Revelation 12:7-9: When Was Satan Cast Out of Heaven?


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Edward D. Andrews & The Top Six
Commentaries on Revelation 12:7-9

Revelation 12:7-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
Michael the Archangel
7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels made war with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels waged war, 8 but they were not strong enough, nor was a place found for them any longer in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole inhabited earth; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Edward D. Andrews,

First, I would agree more with Kendell H. Easley than the other commentators. If you want complete insights into The Time of the End – 33 A.D. to the Great Tribulation to Armageddon, see my book linked below, THE REVELATION OF DANIEL CHAPTERS 11-12: The Time of the End and Beyond.

Daniel 12:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 “Now at that time [at Armageddon] Michael [the archangel, the most powerful angel], the great prince who stands up for the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress [the great tribulation] such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.

At the time of Daniel, “Michael may be the guardian angel of Israel” or (Anders) “Michael who leads and protects Israel” (Walvoord) would be correct but being that, as Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you [Israel] and given to a nation [Israel of God, Christianity] (Gal. 6:15-16), producing the fruit of it.” (Matt 21:45) He later went on to say of Israel, “‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Look, your house [being the chosen people] is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matt 23:37-39) The latter words mean that the Jews were no longer God’s chosen people and that the Israel of God, Christianity was replacing them, of any of the Jewish people wanted to be one of God’s people again, they needed to accept Jesus Christ and convert from the Jewish religion to Christianity, ‘coming in the name of Christ.’ So, I would agree in a limited way with Anders and Walvoord that Michael served as a protection for Israel, yet it was ancient Israel, but he now serves as a protection for the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16), true Christianity. He is not a guardian angel of individual persons, but he assigns angels to prevent rebel angels from slaughtering true Christians.

Jude 1:9-10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a judgment against him in abusive terms, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these men speak evil of the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are corrupting themselves.[1] (See Deut. 34:5-6)

David Walls and Max Anders write, “In an interesting peek behind the historical curtain that we do not get in the Old Testament, we learn that Michael was sent to bury the body of Moses when he died atop Mount Nebo (Deut. 34). According to Jewish tradition (supported by this passage), the devil argued with him about it, apparently claiming for himself the right to dispose of Moses’ body. (For Jewish sources, see Bauckham, WBC 50, 65–76.) Michael, powerful as he was, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against the devil but said instead, The Lord rebuke you![2]

Revelation 12:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels made war with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels waged war,

The heavenly sky-drama marches ahead. The woman and her child fade out. Michael and his angels fade in; so do the angels of the dragon. John sees a great sky battle, a war in heaven. Try and picture this like a Star Wars kind of space battle. This portrays in symbols the truth of Ephesians is 6:12: ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ Many Bible students have puzzled over why Christ is not portrayed as the leader of the good angels. Michael has a secure place in Scripture as the only named archangel, “ruler of angels,” which is undoubtedly his role here (Jude 9). Christ as the supreme heavenly warrior is revealed only in chapter 19. As the fourth character in the drama, Michael has a bit part. This is the only verse in all of Revelation in which he appears.”[3] With all due respect to Kendell H. Easley, who says, “Michael has a bit part,” you need not talk despairingly, “bit part,” about Michael the archangel to prop up Jesus Christ, as Michael is only one of two angels mentioned in the Bible and he is the head, the chief, the principal angel over all other angels and has been serving Christ as a protector of his people since the rebels in the Garden of Eden were expelled.

And there will be a time of distress [the great tribulation] such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time – Jesus Christ, using Michael the archangel to lead the army of angels to execute and bring an end to Satan’s wicked age over imperfect humans during the  “great tribulation.” – Matthew 24:21; Jeremiah 25:33; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8; Revelation 7:14; 16:14, 16.

How to Interpret the Bible-1

Matthew 24:21-22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no flesh would have been saved: but for the chosen ones sake those days will be cut short.

But even in judgment, the Lord will display mercy, particularly for the sake of the elect (plural of eklektos, ‘select, chosen ones’). These are those who have placed faith in him and followed him as his disciples. The use of the term elect also highlights the Lords sovereign choice as to who these people will be.[4]

We notice that the texts above do not say that all of the chosen ones will be taken before the great tribulation. Instead, it says that the great tribulation will be cut short for their sake. This suggests that some of the chosen ones will still be present on earth during the great tribulation. Some even survive the great tribulation, meaning that they are there afterward.

Daniel 12:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 Happy is the one who is eagerly waiting and who arrives at the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. 

Many commentators are taking the three time periods 1,260 days, 1,290 days, and 1,335 days, trying to combine them in some way (as though it is one or two time periods), creating chronological problems. Instead, I believe that they should be run consecutively. The 1,335 days, or three years, eight and a half months began at the end of the previous 1,290 days, which had followed the previous 1,260 days. This means that the great tribulation will run 3,885 days, 127.7 months, 10.64 years.

What happened during those 1,335 days?

Daniel 12:7 (1,260 days): a time of persecution during the great tribulation for the holy ones and yet they turn many to righteousness.

Daniel 12:11 (1,290 days): evangelizing, the great commission is the continual offering that will be taken away for some time during the great tribulation.

Daniel 12:12 (1,335 days): the holy ones find happiness as the great tribulation closes, knowing Jesus’ words, “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13) Jesus’ words fit well with the angel’s closing words to Daniel in 12:13.

The holy ones of Daniel chapter 12 are genuine Christians in general. Still, Satan’s world powers, the King of the North, will be primarily focused on the “chosen ones” that Jesus spoke of, which are those who have been chosen out of true Christians by God to rule as kings, priests, and judges with Christ for a literal thousand years.

Daniel 12:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 But go your way till the end; and you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”

These words seem to suggest that Daniel’s life was coming to a close, and the angel was assuring him of a resurrection.

Daniel had served God far more faithfully than most other Old Testament persons who were considered righteous. Daniel was faithful till the end of his life. Now he is asleep in death, but he will stand up in “the resurrection of the righteous ones” during the thousand-year reign of Christ Jesus. – Luke 14:14; Acts 24:15.


Kendell H. Easley writes.

12:7. The heavenly sky-drama marches ahead. The woman and her child fade out. Michael and his angels fade in; so do the angels of the dragon. John sees a great sky-battle, war in heaven. Try and picture this like a Star Wars kind of space battle. This portrays in symbols the truth of Ephesians is 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Many Bible students have puzzled over why Christ is not portrayed as the leader of the good angels. Michael has a secure place in Scripture as the only named archangel, “ruler of angels,” which is certainly his role here (Jude 9). Christ as the supreme heavenly warrior is revealed only in chapter 19. As the fourth character in the drama, Michael has a bit part. This is the only verse in all of Revelation in which he appears.

12:8–9. The dragon had been strong enough to sweep away a third of the stars with a flick of his tail. But he was not strong enough to prevail over the angels led by Michael. The dragon was hurled down to the earth, and his angels with him. Thus, the stage expands from the skies to the land.


The big question is: When does this occur? Scripture suggests that Satan has been defeated (“booted out of heaven”) more than once. He appeared in the garden of Eden as the already fallen, evil ancient serpent (Gen. 3:1–15). That original fall is everywhere assumed in Scripture. (Some but not all conservative Bible scholars think that Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 give information about the devil’s prehistoric fall.) Also when the apostles of Jesus successfully cast out evil spirits, Jesus reported, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Satan’s second defeat occurred during the days Jesus was on earth.

Unless one takes the events of this chapter to reflect a flashback to the church age, the present event seems to be even later, at a time when Christian martyrs are being made (v. 11). Further, it is at a time very shortly before the end of the age, when “he knows that his time is short” (v. 12). This, then, must be a final exclusion of the devil from access to God shortly before Christ’s return.

During this time the dragon will unmask further his wicked character. He is first the one called the devil. Devil is Greek in origin. It means “slanderer” (see v. 10). Second, he is called Satan. Satan, in both Testaments, is Hebrew in origin and means “accuser” (see Job 1). Third, he is the one who leads the whole world astray. Of course, this began with Eve in the garden of Eden and has affected every human generation (2 Cor. 11:3). The serpent will continue deceiving right down to his bitter end.[1]

Leon Morris writes,

7. Michael is the leader of the heavenly hosts; they are his This accords with his description as an ‘archangel’ in Jude 9. Michael is apparently a warlike angel (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9). His enemies, the dragon’s helpers, are also called angels (the term means ‘messenger’ and there may be evil messengers as well as good ones).

8. The result of the battle is the defeat of the dragon, so that he and his angels lost their place in heaven. He had been the accuser of God’s people (Job 1:6–9; 2:1–6; Zech. 3:1ff.), but now he has no place in heaven.

9. He is hurled down. In this significant moment he is described very fully. He is the great dragon, and that ancient serpent, which is probably meant to awaken recollections of Genesis 3. He is both the devil (the word means ‘slanderer’) and Satan. This latter is the older name. It transliterates a Hebrew word which means ‘adversary’. It applies to human adversaries such as those God raised up against Solomon (1 Kgs 11:14, 23), while the Philistines used the term of David (1 Sam. 29:4). When used of angels it at first had no derogatory associations and it is used, for example, of ‘the angel of the Lord’ who confronted Balaam (Num. 22:22; niv ‘to oppose him’=‘as his satan’, his adversary). But the term came to be used for the adversary of mankind, the spirit that accuses people before God, such as Job (Job 1:6) and Joshua the high priest (Zech. 3:1). The title ‘Accuser’, ‘Satan,’ became attached to him in an exclusive sense.

This name for the evil one would have made a specially strong impact in the first century, for there was a well-known and well-hated figure called the delator, the paid informer. He made his living by accusing people before the authorities. It is not a large step from ‘accuser’ to ‘slanderer’ and thus ‘the satan’ is not infrequently called ‘the devil’. In addition to accusing and slandering, the evil one deceives and John brings out the scope of this activity by saying that he leads the whole world astray. Barclay comments, ‘Satan, as it has been put, stands for the sleepless vigilance of evil against good.’ John repeats the information that Satan was cast out, this time adding his destination, to the earth (cf. Luke 10:18; John 12:31), and the fact that his angels were cast out with him.[2]

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS Young Christians

Paige Patterson writes,

12:7–9 In a war in heaven, Michael and his angels are the major protagonists. They fight against the dragon and his angels, who are now defined as demons (v. 7). However, the dragon and his angels lost their place in heaven (v. 8). The great dragon is hurled down, and in the process he is identified with final clarity for the reader (v. 9). He is that ancient serpent who is called the Devil (diabolos, “one who casts through,” “accuser”) and Satan, which means “adversary.” The Devil (i.e., Satan) leads the whole world astray. That simple statement of purpose will be critical in understanding the information provided in chap. 13. The fallen angel, the Devil or Satan, is responsible for the deception visited on the entire world. He and all his angels with him are subsequently hurled to the earth.

The vast majority of interpreters see this occurrence as Satan’s final assault on heaven. It will take place during these latter days of the tribulation, perhaps at the end. There is some reason for that interpretation, which is found in the general rejoicing that follows in heaven and in the greater fury of Satan magnified in v. 12 as well as the statement that “he knows that his time is short.” Furthermore, the sequential reading of the text favors such a view.

For example, Bullinger has a protracted discussion of the futile attempts of Satan to sabotage God’s program of redemption through the ages. He notes that Michael initiates this final conquest, which is resisted unsuccessfully by Satan. Walvoord favors this view as do most premillennialists.

However, there is another possibility. Perhaps this event is not future but past, designed to provide explanation not only for the present experiences of John’s readers but also for all that would happen in the last days. As such, its nature is like an instant video replay whereby a viewer observes an event that took place only minutes before or maybe even days or weeks before and later is replayed on the screen for the observer. My own sense of the passage is that this is still further evidence of the precosmic move of Satan to try to displace God, which in his plan and its failure provides the explanation for the upheaval experienced by earth dwellers and all the creation of God since that day. There was in fact a confrontation in heaven. Michael, the leading angel of God, along with his angels, fought against the dragon. While there was a legitimate conflict, Satan finds himself arrested and hurled to the earth. He then inaugurates his program of deceiving the whole earth, but in heaven there is rejoicing.[3]

Alford thinks the casting down of Satan came at the hour of Christ’s triumph on the cross (The Greek Testament [Chicago: Moody, 1958], 4:669). Oecumenius, however, in his Commentary on the Apocalypse, adopts the position of this commentator. Writing between AD 500 and 600, perhaps following the recapitulation theory popularized by Irenaeus, Oecumenius says, “As though in a continual return to the starting-point, as already described, the vision now plans to describe an earlier beginning which had indeed been partly mentioned previously, as it prepares to tell us about the Antichrist; for the first beginning of the acts of the Antichrist was Satan’s fall from heaven. The Lord, too, says of this, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’ (2) What, therefore, does it mean, And war arose in heaven? The divine Scripture says that Satan raised up his neck against God, that is stretched up an arrogant and stubborn neck against him and planned to revolt. But God, inasmuch as he is naturally good and long-suffering, was forbearing towards him. The divine angels, on the other hand, did not put up with the arrogance of their master; and drove him out of their company. He now says that Michael, one of the great rulers among the angels, made war against Satan and those under him. (3) And Satan did not prevail in the war against him, nor was there any place of refuge found for him, or any dwelling in heaven, and he was thrown down to the earth. He either actually suffered this, or because he had been stripped of angelic and heavenly rank, he was brought down to an earthly frame of mind. (4) Then, as though taking vengeance on God because of his fall, as he could not injure God, he injures God’s servants, human beings, and leads them astray and tries to get them to revolt from God, thinking that in this way he would injure the master himself” (113).


John Walvoord; Philip E. Rawley write,


(12:7–9) 12:7–9 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 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. Though the conflict of the end of the age is primarily on earth, there will also be war in heaven. Michael and his angels (that is, the holy angels) fight against Satan and the evil angels associated with him, with the result that Satan and his hordes are thrown out of heaven. The description of Satan in verse 9 is significant as all of his important titles are given: “the dragon,” a term that also applies to the empire that he dominates in the end time; “that ancient serpent,” a reference to the Garden of Eden and the temptation of Eve; “devil,” which means “defamer” or “slanderer,” the master accuser of believers; and Satan, meaning “adversary.” This name is mentioned fourteen times in the book of Job, and occasionally elsewhere (1 Chron. 21:1; Ps. 109:6; Zech. 3:1–2). Given Satan’s all-out opposition to God, it is fitting that the Greek construction of verse 7 indicates that the dragon will start this war.

The concept that there is a spiritual warfare in the very presence of God in heaven has been resisted by some expositors, preferring to regard this war as being fought in the atmospheric or the starry heaven rather than in the very presence of God.8 The event here prophesied was predicted by Daniel the prophet in Daniel 12:1, where it is recorded that Michael shall “arise” as the one “who has charge of your people.” This event marks the beginning of the great tribulation described in Daniel 12:1. It is undoubtedly the same event as in Revelation 12.

It may seem strange to some that Satan should have access to the very throne of God. Yet this is precisely the picture of Job 1, where Satan along with other angels presents himself before God and accuses Job of fearing God because of God’s goodness to him. Thus early in biblical revelation, Satan is cast in the role of “the accuser of our brothers,” the title given him in Revelation 12:10.

From this point in Revelation, therefore, Satan and his hosts are excluded from the third heaven, the presence of God, although their temporary dominion over the second heaven (outer space) and the first heaven (the sky) continues. Satan’s defeat in heaven, however, is the occasion for him to be cast down to earth and explains the particular virulence of the great tribulation time. Note that even as Satan accuses believers before God day and night prior to his being thrown out of heaven, so the four living creatures of 4:8 do not stop day or night to ascribe holiness to the Lord.

This is another place where we must let the words and events of Scripture speak for themselves and take them at their face value unless compelled to do otherwise. Satan, the deceiver of the whole world (literally, “the inhabited earth”), is now limited in the sphere of his operation. A major step is taken in his ultimate defeat. Believers in this present dispensation, who are now the objects of satanic attack and misrepresentation, can rest assured of the ultimate downfall of Satan and the end of his ability to afflict the people of God. Though the events of this chapter deal in general with the end of the age, it is clear that they do not come chronologically after the seventh trumpet. Rather, the fall of Satan may be predated to the time of the seals in chapter 6, or even before the first seal. His fall begins the great tribulation.[4]

Grant R. Osborne writes,

War Described (12:7–9)

As stated above, the πόλεμος ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ (polemos en tō ouranō, war in heaven) expands 12:4a, which stated that the dragon “swept away a third of the stars and threw them to earth.” There it was told from the standpoint of the dragon’s action; here the whole story is told. The emphasis is clearly on the cosmic “war in heaven.” Not only are we told that Michael and his angels started τοῦ πολεμῆσαι (tou polemēsai, to make war)  against the dragon, but we are also told that the dragon ἐπολέμησεν (epolemēsen, made war) in return. It is common today (Caird, Krodel, Mounce, Michaels) to deny any association with the original fall of Satan on the grounds that such an event is never described in Scripture. It is true that the OT never mentions the fall of Satan, but Jewish tradition contains a story of a primordial fall (1 Enoch 6–11, 86; 2 Enoch 29.4–5 [the longer version, which some think a Christian interpolation]; Sib. Or. 5.528–29; see further below). Moreover, Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18), which with its past tense referent probably describes Satan’s original expulsion from heaven (see Bock 1996: 1006–7). In many intertestamental writings, this expulsion occurred at creation, with the defeat of Leviathan, and for others it occurred in the Gen. 6:1–4 incident (see below). Still, Bauckham (1993b: 186) says, “The defeat of the dragon (12:7–9) is doubtless the same event as the victory of the Lamb (5:5–6), and both are to be located in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” (so also Caird 1966: 149–50; Beale 1999: 636–37). On the other hand, Thomas (1995: 128–29) argues that this battle is part of the end-time events and occurs at the beginning of the final three-and-a-half-year period. This has the benefit of fitting the appearance of the beast in chapter 13. However, Aune (1998a: 695) states, “The myth of the heavenly battle between Michael and Satan resulting in the defeat and expulsion of Satan and his angels from heaven (12:7–9) is narrated as an eschatological event in 12:9 … but as an exclusively primordial or protological event in early Jewish and Islamic literature, a motif based on Isa. 14:12–15.” I argue below that this primordial fall is the primary thrust of 12:7–9. It is likely, however, that the telescoping of time in chapters 11–12 continues here, and all three “bindings” of Satan (in the primordial past, at the ministry and death of Jesus, and at the eschaton) are intertwined in chapter 12. Still, the imagery in 12:7–9 is drawn not so much from the second or third bindings as from the first, though it has implications for all three.


It is crucial to note that the two adversaries are not the dragon and God but the dragon and Michael. There is no true dualism in this book between Satan and God, for there is no equality. The dragon’s adversary is the archangel Michael, and he is the more powerful. It is Michael and “his angels” who “go to war against the dragon.” In the OT Michael is mentioned only in Dan. 10:13, 21; and 12:1, where he is a “chief prince” (apparently of the heavenly army) who will fight against the “prince of Persia” (probably an evil angel). His role in Scripture is a military one, fighting against the cosmic forces behind Persia on behalf of Israel (10:13, 21) and saving the faithful people in Israel from the “distress” of the last days (12:1). There he is the “great prince who protects” Israel and in verse 2 delivers “everyone whose name is found written in the book.” This is the “book of truth” in 10:21 (cf. Exod. 32:32; Deut. 29:20; Ps. 9:5; 51:1; Mal. 3:16), paralleling the “book of life” in Rev. 3:5; 20:12; 21:27. Thus, Michael became the guardian angel of Israel (1 Enoch 20.5; T. Moses 10.2 [though not named explicitly]), the “chief officer” of heaven’s armies (2 Enoch 22.6) who will defeat the enemies of Israel, the “Kittim” (1QM 9.14–15; 13.10–13; 17.6–8). He is also the “intercessor” for Israel who goes before God against their enemies (T. Levi 5.5–6), the “mediator” who opposes the “kingdom of the enemy” (T. Dan 6.2), and the legal advocate who defeats the devil in the heavenly court of law (Exod. Rab. 18.5; Midr. Ps. 20.3). He fought against Satan for the body of Moses (Jude 9), possibly because Satan demanded the body since Moses had murdered the Egyptian (Exod. 2:12). Finally, he is the first (perhaps the chief) of the four archangels (with Raphael, Gabriel, and Phanuel) who stand before the throne of God (1 Enoch 40.9–10) and who will seize the kings of the earth and cast them into God’s fiery furnace (1 Enoch 54.6).


The πόλεμος between the forces of God and those of the dragon has an interesting history. The defeat of Leviathan/the dragon (see further on 12:3) at creation is attested in Ps. 74:13–14, and the imagery is also used of the defeat of Rahab/the dragon at the exodus (Isa. 51:9–10). As Bauckham (1993b: 187) points out, “the chaos dragon” came to symbolize Israel’s enemies like Egypt (Ezek. 29:4–5; 32:3–8) or Babylon (Jer. 51:34) but also the “ultimate forces of evil behind all … opposition to God.” Isaiah 24:21 states that at the day of Yahweh he will “punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below,” and Isa. 27:1 adds that “in that day the Lord will punish with the sword … Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent.” It is possible that the language of Isa. 14:12, describing the fall of the king of Babylon (“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn”), is drawn from a description of the fall of the dragon (as it was interpreted in later Jewish tradition). Testament of Dan 5.10–13 tells how the Lord will “make war against Beliar” (cf. 2 Cor. 6:15, where it is another name for Satan) and “free the souls of the saints” so that they will “refresh themselves in Eden” (cf. Rev. 22:1–5) and “rejoice in the New Jerusalem” (cf. Rev. 21:1–27). Second Enoch (recension J) 29.4–5 provides a close parallel to Revelation, saying that on the second day of creation “one from the order of the archangels deviated, together with the division that was under his authority … . And I hurled him out from the height, together with his angels.” Another text that sees this expulsion at creation is Adam and Eve 13.1–2, where the devil complains to Adam, “It is because of you that I have been thrown out of there. When you were created, I was cast out from the presence of God and was sent out from the fellowship of the angels.” The expulsion of the demons from heaven is linked not only with creation (above) but also with the Gen. 6:1–4 incident, when the “sons of God” cohabited with women and bore “heroes of old” (cf. Jub. 5.1; 10.1–2; 1 Enoch 6.1–7.6).


This image of war against the forces of evil continues in the NT. Paul spoke of the victory of Christ at the cross in terms of cosmic war, utilizing the imagery of a Roman victory and the “triumph” that ensued: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15). This imagery of cosmic war continues in the “armor of God” passage in Eph. 6:10–18, describing the spiritual battle of the believer as a “struggle … against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (v. 12). The battle of Christ on the cross and of the saints in their struggle against evil reflects the primeval victory against Satan here in Rev. 12:7–9 and will culminate in the final victory at the eschaton, a victory that is at the heart of the Apocalypse (cf. chaps. 17–20).

In conclusion, there are two reasons why the theory of an original expulsion of Satan from heaven at the dawn of history is preferable: the OT teaching of the defeat of Leviathan/the serpent at creation and the Jewish tradition of an original expulsion in keeping with the Gen. 6:1–4 incident. In this light Jesus’ statement in Luke 10:18 (“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”) could well be a vision of this original fall.

In the cosmic war, however (12:8), the dragon οὐκ ἴσχυσεν (ouk ischysen, was not strong enough). Beale (1999: 652) points out the interesting parallels between 12:7–8 and Dan. 10:20; 7:21 LXX. In Dan. 10:20 the son of man (accompanied by Michael) “made war” (also τοῦ πολεμῆσαι) against “the ruler of Persia,” and in 7:21 the little horn “makes war against the saints” and “is too strong” (also ἴσχυσεν) for them. While Dan. 7:21 depicts the defeat of the saints by the beast (= the little horn of Daniel), the text here reverses Daniel and depicts the defeat of the dragon by Michael. In a sense, Dan. 7:21 shows the beast “conquering” the saints (= Rev. 13:7), while Rev. 12:11 shows that the dragon has already been conquered on behalf of the saints. This continues a major theme of the book, the futility of Satan. While he is “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) and the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph. 2:2), he is an already defeated foe whose doom is certain (Rev. 12:12). He was “not strong enough” for Michael, and his defeat of the saints is merely the destruction of the physical body, leading to his own defeat at their hands (12:11).


As a result of the defeat in heaven, οὐδὲ τόπος εὑρέθη αὐτῶν ἔτι ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ (oude topos heurethē autōn eti en tō ouranō, no place was found for them any longer in heaven). As Beale (1999: 646) points out, this reflects Dan. 2:35 Theodotion (with τόπος οὐχ εὑρέθη αὐτοῖς), in which a stone (taken by many Jewish commentators as the Messiah) strikes and destroys the four world kingdoms. In other words, the dragon and his followers are destroyed, and no place can be found for them in heaven. In keeping with the discussion of the three bindings in 12:7, this occurs in three stages: at the original expulsion from heaven, in the death and resurrection of Christ, and in the final destruction of Satan and his angels in the lake of fire.

Thus, the “great dragon” (an allusion back to 12:3) ἐβλήθη (eblēthē, was cast) out of heaven (12:9). This is probably another divine passive, stating that God was the active force behind Michael in expelling Satan from heaven. The verb reflects 12:4b, where Satan “cast” out a third of the stars from heaven. Here also we have another application of lex talionis (the law of retribution), for what Satan did to the fallen angels has now been done to him. John identifies the dragon in the most extensive NT description of who he is (see also 20:2). First, he is ὁ ὄφις ὁ ἀρχαῖος (ho ophis ho archaios, the ancient serpent), a phrase that clearly identifies the dragon with the “serpent” that deceived Eve and led her to eat the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:1–15). In 3:1 the serpent was called “more crafty than any of the wild animals,” and that becomes the predominant characteristic of the serpent in the Bible, a cleverness that deceives people. It is common today to think of Satan as a being of power, but that is not quite the biblical portrayal. His power is only in this realm, where he is “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). He holds no power over God’s people. The “ancient serpent” is characterized by two things: crafty deceit and implacable opposition to God and his people. The latter is seen in the curse of Gen. 3:15, where continual “hostility” characterizes the relationship between the serpent and all human beings, a hostility demonstrated in the last part, “He will crush your head, and you will crush his heel.” In one sense this portrays the uneven battle between snakes and humans, where the snake has to strike at the heel while the person smashes its head. In another sense it portrays the ongoing battle between good and evil (against 3:15 as the Protevangelium, see Wenham 1987: 81). In the OT the “serpent” is linked to Leviathan, the sea monster of chaos (Job 26:13; Isa. 27:1); but it was not until later Judaism that the serpent was linked to Satan (Wis. 2:24; 3 Bar. 9.7; b. Sanh. 29a). In the NT this identification is made complete (2 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9; 20:2).

Second, the dragon is identified as ὁ καλούμενος Διάβολος καὶ ὁ Σατανᾶς (ho kaloumenos Diabolos kai ho Satanas, the one called ‘Devil’ and ‘Satan’). In the LXX διάβολος usually translates the Hebrew שָׂטָן (śātān), and thus the two Greek terms are virtually synonymous, meaning “adversary” or “evil opponent.” The angel who opposed Balaam (Num. 22:22, 32) was called a שָׂטָן. At its root is a forensic aspect, referring to an accuser in a law court (see on 12:10). This is how “Satan” appears in Job 1:6–12 and 2:1–6, accusing Job “before the Lord,” as well as in Zech. 3:1–2, where Satan accused Joshua the high priest. However, a growing number of scholars see the articular הַשָּׂטָן (haśśāṭān) in Job 1–2 not as a proper name but as a description of an “accusing” or prosecutorial angel. In that sense it would not become a title until the anarthrous form in Zech. 3. In the intertestamental period, Satan is often linked with the evil impulse and tempts people to sin (Jub. 10.8; T. Judah 19.4; 3 Bar. 4.8). He not only accuses people before God (1 Enoch 40.7; Jub. 48.15–16) but tries to destroy them (T. Ben. 3.3; Jub. 1.20 [combining the ideas of accusing and tempting]; 49.2). These ideas continue in the NT, but the language used of Satan is elevated. He is the “prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), the potentate over unredeemed humanity (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13) as well as their “father” (John 8:44; 1 John 3:10). He is at heart a liar (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8) and a deceiver (Rev. 20:3, 8, 10) as well as a destroyer (1 Pet. 5:8) and a murderer (John 8:44).

Third, he is ὁ πλανῶν τὴν οἰκουμένην ὅλην (ho planōn tēn oikoumenēn holēn, the one who deceives the whole world). Satan and his evil forces are often seen as deceiving both believers (Jesus in the temptation narrative of Matt. 4:1–11 par.; the saints in Matt. 6:13; 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:3 [Eve]) and unbelievers (Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 3:12–18; 4:4). His deceptive work is expressed through such pictures as temptation (1 Cor. 7:5; 1 Thess. 3:5), guile (Eph. 6:11), and even disguising himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). It is hardly an exaggeration to state that the primary method Satan uses to disrupt the plan of God is deceit (as in Gen. 3). As stated above, in the Bible he is a powerful being only over this world. More than anything, he is portrayed as a deceitful being. Τὴν οἰκουμένην ὅλην in the Apocalypse (3:10; 12:9; 16:14) is another way of saying “the inhabitants of the earth” (so Bauckham 1993b: 239). They are the unredeemed who worship the beast and do his bidding.

To summarize the story in 12:7–9, we are again told that the dragon “was cast to the earth,” but now John adds that “his angels were cast down with him.” Thus the story of the original expulsion of Satan and his angels from heaven is complete. The reader now understands not only how the evil angels fell but why they fell and what kind of beings Satan and his messengers are.[5]


Robert L. Thomas writes,

12:7 Returning to a point before the flight of the woman, the vision now furnishes an additional reason for the rage of the dragon against the woman: Καὶ ἐγένετο πόλεμος ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ Μιχαὴλ καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι αὐτοῦ τοῦ πολεμῆσαι μετὰ τοῦ δράκοντος. καὶ ὁ δράκων ἐπολέμησεν καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι αὐτοῦ (Kai egeneto polemos en tō̧ ouranō̧, ho Michaēl kai hoi angeloi autou tou polemēsai meta tou drakontos. kai ho drakōn epolemēsen kai hoi angeloi autou, “And a war occurred in heaven, Michael and his angels had to make war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels made war”). The thought of v. 7 returns to the end of v. 5 and the frustrated response of the dragon to the ascension of the male child (Moffatt), though some would see Michael, not the dragon, as the initiator of the battle in heaven. Verse 6 is somewhat parenthetical and anticipatory of vv. 13–17. This section includes an account of the battle in heaven (vv. 7–9) and a heavenly hymn of victory (vv. 10–12) (Johnson).

The time of the warfare designated by πόλεμος … πολεμῆσαι … ἐπολέμησεν (polemos … polemēsai … epolemēsen, “a war … make war … made war”) has been a subject of debate. To make it a war that occurred in John’s day as a cosmic prelude to the consummation (Mounce) ignores the prolepticism that pervades this context. This war cannot fit into John’s day because Satan did not pursue Christ when He ascended (Beckwith). Some would refer this back to the primordial battle when Satan initially fell (cf. 12:4), but Satan has already fallen and sought to harm the male child before this battle (Beckwith). Further, making this the initial fall of Satan disagrees with the consequences reflected in 12:10–12.

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Another view makes this a heavenly battle at some unknown time in the past, the result of which is an ongoing spiritual warfare since the beginning (Beckwith, Hailey). The supporting evidence for this conclusion is John’s concern with the present reality of Satan’s rage (Beckwith). The birth of the Messiah in the past (12:5) gives precedent for assigning other events of the vision to the past (Ladd). The problem with this understanding is that it offers no place for details such as the involvement of Michael and his angels and the time span of the 1,260 days.

Another recommendation finds the warfare transpiring as Christ was on the cross (Caird). Michael was involved in the heavenly counterpart while Christ won the victory in the realm of earthly reality (ibid.). This answer also looks to several of Christ’s statements in anticipation of the cross regarding His victory and the fall of Satan (cf. Luke 10:17–18; John 12:31; 16:11, 33). Yet this view denies Satan access to heaven ever since the slaying of the Lamb. The present context has him excluded from that presence for only three and one half years (12:6, 14). This can hardly be the period between the ascension and the second coming of Christ. In this context of Revelation, this war cannot be a reference to Christ’s triumph on the cross. It is rather a “cosmic prelude” to the consummation, explaining why the dragon is so severely hostile toward the people of God during the last segment of the Tribulation (Mounce). His expulsion from heaven (12:9, 12) is his reason for “going all out” to persecute anyone of the woman’s seed (12:17) he can get to.

The war is an end-time event, occurring midway through Daniel’s seventieth week. During this period, Satan’s total energies will oppose anyone allied to God, particularly the people of Israel (Walvoord). This accounts for the unusual severity of persecution during that last three and one half years (Scott, Walvoord). It agrees with the “little time” left for Satan after he leaves heaven (12:12). The involvement of Michael in defense of Israel in the last days (Dan. 12:1) also coincides with this conclusion. This is apparently an effort of the dragon to unseat the woman’s Son and reestablish himself in the presence of God (Swete). When it ends in failure, he has to leave heaven.

Ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ (En tō̧ ouranō̧, “In heaven”) indicates the scene of this battle. It is not a spectacle taking place in the sky, but a conflict in heaven itself (Charles, Mounce). Michael who leads the battle against the dragon is the special patron of the people of Israel (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1) (Swete, Charles). He is an angel and can by no stretch of reason be seen as the Son of God. This is not his first conflict with the Devil (Jude 9). In this instance, he is leader of a heavenly army that withstands the dragon and his army. As the archangel (Jude 9), he apparently holds a high rank among unfallen angels as the dragon does among fallen angels (Alford).


12:8 The defeat of the dragon in this war results in his losing his access to heaven: καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσεν,* οὐδὲ τόπος εὑρέθη αὐτῶν ἔτι ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ (kai ouk ischysen, oude topos heurethē autōn eti en tō̧ ouranō̧, “and yet he did not prevail, neither was a place for them found any longer in heaven”). Καί (Kai) has a concessive or adversative sense of “and yet” or “but” in this instance. The verb ἴσχυσεν (ischysen, “he did … prevail”) is the equivalent of יָכו̇ל (yākôl) in Dan. 7:21 where it says the little horn “overpowers” the saints. It has an absolute sense of “be victorious” (Charles). Saying that the dragon was not victorious is another way of announcing his defeat. The aorist of this verb is another example of prolepticism, because Satan as “the accuser of our brethren” has and will have access to heaven until this future battle transpires (Lee, Johnson).

The correlative conjunction οὐδέ (oude, “neither”) introduces the climax of the narrative sequence, the announcement that instead of succeeding in the attempted coup, the dragon found himself excluded from any further access to the heavenly scene. The negation of τόπος εὑρέθη αὐτῶν (topos heurethē autōn, “was a place for them found”) means absolute and complete exclusion as evidenced by comparable expressions in Dan. 2:35; Zech. 10:10; and Rev. 20:11 (Swete, Charles, Walvoord). The genitive pronoun αὐτῶν (autōn, “for them”), referring to the dragon and his angels, is an objective genitive. In the expression of Rev. 20:11, the corresponding pronoun is dative, αὐτοῖς (autois, “for them”). The adverb ἔτι (eti, “any longer”) shows that God continues hearing the accusations of the dragon (12:10; cf. 1 Kings 22:19–22; Job 1:6, 9–11; 2:1; Zech. 3:1) until this point, but subsequently He no longer entertains such claims (Swete).

12:9 The exit of the dragon from heaven is by force: καὶ ἐβλήθη ὁ δράκων ὁ μέγας, ὁ ὄφις ὁ ἀρχαῖος, ὁ καλούμενος Διάβολος καὶ ὁ Σατανᾶς, ὁ πλανῶν τὴν οἰκουμένην ὅλην—ἐβλήθη εἰς τὴν γῆν, καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι αὐτοῦ μετʼ αὐτοῦ ἐβλήθησαν (kai eblēthē ho drakōn ho megas, ho ophis ho archaios, ho kaloumenos Diabolos kai ho Satanas, ho planōn tēn oikoumenēn holēn—eblēthē eis tēn gēn, kai hoi angeloi autou met’ autou eblēthēsan, “and the great dragon, the serpent of old, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole earth, was cast down—was cast down into the earth, and his angels were cast down with him”). The threefold repetition of ἐβλήθη … ἐβλήθη … ἐβλήθησαν (eblēthē … eblēthē … eblēthēsan, “was cast down … was cast down … were cast down”), the first two redundantly referring to the dragon, emphasizes the ignominious manner of this mass expulsion from heaven (Scott). Satan as the energizer of Babylon had an initial fall from heaven (Isa. 14:12), and Christ earlier related Satan’s fall from heaven to the authority of His followers over evil spirits (Luke 10:18) (Lee). He saw His own crucifixion as laying the foundation for the casting out of Satan (John 12:31). Βάλλω (Ballō, “I cast down”) finds frequent use in the NT in connection with judgment (e.g., Matt. 3:10; 13:42; John 15:6). In its handling of various kinds and phases of judgment, Revelation uses the term twenty-six times. The removal of the dragon from heaven is one of three steps in his demise from this point on. Besides this, he will enter the abyss for a thousand years (20:1–3) and then the lake of fire as his eternal home (20:10) (Scott).

To avoid any possibility of mistaken identity of the leader of this fallen band, v. 9 identifies him in five ways. First, he is ὁ δράκων ὁ μέγας (ho drakōn ho megas, “the great dragon”). Repeating the μέγας (megas, “great”) from v. 3, the writer reiterates the title emphasizing the remorseless cruelty of this being. Second, he is ὁ ὄφις ὁ ἀρχαῖος (ho ophis ho archaios, “the serpent of old”) (cf. 20:2). Ἀρχαῖος (Archaios, “Of old”) reaches back to the beginning of the human race and its fall (Gen. 3:1 ff.; cf. 2 Cor. 11:3). Subtlety for which the serpent is noted is another mark of this being (Scott). In leading humans into sin, the serpent had the first occasion to accuse them before God, but this battle marks his last opportunity to do so (Rev. 12:10).

Third, he is ὁ καλούμενος Διάβολος (ho kaloumenos Diabolos, “[the one] who is called the Devil”). Διάβολος (Diabolos, “The Devil”) comes from διαβάλλω (diaballō) which means “I defame, slander, accuse falsely” (Walvoord) or “I separate, act as an adversary.” This being is the calumniator of God’s servants before the divine presence, seeking to separate them from God (Beckwith, Moffatt). Diabolos is the usual rendering of שָׂטָן (śātān, “satan”) in the LXX (e.g., Job 1:6), suggesting that the two words are almost synonymous (Charles). His task is to arraign men before the bar of divine justice. When not actively doing this, he roams the earth collecting evidence for his next prosecution (Caird).

Fourth, he is ὁ καλούμενος … ὁ Σατανᾶς (ho kaloumenos … ho Satanas, “[the one] who is called … Satan”). This is a transliteration of the Hebrew שָׂטָן (śātān, “Satan”). The name appears fourteen times in the book of Job and elsewhere in the OT at 1 Chron. 21:1; Zech. 3:1, 2. All these refer to a superhuman adversary, who inspired David’s census, accused Job, and accused Joshua the high priest. The Hebrew word also referred to a human adversary such as God raised up against Solomon (1 Kings 11:14, 23, 25; cf. 1 Sam. 29:4). It speaks of the angel of the Lord who stood in the way of Balaam in Num. 22:22. The name appears sixteen times in the Gospels, two in Acts, ten in Paul, and seven in Revelation.

Fifth, he is ὁ πλανῶν τὴν οἰκουμένην ὅλην (ho planōn tēn oikoumenēn holēn, “[the one] who deceives the whole earth”). He is the master of deception with an uncanny ability to mislead people. It is his chief aim and occupation. He tricked Judas into betraying Jesus (John 13:2) and tried to undercut the faith of Peter (Luke 22:31) (Mounce). His cunning in luring people to ruin (cf. 2 Cor. 2:11; 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14; 2 John 7; Rev. 2:20; 13:14; 18:23; 19:20; 20:3, 8, 10) combines with his adversarial role in accusing them once they have fallen (Moffatt, Beckwith, Johnson). The objects of his deception are “the whole earth,” the term οἰκουμένη (oikoumenē) rather than γῆ (gē, “the earth”) being chosen as more specifically depicting earth’s inhabitants and the political structure which characterizes their society.

The dragon’s army of angels paid the same penalty as he: οἱ ἄγγελοι αὐτοῦ μετʼ αὐτοῦ ἐβλήθησαν (hoi angeloi autou met’ autou eblēthēsan, “his angels were cast down with him”). So the purging of heaven was complete.[6]



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[1] Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 208–211.

[2] Leon Morris, Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 156–157.

[3] Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 266–267.

[4] Walvoord, John; Rawley, Philip E. Revelation (The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries) . Moody Publishers.

[5] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 468–473.

[6] Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995), 128–132.

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