War in Heaven
November 11th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
AND THERE WAS WAR IN HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-11-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message. The title is the text, And There Was War in Heaven. In our preaching through the Bible we have come to the Revelation and in preaching through the Revelation to chapter 12. And last Sunday we left off at verse 6. And this Sunday the sermon is in verse 7 and 8 and 9. And we read the context, which will be the first nine verses of the twelfth chapter of the Revelation:
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
And she brought forth a man Child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her Child was caught up unto God, and to His throne.
And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Revelation 12:7, "And there was war in heaven."
This is at the beginning of the great tribulation, the last forty-two months, the one thousand two hundred sixty days, the three and a half years, the time times and dividing of time [Daniel 7:25]. In fact this great conflict in heaven precipitates that last final tribulation. "For the devil has great wrath because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." That’s in the twelfth verse [Revelation 12:12]. He has but the last half of that final seventieth week of Daniel. Somewhere, sometime this terrible and awesome conflict between God and Satan and between good and evil has to come to a final issue. And it does so here in this seventh verse of the twelfth chapter of the Revelation. That terrible time begins with that awful war in heaven, and it closes with Armageddon in earth [Revelation 19:19]. It begins, this vast terrible, awesome, great, final tribulation, with this conflict, this war in heaven, and it closes with this great Armageddon in earth.
Now the antagonists, the leading participants in this war, have known one another and have stood face to face against each other from the beginning of the ages of the ages. Michael and Lucifer, the archangel and the devil; they have known one another and faced one another from the beginning of whenever it was God created the heavenly hosts. The greater, infinitely so, of the two is Satan.
Satan is described in the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah and in the twenty-eighth chapter of Ezekiel. Satan is called "the anointed cherub that covereth" in Ezekiel 28:14. That is, Satan was assigned the responsibility of guarding the throne of God. He was beautiful, perfect in all of his ways. He walked up and down the streets of glory in the midst of the stones of fire. But his heart was lifted up because of his beauty, and he said, "I will aspire to the height of the very throne of God Himself" [Isaiah 14:13-14].
And Satan, the highest created being the Lord ever made, rebelled against God Himself. So great and so mighty is Lucifer, as Isaiah calls him, that when Michael the archangel, contending with the devil, "he durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee." That’s the ninth verse of the epistle of Jude. In that you have a good idea of why it is that Satan wars.
You would think, knowing of his certain disaster and his pronounced doom, that Satan would change his tactics; that he would make a truce; that he would do something of acquiescence before this great and final war. But there are two things to remember about Satan. First: even Michael the archangel dare not speak blatantly, proudly against him. Even Michael the archangel dare not in his own strength face up to Lucifer. Second thing: there has never been an attempted ambitious program of any conqueror in God’s heaven or in this earth that has been as successful as Lucifer. When Genesis begins, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," then the second verse, "And the earth became void, and waste; and darkness covered the deep" [Genesis 1: 1-2], between those two verses is the story of the rebellion of Lucifer. And Lucifer destroyed God’s creation.
Any work of God would be perfect, even as Satan was created perfect and the angelic hosts were created perfect. Any work of God would be without flaw or fault or blemish. And when God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning they were perfect. But beyond that first verse of the creation of God in the beginning is the story of the rebellion of Satan, and Satan destroyed and wasted God’s whole created universe. He’s successful. In the garden of Eden, when the Lord re-created this earth that He might make it a dwelling place for a man who could think his own thoughts, who could love God in his deepest soul – that same Lucifer destroyed God’s Eden and encompassed the transgression and fall of the human race. And for these millenniums since, he has sowed this world in tears, and blight, and sorrow, and waste, and disaster, and finally has made of it a vast illimitable burying ground. Satan, Lucifer has been successful. And in his pride and in his arrogance, feeding upon his past successes, he dares to hope for the overthrow of the throne of God itself.
Now this war between Michael and Lucifer is over the same thing concerning which they have been contending from the beginning. It is the purpose of God to exalt and to glorify His saints; and if that means resurrection, then resurrection; if that means sanctification, then sanctification. Whatever it is, God hath purposed to exalt and to glorify His people. And Satan from the beginning has been determined that such glorification, such exaltation, shall not come to pass. And that was the furor over the body of Moses. In this ninth verse of the chapter in Jude: "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee."
Why were they contending about the body of Moses? One: I think that the devil, that Lucifer, wanted the body of Moses for one thing; to make it an instrument of idolatry. Idolatry never changes. It’s the same all the way through all the centuries. You have it in the mausoleum in the Red Square in Moscow. Lenin’s body is there, and until they dethroned Stalin, Stalin’s body was there. That’s what Satan wanted, for one thing, with the body of Moses. As those Russians pass by, by the thousands and the hundreds of thousands every year, and every year paying tribute, worship at the shrine of Lenin, so the devil wanted Moses’ body as a bait to tempt Israel into idolatry. And I presume, had he been able to seize the body of Moses he would have succeeded in it, because the Israelites worshiped even the brazen serpent that Moses raised up in the wilderness [Numbers 21:8-9] – until the good king destroyed it many centuries afterward [2 Kings 18:4]. So the devil wanted the body of Moses as a trap for idolatry [Jude 9].
But the greatest thing, it seems to me, that the devil had in his mind about seeking the body of Moses was, in this one instance as in all of the instances of which it would have been a harbinger, the devil wanted to prevent the resurrection, and the exaltation, and the glorification of that man of God. And what he wanted to do in intervening, in interdicting the resurrection and the glorification of Moses, is the thing that he is contending for here in this great and final war in heaven.
For this passage that you read in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Daniel says that at that end time, when Michael the great prince shall stand up, the twelfth chapter of Daniel that you just read said that when Michael the great prince stands up, at that time there will be the time of the resurrection of the dead, of the presentation of those that are found written in God’s Book of Life. And the saints shall receive their reward and shall shine like the stars in heaven [Daniel 12:1-3]. So this is Satan’s last and final onslaught against the purposes of God to exalt and to glorify God’s people who have fallen in this earth.
And Satan knows that if his dominions of darkness and of death are broken up, it is the end of him. And when that time comes for the resurrection of the dead and for the glorification of the saints, when that time comes, when Michael stands up, when the trumpet sounds, and when God’s purposes reach that final climax, Satan makes his last and great attempt to interdict the purposes of God for His people. And that precipitates this final war in heaven when Michael and his angels fight against the dragon; and the dragon fights and his angels, and prevail not [Revelation 12:7-9].
Now we have a description in the Book of those two antagonists, Michael and the dragon. Michael is named here in the Book of Daniel, and he is named in the Book of Jude and here in the twelfth chapter of the Revelation. In Daniel 10:13 he is named. In Daniel 10:21 he is named, and in the passage that you read in Daniel 12 he is named. Michael is described as one of the great princes of God, and he is described as "the prince that stands for the people of Daniel" [Daniel 12:1]. So Michael is a great prince who represents the destiny and the fortunes of Daniel’s people, of the Jewish people in the earth. Daniel says that Michael contends for and supports the cause of Israel. When I see him therefore here warring against Satan, I know that this woman who is being persecuted brings into play the great protector of God’s chosen family; that at this end time will be restored to her place of honor and glory. Then Michael is called in the ninth verse of Jude "the archangel," Michael the archangel. In the first Thessalonian letter, the fourth chapter and the sixteenth verse, Paul refers to an archangel:
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep.
For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
[1 Thessalonians 4:15-16]
See how all those passages fit together? When Michael stands up – when Michael stands up, that is going to be, said Daniel, the time of the resurrection of the dead, and the blowing of the trump, and the exaltation and glorification of the saints [Daniel 12:1-3], which is the thing that Satan is trying to prevent, and that’s why the war here in heaven [Revelation 12:7].
Now whether there is another archangel or not I do not know. In that ninth verse of Jude he is called the archangel, Michael the archangel, but in that sixteenth verse of the fourth chapter of 1Thessalonians, Paul says "with the voice of an archangel," as though there may be other archangels. We do not know. But the only one who is so designated, and in the ninth verse of Jude very specifically designated by that article "Michael the archangel" is the one who is going to war here.
Now about the dragon:
And there appeared another semeion, sign in heaven; behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
Now Lucifer is not a dragon. Paul describes Lucifer as "an angel of light" [2 Corinthians 11:14]. And these passages in Isaiah and in Ezekiel describe him as a marvelous glorious star, a creation of God. What the Bible says here in this text is, "And there appeared another semeion, there appeared another sign." What you have here in the description of the devil is a symbol of him, a sign.
A sign is not the real thing. If you were looking at a sign on a store; the store is here, the sign just points to it. Or a sign on the road; that’s not the destination, it’s just pointing toward the destination. A sign is not the thing itself. It’s altogether different. So it is here now, "There appeared in heaven another semeion." And this is God’s symbolic description of Lucifer [Revelation 12:3].
Well, what is God’s symbolic description of Satan? Well, it is very fearful and awesome and terrible! He is called a dragon, a serpentine creature of ferocious proportions and features. And he is called "red,"purrhos, purrhos; the Greek word for "fire" is purrhos, and purrhos is "fiery, fiery red."
He’s a murderer from the beginning, fiery red. And he has seven heads, ten horns, and each head has a diadem. That seven and ten; those numbers refer to fullness, to completion, to plentitude. He doesn’t have six heads, as though he lacked one, but seven, full and complete [Revelation 12:3].
Ten plagues; the thing is well rounded out. He doesn’t limp. He doesn’t halt. He is powerful beyond description; full, full of might, full of power, full of venom, full of hatred, each head crowned with a diadem. That is the universal presentation of Satan in the Word of God. Always he is presented as king, as the lord of this earth, as the god of this world.
In the twelfth chapter of Matthew, for example, our Lord refers to Satan as "a king having a kingdom" [Matthew 12:25-26]. Three times in the Book of John the Lord refers to Satan as "the god of this world." In the second Corinthian letter chapter 4, verse 4, Paul refers to Satan as "the god of this world" [John 12:31; 14:31; 16:11]. In the last chapter of 1 John, he says "this world, the whole world lieth in the wicked one, in his hand" [1 John 5:18-19]. It is not until the blowing of the seventh trumpet in the eleventh chapter of the Revelation that the kingdom, the sovereignty of this world, becomes the kingdom and the sovereignty of our Lord, and of His Christ [Revelation 11:15].
In the third temptation the Lord was taken up on a high mountain, and all the glory of this world passed before His eyes. And Satan said, "I will give You all of it if You will fall down and worship me" [Matthew 4:8-9]. Without exception the god of this world is presented as Lucifer, Satan, the old dragon, each one of his heads is crowned with a diadem. And another thing about him: "And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth" [Revelation 12:4]. Now Lucifer means, "a star, a morning star, the day star." In the thirty-eighth chapter of the Book of Job the angels, the angelic hosts are called "stars" as they sing together [Job 38:7]. And when Satan rebelled – you know here’s an unusual change of tenses here – "And his tail surÃ³, draws," present indicative active, "draws." They’re still with him, "And his tail draws or drags the third part of the angels of heaven." Then this is a second aorist, ebalen, "and did cast them down." That is, that’s one thing. It happened in the past; the casting down of those angels happened in the unknown past, one-third of them, but one-third of them follow Satan now!
Now there’s a mystery that I cannot enter into. In Jude  and in 2 Peter [2:4] some of these angels are in prison awaiting the great judgment day of the Lord. But Satan is not imprisoned, and his angels are not in prison, not these. He had access to the garden of Eden when he destroyed our first parents [Genesis 3]. And in the Book of Job he had access to God [Job 1:6; 2:1-6], and he’s in heaven here where this last and final war is being fought [Revelation 12:7]. Lucifer, this great king of God’s hosts, when he rebelled he took with him one-third of the angels of God’s heavenly hosts. Oh, these things are almost beyond imagination!
Then he stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered, for to devour her Child as soon as it was born [Revelation 12:4]. You see, Satan knows of the promised Seed. "And the Seed of the woman shall bruise thy head, shall crush thy head" [Genesis 3:15]. And from the beginning he has been standing to devour that promised Seed.
It was Satan that moved Cain to destroy his brother Abel [Genesis 4:9], the promised seed. God raised up Seth to take his place, but Satan is seeking to destroy that seed. And in the antediluvian age before the flood, Satan moved the whole family of God into such vile wickedness until the Lord had to destroy them from the face of the earth. But Noah found grace in His sight, and the seed is preserved [Genesis 6:5-8]. And in the days of Isaac, Satan moved enmity between the two brothers Esau and Jacob. And Esau said, "I shall slay my brother Jacob" [Genesis 27:41]. Satan sought there to reiterate, to reduplicate the slaughter of Abel by his brother Cain – when Esau swears to slay Jacob, Israel. Then he sought again in the days of Moses, when he moved Pharaoh to decree that all the male children of the family of God were to be slain; ready to devour the seed of the woman [Exodus 1:16, 22].
And the story follows through all of the bloody, treacherous destruction and murder of the sons of David. And when Jehoshaphat died Jehoram slew all of his brethren of the seed royal [2 Chronicles 21:4], but Jehoram had children. And when the Arabians attacked the kingdom and all of the children of Jehoram were destroyed, Ahaziah was spared [2 Chronicles 22:1], and Ahaziah had children. And when Jehu destroyed Ahaziah [2 Chronicles 22:10], Athaliah the queen mother slew all of the seed royal. But the wife of Jehoiada, the wife of the high priest, took a little infant baby named Joash and hid him away in the temple. And for six years the fulfillment of the promised seed lay in the life of that little baby infant boy [2 Kings 11:1-3].
And in the days of Esther, King Ahasuerus was led to make a decree for the destruction of the entire family of the people of the Lord [Esther 3:8-13]. Had it not been for his sleepless night, they would have perished, the entire nation [Esther 6:1-2].
Then when the day came for the woman to bear the Child, Satan moved Herod to destroy all the babes in Bethlehem hoping to slay the life of that promised Seed [Matthew 2:16]. Then when He became of age, Satan took Him on top of the temple to invite Him to cast Himself down and to undo the incarnation [Matthew 4:5-6].
Then at His home in Nazareth, His own townspeople sought to throw Him headlong from the bluff upon which their city was built [Luke 4:29-30]. And the Jews took up stones to stone Him to death when He passed unhurt through their midst [John 8:59]. And in Gethsemane, Satan tried to destroy Him [Luke 22:3-4].
And on the cross he thought he triumphed. And he took the mangled body of the Son of God and sealed it in a sepulcher [Matthew 27:64-66], beyond the touch of mortal and human hands. And Satan gloated in the day of the cross. But when the Child was raised from the dead and resurrected to glory, like God has promised for all of His children, the thing that precipitates this final war here between Michael and Lucifer – when the Child was taken up into glory and exalted to the right hand of God, the wrath of Satan knows no bounds! [Revelation 12:5].
And he took the emissaries of the cross of the Son of God and he slew them with the sword, and with the stake, and in gladiators, and in coliseums, and they were the sport of kings as they died. In edict after edict Satan moved Roman emperors to extinguish them from the face of the earth, but they continued to live; this seed of the woman.
And the day came when paganism was dethroned, and the symbols of the Christian religion took the place of the heathen symbols of pagan gods. But that same interminable war of hatred continued, robed now and with Christian symbols, the war against those who testify to the grace of God, that war continued more fiercely than ever before. In the rack and in the terrible Inquisition, and in every conceivable suffering and slaughter that mind could think of, papal Rome slew more than fifty million of God’s sainted confessors!
And the war continues today; one, in those who pervert the truth of the gospel of the Son of God, and second, in the most diabolical onslaughts that this earth yet has ever seen. For even the ancient Greek inquired at the oracle of Delphi, and no Roman general would go to war without first propitiating the gods, but for the first time in the history of this earth, Satan has been able to seize great governments in the name of blasphemous atheism. And it will continue to the end.
"And the devil stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered, for to devour her Child as soon as it was born" [Revelation 12:4]. And as God’s elective grace moves toward that great and final climax, in one last desperate interdiction Satan attempts to prevent the saving of God’s children; their resurrection out of the dust of the earth, their glorification in heaven. "And there was war: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels." Oh, blessed be the name of God! "But they prevail not. And the great dragon was cast out" [Revelation 12:7-9], and that’s going to be our sermon next Sunday morning, The Expulsion of Satan, the Victory is Ours.
Now while we sing our song and while we make our appeal, somebody give his heart to the Lord. Somebody put his life in the fellowship of the church. While we sing the song and while we make appeal, you come and stand by me. A couple you; a family you; one somebody you, as God shall say the word and as the Spirit shall open the door, come, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.