10,000 Angels aren't Enough
Country singer Mindy McCreedy sings, "I need 10,000 angels watching over me tonight." That's a lot of angels, but our text teaches us that 10,000 angels aren't enough.
10,000 angels couldn't throw Satan and his angels out of heaven. You know this if you know what allowed Satan to stay in heaven even after he rebelled. Two things did: God's holy Law and my unholy sins. God's holy Law needed to be kept perfectly by men, and all sins against it had to be paid for in full. As long as these 2 conditions were not met, Satan had access to God. He could stand before God and accuse sinners day and night, because the Law requires perfect obedience day and night and we sin night and day.
10,000 angels couldn't keep Satan out of heaven. He had a right to be there. God had bound Himself to His Word. God had promised to punish sinners who violate His Law. Anyone at all, even Satan, can appeal to God's Word. And Satan did. Not only couldn't 10,000 angels throw Satan out of heaven, he came and went into heaven with the angels. After the Fall, after Satan rebelled in heaven and slithered into Eden, Job shows us Satan among the angels as they present themselves to God. And what's he doing there? He doing what the devil always does; he's accusing.
You know how that is. You can hear the echo's of Satan's voice in your own conscience. You don't do this; you did this; you do that. 10,000 angels can't shut him up, but the one and only Son of God could and did. God the Son took on our flesh and blood. He placed Himself under all the holy Laws of God and kept every single one of them, but there was hell to pay for all the laws we break. And pay He did, in His life, on that cross, in His bitter sufferings, drop by bloody drop He paid for all my sins, all your sins, the sins of the whole world.
What threw Satan out of heaven is the holy life of Jesus and His bloody, bitter, suffering and death. The war in heaven at the opening of our text starts because Jesus ascended back into heaven after keeping the Law and paying for our sins. Now what standing could Satan have in heaven? What Law can he accuse you of breaking if Jesus kept them all in your place? What punishments for sin can Satan insist you bear if Jesus bore them all for you? 10,000 angels couldn't throw Satan out of heaven but one lowly, holy, dead yet risen and now ascended Carpenter from Nazareth did.
Satan and his angels were thrown out of heaven, so here on earth the battle rages on. Though we do have 10,000 angels watching over us tonight, Scripture tells us that there are numerous evil angels too and they are also very powerful. As A Mighty Fortress teaches us to sing, "With might of ours can naught be done." That's because Satan enlists other forces besides his angels against us.
Revelation 12 pictures Satan being hurled to the earth, but it forecasts "woe to the earth and the sea." In Revelation 13 Satan is shown calling a Beast from the sea and then a Beast from the earth. One Beast is antichristian government and the other is the antichristian church. Dropping the figurative speech, Paul speaks of them in Ephesians 6 as the "cosmic powers over this present darkness" and "the spiritual forces of evil," and says all Christians have to do battle with them in this life. Revelation 12 tells us that Satan does battle with us because he failed to devour Christ. Peter describes it this way. "Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour."
Paul shows us in 2 Corinthians that the devil doesn't always use a frontal assault. Sometimes he comes to us an angel of light speaking high, holy, good sounding things. Always though, Satan is at war with the ministry of the Word. Jesus describes him as a greedy bird snatching the sown seed of the Word out of hearts so they can't believe. When Jesus steps ashore to bring His saving Gospel to Gadara, a legion of devils is right there to try and stop Him. Even in the Church, Satan is found. First he's there in the person of Peter trying to turn Christ from the cross. Jesus has to tell him, "Get behind Me Satan." Then ironically Satan is there entering into Judas to turn Christ to the cross. Satan will take any side of any issue in an attempt to frustrate the good and saving will of God.
With beings as powerful, crafty, and numerous as Satan and his angels, 10,000 angels aren't enough to give us the victory. So even though we have the ministry of 10,000 angels, we're not more than conquerors for that reason. "No," says St. Paul, "We are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us."
Our text clearly teaches us this as well. It says we overcome the devil and his angels by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony. The blood of the Lamb was shed to cover our sins. Our sins are what kept us out of heaven; our sins are what kept the blessings of God from us. The blood of the Lamb washes away sins, cleanses us from all sins, and hides our sins from the holy God and His Law.
It's like the Old Testament Day of Atonement. The high priest poured the blood of a goat into the mercy seat that sat atop the Ark. In the Ark, under the mercy seat, were the 10 Commandments that man had broken. Above the seat dwelled God in a cloud. How could He not be mad, infuriated at seeing His holy Commandments broken into shards? Enter the high priest with the blood of a goat. But the blood of a goat carried by a sinful man did not and could not in and of itself hide sin. No, it pointed forward to the Blood of Christ which He Himself would carry into heaven to cover, hide, and atone for our sins.
Our text says we overcome not by 10,000 angels but by the blood of Christ and our word of testimony. Our word of testimony is our confession of faith in that Blood. We say, "Don't look at what we've done O Lord in our flesh and blood, but look at the Blood of Jesus." We take shelter from Satan, his angels and the storms of life in that Blood. Baptism sprinkles us with it. Absolution paints it over the doorposts of our life so the avenging angel passes over us, and Communion is the very Blood that Christ shed for us.
Satan remains on earth ever seeking to devour us. He tries in many ways. He tries to swallow us up with sickness, with disaster, and mainly with despair. Ever and always he preaches, "See you're at my mercy. See I can do anything I want to do you." And we give into this lie. We sink into the open mouth of despair thinking that despite what Jesus promised us we really are after all left as orphans in this world.
Satan tries to devour us in despair by pointing to what we all know. Even with 10,000 angels around us bad, painful, terrible things do happen to us. How can we overcome Satan who seeks to devour us with the fact that even Christians with 10,000 angels watching over them suffer and die? By devouring the Blood and Body of the Lamb. St. John promises, 'Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." Just where does Jesus come into us more than in Holy Communion? Just how much more could Jesus be in us than by our eating and drinking His Body and Blood?
In communing we overcome Satan and all his angels. Though sickness, sadness, or catastrophe claims us in this life, we have what the early Church called Communion, the Medicine of Immortality. Yes, though we're outwardly perishing and though 10,000 angels can't stop that from happening, inwardly we are being renewed by the Body and Blood of the Lamb. It's strong medicine. Stronger than any earthly medicine. Holy Communion isn't just medicine for this body and life but for everlasting life.
There's the secret to rejoicing in this woeful world. Our text says that woe belongs to the earth and sea and 10,000 angels aren't able to change this fact either. But the text goes on to say that rejoicing belongs to the heavens and "to those who dwell in them!" So where do we dwell on earth and sea or in heaven? Scripture says we're pilgrims and strangers here just passing through. Colossians 3 says our life is hid with Christ. We dwell where He does. So while 10,000 angels are not able to deliver us from this valley of tears, one Lord Jesus can and does. Rejoicing belongs to us because our life is not tied to this earth and sea or even to this flesh and blood that's going the way of all flesh, to dust and ashes. Our rejoicing is tied to the Body and Blood of the Lamb which is above all this.
But there's more. The Lamb who has redeemed us doesn't stay safe and secure in heaven far away from the woe that earth and sea know. No, He gives us a Meal on earth of His Body and Blood. In this Feast, He carves out a little bubble of heaven for us here on earth. Heaven is where Jesus is. Jesus in Communion not only places Himself into our mouths and bodies, but into our space and time. In Communion heaven comes to earth and we come to heaven on earth. We remind ourselves each time we have Holy Communion that we are not alone in the celebration. We acknowledge that the frail praises we offer to the Christ now present here in this space and time are really done with "angels and archangels and all the company of heaven."
10,000 angels are impressive, but they aren't enough. One Lord Jesus is more than enough. By giving Himself for us and to us, He also won for and gives to us the ministry of angels which do as much or as little as is necessary for His glory and our eternal salvation. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
St. Michael and All Angels (20050925); Revelation 12: 7-12