September 29, 2013 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
Today is one of the quarterly festival days connected with Christ that are part of the life of the Church. September 29 is set aside on the Church’s calendar as St. Michael’s and All Angels Day, or as the old English term phrased it: Michaelmas. Like all days should be for Christians, it is a time to set our minds on what the Lord has accomplished for us. But it also provides the opportunity to think about what the Lord continues to do on our behalf through the angels, the wonderful order that He has created.
As many of you know, an angel is a messenger. An angel is a herald, one who doesn’t go on his own, but is sent to deliver news from someone greater than he. We see angels fulfill that role of herald throughout the Scriptures. Time and time again, the Lord sends a message of what He is about to do. Sometimes, that would be done through prophets. But there would be significant messages from the Lord delivered by the word of an angel. This happened in the events of the Old Testament, when angels delivered both positive and negative messages.
But the greatest deliveries of divine messages by angels occurred when the Lord sends news about the arrival of His salvation, a salvation that would be accomplished by God the Son in the flesh. The first two chapters of St. Luke’s Gospel include several angel-events: Gabriel’s appears to Zecharias in the Temple to foretell John’s birth; Gabriel also announces to Mary in Nazareth that she has been chosen to be the mother of the Son of the Most High God; an angel declares to the shepherds that the Christ has been born in Bethlehem; the whole heavenly host provides the choir that sings doxologies when Jesus is born.
Each of those events requires the sending of a good message from the Lord to His people: “Relief is here, your Savior is arriving!” That message battles against the forces of evil, as the Lord’s grace and mercy enter a fallen world in order to bring about reconciliation and restoration. That message declares to the world that there is access to forgiveness, life, and salvation. That message is spoken in the midst of a cosmic war, delivering captives from the fate of eternal death, as Christ’s power works against Satan and the curse of sin.
That is what our Scripture passage from Revelation states in a most picturesque way about the war that broke out in heaven. There is the actual casting out of Satan. The old evil foe, the serpent and dragon, has no place in heaven. There is no room for him in the holy place of God. Wherever Christ is, Satan must flee. And then the loud voice rings out from heaven: “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!”
That message from heaven concerning Christ’s authority reveals the divine work that is done for our benefit. Just as the devil was cast out of heaven, so it takes place for us. As Christ and His gifts have been given to us, Satan must leave. We renounce him, and all his works, and all his ways. “Depart, evil spirit!” the Lord says, “And make room in My child for the Holy Spirit.” That is what takes place when the Gospel of Christ is delivered to us, when we are recipients of the glorious message of salvation—whether it was when we heard it at Holy Baptism or as we receive it each day of our lives.
As we have been made Christ’s disciples, the people of God, that message of victory is given to us. We hear of how our great enemy has been defeated, how he has been cast out of heaven and cast away from us. But this is not just a one-time event; the Lord’s work for us continues. He gives us angelic protection against the dragon and his angels. What the Psalmist wrote and what we prayed speaks about that: “Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.”
The promise to us, the Lord’s subjects, is divine protection, a watchful eye and quick hand to help. His servants, these angelic beings, are ministers to us to accomplish this. They not only serve as heralds, they also serve as our guardians. This role of protection is what the Prophet Daniel saw about Michael: “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people.” Jesus also speaks about this personal connection between angels and the Lord’s people: “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.” They are sent to ward off enemies that we could not stand against, opponents of a greater ability than we possess. The ones who aided Christ Himself to cast Satan out of heaven are present to keep us from eternal harm.
The angels are servants whom the Lord uses. He promises each His people, including us: “Because he holds fast to Me in love, I will deliver him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.” The Lord’s deliverance and rescue shall come, even in the times that despair is all around us. The Lord’s deliverance and rescue shall come, because we have made Him our dwelling place. The Lord’s deliverance and rescue shall come, because He wishes to hand over to us the inheritance of life everlasting.
That is what the angelic hosts in heaven above sing about, as we heard from John’s vision. The angels speak about our future, what shall be ours: “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!” We have conquered Satan. But that victory is not the result of our own efforts. Overcoming our great enemy is not what we have done, but it comes from what has been done for us. The blood of the Lamb and the word of testimony bring about that victory. Christ’s death has removed the curse from us, the result of the serpent’s deception. Christ’s resurrection has defanged the great dragon, and so we are able to tread him under foot.
We have been joined to Christ’s death and resurrection—His acts that bring us victory. But even though the devil is defeated, he wants nothing more than to keep us from obtaining the fullness of Jesus’ work for us. What was said about the earth when the devil was cast out of heaven still stands true: “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!” Jesus’ words about temptation echo that thought: “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” As we walk here on earth, we need protection.
But what we need is what the Lord provides. That is what He has promised to us: “He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” These angels will perform the Lord’s will for you, so that you may not falter and fall away, not loving your lives over the life that Jesus establishes, but so that you will rely on what Christ has done for you, trusting it for blessing in eternity. That is why are privileged to have angels on our side, as our helpers. They are with us who confess Christ as Lord. They are escorting us from this world to Paradise, where we will receive the crown of life. So it shall be said of you: “You have conquered by the blood of the Lamb and by your testimony. Let all the heavens rejoice, as Christ’s follower receives life everlasting!”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.