Most people have heard the expression “a holy war” before. Countless worldly conflicts are anything but “holy,” whether between nations or individuals. However, there can be “a holy war.” Revelation 12: 7-12 speaks of a coming holy conflict that takes place on three fronts.
Verses 1-6 of Revelation chapter 12 speak of the beginning of this holy war. The struggle was initiated in Heaven when a proud archangel named Lucifer was ousted for wanting to supplant God’s authority. Approximately one-third of Heaven’s angels fell with him.
Out of his hatred for God, Lucifer became Satan, the Red Dragon, the Devil, and caused humanity, the only creature made in God’s image, to sink into sin and lose dominion over the Earth. God then promised to send a Redeemer, and Satan attempted to thwart God’s plan, from the murder of Abel, the first in the messianic line, to the time of Christ’s birth when King Herod sought to kill every baby boy in Bethlehem two years old and under.
Satan, whose name means “opposer,” is shown by Scripture to now be the ruler of this world’s system. The baby, the “man-child” in Revelation 12:1-6 is Christ, the world’s Savior, who comes through the woman, Israel, and her travail. Satan failed in his attempt to spoil God’s design for reclamation, and Christ’s ascension by His resurrection and being “caught up” to glory is proof of His victory.
The second front in this holy war is described as a future event. Although Satan wreaks havoc on planet Earth, in Ephesians 2:2, he is said to be “the prince and power of the air” (an invisible realm where Satan and his demons live and from which they do their dirty work). Although ejected from Heaven, the devil and his evil army apparently retain some access. One indication of this is the account of Job’s troubles, where the Scriptures say:
“One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the LORD, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. ‘Where have you come from?’ the LORD asked Satan. Satan answered the LORD, ‘I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.’” (Job 1:6-7).
The story of Job shows that Satan may rob, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), but he is still on God’s leash and cannot use his foul powers except as God permits. God is always sovereign, no matter the situation. Moreover, even though God allows Satan to put his people through rigorous trials, if the Lord is trusted implicitly, God will overrule Satan’s wicked capers and make such troubles work for good.
Nevertheless, the meanness Satan is permitted to do is not indefinite. Revelation teaches he will ultimately and permanently be thrown out of heaven in a future cosmic conflict. Afterward, cast into the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:2-3), released once more at the end of a thousand years, and finally thrown into the lake of fire, where he and those who followed him will be tormented “day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10).
Here is what Revelation 12: 7-12 says about the second front of the holy war Satan initiates that results in him permanently being tossed out of Heaven:
“Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the Earth with all his angels.
Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens,
‘It has come at last — salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to Earth — the one who accuses them before our God, day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the Earth and the sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.'” (Revelation 12:7-12).
Michael, a mighty archangel who leads a host of angels, battles Satan and his malicious malcontents on a second front of the holy war.
In the Old Testament book of Daniel, Michael is seen as the guardian of the Jews against the godless powers of Greece and Persia (12:1). He is the leader of an angelic military loyal to God (Daniel 10:13, 10:21). He is also spoken of as the archangel in Jude 9 who argues with the devil over Moses’ body. Furthermore, he is probably the archangel to which the apostle Paul relates to the Second Coming of Christ (I Thessalonians 4:16).
Michael is reportedly the defender of God’s people on ten occasions in extra-biblical sources such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the Apocrypha, he is said to convey heavenly mysteries to Enoch.
During the Tribulation Period of seven years on the Earth, probably during the middle of it, Satan starts a fight that Michael finishes. It’s a fierce bout, but the devil and his legions are defeated and lose access to Heaven, never to return in any way, shape, or form.
A couple of valuable points are made about the devil’s nature and methods in Revelation chapter 12. We should be acquainted with them, lest he devours us like a roaring lion that capitalizes on the weaknesses of his prey (I Peter 5:8).
Satan is said to be a deceiver — “the one deceiving the whole world.” The Scriptures mention several ways he deceives the world, including:
1. Temptation: Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and continues to entice people with sinful desires and pleasures (Matthew 4:1-11).
2. Lies and false teachings: Satan is described as the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and often uses false teachings, especially false religion to deceive people.
3. Counterfeit miracles and signs: Satan can perform supernatural signs and wonders that deceive people (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Consider when Moses demonstrated the power of God and Pharoah’s magicians imitated those miracles (Exodus 7:22).
4. Blinding people’s minds: 2 Corinthians 4:4 states Satan can blind people’s minds from seeing the truth about God.
5. Encouraging disbelief: Satan can take advantage of human doubts and incite people to disbelieve in God, his promises, and other claims in his Word, the Bible (Genesis 3:1-6).
6. Making evil appear as something good: 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 says Satan comes as “an angel of light.” Moreover, we should be forewarned, “It is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”
Unquestionably, the devil’s greatest deception will be the Antichrist, described in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as “the man of lawlessness — the one who brings destruction.” In the following verse, verse 4, the apostle Paul proclaims, “He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call God and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.” He will fool the world’s hordes into believing he is the Messiah and worthy of complete and absolute obedience.
In summary, Satan uses deception, temptation, false teachings, counterfeit miracles, disbelief, and making evil appear appealing to deceive the world. His strategy is remarkably successful. He’s so successful, Isaiah says that hell licks its lips in anticipation, and its mouth is opened wide for people from every walk of life. The masses are comparable to a mob drunk on his lies, and they will be swallowed up” (Isaiah 5:14).
Note also that the devil is referenced as “the accuser” of those obedient to God. He comes before God’s throne regularly and accuses God’s children — sometimes, he accuses them wrongly — sometimes, he accuses them correctly.
The book of Job says Satan went before the Lord and wrongly accused Job of serving God with false motives. He told God that if he took away Job’s possessions, he would stop serving the Lord and curse him to his face (Job 1:11). God allowed Satan to sift Job’s allegiance with horrendous sufferings and incalculable loss. Still, Job remained faithful to the glory of God.
In Exploring Revelation, John Phillips explains the way Satan sometimes indicts God’s children correctly:
“For countless ages, Satan has had access to the presence of God … Ever he came with a smirk and a sneer to tell spiteful tales about the faults and failings of the people of God. It is all too evident that Satan, liar that he is, does not need to come into the presence of God to lie about the saints. There is more than enough in our lives to be grist for his mill. He goes into God’s presence to tell the truth about us, and Heaven has groaned again and again at the long recital of the sins of the saints. Satan has enjoyed himself to the full, relishing in the tales he has been able to tell. But over and over again, he has been defeated by the high priestly work of our Advocate [at the bar of Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ].
“Now the door is shut! Satan’s way into the presence of God is bolted and barred forever.”
This is a bittersweet passage, says Damon R. Duck and Larry Richards in their commentary, The Book of Revelation: The Smart Guide to the Bible Series. Sweet because Satan and his angels lose the war in Heaven, say the authors, but bitter because the Evil One has been thrown down to the Earth.
However, despite this enormous threat, Satan also loses on this third front of the holy war. Puny humans, physically, intellectually, emotionally meager, and grossly inferior, are empowered to overcome the terrible Red Dragon “by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.” They seized the victory by faith in Christ’s substitutionary death for their sins on the Cross and were ready to unashamedly give their lives away for Christ, even in martyrdom, to gain them in the end (Matthew 16:25).
Thus, a loud unnamed voice shouts across the universe, “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens!” Satan, the opposer of the One who sits infinitely majestic on his throne, the deceiver of the world, the accuser of the brethren, the Red Dragon, and every one of his lieutenants has utterly lost the holy war. Christ and his people have secured the victory!
Indeed, the best is yet to come for those who believe with their hearts and lives.
Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.