The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
Within our Gospel tradition, we have an understanding that once expelled from God’s nearer presence because of rebellion, or later, when humankind found itself excluded from religious institutions because of a Pharisaical naivety in understanding God’s love – there is through Jesus a model and a pathway way for us back to God.
As Christians, we are encouraged to perceive and accept that in God we can find a true understanding of who we are, and hope that the church and those institutions which have historically denied us; will through the grace of God and the transformational power of the Holy Spirit – rethink, reconsider and welcome us back into full fellowship: warts and all into the worshiping community.
Within the church we preach (do we not) that no one is beyond the love of God, nor are we to cast out or exclude. For when we reject or hinder another – we are rejecting Christ himself.
But within the Revelation of John we hear a very definite message akin to the historical annihilation we read of in the Old Testament. We hear that there is simply no longer a place in heaven for the Dragon and his angelic followers.
In the heavenly world, the cosmic power of evil has been defeated. God has been and always will be triumphant. And, evil’s expulsion from heaven means that it is thrown down to this world – knowing that has only a short time to live before its ultimate destruction.
At the heart of God and his Kingdom, we must be clear – – there is no compassion for evil, it has a one way ticket from which it cannot return. It is as if God has purged God’s presence of that which having been made cannot be allowed or tolerated to flourish – because it will not become obedient to God and the revelation of God.
But we cannot see evil as the whole picture of any one thing or person as we do with the Dragon and his angels. Certainly the Dragon so consumed with hatred and destruction reveals its fullest and most authentic revelation of itself is pursuant Evil as it wantonly seeks to destroy that which has given it life. This image is anti-Christ (literally) as later in the Book of Revelation – the beast seeks to pursue the woman and Child – such is its insatiable hatred and appetite for destruction. I often wonder if it’s not such a bad image to think about Cancer as a parallel image of our understanding of Evil. Please, I want to be sensitive to you who have or have had loved ones with cancer – a truth about cancer is that it flourishes by destroying itself and its host. It flourishes silently without us realising. And as a friend of mine who has survived cancer told me – this is an image of evil we can understand as a very real tangible thing.
Yet, too often we cast onto individuals the term Evil without thinking carefully enough as to what that really means or whether this ‘part’ of them is the fullest and only expression of their whole being or just an aspect of who they have become because of external circumstances influencing their immediate choices and behaviours. Of course humans are capable of Evil – but this is rarely the entire and fullest picture of any one of us, I don’t think.
Yet, what is clear from scripture is that Evil however it is manifest has a limited time and it’s rule in the world will come to an end.
That end will be aided by God and his angels, so that those parts of us which are consumed by the shadows created of this world and worked out in us if they will not be obedient to God, will face eternal destruction.
Jesus said to Nathaniel, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’
The bond between heaven and earth and between God and creation has been made ever more visible through the life and our response to Jesus and his intention towards us.
The invisible ethereal world of God in Jesus is made visible and Jesus in his reply to Nathaniel reminds us that within this world the Angel’s ministry is as real and present as the Son of Man. They are ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, In Jacob’s dream they are ascending and descending upon earth. In this place and at this Altar where we meet with Jesus there are Angel’s and archangels ascending and descending, our voices joining with theirs to offer praise.
But there is more… because within our worship there is the presence of God in his Holy Spirit – the one who searches out and who transforms.
We are not dragons, we are not the followers of the dragon – we are not subject to the will of Evil, neither are we the manifestation of that which is anti-Christ. But that doesn’t mean that we are not beyond searching within ourselves and asking God to expel from us those hidden things which distance us from true union with those who worship he Lamb of God, those who rejoice in the heavenly and celestial portals singing Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord.
In the encounters of Raphael and Gabriel with humankind… from their lips, as from the lips of Jesus is the invitation “do not be afraid”. And in the utterances from the Archangels, we are reminded as humankind that God is with us. Even if we know the remnants of evil to be in our world God is with us, and our invitation this night on the feast of Michael and All angels is that the Holy Spirit might accomplish the final destruction of evil made manifest in the church, in our world and in those deep recesses of who we are… so that we might become ever more children of light, in whom God is fully and most wonderfully revealed. Amen.