Nov. 1st What Awaits Revelation 7:9-17 * Psalm 34:1-10, 22 * 1 John 3:1-3 * Matthew 5:1-12
Today is All Saints’ Day, when we remember those who have passed into blessed memory, both well-known and not, and recommit ourselves to following the ways of God so that we will not only get there too, but be good and faithful servants in this life. God sent us into this world for a purpose; He has called us to Himself and sends us out into the world to share the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We don’t just sit around waiting to get into Heaven, we work to get as many others to join us, and to make our current world reflect what eternity will be like.
But we all know that our world is a far cry from what we trust Heaven will be like. We anxiously wait for Tuesday’s election results. Wildfires rage, protests continue, millions around the world are homeless and on the move. Covid numbers are rising and sometimes we just don’t feel safe leaving our homes. So many have perished during this pandemic, we pray for their families, too. But there are still things that bring us joy and perseverance: our shared lives with those we love, are various hobbies and pursuits, and the good memories we have of loved ones lost to us for now. We remember those who made our lives better, and made us who we are, and we seek to honor their memory and impact by serving others and helping them lead good lives and reach their potential. We are not alone: we have each other, and we have the Spirit within us to guide and comfort us. No matter how bad this world may get, we look forward to the day when we will enter into God’s rest, waiting for those words: “well done, good and faithful servant.” We all get our share of suffering and tribulation, some more than others, it seems, but we all can look forward to the day when our struggles are over and God will wipe all of the tears from our eyes. As the writer of the Book of Hebrews reminds us:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Certainly, it is not inherently wrong to have comforts at home and toys to play with, but we also were put here to work for Jesus and be fruitful disciples. This takes effort and perseverance. We want to be productive and faithful. We want to grow and mature. But we still don’t know just what we will be beyond this life, so we do our best to follow God’s teachings and strive to conform ourselves to the example Jesus gives us. As 1st John says:
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
Since we don’t know when this will be, over time we may become lazy or distracted. Blessed are those who have experienced the trials of life but stay focused on Jesus, for one day we will enter into glory if we have lived lives worthy of the sacrifice He made for us on the cross. Most of the things Jesus praises in our Gospel reading are not things our world values: humility, mercy, purity, persecution, mourning, etc. But these are the things that make us great in the Kingdom of God. They are the things that touch the heart of God, and guidelines for us to follow, the things he looks for in us. When we allow such things to transform us, we grow closer to God and attain ever higher levels of holiness, as the Spirit grows our hearts and increases our capacity to love God and love our neighbors. We may look at others and see that we have fewer possessions, are not famous, powerful or particularly good-looking, but even though we may be poor in the ways of the world we rejoice that our Heaven award awaits, and it will be greater than anything we can image.
There are some who say that only 144,000 will make it into Heaven, and probably even more who thought that they deserved to be in that number, but Revelation also tells us that:
a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev 7:9-10 NAS)
We look forward to the day when we stand with this multitude, praising God, forever grateful for what the Lamb has done for us, with the struggles and suffering of this world behind us, our mission here complete. May we always strive to be worthy of that place waiting for us!
It may make us sad to remember those we have lost, but today is meant to be a celebration, as we remember those who have gone before us into glory. Let us never forget that they are in a better place, the place where we long to be. May the faithfulness of those who made us who we are always inspire us to do better. Let us always strive to be disciplined and faithful, setting our sights on the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.