Revelation 12:7-12 There is an entire world around us (a part of God’s creation that the Bible calls the heavenly realms) that we cannot see-- and what goes on in that spiritual world has a profound effect on our lives in the world that we can see. The Bible says that:
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.
Chief among the creatures in that heavenly realm are the angels. The Bible tells us that the angels were created by God but that at some point early in the days of creation–some rebelled. The good angels help man and serve God while the evil angels hate God and seek to destroy everything that is good, especially faith in Christ.
Today in our epistle lesson, John pulls back the curtain between the world that can be seen and the heavenly realm that cannot be seen and lets us view one of the most remarkable events that ever took pace in God’s creation–a heavenly war between good and evil. The Bible says:
“War arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back.”
In the first verses of Revelation chapter 12, John reveals that when Jesus took on human flesh within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the devil was right there too, trying to destroy the child of promise who would crush his head.
The final battle between good and evil (that began with Jesus’ birth) continued throughout Jesus’ life as Herod tried to kill him–as he was tempted by Satan in the desert--as he battled and drove out demons--and finally as he hung upon the cross–rejected by his own people and abandoned by his heavenly Father under the crushing weight of our sins.
John pulls back the curtain that separates what is seen from what is unseen and shows us that while these events were happening on earth, a mighty war was taking place in the heavenly realms between two angelic armies–the good angels led by Michael and the evil angels led by that ancient dragon Satan–the same evil angel who tempted Adam and Eve and brought sin, suffering, and death into the world.
As Jesus drove out demons on earth the evil angelic armies were driven back in heaven. As Jesus fought and won against temptation in the desert, the devil and his army were weakened in the heavenly realm. As Jesus healed and raised from the dead, defeating evil and sin, Michael and his army of good angels gained the upper hand over the dragon and his army right up until that moment when Jesus was nailed to Calvary’s cross.
What rejoicing there must have been among the evil angels-what a shout of exaltation must have gone up from their ranks–when they saw Jesus broken and bleeding upon the cross. Surely this must be the end of him–surely this is the moment of our victory!
But that moment of satanic satisfaction was short-lived. Jesus’ death upon the cross wasn’t their victory at all! It was their complete and final defeat! The devil was not strong enough to conquer the Son of God. Jesus was the strong man that robbed Satan of his power and even his place.
And so a new sound rose up from the battle field–a mighty voice of saints and angels that cried out: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of God, and the authority of his Christ have come!”
This is the victory that Jesus proclaimed to the dragon and his angels as he descended to the very heart of their evil empire–his victory over sin, death, and the devil so complete–so final--that now, not even in hell, is Satan in control. And when Jesus rose up the third day it was the visible proof both in heaven and on earth that the battle was over–the victory won.
Forty days later Jesus ascended into heaven and took back his rightful place upon the throne at his Father’s right hand as ruler of heaven and earth and Satan was once and for all cast out of the heavenly realm–no longer able to accuse God’s people. John writes that, in that moment,
“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 earth, and the angels were thrown down with him.”
I want to tell you why the outcome of this unseen battle in the heavenly realms, fought between Michael and Satan and their armies, and won by our Lord Jesus Christ changes forever our lives here on earth and our life in the world to come.
First and foremost this heavenly victory matters because Satan, the accuser, has no basis and no opportunity to accuse you of sin before Almighty God.
In the past, in some way we don’t completely understand, Satan still had access to God even after his fall. As we learn in the story of Job, the devil could come into God’s presence and accuse God’s people. But that has come to an end. Because of his heavenly defeat, Satan was cast out of heaven and no longer has access to God and by the blood of the Lamb he no longer has any basis for accusation.
We need to remember this. Too often we live our lives suffering under an impossible load of guilt and shame when the Good News is that this burden has been lifted from your shoulders and placed onto Christ’s.
All of your sins–the big sins, the little sins, the sins which you know and are ashamed of, the sins you don’t know, then sins you struggle with week after week, are all washed away by the blood of the lamb.
Satan can accuse you no longer–through faith in Jesus, you are right in God’s sight and clothed in the garment of Christ’s righteousness made white by the blood of the lamb.
Secondly, this heavenly victory is important to you because the kingdom of God has been made manifest and you have been made a child and heir of that Kingdom.
It wasn’t always that way. When you born into this world you were born a slave in the kingdom of Satan. But God has rescued you from that slavery and made you his own precious and dearly loved child of God by Holy Baptism.
Just think of it–the greatest spiritual force for evil in the world is made powerless by the simple water and word of Holy Baptism as God adopts you as his own child.
The devil has no power to match the simple bread and wine and word of Holy Communion by which Christ’s own body and blood is given for you to strengthen you in your spiritual life and keep you close to God.
The devil is completely defeated by that simple Gospel Word spoken by the mouth of the servant of God that tells you of the forgiveness of sins by the blood of the lamb that is yours by faith.
Not even martyrdom, when it seems to all the world that there is the victory of evil over good, not even martyrdom is a defeat for God’s people–rather it is simply entrance into the fullness of salvation with God.
What a difference this makes in our attitude and understanding of the spiritual battle that rages around us when we realize that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church but rather the church is breaking down the gates of hell and robbing Satan of that which is his every time there is a baptism, every time the Sacrament is celebrated, and every time the Gospel is preached.
Thirdly, because of Christ’s victory, there is a profound spiritual power for good that is given to you to make use of in your daily life as God’s children.
Much too often we live our Christian lives as defeated people–saying, well, I can’t help it–I’m just a sinner or even worse the devil made me do it. Absolute, satanic lies. We are no longer slaves to sin, bound to whatever the evil one commands. Christ’s victory is our victory and his power is our power. In his strength we can say no to sin and yes to God. By his power we can live the new life that we are called to live as children of God.
We need to remember these benefits of Christ’s victory and daily make use of them because--though the outcome of the war has been decided–though Satan is a defeated enemy–he fights on and his battlefield is now this earth. The Bible says: “Woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows his time is short.”
We live in that “short time” between Satan’s heavenly defeat and his final judgement and punishment on the last day. We see his fury displayed all around us in manifest sins that have our nation’s stamp of approval. False churches preaching a false Christ abound. Religious pluralism that proclaims all gods the same has become the religion of our nation. Truly “our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
We must be aware of the devil’s schemes-- but we must not be afraid. We will overcome his temptations and have our share in Christ’s victory just as God’s people always have–by the blood of the lamb. May God grant it to us all for Jesus’ sake. Amen.