Satan’s fall.

Satan used to have access to heaven. Now it doesn’t.

Revelation 12

One of the popular myths about the devil is it used to an angel. Not just that it fakes being one. 2Co 11.14 Christians will teach it straight-up was one.

Even more: It was Lucifer, the greatest angel ever. The best and brightest and mightiest angel in the heavens. Head of the heavenly choir. Ruled over earth as God’s number two. The Holy Spirit’s vice-president, more or less.

Anybody else think someone’s been padding its résumé a little?

Pause a moment, go some basic digging through the bible, and you’re gonna find out it says nowhere that Satan used to be an angel. It may have angels, working for it. At one time it came and went before God, just like God’s mightier angels. But Satan’s species is never once identified.

Given Satan’s reputation as a liar, Jn 8.44 I’m mighty suspicious about any stories about its origin which attempt to make it look like it used to be kind of a big deal.

Or still is. During Jesus’s temptations, Satan identified itself as being the master of the world’s kingdoms, then offered them to Jesus. Lk 4.6 Various Christians take this statement at face value, but Jesus’s response was, “Oh, get out of here, Satan.” Mt 4.10 If the devil is indeed the ruler of this world (and I’m pretty sure Jesus meant sin rules the world, not Satan) Jn 12.31, 14.30 it’s only because the world’s true rulers, humanity, dropped our reins and Satan is now playing with them. Like a little kid who tugs on the steering wheel in a parked car.

Y’see, Satan fell. Jesus watched it fall. Lk 10.18 And about 40 years later, he presented John of Patmos with a vision of the time Satan got tossed from heaven. Whatever the devil used to be, whatever power it was granted, is now irrelevant: It fell. It’s not a heavenly being anymore. It was banished. It’s an earthly being, same as us.

Or worse than us: Every human has the potential to tap into God’s grace and become one of his kids. Jn 1.12 But in another of Jesus’s revelations to John, he also clued us in to the fact Satan’s never gonna repent, nor avail itself of God’s grace. It’s going into the fire. Rv 20.10

So if you imagine the devil’s a big deal, don’t. It’s a defeated foe. Even we have the power to get it to flee from us. Jm 4.7 Stop fearing it, and start resisting it.

The birth of Messiah.

In Jesus’s revelation to John, Satan’s fall actually begins with Jesus’s birth.

Too many people interpret Revelation as if all its events take place in chronological order. Obviously they don’t. ’Cause Revelation 12, the middle of the book, contains the birth of Jesus. Those guys who keep trying to turn Revelation into an End Times timeline tend to skip this bit—or insist it’s a flashback, the only one in the book. They do read it, ’cause they recognize it tells us a little about Satan. But they’re too wedded to their timelines and mythology to read what it actually says. Instead they read all their favorite End Times ideas into it, and try to make ’em fit.

Let’s read it for what it says, shall we? Starts like yea.

Revelation 12.1-6 KWL
1 A great sign was seen in the heavens: A woman who’d been clothed with the sun;
the moon under her feet; a wreath of 12 stars on her head.
2 Pregnant, in labor and the torment of childbirth, she cried out.
3 Another sign was seen in the heavens: Look, a great red dragon,
with seven heads and 10 horns; seven bands on its heads.
4 Its tail drags a third of the stars of heaven, and threw them to earth.
The dragon had stood before the woman in childbirth,
so once she birthed her child, it’d devour it.
5 She birthed a male son who’s about to shepherd every people with an iron staff.
Her child was snatched away to God, to his throne.
6 The woman fled to the wilderness.
She has a place there, prepared her by God: He can feed her from there for 1,260 days.

This is an apocalypse, a freaky vision where everything represents something else. And not all that precisely, because God only wants us to know general ideas, not specific details. So we can’t interpret this literally, no matter what “prophecy scholars” claim. We have to interpret it like one of Jesus’s parables.

Two figures we can identify with certainty. The red dragon with seven heads: John specifically identifies it as Satan. Rv 12.9 And the male son who shepherds the nations with an iron staff is Messiah: We know this from Messiah’s description in Psalm 2.8-9. We weren’t meant to miss it. Messiah, as we Christians know, is Jesus the Nazarene.

The woman is debatable. Lots of Christians automatically assume she’s Messiah’s literal mother, Mary the Nazarene. But the wreath of 12 stars Rv 12.1 implies she’s more than an ordinary woman—venerable as Mary might be. Lots of other Christians, myself included, figure the woman represents Israel, God’s (and Messiah’s) people. I should point out Revelation makes no distinction between Israel and Christendom: Again, regardless of what “prophecy scholars” claim, God’s people are assumed to all be one people. Even though Christendom is nowadays full of gentiles, and not yet every Jew recognizes Jesus as their Messiah.

Well anyway. Let’s dissect the dragon: It seven heads are wide open to interpretation, ’cause eptá/“seven” has no consistent allegory in John’s visions: Both good and bad things come in sevens. Numerologists insist seven means something is complete, like a week. They’ll claim déka/“ten” also means completeness, and read that into the dragon’s 10 horns, but its horns are meant to remind us of the 10-horned beast of Daniel’s visions. Da 7.7-8 The dragon’s seven diadímata/“diadems,” or bands, are reminiscent of what middle eastern kings wore to indicate their authority. So it’s a ruler—or imagines itself one, and crowned itself.

Its tail dragged a third of the stars. Since stars elsewhere in Revelation meant angels, Rv 1.20 Christians historically interpret this to mean the devil commanded a third of the heavenly angels. But note what John actually described: The dragon threw them down, Rv 12.4 indicating these stars were the dragon’s opponents, not allies. Possibly in its original role as accuser Zc 3.1 Satan convinced God to expel them, or possibly during its heavenly war the devil somehow defeated them. The devil did have angels on its side, Rv 12.9 but these aren’t them.

I remind you: The dragon/Satan is never called an angel. Nor a former angel. Not here, nor elsewhere in the bible. It appears as an angel, but as a trick. 2Co 11.14 It wants us to think it a former angel—a really pretty one, too—but that’s to gain our sympathy, make us confuse its outward beauty for inner beauty and take it less seriously, or give it more respect than we ought. Before it fell, the dragon was a dragon. Not necessarily an evil dragon, but as far as we can tell, it was always a dragon.

The dragon knew Messiah was coming, and wasn’t at all pleased about it. In this vision it tried to devour him, like Kronos devoured his children in Greek mythology. In real life the devil had Messiah executed—but Jesus didn’t stay dead. “Snatched away to God, to his throne,” Rv 12.5 Messiah was raptured to heaven, from whence he “feeds” Israel/Christendom.

Messiah feeds Israel for “1,280 days” Rv 12.6 or “a moment, [two] moments, and half a moment,” Rv 12.14 both of which sound like they mean 3½ years. Half a sabbath-year cycle. What that means we don’t know, but Darbyists insist it’s to be taken literally. I know, I just said we’re not to do that, but that’s how Darbyists roll: Seven years tribulation, and half that time with Christians in hiding as the Beast tries to destroy them. But what they don’t take into account is the massive time gap between Jesus’s ascension and the End Times—you know, the Christian Era, the church age, which we’re in right now. Which is most likely what the 1,280 days actually represent. (And seeing as the Christian Era has lasted 1,984 years and counting, don’t assume the days stand for years.)

The war and the fall.

Messiah’s birth triggered this war:

Revelation 12.7-9 KWL
7 War came to the heavens: Michael and its angels battling the dragon;
the dragon and its angels battling back, 8 and failing.
No place was found for them anymore in the heavens.
9 The great dragon was thrown out, the primeval serpent which is called devil and Satan.
The deceiver of all civilization was thrown to earth,
and its angels were thrown out with it.

Okay. Remember the Eden story in Genesis, when the serpent tempted Adam and Eve? Ge 3.1-7 If that serpent was Satan, Rv 12.9 shouldn’t it’ve fallen before it went to Eden to wreck humanity? Hence Christian myths depict Satan’s fall at the beginning of time. Supposedly Satan, then a great angel, was jealous of the humans ’cause we were God’s new favorites. In these myths God doesn’t have enough love to give to both humans and angels; and angels somehow lack God’s attitude of serving instead of being served. Mk 10.45 (When God’s character is deficient, it’s how you know it’s fiction.)

Other myths imagine Satan rebelled against God for other reasons, and after it lost and fell, ruined humanity just to stick it to God. Really, that sounds more in character.

Thing is, we don’t know when the war took place. But there’s every implication it didn’t happen at the beginning of time. You might remember Satan appeared before God various times in its role as accuser—and did so after Eden. (Remember Job?) If Satan had already been tossed from heaven, what’s it doing back so soon? Why’s there still a place for it in God’s presence?

’Cause after this war ended, there was no such place. Rv 12.8 Whether that’s because Satan lost the war, or because Jesus’s self-sacrifice meant God didn’t need a designated accuser anymore, I leave up to you. (I’d say it’s a little of both.) Christ came to destroy the devil’s works, 1Jn 3.8 and Satan likely recognized this, didn’t want its purpose eliminated, and revolted. Should’ve rejoiced that it wasn’t needed anymore, but it couldn’t get beyond its single-minded idea that we humans aren’t all that. If you recall, that was its entire complaint about Job. Jb 1.9-11 But rather than just point to our sins as evidence—which should be plenty enough—Satan goes overboard and engages in entrapment.

Well with Satan no longer in heaven, God no longer heeding its accusations, we have reason to rejoice. And the devil has a reason to fret.

Turned loose upon the earth.

Revelation 12.10-12 KWL
10 I heard a great voice in the heavens saying, Now comes salvation,
power, our God’s kingdom, his Messiah’s authority—
because our sisters and brothers’ accuser was thrown out,
who accused them before our God day and night.
11 They conquered it through the Lamb’s blood, and the message of their testimony:
They didn’t love their lives to death.
12 For this reason, rejoice, heavens, and those who live in it!
How sad for the earth and sea, for the devil came down to you with great passion—
having known it has a brief moment.”

The great voice in the heavens could be an angel, but I’m figuring it’s Jesus. This is after all his revelation to John. Rv 1.1

People assume it’s an angel because the voice refers to Christians as “our sisters and brothers.” Rv 12.10 Christians balk a little at the idea of Jesus calling us that… even though he totally calls us that. Mk 3.35 But if it is an angel, this angel calls Christians its sisters and brothers—and in so doing, rebuts the Christian myth which claims angels are our superiors. He 2.7 Plus the other Christian myth which claims we’re their superiors, because someday we get to judge ’em. 1Co 6.3 Those who fixate on power, or worship it, wanna arrange humans and angels and God into all sorts of intricate hierarchies. The reality is humans and angels are functionally on the same level. Rv 19.10, 22.9 We all work for God; we all serve him and one another.

Anyway, you can see Satan was tossed out of heaven after it’d been accusing God’s followers day and night. Rv 12.10 Not before. This fall didn’t happen at the beginning of history. More like the middle, during Jesus’s first coming.

Arguably it happened round the time Jesus said he saw—present tense etheórun/“I’m watching”—Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Lk 10.18 Could be a point in time; could be a continuous action. Happening when Jesus saw it round the year 31; happening when John had this revelation. Revelation’s timeframes are so ambiguous, we could place it anywhere before or within the church age. Some Christians talk about the devil’s fall as if it’s happening now, currently, by virtue of Jesus and his present-day followers, plus Michael and its angels. The more we Christians resist Satan’s wiles, the more it falls.

And the more it resists. Like the voice from heaven pointed out, Satan knows its time is short. ’Cause it’s here, on the earth, and can’t go back to heaven to keep battling us from that vantage point. It’s gonna battle us from here. It’s gonna ramp up its attack on God’s followers. Like so:

Revelation 12.13-17 KWL
13 When the dragon saw it was thrown to earth, it chased the woman who’d birthed the male.
14 Two wings of a great eagle were given to the woman.
Thus she could fly to the wilderness from the face of the serpent,
to her place where she’d be fed there a moment, moments, and half a moment.
15 The serpent threw water out of its mouth after the woman,
like a river, so she’d be swept away.
16 The earth helped the woman: The earth opened its mouth
and swallowed the river which the dragon threw from its mouth.
17 Angry about the woman, the dragon went away to make war against the rest of her seed—
those who keep God’s commands and have Jesus’s testimony.
It stood on the sand of the sea.

Darbyists claim this describes the last half of the great tribulation. The most popular theory among them is “the woman” represents Israel—the Jews who didn’t go to heaven in the rapture, but stayed on earth and became Christian, and the Beast will try to smite ’em partly because of their Christianity, and partly because it’s a rabid antisemite. But for 3½ years God’ll protect them in the desert under a heavenly force field, feed them manna, and they’ll ride it out. The Beast, frustrated, will go after any other Christians in the world. There; now you don’t have to buy any Left Behind novels.

I’m not Darbyist, so of course I don’t project all of Revelation into the future. These visions largely took place in the past. Some of ’em happen again, ’cause history repeats itself. We can see some of ’em happen multiple times in history. But Satan getting pitched to earth is likely a one-time thing.

I also struggle with the idea the woman only represents Israel. ’Cause Israel has absolutely not been kept safe and defended these past 20 centuries. The persecutions, pogroms, holocausts, and other attempts to wipe out the Jews haven’t been successful, but they’ve certainly made the Jews suffer horribly. Often, sadly, through Christian efforts.

So this vision must represent a briefer time period. Like the early Roman persecutions against Christians—which didn’t apply to Jews. The “moment, moments, and half a moment” therefore isn’t a clue about how long Christian tribulation would last before Jesus put a stop to it: It’s a clue about how long Israel would be left alone till the Romans started going after them too.

But ever since, Christians and Jews—and all humanity along with us—have had to fight Satan. ’Cause its time is short. It doesn’t know how long it has before Jesus invades. Neither do we. But for the time Satan does have, it’ll keep trying to make us think it’s mightier, more important, more formidable, than it really is. The less we see it as a defeated foe, the more chance it has.

But it really has no hope. So don’t give it any. Believe the scriptures. Not the myths.