Summary: War in the heavens
Revelation 12 verses 7-17
If you can cast your mind back to September last year when we began this journey through Revelation together - I said to you that some people approach Revelation as if it was written in a linear and chronological manner. I put to you that a better way to view the book is of a spiral and just as C S Lewis said of Narnia - further up and further in. You may not remember that, hence I am reminding you of it this morning as we begin this passage because here we encounter a very clear example of further up and further in. Last week we were introduced to the main characters that we meet again in these verses - namely the woman (who represented the people of God), the male child (Jesus) and the red dragon (satan). The two beasts we encounter in the next chapter. This morning we also meet Michael and his angel host.
Let me paint the big picture for you this morning before we go in to any detail on these verses. What we witnessed last week was the battle raging on earth over the coming of the Messiah and the protection and preservation of the people of God from the red dragon who came with murderous intent. These verses tell us the same story but the scene is now in heaven. We are seeing here the heavenly, spiritual and cosmic battle that goes on unseen by those battling on earth. Further up and further in. What we encounter this morning is the role of the Church in witnessing to Christ, the persecution of the Church and the source of their victory - the Blood of the Lamb.
Mercedez Benz developed a protection frame for cars that significantly reduced injuries in car crashes. When they were asked why they did not enforce their patents on this when it was obvious that other manufacturers were copying it they responded: Some things are too important not to share! I want to say to you this morning these verses are too important not to share. Remember that as we go through the passage this morning.
Verses 7-12 - War in heaven. Some commentators describe these verses as a summary of the book of Revelation. Others refer to it as a play within a play. I do not know if you know the plays of Sean O’Casey, the great Irish playwright. I had to study Juno and the Paycock for my O’Level English 32 years ago now. I have loved his writing ever since. In the play the main character is Captain Boyle and the inheritance that is left him from a distant cousin. However, in the background, behind the main plot, is a sub-plot of his daughter Mary and Mr Bentham the solicitor who brings the good news. Will Mr Bentham marry Mary etc etc. There is also a further play within a play with Johnny, Mary’s brother, Captain Boyle’s son, who has betrayed his fellow IRA man, Tancred, to the Free State Troopers who kill him. Will Johnny be found out, will he be punished. Plays within plays - that is what is going on here in these verses. Plays within plays - behind the scenes on earth, unseen by human eyes but far more real than we realise or know.
If you ever get the chance to go to Coventry and visit the Cathedral you will see a sculpture of Michael defeating the dragon. It was created by Sir Jacob Epstein. I have never seen it in person, only images of it, but it is a powerful piece of art and yet it only scratches the surface as to the significance of this battle and what takes place here.
We have here a war in heaven. Who are these characters? When did this take place? What is the outcome? What does it mean for you and me?
The characters - satan and his angels wage war against Michael and his angels. In Daniel 12.1 we are told that Michael is the guardian of God’s people Israel and in Jude 9 we read that it was Michael who contended with satan over the body of Moses. So Michael is a waring angel who defends and guards the people of God. He is an archangel because he has angels who do his bidding.
What do you know about the devil, satan?
Let us take the names he is given here. Satan = adversary, devil = slanderer, the ancient serpent - reminds us of the Garden of Eden - the one who tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God and so brought sin and death into the Creation. The deceiver of the world - his language is lies. C S Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters - letters from a senior devil to a junior devil reminds the reader that the devil tells lies and so you cannot take anything he says as truth.