II. The War in Heaven

So we march onward and we continue to note the latter day activity of Satan and his angels. We note now a war in heaven. “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels….” The first thing that we are reminded of is the fact that earthly events are connected with heavenly realities. We do not always see the confrontation between God and Satan but it underlies all that occurs especially at such a time. Job and his friends had no clue that underlying all that was occurring around them was Satan and his challenge against God. On the earth there was a madman called Antichrist that has just sat in the temple of God declaring that he was God and broke a seven year treaty with Israel. Behind this truth was the dragon battling the angels of God in heaven. The end was not just a demarcation line laid upon earth but it was one laid in heaven. Up until this point the devil has had access; the enemy has had access to the throne. We again saw that truth in the book of Job as the sons of God came before the throne so Satan came before the throne to challenge God. This is the end for Satan as well. He will no longer find an audience before God. What follows is a description of Satan being cast out of heaven. This has been the subject of an untold amount of poetic description and prose throughout the last 2,000 years, usually out of context as some faint description of ones beliefs about the original fall of Satan. The text in context is even more glorious than the greatest prose. There is an end to the rebellion of Satan which is yet to come. One day the wicked shall cease from troubling.

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The end sparked a war in heaven. Combs outlined the following verses in our text as the violence, the victory, and the vanquishing of Satan. That is a good outline to follow so let us consider the violence of Satan. There was war in heaven. One reason for this is the fact that Satan has through his actions committed by Antichrist on the temple mount vaunted himself as the being God. Paul said this of the Antichrist, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (II Thess. 2:3, 4). This was the exact fulfillment of the words of Lucifer himself; “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. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners” (Isa. 14:12-17)? Many have read that text as a description of what Lucifer said at his original fall Satan at or prior to the fall of man as described in Genesis. But the text in Isaiah mirrors the prophetic event of our text. The devil said in Isaiah that he was going to sit in the temple and be exalted above all the stars and be like the most high. That is again exactly what Paul was saying as well. Further, the text in Isaiah tells us that it will result in Lucifer being cast down in the future tense. So the sum of this is that the satanic inspiration of antichrist sitting in the temple declaring that he is God has led to an open declaration of war in heaven. The devil would not exalt himself above the stars (angels) of God. Michael and his angels with holy zeal for the name of the God that they serve night and day answered the affront of Satan. There was war in heaven. There was a time that the devil was allowed to enter the presence of the Father in peace but now there is war.

war in heaven

The dragon is said to have his own angels which lends credence to the reading in the text above that said his tail drew one third of the stars. The devil has his ministering spirits or angels. They followed him in his rebellion and will share with him in his fate (Matt. 24:41). We call these being devils and demons. They are active in the application of the will of Satan. Just as the angels of God are ministers sent for them that believe on God so these are in opposition to them (Heb. 1:14). We need to note the active and passive objects of our text. The dragon and his angels are passive in our text. It is Michael and his angels that “fought against” the dragon. This final act of rebellion sparked action in Michael and those that followed him war against the devil. We ought to be in readiness to revenge disobedience against God in the same manner. So, who is Michael? Michel is only mentioned in two other books in the Bible. His name means “who is like God” or “gift from God.” Some have considered the meaning of the word and said that this is Christ, the Son of God. He after all is the angel of Lord and the messenger of the covenant. Some cults have grabbed ahold of this and tried to reduce Christ to a created being under this name. We know that Christ is not a created being for “all things” were created by Him and for Him (Col. 1:16, 17). We know that Michael is a created being. When disputing with the devil over the body of Moses (which either means the physical body of Moses or the law which was written by Moses) dared not accuse Satan but committed the devil to the Lord for rebuke (Jude: 9). In that text in Jude he is called “the archangel.” There are three named angels in the Bible: Lucifer (who is called “the anointed cherub” in Ezek. 28:14 and whose name means “to bear light”), Michael (“the archangel”), and Gabriel (whose name means God is my strength). We may say that those three angels were chief among the angels and based on their names one was to bear God’s truth, one was to show God’s glory, and the other was to show God’s presence (i.e. Gabriel). It is interesting that the one that was to bear God’s truth became the father of lies. Michael is particularly called “one of the chief princes” which fits with the above theory (Dan. 10:13). He is further in that same chapter called “your prince” which we shall see refers to his relationship to the nation of Israel in particular. Daniel specifically ties Michael to our text. “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1). The attack upon the temple caused Michael to stand up for Israel and wage war on the dragon her enemy. We cannot describe this war, it was no doubt more violent than the poets could describe.

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Our text not only describes the violence but the victory over the dragon: “[the dragon and his angels] prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.” The dragon lost the first skirmish and lost a major foothold in the war. He and his angles lost their place. Satan is a defeated foe. To that we add the vanquishing of Satan. “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.” Four descriptive names are invoked. We have already discussed the term dragon. We know him to be that old Serpent that subtly brought sin and its destruction into the world of men. He is the devil which is as a roaring lion right now seeking whom he may devour (I Pet. 5:8). He is Satan the adversary of man and God. John added this addendum: he is deceiving the whole world. That is what he is presently doing. He is the father of lies (John 8:44 – see I Cor. 3:18, 6:9, 15:33, Gal. 6:3, 7, Eph. 5:6). The world right now is being deceived and drew like the devils after the will of Satan. They are right now declaring they are their own gods and definer of their own lives. This will be especially true of the end times (Matt. 24:4, 5, 11, 24). Paul said of these last days that evil men will only get worse deceiving and being deceived (II Tim. 3:13). Paul again told us again, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (II Cor. 4:3, 4). The “whole” world lies under the influence of his lies. Praise the Lord there will come a time that this enemy will be cast out once and for all. Heaven will be cleansed of the demonic presence. This is the first step of his vanquishing soon he will not only be cast out but cast down. Now we go on in our text to see the rejoicing and the warning.

Consider the rejoicing in heaven. There is rejoicing because the defeat of the great enemy is not come. The fact that we are in a spiritual battle is one of the great realities or which most men and women in our world are ignorant. There are principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places. It is never flesh and blood that is behind our struggles but these spiritual realities. Sadly, most church goers no longer believe that they have an enemy. Peter exhorted the believers to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…” (I Pet. 5:8). There is indeed an enemy that opposes humanity as a whole and Christ in particular. There is a being that wants to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). He is doing so in the lives of many here today and around us and we are not even aware of his presence. Being ignorant of the devil and his devices most people are losing their daily battles.

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Our text is found in the broader context of demonic warfare. The great red dragon drew one third of the stars who are later described as his angels. His main goal was devour Christ as soon as He was born. Christ was the promised one that would destroy his work (Gen. 3:15). Throughout the Scripture he was at work attempting to destroy Christ before He ever got here. From that point we find the devil cast out, and trying to destroy latter day Israel to destroy the remnant of God’s name from the earth. The devil is cast out of heaven

The event of the devil being cast out is described in the ninth verse of our text. “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.” He is here described in a six fold manner which gives us a fuller idea about his character. He is the great dragon of the last days. He is the one that will lead the whole world in worshipping him. He is “that old serpent” which was from the beginning. He therefore is the author of sin and the great tempter of men. He was the liar from the beginning. All death, all destruction, all tears, all diseases, all pain, and all suffering are the result of his work. He is the beginning and end of the misery of man. He is the devil. He is the roaring lion seeking to devour those he can. He is Satan the destroyer. He is the one that provoked David to count the people and thus bring destruction on Israel. He is the one that moved God to destroy Job. He resisted and tempted our Savior in the wilderness. He is the both the tempter and the destroyer under the title Satan. Lust when conceived brings forth sin and when it is finished it brings forth death (James 1:15). He was the one that entered into Judas to betray and murder our Lord and has worked for 2,000 years to destroy His church. He is the deceiver of the whole world. That is the present tense. He is presently deceiving this world into believing the lie that they can be their own gods, make their own rules, be masters of their own fate, choose for themselves what is right and wrong, and live contrary to the way of God. He is deceiving them in order to bring them to the place where they will bow before him, receive his mark, and worship his image. Lastly, he is identified as the leader of angels. All the demons of hell are under his control; all the principalities and powers are his.

satans army

That verse alone sums up great power of our adversary and yet our text says that “they overcame him….” That means that we are in a winnable war; rather we are in a war that has already won. And our enemy with all of its power is able to be defeated. You and I do not have to go around defeated when it is possible for us to be on the winning side. We can put on the whole armor of God and fight and stand and win. It can be said of us that “they overcome him.”

After the devil is cast out of heaven a song is sung of which our text is the climax. “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” The song is sung because the devil was cast out (John 12:31). Because the devil is cast out there is a short time left. This sets the clock for the second coming and the devil knows that his time is short. Because the devil is cast out they sing that salvation is come, and strength for mankind. The kingdom of God is coming to this earth and the authority of Jesus Christ as the King of Kings. It was a time of rejoicing indeed especially because the one that had accused the brethren before God (Job 1:9, Zech. 3:1). He has been a relentless accuser against all believers for it says that he has done so day and night. He has tried his best throughout the centuries to put a breech between God and those who belong to God (the brethren). Just as the devil moved God to judge His people so he does with all believers. That is the seventh description of our enemy that is given in our text and it gives us the greatest clue about who the “they” are in our text. Some have tried to say that the “they” in our text are tribulation saints alone. I maintain that the victory over Satan that is described accessible to all of us. It could well say that “I overcame him” or “you overcame him.” Victory over Satan is not dispensationalized away. This is the church in heaven, you and I, singing in the past tense about some of their brethren which the devil had been accusing before God overcame. So this victory is attainable for you and I. In a certain way all who have trusted Christ are overcomers for Christ overcame for them (I John 5:4, 5). So, in a certain way, all the brethren which were accused by Satan overcame Satan. But, when we begin take apart our text we see that to overcome Satan it takes something more than salvation. It will take putting on the whole armor of God and fighting. It will take giving of your whole self to other and to God for it to be said of you, “he or she overcame him.” The point is though that Satan and his power can be defeated in your life. You are either going to be an overcomer or you are going to be overcome in your life. But, victory is possible. So how did the decorated heroes of our text overcome the devil?

Our text it was by the blood of the Lamb that they overcame. This is the foundation of all overcoming. If the blood of Jesus Christ has not been applied you are completely and finally defeated by Satan. The serpent brought death into this world and without the blood of Christ death reigns over all men for all have sinned. It was through his blood that we have forgiveness. It is through his blood that we have remission from sin. He loved us and washed us from our sin in His own blood. There are three reasons specifically though that the blood of Jesus Christ gives victory to the believer.

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First, the blood is the basis of our peace with God. Paul told us that we have “made peace through the blood of his cross…” (Col. 1:20). How can Satan now defeat the believer who has been reconciled to God? While we were in our sins we Satan owned us. We were alienated from God, without help, without hope, and with God (Eph. 2:12). “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us…” (Eph. 2:13, 14). The blood of Jesus Christ made us friends of God and God is now our great Ally. If God is for us who can be against us? The blood of Jesus bought that peace for us.

Secondly, the blood of Jesus Christ is the remedy for our sin. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin (I John 1:7). Sin is the taskmaster of Satan. Sin and its temptations enslave men. But the blood removed our chains and set us free. We also have a constant supply to wash our sins (I John 1:9). Being made free from sin Satan loses his stronghold and his stranglehold in our lives.

Lastly, the blood of Jesus Christ furnishes us with the great example. We overcame because Christ overcame (John 16:33). He was the great captain of our salvation that led us to victory. He resisted unto blood striving against sin. He won the victory by the blood of His cross. He bruised His heel on the head of Satan when He shed His blood at Calvary. He showed us how to overcome through His patience on the cross. As His blood ran down His face in Gethsemane and as He prayed “not my will but thine be done,” our Captain us to victory. All great conquerors had to lead their men into battle. So the blood of Christ gives us the inspiration to fight on. The basis of our victory is the blood which was shed 2,000 years ago.

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Satan is overcome by the word of our testimony. What does this mean? To begin, it means at the very least that the battle is not won solely by our status as Christians. If you thought that becoming a Christian was going to solve all your problems you were sadly disillusioned. To don the helmet of salvation will not in and of itself cause you in your personal life to overcome Satan and his influence in your life; neither will donning the breastplate of righteousness, the loins of truth, or the shield of faith. To fight nearly a defensive war is to gain no ground and to topple no stronghold. The battle must have offense or else the enemy in your daily life will stand firm. Note the personal stake that these overcomes have in the testimony. It is theirs. It is something that they took possession and ownership of. It is not something they merely were acquainted with it is rather something that they pursued and captured. Now the term “the word of their testimony could mean one of two things. It could mean the account of their victory or it could mean the conversation of their lives. The word testimony could refer to the testament written in ink (the law and the gospel) or it could refer to the testament written on the fleshy tables of their heart. The word testimony could either refer to written precepts of God or it could refer to the supporting evidence of a fact or statement.

To sum this idea up, they either overcame Satan by the possession of the God’s promises or by the holiness of their lives. Both of those take action on the part of the believer, offensives in the battle. To possess the promises of God is to know His word, to know His promises, to rightly divide and rightly use His promises, and to know their application to you personally. Sadly, many Christians do not know the word of God. They will spend hours of their day pursuing entertainment and escape and only seconds of their day reading, meditating, memorizing, and discussing the words of God. No wonder we are a defeated people. We need to know from the word of God how we are saved and why we believe what we believe. We need to take serious the precept of Peter to be ready to give an answer to every man. Remember that our Lord defeat Satan in the wilderness by knowing and using the Word of God. Holiness of life will also take action on the part of the believer. It goes further than simply knowing God’s Word at applies His Word to our daily lives. It is seeking to come under the authority and will of God in every aspect of our existence: whether we eat, or drink, or whatsoever we do, we do it for His glory. It is letting the light of the gospel that is in us shine that others may see the glory of God. God has commanded all of us to be holy for He is holy. One preacher said, “holiness is not a luxury for the few, it is a necessity for all.” We will not win the battle as long as we see no importance to our testimony in our daily lives. Your testimony is important for it is your evidence to this world that you belong to Christ. They overcame him because they took ownership of their testimony. They were concerned about how the things that they said, the things that they did, or the things that they failed to do might reflect on their God and their Savior. We might sum up the term “the word of their testimony” by saying that they overcame Satan by confessing the truth of God, by convincing others to embrace that truth, and by continuing after Christ in their daily lives. That is the heart of our offensive, wielding the sword of the Spirit.

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Lastly, they overcame Satan because their affections were set on something greater than their own selves. This is the underlying mindset of the soldier. The soldier who is concerned about self will play the part of the coward. He will not storm the stronghold of the enemy but will cower in defeat or seek to escape. There is no armor for the back of the Christian and self love will leave you open to defeat. The soldier who is victories must have a greater love than self. Namely, that soldier must love others and love Christ more than self. When heaven is our chief affection, when the persons of God are our chief desire we will hazard all for them. When other people become more important to us than our own comfort we will fight for them. This is victory. Many martyrs sung victorious song through the flames. They endured to the death with their affection pointed outward and not inward. Christ said this, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it (Mark 8:34, 35). So let us set our affection on things above and fight. This is a winnable battle that we are in. It was said of many that came before us that “they overcame him” and it may be said of us as well.

So we go past the rejoicing of heaven to the warning for the earth. “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” The first volley of the war has led to rejoicing in heaven. The enemy and all of his accusations is gone. There is no more troubling from the dragon. He is cast down and all that are his. Heaven may well rejoice at this. But, what of the earth. There were three woes promised that accompanied the three last trumpets. This is the last of the three woes. The first two woes unleashed demonic powers on the earth. The last woe unleashed the devil himself. The death and destruction that follows him will encompass all that dwell on the earth in every corner for our text refers it to inhabitants of the earth and the sea. The woe that is declared here is not declared as a matter of pity for the earth. They are unrepentant and receiving their just retribution from God. They wanted a world without God and they are getting it. They wanted a world ruled by Satan and they got it an all the woe that goes with it.

So the devil is now come down to earth and he is coming in two ways. He is coming in great wrath and he is coming with haste. The haste is the result of the wrath. Ellicott stated, “The painful consciousness of defeat has roused a deeper and more obstinate rage.” While the devil was sowing the wheat among the tares he could patiently wait for the results but now the time for him to work is slow. He can no longer wait for the slow rot and decay. He must act and act now. Some have stated that this verse proves that the devil both knows and understands prophecy. Does he understand that he only has a little more than 1,200 days before he is finished? Barnes noted, “That is, he knows that the time is limited in which he will be permitted to wage war with the saints on the earth. There is allusion elsewhere to the fact that the time of Satan is limited, and that he is apprised of that. Thus in Matthew 8:29, “Art thou come hither to torment us before the time…?” Within that limited space, Satan knows that he must do all that he ever can do to destroy souls, and to spread woe through the earth, and hence, it is not unnatural that he should be represented as excited to deeper wrath, and as rousing all his energy to destroy the church.” He can no longer effect the war against the saints by his accusations in heaven (as the advice of Balaam) so now he works to destroy them by his own wrath. But we also must consider the fact that the wrath of Satan is an instrument used of God. Satan cannot do anything outside of the will of God. God has promised to pour his wrath out upon (Ps. 75). The devil cannot do anything without the permission of God, as we learned in Job. So if the devil is coming in great wrath then the devil. He also knows hat that his time is short.