Monday, October 7, 2013

St. Michael and all Angels: Revelation 12:7-12

Sept 29, 2013; St. Michael and all Angels; Texts: Daniel 10:10-14, 12:1-3; Revelation 12:7-12; Luke 10:17-20; Title: What’s happening in Heaven? Rev. Tim Beck

Our text: Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 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. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Rev 12:8-12, ESV)

This scene is from the revelation given the Apostle John when he was in exile on the isle of Patmos. John recorded what was revealed, the book beginning: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to          show his servants the things that must soon take place.”  Note this first. The revelation is of Jesus Christ. He is the star of the show, the bright and morning star. Second, the revelation is also given to show Christ’s servants things to come, things leading to His second coming.
          Today on this commemorative Sunday we acknowledge the angel Michael and all angels, as we peek into what they have done on our behalf, as Christ’s servants. We only know of these actions by our Lord’s revelation. John’s vision takes us to what we cannot see but affects our daily lives. It carries us to realms we do not comprehend, yet experience. For example, angels battle on our behalf. Hearing this, what do you wonder? Do you ask, “How do they fight?”  We like silly questions. So some folks get rich writing Christian-fiction about angels, since we are tempted to specialize on what fascinates our fleshly imaginations. That’s nothing new. Michael and the angels have been depicted in paintings, sculptures, and books for centuries...  for better or worse. Why do we want to know what we are not told, such as how angels fight? Instead, let’s why the Almighty God revealed what He did. That’s what He wants us to know, in this revelation of Jesus Christ.
          Meanwhile (as Scripture tells us), the angels long to look into what we know, that is, Christ’s cross. They want to understand all about God’s Son made man. Remember, John’s revelation is of Jesus Christ. He is the star in the show, the bright and morning star. That doesn’t mean we ask nothing about angelic warfare. We’re told about it. It is revealed for a reason, the Spirit of God showing John. There was war, a war Michael fought against the dragon because of what Christ did, a war which shut heaven to the serpent and a victory that is everything to us.  That’s the point! Miss that, and you’ll fall into the dozens of confusing interpretations about this book. 
          I suspect most misunderstandings come from a single reason. It is the same reason we want to know more about how the angels fought than about whom the revelation is about. It is a revelation from Jesus Christ and a revelation of Jesus Christ, and a revelation of the things that take us to Christ’s return. John’s revelation is not given to fixate us on terrible signs and titanic struggles, so that we can predict the day and the hour. Rather, it assures the faithful of Christ and His victory. The Apocalypse describes that which takes place so that we know all things take place only as God intends…for the kingdom of our God and of His Christ rules! To say it again, don’t focus on angels or the fearful events and be led astray from what we are given: a glorious hope in Jesus Christ, the incarnate God.
          Now for something else: to understand John’s vision one must understand its shape. It begins with a prologue to seven historical churches in Asia Minor (the first 4 chapters).  John encourages these churches to endure persecution, to defend the faith against false doctrine, and to repent from sin, because the Lord is returning soon. After addressing 7 churches, the subject at hand shifts from earth to heaven. John sees a glorious vision of God’s heavenly reign with the Lamb slain, a Lamb that yet stands in the center of the throne. We see who won the battle. Then we begin the 3rd division of the book – after addressing 7 churches, after a vision of the victorious Christ, John describes history from the Ascension to the end of time. He describes this history in 6 portraits of the same set of events, seen from 6 different perspectives. To repeat, first seven letters to seven churches, then a vision of the victorious Lamb, and then 6 portraits of the time between Christ’s ascension and return; and that followed by the grand finale, the return and the kingdom.
          Back to the six portraits: what is the perspective of each? 1) The Seven Seals – suffering caused by mankind; 2) The Seven Trumpets – nature’s plagues; 3) The Church Preserved – note, this includes today’s text; 4) Seven Bowls of Wrath – the call to repentance ending in judgment; 5) Babylon’s Overthrown – the end of the Lord’s enemies; 6) Satan Bound – his demise. These six visions all speak about the same period of time, from Christ’s ascension to the end of the world. The 6 visions are not chronological, but repetitive, thematic. John sees the same period of history from 6 perspectives. And each of these 6 pictures brings us to the end of the present age. Most importantly, each vision declares hope to the earthbound Christian, and a glimpse into the eternal reign of God and His Christ.
          How does this relate to today’s text? Our text describes things from the viewpoint of heaven, describing events on earth. We see angels battle, and why. From heaven we see Christ’s work on earth, so that today’s text is a message of hope, despite the dire warfare. As our text says, there was war in heaven… a war by which God fulfills His plan for a fallen creation. This angel-involving plan was for you. What Jesus Christ revealed is not for the sake of curiosity, but to strengthen your faith, to give hope for battles you face. God chose Michael to cast out the dragon, the serpent of old, called the devil and Satan, the one deceiving the whole inhabited earth. We don’t know how Michael and Satan battled, but we know this: we rejoice on earth because of who is no longer permitted in heaven. Our enemy was cast down: murderous, beastly, cruel, and vicious; strong, crafty, venomous and malignant. Pictured as seven-headed, he is not easily slain. His desire for blood is never satisfied. 
          What did this dragon do while he had access to God in heaven? The serpent of old deceived Eve and tempted Adam to choose evil. And succeeding, He continues to destroy by deception. He tells the nations that violence is good. From his principalities of spiritual wickedness He says goodness is to be destroyed (Eph. 6:12). But what was the fight in heaven about, the fight that is finished? To understand, listen to what that serpent’s name means: Devil means slanderer, an accuser with evil intent. Satan means adversary, whose goal is to lead us into sin. He leads us to sin, then points at us before God and says, guilty! Look at Jill over there. I’m going to tell you a thing or two about her. Look at Jack. Are you going to do what holy-justice demands?  And God listens to accusations, that is, those that are true. God sentenced Adam and Eve… despite who caused the fall of the human race.  Yes, for a time, Satan had access to heaven, accusing us on earth for the results of his temptations. Then something changed the course of heaven’s history, so human history. God the Father no longer listens to the devil’s accusations against us. Why? Michael cast him out so that he can no longer accuse believers before God.
          That’s heaven’s view. And we on earth know when Satan was cast out… when the Christ cried “My God, why have you forsaken me?” He bore all accusations, He suffered the Father’s righteous indignation, He paid the cost, suffered the wounds, absorbed the serpent’s poison. And you are no longer guilty before God, in Christ. Thus the cross on earth armed Michael in heaven.  For unto you the salvation and power and kingdom of our God and the authority of Christ now reigns. For unto you the salvation and power and kingdom of our God and the authority of Christ now reigns.  The kingdom of God is a victorious NOW in you and for you. The devil no longer can claim you as his, you baptized soul.  There was a victory, a victory in heaven when God’s Son suffered on earth. So you are victorious on earth; who in Christ also dwell in heavenly realms. This victory occurred in heaven because of the blood of the Lamb on earth.
          The church follows in that victory by our witness to Christ’s word. We do not love our life unto death, but lose our life in Christ and gain eternal life. In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the theme of the blood of the Lamb circles us back to John’s first glimpse of heaven. Before the throne of God John wept because none was found worthy to open the scroll. Within that scroll were all the events of the revelation, all needing to take place for our redemption. Unless it was opened the saving events could not take place. Our mortal enemy Satan would triumph.  Then one worthy to open the scroll was found. “Thou are worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof; for thou was slain, and has redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and has made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5: 9, 10)
          The Lamb slain opened it, bringing to pass all that must take place, as seen from the perspective of heaven. How does it look from the perspective of earth? As our Lord said recorded in the gospel of John, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” This he said, signifying what death he should die. As Paul records in Colossians, And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses. Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”
          Again, why does our Lord reveal to you those events in heaven? The heavenly picture is for confidence on earth. The cosmic battle is won. The dragon was defeated by the Lamb.  Therefore the church stands, because of the Lamb slain who stands. Because of Him we shall be true to the word in our witness. We witness to the forgiveness of sins and therefore, stop the devil’s accusations.  We witness with water and word, and are freed from the deception of sin. We witness to Christ’s death and commune in His very life. We share on earth in heavenly things. Soon we shall reign in heaven when Christ returns on earth.
          That’s the reason the devil has great anger, knowing that he has little time. His goal is to destroy your faith, to destroy the church. Therefore, battle with the word of God, even these: Christ died for sinners, saving us by grace through faith and not by works. We are declared righteous before the Father, adopted as His own. We were joined to Christ’s death and resurrection in baptism. We eat and drink His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.  We look to what the angels long to know, that is the mystery of Christ crucified for sinners. We will endure because the Lamb slain lives. Salvation, power, the kingdom of God, and the authority of Christ is established – now, for us and in us. He is the star in the show, the bright and morning star.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus our Lord (Amen).  Come Lord Jesus.

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