Then a war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
two great captains, "Michael" and "the dragon." "Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon;" and "the dragon warred and his angels." There is no difficulty in deciphering their names. "Michael" is the angel of the Lord - "Who is like God." It is he who enters "the strong man's house, and spoils his goods;" he that "brings to nought him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil;" he who "was manifested for this purpose, that he might destroy the works of the devil." Yea, it is he, the "King of kings and Lord of lords." And the dragon is expressly affirmed (ver. 9) to be "the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan." This scene is the central scene of the entire book, and represents the ceaseless strife. The issue is not doubtful. For the comfort of the Church, in all ages of her strife, "the great voice in heaven" proclaims "the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ." The struggle is elsewhere depicted. Here is the simple word of triumph.
1. "They [the dragon and his angels] prevailed not."
2. They were cast out: "Neither was their place found any more in heaven."
3. They were utterly routed: "The great dragon was cast down," "and his angels were cast down with him."
4. The triumphant reign of the Redeemer follows: "Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ." The words of the great chorus rise to our lips, "And he shall reign forever and ever."
5. The accuser is silenced: "Who is he that condemeth?"
6. The triumph is traced to its true source.
(1) "They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and
(2) because of the word of their testimony;" and
(3) because of their entire self devotion: "And they loved not their life even unto death."
7. The consequent heavenly jubilation: "Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and ye that dwell in them." Truly he is blessed who reads and understands these words. Herein the final triumph of the heavenly over the earthly, the sensual, the devilish, is distinctly depicted and undeniably affirmed. - R.G.
There was war in heaven.I. THE CHARACTER OF THE WAR OF REBEL ANGELS IN HEAVEN.
1. Wilful. They brought it on themselves.
2. Irreconcilable.(1) On the part of God.(2) This war is irreconcilable on the tart of rebel angels also, for when they sinned that moment their natures were changed. The passions of the soul, and the affections of the heart, which once so sweetly harmonised, were thrown into disorder and became as jarring elements, or as the troubled sea that cannot rest.
3. Unreasonable. It was a war of ingratitude, of folly, of madness — was a war against duty, against interest, against happiness itself; a war, in short, for which not only the justice of God must for ever condemn them, but the voice of reason, and the voice of the whole intelligent creation.
4. It was to rebel angels a most fatal and disastrous war. They gained nothing, but lost much.(1) They lost the favour of God, even that favour which is life, and that lovingkindness which is better than life.(2) They lost their own moral loveliness.(3) They lost their seats in heaven.
II. COMPARE AND CONTRAST THE WAR OF REBEL ANGELS IN HEAVEN WITH THE WAR OF REBEL MEN ON EARTH.
1. Was the war of rebel angels a wilful war? So also is the war of rebel men.
2. Was the war of rebel angels an irreconcilable war? Thank God, here we can drop the comparison, and take up the contrast. Yes, on this theatre of war, in the midst of heaven-daring rebels, our blessed Redeemer has, by the shedding of His most precious blood, made the great atonement.
3. Was the war of rebel angels an unreasonable war? And what shall we say of the war of rebel men? Angels sinned against creating goodness — man against redeeming love. Angels warred under black despair — man under hope of heavenly grace. The sword of justice pursued revolting angels — the wings of mercy were outstretched to shelter revolting man. And yet man rebels!
4. Was the war of rebel angels fatal and disastrous? So, also, most assuredly, will be the continued war of rebel men. Millions have already fallen in the impious contest, and shall rise no more.
(D. Baker, D. D.)1. It is here indicated that we are members of a larger community than that which is apparent to our senses; a community which gathers into itself all intelligent souls, all spirits which God has made, all who at whatever distance can approach Him in adoration or prayer. You and I, busy as we are with our occupations, our human interests, our sympathies, more or less wide with politics and society, blind as we are to the eternity in which even now we move, are one in life and hope with sons and servants and ministers of God, whose number cannot be counted for multitude. Where they are and what they are, whether they be in our midst as we sit here, or whether they tenant yonder far-off stars; whether their shape be what Hebrew poets imagined, and Italian painters painted, or whether it be some new and to us unknown clothing of the spirit — are questions about which we may dream, but to which we can give no answer. It is sufficient for us to know that between us and God is not the deep void of an appalling nothingness, but beings who, like us, are conscious of His presence; and some at least of whom if, unlike us, they need not pray, can at least, like us, bow down their faces and adore.
2. The text implies also that in that larger community there is the same great conflict going on which is for ever raging here — the conflict for mastery between evil and good. This present world of human souls is not the only scene of strife. For back in the remote and incalculable past we read of angels who "kept not their first estate"; and far on in the perhaps still distant future we read of "war in heaven." Stretched between the two is human history, and all the acted problems of which history is the sum. It is not given to us to fight the great battle which St. Michael is represented as fighting with the dragon; but it is given to us to fight a battle apparently smaller, but in fact as great, which involves the same principles, and which is only another form of the same universal struggle. What is it, for example, to tell a lie? It seems but a little thing: the yielding to a sudden impulse — the movement of a muscle or two — a faint vibration of the air — and the lie is told. We forget it, and all seems over. And what is it to tell the truth instead of a lie? Only a momentary resolution — the perhaps reluctant passing of a sentence in the judgment-hall of the conscience — a breath, and nothing more. And yet on these two courses depend issues which stretch out into illimitable space, and into endless time. As the balance of motives sways to truth or to falsehood the soul ranges itself in one of two great armies; it is one more victory or one more defeat for the cause of goodness and of God. The battlefield is not some vast interstellar space in which all the gathered spiritual hosts are massed in dense array, but the prosaic ground of our studies, our shops, and our dining-rooms. The battle is not waged so much at some supreme moments of mental struggle, when all the forces of our nature come into conscious play, but in the subtler form of the setting aside of plausible motives, and the struggling with apparently trivial sins. "Do this — it is very pleasant, and will do no real harm." "Do this — it is almost necessary, and the little wrong of it can soon be undone." Sometimes we listen and sometimes we refuse! and all our lives long, day by day and hour by hour, we alternate between victory and defeat, in a struggle which sometimes becomes a despair. For the path of holiness is not the calm ascent of a marble stairway; it is for all of us, for some no doubt more than for others, a life-long journey over a rugged and sometimes uncertain road, a stumbling over many stones, a wandering into many a by-path, a fall into many a snare; and when heaven's gates open to us at last, they open to a tattered traveller with a worn and weary soul. But for all there need be no despair. The victory is slow to come, but it comes at last; and its coming, for this world at least, depends, in God's providence, not on angels and archangels, but upon you and me and men like ourselves. It depends on our doing the best we individually can, with the help which is given to us from above, to crush in our own souls, and in the sphere in which we move, the daily and hourly temptations to selfishness, to injustice, to untruth, to uncharitableness, to indolence, and to irritability. Every dishonest act which we decline to perform, every falsehood which we refuse to utter, every uncharitable word which we leave unsaid, every sensual impulse which we crush, is for ourselves, for the world of men, for the world of spirits of which we are members, one more thwarting of the power of evil, one more victory of the power of good, one more step towards that consummation when the great choir of intelligent souls shall circle round the Father of spirits from whom both they and we derive our life, and to whom both we and they alike return.
(Edwin Hatch, D. D.)
(John Congreve, M. A.)
Michael and his angels foughtJude 1:9) — there seems to be only one, for we never read of archangels — and an archangel is again spoken of in circumstances that can hardly be associated with the thought of any one but God (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Above all, the prophecies of Daniel, in which the name Michael first occurs, may be said to decide the point. A person named Michael there appears on different occasions as the defender of the Church against her enemies (Daniel 10:13, 21), and once at least in a connexion leading directly to the thought of our Lord Himself (Daniel 12:1-3). These considerations justify the conclusion that the Michael now spoken of is the representative of Christ.
(W. Milligan, D. D.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
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