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

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

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

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

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

Purpose

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

10 “… The accuser of our brethren has been thrown down,
he who accuses them before our God day and night.
11 “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” (Revelation 12)

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

Our brethren

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

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

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

They overcame him

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

Their testimony

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

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

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

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

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

Pronouns in verse 11

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

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

God’s weapons

John writing RevelationThey overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death” (Rev. 12:11).

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

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

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

The text therefore implies three victories:

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

Why was the testimony of God’s people required?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

Articles on Revelation 12’s War in Heaven:

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

Did Michael defeat Satan in the War in Heaven by physical force?

Michael defeated Satan in the War in Heaven through Christ’s death.  Satan deceives & accuses.  How did the cross overcome Satan’s accusations?

This is the third article on the War in heaven.  The first article concluded that the Male Child in verse 5, who was caught up to God, is Jesus.  The pure woman, who existed both before and after Christ, represents God’s people in all ages.  The Dragon, that stood ready to devour the Child as soon as He is born, is a symbol of Satan, but also of the earthly kingdoms used by Satan to persecute the woman and her child.  The Child was caught up to God, indicating that the Dragon failed to devour the Child.  In heaven Michael, the archangel, wages war against Satan, who deceived many angels to his side.

The second article discussed the chronological sequence.  The text seems to indicate that the war broke out after Jesus was caught up to God, but this article showed that the war existed before Christ, while the victory was won after Christ was caught up.  The text also seems to indicate that Satan was defeated after the woman had to flee to the wilderness, but it actually happened the other way round: the woman flee to the wilderness after Satan was defeated in heaven, and thrown down to earth.  Michael therefore won the victory over Satan soon after Christ’s ascension.

The Cross won the victory in heaven.

Michael won the victory through the Cross.  This is indicated by the following:

Main Concepts -Two of the main concepts in Revelation 12 are Christ’s ascension (verse 5) and the victory in war in heaven (verse 8-12). The emphasis placed on these two events implies a causal relationship.

The Chronological sequence of events, as discussed in the previous article, shows that the victory in heaven was won after Jesus was “caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev. 12:5).

Lamb of GodBlood of the Lamb In the explanation of the victory it is said that “they overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb” (v11).

The Bible also elsewhere teaches that God overcame Satan through Christ death and resurrection:

Ruler cast out – When talking about His approaching death, Jesus said “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:27, 31).

Rendered the devil powerless – “Since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).

God “disarmed the rulers and authorities” when He “canceled out the certificate of debt” by nailing it to the Cross (Col. 2:14-15).  Rulers and Authorities are supernatural beings that oppose God.

The victory in the war in heaven was therefore won through Christ’s death.  After Christ was caught up from earth to God’s throne (v5), Satan went down from heaven to earth.  From an earthly perspective, the Son of God was defeated  at the Cross, but Revelation 12 reveals that it was His victory.

Nature of the War

The question in this article is how Satan was defeated.  Since he has been defeated by the Cross, the question is how the Cross defeated him.  To answer this, we first have to ask what problem had to be solved.  What was or is the nature of the war in heaven?

Sin did not originate on earth. 

Sin originated in heaven.  From heaven it was transferred to earth.

Lucifer was blameless in his ways.  As discussed in the article on the Origin of Evil, Lucifer probably was or is the most brilliant mind ever created. He was a covering cherub (Ezekiel 28:14), which means he served in God’s immediate presence.  The angels trusted, loved and admired him.

But Lucifer became God’s enemy.  God said to him, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor” (Ezekiel 28:17).  Lucifer became the selfish and proud Satan, who desired to receive honor like the Son of God (Isaiah 14:14, compared to John 17:5).

God made the humans in His likeness (Gen. 1:26), and “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7).  At that time Satan already was God’s adversary, but God still allowed Satan access to the humans.  Satan appeared to Eve in the form of a talking serpent.  Through deception he led Adam to sin, and through sin, he obtained power over the human race: “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19; cf. Genesis 3).

Satan’s deceives and accuses.

Satan’s techniques are deception & accusations (Rev. 12:9-10).  He is “the accuser of our brethren” (Rev. 12:10), prowling around like a lion (1st Peter 5:8), seeking to deceive believers into sin so that he may accuse them before God.

Accused God

Satan does not accuse all people:  He specifically accuses “our brethren,” namely the people whom God claims as His own, like Job and Joshua.  Satan thereby effectively accused God of unfair judgment.

To defend himself

Satan is not trying to make sure that God justifies the right people.  His real purpose is to defend himself against God’s judgment.  Satan has been condemned to the “eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mat 25:41).

Romans 3:23-26, read with Revelation 12, tells us that Satan accused God of being unjust when He justifies sinners only on the basis of their faith.  His argument is that sinners may not be justified at all.  However, his real argument is that, if he and his angels are to be condemned to the “eternal fire,” then the same must apply to the entire human race, for they all sinned.  And if God’s people are “justified as a gift by His grace” (Rom. 3:24), then he and his angels must also be justified.

Our sins give Satan power.

In other words, Satan uses the sins of human beings to convince the universe that God judged him and his angels unfairly.

How did the cross overcome Satan?

Not by force

Many people 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.

If Satan uses physical force, that is not stated as such.  His weapons of deceptions and accusations explain the nature of the war in heaven.

God responds with two techniques; the death of His Son and the testimony of the brethren (Rev. 12:11).  Physical power does not win the victory.

In Daniel 10 Satan delayed one of God’s mighty angels for three weeks.  It is proposed that he did not do this by physical force, but by verbal arguments.  The war in heaven is therefore similar to a courtroom, where evidence is brought, and the jury decides.

By Proving Evidence

But the question remains, HOW did the “blood of the Lamb” overcome Satan?

This is a war of deception and accusations, and evidence is required to counter the accusations.  This means that Jesus, by remaining true to God to the end (His death) provided evidence to show that Satan’s accusations were false.  The same applies to the testimony of our brethren.  God was accused of unfair judgment, and through Jesus, and through the testimony of our brethren, God provided evidence to show that His judgments were fair.

This is confirmed by Romans 3:25-26:

God “displayed (Christ) publicly … for the demonstration … of His (God’s) righteousness … so that He (God) would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

This supports the conclusions that:

(1) God was accused of being unjust, specifically, for justifying sinners on the basis of faith.
(2) Christ’s death provided evidence to show that God is just.

In Colossians 2 we find that the Cross destroyed the evidence against sinners:  “The certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us” was nailed to the Cross (Col. 2:14).  In this way, God “disarmed the rulers and authorities” (v15).  See Certificate of debt consisting of decrees.

The sealed scroll

This conclusion is further supported by the sealed scroll of Revelation 5.  Before Jesus’ death “no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it” (v3).  It was a time of extreme sorrow in heaven (v4).  But then Jesus appears as “a Lamb … as if slain” (v6), and the heavenly beings sang a new song, saying to Jesus: “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (v9).

A closed book symbolizes concealed information. The article Introduction to the Seven Seals concludes that the sealed scroll of Revelation 5 is the Book of Life.  In other words, before Jesus died, nobody was sure who will be saved.  But through His death Jesus provided the evidence required to open the book.

Why would the heavenly beings not understand?  Remember that Satan was a covering cherub and possibly the most brilliant being ever created.  His genius, combined with his use of deception and accusations, explain the lack of understanding on the side of the angels.  Through his genius and deception, he convinced many of God’s beautiful and mighty angels to side with him (Rev. 12:4), but most angels refused to accept Satan’s insinuations and allegations against God.  But even then the loyal angels were unable to fully understand and answer Satan charges.

Michael and his angels overcame Satan.

But Revelation 12:7 describes the war in heaven as between two groups of angels, and indicates that archangel Michael and his angels defeated Satan.  Why would God’s loyal angels defeat Satan if he was defeated by Jesus’ death?  Why did God Himself not drive Satan out of heaven?

The importance of evidence explains why Satan was overcome by Jesus, but thrown out of heaven by Michael and his angels.  Satan deceives and accuses.  As stated, even Michael and his angels were at least partly deceived by Satan.  But because of the evidence provided by Jesus’ death, Satan was no longer able to confuse them.  Satan was now unable to accuse God’s people before God.

There was no longer a place found for them (Satan and his angels) in heaven” (Rev. 12:8).

Perhaps Satan was not physically thrown out of heaven, but was driven out in a figurative sense in that nobody believes him.  Michael and his angels now understood and were fully convinced of God’s justness.  Satan was no longer able to accuse God’s people before God.  Satan no longer had any support in heaven.

Conclusions

Heavenly councils

The fact that evidence was required implies that decisions are made in heavenly councils.  Examples there-of are:

● In Revelation 5 it was not God, but the council’s decision that Jesus is “worthy … to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain” (vv8-9).
In Daniel 7, “the court sat, and the books were opened” (Dan. 7:10).
Satan brought his charges against the humans in the meetings of the “sons of God“ (Job 1:6).

God gave Satan time. 

In consequence of his rebellion, 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” (Mat. 25:41).  But because the angels did not completely understand what Satan did wrong, the angels would not have understood if God executed His judgment on Satan and his angels before the allegations against God were clarified.  Doubt would have remained, providing the seed for a future rebellion.  Because God wants His intelligent beings to understand, He had to allow Satan to continue until the nature and consequences of Satan’s ways are clear to all.

Freedom

The requirement for evidence means that physical power is not decisive.  God did not set Satan’s criticism and questions aside by physical force.  Satan deceives, accuses and slanders.  “Our brethren” respond, not by physical force, but by a faith (testimony) so strong that they are willing to die for what they believe (Rev. 12:11).  God has all power, but the outcome of the war in heaven is not determined by who has most physical power.

The explanation of Christ’s death, as provided by this website, implies that God’s creatures have freedom.  On the basis of this principle God grants Satan time and allows His own judgments to be tested.  God even became the accused and the universe became the judge.

Summary

The victory was won immediately after Jesus was caught up to God.  Furthermore, the loud voice explicitly states that they overcame Satan because of the blood of the Lamb.  Christ’s death therefore won the victory in the war in heaven.  Further support for this conclusion is that Jesus said that His death would cast out the ruler of this world.  Paul similarly wrote that Christ’s death rendered the devil powerless and disarmed the supernatural evil forces.

But, HOW did the Cross defeat Satan?

Evil originated in heaven.  Lucifer was without sin, but became proud because of his splendor, and desired to be worshiped like God.  Earth was later infected when Satan deceived Adam and Eve and gained control over the human race.

Satan’s techniques are to deceive and to accuse.  He accuses God’s people, effectively accusing God of unfair judgment.  To defend himself against God’s judgments, he argues that all people have sinned and that sin cannot be forgiven; if he is to be condemned, then the entire human race must also be condemned.

That is the problem which Christ’s death solved.  God did not solve this problem by force.  He did not use His infinite power to stamp out resistance.  God solved the problem by the blood of the Cross and the testimony of His people.  He solved the problem by providing evidence that Satan’s accusations are false.

Father of liesIt is Michael and his angels who expelled Satan from heaven; not God.  Previously they were unable to counter Satan’s brilliant arguments, but Christ’s death provided the evidence they needed.  Now they were convinced that God is just in His judgments and that Satan is the father of lies.  With this evidence they drove Satan and his angels out of the court rooms of heaven.

Articles on Revelation 12’s War in Heaven:

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