Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder
September 30, 2012, Pentecost XVIII – St. Michael and All Angels
Daniel 10:10-14, 12:1-3; Psalm 103:19-22, Revelation 12:7-12; Luke 10:17-20
From the Book of the prophet Daniel:
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, every one whose name shall be found written in the book.
From the Revelation to St. John:
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 brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”
And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
“Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.
It is hard to believe that the summer is officially over. The older I get, the faster time seems to go. I hope many of you were able to get away and enjoy the good weather. Before we know it, winter will be here and we’ll have visions of going to Florida – perhaps Sarasota. But if you were able to get away, there is always a certain amount of planning that goes into a vacation.
The first thing you need to do is pick a place to go. If you remember my last sermon, we had Dr. Einstein on a train and he had lost his ticket and didn’t know where he was going. I asked the question: do you know where you are going? Once you have determined your destination, you may need to make a reservation, so that you will be guaranteed a place to stay. Some people do this the old fashion way by using the telephone and others, who are more computer savvy, will do this on-line. In both cases, you should receive a confirmation that your reservation has been received and you are guaranteed a place at your destination.
From May to September 1787, the American Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia to develop a system of government for the new nation. By June 28, progress had been so slow that Benjamin Franklin stood and addressed George Washington, president of the convention. Among other things, he said: “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men.” He then moved that they invite some of the local clergy to come to the assembly to lead them in prayer for divine guidance. The motion would have passed except that the convention had no budget for paying visiting chaplains.
Though not a professed evangelical believer, Franklin was a man who believed in a God who is the Architect and Governor of the universe, a conviction that agrees with the testimony of Scripture. In Genesis (18:25), Abraham called God “the Judge of all the earth,” and in 2 Kings (19:15), King Hezekiah prayed, “Thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.” In Daniels day, King Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way that “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men” (Daniel 4:32).
An angel revealed to Daniel that the day is coming for the great tribulation, when the Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel, seizes the temple, and sets himself up as world dictator and god. This is the “abomination of desolation” that Daniel wrote about earlier (Dan. 12:11); and that Jesus referred to in His Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:15). The last three and a half years of Daniel’s seventieth week will usher in a time of terrible suffering. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be,” said Jesus (Matt. 24:21).
One of the features of this terrible time will be Antichrist’s war against the Jewish people (Rev. 12), but Michael, the angel assigned to care for the Jewish people (Dan. 10:13); Rev. 12:7), will come to their aid. God’s elect people will be preserved (Matt. 24:22). God will keep His covenant with Abraham and see to it that the Jewish remnant will enter into their promised kingdom.
The Father promised a kingdom to His Son (Luke 1:30-33), and He will keep His promise. One day Jesus will deliver that promised kingdom up to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24). Jesus affirmed the kingdom promise to His disciples (Luke 22:29-30), and when
they asked Him when it would be fulfilled (Acts 1:6-8), he only told them not to speculate about the times but to get busy doing the work He left them to do.
The doctrine of the resurrection of the human body is hinted at in the Old Testament but isn’t presented with the clarity found in the New Testament. Jesus brought “life and immortality to light (2 Timothy 1:10) and clearly taught the fact of His own resurrection as well as what the resurrection meant to His followers (John 5:19-20).
Resurrection is not “reconstruction”; the Lord doesn’t put back together the body that has turned to dust (Gen. 3:19). The resurrection body is a new and glorious body. The relationship between the body that’s buried and the body that’s raised is like that of a seed to the mature plant (1 Cor. 15:35-53). The burial of a body is like the planting of a seed, and the resurrection is the harvest.
When Jesus Christ returns in the air to call His church, the dead in Christ will be raised first, and then the living believers will be caught up with them to be with the Lord (1 Thes. 4:13-18). When Jesus returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation, He will bring His people with Him to share in the victory and the glory. At that time, the Old Testament saints and the Tribulation martyrs will be raised to enter into the kingdom. However, those who died without faith in Christ will not be raised until after the Kingdom Age, and they will be judged (Rev. 20:4-6; 11-15). As Daniel states it, some will awake to enjoy the glorious life with God, and some will awake to enter into shame and everlasting contempt and everlasting Judgment.
How we have lived and served will determine the rewards the Lord will give us at the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:9-12). Every cup will be full in heaven, but some cups will be larger than others. We will share in the glory of Christ, and those who have sought to win others to Christ will shine like the stars in the heavens.
In our Gospel reading this morning, it mentions seventy men returning and rejoicing. Who were these 70 men? We read in Luke 10:1-3: After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”
To begin with, we are the Lord’s ambassadors, sent to represent Him in this world (Luke 10:1-14). We are also neighbors, looking for opportunities to show mercy in the name of Christ (Luke 10:25-37). But at the heart of all our ministry is devotion to Christ, so we must be worshipers who take time to listen to His Word and commune with Him (Luke 10:38-42).
This event should not be confused with the sending out of the Twelve (Matt. 10; Luke 9:1-11). The 12 Apostles ministered throughout Galilee, but these seventy men were sent into Judea, and the men in this chapter are not called Apostles. They were anonymous disciples. Why did Jesus select seventy men instead of some other number? The original twelve disciples were associated with the twelve sons of Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel, so the Seventy may be associated with the seventy nations listed in the tenth chapter of Genesis.
These men were not called “apostles,” but they were still “sent with a commission” to represent the Lord. They were therefore truly ambassadors of the King. Not only were they sent by Him, but they were also sent before Him to prepare the way for His coming.
They were ambassadors of peace, bringing healing to the sick, deliverance to the possessed, and the Good News of salvation to lost sinners. Like Joshua’s army of old, they first proclaimed peace to the cities. If a city rejected the offer of peace, then it chose judgment (Deut. 20:10-18). It is a serious thing to reject the ambassadors God sends.
It is important to note that the special power that Jesus gave to His Apostles (Luke 9:1) and to the Seventy is not ours to claim today. These two preaching missions were very special ministries, and God did not promise to duplicate them in our age. Our Lord’s commission to us emphasizes the proclamation of the message, not the performing of miracles (Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:46-49).
To hear Christ’s ambassadors, means to hear Him, and to despise His representatives, means to despise Him. “As My Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21). The way a nation or people treats an ambassador is the way it treats the government the ambassador represents. How true it is today, when on 9-11our Libyan ambassador and three other Americans were killed and our consulate was destroyed. This was an attack on the United States and our faith in God. Make no mistake about this; this is a religious war; this is a spiritual war.
When the Seventy returned, they were full of joy and reported their victories to Jesus. He had given them power and authority to heal, to cast out demons, and to preach the Word, and they were successful! In the midst of their great joy, they were careful to give God the glory by saying, “in Thy name.”
But the Lord cautioned them not to “go on rejoicing” over their victories but to rejoice because their names had been written down in heaven. To keep focused on the prize: to have eternal life with God in heaven; their reservation was confirmed!
As wonderful as their miracles were, the greatest miracle of all is still the salvation of a lost soul. Regarding the parable of the lost coin, Jesus said, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15: 10).
Is our reservation in heaven guaranteed?
Today, as our tradition, we once again remember the war in heaven and St. Michael and his angels’ victory over Satan. Satan was once one of the highest of God’s angels, but he rebelled against God and was cast down (Isa. 14:12-15).
When Jesus Christ died on the cross, it meant Satan’s ultimate defeat (John 12:31-33). Satan will one day be cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-10), and then finally cast into hell (Rev. 20:10). Because Jesus Christ died for us, we can overcome Satan’s accusations “by the blood of the Lamb.” Our salvation is secure not because of our own works, but because of His work at Calvary.
Christ’s shed blood gives us our perfect standing before God (1 John 1:5-2:2). But our witness to God’s Word and our willingness to lay down our lives for Christ defeats Satan as well. Satan is not equal to God; he is not omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient. His power is limited and his tactics must fail when God’s people trust the power of the blood and of the Word.
Nothing Satan does can rob us of “salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ” (Rev. 12:10), if we are yielded to Him. God’s great purposes will be fulfilled!
Believers in any age or situation can rejoice in this victory, no matter how difficult their experiences may be. Our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of the wicked one; and these have been defeated by our Saviour (Eph. 6:10ff).
We need to keep focused on the prize: that Jesus Christ has reserved a place in His heavenly kingdom for those who believe. And His heavenly angels rejoice: Reservation confirmed!
Let us pray:
O God, you declare your mighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever