Let us pray: Dear Savior, what a joy and comfort it is to know that when You ascended into heaven, You went to prepare a place there for each of us! When life goes bad here on earth, we find solace in that reality. So, continue to hold that truth before our eyes and in our minds as we think of all the heroes of faith who have paved the pathway there for us. And by Your grace, may we all join them in endless bliss someday. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR HEAVENLY KING, JESUS CHRIST!
TEXT: I Thessalonians 4: 13-18
Dearly Beloved Fellow Saints:
Can you feel anger, sadness, relief, and joy—all at the same time? I do, when I think about the reality of heaven. First, there is anger—over the many evil teachers who mock Christians for believing in heaven. They would call us: psychologically crippled. Then there is sadness over the clueless folks who are so caught up in the silliness of life that they never ponder the hereafter and how to get there. Then comes a wave of relief—that I am not one of those spiritually impoverished people. And finally comes joy over the fact that heaven is my real home and someday I’m going there through faith in Christ to join my fellow saints and relatives—forever!
I read this week how technology has advanced to the point of successfully transplanting a human head on a corpse. The next step is to do so on a real person! Don’t ask me how because I don’t know. I find it gruesome. It would also mean that one person would have to have their body “die” so that their head could live on. To me, that is a zero-sum game. And it just goes to show how desperate human beings are to possess life—because they are deathly afraid of the hereafter.
But not us! We’re Christians. For us: “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” St. Paul penned those words and now in our lesson he goes on to fill in some gaps in our understanding of eternal life. “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
This is a “bare bones” description of Christ’s 2nd coming and what will happen to believers when it occurs. It parallels the Ascension of Jesus in many respects. Like the Ascension, angels will be visibly present. Like the Ascension, believers will be caught up in the clouds—contrasting the higher reality of heaven with the lower reality of hell. At the Ascension there was no earthly fanfare detected by the human ear, only a raucous reception for Christ in glory. But at this coming, heavenly trumpet blasts will shake the earth and even summon the dead from their graves!
When I was a small boy this gripped my attention. What would it be like to be alive and never taste death because Christ would come again during my lifetime? What would it be like to see long dead saints rise up with their perfect, glorified bodies, be embraced by Christ and His angels, and then be lifted up into glory for all to see? What would it be like to then join them in that heavenly throng? Personally, I’ve developed a severe dislike for the over-used and over-hyped word: awesome, in my lifetime. Few things in life are truly awe-inspiring. But on that glorious day, awesome is perhaps the only word which could describe it!
That day will hold no fear for believers. Fear will be a forgotten memory. Anger, hatred, distrust, depression, hopelessness, helplessness—any and all negative human emotions will become forgotten memories, too. Think back to when you were in college and away from home for a long period of time. You sort of got used to it, but you longed for the happiness and security of home and loved ones. As you finished up finals before the holidays and went home for the first time in weeks or months, recall how you felt. It was delicious to walk through the door and be greeted with open arms. It was wonderful to be enveloped by love by your beloved family. All the junky stuff of college and being alone faded into nothingness. You lived the moment because the moment embraced you. Well, that’s what awaits all believers—the still living and the long departed, on that final day.
Saint’s Triumphant Sunday is about saints, all saints, and their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. What are saints? The word means: holy ones. And how are people made holy? By believing and trusting in God’s perfect, loving Son, Who transfers His life with all His holiness to us through faith. Thus, as Paul says elsewhere: “Because He lives, we shall live also.”
We divide the saints into two groups for ease of identification. There are the saints here on earth, the church militant, who still have to fight for Godly truth. And there are the saints triumphant, who have fought that good fight and in death been given their laurel wreaths of victory! But saints are saints, no matter which reality they currently reside in—earthly or eternal. So, you and I are but a hair-breath away all those heavenly hosts right now. Yes, our Welcome Home party is getting revved-up right this moment so that when we step over the eternal divide we’ll walk into it instantaneously!
Many things separate Christians from non-believers in life.—How they handle trouble. How they handle blessings. And above all, their distinctive attitudes about death and the afterlife. The non-Christian claws at hanging on to life because that’s all they know. So fear finally controls their lives. But the believer knows that Christ is their loving Savior who has risen from death for them and went on to heaven to prepare a place just for them. So, we possess a joyous relief when our assumption into glory finally occurs. Which group is psychologically stronger? Isn’t it obvious? And as to some of the conversations between the saints departed and those newly assumed into glory, I’m guessing that one greeting will outnumber all others. It is this: “What took you so long?” –Which will be met with a smile, laughter, and a loud: “Hallelujah!” Amen