We Will Overcome and Win the Victory
Rev. Kurt Lantz Midweek Advent 3 6th Petition
December 14, 2022 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
How do you portray in pictures the attacks from the devil, the world, and our sinful nature? You can draw the devil as a dragon by the great river Euphrates, with unclean spirits looking like frogs coming out of his mouth (Revelation 16:13). That is the way that God pictured it to John.
How do you picture the world as an attacking enemy of God’s people? In Daniel’s vision the enemy of the world is reported to be the ghostly princes of the kingdoms. It is the prince of the kingdom of Persia (which encompassed the great river Euphrates also seen in the revelation to John) who opposes the coming of the Son of Man to Daniel (Daniel 16:13). Nevertheless this ghostly prince cannot stop the Son of Man from reaching Daniel, and when the prince of Persia is defeated, then the prince of Greece becomes the worldly adversary (16:20).
How do you picture your own sinful nature as an enemy attacking you through temptation in order to destroy your faith? Is it a self portrait? Is it like the gruesome portrait of Dorian Gray kept hidden in the attic, or the front page of a fashion magazine?
There is a great war going on and the enemies go largely unseen. We don’t see the devil other than animated versions in silly cartoons. We don’t see the world as an enemy. We prefer to think of the world as our refuge, our home, or even as an ailing mother spirit who needs our care and attention. As for our sinful nature, the enemy within, well we leave that totally out of the picture. We put the mirror of God’s holy law away in a vanity cupboard.
These very real, yet unseen and therefore unacknowledged enemies are hard at work in underhanded methods of subterfuge. The great English writer C.S. Lewis did a wonderful job in painting a word picture of the demonic espionage at work in his novel The Screwtape Letters, a series of interdepartmental memos from a high level demon to his underling on the front lines—a work I hesitate to call fiction.
The Christian needs to be woken up, not to social justice issues, but to the demonic, worldly, and sinful human forces at work. St. Paul wrote for us, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). This testimony from St. Paul goes hand in hand with the visions of Daniel and the revelation to St. John.
We are at war and we do not recognize the enemy. We are at war and the casualties to the Church are taken in a rather casual manner. We are at war and the devastation is disguised as self-improvement projects. We are at war and the economic collapse is hidden in credit card debt. We are at war and it is the source of our depression and anxiety and animosity. We need peace to come.
It came to Daniel as he had a vision of a man in priestly garments with the appearance of lightning (Daniel 10:5-6). It was the Lord Jesus coming to Daniel as He later appeared on the Mount of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2), and as John describes Him in Revelation (1:13-15).
How do you portray the power and great glory of the coming of the Son of Man? Here it is, and He can be seen because He is not merely a ghostly prince. He is the incarnate Son of God. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:15-16).
This is an ally that you can see because He has flesh and blood as you have. Daniel saw Him in a vision. John saw Him in the flesh, even transfigured in the flesh to reveal His power and glory. This is the Rescuer that we can picture. There are more pictures, statues, images of Him than any other person that has ever been born. It is not difficult to picture our Liberator. He is described in great detail in the Word of God from beginning to end.
Daniel recognized his Emancipator. He felt His touch and heard Him speak in answer to his prayer: “O man, greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage” (Daniel 10:19). In answer to the prayers of His besieged people, Christ comes. When you perceive your great enemies and cry out for protection and deliverance, Jesus hears and answers and comes.
When you pray “Lead us not into temptation”, you are not asking God to stop putting tempting things in your life that will cause you to sin. He doesn’t do that. He is never trying to make you a casualty in the great war for your eternal soul. You are praying that this great ally of yours would clear the path of all enemy installations that are looking to destroy you. You pray that He would lead you on safe paths, not only avoiding the enemies, but destroying them wherever they may appear.
The enemies are real and they fight against the Christ in an effort to capture you. But even as Jesus stands against them and repels them and thwarts them, He also comes to you to love you and strengthen you and give you good courage to stand your place in faith while He and Michael the archangel and their host do battle. Do not be afraid, for you are highly prized and they fight to keep you from falling into the hands of the enemy.
As Jesus spoke, Daniel was strengthened. That is how it works. When we hear Jesus speak we are strengthened to stand firm in this war. After rising from the dead in victory Jesus came to His disciples and the first thing He said to them was, “Peace to you” (Jn 20:19, 21, 26), and He said it time and again. The voice of Jesus is the power of God’s Word to calm, comfort, alleviate fear, and strengthen faith. This is what relieves our anxiety and calms our fear and pacifies our animosity in this time of war.
In the Preface to the Large Catechism, Martin Luther wrote:
Certainly you will not release a stronger incense or other repellent against the devil than to be engaged by God’s commandments and words, and speak, sing, or think them (Colossians 3:16). For this is indeed the true “holy water” and “holy sign” from which the devil runs and by which he may be driven away (James 4:7)....For he cannot hear or endure God’s Word. God’s word is not like some other silly babbling, like the story about Dietrich of Berne, for example. But as St. Paul says in Romans 1:16, it is “the power of God.” Yes indeed, it is the power of God that gives the devil burning pain and strengthens, comforts, and helps us beyond measure. (LC. Preface. 10,11)
Dietrich of Berne, by the way, was a kind of medieval marvel superhero. There was a franchise of tales about him coming to the rescue of any town or village that was attacked by an invading enemy. The Word of God is not some epic tale of Captain American or Spiderman which is entirely fiction and can only give the faintest inspiration to courage. The Word of God has true, real power to defeat and destroy, to strengthen and to save.
The revelation given to us through John paints a clear picture of the unseen activities of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet as they are mustering the kings of the earth to war against the people of God. The sixth angel poured out his censer onto the great river Euphrates, where Daniel received his vision of the Son of Man coming to defeat the princes of the kingdoms on earth. There is a war. That has been revealed to us. There is a victor. He has appeared for us. He comes to strengthen us and to give us the victory over every temptation that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature lay out in our path.
God will guard and keep us until the seventh angel pours out his censer and all is completed. The war will end with Babylon (representing the kingdoms of the world) drinking the cup of the fury of God’s wrath. The victory will be decisive and blessed is the one who stays awake to the spiritual battle and guards his holy garments with prayer against the temptations of those enemies destined for destruction.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.