All Saints’ Day 2017

All Saints’ Day

November 5, 2017

Revelation 7:9-17

“What Will Heaven Be Like?”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us for All Saints’ Day is the First Lesson read for today from Revelation 7.

My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,

The trip down to Nebraska began with optimism and joy. My daughter Emily and I had tickets to a Nebraska football game in Lincoln – a drive 700 miles to our southwest. I had been to several games; Emily had never attended an event of this size before. Her first Cornhusker game. We started out our journey excited about what would follow. Then, in St. Peter, MN we hit a detour. Ugh. Outside of Windom, MN it started to rain and it didn’t let up the rest of the trip. Yuck. Road construction made it tough going at times. But despite all the odds stacked against us, we made it and finally walked up to Memorial Stadium on a crisp, cool fall morning with 85,000 other people dressed in red cheering for the Cornhuskers.

Why bring that up? Well, I see the trip down for the game as a microcosm of the life of a Christian and especially what we celebrate today – All Saints’ Day. Let me explain. In life we also started out all excited at what could be and might be as our lives unfold. Then, as we get older, life can get tougher. We hit the detours and potholes and rainstorms in life that makes daily living harder than we expected. Yet we drive on, persevering, living life by faith until we reach that glorious end result with the people whom we share so much with.

The author of Hebrews writes in 12:1, “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The illustration is that of a great stadium in which the crowd of those who have gone before watch those still striving to run their race of perseverance. Today’s lesson from Revelation provides a reversal of perspective.

Today we get a glimpse of those already in heaven; members of the Church Triumphant. In Revelation 7 we heard, “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. 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. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (v. 14b-17). And so, with that being said, let’s ask ourselves today as we celebrate All Saints’ Day, in addition to that description, what will heaven be like?

First, let’s cover a few basics. Where is heaven? I cannot give you turn by turn directions, as if you could drive there or fly a plane there. Instead, heaven is where God dwells in all His fullness. With our limited minds and imaginations, we need to have a location in mind when we think of where heaven may be, but the only general direction the Bible gives is up. But I can tell you that heaven is where God dwells with His people. In a sense we have a small piece of heaven with us, since God dwells with us and comes to us in His Word and Sacraments. We have the promise of heaven now, but not yet in its fullest sense. Martin Luther once said, “Eternal life begins here (on earth) in our hearts; for when we begin to believe in Christ,…we are liberated from death, sin, and the devil. Therefore, we have the beginning of life eternal…in this life, a sort of mild foretaste; we have entered the lobby (of heaven).”

Next, who will be there? FINALLY…an easy one! Heaven is ONLY for those who believe in the Triune God as He reveals Himself in His Word and calls His people unto Himself by FAITH; we are saved by our Triune God’s grace as a gift by faith alone. ONLY people who know and hold this promise dear, and ONLY those people, will join us in heaven.

So, what will we do in heaven? That’s a good question. The Bible associates heaven with never ending banquets, that is, we will never have any wants or needs in heaven. Will we work at our jobs? No. Will we play golf and fish and fly kites and stuff like that? I don’t know, but I doubt it. On this same topic, Luther once said, “I often think about (what will occupy us in eternal glory). I cannot understand what we shall do to pass the time; for there will be no labor, food, drink, and transactions. But I hold that in God we shall have enough to keep us occupied.”

So now I know what you’re thinking: “well, if there’s no food or football or golf or beach days, won’t we get bored?” I doubt it. Think about it for a second. “Boredom” is a human emotion brought about when we feel nothing is available for us to do. In other words, we’re lacking. In heaven there will be no lacking…none. In the eternal life of heaven ALL will be revealed to us, and the whole heavenly host will only rejoice at the glory that surrounds them physically and spiritually. We will praise and rejoice and celebrate every second just like it feels when our favorite team goes undefeated and wins the sought-after championship. Nebraska has done that 5 times and it feels great! Maybe now if the Tampa Bay Lightning can win the Stanley Cup…

And so this brings us to today. Today is All Saints’ Day, the day we remember all those who have gone before us in the faith over the past year. It hurts us to have them no longer in our lives day to day. And yet still today is a celebration for we know that the glory of heaven is already theirs! They have the glories of heaven now: They hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; no scorching heat, they have access to springs of living water, and God wipes away every tear from their eyes” (7:16-17). Our loved one are gone, but not forgotten for they live on in our hearts and minds. They are no longer with us and we feel sad, yet because of their faith in Jesus Christ they are in a place where sadness and grief and pain don’t even exist. Heaven is their home; it’s always good to be home, right? Heaven is also our home by faith now and one day it will be our eternal existence.

Today – All Saints’ Day – let us remember what heaven will be like: glorious beyond all comprehension where the souls of the faithfully departed await us and the return of our Lord. Let us remember to run the race of this life with perseverance even through the rain and detours and roadblocks because we know what the finish line will be like. Let us remember that heaven is the eternal home for all of God’s faithful people where we will drink from springs of eternal, life-giving water, and God will wipe EVERY tear of grief from our eyes forever and ever and ever.