Revelation 12:7 MEANING

Revelation 12:7

(7) And there was war . . .--Translate, And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels. This is one of those passages which has ever been regarded as more or less perplexing. It has afforded material for many poetic fancies, and has been the occasion of much speculative interpretation. We shall fail to catch the spirit of its meaning if we insist upon detaching the passage from its context; and the more so that the structure of the chapter seems to give an express warning against doing so. The narrative of the woman's flight into the wilderness is suspended that this passage may be inserted. Could we have a clearer indication of the anxiety of the sacred writer to connect this war in heaven with the birth and rapture of the man child? The man child is born; born a conqueror. The dragon is His foe, and the powers of the foe are not confined to the material and historical world: he is a power in the world spiritual; but the man child is to be entirely a conqueror. His rapture into heaven is the announcement that there, in the very highest, He is acknowledged victor; and His victory is won over the power of the dragon, the old serpent, whose head is now bruised. "The prince of this world cometh," said Jesus Christ, "and hath nothing in Me." "Now is the judgment of this world; now is the prince of this world cast out. And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me." Do we need more? There is mystery--unexplained mystery, perhaps--about this war in heaven, but there need be none about the general occasion referred to; it is the overthrow of the evil one by Christ: the death-blow given by the Lord of Life to him who had the power of death; it is the victory of Bethlehem, Calvary, and Olivet which is commemorated, and the effects of which are seen to transcend the sphere of the things seen. But why have we Michael and his angels introduced? This may be one of those unexplained mysteries referred to above. Some, indeed, think that this Michael is a designation of our Lord Himself, and of Him alone; but a consideration of the other passages in which Michael is mentioned (notably, Daniel 10:13, where Michael is called "one of the chief princes") leaves this limited meaning doubtful, and almost suggests conflict among the spiritual hierarchies. It may, however, be the case that the name Michael--the meaning of which is, "who is like unto God"--is a general name applied to any who for the moment represent the cause of God in the great conflict against evil. It may thus belong, not to any one angel being, but be a kind of type-name used for the champion and prince of God's people, and so employed in this passage to denote Him who is the Captain of our salvation.

Verses 7, 8. - And there was war in heaven. The passage vers. 7-13 is an interruption of the narrative of the persecution of the woman by Satan. It is caused, apparently, by a desire to account in some degree for the relentless hostility of the devil towards God and his Church. Two explanations of the passage may be referred to.

(1) Vers. 7-13 relate to the period anterior to the Creation, concerning which we have a slight hint in Jude 1:6. This, on the whole, seems to agree best with the general sense of the chapter, and to present fewest difficulties. Thus:

(a) It accounts for the insertion of the passage (see above).

(b) The war is directly between the devil and Michael, not between the devil and Christ, as at the Incarnation and Resurrection.

(c) Vers. 8 and 9 seem to require a more literal interpretation than that which makes them refer to the effects of Christ's resurrection.

(d) It was not at the period of the Incarnation that the scene of Satan's opposition was transferred to the earth, as described in ver. 12.

(e) The song of the heavenly voice may be intended to end with the word Christ (ver. 10), and the following passages may be the words of the writer of the Apocalypse, and may refer to the earthly martyrs (see on ver. 10).

(f) This attempt of the devil in heaven may be alluded to in John 1:5, "The darkness overcame it not" (see also John 12:35).

(2) The passage may refer to the incarnation and resurrection of Christ, and the victory then won over the devil. This interpretation renders the whole passage much more figurative.

(a) Michael is the type of mankind, which in the Person of Jesus Christ vanquishes the devil.

(b) Subsequent to the Resurrection Satan is no more allowed to accuse men before God in heaven, as he has done previously (see Job 1; Zechariah 3:1; 1 Kings 22:19-22); he is thus the accuser cast down (ver. 10), and his place is no more found in heaven (ver. 8).

(c) The earth and sea represent the worldly and tumultuous nations. Perhaps the strongest argument in favour of the second view is found in Luke 10:18 and John 12:31. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; Michael and his angels [going forth] to war with the dragon (Revised Version). Alford explains the infinitive phrase as compounded of the genitive τοῦ and depending upon ἐγένετο. Michael (מָי־כאֵל) signifies, "Who is like to God?" We may compare this with the cry of the worldly in Revelation 13:4, "Who is like unto the beast?" In Daniel, Michael is the prince who stands up for the people of Israel (Daniel 12:1; Daniel 10:13, 21). Michael, "the archangel," is alluded to in Jude 1:9 as the great opposer of Satan. St. John, perhaps borrowing the name from Daniel, puts forward Michael as the chief of those who remained faithful to the cause of God in the rebellion of Satan and his angels. The angels of the dragon are the stars of ver. 4, which he drew with him to the earth, and possibly the reference to this event in ver. 4 gives rise to the account in vers. 7-13. Some commentators interpret the war here described as that between the Church and the world. Michael is thus made to be symbolical of Christ, and some have no difficulty in indicating a particular man (such as Licinius) as the antitype of the dragon. And the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. The Greek is stronger, not even their place, etc. Οὐδέ is read in א, A, B, C, Andreas, Arethas; οὔτε is found in P, 1, 17, and others. So complete was the defeat of Satan that he was no longer permitted to remain in heaven in any capacity.

12:7-11 The attempts of the dragon proved unsuccessful against the church, and fatal to his own interests. The seat of this war was in heaven; in the church of Christ, the kingdom of heaven on earth. The parties were Christ, the great Angel of the covenant, and his faithful followers; and Satan and his instruments. The strength of the church is in having the Lord Jesus for the Captain of their salvation. Pagan idolatry, which was the worship of devils, was cast out of the empire by the spreading of Christianity. The salvation and strength of the church, are only to be ascribed to the King and Head of the church. The conquered enemy hates the presence of God, yet he is willing to appear there, to accuse the people of God. Let us take heed that we give him no cause to accuse us; and that, when we have sinned, we go before the Lord, condemn ourselves, and commit our cause to Christ as our Advocate. The servants of God overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb, as the cause. By the word of their testimony: the powerful preaching of the gospel is mighty, through God, to pull down strong holds. By their courage and patience in sufferings: they loved not their lives so well but they could lay them down in Christ's cause. These were the warriors and the weapons by which Christianity overthrew the power of pagan idolatry; and if Christians had continued to fight with these weapons, and such as these, their victories would have been more numerous and glorious, and the effects more lasting. The redeemed overcame by a simple reliance on the blood of Christ, as the only ground of their hopes. In this we must be like them. We must not blend any thing else with this.And there was war in heaven,.... Not in the third heaven, the habitation of God, the seat of the angels and glorified saints, there is no discord, jars, and contentions there, nothing but peace, love, and joy; but in the church below, which is militant, and has in it as it were a company of two armies; or rather in the Roman empire, which was the heaven of Satan, the god of this world, and of his angels; and this war refers not to the dispute between Michael the archangel and the devil about the body of Moses, Jde 1:9; nor to the of the angels when they rebelled against God, left their first estate, and were cast down to hell, Jde 1:6; nor to that ancient and stated enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, Genesis 3:15, which has appeared in all ages of time, more or less, since the fall of Adam; nor to the combats which Christ personally had with Satan and his powers when here on earth, as in the wilderness, immediately after his baptism, and in the garden, a little before his death, and on the cross, when he spoiled principalities and powers, and destroyed him that had the power of death, the devil; but rather to the conflict which Christ and his people had with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with the Roman powers, and with false teachers during the three first centuries; though it seems best to understand it of the war commenced by Constantine against Paganism, and which was finished by Theodosius, by whom Heathenism received its death wound, and was never restored since the phrase of war in heaven is not unknown to the Jews; they say (i) when Pharaoh pursued after Israel, there was war above and below, and there was a very fierce war "in heaven":

Michael and his angels fought against the dragon: by whom is meant not a created angel, with whom his name does not agree, it signifying "who is as God"; nor does it appear that there is anyone created angel that presides over the rest, and has them at his command; though the Jews seem to imagine as if the angels were ranged under several heads and governors, of whom they make Michael to be one; for they say (k),

"when the holy blessed God descended on Mount Sinai, several companies of angels descended with him, , "Michael and his company", and Gabriel and his company:''

"so kings armies", in Psalm 68:12; are by them interpreted of "kings of angels"; and it is asked who are these? and the answer is, Michael and Gabriel (l). Lord Napier thinks that the Holy Ghost is designed, who is equally truly God as the Father and the Son, and who in the hearts of the saints opposes Satan and his temptations; but it seems best to interpret it of Jesus Christ, who is equal with God, is his fellow, is one with the Father, and in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily: he is the Archangel, the first of the chief princes, the head of all principality and power, who is on the side of the Lord's people, pleads their cause, defends their persons, and saves them; see Jde 1:9; and by "his angels" may be meant either the good angels, literally understood, who are his creatures, his ministers, and whom he employs under him, in protecting his people, and in destroying his enemies; or else the ministers of the Gospel, who are called angels in this book, and who, under Christ, fight the good fight of faith, contend earnestly for it, being valiant for the truth upon earth; or rather the Christian emperors, particularly Constantine and Theodosius, and the Christians with them, who opposed Paganism in the empire, and at last subdued, and cast it out:

and the dragon fought, and his angels; there is such an order among the evil angels, as to have one of their own at the head of them, they having cast off their allegiance to God and Christ, who is styled the prince of devils, and his name is Beelzebub: hence we read of the devil and his angels; see Matthew 12:24; and these may be intended here, unless false teachers, who transform themselves into angels of light, as their leader sometimes does, should be thought to be meant, who resist the truth and oppose themselves to the ministers of it; though rather, Satan as presiding over, and influencing the Roman Pagan empire, and the Roman emperors, who acted under him, are here designed; with whom Constantine and Theodosius, under Christ, combated, such as Maximinus, Maxentius, Licinius, Arbogastes, and Eugenius, and those that were with them. The Arabic version renders it, "the serpent with his soldiers".

(i) Shaare Ora, fol. 26. 4. (k) Debarim, Rabba, fol. 237. 4. (l) Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 14. 3. & 26. 3.

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