All Saints Day 2018 – “Who Are The Saints?” Revelation 7:9-17
All Saints Day 2018 – “Who Are The Saints?” Revelation 7:9-17
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
The text for our sermon meditation is taken from the Revelation to St John, the 7th Chapter:
“9After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?””
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
There are a few Sundays which stand for me more than others. Although each Sunday is a celebration of our resurrection hope, Easter Sunday and All Saints Day bring home this hope in a clear and profound manner. Perhaps it is the readings and the hymns that strike the chords of faith and resound in heart and mind the eternal truth of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. Perhaps it is the vision of eternal life that is placed before the eyes of our hearts in these words gifted to us by God through his apostle John.
Consider these words of God given us through St John. There is a crescendo of joy and celebration seen by our eyes as the holy people of God gather before His throne in eternity. We read of the song being sung by believer and angel alike. We can only imagine the chorus being sung by these voices rejoicing in obtaining the goal of faith in Jesus Christ. I believe Friedrich Handel was able to capture the essence of this heavenly chorus in his oratorio “Messiah.” We are familiar with Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus from that inspiring work. The music and chorus lift us up in spirit to the throne of God. However, what we will hear in the presence of God will certainly be more majestic.
It is always good for us to keep the goal of faith before us. If we lose sight of the purpose for faith, we will soon be without hope and questioning salvation. This is the reason for singing hymns, preaching, receiving the Sacrament and listening to the readings each week. We are reassured that we have salvation in Jesus Christ regardless of what the world may say. We are reassured that in Jesus Christ we are saints of God. We have a robe specially prepared for us to wear when we reach the goal of faith.
This is what we need to remember until we reach that goal. We are saints of God. We are God’s holy people redeemed by Jesus Christ and set apart for God’s eternal kingdom. Along with the elder speaking in Revelation, we also consider how we become saints. The elder asks, “These in white robes, who are they and from where have they come?”
I asked in Bible class last week, “How do we become saints?” My point was to see where people fell on the scale of sainthood. I also wanted to see how much tradition and worldly thinking had watered down the truth of God’s Word regarding becoming saints. So how would you answer that question? “How do we become saints?”
Some falsely teach you become a saint only by meeting specific criteria set by human wisdom. You will have died. You will have led an exemplary life of good works and faithful obedience to God. You will have two miracles attributed to you by those who sought your intercession for their healing. After full investigation of your life, the two miracles, and final approval by the pope, you will be declared to be a saint in heaven.
Sadly, this thinking leads us astray. This thinking draws us away from the comfort and peace which God gives to those whom He calls to be His children. This thinking robs us of confidence that we who are redeemed by Jesus Christ have access to the very storehouse of God’s grace and mercy. This thinking leads us to believe that there is more for us to do before we are fully saved by God. This thinking leads us to believe that we are less a believer than one who is declared by the wisdom of men to be saints of God. This thinking is a satanic perversion of God’s truth about salvation and eternal life.
Is there a clear teaching that will give us confidence in becoming a saint in God’s kingdom? Indeed, there is such a word and teaching. That word is translated as “holy ones” or “saints.” We read this in various places in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Book of Psalms uses the words “holy ones” or “saints” in ten different places. In each instance the saints or holy ones are living on this earth and have not attained the goal of their faith. Hear these words from Psalm 91:10:
“He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”
There are no wicked people in heaven. There is no evil in heaven. There is no sin in heaven. There is no weeping in heaven. The Psalmist is speaking to us of deliverance from the hand of those who persecute God’s people on earth. God’s preservation is present and future. When He calls us to be His saints, God builds a wall of defense around His people. God dresses them in the armor of the Gospel, as St Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6.
St Pail also addresses many of his letters “to the saints” or “to the holy ones” in various places. These people were still walking the face of the earth at the time of Paul writing to them. They were carrying out their everyday tasks. They were sitting down to meals. They were gathering regularly for worship and receiving God’s gifts in word and Sacrament. They were facing trial, persecution and temptation in this life. They were continuing to pray for others, minister to others, reach out to others with the Gospel and wait patiently for the kingdom of God to come in all its glory. These are the saints.
How does one become a saint? St Paul speaks of being sanctified or being made holy. He writes to the Church in Corinth these words. “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours…”
We understand from our memorizing the 3rd Article of the Apostles Creed that God is the one who makes us holy, who sanctifies us, who makes us saints. What are those words that encourage and support our hope in Jesus Christ? “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in my Lord Jesus Christ or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the one truth faith, even as he calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one faith.”
Additionally, Paul says saints are those “who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Saints are not just the believers in heaven who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Saints are those who even on earth call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Saints become saints by God work. Saints are named saints because God calls them saints. We do not need the voice of men declaring this to be so. We need only hear and believe the voice of God speaking to us through His servants to know that we are His saints, his holy and forgiven people.
There are two points made earlier that need to be addressed for in Jesus Christ they become true and lasting. First, it was said that saints must die to become saints. When we are brought to faith in Jesus Christ, there is a dying that takes place. The old Adam in us dies. This old Adam does not want us to live under the authority and will of God. This old Adam fights against God every step of the way as we are brought to faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore the life and influence of the old Adam must be removed and overcome in some manner.
God indeed provided the manner of removing and overcoming the influence of the old Adam. The provision is in the Word and Water of Holy Baptism. As Dr Luther writes in his explanation of Holy Baptism IV:
What does such baptizing with water indicate?
It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Where is this written?
St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)
The death we die is in the water of Holy Baptism. As Paul teaches we die with Jesus Christ in that holy washing and rise cleansed and holy before God. We are declared to be not guilty of our sin. We are declared to be sanctified before God and worthy to be called saints of God. This is the death we remember, and in which is our hope. We were buried with Jesus Christ with respect to sin. We are raised with Christ and named heirs of eternal life.
Secondly, it was said that a miracle of healing must be associated with those named saints. Truly a miracle of healing is associated with each believer in Jesus Christ. Each sinner brought to faith in Jesus Christ is healed from the curse of sin. The curse of sin is indeed eternal death. More than that, Scripture teaches that apart from faith in Jesus Christ we are dead in trespasses and sins. The miracle worked not by us, but in us is that once dead in trespasses and sins we are now raised to life by God. This is the miracle in which we trust.
To think in any other way is to doubt God’s grace and mercy. To think in any other way is to miss the truth sung by the saints who stand before the throne of God. Rightly and loudly they sing these words for our hope and our salvation. “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” They are before the throne of God dressed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness. The robe they wore by faith as they walked this earth in time. The robe they wear now in eternity as they stand before the God they once confessed on earth. These saints have obtained their hope, and rejoice.
We sing of our hope as well.
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Part of the struggle is with our own sense of worthiness. We do not trust the promise given us by God. In Jesus Christ we indeed are saints of God. We are His holy people set apart for His kingdom. In Jesus we have the holy life and miracle of salvation worked in us. This cannot be taken from us or changed by the words of men. God makes us one with those who have gone before us in faith. They join with us as we kneel before the altar of our Lord. They fellowship with us in the Sacrament of forgiveness and eternal life. They sing our salvation. We eat and drink our salvation. We are All Saints by faith in Jesus Christ.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen