17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Today, we consider the work of God through His holy angels. Some people have thoughts about angels that are more superstitious than biblical. And I have to admit that because there is so much false teaching and beliefs about angels that I tend to not preach or teach about them very much. So, let’s dive right in and consider what the Scriptures do teach about the angels. Please know that as I do this, I’ll be throwing out a lot of references; however, I won’t be giving you every reference that supports what I’m preaching. If you are interested in studying the Scriptures further about this, please ask me after the service, and I can print this sermon which has all the references.
Both the Hebrew (מַלְאָךְ) and Greek (ἄγγελος) words for “angel” mean “messenger.” Angels are spiritual beings with no physical bodies who were created during the first six days of creation. We know this because before the six days of creation there was only God (Jn. 1:1-3), and after the sixth day, God rested from all His work of creating. We can narrow the creation of angels down to one the first three days because in Job 38:4-7, God asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? … Who determined its measurements? … On what were its bases sunk or who laid its cornerstone?” There, God seems to be talking about the third day of creation when He created the land and sea. God says that as He created the land and sea, “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” The singing of the morning stars and shouting of the sons of God were the angels because that is the same title they are given in Job 1:6.
We know that God created a huge number of angels. Heb. 12:22 says they are innumerable. The angels were all created good and holy by God (Gen. 1:31). Because they are holy, this day is called the feast of “St. Michael” and all angels. We don’t typically call angels saints, but remember that ‘saint’ simply means ‘holy one.’ The angels were created holy, and they retained their holiness. But here’s the thing: You are holy in a different and greater way. You, Christian, are holy because you have received Jesus’ holiness (is. 53:11; Eph. 1:4; Col. 1:22). Angels are holy, but not all angels remained holy. At some point before the devil tempted Adam and Eve, Satan led a significant percentage of the angels in rebellion against God and they fell. Those fallen angels, we now call demons. More on that later, but from here on, know that if I use the term ‘demons’ I am simply referring to fallen angels.
Scripture teaches that angels were present at the giving of the Ten Commandments (Dt. 33:2; Gal. 3:19). They were sent to proclaim the conception (Lk. 1:26), birth (Lk. 2:11), and resurrection of Christ (Lk. 24:5-7). In fact, angels remain at the empty tomb even after Jesus left.
There are different orders and classes of angels – Cherubim (Gen. 3:24; Ps. 80:1), Seraphim (Is. 6:2), archangels (1 Th. 4:16) are some of those. There are also greater and lesser demons (Lk. 11:15, 18-19), but Scripture doesn’t give names for them.
Even though angels are spirits, they can move and manipulate material things. They are able to take Lot and his family by the hand to get them out of Sodom before God destroyed it (Gen. 19:16). An angel would touch a pool in Jerusalem, and when people saw that the water was stirred, they would jump in to be healed (Jn. 5:4, 7). So, it may very well be that when you or someone you love has a close call that God’s angels have protected you from danger. Many Christians have stories about being helped in a particular situation by someone who suddenly appeared and wasn’t seen again. It could very well be that God sent an angel to help and defend in that moment. Also, there are times when Christians have helped someone who was in trouble, and they have a sense that something was strange or different about that encounter. It may be that an angel appeared to give an opportunity to the Christian to serve in a particular way. Heb. 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
Scripture teaches that angels have power, might, and strength (Ps. 103:20; 2 Th. 1:7) which is greater than ours, and they use their strength to guard and protect us from things that would overpower us (Ps. 91:11-13). Demons are also strong. Scripture says that the devil holds unbelievers securely captive in his kingdom (Lk. 11:21-22), and believers can only withstand the attacks of Satan in the power of God (Eph. 6:10-17).
The angels’ work is to sing praises to God (Is. 6:3; Lk. 2:13) and to fight on our behalf (Ps. 104:4; Heb. 1:14); in other words, their tools are the song and the sword. A fantastic text about angels fighting on behalf of God’s people is found in 2 Kgs. 6:8-23 where Elisha and his servant get surrounded by the army of Syria during the night. Elisha’s servant is scared silly about being surrounded by this army. But Elisha says to him, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then, God opens the eyes of Elisha’s servant so that he can see a whole host of angels with horses and chariots of fire on the mountain near them, and those angels deliver them. In that account, we see the truth of what is said in Ps. 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.”
Hebrews 1:14 says that the angels are “sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” So, the angels serve you, believer, as you live out your vocations (Ps. 91:11-12), and they are present with you even as you are dying to carry your soul to heaven (Lk. 16:22). In fact, each believer has an angel (see Act. 12:15) or a whole squad of angels for protection. In Mt. 18:10, Jesus says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones,” and I would argue Jesus is referring to all Christians, “For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” I hope this is a humbling and encouraging thought.
The angels who guard, protect, and serve you always behold God’s face in heaven. You can’t see God’s face, but the angels who are guarding you can because they have retained their holiness since their creation. Also, this should give you an indication of how valuable you are to God. If you see someone walking around with bunch of large, armed, and intimidating bodyguards around them, what is your impression of that person? It would get your attention. You probably wonder what sort of person that is. Well, the Creator and King of the universe has given you a squad of mighty, powerful angels to protect you.
Even though angels have might and power and help us, we should not pray to angels. Every time in Scripture that someone begins to worship an angel, the angel protests and directs worship to God (esp. Rev. 22:8-9). We can certainly pray that God would send His angels to protect us, but don’t pray to them. Also, we shouldn’t listen to angels unless they are pointing us to Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul says this in Gal. 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
Finally, and maybe most importantly, we should realize that angels are present with us right here and now as we are gathered in worship. Hebrews 12:22-24 says that in church we have “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering…” Jesus says that the angels in heaven are joyful over one sinner who repents (Lk. 15:7, 10). As we confessed our sins earlier, a whole host of angels whom we cannot see or hear rejoiced as they heard Christ absolve and free us from our sins. Hebrews 1:14 calls angels ‘liturgizing’ spirits (most English translations will use the term ‘ministering’ but the Greek word there is λειτουργικός). So, using the liturgy is how we join our worship with the angels’ worship in heaven.
So, there is a quick overview of the Scriptural teaching of angels. Now, to what we learned specifically in our readings today.
A little context for Gospel lesson (Lk. 10:17-20) today helps. Jesus had sent these seventy-two ahead of Him to preach and heal in every town Jesus was about to go to (see Lk. 10:1-12). As He sends them, Jesus says, “Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Jesus says that they would be housed and fed by the people who welcomed them, and Jesus told them to heal the sick and say to the people, “The reign of God has come near to you.”
Now in our text, they are returning, and we hear them joyfully report that the demons were subject to them in Jesus’ name. They saw victories in their various spiritual battles. But Jesus says something even greater was going on that they couldn’t see. While those seventy-two were proclaiming the reign of Jesus, Christ says, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven.” So, the seventy-two saw victories in battles they fought, but there was a greater defeat, a bigger conquering taking place. And we hear about that in our Epistle text (Rev. 12:7-12) where the archangel Michael was given the privilege of throwing Satan (‘Satan,’ by the way, means ‘accuser’) out of heaven. How was Satan cast down and conquered? The text is clear. Satan was cast out by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony (Rev. 12:11).
Now, there are Christians who disagree with what I am about to say here, but I think we should see Jesus’ proclamation of seeing Satan falling like lightening and this text in Rev. 12:7-12 as the same event and as confirmation that the shedding of Christ’s blood and the preaching of the Gospel was what cast Satan down from heaven. This means that Satan is no longer able to accuse you before God which is what he was constantly doing day and night (Rev. 12:10). Remember how, in the book of Job, Satan was there in heaven before God by saying that the only reason Job loved God was because God was nice to him (Job 1:8-11, 2:1-5). But now, Satan has been conquered, defeated, and expelled from heaven.
However, there is also a warning at the end of that Revelation text. Satan is no longer able to accuse you before God because he has been defeated and expelled from God’s presence, but that doesn’t mean he is done accusing. The devil can’t accuse you before God anymore, but he can and does try to accuse you in your conscience, and he is very good at that. Satan will come to you here on earth and say that your sins are too many or too great to be forgiven. The accuser now roams about like a roaring lion seeking to devour you (1 Pet. 5:8), constantly whispering in your ear, “Did God really say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’?”
Dear saints, when the devil does this, he needs to be expelled from your conscience. How can you do this? How can you conquer the devil as he attacks you now? You conquer with the same weapons that Michael and the angels used – the blood of the Lamb, and the word of your testimony (Rev. 12:11).
Dear saints, when you confess your faith that Christ has been crucified and shed His blood for you, you expel Satan from your conscience and conquer over him. When the devil whispers his accusations, confess that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29) and has conquered the devil. Tell Satan, “Christ has taken my sins. So, if you want to talk to someone about my sins, you can’t talk to me about them anymore. Jesus has taken them as His own. Christ owns them now. He has died and shed His blood for them.” And the devil will have no reply to that testimony and is conquered.
So today, dear saints, come to Jesus’ table. Come as you join with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven singing the song of Jesus’ victory. Come, receive His body given for you and His blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. And know. Know that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus your Lord (Ro. 8:38-39). Satan has been conquered. He has been conquered by the blood of your Savior. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 This sermon was reworked from 2019.