It feels as though we’re backtracking in the story a bit at the start of chapter 12, and looking at the world’s struggles from a different angle.
We’re in heaven again, with the birth of a child who escapes a dragon, then the war between the angel armies led by the archangel Michael and by Satan. With the defeat of Satan in heaven, the last battles of the war are fought out here on earth. Empires rise and fall, political and economic systems dominate human life one after another. This isn’t some mysterious future still to come. This is human history.
And this human history is the last battleground of an ancient war fought and decided in the heavens. It reminds me of the last chapters of The Lord of the Rings, where Saruman, the great wizard corrupted by evil and pride, ends his days as a petty tyrant, oppressing the hobbits of the Shire until he’s defeated even there. Like Saruman in the Shire, Satan has been forced out of grandeur and denied his ambition to oust God. He can still cause misery, corrupt and diminish human lives, but he is far from what he once longed to be.
The fight of human history, the fight to be fully human together, is still to be completed. But the fury of that battle is great in part because, as John heard the voice from heaven say in 12:12,
Rejoice then, you heavens and those who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short.
The battle isn’t over yet – but it’s already won.