War in Heaven
The 22 chapters of the book of Revelation can be conveniently divided into two halves. The first half (chapters 1-11), focus on the history of the world up to the last day events. The second half (chapters 12-22) focus on the last day events in greater detail. One can understand the relationship between the two halves as another example of repeat and enlarge – the second half repeating and enlarging the first half. But as is normal practice, the main narrative, does not start until the readers are provided with an historical prologue. This is the function of the first chapter of the second half – chapter 12 – it is an introduction to the rest of the Book of Revelation.
Shakespeare and other playwrights would often use an historical prologue to introduce their plays. The purpose of the prologue was to introduce the characters and bring the audience up to date with the current relationship and situation between the characters – it is to set the scene for what the author of the drama wants to present. Chapter 12 fulfills this function. We are introduced to the three main protagonists, the dragon, Michael and the woman. We are informed about the controversy and conflict between these three. We are introduced to the beginning of the conflict, we are informed about the current progress of the conflict, we are then told that the final battles are being fought. The remainder of the Book of Revelation, is about the unfolding of these last battles and their aftermath.
For those of us who wonder why the world is evil and full of violence, the prologue tells us that the problem first occurred in heaven. There is war on earth, because first, there was war in heaven. The war on earth is a continuation of what began in heaven. And the war in heaven began because of the dragon.
The dragon was not originally a dragon. Originally the dragon was an angelic being known as Lucifer (light bearer). It is not fully explained why Lucifer became the dragon – the Bible suggests it is inexplicable, because it calls it, “the mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess. 2:7). Perhaps, by maintaining that it is a ‘mystery’ Scripture wants to suggest that there is no excuse for it. If there was an excuse for it, then that would suggest that it was justified. In other words, if a legitimate reason could be found for the iniquity, then the iniquity that produced the dragon could be legitimized. There would be established grounds for sin, evil and rebellion. This conclusion, namely, that Lucifer was justified in starting the war, is anathema to God. The whole tone of the Bible, including prophecy, is to demonstrate that God is going to great lengths to prove, that there was never a legitimate reason for the ‘mystery of iniquity.’
In spite of the fact that it is called a ‘mystery’ Scripture does provide some insight into how the war in heaven started:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. Isa. 14:12-15.
Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more. Eze. 28:14-19.
It is generally accepted that, on the basis of these verses that, it was pride that caused the ‘covering cherub’ Lucifer to fall and practice iniquity. It was pride that sparked the rebellion that resulted in war in heaven and the ‘conversion’ from cherub to dragon:
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. Rev. 12:3.
This description of the fallen cherub as a red dragon with seven heads, ten horns and crowns, is given to us to inform us about the dragon’s kingdom. What it consists of, what its role is and how it operates.
The reason why the color red is prominent, is because color is used to identify and promote. Just as nations, corporations and sports teams use colors to represent themselves and indicate roles and purpose, so too, does Scripture. The color red is used biblically, to represent sin and iniquity:
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Isa. 1:18.
The seven heads represent the seven different empires that the dragon rules throughout history, starting with Babylon from the time of Daniel until the end of time. [Explained further in Rev. 13 &17]. The crowns on the heads represent the authority that Satan claims. He claimed to be the rightful ruler of this world, and Jesus did not contradict him:
And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Lu. 4:5-8; cf. Jn. 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4.
Biblically, horns represent power (usually political power). Therefore, the horns on the heads are political powers that the dragon uses to rule through (see Rev. 17:12).
The Dragon verses Michael
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels… Rev. 12:7.
The heavenly being that leads the armies of heaven against the dragon, is called ‘Michael.’ The name Michael is of Hebrew origin and means ‘who is like God?’ It is a rhetorical question, and can either imply that there is none like God, or the person bearing this name is ‘one who is like God’ – implying that this person is in fact God. If the later interpretation is correct, then this person named Mickael can be none other than Jesus Christ.
Jesus has many names and titles. Each name indicates a particular role or characteristic pertaining to Jesus. The name Michael, is given to Jesus when He fulfills the role of the leader of the loyal heavenly armies, during the conflict with the Dragon. That Jesus and Michael are the same person, can be proved by comparing Scripture with Scripture. The apostle Jude, tells us that Michael is also called the ‘archangel’ (see Jude 9). We are also told, that when Jesus comes back, He will give a “shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God” (1 Thess. 4:16), and the dead would rise. This is a description of the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the saints, and it is all under the direction of Jesus. The ‘trump of God’ is the loud trumpet that Jesus uses to herald His arrival (see Matt. 24:31).
Michael and the archangel are one and the same. At the second coming Jesus gives a shout in the voice of the archangel. Two things that are equal to a third thing must be equal to one another. Michael and the archangel are equal to one another. The archangel and Jesus are equal to one another. Therefore, Michael and Jesus must be equal to one another. Michael is Jesus and Jesus is Michael. This is consistent with the pattern that we already know about Jesus, that he has many names and titles.
The war in heaven resulted in a decisive victory for Michael and the loyal angels, and defeat for the dragon and the rebellious angels. In which case they could no longer remain in heaven:
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. Rev. 12:7, 8.
When the dragon was cast out of heaven a full third of God’s angels were cast out with him. The ‘stars’ are a symbolic refence to angels (see Rev. 1:20):
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth… Rev. 12:3, 4.
The conclusion of the war in heaven, resulted in a reorganization of God’s universe. Heaven lost a third of its inhabitants and they were relocated to the earth, with their leader the dragon:
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Rev. 12:9.
God wants us to know fundamentally, what the purpose and role of the Book of Revelation is about. He wants us to know that there is war on earth because there was war in heaven. He wants us to know that the enemy was defeated in heaven. This is encouraging because he needs to be defeated on earth too. This is the subject of the rest of chapter 12. The war in heaven, becomes the war on earth. However, just as the enemy was defeated in heaven, we are going to witness his defeat on earth as well.