The Nature of the Cosmic Conflict (Twelve 3)

The war in heaven of Revelation 12:7-9 is described in military language. There is the language of “war” (12:7– Greek: polemos), and “fighting” (also verse 7– Greek: polemêsai, epolemêsen). These Greek words normally describe armed conflict in the military sense. But these same words can be used in figurative ways as well, to heighten the drama of quarrels and verbal disagreements (Jam 4:1). When we examine the war of this chapter closely, it becomes clear that the war in heaven is more a war of words than a military event. There are four main evidences for this conclusion in chapter twelve.

First, the dragon sweeps a third of the stars down from heaven with his tail (Greek: oura). A crucial parallel text in the Old Testament is Isaiah 9:15. In that text the “tail” is a symbol for a prophet who teaches lies (Greek LXX: oura). So the focused of the dragon’s action is persuasive words rather than force. Second, the dragon is defined in multiple ways in Revelation 12:9. He is the devil, the deceiver, Satan and “that ancient serpent.” The latter is a clear reference to the serpent in the Garden of Eden who told lies about God to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1-6). Here again, the focus is on persuasive speech rather than military force.

Third, the dragon/Satan is cast out of heaven as the “accuser of the brothers” in Rev. 12:10. It is his accusing words, rather than physical weapons, that cause his casting down. The remedy for accusations, at least in God’s form of government, is not to shut down discussion, but to provide evidence that the accusations are not true. The most powerful evidence that God is not arbitrary, judgmental or severe is how Jesus behaved on the cross (Rev. 12:11). God is so unwilling to resort to violence that He allowed His own creatures to torture and kill Him in human form. And finally, the dragon/Satan is overcome by “the word of their testimony” (Rev. 12:11). On earth, the evidence against Satan’s lies is provided by the testimonies of believers who are so firmly convinced that they would continue their testimony even in the face of death. So the war of Revelation twelve is not a military battle, it is a war of words. The solution to the problem in the universe is not force but evidence and persuasive speech.

2 thoughts on “The Nature of the Cosmic Conflict (Twelve 3)

  1. Robert Whiteman

    War of words…specifically, great words against the Most High that attack His character, government and purposes. This war includes clever deceptions to gain recruits, and our part in this war is choosing to yield to temptation, or through faith, to resist as overcomers.

    The objective of this war: our allegiance and service. We are either “angels”(messengers) of Michael or the dragon.

    I have believed that this war in heaven included all the other worlds(vs 12), and at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Satan was fully exposed as a deceiver, and no longer tolerated by the unfallen worlds. Satan flees from those who resist him, and this “cast” him down from heaven, fleeing the resistance he met wherever he would go to recruit. Only in this world does he still find acceptance of his rebellion among men who follow his lead and take his side in this war now confined to earth. We must all remain alert and aware of how easy it is to accept Satan’s rebellion, as James points out, as only one persistent offense places us on the side of the dragon who will lead all in league with him against the remnant of God’s people. This final conflict approaches quickly!

    I’m not sure Satan was cast out due to his constant accusations, since this has always been his active agenda, and continues to be. He was there to accuse Job and Moses, which was long before he was cast down to the earth following Jesus’ death/ascension. His open warfare against the pure, holy Jesus was what sealed the deal, if we understand Rev 12, along with John 12:31. The “prince of this world” was not cast out of this world, so we must conclude Jesus referred to the heavens, thus limiting Satan to this earth and his only sympathizers, as unwitting as they might be.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      To clarify, he was not tossed out because of his accusations, which, as you say, have always been going on, it is just that in light of the cross no one in heaven was taking him seriously any more.


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