Revelation 12:7
Then a war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
Sermons
Hope of the Final Triumph of GoodJohn Congreve, M. A.Revelation 12:7-11
St. Michael and All AngelsH. Melvill, B. D.Revelation 12:7-11
The Great CampaignD. Thomas Revelation 12:7-11
The Heavenly and the Earthly ConflictEdwin Hatch, D. D.Revelation 12:7-11
War in HeavenD. Baker, D. D.Revelation 12:7-11
Who is MichaelW. Milligan, D. D.Revelation 12:7-11
War and TriumphR. Green Revelation 12:7-12
The heavenly things ("in heaven") are again represented by a battle - a war. There is ever contention on the earth between those forces that are evil and those that are Divine. The history of the human race is the history of an undying struggle - a struggle between the heavenly and the earthly elements; the good and the bad; the flesh and the spirit. Here the whole contending forces are leagued under two great captains, "Michael" and "the dragon." "Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon;" and "the dragon warred and his angels." There is no difficulty in deciphering their names. "Michael" is the angel of the Lord - "Who is like God." It is he who enters "the strong man's house, and spoils his goods;" he that "brings to nought him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil;" he who "was manifested for this purpose, that he might destroy the works of the devil." Yea, it is he, the "King of kings and Lord of lords." And the dragon is expressly affirmed (ver. 9) to be "the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan." This scene is the central scene of the entire book, and represents the ceaseless strife. The issue is not doubtful. For the comfort of the Church, in all ages of her strife, "the great voice in heaven" proclaims "the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ." The struggle is elsewhere depicted. Here is the simple word of triumph.

1. "They [the dragon and his angels] prevailed not."

2. They were cast out: "Neither was their place found any more in heaven."

3. They were utterly routed: "The great dragon was cast down," "and his angels were cast down with him."

4. The triumphant reign of the Redeemer follows: "Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ." The words of the great chorus rise to our lips, "And he shall reign forever and ever."

5. The accuser is silenced: "Who is he that condemeth?"

6. The triumph is traced to its true source.

(1) "They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and

(2) because of the word of their testimony;" and

(3) because of their entire self devotion: "And they loved not their life even unto death."

7. The consequent heavenly jubilation: "Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and ye that dwell in them." Truly he is blessed who reads and understands these words. Herein the final triumph of the heavenly over the earthly, the sensual, the devilish, is distinctly depicted and undeniably affirmed. - R.G.







There was war in heaven.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE WAR OF REBEL ANGELS IN HEAVEN.

1. Wilful. They brought it on themselves.

2. Irreconcilable.(1) On the part of God.(2) This war is irreconcilable on the tart of rebel angels also, for when they sinned that moment their natures were changed. The passions of the soul, and the affections of the heart, which once so sweetly harmonised, were thrown into disorder and became as jarring elements, or as the troubled sea that cannot rest.

3. Unreasonable. It was a war of ingratitude, of folly, of madness — was a war against duty, against interest, against happiness itself; a war, in short, for which not only the justice of God must for ever condemn them, but the voice of reason, and the voice of the whole intelligent creation.

4. It was to rebel angels a most fatal and disastrous war. They gained nothing, but lost much.(1) They lost the favour of God, even that favour which is life, and that lovingkindness which is better than life.(2) They lost their own moral loveliness.(3) They lost their seats in heaven.

II. COMPARE AND CONTRAST THE WAR OF REBEL ANGELS IN HEAVEN WITH THE WAR OF REBEL MEN ON EARTH.

1. Was the war of rebel angels a wilful war? So also is the war of rebel men.

2. Was the war of rebel angels an irreconcilable war? Thank God, here we can drop the comparison, and take up the contrast. Yes, on this theatre of war, in the midst of heaven-daring rebels, our blessed Redeemer has, by the shedding of His most precious blood, made the great atonement.

3. Was the war of rebel angels an unreasonable war? And what shall we say of the war of rebel men? Angels sinned against creating goodness — man against redeeming love. Angels warred under black despair — man under hope of heavenly grace. The sword of justice pursued revolting angels — the wings of mercy were outstretched to shelter revolting man. And yet man rebels!

4. Was the war of rebel angels fatal and disastrous? So, also, most assuredly, will be the continued war of rebel men. Millions have already fallen in the impious contest, and shall rise no more.

(D. Baker, D. D.)

1. It is here indicated that we are members of a larger community than that which is apparent to our senses; a community which gathers into itself all intelligent souls, all spirits which God has made, all who at whatever distance can approach Him in adoration or prayer. You and I, busy as we are with our occupations, our human interests, our sympathies, more or less wide with politics and society, blind as we are to the eternity in which even now we move, are one in life and hope with sons and servants and ministers of God, whose number cannot be counted for multitude. Where they are and what they are, whether they be in our midst as we sit here, or whether they tenant yonder far-off stars; whether their shape be what Hebrew poets imagined, and Italian painters painted, or whether it be some new and to us unknown clothing of the spirit — are questions about which we may dream, but to which we can give no answer. It is sufficient for us to know that between us and God is not the deep void of an appalling nothingness, but beings who, like us, are conscious of His presence; and some at least of whom if, unlike us, they need not pray, can at least, like us, bow down their faces and adore.

2. The text implies also that in that larger community there is the same great conflict going on which is for ever raging here — the conflict for mastery between evil and good. This present world of human souls is not the only scene of strife. For back in the remote and incalculable past we read of angels who "kept not their first estate"; and far on in the perhaps still distant future we read of "war in heaven." Stretched between the two is human history, and all the acted problems of which history is the sum. It is not given to us to fight the great battle which St. Michael is represented as fighting with the dragon; but it is given to us to fight a battle apparently smaller, but in fact as great, which involves the same principles, and which is only another form of the same universal struggle. What is it, for example, to tell a lie? It seems but a little thing: the yielding to a sudden impulse — the movement of a muscle or two — a faint vibration of the air — and the lie is told. We forget it, and all seems over. And what is it to tell the truth instead of a lie? Only a momentary resolution — the perhaps reluctant passing of a sentence in the judgment-hall of the conscience — a breath, and nothing more. And yet on these two courses depend issues which stretch out into illimitable space, and into endless time. As the balance of motives sways to truth or to falsehood the soul ranges itself in one of two great armies; it is one more victory or one more defeat for the cause of goodness and of God. The battlefield is not some vast interstellar space in which all the gathered spiritual hosts are massed in dense array, but the prosaic ground of our studies, our shops, and our dining-rooms. The battle is not waged so much at some supreme moments of mental struggle, when all the forces of our nature come into conscious play, but in the subtler form of the setting aside of plausible motives, and the struggling with apparently trivial sins. "Do this — it is very pleasant, and will do no real harm." "Do this — it is almost necessary, and the little wrong of it can soon be undone." Sometimes we listen and sometimes we refuse! and all our lives long, day by day and hour by hour, we alternate between victory and defeat, in a struggle which sometimes becomes a despair. For the path of holiness is not the calm ascent of a marble stairway; it is for all of us, for some no doubt more than for others, a life-long journey over a rugged and sometimes uncertain road, a stumbling over many stones, a wandering into many a by-path, a fall into many a snare; and when heaven's gates open to us at last, they open to a tattered traveller with a worn and weary soul. But for all there need be no despair. The victory is slow to come, but it comes at last; and its coming, for this world at least, depends, in God's providence, not on angels and archangels, but upon you and me and men like ourselves. It depends on our doing the best we individually can, with the help which is given to us from above, to crush in our own souls, and in the sphere in which we move, the daily and hourly temptations to selfishness, to injustice, to untruth, to uncharitableness, to indolence, and to irritability. Every dishonest act which we decline to perform, every falsehood which we refuse to utter, every uncharitable word which we leave unsaid, every sensual impulse which we crush, is for ourselves, for the world of men, for the world of spirits of which we are members, one more thwarting of the power of evil, one more victory of the power of good, one more step towards that consummation when the great choir of intelligent souls shall circle round the Father of spirits from whom both they and we derive our life, and to whom both we and they alike return.

(Edwin Hatch, D. D.)

Looking at these words from a Christian's point of view, we are reminded by them that whatever else was meant by the war in heaven of which they speak, they, at least, mean for us that the powers of evil have done their utmost to overcome Christ and the powers of good, and have failed — that Christ has proved good to be stronger than evil, and light than darkness. And the high hope is raised that He has done this for the whole universe, for the spirits in every other world-if such there be — as well as for the spirits of us poor men struggling with evil in this. That He has done it for us, is what His gospel tells us. The powers that are for us, we are taught, are greater than the powers that are against us. God the Father is for us. Christ the Son, the express image of His person and character, is for us. The Spirit which communes with our spirit, and stirs up conscience, and keeps it alert against the foe, and helps our weakness, and disturbs and tortures us with remorse when we yield to temptation — this Spirit is for us. All good influences are for us and help us against sin, and these influences begin early, and last while life lasts in some one or more of their manifold shapes — the words of our parents, the little prayers they taught us, the words and example of dear friends that are gone, the softening power of sorrow, the warnings of sickness and pain, the calm, peaceful face of the just man, the turbid complexion, the restless eye, and repulsive look of the wicked, the influence of a familiar friend, the influence of a good book, the influence of the best of books, the blessings of thought and labour, and of duty done, the power of prayer and communion with God, the power which words of truth, of charity, of wisdom have over us, the pleasure we draw from beauty, whether in poetry, in painting, or in music — these, and ten thousand other influences with which all of us may, in one way or other, surround ourselves, are all of them so many ministering angels which fight under Christ's banner on our side against that which is false and evil, and for that which is good and true — and all proclaim a victory won elsewhere for good, which shall in the end be a victory here too — complete and final over evil. There is another spiritual and eternal truth here. We are told the good angels conquered the bad angels and their leader, and drove them out. Now, again, whatever we may choose to say of this account, at least it suggests a very plain and wholesome lesson. When we think of angels at all, we may imagine that the great difference between us and them is that they are strong and we are weak; but this festival warns us that this is not so. The great difference between us and them is, that they are obedient, and we are disobedient; they are humble, and we are proud. All other differences lie in that. The strong good angels beat the strong bad angels, because the one were obedient to God's laws, the others were rebellious against them. Michael overcame the dragon, because Michael was God's champion, and the dragon was his own. The one depended upon God, the other depended on himself. We may call this a story, an allegory, still there is an abiding truth in it. Say, for a moment, it is a story, then this is the moral of the tale. Obedience is strength; disobedience ensures defeat. In science, in knowledge, in conduct, in religion, obedience, humility, and trust in God, are qualities without which no discoveries are made, no advance accomplished, no virtue attained, no holiness perfected. They are qualities without which our characters are poor and weak, our ways unstable, and our thoughts and desires mainly selfish.

(John Congreve, M. A.)

Michael and his angels fought
It is in itself probable that the Leader of the hosts of light will be no other than the Captain of our salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The dragon leads the hosts of darkness. The Son has been described as the opponent against whom the enmity of the dragon is especially directed. When the war begins, we have every reason to expect that as the one leader takes the command, so also will the other. There is much to confirm this conclusion. The name Michael leads to it, for that word signifies "Who is like God?" and such a name is at least more appropriate to a Divine than to a created being. In the New Testament, too, we read of "Michael the Archangel" (Jude 1:9) — there seems to be only one, for we never read of archangels — and an archangel is again spoken of in circumstances that can hardly be associated with the thought of any one but God (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Above all, the prophecies of Daniel, in which the name Michael first occurs, may be said to decide the point. A person named Michael there appears on different occasions as the defender of the Church against her enemies (Daniel 10:13, 21), and once at least in a connexion leading directly to the thought of our Lord Himself (Daniel 12:1-3). These considerations justify the conclusion that the Michael now spoken of is the representative of Christ.

(W. Milligan, D. D.)

We need only remark, with reference to the combatants whom we find engaged the one against the other, that they are undoubtedly good and evil angels, Michael the archangel being the leader of the first, and Satan, or the devil, the leader of the second. The battle is between those angels which have never swerved from allegiance to God, and mighty spirits that "kept not their first estate." Now, though St. John may have intended to delineate a long subsequent struggle between evil and good, we can hardly doubt that he derived his figures from the first moment of apostasy, when rebellion brake out in the heavenly hosts, and evil appeared in the universe. There is often much said as to the mysteriousness of the entrance of evil, regard being had only to its entrance into the world which we inhabit. But in reality the mysteriousness belongs to an earlier stage. It is not very wonderful that man should fall when there was a devil to tempt him; the wonder is that there should have been a tempter. We may proceed from one order of being to another, and so observe the propagation of evil; but sooner or later we must come to a point at which evil commences spontaneously — at which, that is, it originates itself; for there is no way of explaining how, under the economy of God, any creature can be sinful, except by allowing that some creature made himself sinful. And Scripture confirms this conclusion. And it would appear to have been through pride that Satan originally transgressed. And it is further to be observed that idolatry has been the chief sin to which in all ages Satan has tempted mankind; as though his great aim was to attract to himself the worship due only to God, so that he might in a measure substitute himself for God, and thus be upon earth what, on the popular supposition, he had impiously and profanely attempted to be in heaven. But whatever may have been the precise object at which his pride moved Satan to aim, it is certain that it brought him into opposition to God, or placed him in a condition of revolt to His authority. And it is also certain that he was not solitary in rebellion. But legions there also were which stood faithful in the midst of the growing apostasy. And it would seem more than probable that what is delineated under the imagery of a battle is nothing but that contest between the evil and the good, which took place through temptation upon the one side and resistance upon the other. The battle was the battle of principle — apostate angels plying the unfallen with solicitations to rebellion, and the unfallen withstanding those temptations and maintaining their allegiance — certain squadrons of the heavenly hosts, with Satan at their head, endeavouring to draw into their own sinfulness the remainder who, with Michael as their leader, were still faithful to their God. And it gives us a very striking representation of the fury and the shock of temptation, that the effort on the part of angels to involve others in apostasy should be set forth as the assault of an army upon army — nothing less than the meeting torrents of hostile battalions being stern enough to express the fearful collision. Alas! it is not so with ourselves. We know little of what may be called the shock of being tempted. There must be the perfection of holiness in order to the perfection of this. It may help to satisfy us as to what our Redeemer endured from temptation in the struggle maintained with His repugnance to evil — it may help, we say, to satisfy us as to this, that what good angels endured while solicited to rebellion is like the crash when one belted squadron is sword to sword with another. But temptation was necessary; and then it was, according to the figurative representation, when good angels had been sufficiently exposed to the onslaught of evil, that God interfered as a God of judgment, and banished from His presence those who disputed His authority. The great dragon was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out of heaven. "Neither was their place found any more in heaven." It was a final expulsion when Satan and his angels were cast out from heaven; there was no mercy, there was no plan of redemption, by which the apostate might regain their lost place. But though it was foreknown to God that Satan would prevail over man though he had not prevailed over Michael and his angels, it was also foreknown that a Mediator would interpose, and should finally "destroy all the works of the devil." It was not to hold good of man, when banished from paradise, "neither was their place found any more in heaven." And therefore there can be no ground for arraigning the goodness of God, in that the dragon and his angels were allowed to plant themselves there. There was to be provided immeasurably more than an equivalent to all the evil wrought; and what charge is there against mercy, when the gift of a Saviour in store is set against the allowance of a tempter? Now, hitherto we have confined ourselves to what may be called the literal interpretation of the passage under review. However figurative may be the mode of description, we are certified that there are orders of spiritual beings higher than our own, that a large section of those creatures apostatised from God, while others, though tempted to rebellion, continued faithful and were then confirmed in happiness, so as to be placed beyond the power of falling. It is not necessarily at all a metaphorical representation that " Michael and his angels fought with the dragon and his angels," but this actual battle gave a metaphor expressive of other conflicts between evil and good. Other conflicts, in short, are likened to and shadowed forth by one of which heaven itself was the scene; but this obviously gives a literal character to the first battle, by which the imagery is supplied that is used in this passage. Our text most probably refers to the downfall of heathenism in the downfall of the Roman empire. The "war in heaven" is the contest between Christianity and paganism; the leading combatants are the Christian preachers, martyrs, and confessors on the one side, and persecuting emperors, magistrates, and priests on the other. The former are likened to Michael and his angels, because God and good spirits were on their side; the latter to Satan and his angels, because their cause was emphatically that of the devil, and all his powers were employed and exerted for it. And when Michael and his angels cast out the devil and his angels, the great revolution under Constantine is depicted, which deposed heathenism from all rule and authority, and advanced Christianity to dominion and empire. But we need not dwell longer on the prophetical import of our text, our object being answered, if we can make you see that there is so actual a conflict between evil angels and good as may furnish metaphor for any high contest which goes forward on the stage of this creation, when the cause of God and Christ is that which marshals to the fight. Ah! men and brethren, ye who have not cared anything for the soul, who through that carelessness have wrought the defeat of good angels and strengthened the devices of bad, be ye moved by the intense interest which mighty spirits take in you to take some interest in yourselves, and not to throw away that immortality which the unfallen cherubim would have you spend gloriously with them, and which fiends are plotting to involve in their own fearful anguish. "Michael and his angels have fought against the dragon, and the dragon has fought and his angels"; but the dragon has "not prevailed"; he has been" overcome through the blood of the Lamb"; and so thorough is the moral change, so complete the substitution of the soul now turned into a habitation of God — the dominion of righteousness for the dominion of evil, that we may say of the apostate crew, as was said of them when they were hurled from their original abode, "Neither is their place found any more" in him.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

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