Has There Ever Been War in Heaven? #164 #Revelation
Hello friends and happy Wednesday to you. I admit, I actually had to look at the calendar to remember what day it was. Out here in central California, we are still mostly under quarantine, and the days are still running together. Yesterday we read 7 chapters together, today we’ll only read 4: Deuteronomy 15, Psalms 102, Isaiah 42 and Revelation 12. In case I’ve never mentioned it, I can tell you that I am personally a big fan of college football, and I am hoping and praying we have a season this year! When I think about the top college football teams of all time, I can’t help but agree with ESPN in the way they ordered their list:
- Alabama – The Crimson Tide has 15 National championships and arguably the two top coaches of all time in Nick Saban and Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant.
- Notre Dame: 13 nattys, some of the best coaches and players of all time, and a deep and rich history. How could I have forgotten the four horsemen of college football a few days ago – all hailing from Notre Dame. Thanks to Lamar, noted Notre Dame fan, for reminding me!
- The Ohio State University. Great coaches, multiple Heismans and tons of recent success. A great program by every measure.
I probably should remind you guys that I’m not biased in the least in my rankings right now, as I live in California, roughly 2000 miles away from every school that I listed…how could I be biased?!
But, this is not a college football podcast, nor a wrestling podcast…though I could enjoy either or both together. Hello everybody, and welcome in to the Wrestlemaniac’s Heisman-cast! Okay, maybe not. This is a Bible podcast, and the only reason I’m thinking about top threes is that we are encountering what I believe is one of the most chilling and terrifying verses in the Bible. Here’s my ranking of scariest Bible verses:
- Matthew 7:23, “23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’” I cannot imagine hearing anything more terrifying than Jesus saying this.
- Mark 9:47-48, “It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” This terrifying description of hell, direct from the lips of Jesus, is based on Isaiah 66:24, “They will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.“
- Revelation 12:7 “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,” War…in Heaven? How could this be!? I find that one little sentence to be utterly chilling to the bones. Almost every time I read it, it sends a shiver down my spine.
What is this passage all about? When was there war in Heaven? Let’s read Revelation 12 and search for answers.
I must say that this is a most mysterious text – one of the more mystifying texts in the Bible, made even more difficult to comprehend given that there are no other passages that seem to refer to this incident. If we take the passage at face value (granting that some view this passage as very symbolic) then the war in Heaven happened right after Jesus was born, and ever since then, the dragon (Satan) has been confined to more earthly realms.
For some, it might be surprising to hear that Satan ever had access to Heaven. Most people think that Christians believe Satan lives in hell. That isn’t at all what the Bible teaches. Satan will be cast into the lake of fire by Jesus in the future, but he has not yet lived in hell to our knowledge, and when he is cast into hell, it won’t be to reign, it will be to suffer eternal ruin. It appears, according to the Word, that Satan did indeed live in Heaven – for quite some time. First, we see in the book of Job, that Satan would often gather together with the ‘sons of God’ to present themselves to God:
6 One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7 The Lord asked Satan, “Where have you come from?”“From roaming through the earth,” Satan answered him, “and walking around on it.”8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil.”
One day the sons of God came again to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before the Lord. 2 The Lord asked Satan, “Where have you come from?” “From roaming through the earth,” Satan answered him, “and walking around on it.” 3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil. He still retains his integrity, even though you incited me against him, to destroy him for no good reason.”
We also see that (if Ezekiel 28 is about Satan, and I believe it is) Satan lived on the holy mountain of God and served there as a guardian cherub – possibly even a guardian cherub of the throne of God!
You were the seal of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God.
Every kind of precious stone covered you:
carnelian, topaz, and diamond,
beryl, onyx, and jasper,
lapis lazuli, turquoise and emerald.
Your mountings and settings were crafted in gold;
they were prepared on the day you were created.
14 You were an anointed guardian cherub,
for I had appointed you.
You were on the holy mountain of God;
you walked among the fiery stones.
15 From the day you were created
you were blameless in your ways
until wickedness was found in you.
16 Through the abundance of your trade,
you were filled with violence, and you sinned.
So I expelled you in disgrace
from the mountain of God,
and banished you, guardian cherub,
from among the fiery stones.
Sharp-eared listeners will hear this passage and wonder about the timing, since Ezekiel 28:16 seems to also be talking about Satan being banished from Heaven…how could Revelation 12 – roughly 500 years after Ezekiel, be talking about Satan’s banishment as something that just recently happened? That’s a great question. Two possibilities: #1 Satan was kicked out of Heaven at some point before the birth of Jesus (perhaps right after the Genesis 3 Fall?), but still could come back to Heaven to…visit? And then he was permanently banished from Heaven after the war of Revelation 12. Possibility #2 is that Ezekiel 28 is looking forward prophetically to Satan’s banishment, or Revelation 12 is looking backward prophetically to Satan’s banishment. The bottom line is that we don’t know. I do note, interestingly, that Jesus witnessed this event and described it (briefly) to His disciples:
He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning.
What we do know is that Satan attempted to ignite a sort of heavenly civil war before he was booted from Heaven. Revelation 12:4 seems to indicate that 1/3rd of the angels of Heaven joined in this revolt and fought against the other angels, led by the archangel Michael. In a way that is difficult to understand, but might be similar to an Ezekiel 28 dynamic (where that chapter is talking about both a human king – the king of Tyre – and also Satan) Daniel 8 seems to be referring to this coming war in Heaven:
9 From one of them a little horn emerged and grew extensively toward the south and the east and toward the beautiful land. 10 It grew as high as the heavenly army, made some of the army and some of the stars fall to the earth, and trampled them. 11 It acted arrogantly even against the Prince of the heavenly army; it revoked his regular sacrifice and overthrew the place of his sanctuary. 12 In the rebellion, the army was given up, together with the regular sacrifice. The horn threw truth to the ground and was successful in what it did.13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the speaker, “How long will the events of this vision last—the regular sacrifice, the rebellion that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and of the army to be trampled?” 14 He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be restored.”
I notice there mention of the Heavenly army, mention of stars falling to the earth, and the fact that the ‘little horn,’ takes on the Prince of the Heavenly army, which would seem to be Michael. Beyond that, I can say that we know that Daniel 8 and Revelation 12 are connected, but making sense of just how they are connected is difficult.
How can we conclude such a discussion as this? I feel like the Bible gives us glimpses of truths, events, and future happenings that are beyond our ability to fully understand as finite humans. These things are above our paygrade and beyond our ability to fathom, but they do share truths with us that are good and cause us to cast our eyes towards Heaven, and for that I am grateful. Deep and mysterious passages like this can be confusing if you try to figure out their every intricacy, but if we allow them to draw us to the Father, then we will find comfort there. I love how Spurgeon, in preaching about this violent and war-filled passage, leads his people to the ultimate peace promised by the cross of Jesus, and this makes a fitting closing for our discussion of Revelation 12:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the children of God.” God is the great Peacemaker; and thus he is indeed the God of peace. When Satan fell, there was war in heaven. God made peace there, for he smote Satan and cast him and all his rebel hosts into eternal fire. He made peace by his might and power and majesty, for he drove him out of heaven, and expelled him by his flaming brand, never again to pollute the sacred floor of bliss, and never more to endanger Paradise by misleading his peers in heaven. So he made peace in heaven by his power. But when man fell, God made peace not by his power, but by his mercy. Man transgresses. Poor man! Mark how God goes after him to make peace with him! “Adam! where art thou?” Adam never said “God, where art thou?” But God came after Adam, and he seemed to say with a voice of affection and pity, “Adam, poor Adam, where art thou? Hast thou become a God? The evil spirit said thou wouldst be a God; art thou so? Where art thou now, poor Adam? Thou wast once in holiness and perfection, where art thou now?” And he saw the truant Adam running away from his Master, running away from the great Peacemaker, to hide himself beneath the trees of the garden. Again God calls, “Adam, where art thou?” But he says, “I heard thy voice in the midst of the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” And God says, “Who told thee that thou wast naked?” How kind it is. You can see he is a Peacemaker even then. But when, after having cursed the serpent, and sent the cursed obliquely on the ground, he comes to talk to Adam, you see him as the Peacemaker still more. “I will,” said he, “put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed. It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” There he was making peace through the blood of the cross.
C. H. Spurgeon, “The God of Peace,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 1 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855), 373.