18
Jan
10

War in Heaven

The war in heaven.  Always a hot topic among the saints because our ideas about the pre-existence feature a conflict between, depending on what you’re reading, Satan and God, Satan and Jesus, or Satan and Micheal.  It is this latter conflict that I want to look at today.  The biblical proof-text is this passage from Revelation:

Revelation 12:7-9  7 And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back,  8 but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  9 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.

The unsettling thing about the LDS use of this as a proof-text for a pre-mortal war in heaven is that in its current literary context it doesn’t have anything to do with the pre-existence.  Consider the verses that precede it:

Revelation 12:1-6  A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.  3 Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.  4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born.  5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.

If we chose to read the rapture of the man-child into heaven as the exaltation of Christ, which is quite common among Christians, then the war in heaven described in vv. 7-12 takes place after the resurrection of Christ.  This means that Satan’s exile to the earth is the proximate cause of the persecution of Christians in the 1st century, C.E. rather than an explanation for the presence of demonic forces on the earth since the creation of humanity.

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