“The Heavenly War and the Victory” – Revelation 12:7-12a

by Roger McCay
9 July 2023
Sermon Passage: Revelation 12:7-12a
Link to Audio Version

The Accuser of the brethren in heaven is a disturbing image. It’s especially disturbing, because we know our own sin. And perhaps this image of the accuser, Satan, standing before God’s throne, accusing the brethren, is one that you picture as an ongoing reality. And maybe you harbor some fear of the accuser in heaven, because you know your sin. You know what you did. You know what you do. You know the temptations you succumb to. You know the dark places in your heart. And you fear that the accuser knows these things too. So you imagine what the accuser might be saying to the Lord about you, bringing it all to the Lord’s attention, highlighting it and twisting it to your disadvantage in the most awful ways. And maybe this puts a little doubt in your soul. A little doubt that maybe the accuser is right, and that the Lord couldn’t possibly love such a dirty sinner as you. And you feel guilty, dirty, ashamed, because you know there is some merit to his accusations, as twisted as they might be. How could the Lord really love such a filthy sinner as me?

But does Satan still go before God’s throne and make accusations against the Lord’s people – against you and I? Our passage today answers, “No.” The Accuser of the brethren has been cast down from heaven. There is no place for Satan in heaven anymore. He and his angels were thrown down long ago. The Lord’s people are eternally secure in Christ, secure in God’s love, for the Lord Jesus (our Savior) has won the victory.

A couple of weeks ago, we took a look at the adversaries in the heavenly war. We saw how Michael the Archangel, in Rev. 12:7, is a reference to Christ, and we considered how every reference to Michael in the Scriptures is a reference to the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God. He is The Angel of the Lord and he is The Commander of the Army of the Lord. Thus, Rev. 12:7 describes him as going to war with his angels, against the Dragon and his angels, identifying the Dragon as Satan, the Accuser. We also considered the spectrum of angels in the Scriptures. With the eternal Lord, who is the Angel of the Lord, having always been the “I AM,” there are the created angels, including human angels, and the supernatural, heavenly angels. With the adversary, Satan, there are the created (but fallen) angels, which include the supernatural demons and the human minions of the devil.

Now, concerning this “war in Heaven” that John speaks to here in Rev. 12:7-12, some questions are pertinent for our understanding. First, what is the nature of the imagery of the “war in Heaven?” Then, when does this war take place? And also, how does this war play out (i.e. place and circumstances)?

As to the first question, when we consider the nature of the war in heaven, it’s important to remember the genre of the book of Revelation, which consists of symbolic, apocalyptic imagery. This is the book that describes Jesus as having a sword coming out of his mouth, for example. And the description of the war, in this passage, likewise symbolizes spiritual realities in a dramatic way. This war does not consist of armies faced off before the throne of God, hacking it out with swords (like that first great battle scene in the Lord of the Rings movies). No, these are symbolic images of the spiritual warfare that took place in time, from a heavenly perspective, overlapping events that took place on earth.

Which leads to the second question, as to when this war took place. The short answer is that it was fought and won by Christ Jesus during his first-century, earthly ministry, including his death and resurrection, with him then ascending into heaven in victory. In Rev. 12, this means the events of vv. 7-11 are a recapitulation and expansion of the events of v. 5, where v. 5 quickly sums up the entirety of Jesus’ incarnational ministry from birth through his ascension to the throne of God. Verse 12 then consists of a responsive victory shout in heaven and a warning to those on the earth, since Satan (in his defeat) would take his wrath out upon the church. Rev. 12, v. 13 picks up historically after the events of v. 5, flowing into v. 6, with the persecution of the church and the Lord protecting his church.

All of which answers a bit of the third question, “How does the war play out (place, circumstances)?” Essentially, vv. 7-12 speaks of the spiritual realities of the war, which is described in the Gospels of the NT. If you’ve studied the Gospels, you are intimately familiar with the war.

Now, let us backtrack a bit to Rev. 12:4, which we looked at back in February of this year. And I hope you’ll bear with me, as my understanding of this verse has shifted a bit, due to further study. The first part of v. 4 says, “His [the Dragon’s] tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth.” I had commented that this verse seemed to be speaking of Satan’s fall as a result of his rebellion (a thought influenced by a few things, along with the idea that v. 4 was somehow recapitulated in v. 9). But digging deeper, it’s become clear that v. 4 is not about Satan’s fall. Verse 9 says, “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.” But v. 4 does not actually mention Satan being thrown (or cast) down. It just says his (the Dragon’s) tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven to earth. Satan was the one casting down; he was not being cast down.

In Alabama, probably the closest thing we have to a dragon is the alligator. So most of us have some understanding of the danger posed by an alligator’s tail, and how a ‘gator can use it as a weapon.

Likewise, in the symbolism of the Dragon’s tail, the third of the stars of heaven swept down were, like I said in February, Satan’s demons. And context indicates that they were swept down to battle against the Seed of the woman, the Christ, in the war of the seeds. So, the events of v. 4 are historically different than the events of v. 9.

Verse 4 relates Satan’s action of sending a sizeable portion of his demonic army to the Land of Israel, in order to war against the Seed. Come the advent of Christ (v. 5), Satan’s forces had been marshalled against Jesus, and they are surely behind King Herod’s attack, trying to kill the promised Messiah when he was still a baby. And notice it was an angel who told Joseph to flee the land of Israel, and go to Egypt (Matt. 2:13), an action which saved Jesus’ life. Again, Rev. 12:4 speaks to Satan marshalling his forces for the war against the Christ, and Satan’s angels in that war included both demons and his human minions.

This understanding of v. 4 helps to explain much of what we read in the Gospels. From the time of Jesus’ advent, and during his ministry, the tremendous outburst of demonic activity (about which we read) is striking. This was because the war in heaven had gone into full swing, as Jesus (the incarnate Son and Commander of the Lord’s Army) went into battle against the enemy, and Satan and his forces fought back. Jesus spoke plainly, too, about how his casting out of demons was a sign that “the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12:28). The Kingdom of God was present, embodied in Jesus, as he cast out demons over and over and over (Matt. 8:16; 10:8; Mark 1:34). He further said the fact that he cast out demons demonstrated that the strong man (Satan) had been bound, leaving Satan’s kingdom (the world) to be plundered, rescuing people for the Kingdom of God (Matt. 12:29). Indeed, Satan himself had engaged Jesus in the battle, when Jesus was in the wilderness, physically weak due to fasting. But Jesus, of course, was victorious, overcoming the devil, resisting his temptations, and his victory was followed by his angels ministering to him (Mark 1:12).

Later in his ministry, Jesus even empowered his disciples over the demons, so they were able to cast out demons. We see this specifically in the sending of the twelve (Matt. 10:8), and during the mission of the seventy-two, as testified to in Luke 10:17 (which we’ll touch on further in a moment). In this way, empowered by Christ, his disciples were human angels fighting in the heavenly war. So, predictably, Satan went after them. Thus, in the case of Peter, Jesus tells him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 32:31-32). And Judas, of course, was manipulated by the devil directly. John 13:2: “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray [Jesus].” John 13:27: “Then … Satan entered into [Judas]. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Jesus, of course, sending off Judas to betray him, knew that it was all part of the decisive battle that would lead to his victory in the war.

Take a look, again, at Rev. 12:8-9:

but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 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.”

Now, who defeated the Dragon, and when and how was the victory accomplished? The Gospels testify, and as Rev. 12:7 sets in place, that it was Jesus (Michael) along with his angels (his apostles/disciples/and heavenly angels) who won the war. Jesus himself, of course won the victory, definitively striking the fatal blow, with his death on the Cross – (v. 11) “by the blood of the Lamb.” Jesus knew what he was about, thus, shortly before his crucifixion, in John 12:31, he said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” Christ’s atoning death on the cross followed by his resurrection from the dead sealed his victory. And, as Kenneth Gentry points out, “Christ’s victory over Satan was legally affected at his resurrection.”[1] For with the Son’s resurrection, God the Father acknowledged that he accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for the sins of his people. Thus Paul rejoices, in Col. 2:13-15: God has “forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” As a result of Jesus’ victory, the ruler of the world (Satan) was deposed (defeated, publicly shamed, and thrown from heaven to the earth along with his angels). Jesus had triumphed, securing his people’s salvation with his shed blood.

But Jesus was not all by himself, as he fought in the heavenly war. Throughout the war, during his earthly ministry, Jesus led his angels in the war (both human and heavenly), who fought under his command, accompanied him, helped him, and so participated in his victory. Thus at the return of the seventy-two from their mission, in Luke 10:17-20, the disciples expressed their joy upon returning, saying “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus then revealed what was behind their ability to subjugate demons, pointing to “the complete crumbling of Satan’s authority.”[2] He said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” John, who was there, hearkens to those words, in Rev. 12:9 (“and the great dragon was thrown down” … “thrown down to earth”). Speaking to the significance of Jesus’ statement, in Luke 10, Greg Bahnsen explains:

“Because Satan could not overthrow Jesus in the wilderness temptation, and because Jesus had begun the plunder of Satan’s kingdom, Satan’s ascendancy is symbolically represented as falling dramatically. Satan’s kingdom has been served a fatal blow by the incarnation, unsuccessful temptation, and exorcising power of Christ.” [3]

In the ministry of the seventy-two, Jesus beheld, as in a vision, the glorious victory to come, in which they participated with him.

Then, interestingly, after making his proclamation about Satan’s fall, Jesus reorients the focus of the seventy-two. He tells them, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Concerning this, Milton S. Terry posits:

Jesus accordingly said to them that they should rejoice, not so much in the subjection of the evil spirits as in the assurance that their names were written in the heavens …. They were already enrolled in the heavenly army of the great Captain of their salvation. They might therefore understand, not only that the God of peace would bruise Satan under their feet shortly (Rom. 16:20), but that they should be partakers with the Lord in his work, sufferings, triumph, and glory.[4]

Now, as you may be noticing, the scope and events of the victory also go beyond just what happened in the war leading up to and including the cross. And helpfully, the choric response, in vv. 10-11, serves to clarify the action of the symbols in vv. 7-9. Verse 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.’”

The Dragon is definitively identified in v. 9: “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan.” He is the serpent who tempted Eve, and whom God cursed to have his head bruised by the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15). He is the devil (the Διάβολος), meaning “The Slanderer.” As the Lord said, in John 8:44, the devil is “a liar and the father of lies.” And he is “the Satan,” the Adversary, who was the Accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10), the attorney for the prosecution, tirelessly bringing up charges against men in God’s court. And the Scriptures give Job and Joshua the High Priest as specific examples of the Accuser at work and how God dealt with those situations (Job 1 & 2; and Zech. 3:1-10).

The Dragon is also called “the deceiver of the whole world,” in Rev. 12:9. The OT gives a history of one nation, Israel, who was called out of all the nations, and which God preserved for himself. Israel alone among all the world was chosen to serve the true God. As for all the other nations, Satan had sway over them, inspiring their worship of false Gods, keeping them in bondage to himself through his deception. Even Israel often found itself influenced by Satan’s deception, turning to idols repeatedly, worshipping demons (as is blatantly pointed out in the Song of Moses, in Deut. 32:17), and which happened throughout Israel’s history (Ps. 106:36-37; Ezek. 20:1-32). The Apostle Paul, too, makes clear in the NT, that idols are demonic in nature. Indeed to make sacrifices to idols is to sacrifice to demons, for, as he says, “what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God” (1 Cor. 10:20). These demons, of course, were Satan’s minions, whom he was using in his deception of the nations. This was just one way that he exerted his power and influence over the nations as the “ruler of the world” (John 12:31). And when it came to Israel, it was a way he was warring against the Seed.

But Satan’s power was effectually broken by the ministry of Christ and his angels. Satan was bound (Matt. 12:29), severely curtailing his deception of the nations. We read of this same binding again in Rev. 20:1-3, vv. 2-3 saying,

And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

And, as I’ve explained before, we are living, right now, during the time of the millennial reign of Christ.

Triumphant in the war, Christ Jesus ascended into Heaven, where he took his place at the right hand of the Father, on the very throne of God. Full authority over heaven and earth is his, and, as the King of Kings, Lord of Lord’s, Christ’s power is absolute. Defeated and humiliated, Satan the Accuser, thrown down to the earth with his angels, would no longer come before the throne of God and accuse the brethren. As Paul so beautifully stated in Rom. 8:33, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” The legal justification of the elect had been established for all time—the penalty for our sin paid for in full by Christ Jesus on the cross. Therefore, the Accuser has no place before the heavenly throne, to accuse the brethren, for he no longer has a case to be argued. Any and all accusations the Accuser could possibly bring against the brethren have been nullified. And Christ Jesus is our Advocate (1 John 2:1). So it was that the loud voice in heaven, joyfully cried out, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come.”

Tying it all up, the voice concisely declares how the victory was accomplished. Rev. 12:11: “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.” This verse serves as a clarifying statement as to what had happened in the war in heaven, as we’ve considered today. Context informs us that this particularly refers to Michael (Jesus) and his angels (the apostles/disciples/heavenly angels). Michael, of course, conquered by the blood of the Lamb. In other words, Jesus conquered by means of his own blood being shed—his atoning death on the cross. Jesus loved not his life even unto death—he loved his people more. Too, in the immediate sense of the gospels, the faithful disciples of Christ, the twelve and all the others, answered his call to follow him (Mark 8:34). It was a total commitment, involving self-denial and mortifying sin. They gave their lives to Christ in the spirit of Jesus’ words in Mark 8:35: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” And most of them eventually literally died a martyrs death. The disciples weren’t perfect, as the Gospels make clear. However, they dropped everything to follow Jesus, and they went out and testified to the gospel, when he sent them. Conquering by the word of their testimony, they were blessed with the privilege of participating in Jesus’ victory. Indeed, the blood of the Lamb (even though it had not yet been shed) provided the vindication to their words. Victory was assured even before Jesus went to the cross. Accordingly, Jesus, recognizing the implications of the report of the seventy-two, proclaimed, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

And so, v. 12. With Christ’s victory and Kingdom secure, and the malignant presence of the enemy thrown down, the loud voice gives a call to worship: “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them!”

Now, you may have heard the term “The already but not yet.” Another way to say it is “Jesus has come, Jesus will come again.” There is a tension there, particularly as the Lord’s people engage in spiritual warfare as they await his final return. What we’ve considered today fits into the “already.” “The not yet” starts to play out as we move on into the second part of v. 12 and the following verses. Satan is defeated, but verse 12 warns, “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!” Verse 13 then picks up on that theme. Satan is defeated and bound. His dominion over the world and power to keep the nations under his thrall is broken, but he is still a force in this world and up to no good. His end will come at the end, when he is thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur (Rev. 20:11).

So, in the meantime, the blood of Christ and the gospel testimony have been and remain the means and the grounds for the people of God to overcome the evil one and his minions, whether the struggle is with persecution, temptation, or just trying to reach the lost for Christ. Indeed, the gospel and the blood of Christ are essential to donning the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11). Secure in victory (by the blood of Christ), saved by grace through faith, multitudes of Jesus’ disciples, throughout the nations and generations (despite all the efforts of the restrained devil and his minions), continue to live faithfully, according to the gospel, following Jesus, gathering the Lord’s elect into the Kingdom by the word of their testimony—faithful even unto death. In this way, if you are a disciple of Christ, you too participate in his victory.

So, my friends, why is it significant for us that there is no more any place in heaven for the Accuser? Well, you see, it is significant because this fact can bring peace to our soul. Yes, we sin. But as Paul beautifully said, in Rom. 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The accuser lost his case, and he was thrown out of court. By the blood of Jesus, if you trust in him as your Savior and Lord, your sins are forgiven. By his blood, your guilt is completely and totally removed, and you have been made righteous—the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Thus, while the Accuser has been thrown down, you have full access to the throne room of God, as his beloved daughter or son (Eph. 2:4-6).

So, let us enjoy the peace we have with God. Let us rejoice in the security we have in Christ. And let us be faithful in professing Christ by the word of our testimony, enduring to the end. Christ is victorious, and you and I share in the victory! Let the glory of that victory shine bright in your life. Since the Lord has thrown down our accuser, Christians should be confident in our salvation.


[1] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Survey of the Book of Revelation, Video Series (Chesnee SC: Victorious Hope Publishing, 2012), DVD 3, lesson 14.

[2] Greg Bahnsen, “The Person, Work, and Present Status of Satan,” Journal of Christian Reconstruction 1:2 (Winter, 1974), https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yVdT_vq2wrg8inVTezz0D1bfn7G1vGoP/view.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Milton S. Terry (The Apocalypse of John, ed. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. and Jay Rogers (Chesnee, SC: Victorious Hope Publishing, 2021; originally pub. 1898), 161.