Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Revelation 12 is a significant chapter in the story of the Bible. It gives us a window into the cosmic battle laying behind the suffering of Christ’s Church. The conflict depicted here in Revelation 12 is an ancient conflict that started in Genesis 3:15. The serpent, who deceived Adam and Eve, is portrayed as a dragon. But, to fully appreciate our text for today, we need to have a grasp on John’s complete vision, depicted more fully throughout chapter 12. This vision begins with the depiction of a stunning woman who is carrying a child. Her child represents Jesus and the woman represents his church. At first, the dragon is only concerned with the child. The dragon tries his hardest to devour the child, but John sees God “snatch him up” and enthrone the child in heaven. Jesus’ ministry, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension are summed up in this action, and Jesus, not the dragon, is exalted and enthroned. What happens next is really significant—the woman (again, representing the church) flees into the wilderness, to the place prepared by God, so that there they might care for her (Revelation 12:6). Keep this in mind as we turn now to our portion of the text.
2. It’s at this point that St. Michael enters the scene. We read, Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 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 (Revelation 12:7-9). So, there’s this cosmic, heavenly battle going on. Let that sink in for a second. The fact that there’s a battle going on in the presence of God is staggering. What’s going on here? Well, we need to understand the nature of this “battle” by first understanding what the devil was doing in heaven in the first place. It seems, from what John hears in verse 10 and from what we see famously in the book of Job and also in Zechariah, that the devil accuses people before God. That’s literally what “Satan” means in Hebrew. So, the devil would stand in God’s presence and essentially remind God of the sins that each person committed—a prosecutor, so to speak. But now that Christ has atoned for the sins of his people, there’s no room for an accuser. The case has been closed by the judge; the prosecutor can’t speak anymore. There’s no more room for the devil in heaven. So, Michael casts the dragon from heaven—Jesus has overcome the power of the accuser by his death and resurrection.
3. Listen to what John hears next: 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 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. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them!” (Revelation 12:10-12a). The victory is won! This ancient dragon has been defeated! The blood of the Lamb—Jesus Christ—has defeated him. It’s time to break into celebration! But, wait…listen again to how our reading ends: “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!” (Revelation 12:12b). So, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The dragon is still on the loose. He’s a wounded, defeated animal. And, as you know, a wounded animal is the most dangerous kind. So, John returns to this imagery of the woman (again, who represents the Church). Now that the dragon has been thrown down to earth, he starts attacking and making war against the woman and her descendants. John wants us to realize something—the war’s been won, but it’s not over.
4. Now, let’s talk for a minute about what this means for you and me. Jesus has overcome the power of the dragon by his death and resurrection, but the dragon’s still on the lose…and you and I are the church—we’re that woman who the dragon wants to destroy. We’re helpless against this dragon. But do you remember where the woman in John’s vision flees? To the wilderness, to the place prepared by God. Do you see what’s going on here? John is saying that the church, just like Ancient Israel, is wandering in the wilderness. Just like them, we have experienced our own “Exodus” salvation moment in Jesus and are now wandering in the wilderness. We’re here, in the church, in the place prepared by God, awaiting the time when we’ll be brought to the Eternal Promised Land. My friends, just like the Lord did for Ancient Israel, he will also return on the last day and take us to that Eternal Promised Land. And on that day, he’ll destroy the dragon once and for all so you and I won’t have to struggle and suffer through his attacks anymore. Take heart, my friends. Live in confidence. Christ is coming again. That’s our hope. And, until that day, we pray, Everlasting God, just as Your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, grant that they may also help and defend us here on earth as we wander through this wilderness awaiting life with you in the Eternal Promised Land.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.