7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 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. – Revelation 12:7-17 ESV
There is a common misconception regarding Satan, that when he rebelled against God, he was cast out of heaven and relegated to earth. From there, he no longer had access into God’s presence. And yet, as these verses make clear, one of Satan’s titles is “the accuser of the brethren.” The name, Devil, literally means “accuser.” And we know from Scripture, that Satan has had and continues to have, access to God’s presence, where he hurls false accusations against God’s people. The prophet, Zechariah, was given a vision of just such a scene.
Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling. Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. – Zechariah 2:13-3:1 ESV
The book of Job records a time when Satan was called to appear before God with all the other angels.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” – Job 1:6-7 ESV
It was at that time, Satan raised doubts before God concerning the righteousness of Job.
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” – Job 1:9-11 ESV
Then the author of Job says quite plainly, “So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord” (Job 1:12 ESV). And, after having taken all of Job’s property and killedll of his children, Satan was allowed to come back into God’s presence, where he leveled additional charges against Job.
This is an important detail regarding Satan and his character, if we are going to understand what we read in this chapter. It will explain how a battle could take place between Satan, the demonic forces under his control and the forces of heaven. And that is exactly what John sees in this portion of his vision. He is given a never-before-seen look at an as-yet-to-happen event. Near the end of the great tribulation, the last 3-1/2 years of the period of tribulation, an epic battle will take place in heaven, between the heavenly forces of God and the forces of Satan. This will be the final battle in the long-standing war that has been taking place in the heavenly realm. The apostle Paul describes the nature of this war in no uncertain terms.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12 ESV
There has been a battle waging in the heavenly realms ever since the fall. But the day is coming when Satan and his forces will be defeated once and for all, then cast out of heaven for good. Jesus Himself spoke of this very day.
The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. – John 12:31 NLT
And that is the very scene John is allowed to witness. And accompanying Satan’s defeat and his expulsion from heaven, was the announcement: “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” (Revelation 12:10 ESV). This event signals the second coming of Christ and moves the battle from the heavenly realm to earth. That is where the final defeat of Satan will take place. This will be a time for rejoicing in heaven, but on earth, the news of Satan’s fall will not be good news. In fact, John hears a voice from heaven, saying, “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!” (Revelation 12:12 ESV). Satan will see his fall as the beginning of the end. His name, Satan, means “adversary” and he will retain that role to the bitter end. He will never stop opposing God and attempting to overthrow the rule and reign of God.
And one of the first things Satan will do as a result of his defeat and fall will be to intensify his attack on the people of God, the nation of Israel.
…he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. – Revelation 12:13 ESV
But John is told that Israel will be protected by God, “for a time, and times, and half a time.” This formula works out to be a year + 2 years + 1/2 year for a total of 3-1/2 years. This is a reference to the second half of the tribulation period, when Israel will be hidden by God and provided with a place of safety, protecting them from the attacks of Satan and his forces, both heavenly and earthly. The intensity of Satan’s vengeance against Israel will be great. And Jesus warned His disciples about this day:
16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. – Matthew 24:16-21 ESV
Some will flee to the mountains where they will find shelter. But many will remain in Jerusalem. The prophet Zechariah makes this clear.
2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. – Zechariah 14:2 ESV
God is going to preserve a remnant of His people, because He has plans for them. He will preserve and protect them, keeping them safe from the attacks of Satan and his forces.
8 In the whole land, declares the Lord,
two thirds shall be cut off and perish,
and one third shall be left alive.
9 And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” – Zechariah 13:8-9 ESV
In order for the return of Christ to take place, there must be a remnant of the people of God still alive on the earth, who will call out for Him for deliverance. But before they reach the point where they will call out to Jesus in desperation and despair, they will feel the full weight of Satan’s wrath. He is described as pouring “water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood” (Revelation 12:15 ESV). Whether this is a literal flood or figurative language describing a torrent of evil acts disseminated upon the people of Israel, we do not know. But whatever it is, it will fail. God will use the earth itself to protect his people, and Satan’s inability to destroy this remnant will leave him furious and force him to focus his wrath on “the rest of her offspring.” And we are given an explanation as to just who this group is: “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17 ESV). These are Jews who come to faith during the tribulation, which includes the 144,000 first mentioned in Revelation 7. There will be additional Jews who become believers during the second half of the tribulation, and it is against these individuals that Satan will turn his attention and focus his wrath.
The chapter ends with an image of Satan standing on the sand of the sea. We know this is a reference to Satan, because the very first verse in the very next chapter opens up by stating: “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea” (Revelation 13:1 ESV). Satan is pictured as standing poised on the edge of the sea, awaiting the arrival of the beast. And we will discover more details about this individual as John’s vision continues in chapter 13.
But this chapter sets up all that is to come. Satan, still adamantly and stubbornly defiant, will exhaust all his energies and resources in his attempt to thwart God’s plans. In spite of his defeat at the hands of Michael and the heavenly forces, Satan will continue his ill-fated efforts to prevent the return of Christ and to destroy the people of God. He will not give up. And as the days of the great tribulation come to a close, his efforts will only intensify. Like a trapped animal, he will lash out with greater fury and anger. But his days are numbered. His fate is sealed. His full and final defeat is certain. God is in complete control of the circumstances.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.