In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The book of Revelation can be a very difficult book to understand. It is full of many symbols, and some of those symbols are confusing and sometimes even terrifying. But God intends to say through this book the same thing which He says through every book of the Bible: “Be comforted, My people. Christ has conquered, and He has died to forgive you your sins.”
And so in our text for today from the book of Revelation, to best understand this reading, we have to begin at the beginning of chapter 12. Verse 1 reads: And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. Well, who is this woman? This woman represents the Church, and that’s going to be a little easier to see once we get a little further down in the chapter, so let’s continue. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. Well, this one’s a lot easier to understand. Revelation itself gives us the answer. The dragon is the devil and is Satan. But what’s he doing with this woman? Why is he here? Well, the text continues: And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. Now the first picture is complete. We know that this child is Jesus Christ, and that’s why we can see that the woman is a representation of the Church. And even that the Virgin Mary stands as a symbol of the Church as a whole, because in her humility and in her faith, she submitted to the will of God and bore the Savior of the world. And so, the dragon here, the devil, is trying to kill this child. He wants to stop Jesus, because he knows that Jesus is going to stop him, and so he’s going to try to get Him first. But he fails. The text continues: But her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. Jesus Christ, in His death, in His resurrection, and finally in His ascension into heaven to sit down at the right hand of the Father, destroyed the devil. He defeated him. Everything that the devil tried to do, whether in the temptation, or in the garden, or in deceiving Judas, all of it failed, because Jesus has conquered and now sits at the right hand of the throne of God.
And so we come to our text for today: Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back. Now, hold on a second. What’s the devil doing in heaven? Why is there a war going on? This doesn’t seem to make any sense. It’ll make a little bit more sense once you understand who the devil is. The word “Satan” in Hebrew means “Adversary” or “Accuser.” Satan, so to speak, is a lawyer, and he stands as the prosecution in a great, heavenly trial. And you and I are on trial because of our sins. See, even though the devil is called a liar, he doesn’t have to lie to make his case. The prosecution stands: you and I have sinned, and because of that sin, we deserve punishment. We deserve death. And if that were the end of the story, we would lose this trial. But the reason why the devil was frightened of this male child, so frightened of Jesus Christ, was because when Christ ascended to sit down at the right hand of the Father, He became your defense lawyer. He now stands as your defense in this great trial. And when the devil says that you deserve death, Christ says: “I have conquered. By My own death and by My resurrection, I have forgiven you your sins. Therefore, I say to you that you are innocent.” And the devil can’t do anything about that. He can try, but the trial is over. You are innocent because of what Jesus has done for you. And so Christ is our Advocate. “We have an advocate with the Father. Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins. There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
The devil has been silenced. And because he’s been silenced, there is no longer any place for him in heaven. Our text continues: But he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And 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 the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Michael and his angels, in this case, serve as a kind of bailiff in this court. They take the devil, who has been defeated, and they throw him out and throw him down to earth. The devil cannot stay. He must go. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “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 pay especial attention to this verse: 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. See, the devil is powerful. The devil is very, very strong, and he would be terrifying if he appeared to us right now. But the truth is is that he’s defeated by something so seemingly small and insignificant: the blood of the Lamb and the Word of God. And you and I saw an example of this today, right here before your very eyes, when little Carley was baptized. God used the water and the Word, something seemingly so insignificant, to drive away the devil and to take Carley and to make her a member of His Body, the Church. A miracle has been performed before your eyes, even if all we could see was just water and hear the Word. But that is how the devil is defeated, by those little things of God.
Our text continues: “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!” And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness. In other words, the devil knows that it’s over. The devil knows that he’s done. He’s defeated. Hell awaits the devil and his angels. It was prepared for him. But that doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to try to take as many people as he can with him. And so the first thing that he does is that he attacks the Church. He goes after the woman, but she is protected by God. The devil can’t do anything against her. And so no matter how much the world and the devil hate the Church, no matter how much they make fun of her, no matter how much they try to destroy her or kill her, the Church will never be conquered. And she will continue until her Lord returns in glory on the Last Day.
But since the devil can’t go after the Church, he goes after individual Christians. Our text concludes: Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. When little Carley was baptized this morning, she was marked, so to speak. She has been taken out of the kingdom of the devil and placed into the Kingdom of Heaven. And because of that, the devil now has his sights on her, just like he has his sights on you and on me. Because we have been made part of the Body of Christ, and he wants to do everything that he can to take us away from that. In a sense, Carley was enlisted for a great battle today. She has been placed into the army of the Lord. But we need not fear, because the Lord through those seemingly insignificant, little gifts that He gives to us, the Word and the Sacraments, preserves His Church, and nothing can take His Christians out of His hand. The devil can try. He can certainly try, but he will fail. As long as we are in the Word and in Christ, the devil cannot do anything.
And as a final note, from our Gospel reading today, it’s worth noting that God also sends other means to defend us from the attacks of the devil. And that is his holy angels: St. Michael and the angels who threw out the devil from heaven. Our Gospel text reads: For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. Something to realize is that the angels are not cute little chubby children flying around from cloud to cloud that we always see depicted in pictures. The angels are soldiers. They are terrifying. If an angel appeared to us now, we would be wondering whether we were going to die. But God sends His angels to guard us and to protect us, and they will never fail in their mission to defend His Church from the attacks of Satan.
And so, though the devil rages against you, dear Christians, you are safe in the hands of God. In those little, seemingly insignificant things, you have the weapons of God Almighty, the Word, Baptism, and His very own body and blood. And against all of these things, the devil has no power.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.