All Saints’ Day
November 3, 2019
“What Will Heaven Be Like?”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us is the First Lesson from Revelation chapter 7.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
There was a time when I lived in Minnesota that my hometown of Lincoln, NE was a manageable drive of only about 700 miles to the SW. So, one year my daughter Emily and I had tickets to a Nebraska football game in Lincoln, so we hopped in my Trailblazer and began our road trip with great enthusiasm…so happy to be going to see our favorite team play. Then, in St. Peter, MN we hit a significant detour. Then, outside of Windom, MN it started to rain and it didn’t let up the rest of the trip. 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.
As I look back on that now, I see that 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 as teens and young adults 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, the potholes, the ongoing changes/construction, and the rainstorms in life that makes daily living harder than we expected. Yet we strive on, persevering, living life by faith until we reach that glorious end result with the people whom we share so much with.
Today we get a glimpse of those who’ve made the trip…finished their race; today we see the members of the Church Triumphant. In Revelation 7 we heard, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation…they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple…They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them…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 and knowing we will one day be there ourselves, 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. What does Heaven look like and where is it? With our limited minds and imaginations we like to think of where heaven may be, like it’s a great golf course or a forest or a scenic mountain range or a perfect, sun-drenched beach. Revelation 21 and 22 describe the New Jerusalem and the River of Life and the Tree of Life. Nothing about beaches or fairways or mountains.
Regarding where heaven is, 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. 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 right here, since God dwells with us and comes to us in His Word and Sacraments. We have a little piece of heaven right here, right now. 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; (on earth) we have entered the lobby (of heaven).”
Who will be there? 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. Heaven is for those who believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord. ONLY people who know and hold this promise dear, and ONLY those people, will join us in heaven. That’s not a popular message in today’s all-inclusive world, but it is true. Heaven is exclusive; it is ONLY for those with saving faith in Christ.
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. Our new, glorified bodies will not require nutrition like our current sinful bodies do; “we shall hunger no more.” 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.”
What about our beloved pets? Will they be there? I know that question is driven by a sentimental love for our pets, and the Bible doesn’t say anything about animals in heaven. I guess I would say this: If there are animals that gave us so much joy on earth, could they also not be there to continue our joy in heaven? Maybe not…but maybe so also.
So, if there’s no food or football or golf or pets or beach time, 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, the 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 that championship, and that’s probably not going to happen in Nebraska again anytime soon.
And so this brings us to today. Today 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. Our loved one are gone, but not forgotten. 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; heaven is also our home by faith and one day it will be our eternal existence.
Today, 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 travel down this journey of life with perseverance even through the rain 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.