“God’s Angels – Our Allies in the Great War”
(Revelation 12:1-12 – Michael and all Angels – September 29, 2019)
Revelation 12:1-12 – And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”
Dear Redeemed in Jesus Christ:
World War I was called “The Great War” at the time, because it involved an unprecedented number of nations. What began as a local war between two nations in 1914 grew into a great war between the Allies forces and the Central Powers. Although most of the battles occurred in Western Europe it became a global event, including all the nations that provided support for one side or the other, like colonies in the empires of Britain, France, and Germany – extending through Africa, India, and Asia. When the Central Powers finally surrendered to the Allied forces in 1918, many hoped the “The Great War” would be “the war to end all wars.”
The book of Revelation pictures a much larger war that involves the whole world. In fact, it involves every nation, tribe, people and language through all history. It is not just a world war, it is the Great War between Satan and his kingdom and Christ and His Kingdom. It is a spiritual war, with eternal destinies at stake depending on which side one is on. This war to end all wars is not fought with man-made weapons; it is won by Christ’s finished work of saving sinners. Through faith in Jesus’ blood, shed for our salvation, we share in His victory and eternal life.
As we fight the good fight of faith this side of heaven, we are not alone. On this Festival of Michael and all Angels, our text reminds us that “God’s Angels Are Our Allies in the Great War.” It shows us how 1) They fight against Satan’s forces, 2) They win in the power of Christ’s victory, and 3) They rejoice in the triumphant procession of Christ’s Kingdom.
1) They fight against Satan’s forces
It begins: “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon.” Earlier in verses 3-4 we have already met that dragon, pictured having seven heads and wearing seven crowns. It said: “His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.” In this way it pictures the Devil or Satan – whom God originally created to be a good angel, and even a great angel. But in his pride, Satan wanted to be crowned with even greater glory. He rebelled against God, and he also drew a number of angels into his rebellion. Therefore they were cast out of heaven. As 2 Peter 2:4 says: “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.”
At the same time, there are a great number of angels who have remained good. Revelation 5:11-12 describes the angels around the throne of God singing His praises: “and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” Psalm 103:20 says: “Bless the LORD, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word.” Of these powerful beings Hebrews 1:14 says: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” Yes, they are sent to serve you and me! In the Great War being fought between Satan’s kingdom and Christ’s kingdom, these powerful heavenly messengers, ever obedient to the command of God, are sent as our allies.
This is good for us to know, because Satan is fiercely at war with us. Before our text, that dragon is pictured going after a woman who wore a crown of 12 stars. This is the number of the 12 patriarchs in the Old Testament and the 12 apostles in the New. So the woman represents the mother of all God’s people through history, the one church of all believers, Una Sancta. As she is pictured being pregnant and crying out in birth pains, the dragon stood before her, waiting to devour her child. But verse 5 says: “She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.”
With these few words is pictured the coming of Christ, from His birth to His ascension. Through Old Testament times, believers waited as with birth pangs for Him who would be born the seed of the woman, come to crush Satan’s head and redeem His people. All through history, as God’s people awaited the coming of that promised Messiah, Satan and his forces opposed God’s people and God’s purpose in salvation history – trying to overthrow Israel, trying to destroy the royal family line of David, trying to cut off the coming of the Messiah Himself. But again and again, God sent His mighty angels to fight in the Great War. They served and protected His people – surrounding a prophet like Daniel in the lion’s den, destroying Israel’s powerful enemies in many occasions, and so on…
Then at last as Isaiah foretold, the virgin conceived and bore a Son who is called Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14). At Jesus’ birth, God sent His angels to announce the good news; and soon after, to warn Joseph and Mary of evil plans against the holy Child. As King of kings, Christ rules all nations. Yet He came to redeem a world of sinners fallen to the temptation of the Serpent. When Jesus fought Satan’s temptations in the wilderness, angels were sent to comfort Him. When Jesus prayed at Gethsemane, about to drink the bitter cup for our salvation, angels were sent to comfort Him. And though Jesus could have called on more than twelve legions of angels, they obediently watched as the Lord was arrested, judged, and crucified. To win our forgiveness and reconcile us to God, the Son of God went to the cross. He shed His divine blood that paid for all our sins. And having finished the work and crushed the head of Satan, He rose again. On the third day, God sent His angels make the most joyful announcement: “He is risen!” Forty days later, when Jesus ascended to His Father and His heavenly throne, the angels were there to assure His followers: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
2) They win in the power of Christ’s victory
So God sends His holy angels to fight against Satan’s forces – as messengers to help bring about His great purpose through salvation history. God sends His holy angels to protect us from unseen evil, and to help bring about His purpose in our own lives. And as our allies in the Great War, our text shows that the angels win in the power of Christ’s victory.
Here, in the context of the Christ Child having been born to win our salvation, and having risen and ascended to heaven, our text now describes a war that broke out in heaven as “Michael and his angels fought with the dragon.” Scripture calls Michael an archangel, like a general commanding the heavenly host. His counterpart is Satan who commands his evil spirits.
As Michael and the heavenly hosts are sent to battle, they cannot but win in the power of the risen and reigning Christ. It says: “The dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Now that Christ has crushed Satan’s head and ascended to His heavenly throne, Satan’s power is struck down. As Jesus foretold in John 12:31: “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” Jesus, who cast out demons with the finger of God, is infinitely stronger (Luke 11:20). He has disarmed Satan kingdom, triumphing over them in His cross.
The evil foe still would seek to storm heaven with his boastful claims, trying to bring us down with himself in defeat. Truly he lives up to his name – the “Devil” (Accuser); and “Satan” (Adversary). Ever since he first deceived as the “serpent of old” in the Garden of Eden, he continues to tempt the children of Adam and Eve into sin. Then as the Accuser and Adversary, he presumes to come before the judgment seat of God, demanding justice against us! Under God’s holy Law, he claims that our souls must be judged and condemned to hell along with him.
Satan may keep as careful a record of our sins as he wants, to try to charge against us. Yet in God’s court of Law, he has no hearing; the Accuser has lost his case against us. On the cross the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, has paid the full price of justice. Colossians 2:13-15 tells what God has done with the whole list of our sins against His Law: “having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
When Jesus died on the cross and rose for our justification, Satan and all the hosts of hell knew they had lost the Great War. God sent His archangel Michael and all the heavenly hosts to cast Satan out of His presence; and they did so in the power of Christ’s victory.
3) They rejoice in the triumphant procession of Christ’s Kingdom
And now, with the angels as our allies in the Great War, we rejoice in the triumphant procession of Christ’s Kingdom.
It says: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come.” Now that Satan is cast down in the power of Christ’s victory, the evil foe cannot stop the procession of Christ’s Kingdom. Jesus said: “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Christ Himself is the rock-solid foundation of His Church. He continues to gather people into His Kingdom by His rock-solid truth, His Gospel of salvation for sinners.
“Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!” As the angels watch the triumphant procession of Christ’s Kingdom, and behold the power of His Gospel saving sinners for eternal life, they rejoice. Jesus said in Luke 15:10: “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” The angels rejoiced over us, when we were redeemed from Satan’s kingdom, and graciously brought by faith into the Kingdom of Christ.
Meanwhile, Satan and his forces are not at rest. As it says: “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” While they are cast down, delivered to chains of darkness, awaiting Judgment Day, Satan and his demons act in murderous rage. Satan still holds sway as “the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). He tempts and deceives through his lies. He threatens believers with persecution and even death. Therefore 1 Peter 5:8-9 tells us: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith.”
As we fight the good fight of faith, resisting Satan, it says: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Some of the faithful have been called to give testimony to the saving truth of Christ as martyrs. Yet even in death, they overcame Satan by faith in their living Savior; for they were “carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22), where they see their Savior face to face in Glory.
Likewise, Jesus gives us an important place in the triumphant procession of His Kingdom. Day by day, Jesus keeps us in faith by His Gospel, overcoming Satan by faith in His blood. He also gives us a part in the great mission of bringing His saving Gospel to sinners, and bringing others into His Kingdom. In our daily life, He gives this promise in Psalm 91:11: “He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” As part of working all things for our good, our ascended Savior and King sends His angels to serve and protect us in unseen ways. Even in death, He will give His angels charge to bear us safely home to His heavenly Kingdom.
Therefore, we give thanks to God for the gift of His angels, as our allies in the Great War. Through the ages, God has sent His angels to fight against Satan’s forces, to serve and protect His people, and to bring about His purpose in salvation history. God’s angels fight and win for us in the power of Christ’s victory. They rejoice in the triumphant procession of His Kingdom, they rejoice in you and me. Today, we join all of God’s saints and angels, worshiping Him who is our Creator and Redeemer in that heavenly song: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13). Amen.