Let us pray: Dear Savior, how awful life would be if the cold, the stress, the upset, and the pain of life on this world were all there is. Thus, how grateful we are that You have shown us that the best is yet to come! How grateful we are that You have made heaven our future reality. How grateful we are that we can bask in the warm sunshine of Your love forever and nothing will subtract from or diminish it! On this All Saint’s Day fill us with the joy that such sainthood brings. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO MAKES SINNERS INTO SAINTS!
TEXT: Ephesians 2: 4-7: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
Dearly Beloved Saints:
Unless you’re very young, most of us can recall being absent from home for a long period of time and then returning. Perhaps this occurred when you first went off to college, or moved away to take your first job. The weeks and months went by and then, one day, it was time to return home. You eagerly awaited the homecoming. The joy and warmth of your return, the hugs and happiness—well, they simply filled you up with pure excited bliss! Welcome Home! And you were, and you knew it to the depth of your soul.
That sense of safety, or belonging, awaits every Christian. It happens when our sainthood is made our reality, when our Lord comes to take us into heaven. Today, on this All Saint’s Day, I want to talk a bit more about it. So, let’s consider St. Paul’s words under this heading:
WELCOME TO YOUR REAL HOME!
When you leave this life behind, when bodily death occurs, where does your soul go? Where does your personality, your inner being, the best part of you go? You know. It goes to heaven. Mark well Christ’s words to that terrorist on the cross who came to faith at the 11th hour: “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” There is no purgatory, no in between waiting room where you must wait and wait until earthbound loved ones have paid enough dues for you to enter glory. No, Christ paid your dues, completely, when He gave His life for yours on the cross. When death comes glory is instantaneous!
Of course, that begs the question: What is heaven, or glory, like? What can we expect? The Bible describes heaven in many ways via many word pictures. First of all, it consists in the perfect and joy-filled vision of Christ’s love and God’s mighty protecting power. That love and power banishes all fear, all worry, all sense of insecurity. In heaven nothing and no one can ever harm you. Peace, God’s peace, reigns without rival.
We know, as one of my professors once stated: “In heaven you’ll have everything that it takes to make you truly happy.” Of course, only God really knows our hearts and what it will take to make us perfectly happy. So, we leave those personal details up to Him. And yet, Scripture does describe heaven in various ways. Think of Psalm 23 where it is described as a green, lush parkland. Or how about when Jesus speaks of the “banquet table of heaven”—where we do all the eating, never gaining weight and never having to clean up afterwards? In heaven you’ll never be bored. You’ll never feel pain or tears. In heaven there will be no competition for attention and no sense of jealousy. In heaven you’ll never have to plan out your time because you have to leave someday. In heaven you and I will be able to live in the moment without anything diminishing our joy.
The question arises in some minds: Is all this just some sort of unreal vision, dreamlike, without any substance or reality? No! Heaven is a real place. Obviously it is a different reality than we’re used to. But since Christ will raise up and reconstitute your physical body in total perfection on the last day, you will, literally with your eyes, see such glory, and hear with your ears the perfect harmony of angel choirs. You will taste, touch, and smell the sensory overload that won’t overload you because your body will be perfected for the very first time! You like to talk? In heaven no one will ever become bored and tune you out. You like to play soccer? In heaven you’ll score magnificent goals beyond anything David Beckham or Pele ever achieved. You like to bask in the sunshine? In heaven God’s heady warmth will never set. Your every heart’s delight will be filled to overflowing. Yes, heaven really is our home. And the angel’s have been busy arranging huge parades for each of us ever since Jesus died on the cross to earn us that blessed gift. All that now awaits in the fulfillment of what He bought for us through His death and resurrection.
Many people today think that Christians are deluded when it comes to God’s reality and the fact of eternal life in heaven. Unfortunately, that number seems to be growing, too. A couple of years ago I saw an on-air poll on Channel 5’s “Chronicle” concerning religious beliefs. 41% called in to say they believed in God—and thus, I assume: heaven. 46% called themselves atheists. And the rest said they just didn’t know. Is it any wonder our society is depressed? Is it any wonder people take drugs and consume too much alcohol when they have no hope of heaven? It’s really very sad and as believers our hearts go out to these deluded folks who deny God and deny His gift of eternal life.
But, today is All Saint’s Day! Today we celebrate the fact that “God is in His heaven’s and He laughs with derision” at the stupidity of man. Today we celebrate the glorious truth that heaven is real, that the hope it elicits within is real, and that it’s all ours through faith in Jesus Christ! To the atheist I say this by paraphrasing St. Paul: “If only we have hope for this life, we are to be pitied among all men.” But, thank God we don’t! Our real home awaits! No wonder Christians are joyous and optimistic above all others!
And we attain and achieve that ultimate homecoming all as a result of God’s unimaginable love for us in Christ Jesus! It’s ours through His grace. He gave it to us even when we were still dead in our sins. Yes, God used the unimaginable: death, to serve as the gateway into eternal life! And not just any old life, but a joyous heavenly one! And as Paul writes, God does this “to show us the incomparable riches of his grace, seating us in the heavenly realms.”
As saints, each of you are unique and different. As your pastor I’m always trying to get to know you better in order to see exactly what true happiness means to you. And so, as I look upon this group of God’s saints today, this is what I see: our organist will hear music which surpasses Bach and even write it and play it! Our extroverts will never run out of an audience of eager listeners. Our introverts will never want for quiet, reflective moments. Our teachers will learn so much new stuff, they will never cease sharing it and quivering with the excitement of it all. Our pet lovers will have their long-lost friends at their side in romping bliss. Our parents will have children around who are strong, vibrant, and totally happy. Yes, when it comes to your heavenly homecoming, Christ will give you the best of the best! And every Saint can be assured of that fact, for God has already given us His best: Jesus Christ and His undying love! Welcome to sainthood! Amen