Raphael continues narrating the battle in heaven between good and bad angels, which continues for three days, as in epic traditions.
On the first day, Michael and Gabriel go forth with their forces to meet Satan’s army, at God’s command. God praises Abdiel for resisting the temptation to join Satan: Abdiel was able to stand because of his Right Reason and loyalty to Messiah as his king.
The “ruinous assault” rages in heaven, but God limits the power of the fight. When angels are wounded, they recover. Michael meets Satan on the battlefield and accuses him of bringing evil into Nature. Michael wounds Satan, his first taste of pain. The trumpets of victory sound, and Satan’s forces retire for the night.
In council, Satan devises a new strategy; he makes gunpowder from the materials underground. The next day, he uses it to blow up the enemy and wins against Michael’s army. The battle is a draw, and now God sends in Messiah to break the tie.
On the third day, Christ in his military nature, rides out in glory, putting forth only half his strength, and the devils, astonished and full of fear, are driven to the bounds of heaven where they fall to hell below.
The battles in heaven have been the least favorite part to many readers because of the material descriptions of angels, gunpowder, and fighting. It can sound almost as ludicrous as the devils in hell and their Olympic games. Milton paints a baroque canvas with giant, fleshy figures of angels in their chariots and weapons.
Yet the battle is not in force of arms, as Christ points out. Satan only measures things in terms of power, and that is why Christ takes the form of a general to defeat him. Christ defeats Satan because he represents God’s will, not because he wants his own glory or “rights.”
Satan introduces a new element into Nature: evil or resistance. Yet, God remains in control, turning it to His purpose. The war in heaven precedes God’s plan for creation. Raphael concludes by saying the purpose of the story is to show Adam the fearful example of disobedience.