Chapter 12 in the Book of Revelations tells of a war in heaven between the archangel and the devil (in dragon form): “And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.” The archangel is not named here, but it is assumed to be Michael, and his victory heralds the Second Coming of Christ.
In the painting we see Michael in the top center holding a bejeweled shield and flaming sword – he is also the only one with a halo. There are other angels of god, portrayed as humans, but with wings. They are fighting against the army of rebel angels, distinguished by their animalistic features: one has an eagle’s head for a penis while others have dog-heads, talons, tails, snake-hair, and even butterfly wings. Butterflies are typically associated with the Resurrection in Christianity, because like Jesus, they too are reborn from the cocoon. In the center of the chaotic battle we see Satan as a seven-headed red dragon.