Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Study on Revelation 12: Part Five (The battle in heaven and the casting out of the dragon)

Revelation 12
7 And a battle occurred in heaven. Michael and his messengers battle with the dragon, and the dragon battles, and its messengers.
8 And they are not strong enough for him, neither was their place still found in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, the ancient serpent called Adversary and Satan, who is deceiving the whole inhabited earth. It was cast into the earth, and its messengers were cast with it.

Evidently, the dragon and its messengers are to be cast out of heaven at some point prior to the midpoint of the 70th heptad. However, it’s unclear how much time there will be between the casting out of Satan from heaven and the start of the second 3½ years of the 70th heptad. Although it’s clear that the persecution of Israel through the instrumentality of the wild beast is Satan’s “first move” after being cast out of heaven, the beginning of this time of “great affliction” need not be understood as occurring immediately after Satan is cast out. There could be some unknown duration of time that will transpire between Satan’s being cast out of heaven and the beginning of the “great affliction” at the start of the midpoint of the 70th heptad.

What we do know is that there will be a “battle in heaven” (as opposed to, say, a near-battle, with no actual conflict) before the casting out of Satan takes place. We just don’t know how long the battle in heaven will actually take place. And even though we know who ultimately wins the battle (i.e., Michael and his messengers), there is clearly a sustained fight or contest taking place that will involve both sides of the conflict using whatever power and strategy they have in order to win.

We know that battles on earth can sometimes be lengthy, but we have no idea what a battle in heaven between celestial beings involves, or how long such a battle could take place. Because there is only a brief mention of this battle in one verse of scripture, one might be tempted to think that this battle will begin and end in a matter of hours, or even minutes (I’ve actually read one author boldly state – and without providing any evidence to back up his assertion - that this battle will last “for a couple of hours, at most!”). But for all we know, this battle could last for several weeks, months or even years.

Daniel 10 provides us with some “behind the scenes” insight into the power struggles that take place between celestial beings. Because of his being “withstood” by the “chief of the kingdom of Persia,” it took Gabriel twenty-one days, or three weeks, to reach Daniel after his initial prayer to God – and it was only after being helped by Michael that he was able to complete his divine mission (Dan. 10:2, 10-14). We then read that he would have to return to fight against this “chief” (and after that, the chief of Greece), and that Michael was the only celestial chief who contended by his side against these other chiefs.

From this account we find that celestial beings can be (and perhaps frequently are) involved in lengthy power struggles. If Gabriel’s coming to Daniel took 21 days because of his being withstood by the chief of Persia – and only Michael was able to help him – it’s possible that an all-out battle involving all of the hosts of heaven could last much longer than this. Perhaps the battle in heaven that results in Satan and his messengers being cast out of heaven will be one of the biggest events that the inhabitants of heaven have ever, and will ever, be involved in – a major and climactic chapter in the epic story of these celestial beings (and of which we mortal humans know next to nothing about!).

As has been correctly noted by some, the reason why the dragon and its messengers cease to have “a place found in heaven” is simply that they lose their battle with Michael and his messengers, and are consequently “cast out.” But this doesn’t explain why the battle itself should take place, or what the catalyst for this battle will be. However, when we understand the male child of Rev. 12 to represent that company of saints who constitute the body of Christ, a plausible explanation emerges as to why this battle in heaven will take place around the time that it will: those who are destined to replace Satan and his hierarchy of wicked celestial beings in the heavenly realm will, at this time, be present in heaven. We’re not told whether it is Satan or Michael who instigates the battle, but either scenario is consistent with the view that the catalyst for the battle in the heaven will be the presence of the body of Christ in heaven, and the regime change that this state of affairs will necessitate. 

Something else to consider is the timing of the event referred to as the “dais of Christ,” which is to occur sometime after the snatching away of the body of Christ. It’s evident from Rev. 12:10 that Satan's being cast out of heaven is (in some way) an expression of God's kingdom having come in heaven, and the result of Christ's authority being exercised: “And I hear a loud voice in heaven saying, ‘Just now came the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ, for the accuser of our brethren was cast out, who was accusing them before our God day and night.’” Whether or not the authority exercised was that of Christ alone or Christ along with those saints constituting his body is not here revealed. It seems clear that the reign of the saints in the body of Christ will begin no later than the start of the next eon (see, for example, Eph. 2:6-7). We’re simply not told whether it begins prior to this time, or not. So it’s possible that the casting out of Satan will be the authoritative decision of Christ alone.

However, if Satan's being cast out of heaven is the ultimate outcome of a judgment that will involve us, it can be reasonably inferred that our standing before the dais of Christ will have to have taken place before the battle occurs in heaven. Although we have no idea how long the dais event will take, this is obviously something that is going to take some amount of time. Thus, according to this view, the snatching away will not only take place sometime before the battle in heaven begins, but before whatever duration of time it will take for the saints in the body of Christ to be awarded for what we did on earth at the dais of Christ.

The “Loud Voice”

10 And I hear a loud voice in heaven saying, "Just now came the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ, for the accuser of our brethren was cast out, who was accusing them before our God day and night.
11 And they conquer him through the blood of the Lambkin, and through the word of their testimony, and they love not their soul, until death.
12 Therefore, make merry, ye heavens, and those tabernacling in them! Woe to the land and the sea, for the Adversary descended to you having great fury, being aware that brief is the season that he has."

To whom does the above-referenced “loud voice in heaven” belong? Whomever it belongs to, the speaker is referring to the saints on earth as “our brethren.” Thus, if the “loud voice” belongs to a non-human celestial being, then the “our” must include non-human celestial beings. But if that’s the case, then this would be the only example I know of in which non-human celestial beings refer to mortal human beings as their “brethren.” In fact, the word “brethren” is used a total of four times in Revelation. In the first example (Rev. 6:11) it refers to human saints who are about to be martyred after the opening of the fifth seal. The next example is Rev. 12:10, which we’ve quoted above. In the last two examples, the word is used by a non-human celestial messenger in reference to human beings:

Rev. 19
10 And I fall in front of his feet to worship him. And he is saying to me, "See! No! A fellow slave of yours am I, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

Rev. 22
9 And he is saying to me, "See! No! a fellow slave of yours am I, and of your brethren, the prophets and those keeping the sayings of this scroll. Worship God!"

In both of these verses, the celestial messenger does not include himself as being among John’s “brethren.” He does not say “our brethren” but “your brethren.” Rather than speaking of himself as being one of John’s brethren, the messenger identifies himself as a “slave” of John and his brethren (i.e., those “who have the testimony of Jesus” and who are “the prophets and those keeping the sayings of this scroll”). It would seem from these verses that the label “brethren” is reserved for human saints. If that’s the case, then the voice of the one speaking in Rev. 12:10-12 has to be understood as belonging to a member of the body of Christ.

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