Revelation 12:7-12 (St. Michael and All Angels—Series C)
“Christ Our Advocate”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
September 29, 2019
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the reading from Revelation 12:
7And war happened in heaven, for Michael and his angels had to make war against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels also went to war, 8but he was not strong enough, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9And he was thrown out, the great dragon, the 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 out with him. 10And I heard a great sound in heaven, saying, “Now has come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, for the accuser of our brothers, who accused them before God day and night, has been thrown out. 11And they conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and through the Word of their testimony. And they did not love their life even in the face of death. 12On account of this, rejoice, O heavens, and those who dwell in them. But woe to the earth and to the sea because the devil has come down to you having great anger, seeing that he has little time.
This morning we have the opportunity to observe a festival in the Church Year called “St. Michael and All Angels.” This festival has been on the calendar since the fifth century, since the 400s! In England, September 29 still marks the opening of the autumn court session and the beginning of the Fall semester at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. The Prayer of the Day is an excellent summary of what the festival of St. Michael and All Angels is about when we ask that God mercifully grant that, as His holy angels always serve and worship Him in heaven, so by God’s appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth.
God created angels to be His messengers. The word angel simply means, “messenger.” God created angels to worship and praise Him continually and lead us to do the same. The Lord also created angels to protect the people of God, to “help and defend us.” Hebrews 1:14, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”
And we certainly do need the help and defense of God’s holy angels here on this earth. The devil and the fallen angels rebelled against God and now seek to destroy everything that is good, especially faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said of the devil in John 8 that “he was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Understanding this about the devil is very important for understanding our text in Revelation 12. Here he is identified as the “great dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” Yes, the devil is that ancient snake that crept into the Garden of Eden and spewed lies to Adam and Eve about what God had really said. Both people succumbed to the temptation and ate of the fruit about which God had commanded them not to eat. They disobeyed God’s Word and thus fell into sin. Contrary to what that snake had told them, they were now NOT like God—they were now unholy, unrighteous, and sinful. As a consequence, all of their children and their children’s children down through the ages to you and me are conceived and born in a state of rebellion against God. We are sinners from our very beginning in our mother’s womb (Psalm 51:5).
And the devil revels in that fact! He celebrates human sinfulness. He takes great pride in making sure that God sees the “real” you and me. Or, I should say, he did.
The devil, in addition to being called the great dragon, the ancient serpent, is also called Satan. It’s not so much a name but a description: the accuser. Of what do you think Satan wants to accuse us? Yes, of our sins and our sinfulness that merit for us God’s wrath and judgement of eternal death and hell, being separated from God for all time. Before Jesus’ incarnation, perfect life, death, resurrection, and ascension—and for reasons known only to the Almighty Himself—Satan was still allowed to present himself in God’s holy courtroom. There, he would bad mouth God’s people and accuse God’s people of their sins, pointing out all the reasons that they deserved eternal condemnation. We have an example in Job chapter 1:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason?Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
Another instance took place in Zechariah 3:
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
So the devil would come into God’s court and accuse the people of God of their sins day and night. But in the fullness of time, something changed. God the Father sent God the Son into the sinful world to take on human flesh, to fully identify with sinners, to take all their sins upon Himself, and, in exchange, to give them His righteousness and holiness. On the cross, shedding His holy, precious blood, the blood that covers our sins and wins forgiveness for the whole world, Jesus died humanity’s death and endured humanity’s punishment of hell. Three days later, He rose again in victory over sin, death, and hell itself, leaving the tomb alive. Forty days after Easter, Jesus ascended into heaven as the triumphant Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world. And it is then that we are told this unthinkable news: “war happened in heaven, for Michael and his angels had to make war against the dragon.”
This warfare in heaven was a spiritual struggle in which Satan attempted to displace the Christ, the victorious Lamb who was slain, in order to establish himself again in the presence of God as the one who has dominion over humanity on earth, and specifically as the one who has the authority to stand before God and accuse people for their sins. It was, so to speak, a war of words—the words with which Satan accused God’s saints of their sins. With these words Satan claimed that he, and not the Christ, truthfully represented people before God’s heavenly throne. Satan claimed to be your true advocate!
Now, this war of words is deadly serious. If Satan’s accusations are validated in the heavenly court, then God’s justice would require Him to deny you because of your sin. But for that to happen, God would have to deny the claim of His One-of-a-Kind Son, Jesus Christ, to be the rightful representative and advocate for people. Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil’s power on the cross and in His resurrection earned for Him the right to represent fallen humanity before God. The evidence He presents is Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the world and His shed blood that atoned for our sins. This evidence proves that the cost of sin has been paid in full. As a result, the accusations of Satan are thrown out of court. Satan himself is thrown out of heaven.
The war in heaven reached its climax when Michael the archangel and his angels threw Satan out like a bouncer. There is no room before the throne of God for two opposing advocates, each claiming to be the rightful representative of sinful humanity. God would no longer tolerate Satan’s presence since his accusations had been rendered false and untrue by the victorious Lamb who had returned to heaven at His ascension. So, at the command of God, Michael and all the faithful angels drove out that ancient snake and his angels.
The apostle John tells us the importance for us of this event in 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” An advocate is someone, a friend, who is called to the side of another to give help. For the sinner, our Friend is Jesus, the Righteous One, the Son of God, our Savior.
“Since Jesus’ status is that of the approved Son before God the Father, seated at his right hand, and since what he is and what he does, what he has done and ever will do, is ever and always righteous, he alone who shares our humanity and who shed his blood for our forgiveness is alone able, is alone powerful and desirous, to make the appeal as our [advocate] to his Father and our Father . . . on our behalf. Therefore, ‘there is no chance that what [Christ] urges in God’s presence will be rejected because it fails to measure up to the standard of the righteous judge.’”
Satan can no longer accuse you of sin because Christ Jesus has taken away your sin. Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Because Jesus perfectly fulfilled God’s commandments in our place, because Jesus paid in full our debt for sinning against God with His death on the cross, before God, there is nothing to accuse us of. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Nothing to accuse, nothing to condemn! In Christ, you are free from the penalty of sin, death, and hell! You stand forgiven, declared “not guilty,” made righteous with the rightness of Christ applied to you by means of Word and Baptism.
As with all the festivals of the Church, St. Michael and All Angels is a day to focus on the work of God the Father in sending His One-of-a-Kind Son, Jesus, to be our Savior and Redeemer. The Lord uses His angels to accomplish His work for the sake of His people so that we might know for certain that Jesus alone is our Advocate who is seated at the right hand of glory and power on His heavenly throne. Satan, the accuser, the liar, the deceiver of God’s people, no longer has a place there. The Lamb who was slain has conquered! And out of love and mercy, Christ the Victor gives His angels charge over us to help and defend us from the devil and his evil angels. He answers our prayer, “Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me” (Small Catechism). Psalm 91:9-12 promises, “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.”
But to save us from all sins, from death, and the power of the devil, God didn’t send an angel, but His Son, Jesus. As the hymnwriter says it so beautifully, “He sent no angel to our race, Of higher or low lower place, But wore the robe of human frame, And to this world Himself He came” (LSB 544:2). The angels announced Christ’s incarnation and birth, “Glory to God in the highest.” They announced His resurrection, “He is not here, but has risen as He said.” The angels told Jesus’ followers at His ascension, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” And as He was received again at His throne, having accomplished salvation for the whole world, the whole host of heaven rejoiced as we read in Revelation 12:10, “Now has come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, for the accuser of our brothers, who accused them before God day and night, has been thrown out. And they conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and through the Word of their testimony.”
Rejoice, dear people of God! Satan can no longer accuse you. Jesus Christ is your Advocate with the Father in heaven. Through His saving death and resurrection, you are forgiven. You are made right for heaven by Jesus’ cleansing blood. And as they serve the Lord Christ, so may His angels help and defend you, His redeemed people. Amen.
 Louis A. Brighton, Revelation, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia, 1999), 333.
 Bruce G. Schuchard, 1-3 John, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia, 2012), 146.