Peeling the Onion: Revelation 12: 7-12

War broke out in heaven…

Michael and his angels

The dragon and his angels

Angels –

Bigger than an individual person,

Smaller than God –

Astounding numbers of North Americans believe in them

What do they mean, when they answer those polls?

What do you mean?

Remember the first week?

Each of the 7 churches had its’ own angel –

What I might call the spirit or DNA or character of a congregation

Our generation increasingly knows ‘brands’ –

Teams with logos, icons to express traits

‘Fans’ is an abbreviation of ‘fanatics’

Americans identify ‘red state’ or ‘blue state’ –

Donkey for one party, elephant for the other

And an eagle for it all

Flags, standards –

The stuff of wars and armies –

Are not unrelated to this story

My own visualization, again,

Is tied to my copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost,

With Blake’s illustrations

It’s not a matter of the ‘correct’ imagery –

It’s a construction of good vs evil,

Where both sides are creatures of God,

The evil side loses in heaven,

And falls to earth to wreak havoc,

Even though the outcome is already determined

This reading of the text,

Like our ‘reading’ of reality,

Of situations, moments, and people,

Is not some primitive naïve magical realism,

But it is a distinct choice of mythic structure –

Both good and evil angels are penultimate

Creatures of a creator,

Not competing gods

of competing genesis

like the Manichean worldview,

of urges and demi-urges

The opera is writ large across the sky –

19th century Marxists called it projection,

‘false consciousness’

and modern scientific worldviews


and dis-enchanted,

our universe –

but the end of religion

predicted for ‘the secular city’

is defied in popular culture,

the rise of religious ‘extremists’,

and in philosophy, ‘the turn to the theological’

the Voice

sums up the plot:

the dragon has lost,

but the fallen angels,

thrown down,

mean woe

to the earth and sea

‘scorched earth’ retreats

all too familiar in the 20th century,

may have been a loser’s tactic,

but the costs were real enough

In the celestial courts,

Dragon and his host accused the martyrs

But they, having died like the Lamb they follow,

Triumph in some as yet unrealized victory

For us in the world,

The promise of winning the war,

Is not a promise of winning each battle –

And this construction informed world wars,

When ‘Gott Mit Uns’ is our slogan,

Or ‘In God We Trust’

Think about the ‘end-game’ in chess,

The ‘2 minute warning’ in football or basketball,

Or ‘extra innings’ in baseball,

Or ‘sudden-death overtime’ in hockey

Can the replays or highlights still move you?

So how will you make sense out of this non-sense?

In our a-millennial tradition, it’s not once-for-all,

This text is not a prediction of one future script

But this is ‘the shape of things to come’

Just as it helps us to construe the past

That’s my quota for today –

Now it’s your turn!

New Jerusalem Bible

7 And now war broke out in heaven, when Michael with his angels attacked the dragon. The dragon fought back with his angels,

8 but they were defeated and driven out of heaven.

9 The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had led all the world astray, was hurled down to the earth and his angels were hurled down with him.

10 Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, 'Salvation and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the accuser, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.

11 They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life.

12 So let the heavens rejoice and all who live there; but for you, earth and sea, disaster is coming – because the devil has gone down to you in a rage, knowing that he has little time left.'


7 And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back,

8but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

9The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world— he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

11 But they have conquered him 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.

12 Rejoice then, you heavens and those who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!’