Sunday, September 29, 2013

War in Heaven

Sermon on Matthew 18:1-11
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
September 29, 2013 (St. Michael and All Angels)

War.  Battle.  Strife.  Violence.  Not just here on earth, where wars and rumors of wars, floods, fires, famines, and so on are expected due to mankind’s sin.  Instead, war in heaven, of all places, where there is to be nothing but peace.  How can there be war in heaven?  How can division and conflict arise before the very throne of God Himself?  After all, heaven is a place of eternal peace.  Being at God’s right hand and before His face, it is outside time itself, and so a temporal and temporary event like war, in which one side wins and the other side loses, in which things are decided which affect the future and not the past, is impossible by definition.

But then again, as Christians we believe in the impossible, don’t we?  We believe that God, who is by definition unable to die, died.  We believe that His body and His blood shed on that cross are eaten and drunk by us every Sunday, and that they are never used up no matter how many Christians partake.  In fact, we believe that all of His body is contained in each crumb of the bread, and all of His blood is contained in each drop of the wine.  We believe that through baptism we were crucified on that cross outside Jerusalem on that fateful day, and that we were raised from the empty tomb the next Sunday, even though all of us here today were born almost 2000 years later.  We believe that the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, even though His slaying happened in a specific place, at a specific date in this world’s history.

And that is the sort of thing we’re talking about here.  Something that is temporal and temporary happening in a place that is outside of time and space.  Michael striving with Satan.  The angels arrayed against the demons.  It’s the sort of war in which both the battle and the victory are present simultaneously.  It’s the sort of war in which the victory is won by means of the death of the God the Son.  It’s the eternal victory over sin, death, and the devil which was won by Christ on Good Friday.  It’s precisely the messengers of the God who loves us who are assigned to cast out the false messengers, the false angels.  The reality of this war takes place both here in time and there in eternity.  Here in time it looks like death.  There in eternity it looks like victory.  But make no mistake, the legions commanded by General Michael only won their battle because the Son of God died.  It is only because Christ took their viciousness and their violence upon Himself and swallowed it all that they had none left with which to oppose the holy army which faced them.

The other bizarre, mind-bending thing about this war outside of time, of course, is that when Satan is defeated on Good Friday and cast down to earth, he enters time.  The first thing he does after his defeat at the Cross in 33 AD, is to tempt Adam and Eve into sin.  You see, it’s not just since Good Friday that the war has already been won for us.  That was true even in the Old Testament.  The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world.  Which means that Satan was already defeated even in the Garden of Eden.  All of God’s people, from Genesis to Revelation, live in the reality that Satan has been defeated and can no longer trouble us.  All of God’s people, of all times and places, are protected and upheld by His messengers, both the supernatural ones we celebrate today, as well as the natural, human messengers of God which bring us His gifts, both those which support us here in time, as well as those gifts which bring us to eternity.

It’s not just those who happen to be children right now whose angels always behold the face of God in heaven.  We are all children compared to what we will be in the resurrection at the last day.  All of us have the angels guarding and protecting us in so many ways, both from temporal death, and from eternal damnation.  And yet, while they are protecting us, they are at the same time beholding our Father’s face in heaven.  Remember, heaven is not a physical place within the universe which God created.  It is outside our time and space, and yet present in our time and space wherever Jesus is.  And Jesus is wherever the Christian is.  The angels aren’t slacking off in their duties while they are worshipping before His face.  It is precisely their duty, their battle, their service on our behalf, which takes place before His face, in eternity.  Their war takes place, in other words, precisely in heaven.  Heaven isn’t a place where we can pretend, like children, that all the bad stuff never happened.  Heaven is where we get to see Satan’s defeat, and celebrate God’s victory without end.  We can’t yet see it or experience it here in time, but at the resurrection of all flesh we will share in that glorious victory eternally.

What this means is that wherever His people dwell with His water on their heads, His word in their hearts, and His body and blood on their lips the angels’ defeat of the evil one is real and present.  Wherever God’s people are, there is Jesus.  Wherever God’s people are, the war has already been won.  Wherever God’s people are, there is the decisive eternal moment of victory, in which the accuser is drawn down to death, and those who are in Christ Jesus share in that eternal victory feast which has no end.  Amen.

+Soli Deo Gloria+

No comments:

Post a Comment