They overcame him because of the Lamb’s blood and because of their testimony.

Revelation 12 11If Satan was defeated through Christ’s death, why would “their testimony” also be required, and who are they?

This is the fourth article on the War in heaven.  The first article identified the role-players in this war; the Male Child, who was caught up to God, His mother, who existed both before and after Christ, and the Dragon, that stood ready to devour the Child as soon as He is born.  The Child was caught up to God in heaven, Michael wages war against the Dragon, who deceived many angels to his side.

The second article discussed the chronological sequence of the war in heaven, the ascension of the Male Child, the victory in the war, Satan cast down to earth and the woman hiding in wilderness.

The third article explains how Michael overcame Satan.  Satan deceives and accuses, but was overcome by “the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony.”  To reconcile these facts, the articles explains how evil originated, God’s judgment of evil, and how evil defends itself against God.

Purpose

Verses 7 to 9 indicate that Christ’s death enabled Satan’s  defeat, but verse 11 implies that “the word of their testimony” was also required

10 “… The accuser of our brethren has been thrown down,
he who accuses them before our God day and night.
11 “And they 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.” (Revelation 12)

This article discusses these two verse, particularly to identify whose testimony this is, and why their testimony was required to banish Satan from heaven.

Our brethren

Verse 10 mentions “our brethren” as the beings accused by Satan.  This is the first time that “our brethren” are mentioned in this chapter.  Are they people or angels?

It is in Satan’s nature to deceive and accuse (vv9-10).  He certainly must have at least attempted to deceive and accuse Michael and his angels “before our God.”  For that reason, “our brethren” arguably include angels.

However, the term “our brethren” implies two distinct groups; us and them.  Since the loud voice came from heaven, it spoke on behalf of the heavenly beings.  This implies that “our brethren” refer to non-heavenly beings, and therefore presumably God’s people on earth.

They overcame him

Revelation 12 11After verse 10 refers to “our brethren,” verse 11 continues, “they overcame him.”  It is possible to read this as saying that “our brethren” (people) overcame the accuser.  But according to verses 7 to 9 Michael and his angels defeated Satan.  It is therefore proposed that the antecedent for “they” in verse 11 is Michael and his angels.

Their testimony

If “they” earlier in verse 11 refer to angels, then “their testimony,” in the same verse, may also refer to angels, which would mean that the testimony of angels helped to overcome Satan.  But for two reasons it is proposed that it is the testimony of God’s people that is in view:

1. It is a testimony given “when faced with death,” and angels do not die, as far as we know.

2. In Revelation it is always people that are killed for their testimony; never angels, for example:

Those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained” (6:9; cf. 12:17).

Those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God” (20:4).

Pronouns in verse 11

The “they” and the “their” in verse 11 therefore have different antecedents.  It is proposed that verse 11 be read as follows:

Michael and his angels overcame Satan because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the testimony of God’s people, for God’s people did not love their life, even when faced with death.

God’s weapons

John writing RevelationThey 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” (Rev. 12:11).

This verse uses the phrase “because of” twice.  It is therefore proposed that this verse refers to two weapons that were used to defeat Satan:

1The blood of the Lamb” (Jesus is the Lamb, e.g. 5:6), and
2The word of their testimony

Their willingness to die for what they believe is not a third weapon in God’s arsenal, but indicates the strength of their commitment.  The testimony that overcomes Satan is a testimony that is proven real when one’s life is in danger.  Satan said to the LORD, “all that a man has he will give for his life” (Job 2:4), but these people prove him wrong, for they are willing to die for their faith.

The text therefore implies three victories:

1.  The Lamb overcame by His blood (death).
2.  God’s people overcame by their testimony.
3.  Michael and his angels overcame Satan because of the other two victories.

Why was the testimony of God’s people required?

They overcame Satan “because of the word of their testimony.”  This means that, without the obedience of God’s people, Michael and his angels would not have been able to defeat Satan.  The blood of the Lamb alone would not have saved anybody if God’s people did not remain faithful, “even when faced with death.”  The reason is that people will be judged by their deeds.

Reformed Christians will object that this sounds like salvation by “the works of the law,” and it is clear that “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3:20).  However, one must distinguish between “the works of the Law” and “deeds.”  The one that seeks to be justified by “the works of the Law” attempts to obtain God’s approval through the rituals of the Law.  But “God … will render to each person according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6).  In this phrase the word “deeds” does not refer to compliance to the rituals.  “Deeds” are determined by our love for God and for our neighbor, or the lack there-of.  On the basis of our deeds we will be judged:

The dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds” (Rev. 20:12).

I will give to each one of you according to your deeds” (Rev. 2:23; cf. 20:13; 14:13).

Each of the letters to the seven churches ends with the words, “To him who overcomes …”(e.g. 2:7).   To “overcome” refers to their “deeds:”  “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end …” (2:26).

That people will be judged by their deeds does not mean that they earn salvation.  They certainly do not, for they are sinners.  They are “justified as a gift by His grace” (Rom. 3:24).

Summary

Previous articles concluded that Satan defeated through Christ’s death, but verse 11 mentions both “the blood of the Lamb” and “their testimony” as the means by which Satan was defeated.  The question then is, who are they, and why was their testimony required to expel Satan from heaven?

Our brethren” in verse 10, who were accused by Satan, refer to God’s people, but the phrase “they overcame him” in verse 11 does not refer to people, but to Michael and his angels, for they won the victory over Satan in heaven.

However, “their testimony,” a bit later in verse 11, is not the testimony of Michael and his angels, but the testimony of God’s people, for angels do not die and in Revelation it is always people that are killed for their testimony.  Without their testimony, Michael would have been unable to obtain the victory.

The testimony of God’s people was required because people will be judged by their deeds.  “Deeds,” which reflect one’s love or the lack there-of, must not be confused with “the works of the law.”

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?
4. Who are they who overcame Satan because of “their testimony?” (Current)
5. What evidence did Christ provide that refuted Satan’s accusations(Next)
6. Why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross?

There was war in heaven, Michael and his angels against the dragon and his angels.

Revelation 12 describes a war in heaven between two groups of angels. What did they fight about?  What weapons did they use?  

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

This article identifies the male child as Jesus.  His mother symbolizes God’s people.  The dragon that stands ready to devour the male child, as soon as He is born, is Satan, but also represents the world powers through which Satan persecutes God’s people.  This article then discusses the war in heaven, and identifies Satan’s weapons as deception and accusations.

The Male Child (12:5)

Verse 5 is a useful place to start this discussion because it points to a specific point in history:

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).

Rod of Iron – Revelation 19:11-21, describing Christ’s return, presents Jesus as the One using the rod of iron.  He sits on “a white horse” (v11).  “The armies which are in heaven … were following Him on white horses” (v14). “He will rule them (the nations) with a rod of iron” (v15).  “His name is called The Word of God” (v13).  John—the author of Revelation—also wrote the gospel of John, and in it He refers to Jesus as “the Word” (John 1:1).  Since the male child will “rule all the nations with a rod of iron,” He is Jesus Christ.

He will use the rod of iron when He returns.  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” (Rev. 19:20).  It will be a time of extreme sorrow for believers.  They have been praying so much for their loved ones.  Now their loved ones are killed.  But the pain of the believers will be nothing compared to the sorrow in God’s heart.

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

The Woman (12:1-2)

Woman, clothed with the sunWe are now able to identify the woman of verses 1 and 2:

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 Jesus Christ, she is a symbol of all people in the time before Christ expected the Messiah.  She is beautiful in God’s sight, for 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 identify 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,” His mother remains on earth and flees to the wilderness (12:6, 13-14).  “The rest of her children” (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.  The mother therefore represents God’s people of all ages.

On earth and in heaven – In verse 1 John saw her in heaven.  Later the woman flees to the wilderness (v14).  Here she is presented as on earth.  In other words, she is literally on earth, but in a sense she (God’s people) is also in heaven.  Compare with 15:2, where “those who had been victorious over the beast” are represented as “standing on the sea of glass,” which is before God’s throne (4:6).

The Dragon (12:3-4)

Great Red DragonThen another sign appeared in heaven:
and behold, a great red dragon
having seven heads and ten horns
His tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.
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)

Satan – Verse 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 and ten horns – But the dragon has seven heads and ten horns, just like the beast from the sea in Revelation 13 and the scarlet beast in 17:3.  “The seven heads are … seven kings” (17:9-10) and “the ten horns which you saw are ten kings” (17:12).  The dragon therefore also represents the earthly kingdoms through which Satan persecutes God’s people.

Caught up to God – Satan stood ready to devour her child 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.

War in Heaven

Verse 7 mentions the war in heaven 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).  This name means “who is like God.”  He is mentioned four times in the Bible; mostly resisting evil angels, for example:

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

Daniel wrote that, when he saw the angel whom God sent to him with a message, “no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength” (Dan 10:8).  This therefore was a mighty angel, but he was delayed for three weeks by “these forces” (v13).  “These forces” are therefore powerful supernatural forces.  The angel said that Michael is the only one “who stands firmly with me against these forces” (v 13).  (Cf. Dan 12:1)

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

Victory – While verse 7 mentions the war, verses 8 to 12 describe Michael’s victory.

Satan’s Weapons

With what weapons are this war waged?  The Dragon is identified 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).

Serpent –  “The serpent … said to the woman” (Gen. 3:1).  “Serpent” therefore refers to Satan’s deception of Eve.

Satan – The name Satan means adversary (opponent).  He is God’s adversary, but also of all angels and people who side with God.

Deceives – He “deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9).  Deception is one of his key strategies.  In other words, he tells lies to get people and angels to do and say the things he wants them to do and say.  Jesus said of him, “Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

AccuserHe is “the accuser of our brethren:” He “accuses them before our God day and night.”  Zechariah 3 shows Satan accusing Joshua the high priest of iniquity.  Another example is when Satan said that Job fears God only because God protects him (Job) 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 also reflected in the name “devil” (diabolos).  This Greek word means “slanderer; false accuser; unjustly criticizing to hurt (malign) and condemn.”  The NASB, in a few places, also translates this word as “malicious gossips.”

Satan’s weapons are therefore not physical in nature.  He deceives and accuses.

SUMMARY

Male Child – 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.

The woman, who is “clothed with the sun,” symbolizes God’s people on earth.  At first she is presented as pregnant; expecting the Messiah.  In this phase she represents all believers in the time before Christ that were looking forward to God’s Messiah.  After Jesus was “caught up to God,” she remains on earth.  Now she represents God’s New Testament people.

The dragon is “the devil and Satan.”  It “stood before the woman … so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.”  Ever since God told the serpent that the seed of the woman “shall bruise you on the head,” Satan stood ready to thwart Christ’s mission.  But Jesus was “caught up to God and to His throne.”  This means that Satan failed in his mission.

War in Heaven – The leader of God’s angels is the archangel Michael.  His enemy is Satan and his angels, for Satan has deceived a large number of God’s beautiful angels to side with him.  Satan’s weapons are deception and accusations.  He deceives angels and people into sin, and then accuses them before God.

Articles on Revelation 12’s War in Heaven:

1. Who are the Male Child, His mother, the Dragon and Michael? (Current)
2. When was Satan Defeated? (Next)
3. How did Michael overcome Satan?
4. Who are they who overcame Satan because of “their testimony?”
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?