Goal of the Message: To warn people of the devil’s battle plan and encourage them to join the battle for good and against evil.
Rev. Eldon Weisheit, Fountain of Life Lutheran Church, Tucson, Arizona
Suggested Hymns: Lord God, to You We All Give Praise (LW 189, TLH 254); Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones (LW 308; TLH 475). The first verse of the second hymn lists some of the different kinds of angels referred to in Scripture. The medieval church taught that there were nine orders of angels, but this precise hierarchy was rejected during the Reformation. Nevertheless, this verse reflects the wide range of roles of angels referred to (but not clearly defined) in the Bible.
Suggested reading: Though it would perhaps be overkill as preparation for one sermon, Heiko A. Oberman’s Luther: Man between God and the Devil (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989) is a practical and historical explanation of the text for this sermon. This book shows Luther as a part of the struggle and also as a fulfillment of verses 10 and 11 of the text.
Introduction: We are at war. It is an underground war between good and evil. We do not watch this war from the sidelines or hear about it in news reports. We are all in the battle. Our sinful nature is on the side of Satan and his evil angels. Our new nature battles on the side of God and the good angels. Paul describes this battle when he says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Rom 7:15). What is at stake in this battle? Our souls; the battle is over us.
The text for today helps us as we fight in this battle that rages not just in the world and in society, but in each of us. Listen to this text as though it were sent by our undercover operatives in heaven. Pretend that the archangel Michael is the head of the CIA—the Celestial Information Angels. He and the good angels that serve God are also a part of that battle between good and evil. They fight on God’s side for us and they have sneaked the words of this text out to us so we can know what is happening and how we can be a part of the battle for good and against evil. (Read the text.)
1. Know the enemy you are fighting and the tactics he uses.
A. Our angelic spies have identified the enemy. He works under several aliases.
(1) The ancient serpent, the chief of all evil. Here the Scriptures take off the mask from the serpent who came to the Garden of Eden and asked, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? “ (Gen 3:1).
He tricked Adam and Eve into serving him instead of serving God, and he tries to do the same to you and me today. The chief of all evil still uses disguises so he can get us to listen to him. Today he wears not only the masks of alcohol, drugs, and misused sex, but also the disguise of success, fame, fortune, and prejudice. What mask does the evil one use when he wants to talk to you? Take mental pictures of those masks so you can identify them to the agents of the Celestial Information Angels.
(2) The next alias is the devil. The word used here in the original Greek is diabolos, that is, the accuser. His main job, as described in v 10 of our text, is to accuse us before God, to remind God of our sins and try to get God to condemn us. He is the spiritual bully who tricks you into sin and then laughs at you and tells everyone. He is the source of evil who feels better if he can accuse others of sharing that evil. He tries to make you feel so guilty that you think you shouldn’t go to church or that you can’t serve God.
(3) The great dragon—the symbol of fear of the unknown. Ancient literature is filled with stories of dragons. They are always a destructive and evil force. The fact that they are not real makes them no less dangerous. The force of evil uses lies and deceits to fill people with fear. Name your greatest fears to yourself. Identify the dragons in your life. Remember them, knowing that our angel spies have help for you in your daily battle against the unknown fears of your life.
(4) Now we get to his name—Satan. It means the enemy, the adversary. This is the part of himself that he wants to hide from us. He does not want us to know that his goal is to destroy us. His anger against God makes him want to attack those whom God loves the most. That is the human race. He wants to hurt you and me.
B. Our angelic spies also have discovered Satan’s battle plan.
(1) First he wants to lead us astray. He doesn’t care where he leads us—just so it is away from God. If he can’t make you feel so bad that you don’t deserve God’s love, he will make you feel so good that you don’t need that love. If he can’t make you despair, he will make you proud. If he can’t make you hate others, he will make you love them in a destructive way. His goal is to get you away from God; any method will do.
(2) The second part of his battle plan is to be “the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night” (v 10). The devil is a tattle-tale; that’s what devil means. He wants to tell God how bad you are. And he wants you to believe that he is right when he accuses you.
C. Suppose we made a TV program about heaven’s most dangerous enemy. We have the information we need right here in this text his name and aliases, his method of operation. We know his plan and how he works. We can warn people. Would you be willing to appear on screen to testify against him? Would you be afraid to bring this underground war out in the open? Don’t answer those questions until we look at the rest of this report of the battle in heaven between, good and evil.
2. Know the friend who is fighting for you and the tactics he uses.
A. “Now has come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ” (v 10).
(1) The Lord Jesus Christ is on our side. Christ always had authority because he is God. But he put limits on his use of authority when he became a human, being. He put himself on our side of the battle between good and evil, and he allowed himself to be killed for the evil we do. But after he rose from the dead he again started using all of his power as God. After his resurrection he would say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18a). After his death and resurrection he could claim authority even over sin and death. Christ’s authority is our chief weapon against Satan. Remember that. Satan has two tools of warfare to use against you—sin and death. When he accuses you of sin, the authority of Jesus Christ says you are forgiven. When Satan says you will die, the authority of Jesus Christ says you will live again.
(2) The text also tells us that the power of the Kingdom of God is on our side. The devil’s power is limited. He is not an evil god. He is an angel, created by God, created good, but who chose to rebel against his Creator.
If God’s power were used against us, it would be terrifying. But since God uses his power to save and protect us, it is a source of security and joy. God’s power, the highest of all powers, is on your side. Paul asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b).
(3) Next, salvation is on our side. The war has already been won, though battles still must be fought. The devil has been tossed out of heaven—never to return. The devil can still roam the earth but has only a short time until the world comes to an end and he loses his last place to torment God’s people. Because Christ has died for you, you have salvation. Because he has risen, you have eternal life. Your best defensive weapon in the battle against evil is confident faith in Jesus Christ. By his power, evil will lose its control in your life and God’s goodness will be yours forever.
B. Look who is fighting with you in the battle between good and evil.
(1) Michael and the angels fight against Satan. We are saved by Christ, not by angels. But God uses the angels to help carry out the ministry of Christ. Jesus says, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). The Scripture says, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:1). The Bible from Genesis 3 on is filled with stories of angels guarding and protecting people. God also sends angels to be with you in the battle between good and evil.
(2) The saints in heaven also fight on our side with their testimony recorded in Holy Scripture. Christ is the one who saves us, but he uses the testimony of the saints who were accused by Satan but who won the victory by the blood of the Lamb (vv 10a,11). As we struggle in the battle between good and evil, we have the witness of those who have fought that same battle before us. We can see how Stephen, the first Christian martyr, faced death bravely, knowing Christ was with him. The Bible and the history of the church since then are filled with examples of people who lived and died knowing that they had won a victory through Christ.
3. What are we going to do with this information that we have received from our spies in heaven?
A. “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!” (v 12a) The angels and the saints in heaven are already celebrating the victory over Satan. We on earth get to join in that celebration. The angels have three jobs in their work for Christ among us. They deliver messages. They guard us. They worship God with us. Even though we are still on earth and still in battle, we can take time out (as we are doing now) to join the angels in joyful worship. Look how we mention the angels in our worship (give examples: “This Is the Feast,” “Gloria in Excelsis,” “Doxology,” etc.).
B. “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” (v 12b). Will you openly declare yourself as a part of the battle against evil and for good? In light of Christ’s authority, power, and salvation—backed by his life, death, and resurrection—we can answer that question.
(1) You have already been saved by Christ. When you die, you will go to heaven. That salvation applies to every area of your life! Remember as we read the report of our angel spies, we asked how the devil accused you, how he made you afraid, how he came behind a mask to deceive you. But you have the victory of Jesus Christ to help you in every area of your life.
(2) Because the testimony of the saints and the angels help in the battle, you can be a part of the battle to help others. In Christ you are a saint right now, while still on this earth. You battle not only for yourself but for others. The word of your testimony and of your victory through the blood of Jesus Christ can help others in their battle against evil and for good. The angels have given you a message from God. Now you have a message from God for others.