There was a war in Heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven,
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
In from today’s Epistle, Gospel and Lessons for Morning Prayer, we can gather four things;
First, the universe is more complex than it appears. There are unseen forces that are at war with each other. Second and third, those unseen forces consist of Good and Evil. There is a universal battle between God, the Holy Trinity, and the angels of Heaven, of whom the archangel Michael is the battlefield commander in the fight against the spiritual forces of wickedness that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. Those forces of wickedness are that old dragon, Satan, and the demons of hell. Our Lord Jesus clearly took the threat of the demonic seriously. He confronted and vanquished that evil on a daily basis during his earthly ministry. Finally, we understand that it is Satan’s will that people’s minds be closed to the gospel and to the fact that the universe is more complex than it appears. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that open’s the mind to the truth, to the light so that we might be saved.
In our “scientific” age it is common for people to doubt the existence of anything that cannot be tested by the scientific method. In this age, however, developments in elementary particle physics show us that the same particle of matter can exist in two places at one time, that it can appear in one place and reappear in another without traveling the distance in between, and finally that forces in other dimensions or parallel universes have an effect on our universe. The force with trans-dimensional effect is gravity (gravity leakage used to explain why gravity is a “weak” force), the very force which keeps our feet to the ground and which keeps the Earth in orbit around the sun. Those forces sound supernatural, yet science accepts them and the theoretical explanations of their observed nature. Against that background, belief in unseen realms and forces should not seem far fetched.
In our modern age, we tend to think that ancient minds were simple and that they had simplistic ways of understanding the world. Consider however that the Greek philosopher Democritus envisioned the existence of particles that combine to form every type of matter, solid, liquid and gases alike. Without advanced scientific tools or methods, Democritus spoke of the atom, the object of some of the most advanced science of our age. This was 470 BC, around the same time that the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile. The point is that ancient minds could be quite perceptive about the nature of the universe and modern minds have the tendency to see the universe only as our world view allows.
St. Michael, an angel, is on the Church calendar. It is a Prayer Book Holy Day, so what is the deal?
We have no less authority than Jesus Christ Himself as witness that angels exist and that they are vital to our welfare. So the question remains, are angels a mistaken superstition or are they relevant to our age?
This question cannot be answered by scientific inquiry, however, when you turn to the record of man’s experience with these creatures, the positive evidence is overwhelming.
At this week’s Bible study, there were several accounts from modern, intelligent women who gave their testimony of how God had intervened in their lives to save them in time of grave danger.
Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are filled with the assumed factual presence of angels. The word angel means messenger. The Hebrews believed that God created an order of supernatural beings to serve Him. In man’s experience, angels serve as messengers who deliver messages between God and the world of men.
In scripture, the appearance of angels seems quite commonplace. Remember the childless Sarah, who stood laughing in her tent as she eavesdropped on the conversation between three angelic visitors and Abraham. The angels stayed for dinner. Mary, the Galilean peasant girl, learned from an angel that she was chosen of God to give human birth to the Messiah. It was from the angelic host that the shepherds heard that the Messiah had indeed come. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, angels came and ministered to Him. When the Apostles stood in front of the empty tomb at Easter, it was angels who explained to them what they seemed unable to grasp themselves. Again, at the Ascension, it was necessary for angels to tell the Apostles what they had witnessed but not understood. St. Peter may have lived out his days in a Palestinian prison, had not his guardian angel spirited him away for the work of God instead.
Similarly, virtually every culture in the ancient world accepted the existence of evil spirits. In the New Testament demons are referred to more than seventy times. They are most frequently referred to as daimonia, literally “little demons,” reminding us of their relative powerlessness before the awesome might of God’s only-begotten Son. In the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, demons are often associated with physical illness, including blindness and symptoms that look very much like epilepsy to the modern reader. Even more frequently demonic possession is described in ways that strongly resemble what we would call “mental illness,” ranging from catatonia to self-destructive behavior to uncontrolled outbursts of violence. Jesus directly confronts demons that cause these physical and mental problems and He expels them by a word of command, just as He cures physical ailments by His word and His saving touch.
Satan’s desire to deface the image and likeness of God borne by mankind prompted his temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden, and our First Parents tragically chose to betray the divine likeness they already possessed and joined in the demonic rebellion. The results of their Fall has been catastrophic for us, their children. We were meant to care for God’s world, yet we became weak and ill. We were intended to partake of the Source of Life and Light, yet we have inherited death and darkness. Satan and his minions have been highly effective in their wretched task. For millennia they have toyed with us before we return to the dust from which we came.
And it is not only the human race that suffers the effects of the Great Rebellion. St. Paul, in the eighth chapter of Romans, tells us “that the sufferings of this present time (Romans 8:18).” are part of the subjection of the whole created order! The whole Universe, not just mankind, groans in bondage to decay as a result of the fall (Look up the 2nd law of thermodynamics to see the results of the fall on all of creation).
It is now our turn to take our place in the line of battle. You and I are heirs through faith, repentance, and the waters of baptism to Christ’s authority to tread over “all the powers of the enemy (Luke 19:19).”
The enemy would have you be ignorant of this battle. That way he has the advantage of surprise in his attack. In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, it states that, “…if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not…” The devil is the god of this world to whom Paul is referring. But to those who have knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, this is a war that is already won. As is states in today’s epistle reading, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” The fact that the war is won does not mean that our battle will be easy. Our triumph only comes from our being conformed to the divine image of the One who sent us. St. Paul, one of the greatest of the spiritual warriors fighting at our side, no doubt had this in mind when he said in Galatians 6:17 that “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Let us not forget that you and I, like Paul, were sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever in our baptisms. And if we take up our crosses daily and follow after Christ; that will leave a mark on our hearts, and minds, and souls as well. And if we are transformed by our Savior’s cross, when the spiritual forces of darkness see us coming, they will see Christ and they will quake in fear and be subject to us in His holy Name. In Luke chapter 10, verses 16-20, Jesus addresses seventy people that he had sent forth in his name, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me. And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”
Long ago Satan and his demonic cohorts refused to bow to the image of God that is present in man. The powers of Hell have done everything they can to keep the divine image in Man from shining forth in the world again. But now Satan has no choice. For in Christ’s perfect obedience, even to death on the cross, the once defaced image of God has been fully restored in Him. The image of God radiates flawlessly from the Body that still bears the scars of perfect Love. Therefore, as it states in Phillipians Chapter 2 verses 9-11 “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Let us go forth as Christian Soldiers and do God’s work in this world. By going forth in His name, we tread Satan under our feet.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.