November 1, 2015
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
INI + AMEN.
You’re going to die. That’s reality. One day your heart will stop beating, and you’ll be buried out there or at some other cemetery. Not what God intended for you—it’s nevertheless the way of things in our fallen world.
You are going to live. That’s reality. One day your stopped heart will beat again, and you’re grave—all graves—will break open. As Christ rose from death, even you shall rise from the dead to eternal life. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” On that day our victory song shall be: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” For on that day “Death and Hades [will be] cast into the lake of fire” never to be seen or heard from again. That’s Christ’s promise to you—seen in His empty tomb; sealed on your forehead and heart in the waters of Holy Baptism.
And so we have our text from Revelation today. It’s revealed to John what will take place and what takes place now when saints pass from this valley of sorrow into the blessedness of eternal life with Christ. You can rejoice this All Saints’ Day because of what John sees and relates to us. You can rejoice because
YOU ARE COUNTED AMONG THE COUNTLESS COMPANY OF SAINTS.
This isn’t something that’s far off in the future.
(I.) You’re counted there now.
Being reckoned among the countless host is something that is yours by faith, you receive it by faith because you receive what the Lamb’s blood has done for you. Your faith is like a child’s hand that holds his trick or treat basket. It receives what someone else has purchased. So also your being counted among the countless saints. Your faith, given you by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, lays hold of what Christ, the Lamb who once was slain, has done for you. It’s why the song from our text praises Him by saying “salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb.” He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. His blood cleanses us from all sins. His blood the payment for our sins and those of the whole world. He is true life in death, and for this reason the robes of our consciences are washed clean. Our sin the stain. His blood true and eternal bleach. We numbered as saints.
This reality is seen with eyes of faith as we gather for the Lord’s Supper, as we gather to receive the blood of the Lamb. His body and blood which once was dead and then raised is given us so that we who die might be given forgiveness and with it the hope and promise that we too will be raised up on the Last Day by Him who now holds the power of death in His almighty, nail-scarred hands. Whenever we gather for His Supper, it’s just like it will be on the Last Day, just like John describes it for us in our text today. “All the angels were standing around the throne, around the elders, and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.” So also when we gather to receive Christ’s testament, He is present with us, and where He is, heaven follows. So then when we gather, we do so with “angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.”
“All the company of heaven” means all those saints who have preceded us in death. The aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, friends, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, all the Lord’s people—they all join us. There is one Church and by faith we know that on Sundays we “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel,” as the author of Hebrews tells us. So we receive that blood along with His body, joining our voices to the eternal song of the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven, bending in reverence even as they fall on their faces, singing with them our joyous “Holy, holy, holy” to the Triune God who’s saved us.
But our being counted among the countless saints isn’t only for now. It’s also not yet. When it comes to being counted among the countless company of saints,
(II.) You are going to be counted there forever.
This means that we’re going to die. Those who die in Christ, with faith in Him, are at once added to that great heavenly band which no one can number. You’re eyes will close in death and open again to see your Lord Jesus. For those whom John sees are “those who are coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They pass through death to be with their Lord, as Paul says, “I would rather die and be with the Lord…for me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Each and every time a saint dies, they are added to those who are standing around the Father’s and the Lamb’s throne. They stand there with their white robes, with palm branches in their hands. The tribulation and struggle of this life is past. “The Father shelters them, and the Lamb shepherds them” and “every tear is wiped from their eyes forever.” That’s what awaits you, dear saints of God. That’s what awaits all of us whose consciences, whose souls and bodies have received the precious blood of Christ which cleanses them whiter than anyone could ever bleach them.
Yes, you will die, but you will also rise from death and live forever. You, who have “hungered and thirsted for righteousness, have been filled”—filled with Christ’s own righteousness as you eat and drink His body and blood given and shed for you. You will never hunger and thirst in that life for in this life you were fed with Him who saved you. “Christ, the Lord who saved us, became flesh,” and called us and saved us as we are, with body and soul, and He has given us His body and blood to us in our bodies, “so also we will receive our eternal reward in the flesh.” Our bodies will rise, and we receive the promise and guarantee of that joyous reality by our taking of the bread, which is His body, “the medicine of immortality, the antidote we take in order not to die but to live forever in Jesus Christ.” For He is the true Lamb and Shepherd who promised in another place, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.”
Our God Jesus, who lives and reigns with Father and Spirit, “is not a God of the dead but of the living.” His saints who have preceded us live with Him. They join us as we gather to receive our God’s blood and the life and forgiveness given by His blood. One day our hearts will stop, and our eyes will close in death. We will be buried, and we will lie in dust and ashes. But it is “ashes to ashes and dust to dust in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subdue all things to Himself.” So His promise stands that His body and blood “will keep us body and soul to life everlasting.” That is His promise to all who are counted among the countless saints, and that’s how you’re numbered. Christ’s body and blood say so.
INI + AMEN.