Satan Becomes a “Sign”
The first sign in the heavens was of a pure woman, representing holiness, harmony and beauty of God’s last church. It was a sign of assured victory for the last-day people of God when the great controversy intensifies as it draws to a close. It was a visual symbol of the “church triumphant” that will soon enter eternity.
A second heavenly sign appeared to John – a dragon. This unfurls what Satan’s “victory” will be like just before redemptive history closes. He has the power of ten horns, seven crowned heads – all earthly – all temporal! He is the ultimate antagonist to the woman and, in turn, Christ.
“And there appeared another wonder in heaven” (vs 3)
Contextually, the word “another” is compared to the “woman” that John just saw in the heavens as the “great sign.” “Wonder” is semeion (G), meaning a sign, a notice, even anticipating action.
“behold a great red dragon,” (vs 3)
“Behold” (idou – G) is used often by John. He is drawing us into the vision he is experiencing. It is like our saying to someone: “Look” – and then pointing to something specific. “Look up there (catching his breath) – a great red dragon.” The word “great” suggests that he is either huge in size and/or extremely powerful. This is just how the devil impacts mankind – as an overwhelming power or force. Yet, he is mainly perceived through his minions on earth!
In the New Testament the word “dragon” (drakon – G) appears only in Revelation. It is identified as the serpent/devil (verse 9). Therefore, it has a tie to the serpent of Genesis 3:15 and the leviathan (Psalm 74:13-14; cf. Romans 16:20). From that very early chapter in Genesis the serpent embodied evil, who presented disobedience to God as a virtue. It was Scripture’s first prophecy that the woman and Satan will battle. She was destined to prevail. Here begins the story of how that Genesis prophecy is to be fulfilled.
There is nothing “nice” about a Biblical “dragon.” Babylon’s king was compared to a devouring dragon (Jeremiah 51:34). That association was negatively alluded to by John in his final warning: “And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird” (Revelation 18:2). The harlot, end-time apostate church is called Babylon (17:5).
The Revelation 17 beast was depicted as scarlet (kokkinon – G), the color of sin (Isaiah 1:18), which contrasts with the word “whiteness” – of the righteous purity of the saints (7:14; 19:11, 14). This dragon is “red” (pyros – G). Most lexicons see this as “fiery red,” with broad applications, especially destructive. In Revelation the first use of pyros as a “color” was in the second seal – a “red” horse. Its rider, Satan, was given power to take peace from the earth and kill. Intriguingly, that harlot, which rides a Revelation 17 beast, is given its power by the dragon (13:2) and is “drunk with the blood of the saints” (17:6, 18:24).
Pyros represents chaos on earth, persecution, hatred of God’s people and the shedding of the blood of those saints (16:6, 17:6, 18:24). Jesus even called Satan a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Fortunately, however, the devil can only persecute within divinely defined limits at the conclusion of history (11:2; 12:6, 14; 13:5).
“The dragon performs his oppressive will against the church and world through his kingly representatives on earth.” This is depicted by his horns, heads and crowns!
“having seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems upon his head” (vs 3 – NKJV)
At the end, the dragon (that was cast out of heaven) has control of:
- The sea beast with seven heads, ten horns and crowns – Revelation 13:2
- Evil spirits that work through the beast and false prophet, influencing earth’s wicked kings and the whole world – Revelation 16:13-14
- The harlot Babylon, riding on a scarlet colored beast with seven heads and ten horns – Revelation 18:2
The meaning of the “dragon sign” would be impossible to understand if it weren’t for the associations noted above and the Danelic prophecies (especially Daniel 7-8) that relate to the end of time.
Aune also “inescapably” concludes that the heads with diadems symbolize rulers, affirming them as “king” leaders. They were the popes noted above.
- In an end-time application (Daniel 7:24), the ten horns follow the beast narrative. The same is observed in Revelation 17:11. There, they represent eschatologically the ten regions that the world has been divided into (cf. Revelation 17:11-13) (initially without crowns); then on the beast of Revelation 13:1-2 with its horns crowned. That is the New World Order, the ten regions the world was divided into in 1973 by the Club of Rome.
- The crowns or diadems are those unique ten world powers (Revelation 13:1) that have now become that Order, giving unique authority to the beast, concomitantly with the dragon.
“These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast” (Revelation 17:13). In turn, Satan is using them in his final savagery against those without his “mark.”
Those ten horns “belong to the last of these empires with the acquisition of diadems at 13:1 indicating the pre-eminence of ten kingdoms during the last three and one half years just before Christ’s return.” “They point “to the kingdoms of the world in the last days, when Satan will make his final attempt [through them] to destroy Christ’s followers.”
Satan’s power is exercised through these ten regions located on the papal beast at the end, fulfilling the vain claim he gave Christ on the top of the mountain (Matthew 4:8-9), that he owned the world.
- The close association between this dragon (the devil) and the other beasts in Daniel and Revelation, once again, shows he “performs his oppressive will against the earth through his representatives.”
- The dragon then gives power, his seat and great authority to the sea beast (Revelation 13:2, 4). It partners with that beast (the papacy) and, in turn, the false prophet (apostate Protestantism in the United States), out of whose mouths (all three) sprang three “unclean spirits … of devils” that go forth to the kings of the earth and to all of the world’s inhabitants (Revelation 16:13-14). There is a distinct separation of “beings” – but they function as a coalition until Revelation 16:19, when they are terminally divided into three – that coalition is also called “Babylon.”
Satan is called the “prince of this world” (John 12:31) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). Those earthly agents are executives of his will.
As with the “woman sign,” Satan’s “sign” ends with one verse (3). The imagery portrays how he is represented in the last half of Revelation and especially in the final three to four years of earth’s history.
God has important information He wants to associate with Satan. A sweeping history of how he “journeyed to arrive” at that end is now given. They make pristine clear that it is Satan – the devil himself, who is this dragon! This now is how that “story” unfolds:
“And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth:” (vs 4)
A tail was previously described on the fifth trumpet creatures as scorpion-like (9:7, 10). There, as an appendage of a locust/scorpion-like creature, it meant that its painful work was in the back/rear, hidden or disguised. That symbolized its ability to powerfully deceive and ultimately harm mankind. A similar picture is here characterized with the dragon. Through deception, a third of the “stars” of heaven were swept into his ranks. This evil role is portrayed through the rest of the book (13:13-14, 18:13-16, 20:7-10). The Greek word for “drew” is suro. It means to “drag by force.” “Drawing a third of the stars” pictures the power of this deceptive force. This “dragging” always denoting a negative outcome.
In this apocalypse, wherever stars are referred to, they appear to represent either leaders of God’s church (1:16, 20; 2:1; 3:1) or heavenly angels (9:1, 22:16). Since they are cast to the earth, the imagery portrays angels who fell with Lucifer/Satan, thus depicting the original war in heaven. This describes his stunning power and mendacity!
Verse 7 fills in more details about his “casting to earth.” Contextually, it is not clear who cast them down to planet earth – but elsewhere we are told:
- “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” (II Peter 2:4).
- “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).
“Casting down” has judicial connotations – technically, God “excommunicating them.”
This drama apparently antedates the fall of Adam and Eve.
- “In [Revelation] 9:1 a star falling from heaven represents the angel of the abyss, the devil (9:11; cf. Lk 10:18). Elsewhere in the Scriptures angels are represented by stars (Judg 5:20; Job 38:7) and fallen angels by fallen stars, especially the devil (Is 14:12).”
- The abyss, or hell, can best be understood as a place of containment. God has forever control over it. But – they will be released from that “prison” for five months under the fifth trumpet (9:1-12).
The last half of verse 4 is discussed under the woman sign in chapter 2.
The dragon imagery is first against the host of heaven (war in heaven, then against the woman and her child (war on earth). Now the details of that “fall” are amplified:
A Celestial War
- Michael with his angels are contrasted with the
- Dragon and his angels
“And there was war in heaven: (vs 7)
This war (polemos) means a conflict where someone wins – gets the upper hand. The picture echoes the battle that Gabriel had with the prince of Persia (likely Satan). Michael came to Gabriel’s rescue after a twenty-one-day ordeal (Daniel 10:13). Later, God informed Daniel that “Michael” was “your prince” (Daniel 10:21).
- Though beyond the scope of this study, Michael is the Messiah, described as “Messiah the Prince” in Daniel 9:25 and “Michael the great prince” in 12:1, who is the Deliverer. “For … [additional] meaning of Michael, compare the following passages. Dan. 12:1, 2; Jn. 5:28, 29; 1 Thess. 4:16; Jude 9.”
- Michael is closely associated with the Son of man in Daniel.
- “Lucifer seemed unwilling to occupy a place under the Most High. Rather, he wished to be like the Most High (Isaiah 14:14). The discontent ultimately became an open war that led to the expulsion of Satan and those who sided with him. ‘His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky’ (Rev. 12:4).”
- In the Greek it means that “Michael and his angels had to make war.” It was in response to what Satan had instigated.
“Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his
angels,” (vs 7)
In extra-Biblical literature Michael defeats Satan and his allies in the end time. Jesus noted in Luke 10:18 that He “saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (past tense), likely referring to this war in heaven that He prevailed in.
- Again, this war was likely a primordial event, anticipating the time of Creation.
- This is part of the language of Isaiah 14:12: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”
There will be other wars between Christ and Satan. This is the primeval encounter. At the eschaton, the final battle and divine victory occur (chapters 17–20). “The conception of Michael ‘and his angels’ has a parallel in the coming of the Son of Man ‘with his angels’ (Matthew 16:27; cf. 24:31, Mark 8:38).”
In spite of this “fall” or “casting out of heaven,” Satan is depicted as still having access to heaven (Job 1:6-9, 2:1-6; Zechariah 3:1) – for a period of time.
- Evidence weighs heavily for Satan’s ability to be an “accuser of the brethren” until the Cross (Revelation 12:10). This will be analyzed more deeply within that verse.
- Expositor White had some sensitivity regarding this:
“Christ bowed His head and died, but He held fast His faith and His submission to God. ‘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.’ Revelation 12:10.
When Christ cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30), a verdict against Satan and his kingdom was pronounced. Michael not only prevailed in that war in heaven, but Satan’s eternal doom was sealed at the Cross. Later, it is affirmed that the blood of Christ (Revelation 12:11) gave the overcomers victory.
The outcome of that celestial war?
“And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.” (vs 8)
These phrases have an absolute sense of victory. Satan and his angels no longer have the right to be part of that celestial realm.
- The phrase “place found in heaven” is where the conflict arose.
- Many conclude that this now alludes to the Cross, when Satan was excluded from the counsels of heaven (Job 1:6, Zechariah 3:1).
A similar phrase occurs in Revelation 20:11, which alludes to Daniel 2:35, where a stone destroying Nebuchadnezzar’s image, referencing all its “kingdoms” as “no place can be found for them.” The sense is given, once again, of the certain doom of Satan and all his earthly rules.
“And the great dragon was cast out, … he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (vs 9a, c)
In verse 4 it was seen that the dragon and his host/angels were cast out of heaven or excommunicated. The casting here uses the same root word (ballo – G) – violently displaced.”
- This continues the details of that war and casting. Here, it is likely at the Cross where he no longer could be an accuser.
- The angels – noted especially – became confined to this world: “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).
- “Allusions to this fall are found in Isa. 14:12 (How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, sun of the dawn.”) and I Tim. 3:6. Christ saw that His own crucifixion would lay the foundation for the final “casting down” (John 12:31) – a judicial act. At the end he will enter the abyss for a thousand years (20:1-3) and finally be cast into a lake of fire” (20:10).
“that old serpent, … which deceiveth the whole world:” (vs 9b)
It is here that the “dragon sign” is clearly identified as the “ancient serpent.”
- It was first identified as deceiving Eve (Genesis 3:1-15; cf. II Corinthians 11:3).
- The serpent’s traits were exhibited in the Garden of Eden – even slandering the character of God (Genesis 3:4-5).
- In Genesis 3:1, 14, the “serpent” was called “more crafty than any of the wild animals.” That predominant characteristic (cleverness in deception) is a signal description of
- That “spirit” and “quest” was incompatible with the heavenly environment. It had to be expelled. The restriction was apparently limited at first (Job 1:6-12), but now becomes complete (see next verse).
“He is the master of deception with an uncanny ability to mislead people. It is his chief aim and occupation. He tricked Judas into betraying Jesus (John 13:2) and tried to undercut the faith of Peter (Luke 22:31) (Mounce). His cunning in luring people to ruin (cf. 2 Cor. 2:11; 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14; 2 John 7; Rev. 2:20; 13:14; 18:23; 19:20; 20:3, 8, 10) combines with his adversarial role in accusing them once they have fallen (Moffatt, Beckwith, Johnson). The objects of his deception are ‘the whole earth,’ the term … (oikoumemē) rather than … (gē, ‘the earth’) being chosen as more specifically depicting earth’s inhabitants and the political structure which characterizes their society.”
“Satan and his evil forces are often seen as deceiving both believers (… the saints in Matt. 6:13; 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:3 [Eve]) and unbelievers (Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 3:12-18; 4:4). His deceptive work is expressed through such pictures as temptation (1 Cor. 7:5; 1 Thess. 3:5), guile (Eph. 6:11), and even disguising himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). It is hardly an exaggeration to state that the primary method Satan uses to disrupt the plan of God is deceit.”
John now pointedly identifies the dragon:
“called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (vs 9b)
The word “devil” comes from the Greek word diaballo, which means, “I defame, slander or
accuse falsely.” In Hebrew he is alluded to as a “superhuman adversary.”
Satan, the devil, is annotated in the Bible in various ways:
- Adversary – accuser:
II Corinthians 4:4 – god of this age
Acts 26:18, Colossians 1:13 – potentate over wicked
Revelation 20:3, 8, 10 – deceiver of whole world (cf. I Corinthians 7:5, Ephesians 6:11, II Corinthians 11:14)
I Peter 5:8 – destroyer
John 8:44 – murderer
The object of Satan’s deception is aimed at every person on planet earth. Deception is his “chief aim and occupation.” Subjects of this deception who lead others astray are frequently noted in Revelation, such as Jezebel (representing the antichrist) (2:20), the land beast (representing apostate Protestantism) (13:14), also called the false prophet (19:20) and Babylon the harlot (Revelation 17:5; 18:7-8, 23).
While Satan is “god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:4) and the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), his doom is certain. His accusations as an “accuser” are now labeled slanderous or false. Satan accurately portrayed Joshua as in filthy clothes (Zechariah 3:1-10). He correctly identifies sin! But he is devoid of any sympathy for the grace extended to the sinner who has faith in Christ. Christ nullifies his accusations.
The four aliases for the being who used to be Lucifer, the light bearer, are repeated in Revelation 20:2, where he is chained to planet earth as its prisoner, echoing its approaching end from Isaiah 27:1.
Later, this chapter fast forwards to the time of Satan’s last opportunity to exercise his fiendish hatred (vss 12-17).
“And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven,” (vs 10)
The unidentified voice comes from the precincts of Lucifer’s (Satan’s) previous “home.”
- Osborne notes that it “probably comes from the heavenly court surrounding the throne of God.”
- That would be seen coming from the twenty-four redeemed elders (Revelation 11:16; cf. 4:10, 5:8, 19:4) who sit around the throne.
This voice comes as a result of what happened to the serpent with the inauguration of Christ’s kingdom at the Cross. Those saints in heaven have now an affirmed place in that eternal “abode.” The hymn that follows states “our God” and “our brothers” – thus, identifying them as the redeemed. Because of the Greek word adelphon, the NET and NIV translate this as “our brothers and sisters.”
“Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ:” (vs 10)
In the previous chapter there were great voices from heaven, which cried: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for
ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15b). There, the kingdom is consummated (cf. 19:1).
Jesus alluded to that time when drawing our attention to key events in His apocalyptic discourse: “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (Luke 21:31) (when it is consummated).
The picture here of “now is come salvation” (verse 10; cf. 7:10, 12:10, 19:1) focuses on the victory of the Cross, inaugurating that kingdom! “It was Christ’s death on the cross that struck Satan’s death knell.”
The “strength,” “kingdom” and “power of Christ” reveal the inaugurated authority of Christ. The sovereign rule of Christ has commenced. The fetters of the tomb have been broken.
This introductory phrase of praise announces three things:
- The arrival of salvation. The Greek word he•soteria (salvation) is used three times in Revelation (7:10, 12:10, 19:1). Each follows some message of deliverance/rescue, based on a “victory.”
- The arrival of a power that defeated Satan – the power of Christ.
- The arrival of God’s kingdom. This interprets the effect of Christ’s resurrection. The “now” emphasizes its beginning.
The kingdom and its benefits are “present realities.” Its completeness emphasizes that Christ can now fully exonerate His followers through the faith they have in Him.
“Just as Satan and his hosts fell at the beginning of the first creation (so Isa. 14:11-16; Ezek. 28:12-19 [?]; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6….), so he had to fall at the start of the second, new creation.”
“for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night” (vs 10)
“The casting down of Satan as an accuser of the brethren in Heaven was accomplished by the great work of Christ in giving up his life.” Man could now be redeemed – bought back. The basis of his accusations was ripped away. A sinner could be saved!
“The victory gained at His death on Calvary broke forever the accusing power of Satan over the universe, and silenced his charges that self-denial was impossible with God and therefore not essential in the human family (MS 50, 1900).”
Jesus nullified Satan’s power. Because of this, Paul could say: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1).
- The salvation of Jesus’ followers is secure.
- This showcases what Jesus said: “Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:11).
The finished work of Christ at the Cross provided legal permission for this casting. The “courtyard” experience is complete. God’s people can now move through the final sanctuary steps!
- The accused can now accuse the accuser.
- “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth” (Romans 8:33).
Satan’s casting down was judicial – another phase in his containment - even “punishment” (Matthew 3:10, 5:29, 13:42; Revelation 2:10). This is an expulsion from the heavenly community (Matthew 13:48, John 15:6). Confined to earth, he prepares for the final struggle to "harvest" his followers and aggrieve the friend of Christ.
Franklin S. Fowler, Jr., M.D.
Prophecy Research Initiative – non-profit 501(c)3 © 2016
EndTime Issues…, Number 190, June 2, 2016
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