“And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth.”
When it comes to angelology — or the doctrine of angels — I dare say most believers have little to no foundation. I remember in my seminary days spending all of one-half of one lecture on angelology. Unfortunately, the study of angels and spiritual beings has been ignored, and consequently, many misperceptions and incorrect teachings have settled in the church.
For example, if I were to ask someone in the church how many angels followed Lucifer in his rebellion and when it took place, most would answer that Satan persuaded 1/3 of the angels to follow him sometime before the fall of man in the garden. But would you be surprised to know that there is no teaching in the Bible that suggests such a thing?
First of all, the only clear passage that describes the great red Dragon [Satan] sweeping his tail and casting 1/3 of the angels to the earth is found in Revelation — at the very end of the Bible — not the beginning. Nothing in the text of Revelation 12 suggests these angels were cast to earth prior to the Garden temptation in Genesis 3. At the earliest, one possibly could make the case that this angelic fall took place around the time of Jesus’s birth [Revelation 12:1-4], but I believe a more responsible interpretation of Revelation 12 is to read it as a future event that will take place at the time of the end.
Secondly, most assume that because Satan will sweep 1/3 of the angels down to the earth, it must be talking about a rebellion of angelic defectors who willfully follow the devil. These rebel angels would be what most people understand to be demons, but again, you may be surprised to find out the Bible reveals something quite different.
Harmonizing REvelation 12 with Daniel 8
One of the benefits of studying the Old Testament, and specifically the prophets, is that the prophetic word reveals so much about the last days. As I was reading Daniel 8 this week and studying the profile of the “little horn,” or the Antichrist, I came across a passage that immediately caught my attention and cast my thoughts to Revelation 12. The language and imagery used in Daniel 8:9-14 is almost identical to the scene in Revelation 12. Knowing that both books of Daniel and Revelation are Apocalyptic literature and dealing with the last days, I knew these passages were most likely connected.
It became apparent with a little study that Daniel 8 and Revelation 12 are parallel passages, so let’s take a moment here to compare.
“Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper.”
“And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
7Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
It is hard to deny that Daniel 8:10 and Revelation 12:4 describe the same event. In both passages, some of the stars or “host” of heaven — aka angelic beings — are cast down to the earth by Satan, or the little horn. But what caught my attention in Daniel 8:10 is when it says, “And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them.” Daniel’s description clearly suggest that the little horn, who is given authority by Satan (the Dragon) throws down a host of angels and “tramples on them.” But why would Satan trample down his own army of angels? That would be quite counterproductive to say the least. The best explanation is that perhaps these stars (angels) cast to the earth are not the bad guys willingly following Satan, but rather the good guys following Michael the archangel.
Michael the Prince
For the first time I began to consider the possibility that John’s vision in Revelation 12 was depicting the point in the future when the invisible, heavenly war is literally brought down to earth. According to the text, Satan “swept” 1/3 of the angels with his tail. This language implies that these angels were swept down unwillingly or forcefully.
When you harmonize this with Daniel 8, it makes perfect sense. In all likelihood, Daniel’s reference to the “Prince of the host” is speaking of Michael the Archangel [see Daniel 10:12-14, 12:1]. When one harmonizes all these parallels, it begins to paint a much different picture than the traditional view.
As Michael and his angels make war in heaven against Satan and his angels, the forces of good prevail, and Satan is cast down to the earth — but not without a cost. It appears that as the devil and his angels are being cast to the earth, Satan delivers one fleeting blow to the good angels and is able to bring 1/3 of them down with him to the earth. More so, the text implies that as this heavenly war comes to the earth, God’s angels will be trampled under the Antichrist and the Dragon. Although I’ve never heard this teaching before, I believe this is precisely what the Scriptures are saying.
I don’t claim to have this all figured out, but I am confident that the traditional view of Satan bringing 1/3 of the angels down with him at the beginning of creation doesn’t have Biblical support. Not only is this event still future, but also it is referring to the Dragon bringing the heavenly war down to the earth when he is cast out of heaven. He sweeps his tail at the last moment and brings 1/3 of Michael’s angels down with him to trample them for a season. To say that the spiritual battle will reach it’s climax at this point is an understatement.
I realize that we can only develop our understanding of the spiritual realm by what has been revealed in the Bible. And if there is one reality that God is showing me, it is this. As everything plays out in real time, in both the physical and spiritual realms, the battle is ever intensifying and the losses are real. This is a call for God’s people to endure. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus, come.