When did the war in heaven start and when was Satan thrown down from heaven?

Satan expelled from heaven

The wilderness period is mentioned both in verses 6 and 14.  In-between these verses Satan is thrown down from heaven.  What is the real chronological sequence?

This is the second article on Revelation 12’s war in heaven.  The first article identifies the role-players in this war:
● The Male Child, who was caught up to God,
● His mother, who existed both before and after Christ,
● The Dragon, that stood ready to devour the Child. and
● Michael, who wages war in heaven with the Dragon.

Chronological Sequence

After the male child was “caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev. 12:5), “the woman fled into the wilderness” where she would be “nourished” for 1260 days (v6).  Verse 7 describes the angels in heaven “waging war.”  Verses 8 and 9 describes Satan’s defeat: “He was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”  Verses 10 to 12 explain the nature of the war.  Verse 13 shifts the focus from heaven to earth when it continues:

When the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.”

In verse 14 the woman flees to the wilderness “where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time.”

The sequence of events therefore seems to be as follows:

● Male Child caught up to God (v5);
● Woman hides in wilderness (v6);
● War in heaven (v7);
● Satan thrown down to earth (v8-9);
● Woman hides in wilderness (v14);

War before Christ

This sequence may seem to imply that the war commenced after Jesus was caught up to His Father’s throne, but the following shows that the war existed before Christ:

Daniel – God sent an angel  (10:5-6) to Daniel, but for “three weeks” the supernatural “Prince of the Kingdom of Persia” prevented this mighty angel from reaching Daniel (v13).  He was only able to do so after Michael came to his assistance (v13).  The angel told Daniel that he (the angel) 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”.  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).)

Other examples of the war in heaven, before the time of Christ, are Zechariah 3 and Job, already mentioned above.  “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).

In other words, the war existed before Christ became a man.  We must distinguish between the war and the victory.  The war existed before Christ, but Michael won the victory only after Jesus was caught up.

Was Satan defeated after the 1260 days?

Between Jesus’ ascension in verse 5 and Satan’s defeat in verse 8, the woman hides in the wilderness for 1260 days (verse 6).  Was Satan defeated after the 1260 days?

To understand the correct chronological sequence, one has to understand that verses 6 and 14 describe the same wilderness period, for in both verses the woman flees into the wilderness where she has a place prepared for her, where she would be nourished for the same period of time:

The “time and times and half a time” (12:14) = 3½ times = 3½ years = 3½ x 12 x 30 days = the 1260 days (12:6).  In Old Testament times people used the moon cycle to count months, giving approximately 30 days per month.

These two verses therefore describe the same wilderness period, but verse 6 is mentioned before the war, while verse 14 follows after Satan was thrown down to earth.  Did Michael win the victory before or after the wilderness period?  Verses 13 and 14 give the actual chronological sequence because they explicitly link Satan’s defeat to the wilderness period:

When the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place.”

The woman therefore hides in the wilderness after Satan was thrown down to earth.  In other words, the real chronological sequence is as follows:

● War in heaven – the dragon waits to devour the Child (v1-4);
● The Child is born and caught up to God (v5)
● Satan is defeated and thrown down (v8-12);
● Woman flees to the wilderness (v6, 14).

What is the Wilderness Period?

WildernessAs indicated by verses 13 and 14, this is a time when God people have to hide from persecution.  They become invisible.  It is a very important prophetic period, for it is mentioned seven times in Daniel and Revelation.  It 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 (the evil horn-king’s hand) for a time, times, and half a time.”  This means that they are persecuted.  “It would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed” (Dan. 12:7).

This period is not specifically identified in this article because that is not necessary for the purpose of this article.  But as one can see from Revelation 12, it is a period of time between Christ’s ascension (v5) and the end-time war (v17).  That is one reason for the view that this is a very long period of time, and that the 1260 days are symbolic.

When was the victory won?

Satans defeatSome people want to put Satan’s defeat a long time before Christ, when Lucifer was “cast … as profane from the mountain of God” (Ezekiel 28:16).  Others want to put it at the end of time, when “the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone” (Rev. 20:10).  But since the victory was won before the woman has to hide in the wilderness, it is proposed that Satan was thrown out of heaven immediately after Christ’s ascension.

 

Summary

Revelation 12 first mentions the war in heaven after Jesus was caught up to His Father’s throne.  However, war existed before Christ.  Michael and his angels won the victory after Christ.

Verses 8 and 9 mentions Satan’s defeat after the wilderness period in verse 6, but the wilderness period is repeated in verse 14.  Furthermore, verses 13 and 14 make it clear that the woman flees to the wilderness after Satan was thrown down to earth.  The real chronological sequence is therefore as follows:

● Before Christ: War in heaven, while the dragon waits to devour the Child;
● Christ born and caught up to God;
● After Christ: Satan defeated and thrown down to earth (v8-12);
● Woman flees to the wilderness (v6, 14).

Given this chronological sequence, it is proposed that Satan was thrown out of heaven immediately or soon after Christ’s ascension.

Articles on Revelation 12’s War in Heaven:

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

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

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

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

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

The Male Child (12:5)

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

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

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

He will use the rod of iron when He returns.  Then “the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him (Jesus) … and all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Rev. 19:20).  It will be a time of extreme sorrow for believers.  They have been praying so much for their loved ones.  Now their loved ones are killed.  But the pain of the believers will be nothing compared to the sorrow in God’s heart.

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

The Woman (12:1-2)

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

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

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

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

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

The Dragon (12:3-4)

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

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

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

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

War in Heaven

Verse 7 mentions the war in heaven briefly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Satan’s Weapons

With what weapons are this war waged?  The Dragon is identified as:

the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan,
who deceives the whole world
” (v9)
the accuser of our brethren …
he who accuses them before our God day and night
” (v10).

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

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

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

AccuserHe is “the accuser of our brethren:” He “accuses them before our God day and night.”  Zechariah 3 shows Satan accusing Joshua the high priest of iniquity.  Another example is when Satan said that Job fears God only because God protects him (Job) on all sides, but if all of Job’s possessions are taken away, then Job would curse God (Job 1:10-11).

Devil – His role as accuser is also reflected in the name “devil” (diabolos).  This Greek word means “slanderer; false accuser; unjustly criticizing to hurt (malign) and condemn.”  The NASB, in a few places, also translates this word as “malicious gossips.”

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

SUMMARY

Male Child – The “male child” is Jesus.  He was “caught up to God and to His throne.”  This is His ascension.  Verse 5 covers the entire time from Christ’s birth to His ascension to heaven.

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

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

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

Articles on Revelation 12’s War in Heaven:

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