Rev. 12:7-17

 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. [1]

Last week we saw the beginning portion of John’s vision of world history. He gave us the underlying reason for why life is the way it is: the dragon, the devil, Satan has been at war with God since the beginning of human history. He tried to prevent the coming of Messiah, the Promised Seed (Gen. 3:15).

John saw the dragon’s ultimate failure in the opening portion of the vision (12:1-6) when the child born to rule was caught up to God and to his throne.[2] The point of this vision is the impact Christ’s work had upon the dragon. Christ’s ascension had radical consequences, as we will see in this text.  John’s vision explains life, the universe, and everything from the heavenly perspective beginning in verse 7. The remainder of this vision, reveals what takes place in heaven as God’s saving covenant unfolds on earth.

There are heavenly consequences for the red dragon when Messiah was raised from the dead and ascended to his throne in heaven. Satan lost a privilege he has had since Adam and Eve rebelled. His career as a prosecutor was finished. He was forcibly ejected from the courtroom and disbarred. And he remains enraged. No longer able to prosecute in heaven, he has turned all his energy to persecuting all humanity on earth, with a specialization in lobbying for church destruction.


In 12:1-6, John saw the dragon’s struggle against the Promised Seed from an earthly perspective. Those six verses introduced the main characters of spiritual history and showed how Christ overcame the great red dragon. Now, the remainder of the vision focuses on the dragon’s defeat through Christ’s earthly ministry and heavenly ascension. The text begins, “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back….”[3] John sees spiritual warfare taking place in heaven.

In Daniel chapters 10 and 12, as well as ancient Jewish commentaries on the Old Testament, good angels represent God’s people and evil angels represent the earth-dwellers. Jewish writings on Israel’s exodus teach that the demonic angels representing Egypt were judged by Israel’s angels at the Red Sea when Pharaoh’s army drowned. Where there is an earthly conflict between the dragon and his forces with God’s people, there is a corresponding conflict in the heavenly dimension. “Already in the Apocalypse the angels in chs. 1–3 and the elders in chs. 4–5 have been seen as heavenly representatives of the church.”[4] In light of Daniel and Revelation, angels can be seen as mediators for the church just as demons are viewed as influencers upon, and torturers of the earth-dwellers, and enemies of the church.

The book of Daniel identified the angel Michael as being one of the chief princes of the angels (Dan. 10:13). In Daniel, Michael represents Israel and fights for her along with the Son of Man (Rev. 1:13). Now, in this new exodus of the church in the wilderness, Michael conducts warfare in heaven as the counterpart to Messiah’s victory on earth. Michael fights for true Israel, all those who trust into the person and work of the Promised Seed. “Michael’s actions on behalf of true Israel must be linked to Dan. 12:1, which predicts that he will ‘stand up’ in the latter-day tribulation to defend them from destruction.”[5]

John has been using imagery from Psalm 2 through much of the last few chapters. Psalm 2 pictures Messiah’s ascension and glorification:

The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; / today I have begotten you. /Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, /and the ends of the earth your possession. /You shall break them with a rod of iron /and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” [6]

Jesus’ earthly victory through his perfect life, death, resurrection, and ascension (foretold in Psalm 2) is pictured here in Rev. 12:5. The consequence of Christ’s victory is that, “Michael and his angels [fought] against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.”[7]

So, “the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”[8] What does that mean, that Satan is thrown down from heaven because there was no longer a place for them there? The answer comes from the names John gives the dragon. The name “devil” means “one who slanders or accuses.” The name Satan means “adversary.” In verse 10 we hear what the dragon has been doing prior to Christ’s earthly victory. He has been acting as “the accuser of our brothers …who accuses them day and night before our God.”[9]

Prior to Jesus’ cross work, resurrection, and ascension, Satan held membership in the heavenly bar (the legal kind, not the drinking kind) as the chief prosecuting attorney of God’s courtroom. Job chapter 1 gives us a picture of the adversary accusing Job of only serving God because the Lord had given him great blessings. Not only was the devil accusing Job of idolatry, but he was accusing God of bribery.

I’ve been a prosecutor. I was an Assistant District Attorney for nine years of my 25-year legal career. There is a powerful feeling of moral superiority one gets from exposing deeds of really bad people and seeing them punished. Think of how much more powerful a position the devil had in wielding God’s holy law and rightfully demanding the eternal death penalty upon God’s saints even though he was the one who brought sin into creation. Sinners are desperate for moral superiority; and no one was more desperate for that “I’m better than you are” high than the original sinner. What a powerful rush it must have been to stand in the heavenly courtroom proving up indictments against the likes of Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Sampson, King David, and the High Priests of Israel.

Before Messiah’s cross work, resurrection, and ascension, the members of the true Israel who looked forward in trust to the once-for-all sin sacrifice were subject to the devil’s heavenly prosecution because, as St. Author of Hebrews wrote:

…the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins[10]

When Jesus completed his redemptive work for sinners and sat down at the right hand of God, the accuser could no longer stand before the heavenly court. Now, Jesus is seated there pleading his righteousness and his blood as the perpetual defense for his law-breaking brothers and sisters. Where the accuser once stood, our Great High Priest is seated because his work is finished and all he accomplished belongs to his people. If you are in Christ, you have all his benefits; that includes the benefits of his perfect innocence and perfect righteousness.

The bible links Satan’s casting down to Jesus’ saving work. When the 72 evangelists returned to Jesus who sent them out and they reported all the miracles they had performed, Jesus proclaimed, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Lk. 10:18).  In John 12:31, referring to his coming cross work, Jesus said, “Now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”

From chapter 12 onward, Revelation makes clear that Satan’s power to deceive and accuse have been drastically curtailed. This is pictured by Michael and his forces ushering Satan and his team of prosecutors out of the heavenly courtroom. We see it again in Revelation 20, where Satan is pictured as being bound, chained on a leash, so that he cannot deceive elect earth-dwellers and prevent them from trusting into Messiah.


Verse 10 begins, “And I heard a loud voice in heaven….[11] You may recognize this pattern by now. This is the fourth repetition (so far) of an interpretive voice “in (the) heaven” singing hymns that interpret John’s visions. The praise chorus celebrates and explains Satan’s disbarment. “…they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”[12]

The enemy’s heavenly activities have been curtailed by two things: the blood of Christ and the testimony of his people. The power of the blood of Christ destroys the prosecution’s case against those who have washed their robes in that precious fount and made them white with the righteousness of the Lamb. Zechariah saw that in one of his visions. In Zechariah 3:1 he saw Joshua the high priest dressed in the filthy garments of his sin and Satan standing to prosecute him. But the Lord ordered that Joshua’s filthy garments be replaced with perfectly clean priestly garments. As high priest, Joshua represented all God’s people. So, this was a prophecy of how God alone saves his people by giving them his righteousness.

Joshua and the saints of the Old Covenant received their righteousness by trust alone into the person and work of the coming Messiah. Even the sacrifices they made at the tabernacle or the temple did not save them because they themselves were not perfect in thought, word, and deed. Jesus pointed this out repeatedly in his earthly ministry. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus taught:

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [13]

That statement has absolutely NOTHING to do with your fitness to partake of the Lord’s Supper! Suggesting so is a horrible perversion of grace by mixing law and gospel. First, we come to the Lord’s table and NOT to a sacrificial alter. Second, we bring NOTHING to Christ in the sacrament of communion; he brings himself to us. Christ was pointing out the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law demanded the worshipper must have a clean heart for his or her sacrifice to be acceptable.

That was precisely Satan’s indictment of Old Testament believers! Their hands might sometimes look clean, but their hearts proved them to be law-breakers worthy of eternal death; and there was NOTHING the worshipper could do to overcome their death sentence under God’s holy law. “What can take away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” What disbars the heavenly prosecutor? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. The war between Michael and Satan was not fought with earthly weapons. It was a war of theology over how to apply law and gospel. When the Lamb’s blood was shed once for all time upon the true altar of Calvary, the law was powerless to condemn those hidden in Christ. As John preached to his beloved congregation in Ephesus, “the blood of Jesus …cleanses us from all sin.[14]

When the holy spirit awakens God’s people to the objective facts of the gospel, they begin to grasp the wonder of grace: Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.” The more God’s saints apprehend of his marvelous infinite grace, the more firm becomes their testimony before earth-dwellers. Wherever they share the objective truth that God saves sinners by means of the shed blood of the Lamb, they push back the kingdom of darkness and overcome the devil and his city of man. They advance against the gates of hell.


The last 5 ½ verses of this chapter explain the earthly experience of the church following Christ’s ascension. Having been disbarred from heaven’s courtroom, Satan can only accuse and confuse on earth. The flood he spews out against the church and the ground that opens to swallow it is a reference to two of Israel’s exodus experiences. First, they faced being pushed into the Red Sea by Pharaoh’s army until God parted the waters for them and drown the Egyptians instead. Floods imagery in the OT is often associated with the persecution of God’s people (2 Sam. 22:5; Pss. 18:4, 16; 46:3; 66:12; 69:1–2, 14–15; 124:4–5; 144:7–8, 11; Isa. 43:2).[15]

Second, the ground swallowing up the waters of persecution is a reference to Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16:26-33. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram opposed God’s anointed leader, Moses, and incited a rebellion. In other words, these men appointed themselves leaders of the church and tried to overthrow God’s ordained leaders by false accusations, gossip, and sowing discontent. God tore open the ground to swallow them and all their fellow rebels. Satan loves to raise up well-intentioned dragons to destroy the peace and unity of the church. But God will never allow the enemy to do more damage than God permits for his glorious purposes.

Satan’s tactics in flooding the church with opposition are ALWAYS the same. He accuses God’s people of not being good enough. Moses, the rebels claimed, was an inefficient and ineffective leader. That was likely quite true. Moses failed to live up to the law of perfection. David faced the same satanic accusations and, the fact was, he really was not a particularly good king, or efficient ruler, or good husband. He was a terrible father.

You and I face the same accusations every day as the enemy and his minions whisper to us of all our failures to live up to our own expectations (our little “l” law), not to mention God’s perfect law. Humans were created to live in perfection. Everything we do is supposed to be perfect, have perfect results, and grant us a sense of fulfillment. We are all hardwired for to long for perfection. The accuser knows this. He uses this as he floods us with condemnation for not being good enough at anything.

He wants us to either respond with total despair and depression so that we give up, or to respond with more human effort to manage our flesh and purse the demonic idols promising the self-generated happiness of forbidden fruit that plunged Adam and Eve and you and me into the curse of sin.

The point of Revelation 12 is that Satan can lobby us on earth so that we pursue his agenda, but he cannot prosecute us in heaven. His attacks on our feelings, our budgets, our buildings, our relationships, and our bodies cannot take away the blessings that are already ours in Christ Jesus. Nothing he whispers in your ear, no accusation or gossip he circulates against you through well-intentioned or ill-intentioned people can stain your white garments washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Satan can no longer prosecute you who trust into the perfectly-lived life of Christ as your righteousness and into his sacrificial death as the payment of all your sins. He cannot prosecute. But he still lobbies the legislature of your heart toward his agenda and not Christ’s agenda. Satan has been disbarred. But you have a perfect heavenly defense attorney:

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.[16]

Your perfect heavenly defense attorney works for free. There is nothing you can pay him because he himself paid it all for you. That fact of his payment is the only plea you need when the enemy, your flesh, and the world come to whisper of your failures. You are not a good son or daughter. You are not a good husband or wife. You are not a perfect employee. You are certainly NOT good enough to partake of the Lord’s Supper!

When the disbarred prosecutor comes to lobby the legislature of your heart and soul, just agree with him. Everything he says is correct to some degree. I am NOT good enough. I am a failure under God’s perfect law; and, I can never live up to the little “l” laws I make for myself. But I am baptized. I bear the mark of Christ. I wear clean garments no demon or human can ever stain. I am eternally loved with and everlasting love that empowers me to overcome by the blood and the word of testimony. What is the word of my testimony? It is this:

If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [17]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 12:7–17.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 12:5.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 12:7.

[4] Beale, 651.

[5] Id., 652.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 2:7–9.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 12:7–8.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 12:9.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 12:10.

[10] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Heb 10:1–4.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 12:10.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 12:11.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 5:23–24.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 1:7.

[15] Beale, 672.

[16] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 1 Jn 2:1–2.

[17] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 8:31–39.