Probably the most difficult thing about understanding prophecy (and thus reading the book of Revelation) is confusion about time. What is past tense, present, future? God exists outside of time (see Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8), something that’s difficult for us to grasp, because we are enslaved to the clock. Therefore, visions into the spirit realm are fuzzy and difficult to nail down specific time spans. It’s like dreaming while you sleep. How long does a dream usually last?
7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 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. —Revelation 12:7–9 ESV
This war in heaven seems to refer to the rebellion when the angels were tossed out (and became known as demons). Some think this refers to a future battle. It could also symbolize the triumph of Jesus’ cross (see Colossians 2:15) or subsequent defeats of demonic forces emanating from the cross.
The name Michael means “who is like God?” and this certainly parallels Satan’s egocentric attack on Jehovah—“I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). —Bible Exposition Commentary
10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” —Revelation 12:10–12 ESV
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” That’s always been a strange line to me also because of the verb tense. But it’s the song John commands: “Rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them!”
This short hymn of praise is directed toward Jesus who defeated Satan and tells of those who were martyred, those who gave their lives for the gospel because they learned from Jesus that physical death is not defeat but great gain. In all likelihood, I will not have to give my life for the cause of the gospel, not in the sense of having to die for it. But I am called to surrender the lordship of my life to God for the sake of his purposes. That means, as a bondservant I don’t get to make decisions for myself, for I need to seek God’s direction and respond obediently.
I think of the question we often ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Probably the best response would be: whatever God wants me to be. What will I do for the rest of my life? Whatever God wants me to do.
We’ll finish the rest of this study tomorrow, when we look at why God is waiting for us.