War in Heaven – Revelation 12:7-9

These three verses describe a conflict in heaven:  the dragon, identified as Satan in 12:9, attacks Michael and his angels. The battle goes against Satan and he is thrown down to the earth along with his angels.

Archangel Michael battles Satan, Luca GiordanoAs with Revelation 12:4, the problem of “when” comes up again. Does this refer to the fall of Satan?  Does John have some event in his own lifetime in mind? Or is this a future event in the last says before the return of Christ? Similar to the problem with verse 4, this war in heaven is sometimes is thought to refer to the fall of Satan, but there is no other reference to Satan making war against Michael in the distant past.

Between the cross and the second coming Satan is active in the world (1 Peter 5:8, for example). But Revelation has already described an increase in demonic activity in the fifth and sixth trumpets.

Who is Michael? Michael is mentioned by name in Daniel (10:13, 21; 12:1) and twice in the New Testament (Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7). The name means ‘who is like God?’ and is synonymous with Micaiah and Micah in the Old Testament. In Daniel Michael is “one of the chief princes” (10:13) who assists the great angel who delivers Daniel’s final vision to overcome the prince of Greece and the prince of Persia. In Daniel 10:21 he is called “your prince” and in 12:1 he is “the great prince.”

Second Temple Literature develops the idea of Michael as a mighty angel who protects Israel. He is mentioned often in 1 Enoch. Although he is one of the chief angels, he is not called an archangel in the book. 2 Enoch 22 calls him “the archangel Michael” although the title “archistratig” (“top general? Cf. Gk. Apoc. Ezra 4.24) is used more often, highlighted Michael’s military role. By 3 Enoch, he is “Michael, the Great Prince, is in charge of the seventh heaven, the highest.” IN 3 Enoch Michael begins to blend with Metatron, a semi-divine angelic being. “At some point, however, the connection between Meṭaṭron and Michael was obscured, and a new, independent archangel with many of Michael’s powers came into being (P. Alexander, OTP 1:244).

In the Book of the Watchers, Michael interceded on behalf of humanity when they were oppressed by the giants (1 Enoch 10:11). In 1 Enoch 20:5 he is one of the “holy angels who watch.”

1 Enoch 20:1-8 And these are names of the holy angels who watch: 2 Suruʾel, one of the holy angels—for (he is) of eternity and of trembling. 3 Raphael, one of the holy angels, for (he is) of the spirits of man. 4 Raguel, one of the holy angels who take vengeance for the world and for the luminaries. 5 Michael, one of the holy angels, for (he is) obedient in his benevolence over the people and the nations. 6 Saraqaʾel, one of the holy angels who are (set) over the spirits of mankind who sin in the spirit. 7 Gabriel, one of the holy angels who oversee the garden of Eden, and the serpents, and the cherubim.

In 1 Enoch 40:9 Michael is one of the four “faces” who never slumber but always watch God and praise him. He is called “the merciful and forbearing Michael.” Along with Raphael, Gabriel, and Phanuel, Michael seize the armies of Azazʾel, on the great day of judgment and casts them “into the furnace (of fire) that is burning” (1 Enoch 54:5). In 1 Enoch 60 Michael explains Enoch’s disturbing vision (similar to the mighty angel in Daniel 10, cf., 1 Enoch 71:3).

In the War Scroll (1QM), Michael leads an army into battle:

1Q33 Col. xvii:7-8 (God) sends everlasting aid to the lot of his [co]venant by the power of the majestic angel for the sway of Michael in everlasting light,7 to illuminate with joy the covenant of Israel, peace and blessing to God’s lot, to exalt the sway of Michael above all the gods, and the dominion of 8 Israel over all flesh.

If Melchizedek is Michael in 11QMelch (Vermes, Dead Sea Scrolls, 300), then this angelic figure will “carry out the vengeance of Go[d’s] judgments, [and on that day he will fr]e[e them from the hand of] Belial and from the hand of all the sp[irits of his lot]” (11Q13 Col. ii:13). The text is fragmentary, but there is certainly a war between the angelic Melchizedek and the demonic Belial prior to the day of peace predicted by Isaiah 52:7 (line 15) and a coming anointed prince anticipated in Daniel 9:25 (line 18). In fact, line 25 says “Melchizedek, who will fr]e[e them from the ha]nd of Belial.”

The war in heaven results in the dragon being thrown down to the earth (Rev 12:7-9) and immediately John hears a loud voice in heaven announcing, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come” (12:10). Like the seventh trumpet, Revelation 12:10 announces the arrival of God’s kingdom.

3 thoughts on “War in Heaven – Revelation 12:7-9

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.