Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Revelation 12:9

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Revelation 12:9; per Adam Clarke

That old serpent - The rabbins speak much of this being, sometimes under the notion of הרע יצר yetser hara, the evil principle, and sometimes Samael.

He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him - This is very like a saying in the book Bahir, in Sohar Gen., fol. 27, col. 107: "And God cast out Samael and his troops from the place of their holiness."

Revelation 12:9; per John Edward Clarke

And the great dragon was cast out, etc. - By the terms Devil and Satan mentioned in this verse, Pareus, Faber, and many other commentators, understand literally the great spiritual enemy of mankind. But this view of the passage cannot be correct, from the circumstance that it is the dragon which is thus called. Now, if by the dragon be meant the devil, then use are necessarily led to this conclusion, that the great apostate spirit is a monster, having seven heads and ten horns; and also that he has a tail, with which he drags after him the third part of the stars of heaven. The appellations, old serpent, devil, and Satan, must, therefore, be understood figuratively. The heathen power is called that old serpent which deceived the whole world, from its subtlety against the Christians, and its causing the whole Roman world, as far as it was in its power, to embrace the absurdities of paganism. It is called the devil, from its continual false accusations and slanders against the true worshippers of God, for the devil is a liar from the beginning; and it is also called Satan, שטן , which is a Hebrew word signifying an adversary, from its frequent persecutions of the Christian Church. The dragon and his angels are said to be cast out, which is more than was said in the preceding verse. There mention is made of his being found no longer in heaven, or on the throne of the Roman empire, here he is entirely cast out from all offices of trust in the empire; his religion is first only tolerated, and then totally abolished, by the imperial power. This great event was not the work of a reign; it took up many years, for it had to contend with the deep-rooted prejudices of the heathen, who to the very last endeavored to uphold their declining superstition. Paganism received several mortal strokes in the time of Constantine and his sons Constans and Constantius. It was farther reduced by the great zeal of Jovian, Valentinian, and Valens; and was finally suppressed by the edicts of Gratian, Theodosius I., and his successors. It was not till a.d. 388 that Rome itself, the residence of the emperor, was generally reformed from the absurdities of paganism; but the total suppression of paganism soon followed the conversion of the metropolitan city, and about a.d. 395 the dragon may be considered, in an eminent sense, to have been cast into the earth, that is, into a state of utter subjection to the ruling dynasty of Christian emperors.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And the great dragon was cast out - See the notes on Revelation 12:3. That there may be an allusion in the language here to what actually occurred in some far distant period of the past, when Satan was ejected from heaven, there can be no reason to doubt. Our Saviour seems to refer to such an event in the language which he uses when he says Luke 10:18, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven”; and Jude, perhaps Revelation 12:6, may refer to the same event. All that we know on the subject leads us to suppose that at some time there was a revolt among the angels, and that the rebellious part were cast out of heaven, for an allusion to this is not infrequent in the Scriptures. Still the event here referred to is a symbolical representation of what could occur at a later period, when the church would be about to spread and he triumphant, and when Satan would wage a deadly war against it. That opposition would be as if he made war on Michael the archangel, and the heavenly hosts, and his failure would be as great as if he were vanquished and cast out of heaven.

That old serpent - This doubtless refers to the serpent that deceived Eve (Genesis 3:1-11; Revelation 20:2; compare the notes on 2 Corinthians 11:3); and this passage may be adduced as a proof that the real tempter of Eve was the devil, who assumed the form of a serpent. The word “old” here refers to the fact that his appearance on earth was at an early stage of the world‘s history, and that he had long been employed in the work which is here attributed to him - that of opposing the church.

Called the devil - To whom the name devil is given. That is, this is the same being that is elsewhere and commonly known by that name. See the notes on Matthew 4:1.

And Satan - Another name given to the same being - a name, like the other, designed to refer to something in his character. See it explained in the notes on Job 1:6.

Which deceiveth the whole world - Whose character is that of a deceiver; whose agency extends over all the earth. See the John 8:44 note, and 1 John 5:19 note.

He was cast out into the earth - That is, he was not suffered to pursue his designs in heaven, but was cast down to the earth, where he is permitted for a time to carry on his warfare against the church. According to the interpretation proposed above, this refers to the period when there were indications that God was about to set up his kingdom on the earth. The language, however, is such as would be used on the supposition that there had been, at some period, a rebellion in heaven, and that Satan and his followers had been cast out to return there no more. It is difficult to explain this language except on that supposition; and such a supposition is, in itself, no more improbable than the apostasy and rebellion of man.

And his angels were cast out with him - They shared the lot of their leader. As applicable to the state of things to which this refers, the meaning is, that all were overthrown; that no enemy of the church would remain unsubdued; that the victory would be final and complete. As applicable to the event from which the language is supposed to have been derived - the revolt in heaven - the meaning is, that the followers in the revolt shared the lot of the leader, and that all who rebelled were ejected from heaven. The first and the only revolt in heaven was quelled; and the result furnished to the universe an impressive proof that none who rebelled there would be forgiven - that apostasy so near the throne could not be pardoned.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The attempts of the dragon proved unsuccessful against the church, and fatal to his own interests. The seat of this war was in heaven; in the church of Christ, the kingdom of heaven on earth. The parties were Christ, the great Angel of the covenant, and his faithful followers; and Satan and his instruments. The strength of the church is in having the Lord Jesus for the Captain of their salvation. Pagan idolatry, which was the worship of devils, was cast out of the empire by the spreading of Christianity. The salvation and strength of the church, are only to be ascribed to the King and Head of the church. The conquered enemy hates the presence of God, yet he is willing to appear there, to accuse the people of God. Let us take heed that we give him no cause to accuse us; and that, when we have sinned, we go before the Lord, condemn ourselves, and commit our cause to Christ as our Advocate. The servants of God overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb, as the cause. By the word of their testimony: the powerful preaching of the gospel is mighty, through God, to pull down strong holds. By their courage and patience in sufferings: they loved not their lives so well but they could lay them down in Christ's cause. These were the warriors and the weapons by which Christianity overthrew the power of pagan idolatry; and if Christians had continued to fight with these weapons, and such as these, their victories would have been more numerous and glorious, and the effects more lasting. The redeemed overcame by a simple reliance on the blood of Christ, as the only ground of their hopes. In this we must be like them. We must not blend any thing else with this.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 294

The enemy is preparing for his last campaign against the church. He has so concealed himself from view that many can hardly believe that he exists, much less can they be convinced of his amazing activity and power. They have to a great extent forgotten his past record; and when he makes another advance move, they will not recognize him as their enemy, that old serpent, but they will consider him a friend, one who is doing a good work. Boasting of their independence they will, under his specious, bewitching influence, obey the worst impulses of the human heart and yet believe that God is leading them. Could their eyes be opened to distinguish their captain, they would see that they are not serving God, but the enemy of all righteousness. They would see that their boasted independence is one of the heaviest fetters Satan can rivet on unbalanced minds. 5T 294.1

Man is Satan's captive and is naturally inclined to follow his suggestions and do his bidding. He has in himself no power to oppose effectual resistance to evil. It is only as Christ abides in him by living faith, influencing his desires and strengthening him with strength from above, that man may venture to face so terrible a foe. Every other means of defense is utterly vain. It is only through Christ that Satan's power is limited. This is a momentous truth that all should understand. Satan is busy every moment, going to and fro, walking up and down in the earth, seeking whom he may devour. But the earnest prayer of faith will baffle his strongest efforts. Then take “the shield of faith,” brethren, “wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” 5T 294.2

The worst enemies we have are those who are trying to destroy the influence of the watchmen upon the walls of Zion. Satan works through agents. He is making an earnest effort here. He works according to a definite plan, and his agents act in concert. A line of unbelief stretches across the continent and is in communication with the church of God. Its influence has been exerted to undermine confidence in the work of the Spirit of God. This element is here and is silently working. Be careful lest you be found aiding the enemy of God and man by spreading false reports and by criticisms and decided opposition. 5T 294.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 346

When a man is earnestly engaged day by day in overcoming the defects in his character, he is cherishing Christ in his soul-temple; the light of Christ is in him. Under the bright beams of the light of Christ's countenance his entire being becomes elevated and ennobled. He has the peace of heaven in his soul. Many give loose rein to passion, avarice, selfishness, and deception, and all the time excuse themselves and lay the blame on the circumstances which brought around the trial to themselves. This has been your case. God permitted your surroundings to exist to develop character. But you could have made your surroundings; for by resisting or enduring temptation, circumstances are controlled by the might of the will in the name of Jesus. This is overcoming as Christ overcame. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” 4T 346.1

Brother F, God is merciful to you. Your life has been a mistake, nothing like what it might and should have been. There has not been in you genuine manliness, true elevation and purity of feeling. You have not had proper self-respect, and therefore have not had proper respect for others. You have not magnified Christ and the power of His grace. You have needed guardians all the way along through life. The same frivolity and fickleness, the same inconsideration and lack of self-control, the same selfishness and impatience, which were seen in your conduct at an early period of your life, are developed in a marked manner now that you are past the meridian. This need not have been, had you put away childish feelings and childish temper, and put on the firmness of the man. You have favored yourself altogether to your injury. Your pains and infirmities have been magnified. You look at them and talk complainingly of them, but do not look away to Jesus. Think how little you suffer, how little you endure, in comparison with the sufferings of Christ; and He was sinless—the Just suffering for the unjust. 4T 346.2

A good tree will not produce corrupt fruit. Good conversation will accompany a good conscience, as surely as good fruit will be produced by a good tree. If a man is unkind and churlish in his family and to others connected with him, no one need to inquire how he will manage in the church. He will exhibit the same petulant, overbearing disposition which he shows at home. No man can have the spirit and the mind of Christ without being rendered better by it in all the relations and duties of life. Murmuring, complaining, and fretful passion are not the fruit of good principles. You will need to be instant in prayer, because you have not strengthened the high, noble, moral traits of character. This is to be done now by you. The work will be difficult, but it is positively essential. 4T 347.1

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Ellen G. White
Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, 716.4

Satan Has Great Power (further counsel to the physician and his wife)—Remember that Satan has come down with great power to take possession of minds and to hold them captive under his sway. Neither of you can do anything acceptably to God unless you follow the Saviour, who says, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). In all things Christ is our example.—Letter 20, 1902. 2MCP 716.4

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Ellen G. White
Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, 28.3

Satan Uses Influences of Mind on Mind—Cast out of heaven, Satan set up his kingdom in this world, and ever since he has been untiringly striving to seduce human beings from their allegiance to God. He uses the same power that he used in heaven—the influence of mind on mind. Men become tempters of their fellowmen. The strong, corrupting sentiments of Satan are cherished, and they exert a masterly, compelling power. Under the influence of these sentiments, men bind up with one another in confederacies, in trade unions, and in secret societies. There are at work in the world agencies that God will not much longer tolerate.—Letter 114, 1903 1MCP 28.3

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