“For the accuser of our brothers and sisters who accuses them before our God day and night has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Rev. 12:10b-11 NIV)
The Feast of Holy Michael and the Angels (Sept. 29) reminds us that godly leadership won’t succeed without a fight. Revelation 12 reminds us that this fight is waged in the heavenlies beyond the horizon of our visible sight, and among the weapons with which we persevere in the war against the saints, the blood of the Lamb Jesus Christ, is our first and most powerful weapon.
I was reminded again of the power of the blood of the Lamb in a sermon this Sunday on Ephesians 2:11-22, how in these divisive and even hostile times in which we live the body of Christ is able to make possible a richer and more real diversity:
For he [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made the two groups [Jew and Gentile] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14-18 NIV emphasis added)
Paul reminds us that reconciliation with God must precede genuine reconciliation with each other and a more real diversity. How? Through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, which he shed for all of us upon the cross. I am grateful for the preacher, the Rev. Sam Ferguson (The Falls Church), who reminded us that both justice and peace are possible for those who are enemies of each other because “the blood of Jesus Christ is God’s fierce commitment to justice by a merciful mechanism” namely, turning his righteous wrath mercifully against himself in the person of Jesus Christ, his incarnate Son and our Savior. “No justice, no peace?” True enough—but far beyond any secular slogans, it is the real and deeper justice of God that makes genuine reconciliation of hostile enemies possible by the blood of Jesus changing hearts, minds, and affections.
Holy Michael and the Angels remind us that the war is not over, that the church needs to prevail through the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, and that we must do so on earth where the great accuser and enemy of our souls has been hurled. “He is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short.” (Rev. 12: 12 NIV)
We are certainly living in furious times. God’s reckoning of a short time may be quite different from ours (see 2 Peter 3:8). How can we prepare the Church, the body of Christ, to endure these times as agents of genuine reconciliation and a model of real diversity?
Breakthrough rarely comes without a team effort. Holy Michael didn’t fight alone (see Rev. 12:7). The saints didn’t overcome Satan alone (12:11). Neither should we. God designed us to overcome in community. This Saturday, we witnessed a remarkable convergence of Christ-followers of all tribes, nations, and denominations in Washington, DC in the Franklin Graham Prayer Walk and The Return Day of Repentance and Prayer for our Nation. As a family, we decided to watch a new faith-based movie on Friday evening called “Fatima” recalling the miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children in Portugal in 1917. Even if you disagree with Marian devotion and Roman Catholic dogmas concerning her, the story is a compelling one, and it struck me that the central message these children received in those visions was the need for the Church to “repent.” Over 100 years later, God is calling our nation to repent for our violence, exploitation of others, and sexual immorality.
We share this conviction of the need for repentance with faithful brothers and sisters in Christ whether they are Roman Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox. Despite the disagreements in Christianity, we share more in common with each other on issues of life and death (abortion and euthanasia) and human sexuality than we do with the liberal elites of mainline revisionist Protestantism. There is an integrity and biblical faithfulness in traditional Roman Catholic moral theology that Anglicans can support and learn from.
Moreover, we are about to witness a historic fight over the nomination of a highly qualified woman to serve on the US Supreme Court who also happens to be a devout Roman Catholic follower of Jesus Christ. Her faith is already being attacked. Can we pray for her and her family—for protection during this bruising fight whatever the outcome—and the recognition that we need to join hands and hearts with biblically-faithful Christians of all denominations in the call to repentance and the moral renewal of our nation?
In addition, we see in Revelation 12 verse 11 that breakthrough also comes through the word of our testimony. In these divisive and hostile times, our testimony must focus on repentance. That was certainly the heart of the message of both the Prayer Walk and The Return on Saturday. I watched The Return. Again, though we may not all agree on the prophetic words and manner of praying displayed at that event, it was still a powerful witness to the rich diversity of the body of Christ gathered on the Mall for the sake of the Gospel.
One of the most moving moments for me was repentance for the holocaust of Native Americans. Former Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan) brought this motion of apology before Congress several years ago, and it was passed by a wide margin. It was a work he did with the help of a brother in Christ and leader among Native Americans, Chief Big Pond, but the resolution was never publicized! So, Sam Brownback moved it publicly before the crowd on the Mall, and, in repentance, asked Chief Big Pond for forgiveness for the sins of America against Native Americans—a terrible sin of our nation. Chief Big Pond extended forgiveness on behalf of Native Americans and prayed in his native tongue for the sealing of this act of identificational repentance.
Many disagree with or are unsure of the efficacy of this kind of repentance. Despite what we may think, such attempts at reconciliation can still affect the breaking down of dividing walls of hostility between every tribe and tongue. Is it possible that the body of Christ can, through this first step, model the very reconciled diversity of all tribes and nations in North America? May it be so!
Finally, breakthrough will not come without courage and sacrifice. The saints prevailed because “they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev 12:11 NIV). Roman Catholic Archbishop (later Cardinal) Francis George of Chicago (1997-2014) is famously reported as saying before his death, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”
May God give us the resolve to be so united, so repentant, and so trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ that we, too, will not shrink back when the time comes.