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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 12 - Verse 7

Verse 7. And there was war in heaven. There was a state of things existing in regard to the woman and the child—the church in the condition in which it would then be—which would be well represented by a war in heaven; that is, by a conflict between the powers of good and evil, of light and darkness. Of course, it is not necessary to under stand this literally, any more than the other symbolical representations in the book. All that is meant is, that a vision passed before the mind of John as if there was a conflict, in regard to the church, between the angels in heaven and Satan. There is a vision of the persecuted church—of the woman fleeing into the desert— and the course of the narrative is here interrupted by going back (Re 12:7-13) to describe the conflict which led to this result, and the fact that Satan, as it were cast out of heaven, and unable to achieve a victory there, was suffered to vent his malice against the church on earth. The seat of this warfare is said to be heaven. This language sometimes refers to heaven as it appears to us—the sky—the upper regions of the atmosphere, and some have supposed that was the place of the contest. But the language in Re 11:19; 12:1, see Barnes "Re 11:19"; See Barnes "Re 12:1, would rather lead us to refer it to heaven considered as lying beyond the sky. This accords, too, with other representations in the Bible, where Satan is described as appearing before God, and among the sons of God. Of course, this is not to be understood as a real transaction, but as a symbolical representation of the contest between good and evil—as if there was a war waged in heaven between Satan and the leader of the heavenly hosts.

Michael. There have been very various opinions as to who Michael is. Many Protestant interpreters have supposed that Christ is meant. The reasons usually alleged for this opinion, many of which are very fanciful, may be seen in Hengstenberg, (Die Offenbarung des heiliges Johannes,) i. 611-622. The reference to Michael here is probably derived from Da 10:13; 12:1. In those places he is represented as the guardian angel of the people of God, and it is in this sense, I apprehend, that the passage is to be understood here. There is no evidence in the name itself, or in the circumstances referred to, that Christ is intended; and if he had been, it is inconceivable why he was not referred to by his own name, of by some of the usual appellations which John gives him. Michael, the archangel, is here represented as the guardian of the church, and as contending against Satan for its protection. Compare See Barnes "Da 10:13".

This representation accords with the usual statements in the Bible respecting the interposition of the angels in behalf of the church, (see Barnes "Heb 1:14") and is one which cannot be proved to be unfounded. All the analogies which throw any light on the subject, as well as the uniform statements of the Bible, lead us to suppose that good beings of other worlds feel an interest in the welfare of the redeemed church below.

And his angels. The angels under him. Michael is represented as the archangel, and all the statements in the Bible suppose that the heavenly hosts are distributed into different ranks and orders. See Barnes on "Jude 1:9; Eph 1:21".

If Satan is permitted to make war against the church, there is no improbability in supposing that, in those higher regions where the war is carried on, and in those aspects of it which lie beyond the power and the knowledge of man, good angels should be employed to defeat his plans.

Fought. See Barnes "Jude 1:9".

 

Against the dragon. Against Satan. See Barnes "Re 12:3".

 

And the dragon fought and his angels. That is, the master-spirit— Satan, and those under him. See Barnes on "Mt 4:1".

Of the nature of this warfare, nothing is definitely stated. Its whole sphere lies beyond mortal vision, and is carried on in a manner of which we can have little conception. What weapons Satan may use to destroy the church, and in what way his efforts may be counteracted by holy angels, are points on which we can have little knowledge. It is sufficient to know that the fact of such a struggle is not improbable, and that Satan is successfully resisted by the leader of the heavenly host.

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