ALL THINGS VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE
At that time Michael shall arise, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. Daniel 12:1
People are fascinated by the mysterious! They love the occult. They want seers to interpret their dreams and psychics to unlock the secrets of the future. To be sure, superstition and blind faith are the marks of the world today, but Christians have their mysteries too. Often they are mishandled by fringe denominations who torture the book of Revelation until it yields up fantastic stories. In spite of the abuse, there are true Christian mysteries; a whole spiritual world going on around us that we cannot see except through a glass darkly, but it is not completely shrouded. Scripture has clear truths to reveal to us, such as the ones we hear in today's Scripture lessons.
We learn today that our Lord Jesus Christ, along with the holy angels and the holy church, delivered his beloved creation from the tyranny of Satan. We find that by His death He accomplished what the world's schemers are forever promising, that He purged the world of evil and restored that which is truly Good to us, and us to it. When the prophet Daniel writes, "and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been..." he is not talking about the dreams of a Pentecostal preacher, but about all that our Lord would suffer to balance the cosmic scales, to remove the sting of our sins, to render Satan powerless to harm us. Up until the time of our Lord's ascension into heaven, "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion..." (Eph.1:21), up until that time, Satan's power was great indeed!
It is the job of a prosecutor in a courtroom to show the defendant in the worst possible light, to question every motive, criticize every action, disparage every twitch. In the same way Satan, whose name means "the Accuser," stood before the council of the Almighty accusing God's people of their sins day and night. We learn this in the Book of Job, the Book of Zechariah and in today's epistle reading. Now it is true that the devil is the "father of lies," but in the matter of our violations no fabrications are needed. Every accusation he ever made against us was true. If we open our catechisms to the Commandments, with their Christian explanation, we will find all that the accuser says to be accurate, and we will find something even more amazing, that St. Paul agrees with him! He writes in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." And again, "There is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good, and sinneth not." (Rom. 3:10) However the long night of sin ended when Jesus was crucified for our sins. It is not only the things that He suffered, ghastly as they were, that gained salvation for us, but the fact that these things were done to the One Who is holy, the One Who is without sin. That is what made the difference. That is how "the obedience of One Man" is able to make "many righteous." St. Paul writes that "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures," and now, "it is finished!" Sin is atoned for, all charges are dropped. Our Lord was taken up into heaven, and this is where St. John takes the baton from Daniel.
St. John informs us that when Jesus ascended into heaven, a great battle took place. Michael and his mighty angels drove Satan from the presence of God, which caused all of heaven to rejoice. Now the accuser is gone from God's presence, and Jesus is seated at His right hand, not to charge us or to indict us, but as scripture states, to intercede for us, to plead His blood, the eternal sacrifice for us, to cover our sins and to grant us a constant flow of the pardon that He merited for us on the cross.
Yet there is more to the story. Satan was ejected from the presence of God, but not to his final destination, which is the Lake of Fire. According to St. John's visions he was cast down to the earth. It is this fact that prompts the evangelist to write, "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!" We learn here that the Great War was moved from the precincts of heaven to the precincts of earth and the "great wrath" of the fiery dragon is everywhere evident. As terrible as it is to live in the middle of a spiritual war zone, we need not be afraid. The dragon is on tilt to be sure, for he knows that his time is short, and misery loves company, but he cannot snatch us from the Father's hand, of that we can be sure!
The angels who once routed the forces of evil still defend us today. The Gospel of the Kingdom which was once preached by the seventy-two is still heralded today at Christ Lutheran Church, and has been for 124 years. As a result, Satan further loses his grip. He "falls like lightning" to use our Lord's words, and the world comes ever closer to the final consummation, to a true Golden Age; not one constructed by men and their futile efforts, but a new creation framed by the Almighty. That is the Christian hope, that is the goal of our faith. So today let us rejoice with the heavens and all that dwell therein. Let us render praise and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father, who has written our names in the Lamb's Book of Life, and who sends His Holy Angel to defend us. Amen.
Rev. Dean Kavouras