One of the most intriguing passages in Revelation is the war in heaven found in Revelation 12. Here is the passage:
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:7-9)
What is happening is fairly clear. But where in the timeline of history does this appear? Here are the three main options:
- Beginning of time (the original fall of Satan).
- Crucifixion of Jesus.
- End times (just before Jesus returns).
When I teach on Revelation and ask my students, the majority usually choose the first option. They see this as a description of Satan’s fall, his original rebellion with God. This is often because this story is connected with a passage in Isaiah 14. Many see this as describing Satan’s (Lucifer) rebellion from God. However, I’m not convinced that Isaiah 14 has anything to do with Satan. See my post: Is Lucifer the Proper Name for the Devil?
What we need to remember is that as late as the time of Job, Satan still had access to heaven. There is no reason to believe his casting out of heaven had to happen at the very beginning.
With the victory in heaven, we read this: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah.” (Revelation 12:10) When did that happen? That doesn’t seem to describe events before the Garden of Eden.
John also describes for us what happened after the dragon was cast down: “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17) The ones that the dragon declares war on are the followers of Jesus.
I have come to the conclusion that the war of heaven actually took place when Jesus was on the cross. An ongoing theme throughout Revelation is that there is a spiritual reality in heaven that parallels what is happening on earth. It was on the cross that victory against Satan was achieved. As Jesus was winning that victory on the cross, so was Michael winning in heaven.
I am open to other interpretations, but at this point, that is where I am at. I believe that the war in heaven took place when Jesus was on the cross.