What did the accuser of our brethren say, and what evidence did Christ provide?

The following is a brief overview of the articles in this series on the war in heaven, as described in Revelation 12:

THE CHARACTERS IN THIS DRAMA

The first article identifies the main characters in this chapter::

    • The Male Child, who was caught up to God, is Jesus Christ
    • His mother symbolize God’s people both before and after Christ.
    • The dragon, that stood ready to devour the child as soon as he is born, has a double identity:
      • In the context of the war in heaven, it is Satan.
      • When represented as having seven heads and ten horns, it represents the Roman Empire (See, The Seven-Headed Beasts).

CHRONOLOGICAL SEQUENCE

The wilderness period is mentioned both before and after the war in heaven. The second article determines the chronological sequence of events in this chapter to determine when Satan was defeated and driven out of heaven. It concludes that:

    • The victory in the war in heaven (12:7-9) was gained after and as a consequence of Christ’s victory on earth (12:5).
    • The woman hides in the wilderness (12:6, 14) after Satan has been cast down to earth (12:13).

HOW DID MICHAEL DEFEAT THE ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN?

The third article discussed how Michael defeated Satan.  It concluded that Christ’s death won the victory over Satan. To explain how this happened, this article discusses the origin of evil, proposes that Satan accused God of arbitrary judgment when He forgives some people but condemns others but that Christ’s sinless life refuted Satan’s accusations.

REVELATION 12:11

While the third article concluded that Christ’s death defeated the accuser of the brethren, verse 11 describes the victory of “our brethren” over Satan because of “their testimony?”  The fourth article, therefore, asks who they are, and why their testimony was required to expel Satan from heaven.

WHY EVIL STILL EXIST

God made peace in heaven by the blood of the Lamb, but Revelation 12 indicates that the war continued on earth. This article asks why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross?

For further reading on Revelation, I recommend Jon Paulien’s commentary. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the excellent Pineknoll website.

Who are the woman, the dragon, the child and what is the war in heaven?

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.

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.

The dragon also represents the earthly kingdoms through which Satan persecutes God’s people.

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.

 – END OF SUMMARY – 

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 God

The 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. (For specific identification, see The Seven-Headed Beasts of Revelation.)

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 in heaven, verses 8 to 12 describe Michael’s victory.

SATANS’ WEAPONS

With what weapons are the war in heaven 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 the 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.

ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES 

The following are the articles in this series on the war in heaven as described in Revelation 12:

    1. Michael and his angels waged war against the dragon and his angels. Who are the Male Child, His mother, the Dragon and Michael? Current article
    2. The wilderness period is mentioned both before and after the war in heaven. What is the chronological sequence? When was Satan defeated and driven out of heaven?
    3. Satan deceives & accuses God of arbitrary judgment when He forgives some people their sins but condemns others.  How did Christ’s death refute Satan’s accusations?
    4. While Revelation 12:7-10 describes Michael’s victory over Satan in the war in heaven, verse 11 describes the victory of “our brethren” over Satan because of “their testimony?” Who are they?
    5. God made peace in heaven by the Lamb, but Revelation 12 indicates that the war continued on earth. Why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross?

For further reading on Revelation, I recommend Jon Paulien’s commentary. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the excellent Pineknoll website.