Can wars take place before Almighty God?
Answer: It depends. We must tread very carefully.
Here are the verses in question:
Revelation 12:7-9: "And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, 8and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. 9And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."
Often, we tend to overlook the symbolism that we read in Scripture. This is common, and many of us tend to fall into that trap on occasion. The Books of Daniel and Ezekiel are filled with symbolism. The language being used in the Book of Revelation is often similarly so.
The picture that we have painted in our minds might be that Satan assembled all of his celestial cohorts against Michael and those who reside under the sovereign control of Almighty God in heaven. They were then subject to a battle in a realm of absolute holiness, perfection, and grandeur.
Does this not sound a bit odd? Should we not consider certain factors when interpreting this text? For example:
- How could an omnipotent God ever allow this to occur in His Presence?
- Is God's power so limited that He simply cannot restrain angelic servants? (Heb. 1:14).
- Does this not impugn God's omnipotence?
- If this happened once, could it not also happen when we enter paradise?
- Is "paradise" really the right word for heaven under such circumstances?
If these passages are literally describing a war in heaven, then much of what we know about God must be false. However, suppose we interpret these passages the way they were meant to be understood, symbolically, and not literally — at least, certainly not in "heaven".
Let us suppose the following for a moment:
- The one place we know that a spiritual battle really did take place God and the Devil was on earth. When was that?
- This occurred when Christ, as God, fought against the powers of darkness during His ministry.
- Christ's enemies were the Devil and "his angels" — the demons that Christ would continually confront and exorcize.
- Christ was aided by angels following His wilderness temptation and His encounters with Satan.
- Christ was aided by (at least) an angel in the Garden of Gethsemane.
- We know that Satan is "the dragon, the serpent of old" (Rev. 12:9).
- Christ's angels (disciples, apostles, (the 70)) preached and cast out demons - the Devil's angels.
- Instruments of Satan (Rome, Jews) humiliated, mocked, beat, tortured, and killed Christ.
- Christ's death on the Cross, however, was a victory: Satan "was not strong enough."
- Christ envisioned the Devil being cast from heaven (Lk. 10:18, Jn. 12:31) after His Sacrifice.
- And, Michael? We will discuss this shortly.
Here are the two passages mentioned in Point #10 above:
Luke 10:17-18: "The seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.' 18And He said to them, 'I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.'"
John 12:31: "Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out."
Armed with what we have considered, suppose we now try to paraphrase the verses in Revelation 12 using bracketed notation:
Revelation 12:7-9: “And there was war in heaven [a spiritual war between Christ and Satan on earth], Michael [Christ] and his angels [angels, disciples, cf. Luke 10:17, etc.] waging war with the dragon [casting out demons]. The dragon and his angels [demons, Rome, Jerusalem] waged war, and they were not strong enough [they were continually defeated, cast out], and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven [they had forever lost any chance of salvation. cf. Mk. 5:5].”
9”And the great dragon [Satan] was thrown down [Lk. 10:18, Satan was deprived of his authority over the death of saints], the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down [Christ also envisions his fall, Jn. 12:31] to the earth [cf. Job 1:6, 2:1ff., Satan "now walks to and fro on the earth"], and his angels were thrown down with him [condemned to Hades and the abyss, cf. Lk. 16:19ff., Matt. 25:41].”
All I have done is carefully follow the logic. Since Michael is the one being portrayed as defeating the "dragon" (Satan) in these verses, let us reflect for a moment on who this "angel" really is. It will be remembered that:
Jude vs. 9: "But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!"
Where else do read such a statement as, "The Lord rebuke you, Satan!"? Well, we find it in the Book of Zechariah:
Zechariah 3:2a: "The LORD said to Satan, 'The LORD rebuke you, Satan!'"
Let us ask ourselves this: What exactly is the "body of Moses"? Well, just as the "body of Christ" is the Church, the "body of Moses" was represented by the nation of Israel. That is, Israel was the embodiment of the Law of Moses.
Notice: What were the Lord and Satan arguing over? They were arguing over the high priest Joshua, the man who represented the nation of Israel before God. They were arguing over the body of Moses. Who was the One rebuking Satan? "The LORD." Who are we told Michael was arguing with in Jude vs. 9? Satan.
So, who is Michael based solely on this logic? The LORD (the Preincarnate Christ). What other evidence do we have? Well, perhaps this:
Deuteronomy 1:30: "The LORD your God, who goes before you, will fight for you"
Who are we told would fight for Israel in Daniel?:
Daniel 10:21b: "Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince."
We should immediately contrast the previous verse with this one:
Deuteronomy 3:22: "Do not be afraid of [your enemies, Israel], for the LORD your God Himself will fight for you.”
Cumulatively, as we add the evidence - and there is much to consider, it seems perfectly clear that Christ and Michael are One and the same Being.
In response to the OP, the only way a "war" could be fought against God was on earth. And that occurred during Jesus' ministry.
It is unfortunate that so many do not recognize the symbolism of the Book of Revelation, instead inserting literal ideas where the text is very symbolic. There is so much to learn from this treasured volume that often goes entirely unheeded. However, if we carefully deconstruct the passages in the Book properly, the results can be fascinating.