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?

Does the book of Revelation present Jesus as God?

John 1:1

The writer of Revelation wrote in John 1:1 as follows:

(a) In the beginning was the Word,
(b) and the Word was with God,
(c) and the Word was God.

John 1:14 identifies “the Word” as Jesus.  In John 1:1(b) “God” refers to the Father.  The statement that “the Word was with God,” makes a distinction between God and Jesus, as if Jesus is not God.  But this seems to be contradicted by the statement in (c) that “the Word was God.”  Different people explain this apparent contradiction differently.

Theos

The Greek word translated “God” is theos.  There are at least three possible ways in which theos is used:

(1) As a common noun (group name) for exalted beings;
(2) As a common noun (group name) for the Trinity;
(3) As a proper noun (a name identifying one specific Being), namely the Father;

The question is in what way or ways theos is used in John 1:1.  These three possible uses of theos, and their implications, may be explained as follows:

Theos as an exalted being

The Jehovah Witnesses propose that Jesus is a created being; the first created being that created all other beings; nevertheless, a created being.  Their New World Translation therefore renders John 1:1(c) as, “the Word was a god.”  They find support for this interpretation in the following:

Firstly, the Greeks used theos for their multitude of gods.  The deities that the ancient Greeks believed were hardly anything at all like the God of the Bible. Instead, they were essentially just immortal, glorified humans with supernatural powers.  Theos may therefore be used for any real or factitious being that is exalted above others.  The New Testament sometimes uses theos in this sense.  It several times uses theos for “gods made with hands” (Acts 19:26), and even once for Satan, as “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Secondly, the original Greek text of the New Testament does not differentiate between upper and lower case letters.  Theos may therefore be translated either as “God” or as “god.”

Thirdly, the Greek language has a definite article (the).  Theos in (b) has the definite article, and literary translated reads “the God.” Theos in (c) does not have the definite article, and could therefore literally be translated “a god.”

The translation “the Word was a god” implies that Jesus is one of perhaps many similar created but exalted beings.

Theos as group name for the Trinity

When we say “Peter is a human,” then “Peter” is a name that identifies a specific being (WHO he is).  “Human,” on the other hand, is a common noun that explains WHAT Peter is.  Similarly, when we say “Jesus is God,” then “Jesus” is a name that identifies one specific being.  “God” is a common noun that explains WHAT Jesus is.

The Jehovah Witnesses understand theos in John 1:1(c) as a common noun for exalted beings.  An alternative understanding of theos is that it adopts a more specific meaning in the New Testament.  Specifically, some propose that theos is used in the New Testament as a common noun (a group name) for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  If that is the true, then theos in John 1:1(b), which refers to the Father, and theos in John 1:1(c), which refers to the Son, have exactly the same meaning.  Then theos in these statements describe both the Father and the Son as “Godhead,” a term which we can borrow from Colossians 2:8.  With this understanding of theos it is concluded that Jesus is co-equal with the Father; two Persons, but one divine Being.

Theos as a proper name for the Father exclusively

Others propose that theos in the New Testament adopts an even more specific meaning, namely that theos is used as a proper noun (a name) for the Father exclusively.  It is then proposed that John 1:1 uses theos in two ways:

In John 1:1(b) theos is used as a proper noun (a name) for the Father exclusively.

In John 1:1(c) theos is used as a common noun to describe Jesus as the Christian God; the One whom Christians worship, admire and obey.  The Greeks who worshiped Zeus and Apollos and many other gods, but Christians worship Jesus.

Purpose

This is a huge topic, which is discussed in a series of articles on this website.  One of the considerations, to decide between these alternatives, is how the New Testament uses the term theos.  The purpose of this article is particularly to determine how the book of Revelation uses theos:

Is theos used as a common noun or as a name?  Stated differently, is theos used as a name for one specific being (a proper noun), or for group of beings (a common noun)?

Specifically, is Jesus described as theos (God), or is theos only used for the Father?

Theos is used about 100 times in Revelation.  Most instances do not provide further identification, for instance:

The great wine press of the wrath of God” (14:19), or
The wrath of God” (15:1).

This article only considers uses of theos in Revelation that provide further identification that help us to understand who is intended.

Jesus is distinct from God.

(1) Revelation opens with the words,

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him …” (1:1).

This immediately makes a distinction between God and Jesus, which means that theos (God) is used for the Father exclusively.  The following further examples show that Revelation consistently and clearly makes a distinction between God and Jesus:

(2) In the next verse John testifies of “the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ” (1:2).  There are many similar phrases in Revelation, making a distinction between God and Jesus:

the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9);
the commandments of God and … the testimony of Jesus” (12:17);
the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (14:12);
their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God” (20:4).

(3) Speaking about Jesus, John wrote “He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (1:6).

(4) Jesus similarly refers to God as “My God.” He said, for instance, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God” (3:12, 13; cf. 3:2;).

(5) In Revelation 5 Jesus appears in the throne room as a Lamb.  Then “they sang a new song, saying … You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe” (4:9-10).

(6)a great multitude … standing before the throne and before the Lamb, … and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (7:9-10).

(7) The woman of Revelation 12 “gave birth to a son … and her child was caught up to God and to His throne” (12:5).  (To see that this Child is Jesus, compare this verse with 19:15.)

(8) After Michael won the victory over Satan, “I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come’” (12:10).

(9) The 144000 “have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb” (14:4).

(10) Those who have “a part in the first resurrection … will be priests of God and of Christ” (20:6).

(11) John was given a vision of the New Jerusalem.  He “saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (21:22).  Similarly, “the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb” (21:23).

(12) John saw “a river of the water of life …coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1).  “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it (the New Jerusalem)” (22:3).

These examples show clearly that Revelation consistently makes a distinction between God and Jesus.  Theos is used about 100 times in Revelation.  The 12 points above show that in about 17 instances theos (God) refers to the Father exclusively.  In not a single instance in Revelation is theos used for Jesus.  This means that when we read of “God” in Revelation, we must always assume that the writer refers to the Father specifically.

God and Jesus are often mentioned together.  God communicates with the Church through Jesus (1:1).  Jesus make us priests to His God (1:6), but they become priests of both God and of Christ (20:6).  Jesus purchased for God with His blood men from every tribe (4:9-10).  Together God and Jesus are the temple and the light of the New Jerusalem (21:22, 23).  Together they will rule over the New Jerusalem (22:1, 3).  (The throne is a symbol of the right to rule.)  They are even worshiped together at the end of Revelation 5, but they are distinct.

Conclusion: Theos (God) is used in Revelation as a name (proper noun) for the Father exclusively.  Theos is not used for Jesus.

Him who sits on the throne

Further examples of the distinction between God and Jesus can be found if we recognize:

(1) That “Him who sits on the throne” is God, and
(2) That Jesus is presented as distinct from “Him who sits on the throne.”

The word “throne” is found about 100 times in the Bible.  Fifty of those are in Revelation.  The throne is therefore a central concept in Revelation.  Much happen “around the throne” (4:3, 6; 5:11; 7:11, etc.), “before the throne” (4:5, 6, 10; 7:9, 11, etc.) and comes “from the throne” (4:5; 16:17; 22:1; etc.).

Revelation 4 may be called the throne room chapter.  The word “throne” appears at least 10 times in that one chapter alone.  Jesus is absent from this chapter; He will only appear in chapter 5.  The description of God in Revelation 4 therefore refers to the Father only.  In that chapter John saw:

A throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance” (4:2-3)

This is not a very specific description, but then we must remember that John also wrote that “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18).  God certainly manifests Himself in different forms at different times, for instance in this vision, but God Himself cannot be seen, for He exists beyond the physical realm. “God is spirit” (John 4:24).

After the introduction of “One sitting on the throne,” He is often called “Him who sits on the throne” (4:9, 10; 5:1, 7, 13; 6:16).

Him who sits on the throne” is God:

This already clear from the context in Revelation 4, where “Him who sits on the throne” (4:10) is called “God” (4:8, 11).  This is confirmed by the following:

The “great multitude” “cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne’” (7:9-10). 

A few verses later it says that the “great multitude” “are before the throne of God” (7:15).

The son of the woman of Revelation 12 “was caught up to God and to His throne” (12:5).

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne” (19:4).

Jesus is distinct from “Him who sits on the throne.

This is already shown by Revelation 4, where Jesus is absent, and where “Him who sits on the throne” is worshiped.  The following confirm the distinction between Jesus and “Him who sits on the throne:”

In Revelation 5 Jesus appears as a Lamb.  “He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (5:7).

At the end of Revelation 5 “every created thing … I heard saying, To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (5:13).

At the return of Christ, the lost masses cry, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (6:16).

The saved “great multitude,” in contrast, stands “before the throne and before the Lamb.”  They “cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (7:9-10).  (Jesus is called “the Lamb” about 30 times in Revelation.)

If “Him who sits on the throne” is God, and if Jesus is distinct from “Him who sits on the throne,” then Jesus is distinct from God, which means that Revelation uses theos (God) to refer to the Father exclusively.

Revelation 22 refers to “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1, 3).  This again makes a distinction between God and Jesus, but now it is the throne also of Jesus.  Revelation 3:21 explains why: Jesus said, “I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (3:21).  This is consistent with the frequent message in the New Testament that Jesus sits “at the right hand of God” (e.g. 1 Peter 1:22).  It therefore remains the Father’s throne.

Titles unique for the Father

Revelation 4 introduces the throne room.  In this chapter Jesus is absent.  He only enters the throne room in Revelation 5.  Revelation 4 therefore describes the Father.  In it we find the following description of Him:

4:8 … the four living creatures … day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.” 4:9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 4:10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne (cf. 4:2; 5:1, 13; 6:16; 7:10), and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 4:11 “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.”

This quote describes this Being as theos (God) and twice as “Him who sits on the throne.”  This confirms that this quote describes the Father, in distinction to Jesus.  But this quote provides additional descriptions of the Father, namely as:

Who Was and Who Is and Who Is to Come,
The Almighty,
“Him who lives forever and ever” (twice), and
“You created all things

These descriptions are discussed below.

Who Was and Who Is and Who Is to Come

The context in which this title is found in Revelation 2 implies that this refers to the Father, as distinct from Jesus.  The following is further proof:  

Firstly, in Revelation’s introduction, John brings wishes of grace and peace to the seven churches from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (1:4-5).  In these verses the Father is called, “Him who is and who was and who is to come.”

Secondly, Him “who is and who was and who is to come” is also called”Lord God” (1:8; 11:17).  Since it was already shown above that Revelation applies theos (God) exclusively to the Father, the phrase “Lord God” means that this is the Father speaking.  

In 11:17, since the kingdom of the world has already become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, the “to come” is omitted, and the Father is only called, “who are and who were.”

It is proposed here that the title “who are and who were” may be understood as the “I AM WHO I AM” of Exodus 3, where YHVH (Yahweh or Jehovah) identified Himself:

I AM WHO I AM … Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you. … Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD (YHVH).’ This is My name forever” (Ex. 3:14-15)

LORD” in the Old Testament, in capital letters, translates God’s proper name YHVH.  These verse from Exodus explains the meaning of the name YHVH as “I AM WHO I AM.”  This may be understood to mean the One who exists without cause, but Who is the Cause of everything that exists.

Personal note: It always scares me to think about why things exists.  Why is there not nothing?  The answer is that all things exist because God exists.  In fact, He is that which exists.  Everything that exists came from within Him.  But these thoughts scare me.  My entire existence depends on Him.  But then I thank Him for the revelation which He gave of Himself through Jesus Christ.

The Almighty

Almighty” is used about 27 times in the Bible.  It is found 4 times in the Pentateuch, 9 times in Job and also 9 times in Revelation.  This is therefore also an important term in Revelation.  In Revelation this title is never used for Jesus; only for the Father, as is confirmed by the following:

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (21:22).

This verse makes a distinction between God and the Lamb.  It also identifies God as “the Almighty,” which means that Jesus is not “the Almighty.” 

We already saw that the contents of the book of Revelation was created by God, and given to Jesus (1:1).  The title “Father” also means that He is the ultimate Source of all things.  As stated above, Jesus referred to the Father as “My God”  (e.g. 3:2).

Further proof that “the Almighty” refers to the Father only is that the title “Him who is and who was and who is to come” and “God.” both of which have already been identified as the Father, are often combined “the Almighty”:

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (1:8).

And the four living creatures… do not cease to say, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is The Lord God, The Almighty, Who Was and Who Is and Who Is To Come.’” (4:8)

And the twenty-four elders … worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were” (11:16-17).

Those who had been victorious over the beast … sang … saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty” (15:2-3)

I heard the altar saying, ‘Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments’” (16:7).

The war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (16:14)

I heard something like the voice of a great multitude … saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns” (19:6).

The Word of God … treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (19:13-15).

I saw no temple in it (the New Jerusalem), for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22).

Him who lives forever and ever

This title is used of the Father in 4:9, in 4:10 and in 10:6.  In 7:2 He similarly is “the living God.”  He is specifically called “God, who lives forever and ever” in 15:7.  Revelation always uses “God” for the Father exclusively.

In Revelation 1 Jesus says “I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (1:18).  “The Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (John 5:21), but we must always remember that “just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (John 5:26).  The Father is the ultimate Source of life, but that life flows through the Son to other beings.

 

Creator

It is said of the Father, “You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (4:10-11).  Later we hear:

The angel …  swore by Him who lives forever and ever, Who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it” (10:5-6)

“Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (14:7)

The Father created all things, but again, God created all things through His Son.  Jesus is the Mediator between us and God in all things:

There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tit. 2:5).

Worship

Worship” is another of Revelation’s key words.  This word is found about 150 times in the NASB translation of the entire Bible, of which more than 20 are in Revelation.  What we experience today a war for the minds of the people.  While “all who dwell on the earth will worship” the beast (13:8; 14:9), a strong message goes out world-wide: “Fear God, and give Him glory … worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (14:7).  The Creator alone must be worshiped.  

In Revelation 4—the throne room chapter—“Him who sits on the throne” is worshiped.  Similarly, during the seven last plagues, it is announced:

O Lord God, the Almighty … all the nations will come and worship before you.” (15:3-4)

Twice John fell down before the angel to worship him and twice the angel prevented him from doing so:

Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God” (19:10; cf. 22:9).

Since Revelation reserves the title “God” for the Father, these are instructions to worship the Father only:

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne” (19:4).

All the angels … fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God” (7:11).

The twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God” (11:16).

But in Revelation 5 Jesus is also worshiped:

When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (5:8).

In Revelation 5 “every created thing” worships “Him who sits on the throne, and … the Lamb” (5:13-14).

In the article Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God? it is argued that Jesus is not worshiped independent or co-equal with God, but that He is worshiped:

  • Because God instructed the angels to worship Him (Heb. 1:6);
  • Because God gave Him “the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9);
  • To the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11).

Conclusion

In Revelation “Jesus Christ” (1:5) is many times called the “Lamb.”  He is also called “Lord of lords and King of kings” (17:14), “Ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5), “Faithful witness” (1:5), “Faithful and True” (19:11), “Firstborn of the dead” (1:5), “the first and the last” (1:17; 2:8), “One like a son of man” (1:13) and “the Son of God” (2:18).   “His name is called the Word of God” (19:13).

The Word was a god

Jehovah Witnesses point out that Jesus is also called “the Beginning of the creation of God” (3:14), and propose that this means that He is a created being.  But the same John, who wrote Revelation, also wrote that Jesus is “the only begotten from the Father” (e.g. John 1:14).  If He was begotten from the Father, then He was not created.  See Only Begotten Son of God.  John is also clear that,

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being” (John 1:3)

If He created all things, then He Himself is not created.  In any case, it is clear from Revelation that Jesus is worshiped with God.  Jesus also said,

All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).

Furthermore, Jesus “has the seven Spirits of God” (3:1; cf. 5:6).  “He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself” (19:12).  For these reasons the New World Translation of John 1:1(c) as “the Word was a god” is not accepted. 

Co-equal

It is, on the other hand, also clear that theos (God) is used exclusively for the Father.

Of the about 100 times that theos is used in Revelation, about 17 instances provide further information that help us to determine who is intended.  In all 17 instances theos is not used as a group name for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but used to refer to the Father exclusively. 

The letter to the Colossians was also analyzed to see how that letter uses theos.  See Is Jesus God? – A study of the letter to the Colossians.  That articles shows that God created all things through Jesus, that Jesus holds all creation together and that Jesus rules over all.  But Colossians also presents Jesus as distinct from God.

Theos is used about 1300 times in the New Testament.  The article Jesus is not God shows many clear examples from the other books of the New Testament that theos is used as a name for the Father only.  Therefore, when we encounter theos (God) in the New Testament, we must assume it refers to the Father exclusively. 

However, in about 7 instances the New Testament refers to Jesus as God, of which John 1:1(c) is the best known.  It is proposed that, in those seven instances, theos is used is a different way, namely to say that Jesus is the One Whom Christians worship and obey. The Greeks who worshiped Zeus and Apollos and many other gods, but Christians worship Jesus.  This does not make Him co-equal with the Father.  The Father alone is God; the Source of all things.  The article Jesus is subordinate to God shows that Jesus was subordinate to God both prior to His birth and after His ascension.  Nevertheless, Jesus is our God, for He is the One whom we worship and admire.

Articles in the Christology series:
Is Jesus God?

  1.    The three views of the Son 
  2.    Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God. 
  3.    Jesus in Colossians
  4.    Jesus in Philippians: Did He empty Himself of equality with God? 
  5.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
  6.    Jesus is not God.  
  7.    God is the Head of Christ
  8.    Jesus is called God. 
  9.    He is the Only Begotten Son of God. 
 10.  God created all things through His Son. 
 11.  Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God?  
       Worship verses in the New Testament   
 12.  Jesus has equality with God. 
 13. 
Who is Jesus? – Summary of the series of articles 
 14.  Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

 


	

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

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?