Old Testament images fill the book of Revelation. For example, the woman in Revelation 12 recalls Old Testament depictions of Israel (Gen. 37:9; Isa. 54:1; Mic. 4:9–10). But these images do not necessarily appear to the exclusion of other images taken from the pagan culture of John’s day. For instance, some pagan myths also involved a woman giving birth to a god or an emperor who defeated a dragon. That the woman gives birth to Jesus in Revelation is a powerful message for first-century pagans—the great God or emperor whom you seek is actually Jesus, who was crucified and rose again from the dead. All others are merely pretenders.
We have seen that the vision in Revelation 12 explains the spiritual realities behind the suffering of God’s people. First, Satan attempted to destroy the male child—Jesus the Messiah—but He conquered death and ascended to heaven, where He is reigning at God’s right hand (vv. 1–5). We will see that Satan’s failure to defeat Christ has led him to pursue the woman—God’s faithful people—instead (v. 13). Before we look at that, however, we must consider today’s passage.
Revelation 12:7–9 describes a battle in heaven between Michael, the archangel, and his angels against the dragon, Satan, and his angels. Satan loses this battle, and he and his angels are thrown down to earth (see also Dan. 10). This battle parallels the devil’s failure to destroy Jesus, giving us a picture of what happened as a result of our Lord’s person and work. In sum, Satan suffered a decisive defeat. He was cast out of heaven, where he once accused God’s people (Job 1–2). To put it another way, the atonement of Jesus has rendered forever void Satan’s accusations that we should be punished eternally for our sin, for now we are clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ and reckoned as saints (2 Cor. 5:21).
The call to praise found in Revelation 12:10–12 confirms this. Christ has dealt the death blow to Satan, and though he continues to fight against Christ’s people, we overcome him by the blood of the Lamb (the work of Christ) and our testimony (the gospel of God that saves us). This overcoming occurs as we cling to Jesus, not renouncing Him when we are persecuted. Therefore, may what Matthew Henry says about the saints in today’s passage be true of us as well: “When the love of life stood in competition with their loyalty to Christ; they loved not their lives so well but they could give them up to death, could lay them down in Christ’s cause.”