Before resuming the story of the dragon and the woman (v. 13), John hears a loud voice in heaven reflecting on the significance of the dragon's fall (vv. 10-12). The event invites comparison with stars that fell to earth in two earlier scenes: the star called "Wormwood" in connection with the third trumpet (8:10-11) and the star with the key to the Abyss in connection with the fifth (9:1). The first star poisoned rivers and springs of water, and the second brought severe injury and pain on the earth's inhabitants. Similarly, the dragon's expulsion from heaven means woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short (v. 12).
Yet the differences outweigh the similarities. The announcement by the heavenly voice has the form of a song or hymn, and it is a hymn of joy more than of woe. The dragon's fall means that now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ (v. 10). The echo of the seventh trumpet (see 11:15) assures the reader that the outcome of the conflict on earth is not in doubt, even before it begins. This conflict will end as the war in heaven ended—with the defeat of the dragon and his cohorts. More specifically, Satan's fall from heaven means that his traditional role as accuser of the people of God is at an end, for he has no more access to God in heaven (v. 10). The perspective is much the same as Paul's in his letter to the Romans (Rom 8:33-34, 38):
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
No longer the accuser of God's people, Satan assumes the role of deceiver of the world and of the nations (v. 9). But the voice in heaven makes clear from the start that God's people will not fall victim to his deceit. The voice shifts momentarily out of the time frame of John's vision to reveal in advance the outcome of the impending conflict: They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death (v. 11; compare Paul's "more than conquerors" in Rom 8:37).
In this pronouncement the "overcomers" of chapters 2-3 are identified as Christian martyrs. Their victory over the dragon comes not by physical prowess, nor even by purity or good works, but solely by their willingness to face martyrdom for Jesus Christ. They will be victorious in exactly the same way in which Jesus the Lamb was victorious—through their deaths.
The optimistic tone of verses 10-11 is maintained even in verse 12, with its mixture of joy and woe. The joy is the joy of angels in heaven over their defeat of the dragon (see vv. 7-9) and over the saints' victory on earth. The woe of verse 12 echoes the "third woe" announced just before the seventh trumpet (11:14), but is tempered by the assurance that the dragon's time is short to torment the earth and its inhabitants. The "short time" corresponds to the "1,260 days," or three and a half years, of the woman's flight to the desert (v. 6; see note on 11:2, 3). Whenever this time period is mentioned in the book of Revelation, the accent is on the shortness of the time (not seven, but half of seven), in the spirit of Jesus' promise about shortening the days of trouble "for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen" (Mk 13:20; compare Mt 24:22).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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