The Astonishing Truth About Angels
Astonishment has been a prominent emotion since the attack on the United States. That an enemy would dare attack us on our own shores, that an enemy could attack us on our own shores, is nothing short of astounding. However, today, St. Michael and All Angels Sunday, a 1,200 year-old festival of the Church, calls to mind something even more astonishing.
There was a war in heaven. War involving America is surprising, war in America is astonishing, but war in heaven? That leaves me speechless. Try to process the opening words of our text, "And there was war in heaven." War in the holy abode of God. War in the peace of heaven. War in the place of bliss. Our minds just can't get a handle on this shocking fact, but there it is in front of us. "There was war in heaven, Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back." Think of it, a war between angelic beings. What would that look like? Lightening bolts flying here and there? Pulses of energy knocking celestial beings backwards? The very foundations of heaven shaking from the cosmic struggle? War between men, even with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons pales in comparison to a war between angels and devils.
War in heaven is astounding, but what is Satan and his angels doing there any way? Since the Fall of Adam and Eve, brought about by Satan, Satan himself had access to heaven. This wicked, lying being could appear before God among the other angels. Job 1 tells us this saying, "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them." Then when God brought up His righteous servant Job, Satan accuses Job of serving God only because God had put up a protective hedge around him. Satan says that if God dropped the hedge, Job would curse Him to His face. When that fails, Satan comes back into heaven among the sons of God, and says that Job would surely curse God if God only stopped protecting his health.
What is going on here? Satan in heaven? The most wicked being of all accusing men of sin? Zechariah 3 can help us understand. There in a vision the prophet sees the high priest standing before the Lord in filthy garments and Satan standing on his right hand to accuse him. Do you see the common thread? Both in Job and Zechariah, Satan in on hand to accuse. In our text, how is Satan described? As "the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night." Think of Satan day and night, night and day standing in heaven saying, "They did this and this and that and that, and another thing, they didn't do this, that or this either." Many of you know his voice because you hear it in your own conscience.
How could Satan do this? Because his accusations are true. While Job never did curse God to His face as Satan said he would, Job was shown to be a man who dared to question the ways of God when God's protective hand was removed from him. As for the high priest, Zechariah sees him clothed in filthy garments. He really is dirty, unfit to come into the presence of God. And when Revelation speaks of Satan standing before God accusing sinners, it doesn't say or imply that his accusations aren't true. Indeed, you know they are, don't you?
Satan was free to enter heaven because our sins allowed him to. God had promised in His holy Word that anyone who sinned would be punished with temporal and eternal death. So Satan could point to sinners just like us and say, "Where is their punishment?" He could point to someone with lustful thoughts like yours and say, "Such gross immortality must be punished." He could point to someone with greedy thoughts like yours and say, "Did not you say Lord that greediness is idolatry?" He could point to someone like me who doesn't fear, love or trust in God above all things and say, "Doesn't such sinfulness demand to be punished now?" What right did the holy God have to keep the unholy Satan out of heaven if He did not cast unholy people like you and I out too?
Satan had an entrenched position in heaven accusing us night and day for our sins because God's holy Law which pronounces damnation upon the soul that sins just once was on his side. But what's more astonishing is that there was a victory on earth that led to Satan and his angels once and for all being cast out of heaven. Two verses before our text, Revelation 12:5 tells us that Christ's victorious ascension into heaven brought about the titanic struggle in heaven where good angels threw out evil ones.. Christ being received into heaven meant that the Law of God had been kept perfectly and that He had successfully paid for all sins. Christ was born under the Law to redeem them under the Law. He redeemed us by keeping the Law that we can't, and by paying for our breaking of the Law.
So, dear friends, what Law of God can Satan accuse you of breaking if Christ kept them all in your stead? What sin of yours needs to be punished if Christ was already punished for all your sins? What standing can Satan have in heaven based on our sins if the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from them all? To the blood of Jesus is where you need to go whether you hear Satan's accusing voice ringing day and night in the hallowed halls of heaven or in your own conscience. Go to the blood of Jesus and what do you find? That sinners overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb. Satan was washed out of heaven by the blood of Jesus.
But what's this we read about people being saved not only by the blood of the Lamb but "by the word of their testimony." This is the subjective side of the blood of the Lamb cleansing us objectively. The blood of the Lamb cleansed not only your sins but the sins of the whole world. The blood of the Lamb swept Satan out of heaven because it covers, it a pays for the sins of the world. The word of testimony is our confession of that truth.
When we plead the blood of Jesus not our keeping of the Law, that's overcoming Satan by our word of testimony. When we plead Jesus' blood, not our suffering, our trying, our excuses, we're overcoming by the word of our testimony. Whenever, we appeal to the Waters of Baptism, the Words of Absolution, or the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion, we're overcoming Satan by our testimony. When we say, "I've been baptized. I've been absolved, or I've eaten and drank the Body and Blood of the Lamb," we're overcoming Satan by Words which testify to Christ.
What Christ worked and suffered here on earth echoes in all of heaven. The "it is finished" He uttered on Calvary shook the very foundations of the universe. The Words that opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers, closed heaven forever to Satan and his accusations. Therefore, there is a huge party going on in heaven right now. Heaven is pulsating with tremendous hallelujahs, right now. Our dead in Christ are shouting and singing and hallelujahing in the high heavens because Satan no longer can come among them rubbing the sins of saints in the face of God. And we join their party here on earth. We sing, we pray, we laugh and shout because Satan can accuse and charge and blame all he wants, but the Blood of Jesus speaks louder in heaven than anything he can say.
However, a problem has occurred to you, and it's based on this text. Heaven can rejoice and insofar as we are in heaven by faith, we can too. But we live on earth, and the text says, "But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because He knows that his time is short." Now this is not astonishing. That Satan's hatred of God should extend to God's creation and especially His people is not surprising. The surprising thing is that not only is Satan involved down here, but heavenly, holy, good angels are also involved today in the affairs of Christian men, women, and children.
They are involved in the big things of life like wars, terrorist attacks, and the affairs of nations. Joshua 5 shows you this. On the eve of the battle for Jericho the commander of the Lord's army shows up. Think not dear friends that the battles we are being thrust into by terrorists go unwatched by God in His heaven. Think not, that He fails to send His angels in the aid and support of His people even in the quagmire of international relations. Think not that the affairs of nations are ruled by luck, chance, or Satan. No, your God reigns not only in heaven but on earth, and He has millions of super-powered angels to see that His will is carried out to the glory of His holy name and the well-being of you, His holy people.
Ah, but to some what is going on between America and her enemies is not the biggest thing in life. Some have sickness, hardship, problems that are the real headlines in their life. Matthew 18 tells us that all the children of the heavenly Father, big and small, have guardian angels. We have angels assigned to us to watch over us day and night. God is not so busy these days with the affairs of nations that He cannot look out for the day to day lives of His children. He has not pulled angels off guard duty around His children to post them around something more important. No, where His children are whether in a hospital, bedroom, or classroom, that's where the heavenly Father has posted His angels.
Still there is a problem. The angels were there when Jacob's beloved Rachel died in childbirth. The angels where there when Doeg slaughtered the priests of God. The angels were there when Abel was murdered, when Paul was beheaded, and James was killed by the sword. Yes, you all have guardian angels that minister to you day and night wherever you go, whatever you face, yet, some of you are going to get sick, some of you are going to have accidents, some of you might die in a terrorist attack. But that's not all. Some of you will have troubled marriages, troubled kids, troubled businesses, and it won't be because you are without angelic protection.
How can we reconcile the ministry of angels to Christians and the fact that their lives have suffering, sickness and death? Think of how it was for the people Revelation was first written to. They were being persecuted for their faith. They were told it would continue, get worse, and some of them would die. Our text was to remind them that salvation didn't consist in being protected against the sword of their persecutors or the mouth of the lions. The kingdom of God doesn't consist in the suppression of the ungodly, or of terrorists, or of sickness, or of family problems, or of emotional problems. The kingdom of God consists in the glorious fact that Satan is no longer able to accuse the saints of God. The kingdom of God consists in the astonishing fact that I can walk about in the Blood of Christ with a wonderfully free conscience because the sins that plague me have been washed away.
The astonishing truth about angels is that they are still involved in your life. Their mission is to get you to heaven safe and secure in the blood of Jesus. These heavenly beings are not frustrated by sickness, accidents, family problems, or world troubles. All of these, the angels use to the glory of God and the eternal well-being of those cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
St. Michael and All Angels Sunday (9-30-01) Rev. 12:7-12