Jesus Christ and the Great Controversy
Revelation 12 stands in the centre of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. In this chapter is revealed the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan as it started in heaven and continued on planet earth. It is the war between the powers of darkness and light.
Ephesians 6:12. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities; against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Ellen G.White writes about this chapter as follows:” There are only two parties upon earth those who stand under the blood-stained banner of Jesus Christ and those who stand under the black banner of rebellion. Those who stand under Christ’s banner bear the sign of obedience spoken of in Exodus 31:12-18. Please read this scripture carefully. In the twelfth chapter of Revelation is represented the last great conflict between the obedient and disobedient.” (14MR 161)
The three previous visions of the Revelation regarding the churches, the seals and the trumpets have shown clearly that we are living in the end time of world’s history. They are the historical prophetic part of the Revelation. After chapter twelve we will be dealing with the eschatological prophetic part and chapter twelve is the bridge in between and introduces us to the eschatological part that follows. What we find in chapter twelve in a nutshell we will receive in the next chapters in detail. That detail deals with events taking place in the end time and the glorious victory and restoration.
In her first book dealing with the Great Controversy, “Patriarchs and Prophets” Ellen G.White writes as follows:” From the opening of the Great Controversy it has been Satan’s purpose to misrepresent God’s character and to excite rebellion against his law; and this work appears to be crowned with success. The multitudes give ear to Satan’s deceptions, and set themselves against God. But amid the working of evil, God’s purposes move steadily forward to their accomplishment; to all created intelligences he is making manifest his justice and benevolence. Through Satan’s temptations the whole human race have become transgressors of God’s law; but by the sacrifice of his Son a
way is opened whereby they may return to God.” (PP 338)
The reader of these Revelation studies is strongly recommended to read all five volumes by Ellen G.White regarding the Great Controversy under the following titles: “Patriarchs and Prophets”, “Prophets and Kings”, “Desire of Ages”, “Acts of the Apostles”, “The Great Controversy”. These books cover the whole Biblical era from Genesis until the end of time and are available via the “Adventist Book Centres.” Order online at AdventistBookCenter.com
Revelation chapter twelve is not in chronological order from verse 1 till 17. It starts at the point in time where the church moves from the Old Testament into the New Testament era. Later in the chapter we are taken back right to the beginning of the controversy as started in heaven. Then the chapter moves back to the church’s role in this controversy and ends with the last war of the dragon against the remnant
Revelation twelve is, as stated here before, a bridging prophetic narration between the three visions as given in chapters 1-11 and the visions we have in chapters 13-22.
We will also notice that certain points of chapter twelve are given more detail in what follows after chapter twelve.
12:1 here we find a number of items mentioned and to be considered carefully:
- a. a great wonder in heaven
- b. a woman is seen
- c. the woman is clothed with the sun
- d. the moon is under her feet
- e. upon her head a crown of twelve stars
First let’s consider the expression a great wonder. Many translations do read sign. The Greek reads semeion mega. My dictionary explains it as something is made clear or showing something great.
That John writes in heaven does not have to mean in heaven the dwelling place of God. It may mean from heaven’s point of view or in the immediate heaven or space around John.
The apostle Paul, for instance, makes clear that our conversation is in heaven, Phil 3:20. So while on earth a Christian’s way of conduct is projected as if in heaven. Thus in harmony with biblical interpretation the great wonder as depicted here may actually pertain to this earth and viewed in vision as from heaven.
The second point is that John sees a woman. From what we learn later about this woman and what happens to her does not mean she is a woman of flesh and blood but a representation. That the assembly of believers or the New Testament church is represented as a woman or even as a chaste virgin is clearly pointed out in 2Cor.11:2. A few lines down you will learn that the OT church also was compared to a woman. If we include here already 12: 2 we learn that the woman is pregnant with child and at the point of giving birth to the child. According to verse 4 after the birth of the child, that child is under threat of being killed and destroyed. It is clear that this points to the birth of Christ, who not only at the time of his birth but all throughout his ministry was under threat of being killed. Luke 4:29; John 8:59.
But let’s go back to the woman and try to identify her. It is not Mary, who gave birth to Christ in Bethlehem, which is believed by some people. Mary was not in the desert for
1260 days (12:6) or 3.5 times (12:14)
In some commentaries you will read that the woman represents the nation Israel and not the church. But Israel after the birth of Christ was not in peril for 1260 days or 3.5 times
It is true that Jesus was of Israel according what the apostle Paul writes in Rom.9:5,
and that according to the flesh Christ came out of Israel. In Hebr.7:14 we read that our Lord sprang out of Judah. This was predicted by Jacob in Gen.49:10 and by Micah in 5:2.
But Israel is also identified by the name congregation. The first time we meet this is in Ex.12:3 the congregation of Israel. In Ex.35:1 Moses gathered all the congregation of Israel. Congregation is closely related to assembly. We read in Numb.14:5 that Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all of the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
In the New Testament we find the word assembly under the name of church from the Greek ecclesia. We find that Stephen in his defence before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7:38 talks about Israel as the church in the wilderness. He uses the Greek word ecclesia.
We conclude that we are not on the wrong side explaining the woman of Rev.12:1 being the assembly or church of Israel at a particular point of time in the history of Israel, the church. That particular point of time being the time of the birth of Christ
The following will give evidence that it is the time of change over from the OT era of the church to the NT time of the church or from type to anti-type.
Before we deal with this point more in detail let us notice what the Bible has to say about the church symbolised by a woman In the Revelation we have two women. Here in chapter 12 one in white indicating the clean and faithful church. The other one we shall meet in chapter 17 and is dressed in scarlet, full of blasphemy and called the great whore (harlot) being unfaithful, Rev.17:1-3
The Israel church of the Old Testament is often compared by a woman. Jer.6:2; Isa.54:5, 6; it is a husband-wife relationship, God the” husband”, Israel the “wife”. In Hos.2:19, 20 we find a similar description of relationship.
In the New Testament the Israel-Church is also compared to a woman in a spiritual marriage relationship with Christ. 2Cor.11:2; Eph.5:21-23. Later in Rev.21:2 John sees the New Jerusalem with the saints as its inhabitants, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband
Dr.Mervyn Maxwell writes the following .we should not suppose, however, that there are two brides, an Old Testament bride and a New Testament one. Actually there is only one bride. God has one people, not two. His bride was once a local, single ethnic group; now it has become a worldwide, all- ethnic group In God’s renewed Israel there is neither ‘Jew nor Greek…..neither male nor female.’ Gal 3:28. (GC II, 319)
As one rabbi, who became a Christian, said that true Israel has always been the people of faith in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. When Paul wrote in Rom.1:17 the just shall live by faith he quoted from the Old Testament in Hab.2:4
Ellen G.White writes in both the Old and the New Testament, the marriage relation is employed to represent the tender and sacred union that exist between Christ and His people. (DA 151)
The next item of this chapter we have to consider is the point in time the church is seen here in Revelation 12:1. The woman, representing the church, is clothed with the sun, the moon is under her feet and a crown of twelve stars is on her head. In Rev.1:20 we read that stars represent angels of the seven churches. Angels are also ministers, Hebr.1:13, 14
Number 12 may refer to the original 12 tribes of the Old Testament Israel Church and to the 12 apostles as the founders of the New Testament Israel Church. Eph.2:20
In the New Jerusalem both the twelve tribes of OT Israel Church and the 12 apostles of the NT Israel Church are honoured and represented. Rev.20:12-14 Jerusalem serves as the Holy city of both periods of the church of God.
Next let’s look at the sun and the moon. Both are heavenly elements to provide light for the day and the night. The sun is the original source of light and the moon reflects the light of the sun. Christ is called in Mal.4:2 the Sun of Righteousness and in John 8:12 Christ is called the light of the world. Read also John 1:1-9 In the Old testament the sanctuary services were a type of the real heavenly sanctuary or according to Col.2:17
“a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.”. (Hebr.8:5; 9:9; 10:1)
Moses was instructed to make everything as he was shown on the mount, Ex.25:9, 40
Thus the moon here in Revelation 12:1 may represent the Old Testament ministry being a type of the heavenly real ministry of Christ. The moon is under the feet of the woman in disappearing position. Christ is at the point of being born making his entry into the earthly world. John 1:14. OT types and symbols related to the sanctuary are at the point of disappearing and making place for the real, the antitype Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah.
The woman as the church of God is seen as being on the threshold of moving from one dispensation, the Old Testament period into the next, the New Testament period.
When after 33.5 years Christ died on the cross the veil in the temple rents in twain from top to bottom indicating that type was now replaced by anti-type, Christ Himself now becoming High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary, Hebr.8:1,2
Roy Allan Anderson describes this as follows: The moon has no light of its own; it merely reflects the glory of the sun. So it is also with the church. We have no light of ourselves, but merely reflect the glory of Christ, ‘the Sun of Righteousness’ this was beautifully revealed in the ancient Hebrew sanctuary service which was only ‘ a shadow of good things to come’, Hebrews 10:1 Just as coming events cast their shadow before so the cross of Christ cast a long shadow. It reaches from Eden to Calvary.
The church is here revealed as standing on the moon, not in disdain of the Old Testament gospels of Moses and the prophets, but using them rather as a foundation. The everlasting gospel has the same message for all ages.”(Unfolding the Rev. P.115)
We find the woman in a position of being at the point of giving birth to a child. This takes us to the time of the birth of Christ as described in the gospels of Matthew 2:1-12 and Luke 2:1-7.
Dr.MacArthur makes an interesting comment at this point: Cried out…..in pain Israel often pictured as a mother giving birth (c.f Isa.26:17, 18; 54:1; 66:7-12; Hos.13:13; Mic.4:10; 5:2, 3) had agonized and suffered for centuries, longing for the Messiah to come and destroy Satan, sin and death, and usher in the Kingdom” (N.U.B.R.)
Here John sees another wonder or picture in this vision:
a A great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns with crowns upon the
b One third of the stars of heaven are cast down upon the earth by the dragon.
c The dragon aims to destroy the child after its birth
d The woman gives birth to the child which is rescued and caught up unto God
Anybody with some knowledge of what happened during the birth of Christ is able to see what this all means, apart from the one third of the stars, angels, being cast down upon the earth. This part we will discuss later
Matthew 2:1-18 has the details. After the birth of Christ men from the East come to Jerusalem to give honour to a new born King. Nobody in Jerusalem knows anything about it. Finally they are being told that it could be in Bethlehem according to Micah 5:2
They make their way to Bethlehem and Herod asks them to come back to him because he also wants to honour this new born king, but he has alternative motives. The Lord directs the men from the east not to return to Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary are directed to go to Egypt because Herod is aiming to kill the child. Herod gives orders that all babies of 2 years and under to be killed in Bethlehem. But baby Jesus is safe in Egypt
But the dragon is not giving up yet. During the ministry of Christ he tries more than once to get Jesus killed until at last he succeeds through the Roman authorities and using Pilate to get Jesus on the cross. But here again Satan is not able to keep Jesus in the grave. The resurrection takes place and 40 days later Jesus ascends into the heavens (Acts 1:9) to start his heavenly ministry, (Hebr.8:1,2) Peter also declared this strongly in Acts 2:30-32
In a nutshell this whole scenario is shown to John in this vision. The great red dragon is Satan, using in this instance the Roman Secular Empire (Rev.12:9) The meaning of the seven heads is dealt with in Revelation 17 which we will comment on when we reach that point.
The drawing of the third part of the stars of heaven is also explained in Rev.12:9.The stars are the angels who followed Satan in his deception and were thrown out of heaven with Satan himself, Rev.12:10, 12.
In Revelation 12:5 we are told that the child was to rule all nations with an iron rod. This indicates that not the devil but Jesus Christ will be the ultimate ruler of this world, as we will notice later in Revelation 19 where Christ is seen coming in victory and being called King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We have learned about this also in Rev.2:7 which is a reference to Isa.41:25
Satan knew from the beginning that he would be the big looser and Christ the winner. Gen.3:15. The seed of the woman would crush to death the serpent, Satan the devil. Satan has done his utmost to prevent this to happen. He caused the world to become so steeped down in sin that the Lord had to bring about a worldwide flood, saving only Noah and his family. Gen.6:18
Satan studied prophecy and learned that the Messiah would come out of the tribe of Judah and be born in Bethlehem. Gen.49:10; Mic.5:2 When Israel suffered slavery in Egypt he instigated a law that all baby boys would be killed. When Esther was queen of the Persian Kingdom he influenced Haman to get the king to sign a law that all of Israel would be killed. Something what is called to day genocide. Then finally when Christ was born in Bethlehem he influenced King Herod to have all baby boys killed under 2 years of age.
But Satan did not succeed. As Gen.3:15 reads he could only bruise the heel, make Israel and the Messiah suffer but not to the point of complete destruction. The Messiah, Christ was taken into the heavens where He ministers as our High Priest, Hebr.8:1, 2 and even Israel, the Jews today are still among us as an undeniable witness. They may have lost their covenant relationship, Matt.23:38; 21:43, but the Lord kept them alive to be a witness for God regarding their past history. Jesus will return in glory Acts 1:11; Rev.1:7
and Satan will find his lot in the Day of Judgment, 2Pet.2:4; Jude 6 and he knows this because it says later in Rev.12:12 that he has great wrath because he knoweth that he has but a short time. 1Pet.5:8
Here it tells us that even Satan’s war against the woman, the church, which gave birth to the child, Christ the Messiah, is not fully successful. God has prepared protection for those being persecuted, of which many did die but many also were saved and rescued out of the hands of their persecutors. A place is prepared in the wilderness for a period of 1260 days. We come back to this time factor later.
Having reached in our reading of Revelation 12 verse 6 we better complete our story of the woman and her struggle with the dragon, Satan the devil. From verse 6 we move to 13-16 and after that we deal with verses 7-12. We have established the fact in the beginning of Revelation 12 that the woman represents both the church in Old and New Testament times. Not two women, one for OT and the other for NT times. It is one woman for all times. We also have mentioned how Satan has done all he could to destroy Israel in Old Testament times. He did not succeed to kill Christ born as a baby. Then he tried while Christ performed His ministry among the people, Luke 4:28, 29; John 5:18; 7:1; 8:59 But all to no avail till he managed to get Christ crucified by the Roman powers of the day. But he could not keep Christ in the grave, Acts 3:31. Resurrection day was complete victory for Christ and complete defeat for Satan. From that day onward Satan knew that his days are numbered, has but a short time. Rev.12:12 This may not be short for us, 2000 years since the resurrection of Christ but in comparison to eternity and how God reckons time (2Pet.3:8) it is short and Satan is well aware of that and we better feel the same about it..
As mentioned before, all of Satan’s wrath and fury is against the woman, the church of Christ. In the time of Christ he killed already John the Baptist, Mk.6:14-24. The first to fall victim to his wrath after Christ’s ascension it was Stephen, Acts 7:59. This was followed by the killing of James, Acts 12:2. He tried to get Peter, but the Lord had still work to do through Peter and he was rescued by an angel, Acts 12:3-19.
Then later Satan launched an outright wave of persecution against the church. Remember what happened during the time of the Smyrna church period as spoken of in Rev.2:8-11.
See comments in Revelation of Jesus Christ part 1.
Satan would also cause internal problems for the church causing apostasy from the truth and the true way of righteousness. The apostle Paul warned about this in his farewell message to the elders of the Ephesians church, Acts 20:28-30 Wolves from without and within aiming to destroy the church. But a faithful group would remain loyal to the faith
of Christ and suffer severe persecution of which Luther spoke as the church being in Babylonian captivity. The church had to hide in desert like wilderness places for a period of 1260 days before it would come out in the open again. This time period is mentioned seven times, starting in Daniel and now here in Revelation, first in chapter 11 then in 12 and also later in chapter 13. These seven scripture passage are listed as follows:
1. Daniel 7:25 a time, two times and half a time
2. 12:7. a time, two times and half a time
3. Revelation 11:2 forty two months
4. 11:3 one thousand two hundred and sixty days
5. 12:6 one thousand two hundred and sixty days
6. 12:14 a time, and times and half a time
7. 13:5 forty two months
All these seven different scripture passages are dealing with the same period of 1260 days or as we will now explain 1260 years. In prophecy we take a day for a year and a month in the Jewish calendar had 30 days which gives a total of 360 days for a Jewish year.
The expression time stands for one year, two times gives two years, times in the plural is taken as two years and half a time is half a year. Our basic scriptural support for taking a day for a year comes from Numb. 14:34 and Ez.4:6.
However Dr.William H.Shea in “Selected Studies on Prophetic Interpretation” dedicates two chapters to the prophetic year-day principle, pp 56-93. We will quote his written summary which he writes at the end of summing up his twenty-three reasons:
In this study twenty-three biblical reasons validating the application of the year-day principle to the time periods in the apocalyptic prophecies of Daniel and Revelation have been reviewed. ( Dr.Shea in Ib.p.85)
We will now deal with the time period of the 1260 years and how they can be applied to history. When the red dragon, Satan or Devil did not succeed in devouring the man-child
he turned his wrath against the woman, the church, Rev.12:6, 13 and 14. We have noticed here before that this persecution first took place through the power of Pagan Rome. But instead of diminishing the church, the church grew and increased from strength to strength.
Then the devil changed tactics and started to work from within the church to cause compromise, weakness and decline in the church’s zeal for the truth of God’s Word.
The apostle Paul had already given warnings regarding wolves coming in to do a destructive work. Acts 20:29, 30 In 2 Thess.2:3-7 Paul wrote later that a falling away
would take place and that the man of sin, the son of perdition would be revealed. Something similar to what the apostle John wrote in 1 John 2:18; 4:1-3 and what he called the Anti-Christ.
In 2Thess. 2:6, 7 we read that such a development would meet with a holding back or letting until this is taken out of the way. The apostle Paul clearly speaks about a certain. development of a man and that this will be revealed at the proper time (NEB/NIV) What is it that is holding back this development of apostasy?
We do know from history that what the apostle Paul spoke about in Acts 20:29, 30 did take place. Soon after the death of the founding apostles of the Christian Church compromising ideas entered the church in the second century as described in Revelation 2 through the letters to the Pergamos and Thyatira churches. We also discussed this under the opening of the third and fourth seals in Revelation 6, the black and pale horse. To get a church to compromise its teachings and standards is more powerful to destroy the church than physical persecution, killing Christians.
Church history shows clearly that from the second century onwards gradually a decline took place among Christians. What the apostle Paul had been warning against started to take place. The apostle John wrote in his first epistle that in his time there were already many antichrists, 1 John 2:18. Slowly but surely this process grew stronger. It came to full fruition when in the 4th century. Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) became a nominal Christian and legalised Christianity in the Roman Empire. Persecution and killing of Christians stopped and the Christian church became fully recognised. As a result many became nominal Christians experiencing a formal conversion from paganism to Christianity but not in reality. Pagan customs were adopted into Christianity. One example is that Sunday became by law the official rest day and Constantine the Great made a law to that effect in 321. At the same time the decline of the Roman Empire accelerated more and more until in 476 the West Roman Empire came to an end. The seat of the Roman emperor was transferred to Constantinople. In the mean time the bishop of Rome had risen to greater power receiving more and more recognition as the number one among equals like the bishop of Alexandria and Jerusalem. With the disappearing of the Roman Emperor from the city of Rome the bishop of Rome takes its place and in later years takes the position of Pope thus establishing the papacy.
Dr.A.M.Brouwer in my Dutch church history book states clearly that the government structure of the Roman Secular Empire now becomes the structure of the Roman Papal Empire or church. Titles of the emperor become titles of the bishop of Rome or pope.
The dutch Dr.H.Berkhof writes in his Church History Book pag.91 that the church takes the functions of the empire and the bishop of Rome takes the functions of the emperor.
In an article by Mrs.J.Datema published by “Protestant Nederland” January 2000 we read the following interesting statement by someone who visited the city of Rome in 1930. After viewing the city with its headquarters of the Papal Roman Empire the viewer came to the following conclusion: “:Upon the fundament of the pagan holy places Christian churches were erected. Out of the struggle between antique Rome and Christendom the Christian Roman church was born.”
“It has been completely confirmed in my mind that the Roman Catholic Church is the rightful successor of the secular Roman Empire in a Christian form. The names are changing, Jupiter becomes Christ and the emperor becomes the pope. Not much is changed in essence, all remains the same. A new Christian Rome has been built, but the inhabitants can live in it without much change”
Then the writer raises the question, “Did paganism become Christian or did the Christian church become pagan?” Interesting statement from a visitor to Rome in 1930
Pagan feast days were given a Christian meaning and introduced in the church calendar, as we have it still today particular in Christmas and other religious days. As stated before Sunday became the official replacement for the Seventh-day Sabbath of the fourth commandment even by state law in AD321.
The decline of the Roman Empire continued in fast tempo until the Roman Empire came to an end in AD476. The bishop of Rome was already in process of showing supremacy in the church and that process came to full fruition in the 6th century AD538. Why this date? The keen student of the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation will have noticed that the Papal Roman Empire is illustrated differently in the various chapters of these two prophetic books of the Bible. In Daniel 2:43 it is illustrated by the unsuccessful mingling of clay and iron, which is the mingling of churchcraft and statecraft, see SDABC IV p.1168
Then in Dan.7:8 it is seen as the little horn coming up from among the ten horns, the division of the Roman Empire by the Eastern tribes producing the European nations. In Daniel 8 the papal power is again seen as the little horn, and in Daniel 11 as the King of the North (see study about Daniel 11:40-45 in this website) Then coming to the Revelation, we find the papal power in the letter to the church of Thyatira, in seal 5 and 6 of chapter 6, in chapter 12 as a persecuting agent for Satan, and in chapter 13 under image of a sea beast further in chapter 17 under the illustration of an unfaithful woman called a harlot (see study on Revelation 17 in this website)
From Daniel 7:8 we learn that the little horn did remove three tribes by the root and that according to verse 25 its time would be 1260 years, as we have shown here before. The three tribes removed are the Heruli in AD493, the Vandals in AD534 and the Osthrogoths in AD538. These three tribes were Arian believers in that they did not believe in the eternal existence of Christ. They believed, as some still do today, that Christ has a beginning somewhere in eternity. When the power of the last tribe, the Osthrogoths, in fact was broken in AD538, when Rome was set free by Belisarius, the general of Justinianus, the way for the bishop of Rome was opened by this turning point to become universal head of the Roman Catholic Church under the title Pope. Gradually, the bishop of Rome could now firmly set himself in the place of the Emperor of Rome as said before he took over the emperor’s title and the Roman government structure became in principle the government structure of the Church of Rome.
According to Dan.7:25 this kind of Roman power would think to change times and laws
which it has done, but it also would start action against the saints. Those who did not go along with this Roman power would be brandished as heretics and condemned to death.
Because it was mingled with the state, such heretics were handed over to the state and the state did the execution. This supremacy by the Church of Rome would last for 1260 years from 538 till 1798. That brings us to the French revolution which ended the supremacy of the Church of Rome and in particularly the power of the pope by having him arrested and made prisoner by the French general Berthier. We have dealt with that part of history in Revelation 11:2, 3. And we will say more about it in Revelation 13.
Now let’ go back to Revelation 12. It reads in 12:6, 13 that the woman, the church or the saints of Dan.7:21 would flee into the wilderness. When Papal Rome gained full power the faithful saints, holding firmly to the word of God and not accepting the apostate teachings of the Church of Rome came under pressure by the Church of Rome and persecution started to take place. First being persecuted by Pagan Rome, now persecution came from the same city but by Papal Rome, very sad indeed. The church had to hide in what is said to be the wilderness. The faithful saints found themselves outlawed and separated. The persecution at times was heavy like the power of a flood, Rev.12:15. Under that persecuting power it caused them to be carried away, vs. 15. To where? To which place did they have to go? In the 15th century, when the persecution was severe Columbus set sail to find another sea route to get to India and in the process discovered new land, the Americas. In Biblical prophetic terms, sea means nations, Rev.17:15. Many nations came up out of people; remember Daniel 7 and the four beasts coming out of the sea, from among people. It is logic to take the illustration of “earth” as the opposite, a place without nations or people. That was the case with Columbus he found land with virtually no people, accept some Indian tribes. It was open land. This became soon a place for the European persecuted faithful to move over the Atlantic and settle in a new free land, free from persecution, free to believe according to what they found was Bible truth. The land of freedom was established. The voyage of the Mayflower in 1620 with fleeing persecuted people from England is well known in history. But many, yes many more have followed since, up till this day and age. As it reads in Rev.12:16 the earth, the newly found land of America, helped the woman against the flood of persecution from the dragon, Satan, which drove them as it were out of their land of birth and became swallowed up or was made powerless.. But Satan wasn’t ready with the woman yet according to Reve.12:17 which we will deal with later.
In the course of dealing with Revelation 12 as from verse 1 the reader may raise the question, where does this dragon, Satan, come from? Being aware that such a question will come up the chapter provides the answer in verses 7-12 which we will consider at this point.
In 12:3 we read that the Great Red Dragon has seven heads crowned and ten horns. Then in verse 9 we are told that the dragon is that old serpent, called Devil and Satan. This gives the reader a clear answer that the dragon is, the Devil or Satan himself. Having seven heads indicates that Stan is behind all prophetic”beast” powers as mentioned in Daniel and Revelation, who have ruled the world. Ellen G.White in her book “Great Controversy” p.269 calls it manifestations of satanic power. The ten horns we suggest refer to the division of the pagan Roman Empire by the ten tribes coming from the east.
We read it in Daniel 2 the image dream ending in the ten toes and the ten horns on the unnamed beast of Daniel 7. (For more detailed information turn to study on Revelation 17 in this section of the website.)
The main question we will explore further is where does Satan come from? The answer is in Rev.12:7 “there was war in heaven between Michael and his angels and the devil and his angels”. Michael is Christ, according to Dan 12:1 the Great Prince which standeth for the children of thy people.” Michael is also the archangel of Jude 9 who will come from heaven in great glory and with the trump of God, 1Thess.4:16. It is the same Michael who came to the rescue in Daniel 10:13, 27.
We are not told what the nature of that war was, if any weaponry was used, and if it was a war as we know about wars. We may conclude that it was more like a controversy, one group of angels standing up against the other group of angels, a rebellion in the heavenly courts against the government of God, the Creator of heaven and earth and divine ruler of the universe. In that rebellion Satan managed to get one third of the angels behind his cause. This makes a rebellion of one third against two third. Satan did not win this war in heaven but was cast out into the earth, 12:9
FREEDOM OF CHOICE
When we read the Bible through from beginning to end we must conclude that God governs on the basis of FREEDOM OF CHOICE. Angels and humans are created with freedom to choose to obey or not to obey, to submit or to rebel. Free to love God or not to love. Real love can only be based on the freedom of choice; otherwise it is not real genuine love as love is described in the scriptures and as we know love in our human relationships. Angels are not humans but they regard themselves on the same level as humans in regard to God. They refuse to accept divine worship from humans, Rev.19:10; 22:8, 9.They call themselves fellow servant and of thy brethren. It will be interesting to note later that worship is the key factor in this Great Controversy between Michael, Christ, and the Devil, Satan. This key factor will come up again in Revelation 13 and it came up when Jesus was in the desert and Satan came to tempt Jesus, Matt.4:8-10 Jesus answers that only God is due worship, quoting Deut.6:13 True worship also cannot be forced but can only be done out of love and freewill of choice.
We like to bring here a statement from Ellen G.White: God placed man under law, as an indispensable condition of his very existence. He was a subject of the divine government,
and there can be no government without law. God might have created man without the power to transgress his law; he might have withheld the hand of Adam from touching the forbidden fruit; but in that case man would have been, not a free moral agent, but a mere automaton. Without freedom of choice, his obedience would not have been voluntary, but forced. (PP page 49)
The same can be said of the angels. In spite of the fact what we read in Ps.8:5 that man is made a little lower than the angels, as we have mentioned earlier, they call themselves fellow servant of man, read Rev.19:10; 22:9. They also have the freedom of choice to serve and worship their Creator God or go into rebellion. The angels also were put in a certain place or position towards God, but left that place, John 8:44; Jude 6. In 2Pet.2:4 We read that the angels sinned and according to 1John 3; 4 sin is transgression of the law. In the Lord’s Prayer, Luke 11:2 we read that thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
Regarding Jude 6 Goodspeed version reads about the angels: who neglected their responsibility. Their responsibility was as ours, to obey and worship God the Creator
out of love and free choice. They have chosen to do otherwise.
The question will be raised how this happened, war in heaven, as we read in Rev.12:7
The Bible does not give all precise detail but we find some clues in two Old Testament prophetic books, Isaiah and Ezekiel. We will deal with Isaiah first and turn to chapter 14:12-17. What is described here can only be applied to Satan who sinned against God.
He is called Lucifer, daystar or Light bearer, which indicates he had an elevated position.
Apparently he was not happy with that position and desired more and an even higher position in the courts of heaven. The description given in this scripture passage of the prophet Isaiah cannot be applied to any human being.
I will ascend into heaven, looking for a place higher than he possessed already
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, not being happy with the position he had but desiring to go even higher
I will sit upon the mount of congregation in the side of the north. He desires to take God’s place. The side of the north is where God sits, Ps.48:2
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. Again a clear expression of unhappiness of the place he occupies in heaven.
I will be like the most high. This is the ultimate in his unhappiness, the desire to be equal with God and thus being worshipped as God is worshipped. Read Matt.4:9
Five times “I will” expression. Not what God wants of him but I will. As we read in Jude not being satisfied with their principle position, they want more. The result would be the opposite. From going up, higher, they would be brought down, even to hell, to the pit, Isa.14:15. Read also 2Pet.2:4; Jude 6, 7 ultimately they will suffer executive condemning judgment as did Sodom and Gomorrah.
We may wonder why in verse 4 of Isaiah 14 it looks like as if this is said of the king of Babylon. We know from Daniel’s book in chapter 4 that king Nebuchadnezzar expressed a similar “I” attitude. We find that in Daniel 4:30 and the moment he said it, he was struck down and made equal with the beast of the field, Dan.4:31, 32. Satan, as we will notice later in Revelation 12:8 also prevailed not but lost his place in heaven. Pride precedes a horrible downfall.
Now we turn to the prophet Ezekiel in his book chapter 28:11-19. When you read these verses you may wonder why the king of Tyre is mentioned, The NASB has an interesting and enlightening footnote: This section with its super human references, apparently describes someone other than the human king of Tyre, namely Satan. If so, Satan’s unique privileges before his fall are described in verses 12-15 and his judgment on him in verses 16-19.
Ellen G.White confirms this in her comments as follows: Evil originated with Lucifer, who rebelled against the government of God. Before his fall he was a covering Cherub distinguished by his excellence. God made him good and beautiful, as near as possible to himself. (RH. Sept.24, 1901)
The SDABC vol.4-674-676 explains clearly that the king of Tyre is used as a type of the real wicked one Satan himself. It thus appears simpler to consider the passage as digressing from the prophecy upon the prince of Tyre to present a history of him who was indeed the real king of Tyrus, Satan himself. So understood, this passage provides us with a history of the origin, the initial position and downfall of the angel who later became known as the devil and Satan. (Ib.page 675) Without this passage and what we have in Isa.14 we have virtually no exact Biblical information regarding the origin of evil.
The first part of Ezekiel 28:1-6 is the word of the Lord directed to the King of Tyrus himself. It explains his sinful and arrogant position as king. The king and his kingdom had become enriched by wisdom and corruption. Then in the next section 7-10 the word of the Lord comes again to the prophet and announces executive judgment over Tyrus. More judgment over Tyrus can be found in Isa.23 and Eze.26 which in due course have been fulfilled.
From Eze.28:11-19 we have a description which is difficult to apply to the literal king of Tyrus but as stated before functions as a type of a heavenly being who rebelled against God and came to a horrible downfall. What is said of this being can hardly be said of any human in the past, presence or future. We will follow it verse by verse:
Eze.28:12 full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
Eze.28:13 has been in Eden and created in all imaginable beauty
Eze.28:14 an anointed cherub, an angel, close to God upon the holy mountain
Eze.28:15 perfect in everything till iniquity was found
Eze.28:16-19 because of sin and transgression the Lord announces what He will do: The Lord will cast him out of the mountain of God, will be destroyed, will be cast to the ground, will be devoured by fire and be brought to ashes never to be anymore. Read what Jesus said in Matt.25:41 and also Mal.4:1 and 3.
In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 we have a fairly good description of what happened in heaven and what the outcome of this will be. For those who are interested to study this in detail
and from extra Biblical information we direct such readers to what Ellen G.White has written in her books “Patriarch and Prophets”pp.35-41 and “The Great Controversy” pp.493-499. It all started with self exaltation and insubordination to the authority of God who is the Creator of all, heaven and earth. This sentence by Ellen G.White wraps it up quite correctly: This work of opposition to the law of God had its beginning in the courts of heaven, with Lucifer, the covering Cherub. Satan determined to be first in the councils of heaven and equal with God (SM bk.I p.222)
The deception and drawing away one third of the angels must have taken place by lies, innuendos, deception and false accusations. Jesus says in John 8:44 that Satan is a murderer and liar from the beginning. This gives us some clue what took place in heaven.
Because of what Satan said and had in mind for himself, according to Isa.14 and Eze.28
the character of God came into question and placed God for a dilemma., dealing with Satan immediately or give him time to work out his plans and show the universe with its inhabitants and intelligent beings who is right and who is wrong. According to 1Cor.4:9 and Hebr.10:33 we are a spectacle. Satan is working out his deceptions and is being watched how it all works out and based on that, decisions are being made in favour of God or Satan.
We turn back to Revelation 12 and we will notice that two times Satan was thrown out of heaven. We have learned from Rev.12:4 that one third of the angels took Satan’s side.
Then from Rev.12:8 we learn that they prevailed not and that their place was not anymore in heaven. Further more from Rev.12:9 we learn that they were cast out into the earth, Satan and all his angels who had taken his side in this war.
This point of being cast out of heaven needs a closer look. In Rev.12:10 Satan is called
the accuser of our brethren….which accused them before our God day and night. It appears that in some way he must have had access to heaven to come before God and make accusations. Not only making accusations about people before God, but also making accusations about God before people.
We turn to the beginning of the Bible and we find Satan accusing God before Eve in Gen.3. The serpent used by Satan and Satan is the serpent (Rev.12:9) raises doubt in the mind of Eve, Gen.3:1. Eve answers according to what she is told by God, Gen.3:2, 3 Satan denies what Eve says and tells her that when she eats from the tree she will not die. Satan insinuates that God is hiding something from her and for that reason she is not allowed to eat from the tree. God’s plans with mankind and His character are put in disrepute. Eve is now placed in a position to make a choice, to believe God her Creator or to believe Satan who through the serpent is an intruder. Eve makes the wrong choice.
In the book of Job we learn that Satan is in heaven accusing God of not dealing correctly with Job. Job 1:6, 7; 2:1, 2 Satan places God in the presence of other intelligent beings in a bad light in regard how God has dealt with Job. Job 1:9, 11; 2:4-7 God allows Satan to do with Job what he likes but not to touch his life. This reveals that God is not asking service from people via bribery as Satan does himself.
In Zechariah 3:1-5 we read that Satan is bringing in accusations regarding Joshua the high priest. But Satan’s accusations are rebuked and not accepted.
Then from Jude 9 we learn that there was a dispute over the body of Moses between Michael (Christ) and the devil. Most likely when Moses died Satan made a claim on the body of Moses because he had sinned. But again Satan failed and Moses was resurrected and later seen with Christ on the mount of transfiguration with Elijah, see Matthew 17
All these instances do show first that Satan had some access to heaven after he was thrown out and secondly it shows clearly his character versus the character of God. When Eve and later Adam took from the forbidden fruit they lost their status on planet earth and Satan took over. When Satan tried to tempt Jesus to worship him, he said if you do I will give you all the kingdoms of this world for that is delivered unto me, Luke 4:5-7 it was delivered to Satan when Adam choose to eat from the forbidden fruit along with Eve and put his back to God.
The kingdoms of the world had to be won back and the works of Satan had to be destroyed. That was one of the purposes Christ, incarnated, came down to destroy the works of Satan and regain what had been lost.. It reads in Hebr.2:14 to destroy him that had the power of death that is the devil. Through His death and resurrection Christ gained that victory over Satan and took away from Satan the power of death. We read about that clearly in Rev.1:18 where Christ declares I have the keys of hell (Hades-grave) and of death, and from that moment Satan has no access to heaven anymore. He is not anymore earth’s representative in heaven as he showed up in heaven in the days of Job. Jesus saw that second fall from heaven in Luke 10:18 The kingdoms are now under Christ’s control, Rev.11:15; 12:10
Roy A.Anderson states it clearly as follows: When Christ arose from the grave, he then became the rightful representative of this world. His death reconciled the world to God, and the accuser, the devil has no more claim to it. No wonder a shout was heard from heaven! Moreover the inhabitants of heaven speak of the devil as “the accuser of the brethren”. The elders knew something of his power, for they, too, had met him in moral combat. The accuser and the deceiver was finally cast down from his place of usurpation, and Christ, the second Adam, became our representative. (Unfolding the Revelation page 119)
The question may be raised “why was Satan not destroyed immediately but cast down on earth?” Ellen G.White has a good answer to this question in her book “Patriarchs and Prophets”, Even when he was cast out of heaven, Infinite wisdom did not destroy Satan. Since only the service of love can be acceptable to God, the allegiance of his creatures must rest upon a conviction of his justice and benevolence. The inhabitants of heaven and of the worlds, being unprepared to comprehend the nature or consequences of sin, could not then have seen the justice of God in the destruction of Satan. Had he been immediately blotted out of existence, some would have served God from fear rather than from love. The influence of the deceiver would not have been fully destroyed, nor would the spirit of rebellion have been utterly eradicated. (PP 42)
After about 1600 years the world was so intense full of sin that God caused a flood to destroy the world with its inhabitants and only the righteous Noah was saved, Gen.6:5 and 7:5-7
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed when there were no righteous people found among the inhabitants, read Genesis 18
Israel, God’s own covenant people, was sent into Babylonian captivity when there was no remedy anymore to heal them, 2Chron.36:16 No remedy means in the Hebrew no healing possible.
These are local examples of how far God’s grace goes with the sinner, but there is a limit
Revelation 12:11 shows us the power to overcome Satan and not become victim of his temptations and deceptions; it is by the power of the blood of the Lamb. The power of the blood of the Lamb shows God’s love and grace for people. John 3:16. Out of love and not willing to destroy and let people perish, God gave his son to take the place of the sinner. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, 2Cor.5:19. Once it is fully understood, that God and Christ were together filled with the same love for lost mankind that same love will become part of us and will constrain us (ib.vs.14) to serve from the love motive and not from fear. Read also 1John 5:1-5. Such a divine love had to be revealed and had to be given time to be accepted or rejected, as the works of Satan had to be revealed fully and given time also to be accepted or rejected. Another example is Jesus’ dealing with Israel in his time, read Matthew 23:37, 38 in connection with Matt.21:43 and also Isa.5:1-7 Note in Isaiah 5:4 that the Lord says. What more could have been done…..that I have not done
That will be the case in the final end, that the Lord again will say, what more could I have done to save people that I have not done? When that point in time is reached the fact is truly and surely secured that as Nahum says in chapter 1:9 the affliction shall not rise up the second time. Glory is to God and his ways will be declared just and true, Rev.15:3; 16:5
We have dealt with this here before. When Satan had no entrance into heaven any more all his fury is now directed against the woman, the church of God on earth. He does this with all that is available to him, knowing that his time is short. We may think from our human understanding of time that 2000 years is not short but long, but measured against God’s eternity it is short. Satan goes round as a roaring lion, 2Pet.5:8. When a lion roars he is hungry and looks for a prey, that’s what Satan is like in this day and age of mankind. But God watches over his people with eagle wings for safety. Israel was rescued out of wicked sinful God defying Egypt as it were on eagle wings,Exod.19:47; Deut.33:27. In the same manner the God given eagle wings will be for safety to God’s people in these last days. Ps.91:7-10
This is a final and most severe attack waiting God’s faithful remnant people. One more time Satan will make war with the ones who are faithful to God’s commandments and who have the testimony of Jesus. We will come back to this in detail when we reach Revelation 13 and also chapter 16. Also more detail regarding the Testimony of Jesus can be found in this section of the website under title TESTIMONY OF JESUS and about the remnant read and study REMNANT OF THE LAST DAYS.
This brings us to the close of Revelation 12, part IV of our Revelation journey.
Pastor Jan T Knopper
Edited September 2010
Revisited September 2013