son, a male child,
who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron;
and her child was caught up to God and to His throne
” (12:5).

In 19:11-21, in the description of Christ’s return, we read again of this rod of iron:

Him Who sat on the White Horse

I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it … in righteousness He judges and wages war. … He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. … From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron … the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.

Here we see that the “Word of God” (19:13) will “rule” the nations “with a rod of iron” (19:15).  John, the author of Revelation, who also wrote a gospel, in his gospel referred to Jesus as “the Word” (John 1:1).  The male child is therefore Jesus Christ.

Caught up to GodHe “was caught up to God and to His throne” (12:5).  This is His ascension.  Mark 16:19 reads, “the Lord Jesus … was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God”.  Verse 5 covers the entire period from Christ’s birth to His ascension to heaven.

Rod of Iron – The rod of iron is what Christ will use at His return.  Then “the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him (Jesus) … and all the birds were filled with their flesh” (v20).  It will be a time of extreme sorrow for believers.  They have been praying so much for their loved ones.  Now they see them die.  But the pain of the believers will be nothing compared to the sorrow in God’s heart.

Woman (12:1-2)

We can now read verses 1 and 2, where John saw:

A great sign appeared in heaven:
a woman clothed with the sun,
and the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
and she was with child; and she cried out,
being in labor and in pain to give birth.
” (12:1-2)

Before Christ – Since the child she carries is Christ, she is a symbol of all people in the time before Christ that were looking forward to God’s deliverance.  She is beautiful in God’s sight.  She is “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars”.  Because she is beautiful, and because literal Israel was not always that beautiful, we should not interpret her as literal Israel, but as all believers in the time before Christ, both inside and outside Israel, and also prior to the time of Israel.

After Christ – After Jesus was “caught up to God and to His throne”, she remains on earth and flees to the wilderness (12:6, 13-14).  Her other children (other than Christ) “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (12:17).  Now she represents God’s New Testament people.  She therefore represents God’s people in all ages.

On earth – John saw her in heaven, but physically she is on earth.  Later a great voice says “woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath” (v12), causing the woman to flee to the wilderness (v14).  Here she is presented as on earth.

Dragon (12:3-4)

Next John saw:

Great Red Dragon

Then another sign appeared in heaven:
and behold, a great red dragon
having seven heads and ten horns
And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.
And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth,
so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
” (Rev. 12:3-4)

12:9 identifies the dragon as “the devil and Satan”.  It “stood before the woman … so that when she gave birth he might devour her child” (v4).  Ever since God told the serpent that the seed of the woman “shall bruise you on the head” (Genesis 3:15), Satan has been watching, expecting the Messiah, and standing ready to thwart His mission.

Seven heads – But the dragon has seven heads and ten horns, just like the beast coming out of the sea in chapter 13.  The seven heads and the ten horns are symbols for the kings of the world (17:9, 12).  The dragon therefore also represents the earthly kingdoms through which Satan persecutes God’s people.

Caught up to God – Satan stood ready to devour Him as soon as He was born (v4), but Jesus was “caught up to God and to His throne” (v5).  This means that Satan was defeated and that Christ won the victory when He came to this earth.

Wilderness

To understand the chronological sequence of events in Revelation 12 one has to understand that verses 6 and 14 describe the same event.  In both verses the woman flees into the wilderness where she has a place prepared where she would be nourished for the same period of time:

Wilderness

Then the woman fled into the wilderness
where she had a place prepared by God,
so that there she would be nourished
for one thousand two hundred and sixty days
” (Rev. 12:6).

two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman,
so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place,
where she was nourished
for a time and times and half a time
” (v13-14).

The “time and times and half a time” in 12:14 is the same as the 1260 days in 12:6.  [“A time and times and half a time” = 3½ times = 3½ years = 3½ x 12 x 30 days = 1260 days. In Old Testament times months were counted according to the moon cycle, giving 30 days per month.]

The wilderness is a place of suffering.  The “time, times, and half a time” is first mentioned in Daniel 7:25, where it is the period when the “saints of the Highest One … will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time”.

Later in Revelation John is invited to come and see “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (21:9).  What he saw was “the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God” (21:10-11).  The holy city is her destination, but she must go through the unfriendly and inhospitable wilderness to reach her city.

The next article, which deals with the question why evil was not immediately destroyed after the Cross, indirectly says more about the woman’s wilderness period.

War In Heaven

The verses between verses 6 and 14 describe the war in heaven.  Verse 7 mentions the war briefly:

And there was war in heaven,
Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon.
The dragon and his angels waged war

Michael – It is a war between two groups of angels.  The name of the leader of God’s angels is “Michael” (12:7).  His name means “who is like God”.  He is mentioned four times in the Bible; mostly resisting evil angels:

acrhangel

In Jude 1:9 Michael is “the archangel” and he argues with the devil “about the body of Moses”.

In Daniel 10 Michael is the only one “who stands firmly with me (God’s messenger) against these forces” (v 13).  Daniel wrote that, when he saw God’s messenger, “no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength” (Dan 10:8).  But this mighty messenger was delayed for three weeks by “these forces” (v13).   This shows that “these forces” are powerful supernatural forces.

Satan – Michael and his angels war against Satan and his angels.  Satan has deceived a large number of God’s beautiful angels to his side.

While verse 7 mentions the war, verses 8 to 12 describe the victory.  Various aspect of the war and the victory will now be discussed.

Satan’s Weapons

Satan is described as

the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan,
who deceives the whole world
” (v9)

the accuser of our brethren
he who accuses them before our God day and night
” (v10).

This explains his methods:

Satan – The name Satan means adversary (opponent).  In the first place he is God’s adversary.  But consequently he is also the adversary of all angels and people who side with God.

Deceives – “Serpent” refers to his role in the deception of Eve; he “deceives the whole world” (v9).  Deception is therefore one of his key strategies; he tells lies to get people and angels to do and say the things he wants them to do and say.

Accuser – Satan is “the accuser of our brethren”; he “accuses them before our God day and night”.  In Zehariah 3 Satan accuses Joshua of iniquity.  In the book of Job Satan said that the only reason why Job fears God, is that God protects him on all sides, but if all of Job’s possessions are taken away, then Job would curse God (Job 1:10-11).

Devil – His role as accuser is related to the name “devil” (diabolos).  This means “slanderer; false accuser; unjustly criticizing to hurt (malign) and condemn”.  The NASB in a few places also translates the Greek word as “malicious gossips”.  Satan does not accuse all people; he only accuses “our brethren”.  These are the people whom God claims as His own, like Job and Joshua.  But Satan is actually accusing God of unfair or bad judgment.  While Satan is rightly able to accuse us of sin, God is perfect.  Satan therefore unjustly criticizes God; He slanders God.

Nature of the war in heaven – Many preachers 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.  But Satan’s weapons describe the nature of the war in heaven.  Satan would like to use physical force, but God would not allow him.  It is a war of accusations.  Satan deceives angels and people into sin, and then accuses them before God, effectively accusing God of unfair judgment.

When the Victory Was Won

War before Christ – Some people want to put the war a long time before Christ, when Lucifer was “cast … as profane from the mountain of God” (Ezekiel 28:16).  Others want to put the war at the end of time, when “the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone” (Rev. 20:10).  It is proposed here that we must distinguish between the war and the victory.  The war existed before Christ:

Daniel – We see evidence of the war in heaven in the time of Daniel.  God sent a heavenly messenger (10:5-6) to Daniel, but the supernatural “Prince of the Kingdom of Persia” prevented this messenger for “three weeks” from reaching Daniel (v13).  The messenger was only able to reach Daniel after Michael came to his assistance (v13).  The heavenly messenger told Daniel that he must return “to fight against the prince of Persia”, and that “there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince” (verses 20-21).

Jude – Satan has “power of death” (Hebrews 2:14).  In Jude 9 we read that “Michael the archangel … disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses”.  (Note; not Moses’ spirit or soul, but his body.)  This must have been before the time of Jesus, because Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus (Mat. 17:3).  (Elijah never died, but was taken up alive into heaven (2 Kings 2:11).)

Two other examples of the war in heaven, before the time of Christ, are Zechariah 3 and Job, already mentioned above.

The Cross

Victory at the Cross – While the war existed before Christ, the victory was won by the Cross.  We see this in the following:

The emphasis on Christ’s ascension (12:5) in this section that deals with the victory in heaven implies a relationship between His ascension and the victory.

As shown above, verses 6 and 14 both describe the woman’s wilderness period.  Since this victory explains why the woman had to flee to the wilderness in verse 6, namely because “the devil has come down to you, having great wrath” (v12), the victory in the war in heaven, in verses 8 to 12, fits in-between verses 5 and 6.  The victory in heaven therefore follows after His ascension in verse 5.

Verse 13 reads, “when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child”.  This describes the time immediately after Satan “was thrown down to the earth” and implies that “the dragon … was thrown down to the earth” after the male Child was caught up to heaven, otherwise Satan would still have tried to devour the Child.

They (our brethren) overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb”.  This not only means that they therefore overcame Satan after the Lamb’s blood has been spilled, but also that “the blood of the Lamb” was the cause of Satan’s defeat.

Direct evidence from outside Revelation includes Christ’s words when, talking about His approaching death, He said “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:27, 31).

It is therefore concluded that the victory in the war in heaven was won after Christ’s ascension and as a consequence of the Cross.  Christ’s ascension to heaven was Satan’s defeat.  While Christ went up from earth to God’s throne (v5), Satan went down from heaven to earth.  From an earthly perspective the Cross was a defeat for the Son of God, but Revelation 12 reveals that it was a major victory, causing Satan’s downfall.

The chronological sequence of events is therefore as follows:

Dragon

  1. Dragon standing before the pregnant woman, ready to devour her child (v1-4)
  2. Male child born and ascends to God’s throne (v5)
  3. Victory in the war (v8-12); Satan thrown down;
  4. Woman flees to the wilderness (v6, 14)

Stated differently, the events in the chapter are given in their chronological sequence, except for verse 6, which must be read with verse 14.

Who Won the Victory in Heaven?

But the text seems to contradict itself.  Satan was expelled from heaven after Jesus was “caught up to God and to His throne”, but according to verse 7 it was a war between two groups of angels.  To complicate matters further, verses 10 and 11 seem to say that God’s people won that war:

When the great voice announces the victory in this Great War (12:10-12), it describes Satan as “the accuser of our brethren” and says that “they (by implication our brethren) overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death”.  This sounds as if “our brethren” (the accused) are people and as if they won the victory over Satan.  The great voice does not mention Michael or his angels.

So the question is, who overcame Satan?  Was it Michael and his angels or Christ or God’s people?

Angels Or People?

It must firstly be noted that it is a single war fought both in heaven and on earth, involving both angels and people, as indicated by the following:

It is said to be a war in heaven, but John also saw the woman and great red dragon in heaven (12:1, 3), while they are actually on earth, respectively representing God’s people and the earthly authorities through which Satan persecutes God’s people.  The war could therefore also be on earth.

Also note that Michael is introduced in Daniel 10 and 12 as “the great prince who stands guard over … everyone who is found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1). He is, in other words, the guardian of God’s people on earth. The implication is that, when Michael wars with Satan, he is not fighting for himself; he is fighting for God’s people.  Satan has appointed evil angels to protect and inspire evil people in their war against God and His people, but similarly God has appointed Michael to “stands guard over” His people.  His angels are “all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (Hebr. 1:14).  “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).  The people of God are the object of the devil’s wrath.  If it was just us human beings against “the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places”, God’s people would have been destroyed long ago.

It would therefore be wrong to distinguish between the war in heaven and the war on earth; it is a single war fought on both fronts, involving both angels and people.   We should not distinguish too much between heaven and earth.  Heaven is actually very close to earth.

Christ Or People?

As argued above, Revelation 12 implies that Christ’s ascension was Satan’s downfall.  The Bible also elsewhere teaches that God overcame Satan through Christ:

it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him (Christ), and through Him (Christ) to reconcile all things to Himself (God), having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

He (the Father) made you alive together with Him (Christ), having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Colossians 2:13).

But why then does Revelation teach that “our brethrenovercame him (Satan)”?

Principles – Before we try to answer this question, note also the following principles from the text:

Answered accusations – The war in heaven is a war of accusations.  Since Christ’s death made an end to that war, it means that Christ’s victory made an end to Satan’s accusations.  Since God does not use force, it means that Christ’s death made it impossible for Satan to accuse by answering all of Satan’s accusations.

Blood of the Lamb – They firstly overcame “because of the blood of the Lamb”.  Without Christ’s death it would not have been possible to overcome Satan.  Paul wrote:

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  … having now been justified by His blood … we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:8-10)

Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (Romans 3:25).  (Propitiation, in normal English, means a sin offering, by which the wrath of the deity shall be appeased, but the Greek word translated “propitiation” in this verse is the word for the covering of the ark, which was sprinkled with the atoning blood on the Day of Atonement.  Propitiation, in this verse, therefore means the place where guilt is finally taken away; Christ is where our guilt is taken away.)

Testimony to death – They secondly overcame “because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death”.  This statement contains the concepts of “testimony” and “death”.  These two concepts should not be separated.  Testimony and death are also combined elsewhere in Revelation:

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained” (6:9).

When they have finished their testimony, the beast … overcome them and kill them” (11:7)

John saw “the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand” (20:4).

The testimony that overcomes Satan is therefore not superficial testimony; it is a testimony that is proven to be real in adversary, “even when faced with death”.  As God said of Job, after Satan destroyed all his possessions and killed all his children, “he still holds fast his integrity” (Job 2:3).

A person’s testimony includes what one does.  For instance, in 20:4, quoted above, “the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus“, refused to worship the beast. A person’s testimony is what Paul calls faith; it is to “be faithful until death” (2:10).  Faith is not just a nice feeling; it is what you are; it permeates the entire being; the thoughts, the desires, the words and the deeds.

Accusing God

Confirmed God’s judgments – Satan did not accuse people who side with him.  By specifically accusing God’s elect, Satan effectively accused God of bad judgment.  Since Christ’s death made an end to the war in heaven, we can conclude that His death confirmed the accuracy of God’s judgment beyond a shadow of doubt.  This is confirmed by Romans 3:26, which indicates that the death of Christ demonstrated God’s righteousness so that He may justify sinners merely on the basis of faith.

No Physical Force – Satan is not overcome by physical force.  Satan deceives, accuses and slanders.  God’s army responds, not by physical force, nor by mere claims, but by a faith (testimony) that is strong enough to make them willing to die for what they believe.  Satan’s weapons, and the means by which Satan was overcome, confirm that this war is not fought with physical force.  The outcome in the war in heaven is not determined by who has the most physical power.

Not literally thrown out – Since this is a war of accusations and slander, Satan was defeated and thrown out of heaven in his capacity of accuser.  He was not literally or physically thrown out of heaven; he was thrown out of heaven in the sense that he was no longer able to accuse God’s people before God. This conclusion is consistent with the geography: Satan “accuses them before our God” (12:10), and God is in heaven (4:1-2).  When “there was no longer a place found for them (Satan and his angels) in heaven” (12:8), Satan no longer has access to God to accuse them.

Satan is a devouring Lion

War continues on earth – After Satan was thrown out of heaven (12:8), a loud voice said “rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath” (12:12).  The victory in this war therefore solved a crisis in heaven, but the war continued on earth.  We read of this elsewhere:

God reconciled “all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20).  Christ’s death is critically important for human beings, for without it we could not be saved, but through the blood of Christ the Father also made peace with the “things in heaven”.

The manifold wisdom of God (is) … made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places“ (Ephesians 3:10).

Through the Cross “He (God) had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He (God) made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him (Christ)” (Col. 2:15 – read verses 13 and 14 for context).  Their arms (weapons) were Satan accusations against God’s elect, and therefore against God’s judgments, but through Christ God took their weapons away.  See the article Disarmed the rulers and authorities for more information.

The issues in this war and the consequences of the victory is bigger than just us humans and our sins.  Through the blood of Christ the Father made peace with the “things in heaven”, but the war continues on earth.

The Cross

The traditional explanation – These principles give an explanation for why Christ had to die that is very different from the traditional explanation.  Christians agree that without Christ’s death we cannot be saved, but disagree on how the death of Christ saves us.  The standard explanation is that the death of Christ satisfied God’s need for justice, implying that God needed to be changed and that He was changed by Christ’s death.

This view presents an unbiblical view of God as angry, requiring death as penalty for sin; only then can His wrath be appeased.  In consequence of this view we find words such as atonement (amends), propitiation (placation) and expiation (compensation) in some translations of the Bible, but these words do not appear in the original Greek Bible.   Please refer to the article on Atonement..

The traditional explanation is inconsistent with the revelation in the Bible of God as love and as the Driver behind the salvation which we find in Christ: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).  God reconciledall things to Himself … through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20).  God “disarmed the rulers and authorities” through Christ (Col. 2:15).  “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).  God displayed publiclyChrist Jesus … as a propitiation in His blood” (Romans 3:25).  “It was the Father’s good pleasure … to reconcile all things to Himself through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).  The Father ”made you alive together with Him (Christ), having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Colossians 2:13).  It is God, the Father that “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14). God, the Father, is the One that saves; and He saves through Christ.  It is not God that had to change; we must change.

The traditional explanation is also inconsistent with Revelation 12, where the problem is identified as Satan’s accusations; it is not God that accuses.  Satan is the one that complains that justice is not done when God, in mercy, “passed over the sins previously committed” (Rom. 3:25-26); it is not God that demands justice.

The standard explanation, namely that the death of Christ satisfied God’s need for justice, is therefore not accepted here, but viewed as unbiblical.

Explanation – Our question is, if Christ’s ascension was Satan’s downfall, why does Revelation teach that “our brethrenovercame him”.  Considering the principles above, and also considering the conclusions from the previous articles in this series, this question may be answered as follows:

1. As discussed in the article on the Origin of Evil, Lucifer (a beautiful name meaning light-bearer) probably has the most brilliant mind ever created. He was a covering cherub (Ezekiel 28:14), which means he served in God’s immediate presence.  All angels trusted, loved and admired him.

2. But Lucifer became the selfish and proud Satan (meaning adversary), desiring to be worshiped like God (Isaiah 14:14).  “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor” (Ezekiel 28:17).

3. By ingenious means he convinced many of God’s beautiful and mighty angels to side with him.  To do this it is assumed that he used techniques similar to what he used with Eve, causing the angels to be unhappy with what they are and have, and accusing God of keeping good things from them.  Most of the angels refused to accept Satan’s allegations against God, but even the loyal angels were unable to fully understand and answer Satan charges.  Satan was able to sell his message very convincingly: “By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence” (Ezekiel. 28:16).  Thus the war and extreme unhappiness in heaven started.

4. Following this 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 which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mat. 25:41).  But because many angels did not understand what Satan did wrong, and because God wants His intelligent beings to understand, He had to allow Satan to continue until all would understand.

Eve and the serpent

5. “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).  God made the humans in His likeness, and “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7).  God allowed Satan access to the humans.  Satan appeared to Eve in the form of a serpent and succeeded in deceiving the humans into sin.  This means that Satan already was God’s adversary when the humans were created.  Satan now claimed, if he and his angels must be condemned to the eternal fire, that the same must be done to this new race.  To shield himself and his angels from God’s condemnation, he became the accuser of the brethren, prowling around like a lion (1st Peter 5:8) to deceive believers into sin so that he may accuse them before God.

6. But God refused to condemn the humans.  God said to Adam and Eve that they will die if they eat from the tree, but they did not die.  “In the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed” (Romans 3:25), including Adam’s sin.  The same applies to all other people whom God elected; they all sinned, including Elijah and Moses, but God “passed over” their sins.

7. Satan therefore accused God of unfair judgment.  Satan is not trying to make sure that God elects the right people.  He argues that God, to be fair, may not give mercy to any person, because all people sinned.  His real purpose is self-preservation.  Satan is really warring against God and uses human beings in his effort to convince the universe that God judges unfairly.

8. God did not set Satan’s criticism and questions aside by force.  Consistent with His principle of freedom, He allows His judgment of people to be tested.  God became the accused and the universe became the judge.  God allowed this race, which He created in His own image, to be used to test His judgments.

9. For the universe to judge, it requires evidence (testimonies).  To confirm the fairness of God’s judgment, the people whom He elected and identified as His, are tested to see whether they will remain faithful to Him, “even when faced with death”.  Through the centuries many of God’s people, like Job, were tested, and remained faithful.  But no one remained perfectly faithful.  Satan was always able to point to sins in the lives of God’s people.

10. But then God “displayed (Christ) publicly … for the demonstration … of His righteousness … so that He (God) would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26).   Restating this verse simply, the death of Christ demonstrated God’s righteousness so that He, in mercy, may justify sinners merely on the basis of faith.  Satan accused God of unfair judgment, but through the Cross “He (God) had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He (God) made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him (Christ)” (Col. 2:15).  Christ became a human being and He died as a human being.  He remained perfectly faithful through every test, “even when faced with death”.  This was the testimony (evidence) required to decidedly confirm the fairness of God’s judgments and mercy, thus overcoming Satan as the accuser by destroying all of his arguments and accusations.

To summarize, “our brethren” overcame Satan by maintaining “the word of their testimony … even when faced with death”, but “our brethren” include our brother Jesus.  Without His perfectly sinless life, the testimonies of “our brethren” would have been useless against Satan’s accusations.  But Jesus—“the blood of the Lamb”—confirmed the correctness of God’s judgment, and thereby gave meaning and substance to the testimony of His brethren.

Thrown Down To Earth

The Cross brought peace and unity in heaven, for no longer are evil angels able to justify their own sins by pointing to the sins of God’s people, but the war continues on earth:

woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time” (v12).

The question why evil was not eradicated and destroyed immediately after the Cross will be discussed in the next article.

TO: General Table of Contents

Origin of Evil

God creates his intelligent beings able to disobey Him so that their service and love will be their free choice. Evil arose from this freedom; right in the middle in heaven.

Summary

Origin – Sin did not originate on earth, but in heaven.  Satan and evil existed before humans were created.  When Satan deceived our first parents, evil spilled over to earth.

Lucifer – The name “Lucifer” means “Light-Bringer”.  It is the glorious title Satan had before his fall.  He was “the anointed cherub who covers“.  This means that he was one of the highest angels in heaven; one of a special class of angels that serve in God’s immediate presence.  He was perfect in beauty, full of wisdom, blameless in his ways, loved by all and he loved all God’s beings.  He understood everything that created beings are able to understand.  He was perhaps the most glorious being ever created.

Freedom created – God creates his intelligent beings with the ability to disobey Him so that their service and love will be their free choice.  Without that ability we would have been nothing other than a computer, programmed to say, “I love you, I love you”.  He wants us to love Him because it is our free choice.

Center of the Universe – Evil arose in heaven’s command center, not in some far away galaxy.  Sin originated in Lucifer, who served in God’s immediate presence.

Pride – Evil first arose as Pride.  Lucifer became proud because of his beauty and desired to be worshiped like God.  Pride was therefore the first sin, and it is still the most dangerous of all sins, because it hides behind a mask of self-righteousness.

Freedom allowed Although Satan was created able to disobey God, God still was able to force Lucifer to obey Him, but He did not; God allowed Satan the freedom to oppose Him.  God also allowed Adam to disobey Him and He allowed Satan to tempt the newly created humans. God’s government is based on freedom, for there can be no true obedience from the heart unless there is freedom to disobey.

Evil arose from freedom – Lucifer became proud because of his beauty, but beauty was not the cause of evil.  The risk of freedom is that evil would one day develop.  But to live with that risk is much, much better than being a robot.  There is nothing wrong with how God created His intelligent beings.

Satan’s tactics – To deceive Eve into sin, Satan lured her into conversation by pretending to seek information, twisted God’s words, inspired distrust in God by calling God a selfish liar and got her to be unhappy with what she is and had received. Satan did the same with the angels; he inspires distrust in God.  He teaches that God does not have our best interest at heart.  Satan also made the angels to be unhappy with what they are and have received.

Satan knew God would forgive Adam and Eve – Satan sinned with full understanding of God and of His governing principles.  Satan knew God so well that he knew God would let Adam and Eve live, even though God told Adam “in the day that you eat from it you will surely die”.

Satan also knew he did not have to fear punishment – To be created able to disobey God, but under the threat that God will destroy sinners, is no real freedom.  His intelligent beings have this freedom even without fear that God will punish them.  Sinners will “depart … into the eternal fire” (Mat. 25:41), but not as punishment.

Final destruction – Satan will one day “cease to be forever”.  God’s heart is broken by Lucifer’s rebellion, and it will break Him heart to destroy the most beautiful and most wise creature ever created.

Series

This is the first of the following series of articles:

  1. Origin of evil
  2. How could Satan think he could succeed against the Almighty?
  3. Why did God not destroy evil immediately?
  4. War in Heaven – Revelation 12 describes a war in heaven between two groups of angels.  Why did they fight?  What weapons did they use?  When and how was the victory won?  Why is the war continued on earth?
  5. Why was evil not destroyed after the Cross?
  6. Why does God not create a separate galaxy for Satan and his followers?

The Fall of Man

The LORD God said to Adam,

“From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

There-after God formed Eve (2:18-23).  Satan, in the form of a serpent, approached Eve when she was alone (3:1; Revelation 12:9), and asked her,

has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’” (3:1)

God commanded Adam not to eat from one specific tree, but Satan, trying to lure Eve into a conversation by pretending to seek information, twisted God’s words by referring to “any tree”.

Eve answered that they are allowed to eat from the fruit of the trees of the garden,

but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die” (3:2-3).

Satan then called God a selfish liar:

You surely will not die!  For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (1:4-5).

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:1-6 NKJV)

We learn a number of lessons from this:

To get Eve to sin, Satan got Eve to distrust God. 
Satan accused God of telling lies and of being selfish.  She was led to believe that God was holding back what should have been hers.

Satan also got Eve to be unhappy with what she is and had. 
Lucifer, the “star of the morning” (Isaiah 14:12) said in his heart “I will make myself like the Most High” (14:14).  Now we see that he tempts Eve with the very same thirst for power.  He told her that she lacks discernment (“your eyes will be opened”) and she desired wisdom (“to make one wise”).

God does not use force, but allows Satan to tempt His creatures. 
He allowed two tree in the garden, He gave Adam the option of disobeying Him and He allowed Satan access to the newly created humans.  These things show that His government is based on freedom to choose for or against Him.  There can be no true obedience from the heart unless there is freedom to disobey.

Satan and evil (sin) existed before humans were created. 
Satan, in the form of a serpent, deceived our first parents.  Sin did not originate on earth; the rebellion against God started elsewhere: in what we may call heaven.  As Jesus said, “Satan is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).  When Satan deceived our first parents this war in heaven spilled over to earth, and continues today.

While much is unknown about how sin originally developed, there are two portions of Scripture that briefly comment on it, namely Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28:

Isaiah 14

LuciferThe Hebrew word translated as “morning star” (NASB) in Isaiah 14:12 was translated into Latin as Lucifer. People then started to use this as one of Satan’s names.  The KJV still translates that word as “Lucifer” in this verse, but it literally means “Light-Bringer”.  It is actually the glorious title Satan had before his fall.

According to Isaiah 14:12-13 Lucifer said in his heart:

I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’

Because this was the intentions of his heart, Lucifer has “fallen from heaven“ and is ”cut down to the earth” (14:12).  He “will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit” (14:15).  Sheol is the “underworld – the place to which people descend at death (Strong’s Concordance).  It is a synonym for “grave”.  The KJV translates sheol as “hell” in this verse, but as “grave” in many other verses (for instance Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 44:29).  The implication is that Lucifer will die.  Ezekiel 28:19 says “you will cease to be forever”.  Please consider the enormity of the tragedy; perhaps the most beautiful and most wise creature ever created, and many beautiful angels “will cease to be forever”.  Think how difficult this will be for God, and for all the millions of angels that admired and loved him.

Ezekiel 28

CherubEzekiel 28 starts out as a warning to the king of Tyre (v2), but then switches to describe “the anointed cherub who covers” (v14, 16), who was “in Eden, the garden of God”, perfect in beauty (14:12), blameless in his ways (v15), until unrighteousness was found in him (v15).  This goes beyond the description of an earthly king.

To understand what an “anointed cherub who covers” is, consider the Ark of the Covenant in the original Jewish temple.  The “mercy seat” (lid) of the Ark had “two cherubim of gold”, “covering the mercy seat with their wings” (Exodus 37:1-9; 25:17-21).  The LORD said to Moses:

There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 25:22)

The “mercy seat” is therefore a symbol of God’s throne and the cherubim are a special class of angels that serve in God’s immediate presence; around His throne.

Ezekiel actually saw these cherubim. 
Each one had four faces and each one four wings” (Ezekiel 10:21).  There was “one wheel beside each cherub … as if one wheel were within another wheel” (v9-10). “Their whole body, their backs, their hands, their wings and the wheels were full of eyes all around” (v12).  That they are covered with eyes all around means that they see and understand everything; they are “full of wisdom(14:12).  This description of the cherubim may sound a bit scary, but they are beautiful.  They are loved and admired by all.

CherubimSatan was one of these cherubim. 
As “the anointed cherub who covers“, Satan was one of the highest angels in heaven, the guardian or protector of God’s throne, serving in God’s immediate presence.  He understood everything that a created being is able to understand.  He had the seal of perfection.    Every precious stone was his covering; rubies, topaz, diamonds, beryl, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise, emeralds and gold (v13).  It may even be that Lucifer was the highest and most beautiful of these cherubim, for his name was “Light-Bringer” and heart was lifted up because of his beauty (Ezekiel 28:17).

Originally, he had no sin, but “unrighteousness” was found in Satan (v15). 
His heart was lifted up and his wisdom was corrupted because of his beauty and splendor (v17).   The words, “till iniquity was found in you” (v15) suggests that evil began with Satan.  God did not create evil, it originated with Satan.

Why did God create LuciferGod created Satan able to sin; to disobey His laws. 
God gave Satan the ability to decide for or against God’s laws.  Without that ability Lucifer would have been nothing other than a computer, programmed to say, “I love you, I love you”.  No, God created His intelligent beings with the option to sin, so that their service and love will be their free choice.  Perhaps God knew all along that many of His intelligent creatures would one day decide against Him, and that He will one day have to restore happiness in the universe at a massive cost to Himself, but God wanted it no other way; He wants us to love Him because it is our free choice.

God did not prevent Satan’s sin.  
Although God created Satan able to sin, He was able to override that ability, but He did not; God allowed Satan the freedom to oppose Him.

Satan knew God so well that he knew God would let Adam and Eve live. 
What makes it so very scary is that evil developed in God’s immediate presence; in the command center of the universe, not in some far away galaxy.  Lucifer’s position in heaven as covering cherub allowed him to be “on the holy mountain of God”, amidst “the stones of fire” (v14), where God’s visible presence is.  This means that Satan sinned with full understanding of God and of His governing principles.

This helps us to understand what happened in Eden.  God said to Adam “in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).  But Satan said to Eve, “You surely will not die” (1:4-5).  It seems as if Satan actually told the truth; Adam and Eve did not die in the day they ate from it.  People offer different theories to argue that Adam and Eve actually did die on that day, for instance that they became mortal on that day, or that they died spiritually.  These are possible explanations, but the explanation preferred here is that God, in His mercy, allowed Adam and Eve to live.  Satan knew God so well that he knew that God would forgive Adam and Eve.

Satan knew he could sin without fear of punishment. 
If angels work like human beings, Lucifer did not suddenly wake up one morning a sinner; it developed slowly over a long period of time.  God knows everything.  He knew what was developing in the heart of His much-loved servant next to His throne, and based on the way that God deals with humans, we must assume that God warned Lucifer many times.  Lucifer knew God extremely well, and he knew that God knew, but he went ahead on his chosen path.  Satan also knew God’s principles inside-out, and it is proposed here that he knew that he could sin without fear of penalty.  To be created able to disobey God, and to be allowed to disobey God, but under the threat that God will destroy sinners, is no real freedom.  Lucifer understood that the freedom which God’s intelligent creatures enjoy is full freedom, free from fear of punishment.

Is Lucifer protecting us from an evil God? 
Did Lucifer desire to raise his “throne above the stars of God … make myself like the Most High” because God is a tyrant from whom Satan is trying to protect us by showing us a better way?  Here the Bible does provide an answer.  We read that Lucifer’s heart was lifted up and his wisdom was corrupted because of his beauty and splendor (v17).  In 1 Timothy 3:6 Paul similarly warns against becoming “conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil”.  Conceited means to be self-important or proud.  Pride was therefore the first sin, and is still the most dangerous of all sins, because it hides behind a mask of self-righteousness.

Did his beauty cause Lucifer to sin?  
Satan started out as Lucifer; which means light-bearer.  He was perfect, loved by all and he loved all God’s beings.  He was perhaps the most glorious being ever created.  But he became proud because of his beauty, and there developed in his heart the desire to be worshiped like God (Isaiah 14:14).  Beauty is good, and I don’t think that something good caused evil.  The risk of freedom (the ability to choose against God) is that evil would one day develop.  But to live with that risk is much, much better than being a robot.  There is nothing wrong with the way that God created His intelligent beings.  It is Satan that is the real tyrant.  He is the selfish one.  He only wants the power and glory of the universe for himself.

What did Satan do to the angels to have them rebel against God?  
To deceive Eve, Satan said to her two things; firstly God told a lie and secondly that God selfishly withhold things from the humans.  It stands to reason, that Satan used the same strategy to lead the angels astray:

He firstly inspired them to distrust God.  Satan targets God directly for his attacks.  We also see this in the strategies of his earthly agents.  The little horn of Daniel has “a mouth speaking pompous words” (Daniel 7:8). “He will speak out against the Most High” (Daniel 7:25).  The Sea Beast ”was given a mouth speaking … blasphemies” (Rev. 13:5).  “He opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven” (Rev. 13:6).

He secondly instilled in them a desire for more power.  Satan also said to Eve that “that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:6).  Satan must have used the same strategy in heaven against the angels, telling them that God was holding back on them, and that they should have more power.  Satan made the angels unsatisfied with what they were and had received.

TO: General Table of Contents

Rulers and Authorities

The Rulers and Authorities, to whom Paul and also Peter refer, are supernatural beings that oppose Christ.

Below are the references to Rulers and Authorities in the New Testament.

Earthly Rulers and AuthoritiesIn the following it refers to earthly rulers:

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…” (Titus 3:1-2)

In the following verses it may refer to earthly or heavenly rulers:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord“.

by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:15).

But in most instances it seems clear that it refers to heavenly rulers; ranks of angelic beings, either faithful or fallen angelic beings::

He (Christ) is the head over all rule and authority” (Col. 2:10) “… the cross.  When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Col 2:15) (Col. 2:10-15 forms a unit, describing how Christians have been made complete “in Him” (2:10) by disarming the supernatural “rulers and authorities” through the Cross.  For further information, please see the article Disarmed the rulers and authorities.

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1Cor. 15:24).

… he raised him (Christ) from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion“ (Eph. 1:19-21).

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 3:10, 11)

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

… Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand –with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (1Pet. 3:21, 22).

As the above indicates, the supernatural rulers and authorities are forces that oppose Christ.  Our struggle is against them (Eph. 6:12), but they have been disarmed by the Cross (Col. 2:14-15).  In the end they will be made to submit to Christ (1Pet. 3:21, 22) and be destroyed (1Cor. 15:24).

TO: General Table of Contents