Among the most tragic words of Scripture are these: “And war broke out in heaven.” How could it happen in so sublime a place? How could something so terrible and terrifying erupt in the very sanctuary of God, and among His realm of holy angels? All we need do is to shrink the concept from the heaven of heavens to the smaller realms in which we reside.
How can divorce invade a once ecstatic marriage? How can divisions arise within a church? How can civil war explode among those who have dwelled in peace for decades? How can once-close families erupt into bitter and jealous conflict? In these much smaller “paradises,” sinful pride wrenches hearts from hearts and disaster looms in ugly and threatening dimensions unless love is permitted to win. So it was in the heaven of heavens, in the abode of God. War erupted among the holiest of beings, the angels, God’s messengers and servants. Satan’s vengeance was not meant to be love. It was wanton pride. Dwight L. Moody once said, “God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves.” No wonder Satan was evicted from heaven! He was full of himself and that constituted evil pride.
Scripture, as well as the Apocrypha, give us brief views of heaven’s determined battle (c.f.
Thus he struggles with us yet, this deceiving Tempter. We do well to remember war still invades “paradises” today. Is there a lesson that we may apply to our “little heavens,” those tranquil respites that are to protect us from dire evil that are represented by our homes and churches, our communities and nations? As John reveals this fascinating story, his words suggest at least these three ideas as worthy of testing:
One: Recognize it …. the invasion of evil pride, the start of an insane war, the onset of pride’s battle. Recognize it and the threat it imposes.
Second: Revise it …. this disruptive and destructive force that separates husbands from wives and race from race and Christian from Christian. Rid yourselves of devilish pride. Welcome Christ as Crusading Champion and Commander-and-Chief to infest us with love and thereby enable us to forgive.
Third: Revitalize it … this little paradise of yours to be the heaven on earth God intends for it to be, so that you may rejoice forever in the heaven of heavens eternally. Let love prevail in all things. Make friends with your “shadow,” as William Miller suggests. Then you will learn “how to accept and use positively the negative side of your personality.”2
When war invades paradise — yours or God’s — it means you have a battle on your hands.
When you are surrounded by angels, how is it possible to recognize an enemy, any enemy? The clue must be found in their actions — or their lack of them. So it was in heaven.
But first, before we get into the conflict, let’s examine the concept of angels. Angels were prominent in the Old Testament, constituting God’s heavenly court. They fought Israel’s battles in God’s name, and fulfilled missions on earth as God instructed them. They are, above all, God’s messengers to the human world (
The Bible identifies only one archangel, whose name is Michael (
There are some who presume Satan at one time was an archangel. In fact, William Barclay tells us that one of the apocryphal stories of Satan identifies him as the “angel of light, once the greatest of the angels, whose pride cause him to seek to be higher than God and who [ultimately] was cast out of heaven.” Satan, says Barclay, is the supreme example of tragedy.6 He had so much as a servant of God and lost it all due to arrogant, rebellious and sinful pride.
Therein we have the answer to our question: When you are surrounded by angels, how do you recognize an enemy, any enemy? It is by the preponderant evidence of pride, evil pride, sin-filled and corrupt, oozing with power motives and encrusted with vicious envy. Where personal arrogance is puffed to such dimensions as to blur truth or hide facts, you can be sure the one who once seemed to be an angel of light is apt to be more of a deceitful and darksome devil. Of the thirteen evils that Jesus says “defile a man,” pride is twelfth; just before “foolishness” which aptly defines its uselessness (
It is sinful pride that makes marriages crumble and nations splinter. It is evil pride that feeds the so-called “dog-eat-dog” business world, where human beings trample each other maliciously to get ahead. It is careless pride that sours relationships and entices people with “impossible dreams” so that they turn into predictable nightmares. No wonder drugs and gambling addictions lure so many nice people. They feed on false notions due to their selfish and foolish pride. When war invades paradise, whether in the heaven above or our little paradises here on earth, you can be sure that pride is at its core. Recognize it.
Then realize God has an answer. He would have us revise the threat by giving pride the bum’s rush! He would have us let Jesus lead us into humble faith and teach us to cast Satan out of our homes and hopes.
As swiftly as Lucifer sought to revolt against God and conquer His throne, God was ready for him. “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon,” reports John in his Revelation. The Devil was defeated. He was cast out, so there was no longer any place for him and his angels in heaven. God would have preferred another scenario, I’m sure, than to throw out one He loved. Had Satan recanted his wrong, love would have restored him just as it did Peter and Thomas, whose sins were masked with pride also. Had the Devil repented of his villainy, forgiveness would have drawn him back into the favor of God. But pride would not yield, and so the Devil became what he still is: the source of all that is evil. The name “Satan” no longer means a friendly adversary, but, as the Devil, a malicious slanderer.7
Pride is a cunning villain. It is a conning tyrant. It cannot be handled merely with diplomacy. It has to be confronted. Benign neglect will not work. Pride must be cast out forcefully once and for all as the archangel Michael did Satan. If God insisted that heaven be heaven, shouldn’t you and I insist that our earthly paradises continue to be paradises also? That is to say, shouldn’t you and I deal forthrightly with evils, including pride, that corrupt our lives?
Cancer must be surgically removed or chemically treated or therapeutically reduced if life is to continue. As Satan is the cause of disease and pain (
Bill Hill, one of our members who is combating cancer, told me as I visited with him at home that he is not about to give into the dragon that’s contending with him. “Some days, he wins; some days, I win,” he said. “But I intend to conquer!” That’s the spirit that it takes to revise the disruptive and destructive Devil that battles against God and man.
It is necessary to revise our peace strategy to mobilize for war, for our need is not to appease the enemy, but to remain loyal to our God. That is why St. John sings triumphantly of the martyrs who have fought against evil: “They have conquered [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the Word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.” They were faithful to God and God was faithful to them. As Christ Himself dealt fiercely with Satan on Calvary’s summit, so we must be willing to risk our lives also. Such Good Fridays are not free of pain and death, but there is an Easter to follow.
Revise your outlook when the Devil attempts to take over your paradise. Instead of seeing a great and fearsome foe, “resist him,” as Peter says (
The writer of Hebrews has a marvelous view of contending on the home field for that is where we battle Satan, right at home. He speaks of the great cloud of witnesses that surround us, and then he insists, “Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (
“That innumerable cloud of witnesses which surrounds us reassures us that endurance is possible, that the grace of God will sustain us, and that faith’s rewards are eternal. These bleacher saints are not mere spectators of our running, but our witnesses to the faithfulness of our great God. Thus as we run the race on the soil of earth, let us remember that we’ve got the home field advantage. Satan is a squatter; the earth belongs to God. The opposition shouts its doom, but the cheers of the saints drown out their banter.”9 Revise Satan’s plans to take over! Cast him out — and evil pride with him!
Then revitalize your little paradise to reflect the joy of the eternal one, of heaven itself. Let love triumph. Live in forgiveness, mindful of that forgiveness Christ won by the agony of His Cross. Rejoice, knowing your name is written in heaven. But beware, the Devil continues to exist. “The Devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short,” says John. Thus, you and I do well to make friends with our shadows, making positive use of the negative things in our personalities so that the Devil cannot put them to his use.
Because Satan has been cast out, don’t think that pride in the success is going to keep him from invading our paradises anew. A youth taped a sign to his door: “Do not open this door,” it read. “All the dark will leak out.”10 Jesus told Paul at his conversion on the Damascus highway, “I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (
Robert Louis Stevenson illustrated the idea of a negative shadow in his novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll’s pride wouldn’t allow him to enjoy unsavory pleasures, so he invented a potion that enabled him to turn from his imperious nature to something a great deal less. William Miller says that “initially these ‘pleasures’ were merely undignified and worldly, but Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll’s counterpart, became more and more purely evil and eventually did not stop even at murder. The change at first was entirely voluntary, but at the end the personality of Dr. Jekyll was completely enveloped by Mr. Hyde.”11 He never learned how to revitalize his paradise with something more positive. Miller’s book might prove useful to you in discovering ways to Make Friends With Your Shadow, so you can revitalize your paradise by turning negative elements into positive assets.
The tale is told of a spider that dwelt in a barn. One day while crawling upon the beams at the top of the barn, the spider looked down and saw a choice location for its web. Descending ever so carefully on a thin filament it spun itself, the spider took over the corner. Filaments were skillfully welded to the corners and to each other to form a lovely web. We’re told the spider grew sleek and fat until one day it looked up and saw the strand that soared into the darkness, the very one on which it had descended. “I don’t need this any longer,” he said proudly to himself, and immediately cut it. The whole web went crashing to the ground and a big cow ambled over and crushed him with her hoof. In revitalizing its life, the spider made a fatal mistake: it cut itself loose from above, losing not only its shadow in the process but its life as well.
Don’t lose your attachment to heaven! Don’t cut off your contact with God. In Word and sacrament, in prayer and confession, in worship and practice, let God the Holy Spirit keep you attached to Him who preserves you from falling. Revise your outlook so heaven will always be your home, and when wars invade your paradise again and again, you can be an earthly archangel yourself, as Michael is in heaven, by casting out the Dragon that seeks your downfall. You, together with all the saints and martyrs, have conquered Satan by the blood of the Lamb! As Satan continues to invade our earthly paradises, so we must remember that pride was his downfall — and need not be ours. As Peter wrote, “Humble yourselves … under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you!” (
Jesus teaches us how to live, and thus to forgive, and thereby how to be humble on earth in a heavenly way. It is that humility of loving forgiveness that restores broken marriages and shattered families, that mends communities torn by intolerance and nations fractured by ethnic pride. Here is the secret to peace within. Revitalize your faith accordingly.
If war could invade heaven, is there any reason to doubt its possibility within the little paradises we call home? With that in mind, recognize Satan and his tactics. Revise his plan to destroy you and your joy by following Christ, and then revitalize your life by keeping a human hand open to the spiritual guardianship of heaven’s angels. Live out your baptismal covenant, so that God’s Spirit dwells in you.
1. William Barclay, The Revelation of John. Vol. 2 (Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975), p. 80.
2. William A. Miller, Make Friends With Your Shadow (Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1981)
3. Encyclopedia Britannica: Vol. 1 (Chicago, 1970), p. 922 (article entitled Angel).
4. Billy Graham, Angels: God’s Secret Agents (Doubleday & Co., New York, 1975).
5. Ibid., p. 50.
6. Barclay, p. 82.
7. Ibid., pp. 81-32.
8. James R. Bjorge, Living Without Fear (C.S.S. Publishing Co., Lima, Ohio, 1977), pp. 94-95.
10. June Masters Bacher, The Quiet Heart (Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1988), Sept. 20.
11. Miller, p. 99.