O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
War in Heaven
War in Heaven
Based on Rev. 12:7-12
Preached on September 29, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, for the past couple weeks Jesus has had us on this runaway train of crazy parables, this hurtling mass of metal moments meant to draw our eyes away from ourselves that they might become fixed on Him and the eternal reality He is creating in His flesh. And as we sit mesmerized, waiting to see the inevitable trainwreck that is the Almighty Lord of Hosts murdered gruesomely on the cross, that runaway train barrels right into our readings for today. It crashes right into September 29th - the day the church remembers St. Michael and all angels. And that unseen reality that Jesus has been preaching comes front and center.
Blessed saints of Christ, there is an unseen reality surrounding us, in this room, in our homes, everywhere we go. We are surrounded by the Lord's angels, they guard and protect us.
Our Gospel reading speaks of guardian angels, that an angel is assigned to each of us, at least in our youth. "See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven."
But in this unseen realm of the angels are also the demons. While the angels serve God and us, the demons fight against God and His Word and His church; the demons attack us, tempt us, bring all they have against us to bring us to unbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice.
This unseen reality surrounds us, affects us; it matters to us, but we often forget it. "Out of sight, out of mind." St Michael's and All Angels Day, then, is a beautiful opportunity to pause and reflect on the reality that we do not see, on the battle that surrounds us, on the protection God's holy angels give to us constantly.
But our text this morning, and especially the Epistle from the Revelation of Jesus is showing us the hidden realities not on earth but in heaven. This twelfth chapter of Revelation is absolutely wonderful, and full of comfort and life for us, and we will consider it together this morning.
First, though, a few words regarding the Revelation. Many people approach this book with trepidation, it is full of so many very strange things. Here is a very quick introduction to the book itself.
The word revelation means "Unveiling", like a bride at a wedding whose face is covered by the veil, and then the veil is taken off. This book of the revelation is a showing forth of a hidden reality. But what is being revealed, unveiled? Here's the very first verse of the book, "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John..." Jesus is being revealed, and this is so wonderful and comforting because the Lord's church (particularly when this vision is given to John on Patmos) is suffering so much persecution and trouble.
So here's how the revelation works, John will see in a vision all the troubles on this earth, bowls of wrath, trumpet blasts of trouble, all sorts of terrible things happening in this world, and just when you think that the devil is in charge and this world is going to hell in a hand-basket, whoosh, you are taken into the heavenly throne room, and there on the throne of the universe is your Jesus, the one crucified and buried and raised for you, the Lamb who was slain. Jesus is still on the throne.
Then, after we've seen the joy of heaven and heard the songs of the saints and angels around the Lord's throne, we're back down to the troubles of this life, with beasts and whores and dragons and destroying horsemen and rivers flowing with blood and all sorts of terrible things, and just when we're on the edge of despair, whoosh, back to heaven. Let's check, yep, Jesus, our Jesus is still on the throne. Sounds kinda like being in Divine Service on Sunday morning, then being out in the world all week, and then being back in Church again, doesn't it?
The highlights of the Revelation are these heavenly visions. Just when you have your fill of suffering and misery, then you are given a glimpse of heaven, a wonderful peak at Jesus surrounded by the heavenly hosts.
The heavenly vision that we have today is the central one, chapter 12, right in the middle of the book, and this vision is answering a substantial question: How can the vision of heaven be of such great comfort, after all, when the devil is in heaven?
Now we don't think of this, that the devil is in heaven, but if we would pause for a moment, we'd say, "Oh yeah." remember Job chapters one and two, when the Lord summoned all the angels before Him? Remember who had a place, a chair to sit in? Satan, the devil, who comes from wandering to and fro on the earth, and now he stands before the Lord and accuses Job of sin. That is actually what the word satan means, accuser. And there the devil stands, in heaven, speaking to God the Father about Job's sins. Your sins.
This is a frightful thought, that the devil has the ear of the Father, and that he's filling it with your sins. This throne of heaven is a judgment throne, and the Father is sitting on the throne to make judgments, and we are the one being accused and tried, and the devil himself has taken up the argument against us. And you know the worst part of all of this: the devil is right. He doesn't have to lie to accuse you of sin. You know what you've done, your thoughts, your words, your actions, your selfishness, your lack of love, the anger and violence and lust and greed that infest you. You know it, and so does the devil, and he is there to make sure that God knows it too, and acts on it.
It's absolutely terrifying, isn't it? And if this were the final vision that we had of heaven, we would all be despairing. What is there to do? We are guilty; we deserve God's punishment, His wrath, and that's it, end of story. We're stuck, but God isn't.
The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are not content to leave you in despair and hand you over to guilt and the devil and eternal death. Instead, the Father sends His Son to take your punishment, to carry away your guilt, to suffer in your place. "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." This is what is happening on the cross, the punishment for your sin is being suffered by God Himself. And the result is forgiveness. The result is the blood of Jesus washing you from all your sins. The result is that the devil has nothing to say. You are forgiven, there is nothing left for him to accuse. The blood of Jesus means that there is no room for the devil in heaven anymore.
Now, listen to the vision John has of heaven, in Revelation 12
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world-he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death." (Revelation 12:7-11)
It doesn't get any better than that. Look at Michael, given the blessed duty of removing the devil from the heavenly throne room. And he fights not with his own strength, but with the blood of Jesus, with the victory of the cross.
The blood of Jesus comes into heaven like a flood, like a tidal wave, and washes the devil right out of that place. He no longer stands before God; he no longer has God's ear; he no longer accuses you to the Father.
The devil's last desperate thing is to come to you - - - to lie to you, to tempt you to sin, to accuse you in your conscience, to push you back and forth between pride and despair, to harden your conscience or trouble you with guilt, but look, dear saints, he has lost. Jesus is the victor. All of the sin the devil brings to you is forgiven sin, died for sin, covered-by-the-blood-of-Jesus sin.
Now, for you, it is Jesus who stands before God. He is seated at the right hand of God, and He is your Advocate, your Defense, the one who speaks for you, not against you. He defends you, forgives you, prays for you, blesses you, and keeps you safe from the devil.
Dear baptized saints, you have been judged. In the heavenly throne room your judgment has taken place, and because of the work of Jesus, because of His death and resurrection and Ascension to the right hand of God, you have been judged innocent, righteous, holy, perfect, acceptable to God, worthy to stand before Him, even here at His altar. His throne.
And there is nothing that the devil can do about that (it).
But in case He might try, your Lord gives You His very own testament. He gives you the very same blood that washed the devil out of heaven, right here - in the cup of His Supper. So that you might be washed weekly. So that your conscience would always know that His blood speaks for you at the Father's side, that whatever your accuser brings against is conquered. Defeated. Crushed. Beaten. By the blood of the Lamb.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. In His Holy Name,
Rev. Cameron Schnarr