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TEXT: REVELATION 7:2-17/I JOHN 3:1-3/MATTHEW 5:1-12
YOU WILL BE LIKE HIM!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Dear saints of God, grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come and from the Holy Spirit (the seven spirits who are before his throne), and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead (Rev. 1:1, 2).

All Saints’ Day trumpets the truth that the church is not limited to our time and place or even to this passing world!  The Church of Christ is rooted in eternity and includes the Church Triumphant divided from us by the narrow stream of death!  Our sin includes our dullness of heart to this reality!  Our sin includes our default setting that focuses chiefly on earthly things, not eternal things.  We who now live and breathe on the earth are in the minority.  Jesus desires us to daily contemplate the majority – the great multitude in heaven that no one can number. 

Think of the prayer He bids you pray each day.  First, together with Him He invites you to pray to His Father and your Father – Our Father who art in heaven!  Then come the first three petitions – matching in word order and form as well as verb tense and case and person.  Biblical scholars therefore set forth how the comparative phrase “on earth as it is in heaven” applies equally to all three of these closely corresponding petitions.  Thus, without doing violence to the Greek, one could rightly connect that partitioning phrase to each of the first three petitions.  Hallowed be Thy Name on earth as it is in heaven.  Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Jesus truly does want our daily focus to include things that endure!  Dr. Luther caught this rich heavenly underpinning for the Lord’s Prayer concluding his explanation of the seventh petition (Deliver us from evil)in this way – and finally when our last hour comes give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.  

The Church Triumphant is not visible to you, but it is vitally important to you and your faith in Christ.  For what you see is not what you get.  What you see is temporary - passing away.  This includes your possessions (you don’t see a hearse pulling a U-haul to the cemetery) but also your problems and tribulations (those narrow points of pressure and affliction in life).  But what is unseen is eternal (II Cor. 4:16-18).  All Saints Day calls our mind to the eternal!

If you were able to see those you love who have gone before you, those whose memory you hold dear – what would they now be like?  What does their presence in heaven look like or feel like now and what will it be like when their bodies are raised spiritual and immortal?  Scripture’s witness to spiritual bodies in I Cor. Chapter 15 does not mean – non-physical, but rather bodies filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit!    That’s Judgment Day resurrection! 

You may have heard or read modern-day voices that tell us they have gone to heaven and come back.  They tell us they can make more certain the existence of heaven and even describe it to us.  Is that true?  Can someone describe their experience of it?  Scripture does not direct us to put our confidence or our hope in someone (other than Jesus Christ) dying and then coming back to life to describe that realm.  Rather, “it is appointed for man to die once and after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).  Those who claim to have died and to have come back (however sincere their feelings – however near-death they were) are claiming something beyond God’s Word.  God reveals also that we cannot imagine the fullness of heaven.  It far surpasses what we have known in this life!  As the entrance hymn proclaimed (LSB #672) we “know not” we “know not” what joys await us there!

Most consistently the Holy Spirit describes heaven by stating what isn’t there – no hunger, no thirst, no scorching heat, no tears.  Even that goes beyond us!  Can you imagine no hunger – not a poor appetite because of illness or mood – but no hunger pains or growling stomach that comes like clockwork? Can you imagine no tears – not for you – not for any of those who dwell in heaven’s realm?

One of the positive things we do know about heaven is clear from today’s readings.  If we were right now able to see those who have gone before us, we would see them all focused on Christ.  Therefore they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.  The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water.  This is the future of all God’s saints!  It is your future.

We can only gauge our inclusion in that throng now by looking to Christ.  That’s what the Apostle John was doing as he wrote his first epistle.  See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God, and so we are.  The word translated “what kind” implies astonishment at something far beyond expectations.  See what kind of love the Father has given to us!  Amazingly God loved us to such degree as to make us sinners His children.  A spiritual beggar like me and a spiritual beggar like you are made sons of God.  Said another way, Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

St. John continues – Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  What we cannot see here on earth – the vision of Christ’s face – will be given us when He appears.  You will see Him as He is – face to face (I Cor. 13:12). 

You won’t be Him, but you will be like him – you yourself – male or female – young or old – you will be like Him!  You will still be yourself, but you will be like Him.  How can we sinners contemplate the extent of that eternal transformation?  How can we ponder the intimacy with Christ and the reflection of Christ in our very bodies and souls forever?

You will be whom God created you to be – fully not partially!  You will be whom God redeemed you to be – fully not partially!  Fully and forever you will be whom God baptized you to be!  In heaven you will be free to be yourself without sin!  You will honor Him and shine according to the grace given to you as only you can honor and shine.  Yet you will perfectly love all the righteous inhabitants of heaven with love beyond any you have known on earth. 

So are you saintly enough to join the heavenly throng in white robes?  Are you pure enough to see Jesus as He is?  Are you so blessed by God that the kingdom of heaven is yours?  It is crucial to know that in the Gospel the Greek word used here for “blessed” is always in relation to Jesus.  It is also essential to know that whatever purity the saints of God possess is always in relation to Jesus.  The question of the elder in heaven and his own answer to that question help make this clear.  “Who are these clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”  “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” 

Jesus is coming back in glory to judge!  You haven’t seen Him revealed in His holiness and glory yet.  But you will – on that day!  If we come before Him based on our goodness, our life, our love, then we will be exposed for who we truly are – those who lack perfect fear and love and trust in God.  According to God’s holy law – that means eternal separation – being cursed, not blessed!

On this Sunday of All Saints, your hope cannot be that you are doing well enough and trying hard enough to be numbered with them!  You are not!  Like all children of Adam, you fall short of the glory of God!  You are not pure because you have no sin – you are pure because Jesus is at work even now forgiving your sin – all of it – the whole mess – even your worries about heaven – even your mind set on earthly things.  The Cleansing blood of the Lamb that results in the white robes of the saints is the crimson blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – the Holy Lamb of God sacrificed on Calvary!  It is the blood of His death and you are baptized into His death!  It is the blood of His New Testament of which He gives you to drink this morning – for the forgiveness of sins!  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

In the apocalyptic language of Revelation, the 144,000 sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel are exactly the same as the great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.  Are you saintly enough to join that heavenly throng in white robes?  Are you pure enough to see Jesus as He is?  Beloved in Christ, see what kind of love the Father has given to us!  His blood cleanses us from all sin.  Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.  Those who take refuge in Him will never be put to shame.   Blessing and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.

 

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