Michael And The Great Dragon
Revelation 12: 7-9: “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. 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”.
This is one of the most popular passages used to suggest that there
was a rebellion in heaven amongst the angels, resulting in the devil
and his angels being thrown down to earth, when, in the form of
the serpent, they began to create trouble and sin on earth.
1. All that we have learnt so far in this study must be brought
to bear on this passage. We have seen that angels cannot sin and
that there can be no rebellion in heaven. Thus this passage - which
is the only one of its kind - must be interpreted in a way that
does not involve angels sinning or there being sinful angels making
people sin on earth, seeing that sin comes from within us, not from
outside of us (Mk. 7: 20-23).
2. The serpent is cast out of heaven, implying it was originally
there. But the literal serpent in Eden was created by God out of
the dust of the earth (Gen. 1: 24-25). There is no implication that
the devil came down from heaven and got inside the serpent. The
language of “cast down” and “cast out” does not require literal
downwards movement- Babylon is “thrown down” in Rev. 18:21. The
O.T. basis of “cast out” is in the nations / beasts being cast out
from God’s presence in the land of Israel. In Rev. 12 we have another
woman in the wilderness, who enters the Kingdom [cp. The land] once
the beast is cast out. In Dan. 7:9 the thrones of the beast / kingdoms
are “cast down” before the Kingdom is established on earth, just
as the beast is cast down before the establishment of the Kingdom
in Rev. 12.
3. Note carefully that there is no reference here to angels sinning
or rebelling against God, only to a war in heaven.
4. After the drama of vs. 7-9, v. 10 says that there was “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”. If vs. 7-9 occurred at the beginning of the world,
before the time of Adam and Eve, how could it be said that after
satan’s fall there came salvation and the kingdom of God? After
Adam’s sin, mankind began his sad history of slavery to sin and
failure - a state hardly to be described as “salvation” and the
kingdom of God. There is rejoicing that the devil - the accuser
- has been cast down to earth. Why should there be rejoicing if
his coming to earth was the start of sin and disaster for man? If
a fall from heaven to earth is understood figuratively rather than
literally, as representing a fall from authority (as Is. 14:12;
Jer. 51:53; Lam. 2:1; Matt. 11:23), much more sense can be made
of all this. If all this happened before the time of Adam, or at
least before the fall of man, how could the devil have been accusing
“our brethren”, seeing they did not then exist?
5. There is nothing indicating that all this happened in the Garden
of Eden. A vital point is made in Revelation 1:1 and 4:1 - that
the Revelation is a prophecy of “things which must shortly come
to pass”. It is not therefore a description of what happened in
Eden, but a prophecy of things to happen at some time after the
first century, when the Revelation was given by Jesus. Any who are
truly humble to the Word will see that this argument alone precludes
all attempts to refer Revelation 12 to the Garden of Eden. The question
has also to be answered as to why the identity of the devil and
information about what happened in Eden should be reserved until
the end of the Bible before being revealed.
6. “The great dragon was...that old serpent” (Rev. 12:9). The dragon
had “seven heads and ten horns” (v. 3), therefore it was not literally
the serpent. It being called “that old serpent” shows that it had
the characteristics of that serpent in Eden, in the sense of being
a deceiver, as the serpent was. Thus the devil is not literally
the serpent. If it is, then the dragon is the snake. But the dragon
is a political power, manifesting sin 9satan). Pharaoh is likened
to a great dragon (Ez. 32:2) but we can’t reason that therefore
he was a literal dragon. Similarly, “the sting of death is sin”
(1 Cor. 15:56), but that does not mean that death is a literal snake.
It has the characteristics of the snake, through it’s association
7. The devil was cast down onto the earth and was extremely aggressive
“because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (v. 12). If the
devil was cast down in Eden, he has had the opportunity to torment
man throughout his long history - which is hardly having only “a
short time” in which to wreak havoc.
8. How could the devil have deceived “the whole world” (v. 9) before
he was thrown out of heaven seeing that there was no one in the
world before Adam?
9. Verse 4 says that the dragon drew a third of the stars of heaven
to the earth with his tail. If this is read literally - and Revelation
12 has to be read literally to support the Popular Interpretation
- the sheer size of the dragon is immense - a third of the whole
universe (or solar system at least) could be contained just on his
tail. There is no way the planet earth would be big enough to contain
such huge creature sprawling over it. Most of the stars of the solar
system are bigger than our earth - how then could a third of them
land on earth? And remember that all this happened, or will happen,
after the first century A.D., when this prophecy was given.
10. In view of this and many other things in Revelation 12 (and
the whole prophecy) which are just incapable of any literal fulfilment,
it is not surprising that we are told first of all (Rev. 1:1) that
this is a message that has been “signified” - i.e. signified - put
into sign language, or symbol. As if to emphasize this in the context
of Revelation 12, Revelation 12:1 describes the subsequent action
as “ a great sign” (A.V. margin).
11. In reading of what the devil does when he is on the earth,
there is no description of him causing people to sin; indeed, vs.
12-16 show that the devil was unsuccessful in his attempts to cause
trouble on earth once he arrived there. This contradicts the Popular
12. One of the key questions in understanding whether this passage
supports the idea of a literal war in heaven, is whether the “heaven”
spoken of here is literal or figurative. We explained earlier that
“heaven” can figuratively refer to a place of authority (see “Suggested
Explanation” No. 7 of Eph. 6:11-13). Revelation being such a symbolic
book, we would expect this to be the case here.
The woman of v. 1 is “clothed with the sun, and the moon under
her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars”. These heavenly
bodies, as well as the woman, apparently suspended in heaven, cannot
be literal. She could not literally be clothed with the sun, or
have stars as big as the earth on her literal head.
Another sign appears in heaven in v. 3 - a red dragon. This is
commonly taken as a literal heaven, but why should it be, seeing
that the same heaven is referred to in v. 1 and that is clearly
figurative? Verse 4 shows the dragon casting a third of the stars
of heaven to earth. We have seen that because of the size of the
stars and earth, this cannot therefore refer to literal stars or
heaven. The Kingdom of God is to be established on earth (Dan. 2:
44; Matt. 5:5), which will not be possible if the earth is destroyed
(which it would be) by huge stars falling onto it.
The woman in “heaven” then delivered her child, who was “caught
up unto God and to his throne” (v. 5). God’s throne is in heaven.
If the woman was already in heaven, why would her child have to
be “caught up” to heaven? She must have been a symbol of something
on earth, although in a figurative “heaven”. She then flees “into
the wilderness” (v. 6). If she was in literal heaven, this means
there is a wilderness in heaven. It is far more fitting for her
to be in a figurative heavenly place, and then flee to a literal
or figurative wilderness on the earth.
We then come to v. 7 - “there was war in heaven”. All other references
to “heaven” in Revelation 12 having been figurative, it seems only
consistent that this was war in a figurative heaven. This must be
the case, as there can be no rebellion or sin in literal heaven
(Matt. 6:10; Ps. 5: 4-5; Hab. 1:13). The common view claims that
wicked angels are locked up in hell; but here they are in heaven.
They are not therefore literal angels.
The present writer sometimes asks those who believe in the orthodox
idea of the devil the following question: ‘Can you give me
a brief Biblical history of the devil, according to your interpretation
of Bible passages? The response is highly contradictory. According
to ‘orthodox’ reasoning, the answer has to be something
a) The devil was an angel in heaven who was thrown out into the
garden of Eden. He was thrown to earth in Gen. 1.
b) He is supposed to have come to earth and married in Gen 6.
c) At the time of Job he is said to have had access to both heaven
d) By the time of Is. 14 he is thrown out of heaven onto earth.
e) In Zech. 3 he is in heaven again.
f) He is on earth in Mt. 4.
g) He is “cast out” at the time of Jesus’ death,
according to the popular view of “the prince of this world”
being “cast out” at that time.
h) There is a prophecy of the devil being ‘cast out’
in Rev. 12.
i) The devil is “chained” in Rev. 20, but he and his
angels were chained in Genesis, according to the common view of
Jude v 6. If he was bound with ‘eternal chains’ then,
how is he chained up again in Rev. 20?
From this it should be obvious that the popular view that the devil
was cast out of heaven for sinning cannot be true, seeing that he
is described as still being in heaven after each occurrence of being
‘cast out’. It is vital to understand both heaven and
the devil in a figurative sense.
1. To try and expound this chapter fully is out of the scope of
our present notes. A full explanation of these verses requires an
understanding of the entire book of Revelation in order to get them
2. The conflict in figurative heaven - i.e. a place of authority
- was therefore between two power groups, each with their followers,
or angels. Remember that we have often identified the devil and
satan with the Roman or Jewish systems.
3. That the devil-dragon represents some kind of political power
is indicated by it having “crowns upon his heads” (v. 3). Revelation
17:9 -10 also comments on this dragon: “Here is the mind that hath
wisdom” - i.e. don’t try and understand this animal as a literal
being - “The seven heads are seven mountains...these are seven kings”.
One of the kings continuing “a short space” perhaps connects with
the devil-dragon having “but a short time” in Revelation 12:12.