Rev. 12:9 – So the great dragon was thrown out – the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him. (HCSB)
The great dragon was thrown out
The battle ends and John records that “there was no place for them [Satan and his angels] in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was thrown out – the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him” (vv. 8-9).
John makes it clear that the dragon is a sign, or symbol, of Satan. The apostle is not given to myths and legends but uses the imagery of a vile, dangerous, and wicked beast to describe the one who once was “an anointed guardian cherub” (Eze. 28:14) and who appears to people as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). John rips away the Devil’s mask and exposes him for who he is:
- The ancient serpent. He also is called the serpent in 2 Cor. 11:3 and Rev. 20:2. This likely is a reference to Genesis 3 in which “the serpent” tempts Eve. This is not to say that Satan literally is a snake, for the context suggests that the serpent is a finite creature (Gen. 3:14 – “all the days of your life”) while Satan is an everlasting angelic being. “Though a literal creature, the serpent in the garden embodied the evil being (Satan) that opposed God and the human couple (see Job 1-2; Zech. 3:1-2; Rom. 16:20). The serpent was an unclean animal (Lev. 11:42) and symbolized the enemies of God (Isa. 14:29; Rev. 12:9; 20:2). The snake talked to the woman as would a deceitful opponent” (The Apologetics Study Bible, Gen. 3:1, p. 9).
- The Devil. This name comes from the Greek word diabolos, meaning “accuser” or “slanderer.” It is used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, to translate the Hebrew “Satan.” Matthew uses the name to introduce him as Jesus’ tempter (Matt. 4:1), and Jesus calls him the Devil to indicate that he is in charge of a demonic host for whom hell has been created (Matt. 25:41). We see the Devil accusing God of placing a protective hedge around Job, and slandering Job about the presumed motive behind his righteous deeds (Job 1-2). We also see him accusing Joshua the high priest before the Angel of the Lord (Zech. 3:1). He is no doubt “the accuser of our brothers” (Rev. 12:10).
- Satan. The Hebrew word satan means “accuser” or “adversary.” In the Old Testament, we see him not only in Job and Zechariah, as mentioned above, but in 1 Chron. 21:1, where he rises up against Israel and incites David to take a census. The New Testament clearly depicts Satan as the head of the demons and as God’s chief opponent, as well as the enemy of all people, particularly those who belong to Christ. “Satan has a twofold mission: to oppose God and to destroy humanity,” according to the Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times. “Just as Satan tempted Adam and Eve to sin (Gen. 3), so he tempted Jesus to sin in hopes of destroying God’s rescue mission (Matt. 4). Satan is the source of sin and the chief tempter. He was a murderer and liar from the beginning (John 8:44) and ‘has been sinning from the beginning’ (1 John 3:8)” (p. 399.)
- The deceiver of the whole world. This describes a broad range of the dragon’s destructive activities. He blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4); influences people’s thinking (Matt. 16:23); tempts them to sin (Acts 5:3; 1 Cor. 7:5); deceives through false teachings (2 Cor. 11:4); disguises himself as an angel of light and his servants as ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14-15); attacks Christ’s followers (Luke 22:31); hinders God’s work (1 Thess. 2:18); and works through enemies of the gospel (John 8:44; 2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 2:9, 13; 13:2).
It seems impossible for humans to overcome Satan – especially since Michael and his angels must struggle for some time to defeat the evil one. But believers are equipped with defenses against the Devil and his attacks. Paul instructs us to “put on the full armor of God, so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil” (Eph. 6:11). This armor includes truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer. “Believers are to engage in the spiritual battle by forgiving (2 Cor. 2:10-11), dealing with anger (Eph. 4:27), relying on God’s faithfulness (1 Cor. 10:13), resisting the devil (1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7), exercising the authority provided by Jesus (2 Cor. 10:3-4), responding with God’s Word (Matt. 4:1-11), and remaining faithful to the Lord Jesus and his gospel” (Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times, p. 400).
So, Satan and his angels have been thrown to earth. Since their initial rebellion against God, they seem to be in a progressive cycle of restricted movement and influence, a cycle that intensifies their evil activities each step along the way. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary suggests the following progression in Satan’s fall, supporting the view that the Devil’s expulsion from heaven in Revelation 12 occurs at the completion of Christ’s earthly ministry:
There are four gradations in the ever deeper downfall of Satan: (1) He is deprived of his heavenly excellency, though having still access to heaven as man’s accuser, up to Christ’s first coming. As heaven was not fully yet opened to man (John 3:13), so it was not yet shut against Satan and his demons. The Old Testament dispensation could not overcome him. (2) From Christ, down to the millennium, he is judicially cast out of heaven as the accuser of the elect, and shortly before the millennium loses his power against Israel, and has sentence of expulsion fully executed on him and his by Michael. His rage on earth is consequently the greater, his power being concentrated on it, especially towards the end, when “he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Rev. 12:12). (3) He is bound during the millennium (Rev. 20:1-3). (4) After having been loosed for a while, he is cast for ever into the lake of fire.
In Job and Zechariah, Satan appears among the sons of God and presents himself before God as the accuser of believers. But at Christ’s coming as Redeemer, it appears Satan falls from heaven, especially when Jesus dies, rises from the dead and ascends into heaven. When Jesus sits down at the right hand of the Father as our Advocate, Satan, the accusing adversary, may no longer appear before God against us but is cast out judicially (see Rom. 8:33-34). Though he maintains strong influence in the unseen spiritual realm and on earth, one day he will be cast into hell to be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev. 20:10).
Next: A loud voice in heaven — Rev. 12:10