In rev.12 when they refer to war in heaven does this actually mean that there was a war in heaven? If this is the case then it seems that heaven is a bit like earth! Thank You
Most of the book of Revelation is an example of a type of literature known as apocalyptic. The word comes from the Greek word apokalupsis, which means hidden. The rule of thumb with apocalyptic literature is that statements should be taken figuratively. With most kinds of writing, things should be taken literally unless the context demands symbolic interpretation. With apocalyptic the opposite applies.
Given this, the “war” in Revelation 12 should be taken figuratively. It is not a description of a physical battle with swords and arrows, but it is about spiritual warfare. I finished a class on the Book of Revelation last Fall. I am copying and pasting notes from the class. If you read through these notes you will find what I believe the most reasonable interpretation of Revelation chapter twelve is. In fact, I will copy and past the notes for chapter twelve below. As a general comment, the visions in Revelation concern things which, as John is told in Revelation 1:1 “will soon take place.” The main body of the visions in Revelation are symbolic depictions of the battle which occurred when Rome persecuted the Church under Domitian and his successors. I hope this helps.
Revelation 12 The Woman and the Beast.
Rev 12:1 A great and wondrous sign: The woman is Israel, who is about to give birth to a son (Jesus). This part is a flashback.
She is Israel
She is the Church
She is God’s kingdom in any of its aspects.
Scene reminiscent of Genesis 3. A woman, a serpent, a man-child and the seed of the woman all in view.
12:3 Another great and wondrous sign: an enormous red dragon. Satan
7 heads (great wisdom)
10 horns (very powerful)
7 crowns (great authority (on the earth at least))
A seven-headed beast [not dragon] will, in another context (Rev 17, Rev 13), be Rome.
12:4 apocalyptic imagery. Satan tries to prevent the birth. (like Dan 8:9-10)
…or kill the baby when he is born (Herod tries to kill Jesus, but fails)
1/3 of stars cast down. Some of God’s people are taken out by Satan/Rome? (Daniel 12, for example) (maybe)
12:5 But Jesus (who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter) is born, despite his efforts. God takes him to his side where Satan cannot get him.
12:6 The imagery changes. After Jesus’ ministry the true Israel is the church, so now the woman who goes out into the desert is the church. Either way, whether Israel or the church, the true Israel is the Kingdom.
Goes out into the desert. Israel/The church is being persecuted, but protected by God for an unspecified limited time of persecution. Imagery being taken from Elijah and the 3-1/2 year drought during which he was taken care of (1 Kings 19:1-18)
Rev 12:7-12 The scene shifts to heaven. War in heaven.
Try to imagine what this “war” is like. Battle scenes: Luke 4:1-13, Matt 26:36-46.
Satan is defeated and cast down. What, exactly, does this mean? Is he now less powerful? Probably not.
Satan is a 3-time loser. He lost his battle to kill the child. He pursued the “child” to heaven and was soundly defeated. He then went after the children of the woman (the Church) and was defeated in that as well.
Implication for the church: You will undergo some vicious persecutions for a time! But the final result is assured.
Satan the deceiver (12:9) and Satan the accuser (12:10)
Which means is Satan most likely to use on you? Are you the accused or the deceived type?
How do we defeat the Dragon: his lies and accusations? 12:11
1. By the blood of Jesus
2. By our testimony (remember the two witnesses in Rev 11). Sharing our faith is essential to overcoming the lies and the accusations.
3. By our willingness to sacrifice our lives rather than do the bidding of the dragon. Can you say this to God? They “loved not their lives” What about you? Galatians 2:20
12:14-15 The woman taken care of for a time, times and half a time. (1 Kings 19:1-18 Elijah parallel)
12:15 Satan thinks he can use water to keep God’s people in his possession. He fails again, like he did with the Red Sea. Like Israel and Egypt. The earth swallow up the water and God’s people go free.
12:16-17 Satan goes after the Christians “her offspring.” Who are her offspring?
“Those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus (in the face of the upcoming persecution)”
Satan is thrice defeated! This is the message of Revelation. But…. Tribulation still awaits.