548. And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and its angels fought. (12:7) This symbolizes the falsities of the previous church fighting against the truths of the New Church.
A war symbolizes a spiritual war, which is one of falsity against truth and of truth against falsity (no. 500); for that is the only war that can take place in heaven, where this war is said to have broken out. Nor can a spiritual war take place in any heaven once it is formed by angels, but it took place in the previous heaven which passed away, as said in Revelation 21:1. Regarding that heaven, see our exposition of that verse. For that heaven passed away in consequence of the Last Judgment on the dragon and his angels, which is also the symbolic meaning of the dragon's being cast out and no place for it being found in heaven any longer, as said in the next verse.
To learn what falsities are meant by the dragon which will fight against the truths of the New Church, see no. 537 above.
Michael does not mean some archangel, and neither does Gabriel or Raphael, but ministries in heaven are meant. The ministry that is Michael there is performed by people who confirm from the Word that the Lord is God of heaven and earth, that God the Father and the Lord are one as soul and body are one, that one must live according to the Ten Commandments, and that a person then possesses charity and faith. Michael is mentioned also in Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1, and the same ministry is meant by him, as is apparent from chapters 9-11 there, and from the last verses in chapter 12.
Gabriel, on the other hand, means the ministry performed by people who teach from the Word that Jehovah came into the world and that the humanity that he took on there is the Son of God and Divine. The angel who announced this to Mary is accordingly called Gabriel (Luke 1:19, 26-35).
People who are engaged in these ministries are also called Michaels and Gabriels in heaven.
It may be seen in numbers 5, 65, 258, 342, 344, 415, 465 above that an angel in the highest sense means the Lord, and in a relative sense heaven, which is formed of angels, and also an angelic society. But here it means a ministry, because it is named; and in Daniel Michael is called a prince, 1 and a prince in the Word symbolizes a principal truth, and a king, truth itself (no. 20).
(References: Deuteronomy 32:17)