ALL SAINTS DAY “Heaven: Serving, Seeing, Resembling”
Nov. 7, 2021 Rev. 22:3b-4
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
The Festival of All Saints dates all the way back to the 300’s AD. At first, it was a “Commemoration of all Martyrs”; but it’s been expanded to truly include ALL saints.
That means that All Saints Day is a celebration of the whole Christian Church = in heaven and on earth; the church ‘militant’ is here, and the church ‘triumphant’ is there. There are two groups of saints: Christians in the fight-of-faith here, and those whose fight is over.
This reminds us of the size & solidarity of the people of God. The people of Christ are a
unity that spreads beyond all bounds of human nations or languages; beyond time & space; even beyond the physical barrier of death.
Since the Reformation in Martin Luther’s time, the term ‘saint’ has reacquired it’s true Biblical meaning. Saints are not those very few ‘holiest’ of people. A saint is a person who has been called by the Holy Spirit into faith in Jesus Christ; a saint is one who is forgiven, and made holy by the grace of God and by the blood of Christ.
So, each CHRISTIAN is a saint, whether young or old, whether on earth or in heaven. The one true Church of God is a ‘communion’ of saints, as we confess in our Creeds. We are a group of diverse peoples united by what we share in common = which is the Savior, Jesus Christ = with His forgiveness, / His written Word for this life, / and His promise of a heavenly home.
Today we DO commemorate the sainted dead; they are our loved ones in the faith,
who have gone before us, thru the door of death, to be with The Lord. The Scripture teaches us that they are now perfectly safe & content with the Lord Jesus. They no longer need our concern or prayers; and they do not watch over us, they don’t help us, or worry about us in the least; for now they clearly understand how God protects & cares for us until it’s our turn to ‘cross over.’
So, today we are praising the Lord God doubly: As we remember those who have gone before us, who lived & died in the faith; we thank God for their good example of faithfulness to Christ & to His Church. And we also praise God that He is still forgiving US & keeping us in faith; He is improving our faith-example to others; He is preparing us for our death with His promise of a place in a heavenly home.
Let’s think about the saints above. What’s it like for them to ‘be with the Lord’ ? What are they doing? The only true & reliable information is Holy Scripture; we do not listen to people who say they have ‘died’ & gone to heaven & come back with information; because people are easily fooled, & the devil loves to deceive. The Bible alone gives us the true picture of heaven; so that we know our loved ones are safe, and that we will have courage to face OUR day, when WE will go & be with the Lord. One picture is a small passage from that mysteriously hopeful book of Revelation; in chpt.22 it says: “His servants will serve Him. They will see His face; and His name will be on their foreheads.” Heaven includes those 3 things: Serving, / Seeing, / and Resembling. Now, what do those mean?
FIRST, being in heaven with the Lord involves SERVING God. “His servants will serve Him.” In Hebrew, this can also read: “His servants shall worship Him.” Don’t let the word ‘serve’ or ‘worship’ bother you; it means more in heaven than how we define it on earth. I’ve heard people say, “Who wants to spend eternity doing nothing but worshipping God? How boring! I can’t sing anyway.” I’ve heard rock bands sing, “ I’d rather be a leader in hell than a servant in heaven.”
But this Bible word for serve or worship refers to ALL aspects of true living with a gracious God. It does refer to acts of formal worship, like our Sunday mornings. But it also includes our everyday living & daily tasks. Our ‘worship & service to God’ doesn’t begin or end at the church doors; our whole life is worship & service to Him; including all those things we do as the ‘fruit’ of our faith. That is: all actions done with = love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control.
So, all the best things about our good & human life will continue in heavenly life. There are many things about daily living we enjoy now, even in this broken world. We have useful work & fun recreation; / we help others & we are helped; / we have times visiting together & we have quiet time alone. Our lives are full of godly & useful activities; and that will continue in heaven.
The big difference in the life-to-come, is that all the joys of living will no longer have to compete with sin & evil. There’ll be no such thing as boredom or frustration. No pain, or illness, or depression, or failure. There will be no changing political leadership, no economic downturns or ‘supply-chain’ issues or OSHA regulations for viruses. It will be living without opposition. God is promising that our life lived with Him there will be totally satisfying & pleasant, without strain or fatigue. We won’t worry about getting a better job to pay the bills, or about losing our abilities because of age or illness.
“His servants will serve Him;” It means that God will put our abilities to work in the most satisfying way for us. Our lives will be a ‘living worship’ in His Kingdom. And we should never be afraid of the word ‘servant.’ To a Christian, that word is the very heart of the saving Gospel message. The highest form of living is in the service done for others. Just as the Son of God Himself did not come to be served, but to serve; and to give his life as a ransom for others.
And so Jesus said, whoever wants to be great in God’s eyes, must be a servant; putting our life to work for others just as He worked for us. When He gave His life as our substitute on the cross, it was so that we would be forgiven, and have a new life of worship & service to our God, as it was to be in the very beginning of creation. Our faith in Christ is a new beginning; and when our time is up on this old earth, He will call us home to continue to live our life in a superior way. “His servants will serve him,” is another way of saying: in heaven we will be fully living. ++++++++++++++
The SECOND part of the heavenly life is SEEING; the verse said, “They will see His face.” Now, this too needs a little explaining. On the one hand, some verses say we cannot see the face of God. God told Moses, “ you cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live.”
Yet, on the other hand, there’s this promise “They will see His face.” In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The difference is, we can’t see him now; but we will see him there.
The Gospel of John helps us understand. He says “no one has ever seen God, but God, the One & Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.” The idea is that in our fallen & sinful condition on earth, we have been separated from God, & completely cut off; we had no hope of ever being with & seeing Him for who He is = our Holy Creator.
But God made a way to reveal Himself to us; seeing God means more than looking at His face; it means that God has shined upon us with His gracious countenance or approval thru the person of His Son Jesus. By taking on human flesh, fallen man saw the love & mercy of God Himself in the person & work of Jesus. Therefore, when Philip said to Jesus, “show us the Father.” Jesus said to him, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.”
This SEEING will also change & improve in heaven. God has promised us a true face-to-face contact with Him as saints above. Paul wrote, “Here we see as thru a glass darkly; but then we shall see face to face.” …. “then we shall be like Him, and we shall see Him as He is.” So, the promise of seeing is more than just a visible glimpse with our eyeballs. By faith in Jesus, we see & know God now; but the time is coming when we will live with Him face to face. +++++++++++++
The THIRD part of heavenly life is that “His name will be on their foreheads.” As the head signifies that which controls the body, so God’s name marks us as fully belonging to Him; identified with Him. This does not mean that -in heaven- we’ll all have a literal ‘tattoo’ on our foreheads. This is a symbolic way of saying that we will fully resemble & take after the One who redeemed us; outwardly & openly we will again bear God’s holy image. As Paul said, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” God has made us part of His family; we are His spiritual children = even now. But there our body, soul, mind, & spirit will be like Him; like Adam & Eve were in the beginning.
Elsewhere in Revelation, there is the opposite symbolism; that UNbelievers, those who do not belong to God by faith in Christ, they will bear the ‘sign’ of the Beast upon their foreheads = they are children of wrath, marked for damnation.
In their earthly life, they rejected God’s only Savior; without faith they do not resemble Him, and did not live under the cover of His forgiveness & holiness. And so they remain eternally separated from the family of God, never knowing His loving face, & never enjoying the satisfying life of His heavenly kingdom. Being separated from God forever is the dreadful condition of Hell.
God’s name covering us has a two-fold promise today. 1st, for those who have died in the faith, it means that we are assured that they are now with Him, and no power can change His promise to them. We miss our loved ones; but we can tolerate their absence when we know they are safe with Him, & we will see them again. And the 2nd promise is: We already bear the name of Christ on us; it was given to us when we were ‘born again’ into His kingdom, thru faith, and by the water & the Spirit of Holy Baptism. We are His children by His promise; He has already called us by name, and we are His. Our ‘foreheads’ = our lives = have already been marked by the name of the Savior Jesus.
The promise of heaven means: Serving, Seeing, & Resembling; these apply to both the saints above and to US the saints below. Altho we cannot see them, we are still connected with them. We are living parallel lives in the same kingdom, with the same Lord, =we by faith, they by sight= divided only by the wall of earthly death.
*When we come together in church to hear God’s Word, we have joined with them in hearing God’s voice. *When we enjoy the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus under the elements of Bread & Wine, they are feasting with the same Lamb in His Kingdom.
*We thank our Lord for His promise to bring us thru death; and they are praising the same Lord who kept His promise to them. Here in church, unlike anywhere else in the world,
we join our loved ones in the same presence of God.
And so this is what we mean when we confess ‘the holy Christian church ~ the communion of saints.’ It is both the church on earth AND the church in heaven. Today we remember that ALL of God’s saints are serving, seeing, and resembling Christ = we by faith, they by sight.