Revelation 12:7-12 And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down-- that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have 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 accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."
If you ask just about anyone to draw a picture of an angel, about 99% of those angels would be sporting wings. Our modern concept of angels is that they must have wings. The only times we’ll allow for wing-less angels is if it is Michael Langdon’s character in “Highway to Heaven” or the characters in “Touched by an Angel” or Clarence working to get his wings in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Otherwise, our angels must have wings.
The Scriptures certainly mention the angels having wings. But, more often than not, we also find lots of instances of wing-less angels in the pages of the Bible.
But those aren’t the angels that we want in our art, statues or knick-knacks. We only want angels as long as they’re adorned with big, feathery wings.
We suffer from an addiction to the trivial.
The lion’s share of our lives is wasted in making big things little, and making little things big. Every hour of every day, demons lurk to attack us with their bloody claws, while we fret over wrinkles and graying hair and varicose veins. Within us there is an old Adam that hates God with a passion, but we get all worked up over a neighbor who has two-foot-high weeds in his yard. Not a single day goes by when we don’t sin enough to deserve ten-thousand lifetimes in the unquenchable fire of hell, but we freak out when the A/C goes out during a hot spot at the end of September. The most important things on the weekend seem to be our children’s athletic activities, and not the spiritual activities that may decide their eternal destination.
We are pros at making big things little, and little things big. We long for so many things that do us little or no good, while we forget about the One who does nothing but our good, who longs for our souls. He is the Commander of the Lord’s angelic host, the One who is anything but trivial.
We are taught to pray every morning and evening, “Let your holy angel be with us, that the wicked foe may have no power over us.” That’s a good prayer to pray, because if God’s angel is not with us, the wicked foe has all power over us. Then we are lambs surrounded by wolves. But the holy angels of God, who help and defend us on the earth, muzzle the demons’ murderous jaws.
St. Michael and his angelic host don’t wield swords and spears in their great battle against the Dragon and his demonic horde. The weapon of the angels is not tucked into a scabbard or holster. It’s in their mouths. Their voice is the doubled-edged sword of the Lord. Their tongue is our shield. That’s because the weapon of the angels is the word of their Lord. Revelation 12 says that St. Michael and his angels overcame the Dragon of the devil. What did they use to overcome him in their war in the spiritual realms? “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”
Words cause demons to submit and Satan to fall like lightning from heaven (Luke 10:17,18). These are not any ordinary words, but they are words dripping with divinely human blood. These words break the demons’ clutches. These words shield you from the fiery lies breathed out of the Dragon’s mouth. For these are not trivial words, but rather words that are as powerful as when the Lord first used them to call creation into existence. For these the words of the Lord.
It is not the wing-ed angels you need. But, the word-ed angels who follow the word of the Lord (Psalm 103).
You also need those whom Scripture often calls angels – the pastors of the church. They are the “angelos,” the angels, the messengers from God. Your pastor is he whom God has called and placed among you to drive out the devil. He, like the archangel Michael, is sent to protect God’s people (Daniel 12:1) “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). For this is where the battle for souls takes place.
Your pastor is not holy like an angel. But, he shares the holy message of a holy God.
What do you need from your pastor? Do you need a man who will preach to make you happy or who will preach you into hell and back to heaven again? Do you need a man who will say, “Thus says the culture” or “Thus says what makes you feel good”? Or, do you need him to say, “Thus says the Lord”? Do you need a man who will preach what your itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3) or who will preach sound doctrine, whether you agree with it or not?
What our churches need is an angelic man who is outfitted not in a white robe and wings, but one who is outfitted only with the Word of God. It is the same word that angels sang in the Bethlehem night sky or proclaimed early in the morning at the resurrection tomb. It is a voice that preaches “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God.” These words are still proclaimed in our communion liturgy for your pastor is preaching that God’s salvation is no longer a promise but a proclamation of an accomplished blessing.
This is the word that preaches comfort to the preacher in the hospital bed. This is the word of assurance that I shared with Pastor Peters before his knee replacement surgery on Monday. It is a word that promises what we sang in our Psalm this morning: “No harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For [the Lord] will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:9-12). God promises that His angels are always watching over you – in traffic, in the home, or in the hospital.
This is the word that rips babies out of the claws of Satan and places that newborn into the arms of the Good Shepherd. This is the word of Baptism that I poured over Lucas Peters in his private baptism this week. That word converted a soul whose only inclination was evil all the time and made him the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
This is the word that covers you with the blood of Christ in the words of absolution. Everything that you’ve done wrong, is washed away by the flood of that divinely human blood.
This is the word that combines with unleavened bread and grape wine to place the very body and blood of the Son of God into your mouth. That sacrament increases your faith and gives you eternal salvation.
This word is the double-edged sword of the Spirit by which He cuts off the hand or foot that causes you to sin, and heals you with the salve of His gospel.
Have you noticed that we still sing the songs of the angels in our worship? In the Gloria, we sing with the Bethlehem angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.” In the Sanctus, we join with the angels that Isaiah witnessed before the throne of God as we sing, “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power, God of might: heav’n and earth are full of your glory.” In the Te Deum, we join with the angels in heaven, with the cherubim and seraphim (God’s two and six-winged angels), in praising the Lord.
Because what you need is not trivial, for what God gives you is anything but trivial. That’s because the word that is on the lips of the heavenly angels and human angels is the Word Incarnate. The Word is the Son of God in human flesh – incarnate, crucified, resurrected and ascended, all for you. That Word preaches and accomplishes salvation. There is no more that needs to be done.
Jesus, the Word made flesh, has crushed the Ancient Serpent’s head. He has shut the mouth of Satan, the Accuser. The Passover Lamb has slain the Great Dragon. His blood shed on the cross has covered us with His righteousness. He resurrection promises that “multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will wake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).
This is the weighty Word you need – not just once in a while – but constantly and consistently. And, it is the weighty Word God provides. He speaks this Word of absolution into your ears. He pours this Word of baptism over your head. He places this Word into your mouth. He uses this Word to convert your heart and mind.
St. Michael and his angels have used the cross and tomb of Christ to win the war against the Dragon and his demons. The war has been won, but the battle for souls continue. The devil is cast down. His power is limited, but he is not powerless. He continues to rage and fight. He is coming after you. He is not happy that he has lost you to heaven. He wants you in hell with him. “He is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short.”
This is why you need the angels in the spiritual realms and the angels in your pulpits, classrooms, and altars. Do not concern yourself with the trivial. Concern yourself with what is spiritual. Your only defense against the Dragon and his demons is the weighty Word of God. This is the Word your pastor will preach into your ears and put onto your heart, so that you might join in praising God with Michael, the angels, and all the saints in heaven. This is the Word your unholy, but angelic preacher, preaches so that the Holy Spirit will overcome the devil by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of his testimony. Then you will not love your lives so much as to shrink from death. Instead, you will rejoice to go into death so that you might enjoy the Feast of the Lamb and hear the testimony of His Word for eternity. Amen.
Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. Amen.