Sermon for Sunday, September 29th, 2019,
the Festival of St. Michael and all Angels
The Lessons: Genesis 28:10-17; Psalm 103; Revelation 12:7-12; John 1:47-51
The Text: Revelation 12:7-12
The Topic: How Christians overcome the Devil
Author James Herriot tells of an unforgettable wedding anniversary he and his wife celebrated early in their marriage. His boss had encouraged Herriot to take his wife to a fancy restaurant, but Herriot balked. He was a young veterinarian and couldn’t really afford it. “Oh, do it!” the boss insisted. “It’s a special day!” Herriot reluctantly agreed and surprised his wife with the news.
En route to the restaurant, Herriot and his wife stopped at a farm to examine a farmer’s horse. Having finished the routine exam, the young vet returned to his car and drove to the restaurant, unaware that his checkbook had fallen in the mud. After a wonderful meal, Herriot reached for his checkbook and discovered it was gone. Quite embarrassed, he tried to offer a way of making it up.
“Not to worry,” the waiter replied. “Your dinner has been taken care of!” Herriot’s employer had paid for the dinner in advance.
God has done the same for us. Jesus’ word on the cross, “It is finished,” is a Greek term meaning “paid in full.”
— Greg Asimakoupoulos,
Mercer Island, Washington1
THE DEFEAT OF SATAN AND HIS ANGELS: REVELATION 12:7-12
The defeat of Satan was first accomplished by Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, as our Lord himself testified of his own death:
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.
(John 12:31-32, KJV)
In celebrating the Festival of St. Michael and all Angels today, we remember with thanksgiving to God both the finished work of Christ on the cross and the Archangel Michael’s defeat and expulsion from heaven of Satan and his angels, as recorded here in our Lesson from the Book of Revelation.
Now the account of this war in heaven is not just a myth – it portrays an intense conflict, in which the Devil and his angels were conquered and expelled from heaven. This narrative implies that there was a time when the Devil was an archangel, and his demons were angels, but then they rebelled against God. Rebellion is not tolerated in heaven. This much we know from the petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10b, KJV). To this day, then, there has been no evil in heaven since the Devil and his angels were expelled. Unlike earth, in which so much evil abounds, there is none in God’s heavenly kingdom. This truth sheds light on our Lord’s saying to the Apostles in his farewell discourses in St. John’s Gospel, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2, KJV). Part of the preparation of heaven for the saints is the defeat and expulsion of Satan and his rebellious hosts from heaven.
THE NECESSITY OF ENGAGING IN SPIRITUAL WARFARE
On the other hand, the narrative of this war in heaven also makes it clear that Satan and his hosts were thrown down to the earth and the sea. Nothing is written about their being sent to hell at this point. Some thinkers might object by asking why Satan and all his hosts couldn’t have been sent straight to hell and saved the world a lot of trouble. The Book of Revelation does record that hell, or the lake of fire and sulfur, is where Satan will finally be cast (Rev. 20:10). In the meantime, since our Lord Jesus Christ fought against Satan spiritually and in this fight defeated him by dying a cruel death on the cross, Christians must not think that they will escape engaging in spiritual warfare against Satan and his demons. Yet, in the midst of this spiritual warfare, we have the encouragement of the cloud of witnesses, the saints who have gone before us, and are now the Church Triumphant, and we have St. Michael, and all the archangels and angels, fighting with us and aiding us in this battle against the Devil and his hosts of evil.
Now some may object that it is overly dramatic to speak about angels fighting against the Devil, and the Devil and his angels being cast to the earth. Does this not all seem like an outdated view of reality? In this passage (Rev. 12:9), Satan is described, among other things, as “the one who deceives the whole world.” One of his most successful deceptions is to convince people that he does not exist, and that there are no devils. Another is to make you doubt the truths of the Christian faith, or to lead you to believe that material realities outweigh spiritual ones.
HOW CHRISTIANS EXPERIENCE VICTORY OVER SATAN
The loud voice out of heaven announces the coming of salvation, power, the kingdom of God, and the authority of his Christ, because of Satan’s defeat, who was the accuser of Christians (Rev. 12:10). This same angelic voice tells how Christians themselves have overcome the Devil, and there are three ways in which they overcome Satan (Rev. 12:11).
The first of these is by the blood of the Lamb. Their faith in the redeeming death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross brings them salvation and deliverance from Satan’s dominion and entrance into God’s kingdom, because they have received forgiveness of sins through Christ and adoption in Him as God’s children.
The second of these is by the word of their testimony. This means that they have borne witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed, obeying His will and living their lives to the glory of God.
The third of these is that they did not love their own lives so much that they would not die as martyrs of the faith if called upon to do so. In today’s egocentric, narcissistic culture, this is a tall order. The Lord Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and we must be willing to surrender even our own lives for His sake. If we love anyone else or anything else or even ourselves more than we love Him, we run the risk of not remaining faithful to the end, and of being taken captive by the Devil. Our love for God, and our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our lives lived in testimony to Christ, our words spoken in witness to the Lord and our faith in Him, and the blood of the Lamb are the means by which we overcome the Devil, and gain the victory.
CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
Do you realize the intensity of the spiritual warfare against you, and do you know what it takes to win the victory in your own life over Satan?
1 p.338, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.