Pertaining to the casting of a third of the angels out of heaven in Revelation 12:4, did this happen in the past or is it a future event?

Email Received:

I've been wondering about the fall of Satan and, more specifically, the alleged "third of all angels" who joined him in rebellion. Growing up an evangelical Southern Baptist, this is a viewpoint that is widely held; yet no one can explain where it comes from, aside from using Revelation 12:4 as proof this event occurred. However, my understanding of this verse is that it speaks of a future battle in heaven.

Therein lies my confusion, leaving me with these questions:

  1. Did a third of angels rebel?
  2. Is Revelation 12:4 proof of this rebellion?
  3. Is Revelation 12:4 a future event?
  4. If so, does that mean some angels will rebel at a future date?
  5. If not, how does Revelation 12:4 fit chronologically in history, and what does the sweep of the dragon's tail and falling of a third of the stars actually mean?
  6. And if this is a future event in 12:4, what other part of scripture supports an angelic rebellion that apparently happened eons ago? How did we arrive at this "one-third" number?

Tedís Response:

I have wondered the same things that you have. On the one hand, it says that Satan flung a third of the angels to earth. Whenever this happened or will happen, I believe that it was/is their choice to rebel and, thus, to be in that group. I would think that God, finding evil in them, gave them over to Satan and allowed him to do whatever he wished with them. Maybe, then, he took the authority to force them to go to earth as his minions to cause as much trouble and difficulties for humans as they possibly could, under his direction.

On the other hand, it later seems to indicate that the archangel Michael and his angels will fight against Satan and the evil angels (which I definitely believe is in the future), and all the bad angels will be hurled to the earth, presumably by Michael and the good angels (Revelation 12:7-9). The latter is a future event because it is bracketed by a mention of the final 1,260 days (12:6) or 3Ĺ years (12:14), during which I believe Satan and the evil angels will go throughout the earth on the most destructive rampage in history, of which Jesus referred in Matthew 24:21 and Mark 13:19.

The question is whether or not Revelation 12:4 happened in the past or only will happen in the future. If the latter, it does appear to be out of chronological order with the remainder of the chapter.

I only can speculate. All of Revelation 12:1-4 appears to be almost a "timeless" passage. John seems to observe it happening in heaven. Yet, I am convinced that "the woman" in 12:1 represents Israel, and the Israel that we know always has been on the earth. So it's almost like John is seeing a "concept" in heaven, sort of like how the tabernacle in which the ancient priests served was a "copy" of the real one (or maybe the concept of one) in heaven (Hebrews 8:5).

If so, it may be that all of these evil angels have been destined, at some point in the future, to be swept out of heaven. Maybe he was observing it in a framework that was "outside of time," as God is.

Another possibility is that it was a real event that happened in the past, maybe when the garden of Eden existed. The "king of Tyre" was described as being in the garden of Eden (Ezekiel 28:12,13). It is said that he was an anointed cherub who was on the holy mount of God (28:14). Presumably, this was Lucifer. He was blameless in his ways until wickedness was found in him (18:15), and then he (along with, evidently, the angels who revered him) was expelled from the mount of God to the earth (18:16,17). Apparently, as Satan, this is when he tempted Eve and Adam.

However, although Satan and these evil angels have lost their primary place in heaven, and their principal place is on the earth, they still have access to heaven. Examples showing this are in Job 1:6,7, 2:1,2, and 1 Kings 22:19-22. Although these evil spirits normally roam around the earth, they still can make temporary visits to heaven, on some occasions, to communicate directly with God; but they cannot remain there on a continual basis.

If this is so, then I would see the future occurrence of all of them being hurled out of heaven by Michael and the good angels (Revelation 12:7-9) as a permanent event. Then they will be confined entirely to the earth and never will have access to heaven again.

Satan, filled with fury and knowing that his time is short, will pursue the remnant of Israel (12:12,13)óan unsuccessful endeavor because they will be protected by God for 1,260 days or 3Ĺ years (12:6,14). So he will redirect his puruit toward those who obey God's commandments and who hold to the testimony of Jesus (12:17) during the Great Tribulation period. Furthermore, as far as I know, the one-third of the angels with Satan are mentioned only in Revelation 12:4 and nowhere else in the entire Bible.

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