The Battle of Michael with the Dragon. Rev. 12, 1-17.

The woman clothed with the sun: V.1. 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; v.2. and she, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. V.3. 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. V.4. 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. V.5. 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. V.6. 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. In spite of the awe which this picture and the entire vision arouses in our hearts, it contains a message of great comfort and cheer: And a great sign was seen in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and being pregnant, she cried in the pains of birth and was in torment to give birth. This woman symbolizes the Daughter of Zion, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, Is. 54, 5. 6. She is clothed with the sun; for to her the Sun of Righteousness has appeared, thus giving to her the brightness of the true day in Christ Jesus. The moon, the queen of night, is under her feet, for she has overcome all change and conquered all darkness. She has a crown of twelve stars, for the doctrine of the apostles and prophets is her greatest ornament, her precious jewels. It is the function of the Church always, till the end of time, to bring forth spiritual children, Is. 54; Pa. 45, 17; Gal. 4, 26, 27; Ps. 110, 3. These children are indeed brought forth with travail; to bring them to faith and to keep them in faith is a work which God alone can perform through the Gospel, and the operations of His Spirit conflict with all the natural desires of man.

In glaring contrast with this picture is that of the dragon: And there was seen another sign in heaven; and, behold, a huge red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems, and his tail dragged the third part of the stars of heaven, and threw them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman that was about to give birth, that, when she had born, he might devour the child. The dragon, as often in Scriptures, represents Satan, the old evil serpent, Ezek. 29, 3; Is. 27, 1; 51, 9, here with particular reference to the work which he does through his chief tool and instrument, the Church of Antichrist. There he shows all his craft and power, and his seven heads and ten horns, kings and rulers and heretical teachers in the Church, stand him in good stead, aid him in his design to destroy Christ and all His Christians utterly. For with every new believer Christ is born, Gal. 4, 19, and therefore the devil intends to devour, to annihilate, Christ in His Church by turning the Christians away from Him, by corrupting the Church.

The dragon’s fierceness is now indicated: And she gave birth to a man-child, who was intended to rule all the nations with an iron rod; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where a place has been prepared for her by God, that they should nourish her there twelve hundred and sixty days. The believers, born in Christ and with Christ, through the Word, through Baptism, would indeed be in great danger from Satan and his henchmen, were it not for the fact that, with Christ and in Christ, their souls are even now safe at the throne of God, in the hands of the Lord. The devil may indeed destroy our body and take our life, but he cannot rob us of our eternal salvation. The desert, or wilderness, into which the Church was obliged to flee is practically identical with this whole earth; for it has happened time and again that the confessors of Christ were forced to conceal themselves in the most secret and unlikely places in order that the enemies of the Gospel might not find them. But in spite of all such tribulation, which was especially great during the rule of Antichrist, the Church was nourished. Even as the Lord reserved for Himself, at the time of Elijah, seven thousand that had not bowed their knees to Baal, so He protects His Church, the poor small crew, in the midst of the most trying vicissitudes of temptation and persecution. That is glorious comfort for all Christians.

The dragon cast out of heaven: V.7. And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, v.8. and prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. V.9. 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. V.10. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation and strength and the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. V.11. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. V.12. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. Here a strange scene is depicted: And there occurred a battle in heaven, Michael and his angels battling with the dragon; and the dragon battled and his angels, and were not able to prevail, neither was their place found any more in heaven; and there was thrown out the huge dragon, the old serpent, who is called devil and Satan, who seduces the whole world; he was thrown to the earth, and his angels were thrown with him. It seems that the dragon did not give up his attempts to destroy the believers as personified in the child that was caught up to heaven, but attempted to storm heaven itself. Even in the Old Testament the devil is pictured as being among the sons of God, the angels, as they came for their daily ministry, Job 1, 6-12. But his attack proved a failure; for Michael, the archangel, Dan. 10, 13. 21; 12, 1, summoned the hosts of heaven and gave battle so successfully that the dragon, or Satan, -called the old serpent with reference to the fall of man, and the devil because his constant endeavor is to bring ignominy and shame upon all men, - was cast out of heaven with his host. The devil, with the entire kingdom of Antichrist on his side, is not able to prevail against Christ. All his carnal, all his hellish weapons may, indeed, inflict wounds upon the believers, but the spiritual armor of the Christians, Eph. 6, is so strong as to overcome all the attacks which Satan may launch. We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us; this world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will; he can harm us none; he’s judged, the deed is done; one little word can fell him.

And so the voice of victory is heard: And I heard a great voice in heaven saying, Now has come salvation and power and the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ, for the accuser of our brethren is thrown down, he that accuses them before God day and night. Here is a further explanation of the manner in which the devil and his angels attacked the believers, namely, by accusing them before God day and night, by carefully keeping an account of every failing and of every transgression that may be charged to their account, and then dinning this in the ears of the Lord continually. But here the anthem of victory arises, giving all honor to God the Father, the Author of our salvation, and to His Son, Jesus Christ, who wrought a complete salvation for us. His kingdom is established forever, and all the subjects of this kingdom, all true believers, are safe in His power. All the accusations of the devil, true and weighty as they would be in themselves, have lost their strength in view of the fact that the atonement of Christ has covered all these sins and their guilt, that the redemption which He effected has brought a full reconciliation with God.

Therefore the hymn of victory continues: And they conquered him through the blood of the Lamb, and through the word of their witness, and they did not love their soul unto death. For this reason rejoice, heavens, and those that dwell in them. Woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil has come down to you having a great rage, knowing that he has little time. And they, the believers themselves, won the victory over Satan; they are always winners, in the fight against him, through the power of Christ, through the fact that His blood was shed for their redemption, and through the fact that they bear witness of this salvation and thus conquer the enemies with the Gospel. In the Gospel, in the testimony of salvation, there is a mighty, a world-conquering power, for the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit is present in it. Therefore not only the believers on earth are filled with the exultation of triumph, but the dwellers in the heavens are also called upon to rejoice with the Church in its victory; even the angels take part in the triumph over the powers of darkness. Outwardly it may seem as though the Christians were forced to submit; in reality, however, the martyrs who had to die for their faith, but did not cling to life, are the victors, and their victory will be revealed before the eyes of all men on the last day. Fearful times, indeed, we may expect after the fruitless attempt of Satan to storm heaven, for he is now enraged more than ever, and he means to make the most of the short time still remaining to him before the last day comes. Let him storm and rage; we Christians are safe in the protecting hands of the Lamb.

The dragon’s hatred for the woman: V.13. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. V.14. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and a half a time from the face of the serpent. V.15. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. V.16. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. V.17. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. The narrative is here continued with a description of the manner in which the dragon carried out the persecution of the woman that was mentioned in v.6: And when the dragon saw that he was thrown to the earth, he persecuted the woman that had given birth to the man-child; and there were given to the woman two wings of a huge eagle that she might flee to the wilderness, to the place set apart for her, where she was nourished a time and times and a half time away from the face of the serpent. The hatred against Christ and against all that believe in Him gives Satan no rest. Through his instruments, the children of unbelief, he persecutes the Church. But the Lord holds His protecting hand over them that are His, for the Church continues to exist in spite of all hatred, even though it be only in secret places and hidden from the eyes of men. All this happened while the power of Antichrist’s kingdom was at its height, for three and one half times, and all the rage of the devil did not succeed in exterminating the believers.

But the rage of the devil continued unabated: And the serpent poured out of his mouth, after the woman, water like a river in order to sweep her away with the flood. But the earth assisted the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. This is a picture of the floods of tribulation which Satan time and again poured forth against the Church. We need but think of the times of great persecutions against the true Church, of the period of the Inquisition, to note in what manner the devil makes fanatics of men against the preaching of the truth. In many a case the rulers of the earth, though otherwise indifferent to the pure doctrine, were the instruments for stemming the tide of persecution and bringing times of comparative peace to the Church and her work.

And still the devil’s fury gives him no rest: And the dragon was enraged against the woman and went off to wage war on the rest of her offspring that keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus. As long as this earth stands, the devil will not change. Whenever he has the opportunity and whenever he can create the opportunity, he will continue his hellish warfare against the Christians that continue in the Word of their Lord, that cling to the Gospel of salvation through the redemption of Jesus. But the Church of God cannot be destroyed, though all the portals of hell be arrayed against her; God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early. That is our comfort.

Summary. The seer pictures the Church as a woman whose children and offspring the dragon, Satan, tries to devour; but, owing to the resistance of Michael and the heavenly host, through the power of Christ, all the attempts of the devil are foiled, and the Church is kept safely in the hands of God.