Why Jesus had to die

Why Jesus had to die to save people to eternal life: What problem was solved by His death? Did He die to pacify an angry God? Or was Jesus the Lamb of God whom God used to reconcile all things to Himself?

Summary of this article

The Qur’an teaches that some Israelites conspired to kill Jesus, but Allah rescued Jesus.  In other words, Jesus did not die.  The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that people are saved to eternal life only through the death of the Son of God.  If Jesus was not killed, then the entire Christian faith is futile and in vain.  The primary purpose of this article is to explain why Jesus had to die.

Similar to the Qur’an, the Bible teaches that God is one.  The Bible clearly distinguishes between God and Jesus and teaches that Jesus is completely dependent on God.  However, the Bible also teaches that Jesus created everything, upholds all things, has all the fullness of Deity in bodily form, is the Judge, has life in Himself and gives life to whom He wishes.  This contradiction we are unable to understand because humans are unable to understand God. 

A Muslim would disagree with the notion that God would allow His Son to be killed.  However, one of the fundamental principles of the Christian religion is self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.  This is a Christian principle because that is how God is.  He humiliated Himself to become a human being, and even humiliate Himself to die in the hands of evil man. 

Christians agree that Jesus had to die, but disagree on why Jesus had to die.  His death is the solution to a problem.  To understand why Jesus had to die, one needs to know what the problem was.  The typical Christian understanding of the problem is that God is angry because of our sins.  Jesus then died to placate His anger.   But since the Bible is clear that it was God that sent Jesus, and that He did it because of His love for the world, the problem is defined below as follows:

Firstly, sin originated in heaven in a large rebellion against God. This rebellion later spilled over to earth.

Secondly, God allowed sin to developed because He created His intelligent beings with the ability to choose against Him, for the only worship that He accepts is the worship of love. He therefore grants His creatures full freedom, which is freedom without fear of retribution.

Sin caused terrible conflict in heaven. Satan argued that God’s laws are deficient; that it is not possible to comply with His laws in all circumstances, and that it is therefore unfair of God to forgive some sinners but condemn others.

God was not able to prove conclusively to the heavenly beings that Satan’s accusations were false. He therefore had to allow Satan to continue until Satan’s character and purpose were fully revealed.

To protect the creation God must destroy sin and sinners, but since God is accused of unfairness, if sin and sinners are destroyed before His intelligent creatures fully understand the truth, rebellion would erupt again in the future.  God wishes to make an end of rebellion once and for all.

The problem is therefore much larger than simply that human beings sin.  The problem affects the entire universe; not only this microscopic planet.  Christ’s death, which is the solution to the problem, similarly has a much wider impact than only this earth:

The Son of God became a human being to make an end to the war in heaven.  Christ’s life demonstrated that it is possible to comply with God’s law in all circumstances.  In other words, there is nothing wrong with God’s law.  His death was the full demonstration of this fact, and also revealed Satan’s cruel nature and the self-sacrificing nature of the Son of God.

Pakmamin Wrote:

Picture of the Qu'ranThe position of the Qur’an about the mighty Messiah Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and the belief of Muslims in this respect: The Qur’an tells us that some of the Israelites rejected Jesus, and conspired to kill him, but Allah (God) rescued Jesus and raised him to Himself by swapping him.  Allah says in Qur’an that they neither killed Jesus nor crucified him, but it was made to appear so unto them.

Quoting the Qur’an: “and their saying: we killed Christ Jesus, son of Mary, The messenger of Allah – but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it was made to appear to them so … For surely they killed him not; but Allah took him up unto Himself”.

The Muslim belief is that Allah changed the face of the person who betrayed Jesus, showing to the rulers the place where he was hiding, into a face resembling Jesus.  So, they crucified that betrayer instead of Jesus.

Response:

Since this article responds to a comment by a Muslim, it does not provide full Biblical evidence for the concepts discussed, but explains certain very complex Christian concepts as briefly and as clearly as possible.

The Bible teaches that people are saved to eternal life only through the death of the Son of God.  If Jesus was not killed, as claimed by the Qur’an, then the entire Christian faith is futile and in vain. 

A Muslim would object to a number of issues in the Christian viewpoint.

God Is One

The Bible teaches that God is One.The Bible teaches that God is one (Deut. 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-30; James 2:19) and clearly distinguishes between God and Jesus (e.g. John 17:3; 1 Timothy 2:5).  On the other hand the Bible refers to Jesus as “God” (e.g. John 1:18; Titus 2:13-14).  How do we reconcile these facts?

The first thing we have to say is that humans are unable to understand God.  He exists outside time, space and matter.  He is simultaneously in all places and in all times; past, present and future.  He exists without cause.  In fact, He is that which exists.  Things exist because God exists.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.  It is our privilege to study about Him, but we must do it with humility, for “the secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deut. 29:29).

According to the Bible His Son Jesus is completely dependent on God, but also:

  • Existed before He became a human being, was sent by God and descended from heaven;
  • Is “the Beginning“ and created everything; both in the heavens and on earth;
  • Upholds all things;
  • Has all the fullness of Deity in bodily form;
  • Is the Judge and has authority over all flesh;
  • Has life in Himself and gives life to whom He wishes;
  • Must be worshiped as we worship God;
  • Is the visible image of the invisible God and the exact representation of God’s nature;

The Bible and Jesus teaches that God is One.The contradiction, namely that the Bible on the one hand teaches that God is One, and maintains a clear distinction between God and His Son, but on the other hand says that “all the fullness of Deity dwells in Christ in bodily form” (Col. 2:9), I personally explain as follows:s:

This universe consists of time, space and matter.  The universe was brought into being by the Father’s will.  God the Father is therefore not limited or defined by time, space and matter.   He is everywhere in the universe, but also everywhere outside the universe.  Humans are not able to conceive of something that exists outside the universe, but the Intelligence and Power that created the universe exists outside the universe.

Jesus created everything and therefore existed before all things, but in my view He exists within time, space and matter.  He is the exact representation of God’s nature within the universe.  Jesus did not exist before the universe came into being because time did not exist before the universe came into being.  Jesus is also “the Beginning“ of time, space and matter.  The “big bang” was an immense explosion of Energy that brought this universe into being.  In my view Jesus is the Power behind the big bang.  He guided the energy to convert to particles, and He guided the particles to form stars, galaxies and planets.  There never was a time that He did not exist because time came into being with Him. 

These are very difficult concepts.  Perhaps I am trying to explain something which cannot be explained.  Perhaps it will be better to simply say that, during the millions of years ahead of us, we will continually learn more about God.  But since He is infinite, we will never be able to understand Him fully.  Please see the article Son of God for an analysis of the relevant Bible texts.

Son of God Killed

The Cross of ChristA Muslim would also disagree with the notion that God would allow His Son to be killed.  However, that is one of the fundamentals of the Christian religion, namely that it is according to God’s character that He would humiliate Himself to become a human being, and even humiliate Himself to die in the hands of evil man.  Paul wrote to the Philippians that Christ Jesus “existed in the form of God”, but “emptied Himself … being made in the likeness of men” and further “humbled Himself … to … death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).

That is how God is revealed in the Bible.  He is not an authoritarian.  He does set laws and He does execute judgment, but always His motive is love.  He so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Jesus was genuinely humble. On one occasion, He washed the feet of His disciples, a service usually performed by a lowly servant.

Why Jesus Had to Die

A Muslim might also object to the statement that the Son of God had to die to save people to eternal life.  Christians generally agree on this point, but they disagree on HOW the death of the Son of God saves people.  His death is the solution to a problem.  To understand why Jesus had to die, one needs to know what the problem was:

Many Christians define the problem as that our sin angered God, and that He needs a sacrifice to placate His anger.   Or to state it slightly different, the righteousness of God required death as a penalty for sin, and Jesus became a human being so that He Himself would die in our stead, so that our sins can be forgiven.

This website objects to the concept that God demands penalty for sin.  Rather, the purpose of His laws is to be for our good.   God does punish people for their sins, but the purpose is then to teach them.  His punishment is forward-looking; to ensure a better future

God is Love - His every motive is loveThis website also objects to the idea that God is angry.  That seems to be a horrible distortion of the Bible message.  Throughout the Bible we find evidence that it was the Father that loved the world and sent His Son to die for us, that we may live.

I would like to present to you a different explanation for why Jesus had to die for people to be saved to eternal life.  This is based on a different definition of the problem.

1. Sin originated in heaven in a large rebellion against God.  This rebellion later expanded to earth.

Few Christians are fully aware of this fact.  The Bible is essentially a history book of events on earth, written by many different authors over thousands of years.  For that reason it gives very little information about the events in heaven.  But sprinkled throughout the Bible one finds evidence of the heavenly source of evil, for instance the statement that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places“ and that God made peace with things in heaven, by the blood of his cross.  Please refer to the article Origin of Evil for a discussion of the evidence from the Bible. 

In the Bible we find evidence of a massive rebellion in heaven against God.  Satan, the leader of the rebellion, later expanded the rebellion to earth by tempting our first parents into sin.  Sin did not originate on earth.

Sin is defined here as anything that harms the well-being of God’s creation.  Since God’s laws are designed to ensure the happiness of His creation, one can also define sin as disobedience to God’s law.  God’s law does not change, but is explained differently to different people, just like you would explain a law differently to a three year old than to a wise old man.  Also, different laws apply to angels and people, just like the maintenance manuals for cars and computers are different.  The Sabbath commandment, for instance, is unique to this planet, and angels do not have to honor their fathers and mothers because they do not have fathers and mothers.

2. God allowed sin to developed because He created His intelligent beings with the ability to choose against Him, for the only worship that He accepts is the worship of love.  He therefore grants His creatures full freedom, which is freedom without fear of retribution.

Some think that God decides who will be saved irrespective of what the person is or wantsOne then may ask why God allowed sin to develop in heaven, and why He allowed the rebellion to spread to earth.  Again, this is not a question that Christians often think about.  It is proposed here that God allowed sin to develop because God grants His creatures full freedom.  Many Christians would object to this idea.  They believe that God decides who will be saved and who will be lost.  In their view God controls the minds of people, and that people (and angels) have no real freedom.  But if God controls intelligent beings in that manner, then it also follows that God created evil; that sin was God’s invention, which we cannot accept.

In contrast it is proposed here that God grants His intelligent creatures full freedom.  That was why God, who has all power and all knowledge, allowed sin to develop in the first place.  That is also why He did not destroy sinners immediately and why He even allowed Satan access to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Full freedom means freedom without fear of retribution.  Lucifer understood this.  He had a very high position in God’s kingdom.  He was God’s main spokesperson to His creatures, and he knew that God will not penalize His creatures for their sin.

If we have full freedom, why did God say to Adam and Eve that, if they eat of the tree, they would die?  It is proposed here that that was not a threat, limiting their freedom, but a warning, intended to protect their freedom.  As already stated, God’s laws are not arbitrary, but designed to ensure the happiness of His creatures.  Created beings have the freedom to act contrary to His laws, but there are natural consequences.  The cruelty, sickness and death that we see around us today are not God’s penalty for disobedience, but the natural consequence of acting contrary to His command.  God therefore warned Adam and Eve against the natural consequences of sin.

3. Sin caused terrible conflict in heaven.  Satan argued that God’s laws are deficient; that it is not possible to comply with His laws in all circumstances, and that it is therefore unfair of God to forgive some sinners but condemn others.

Sin, which originated in heaven, caused war in heaven, represented in the Bible as Michael and his angels at war against Satan and his angels.  This was a terrible war, not fought with physical weapons, but with much more terrible weapons than we can imagine.

But what was the war about?  I do not think we are able to understand what the angels disagreed about.  It was a being of wonderful power and glory that had set himself against God.  The Lord says of Lucifer, “You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12).  He was “the anointed cherub who covers” (v14), which means that he once stood in the light of God’s presence.  He was the highest of all created beings.  He was the one who taught the universe about God.  How could we hope to understand the arguments which Satan presented to the angels?

Satan accused the High PriestHowever, we have some indications in the Bible of what the war was about.  In Revelation 12 Satan is called the accuser of the brethren.  In Zechariah 3 he stands next to the high priest to accuse him.  It is therefore implied that there was disagreement about God’s judgments.   God judged Satan and his angels as guilty, but forgave certain sinners, such as Moses.  Therefore, the once mighty angel Lucifer, now called Satan, accused God of inconsistent and unrighteous judgment.  He seems to argue that the sins of God’s people cannot be forgiven; that mercy was inconsistent with justice; and if God should cancel the punishment of sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice.  Please see the article Disarmed the rulers and authorities for more information.

There are also indications in the Bible that Satan argued that it is not possible for created beings to always and fully comply with God’s laws:

Job tormentedThe oldest book in the Bible tells the story of a man named Job.  Job was a “blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil”, but Satan said to God “touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face”.  God then allowed Satan to destroy everything that Job owned, even his children, but Job remained faithful.  Then Satan went back to God and said “put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face”.  Satan obtained permission from God and “smote Job with sore boils”.  Satan also incited Job’s wife to say to Job, “Curse God and die”.  This is what Satan hoped Job would do.  Satan also sent Job’s friends to him to tell him that God has rejected him (Job).  The purpose of this message was to sever the link of faith and trust that joined Job to his Creator.  But “in all this Job did not sin with his lips”.  Satan’s purpose with this test seems to be to show that, given the right circumstances, everybody will lose his hold on God and sin against God

That also seems to be the purpose of the test which Adam failed.  When man defied the will of God, Satan exulted.  It was proved, he declared, that the law could not be obeyed, and since man could not be forgiven, that the human race must be forever shut out from God’s favor.

Two of Satan’s arguments were therefore:

  • That it is impossible for created beings to always and fully comply with God’s laws.
  • That it is therefore unfair of God to forgive some sinners but condemn others.

Ultimately, the War in Heaven is about God’s judgments.

4. God was not able to prove conclusively to the heavenly beings that Satan’s accusations were false.  He therefore had to allow Satan to continue until Satan’s character and purpose were fully revealed.

The book sealed with seven sealsAs already stated, God does not force His beings to accept His judgment.  But neither was He able to conclusively convince the loyal angels of the error in the accusations of the super-brilliant accuser.  This was a terrible time in heaven.  It seemed as if Satan had the upper hand, and as if evil would exist forever.  In the last book of the Bible the inability to understand these things is symbolized by a closed book which nobody was able to open.  See the discussion of the Introduction to the Seven Seals for more information. 

If God destroyed Satan and his host at that point in time, before Satan’s character and purpose was fully revealed. it would not have been apparent to heavenly beings that the destruction of Satan and his host was the inevitable result of sin.  Doubt of God’s goodness would have remained in their minds as evil seed, and the rebellion would arise again in the future.  Satan claimed that his principles are superior to God’s principles.  Since God’s purpose is to secure the eternal safety of the universe, He had to allow Satan time to continue until the principles of his system of government has been fully developed, that they might be seen by all the universe. 

5. To protect the creation God must destroy sin and sinners, but since God is accused of unfairness, if sin and sinners are destroyed before His intelligent creatures fully understand the truth, rebellion would erupt again in the future.  God wishes to make an end of rebellion once and for all.

God will eventually destroy sin, including every creature that is permanently corrupted by sin, but not as retribution or penalty for sin.  He will destroy sin to protect His creation.    As stated in Revelation, He will make all things new.

However, even though sin destroys, and even though God can very easily destroy Satan and his followers, God cannot destroy sin and sinners unilaterally because God never forces anybody to agree with Him.  To compel opposition is found only under Satan’s government.  The Lord’s authority rests upon principles such as truth, goodness, mercy, and love.  These are the means by which the Lord overcomes evil.  The Lord can only destroy sin if His intelligent creatures, in full freedom, agree with Him and ask Him to do it.

The five points above are the proposed definition of the problem which Christ’s death had to solve.  The problem is therefore much bigger than simply that human beings sin.  The problem affects the entire universe; not only this microscopic planet.  Christ’s death, which is the solution to the problem, similarly has a much wider impact than only this earth:

The Son of God became a human being to make an end to the war in heaven.  Christ’s life demonstrated that it is possible to comply with God’s law in all circumstances.  In other words, there is nothing wrong with God’s law.  His death was the full demonstration of this fact, and also revealed Satan’s cruel nature and the self-sacrificing nature of the Son of God.

Jesus as human babyWith the war of accusations in heaven still raging heavily, God sent His Son as a human being to this planet, which Satan claimed as his own; as a vulnerable baby in a world controlled by Satan. 

At first Satan did everything in his power to physically destroy the little One, but God protected His Son. 

Then Satan changed His tactics; he tried, in every possible way, to lead Jesus into sin, to discourage Him, to get Jesus to act selfishly; to get Jesus to use His power or position to benefit Himself.  The Bible records an incident where Satan tempted Jesus: 

After fasting for forty days Jesus was very hungry, and Satan tempted Him to use His power to turn stones into bread, but Jesus refused. 

Then Satan tempted Him to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple to prove that He is the Son of God, but Jesus refused. 

Lastly Satan offered Him all the kingdoms of the world if He would fall down and worship Satan, but again Jesus refused. 

This was simply one example of Satan’s strategy throughout the earthly life of the Son of God.  The cross was the ultimate test.

The story of Job helps us to understand why Jesus had to die to end the war in heaven.  Perhaps Satan similarly went to God and said that, if you allow me full access to Jesus, including to His life, I will show you that Your Son will “curse You to Your face”.  We know from the Bible that God did give Satan full and unlimited access to Christ; including to kill Him.  God’s Holy Spirit was always close to Jesus, but on the Cross Jesus cried out, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?  During His last days God withdrew His protection and support from Jesus.  The “rulers and authorities” (Col. 2:15), elsewhere called the powers of darkness, assembled around the cross, bombarding Christ with thoughts of unbelief, resulting in cruel depression and despair.  Just like God, on the basis of His principle of freedom, allowed Satan access to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as a test, God allowed Satan full access to the Son of God.

This was a test.  Could one sin be found in Christ, had He in one particular yielded to Satan to escape the terrible torture, the enemy of God and man would have triumphed.  But in spite of the physical, emotional and spiritual agony, Jesus did not use His power to relieve His agony.  Satan was allowed to use every means available to him, but Jesus did not sin in a word or a deed or a thought.  The more mercilessly Satan’s wrath fell upon Him, the more firmly did the Son of God clung to the hand of His Father, and press on in His bloodstained path.  All heaven was filled with wonder when Christ prayed in the midst of His terrible suffering,–“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  Christ revealed God to the universe. 

We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings” (1 Cor. 4:9 NIV).  All heaven witnessed the controversy with intense interest.  They watched the Son of God enter the garden of Gethsemane, His soul bowed down with a great darkness.  They heard His bitter cry, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39).  As the Father’s presence withdrew from Him, they saw Him filled with a sorrow that is worse than the last great struggle with death, causing bloody sweat to fell in drops to the ground.  Heaven saw Satan’s frenzied work, and his power over the hearts of men, causing them to deride, torment, condemn, and crucify the Son of God, while the daughters of Jerusalem wept and the mob jeered. 

Satan was defeated.  The evidence which Jesus gave through His life and death brought an end to the war in heaven (See War in Heaven).   There-after the consensus of the loyal angels was that Satan is wrong and God is right, and they requested God to banish Satan from heaven. 

Christ’s life, including the Cross, which was the highest test which Jesus had to go through, but still only one of a continuum of tests during His life, revealed at least three things:

It showed that this human being (Jesus) would remain faithful to God’s principles in all circumstances, showing thereby that it is possible for human beings (and angels) to comply fully with God’s law in the most agonizing circumstances.  In other words, there is nothing wrong with God’s laws

Christ’s death revealed the cruel nature of Satan and his evil angels.  Not until the death of Christ was the character of Satan clearly revealed to the heavenly beings.  The exalted position which he had gave him power to deceive.  Satan had so clothed himself with deception that even holy beings could not understand his principles or the nature of his rebellion.  But the Cross torn away his disguise.  His administration was laid open before the heavenly universe.  He had revealed himself as a murderer.  By shedding the blood of the Son of God, he lost any remaining sympathy he still received from the heavenly beings. 

Lastly, His life and death revealed the character of the Son of God.  When nothing else was able to end the war in heaven, He was willing to humiliate Himself to becoming a human being, and to run the risk of eternal loss through a torturous death to save sinners.  Throughout His life His concern always was with the people around Him.  These things revealed His true character.

It was for this purpose that He became a human being and this is why Jesus had to die; not only a normal death, but a voluntary slow death through torture.  His death was voluntary, for if He gave the command, legions of angels would have come to His aid.

But Satan also had another argument, namely that God is unfair when He forgives one sinner but condemn another.  Jesus’ death did not fully answer all of Satan’s accusations.  For that reason God has not yet made an end to sin.  There is more to be revealed.  For the sake of the future happiness of the universe, Satan was allowed to continue his work, but only on earth (Revelation 12).  Man as well as angels must see the contrast between the Prince of light and the prince of darkness.

In Conclusion

Sin caused terrible conflict in heaven.  Satan, the highest of all created beings, used the sins of people—their inability to keep God’s law—as evidence to prove that God’s intelligent creatures are unable to fully keep God’s law, arguing that God is therefore inconsistent and unfair when some of His sinning creatures, such as Adam and Moses, are forgiven while other people and sinful angels are condemned.  Even the loyal heavenly beings could not conclusively answer Satan’s accusations against God.  The problem is therefore much bigger than simply that human beings sin.  The problem affects the entire universe; not only this microscopic planet. 

Christ’s came to the earth to validate God’s judgments.  Jesus, as fully human, showed that human beings (and angels) are able to comply with the Law of God in all circumstances.  If Jesus did not really die, as the Qur’an maintains, then we have no hope.

God’s Children

So, who are God’s children?  To call yourself a Christian does not make one His child:

The person that views God as an authoritarian tyrant, and is pleased with that view of God, will himself be an authoritarian tyrant, and is therefore not a child of God. 

God’s people are those that admire God’s willingness to suffer for His creatures.  They find joy in the thought that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to become a human being to suffer for our benefit.  God’s people are those that want to be as humble as God, and those that want to serve other people, particularly lesser people.  They find joy in the concept of freedom, and they grant other people freedom to differ from them.  They do not act selfishly, but are willing to suffer for the benefit of others. 

God will judge each person according to his circumstances.  To be saved by the blood (death) of Christ does not require one to know His name.  Even a person that rejects Christ, but accepts His principles, is one of His people.  God does not belong to Christianity.   There is only one true God, and He loves and talks to all peoples, through His written word, through nature, through other people and through His supernatural communication with each human being.  Each of us will be judged relative to what we have received.  From the one that has received much, much will be expected. 

TO: General Table of Contents

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

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

Italics are used for quotes; not for emphasis.

Summary

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

In Revelation 4 John is called up to heaven, where he saw God’s throne; symbol of God’s authority over the universe.  God is described rather vaguely becauseno man has seen or can seeGod (1Ti 6:16).

Around God’s throne were 24 elders sitting 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 is a symbol, meaning from beginning to end.  Through His Spirit, God is always with us.

This chapter shows the joyous worship of the four living beings and the 24 elders.

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 see the Lamb taking the sealed book.  This sealed book is a symbol of concealed information, causing 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 around the throne.

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:

  • The New Testament often indicates 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.
  • Jesus appears as a slain Lamb.
  • Jesus appeared “in the midst of the throne” (5:6 KJV).
  • 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.
  • In Revelation 4 the Holy Spirit is 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, and Revelation 5 therefore refers to an event after the rapture.  According to the arguments above, the dispensational view is incorrect.

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 sealed book is the book of life, which indicates who will live and who will die.  This is indicated by the following:

  • Jesus purchased for God with His blood men from every nation and consequently became worthy to open the sealed book (5:9). The sealed book is therefore about redemption.
  • 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 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 after the return of Christ. The book of life will also 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 with the seventh plague and as the great day of God’s wrath at the return of Christ;
  3. The fifth seal, identifying 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 on 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 over 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 detail in Revelation (1:13-18), but God is described rather vaguely in Revelation 4 (4:3).  God 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 humans will (3:21).
  • The elders have stephanos-crowns on their heads, which is used in Revelation as the crown of the overcomer—or 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 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 see the Lamb taking 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 represent 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, around the throne, millions and millions of angels (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:

To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (5:13).

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:

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” (5:5).

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

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

Why Satan thought he could win against God? What power does he have to oppose God? What are his strategy and his goal? Why did God allow Satan to torment Job without cause? – A study of the book of Job

Summary:

JobThis article analyses the text of the book of Job, and comes to the following eleven conclusions:

1. Satan is only able to do what the Lord allows him to do. Satan had to ask permission from God to test Job by destroying all his possessions.

2. God claims certain people as His (His elect).  The dispute in Job is over the Lord’s elected people only; not about the followers of Satan.

3. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He accuses God’s elect.

4. By rejecting God’s assessment or judgment of His elect, Satan is actually saying that God judges wrongly. When Satan tests Job, he is actually testing God’s ability to judge.

5. Satan has no real interest in the humans; his goal is to save himself. He and his angels are condemned by God, and Satan wants to show to the universe that God makes mistakes when He judges.

6. Job had no idea of the events in heaven, but his sufferings on earth was the direct consequence of a discussion and an agreement made in heaven. This was not an isolated incident, but still happens every day.

7. If it can be shown that God’s judgments are faulty, even only in a single instance, the implications for heaven will be massive; Satan would be able to claim that he also has been judged unfairly.

8. Satan not only wants to be cleared from guilt; he is also fighting to retain the right to rule the earth.

9. The Lord and Satan are in a battle for the minds of the people. God does not take the rule by force. Nor does He allow Satan to force angels and people to submit to his authority.  This war for the right to rule will NOT be won on the basis of power, but on the basis of loyalty.

10. God’s intelligent beings are free to choose. God wants them to trust His judgments, so that they would serve Him because they want to serve Him. Satan is the one who does not grant freedom.  He controls people and angels against their will.

11. Satan thought he could succeed against God because he knew that God allows His intelligent beings to choose for themselves, and he thought that he would be able, through brilliant deceptions, to convince them to side with him.

Series

War in HeavenThis is the second of the following series of articles:

  1. Origin of Evil
  2. Why Satan thought he could win against God
  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?

The Question:

God is all powerful.  He created everything.  Satan and His evil angels, in contrast, are mere created beings.  The devils believe that God is one, but they “tremble” (James 2:19).  Satan is perhaps the most brilliant mind ever created.  Why did he think he could succeed against God?

The Facts:

Job tormentedThe facts from the book of Job, in brief, are as follows:

One day “the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD” (1:6).

Satan also was among them (Job 1:6).  The LORD asked Satan: “From where do you come?” (1:7).

Satan answered, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (1:7).

But the Lord said, “have you considered My servant Job?  For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (1:8).

But Satan rejected God’s assessment of Job.  He declared that Job fears God only because God protects him on every side, and blesses the works of his hands, making him very wealthy.  Satan continued, “but put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face” (1:9-11).

The LORD then gave Satan permission to test Job by destroying everything that Job owned (1:12), including his children.

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (1:22).

A second meeting of the sons of God with the Lord is described in Job 2:1-6.  The same issues are brought up, but with slightly different specifics. Satan failed the first time around to destroy Job’s faith in God.  The Lord now adds, referring to Job, “he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause” (2:3).

Now Satan requests even more power to show that Job does not really have faith in God:

Stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (2:4-5)

And the LORD said to Satan, Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life” (2:6).

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:1-7).

Job with Painful BoilsJob was the wealthiest man of the east, and Satan said that Job fears God only because the Lord blessed the works of his hands.  God then allowed Satan to take away everything that Job owned, and to cover Job’s body with painful boils so that “Job took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes” (2:8).  The wealthiest man was reduced to one of the poorest and most miserable people.  But still Job did not curse God.  He said:

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.  “Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another.” (Job 19:25-27)

Discussion

JOB

The book Job helps us with the question above.

It is possibly the oldest book in the Bible.  Job himself made “morning and offering burnt offerings” (Job 1:5), and there is no mention in the book of the Jewish priesthood.  Job probably lived before the time of Abraham.

Job was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (1:1).  He was also very wealthy (1:2-3); “the greatest of all the men of the east” (1:3).

He was a real person.  Other Bible writers refer to him (James 5:11).  Ezekiel mentions him with Noah and Daniel as exceptionally righteousness (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).

THE LORD

The book of Job makes a distinction between God and the Lord (1:8-9; 2:3).  In the article Son of God it is proposed that “the Lord” in Job refers to Jesus Christ before He became a human being.

SONS OF GOD

Who are these “sons of God” that came to present themselves before the Lord? Jesus is “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).  Believers are also called “sons of God” (Romans 8:14).  However, in Luke’s gospel, in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, where the sequence of generations is listed using the phrase “son of”, for instance “the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Matthat”, Adam is called “the son of God” (Luke 3:23).  So perhaps God also created other worlds and perhaps these “sons of God” in Job are the leaders of these worlds, as opposed to angels.  As ruler of this world (John 12:31), Satan was among them.

SATAN

Satan means adversary.  In the previous article (Origin of Evil) it was shown that Satan is one of a special class of angels (covering cherubs) that serve in God’s immediate presence.  Ezekiel saw four of them (Ezekiel 10:9).  “The sound of the wings of the cherubim was … like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks” (Ezekiel 10:5).  “Each one had four faces and each one four wings” (10:14, 21).  “Their whole body, their backs, their hands, their wings and the wheels were full of eyes all around” (v12).

Ezekiel describes them as “living beings” (v15, 20).  John also saw “four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind” (Revelation 4:5).

These are extremely mighty creatures.  When Satan looks at angels of lower classes, they just run (Daniel 10:21).

1. SATAN IS ONLY ABLE TO DO
WHAT THE LORD ALLOWS HIM TO DO.

Satan had to ask permission from God to test Job.  Satan was not allowed to kill Job, but God allowed Satan to kill Jesus.  We do not have to fear Satan.

2. THE DISPUTE IS ABOUT GOD’S ELECT.  –

We see in Job that God claims certain people as His.  He elects them on the basis of qualities that are invisible to Satan and other created beings.  The dispute in Job is over the Lord’s elected people only.  The dispute is not about the followers of Satan.

3. SATAN IS THE ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN. –

Satan accuses Job.  In general, Satan accuses God’s people.  In the book of Revelation he is called the “accuser of our brethren” (12:10).  In Zachariah 3 Satan stands next to the high priest Joshua “to accuse him”.

4. SATAN ACCUSES GOD OF MISTAKEN JUDGMENT.

Satan rejects God’s assessment or judgment of the Lord’s elect.  Satan argued that Job will curse God if Job’s possessions are taken away.  But the issue is not Job as a person.  The issue is much bigger.  By saying that Job fears God only because God protects him and blesses the works of his hands, and by saying that Job will curse God if Job’s possessions are taken away, Satan was actually saying something about God, namely that God judges wrongly.  And when Satan tests Job, he is actually testing God’s ability to judge.  Satan wants to show that God makes mistakes when He judges.

This confirms the conclusion in the article on the Origin of Evil that Satan inspired distrust in God.  In Eden he called God a selfish liar.

Satan did not respond to the Lord by saying that Job is but one in millions.  It was important for Satan to show that God was wrong with respect to Job.  Apparently, the question is not the view of the majority. God does not need all people on His side to win this war.  It is proposed that the issue is not who will be saved, but whether God makes mistakes when He judges.

5. SATAN IS TRYING TO DEFEND HIMSELF.

Why does Satan want to show that God makes mistakes when he judges?  Is he concerned that God might save the wrong people?  It is proposed here that Satan has no real interest in humans; his goal is to save himself.  God has cast Satan “as profane from the mountain of God” (Ezekiel 28:16).  He and his angels are condemned by God (Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4).  It is to defend himself against God’s judgment of himself that Satan wants to show to the universe that God makes mistakes when He judges.  If God’s judgments can be shown to be wrong in even a single instance, then Satan has won; then God’s judgment of Satan and his angels are brought into question.

6. THE DISCUSSIONS AND AGREEMENTS IN HEAVEN BETWEEN THE LORD AND SATAN HAVE CONSEQUENCES ON EARTH.

Job had no idea of the events in heaven, but the test he went through on earth was the direct consequence of a discussion and agreement made in heaven.   It is proposed that what happened to Job was not an isolated incident, but a general principle.  The book of Job is a revelation of what always have been happening in the invisible realm.  Satan accuses God’s people, and requests God’s permission to allow him to test them, to prove that God judges wrongly.  There is, therefore, a very direct relationship between the dispute in heaven and the trials on earth.

Jesus similarly said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32).

Prince of PersiaWe see something similar in Daniel 10.  Daniel’s prayer caused a skirmish in heaven.  For three weeks the heavenly messenger struggled against the supernatural “Prince of Persia”.  Only when Archangel Michael came to his assistance was he able to deliver the message to Daniel.  Daniel had no idea of what was happening in the spiritual realm as he prayed, but only learned of it afterwards.  The principle is that this is a single war, fought on two fronts; heaven and earth.

On the basis of Job we can safely assume that there was a debate between the Lord and Satan before Adam and Eve were tested in the Garden of Eden, and that the Lord gave Satan permission to test Adam and Eve, just like he was later allowed to test Job.  Just as in the case of Job, Satan was limited as to what he was allowed to do.  God allowed Satan to test Adam and Eve only with respect to the prominent tree in the middle of the garden (Gen. 3:2-3).  It is called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil not because the tree contained some magical properties, but because that was the only place where they would encounter evil.

In fact, we can assume that events on earth today still are governed by debates and agreements between God and Satan.

7. THE TESTS ON EARTH HAVE CONSEQUENCES
FOR THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.

The consequences also go in the other direction.  The debate in heaven results in tests for God’s people on earth, but the tests of God’s people on earth prove or disprove the reliability of God’s judgments, and therefore have consequences for all beings in the universe.  The earth serves as testing ground for God’s judgments, that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).  In other words, the opinions of the “rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” are influenced by the church.  The church refers not only to the New Testament Church, but to the people that trust in God (have faith in God) throughout in all ages.

If it can be shown that God’s judgments are faulty, even only in a single instance, the implications for the heavenly beings will be massive.  Satan would be able to claim that he also has been judged unfairly.

8. SATAN IS FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT TO RULE.

It is was proposed above that Satan wants to show that God makes mistakes when He judges to defend himself against God’s judgment of himself and his followers.  It is now further proposed that Satan not only wants to be cleared from guilt; his ultimate goal is to rule.

There are indications in the debate between the Lord and Satan that the issue is the right to rule:

When Satan said that he has been “roaming about on the earth and walking around on it”, he was implying he rules the earth and all of its people.

When the Lord referred to Job as a “blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil”, He was disputing Satan’s claim for full control over the peoples of the earth.

Initially, Adam and Eve had ownership of the world.  God gave them “dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, 28).  When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, Satan became “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30; 12:31).  He wants to retain the right to rule the earth.

9. THE RIGHT TO RULE IS WON BY LOYALTY.

God does not take the rule by force.  Nor does He allow Satan to force angels and people to submit to his authority.  This war for the right to rule will not be won on the basis of power, but on the basis of loyalty.  It is a battle for the minds of the people.  From the earliest times God has always been sending message after message to the people of this world, ensuring them of His love and asking them to trust Him:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Satan’s purpose is firstly to show that God’s elect do not really have faith in God.  But Satan does more than objectively testing the loyalty of God’s people; because the right to rule is won by winning loyalty, he actually incites people and angels against God.  As the Lord said to Satan,

you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause” (2:3)

10. GOD’S INTELLIGENT BEINGS HAVE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE.

Satan is the Lord’s enemy, but note that the LORD does not use force against Satan.  The Lord allows Satan into the heavenly meetings, listens to him, debates with him, allows Satan to question His judgment and allows Satan to test His judgment.  When Satan comes back after having failed the first time, God even allows Satan to put Job through an even more stringent test.

EdenSimilarly God allowed Satan to visit the Garden of Eden and to tempt Adam and Eve, and allowed him to tempt Christ in the Wilderness.

The Lord’s very claim, namely that Job serves God, as well as Satan’s test of that claim, would make no sense at all if God sovereignly decides who will serve Him, and then programs them to serve Him with irrefutable force, as claimed by the theory of election.

Everything in Job happened with God’s intelligent beings looking on.  They hear the challenges and see the tests.  God works out this rebellion/sin problem in full sight of the whole universe.  This also implies that God wants His intelligent beings to understand the issues, and to decide for themselves who is right; the Lord or Satan.  God wants them to trust His judgments, so that they would be able to serve Him in complete freedom because they want to serve Him.

This entire story of Job is a major difficulty to Christians who believe in the sovereignty of God, by which they mean that God determines everything, and that nothing happens outside of His will.  If that was true, why do good people suffer?  What is the point?  People that believe that God decides who will be saved often describe that as God’s mercy, but they seem to ignore the fact that that also means that other people will be eternally destroyed in hell, simply because God arbitrarily decided that they will.  Personally I believe this is blasphemy.  God is love (1 John 4:8).  God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  To then say that God will decide who will be eternally destroyed in hell, irrespective of what these people want or do or think, sounds to me like blasphemy.  And I do not accept the view that God works with a different system of ethics.  I believe that what we understand as good is what God also understands as good.

Job confirms a principle from the previous article (Origin of Evil), namely that God created His intelligent beings with the ability to disobey Him so that their service and love will be their free choice.

Freedom is the foundation of God’s government.  God is all powerful, but by granting unlimited free will to His intelligent beings, God limited Himself.  God could have created robots, that only do what they are told to do, but it was God’s choice to create intelligent beings that are completely free.  He is able to do away with evil by forcing His intelligent beings to serve Him against their will, but He created this universe for His intelligent beings.  To force them to obey Him would undo His entire goal for this universe. He wants all His intelligent beings to love and worship Him by choice and not because He forces them to worship Him.

Free choice is a fundamental difference between God’s systems of government and Satan’s.   Satan is the one who does not grant freedom to others.  Satan attempts to force people and angels to do what he want them to do.  When people are possessed, they no longer have the ability to leave Satan behind.  The mark of the beast is specifically used to force people to worship in a certain way.

11. WHY SATAN THOUGHT HE COULD SUCCEED AGAINST GOD 

We are now able to answer the question above.  For the following reasons Satan thought that he could succeed against God:

He knew God very well, and knew that God would not use force.  He knew that God allows his intelligent beings the freedom to choose for themselves.  He knew that the contest will not be on the basis of power, but on the basis loyalty.

He thought that he would be able to convince them to side with him, because, as a mighty covering cherub, who previously explained God’s decisions to the universe, he was loved by all angels and they had much respect for him.

Satan had an advantage over God because he could tell lies.  Because he knew God so well he knew that he would have to tell lies and misrepresent God before man and before the angels.  But he also knew God cannot use deception or lies, and that God’s only weapons are love and truth.

He has perhaps the most brilliant mind ever created and was able to use extremely cunning deception and lies.

Jesus said of Satan: 

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in 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).

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