Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, November 04, 2007

All Saints' Day (Observed)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
November 4, 2007
Text: Rev. 7:2-17

The Lord knows those who are His. He has sealed them with His own Name in Holy Baptism, the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. That is what the number 144,000 stands for in our reading from Revelation. It is not a literal number, but a number symbolic of all those who have the seal of the living God upon their foreheads (Rev. 7:3). At any given time there are a definite number of saints who belong to the Church, the new Israel. And the Lord Jesus knows every one of them. Not even a hair of their heads can fall to the ground without Him knowing. And you are included in that number. The Lord Jesus knows you. He has made you His own in Baptism. Your name is engraved in His blood on the palms of His hands and on His feet and on His side. And His Name is on you. You are sealed into His death and resurrection.

Again, to be sealed means to be baptized. Think of it like the sealing of a letter. The letter bears the sender’s mark. Or better, think of the stamping of an official seal on an important document. The seal makes the document legitimate and legally binding. That’s what your Baptism is. It is the official seal of God, reading “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” making the objective redemption won for the whole world by Jesus on the cross legitimate and legally binding for you, personally and subjectively.

Your salvation, your forgiveness, your justification is made complete in the sacrifice of the spotless Lamb of God. The blood of Jesus cleanses you from all sin. Your sin-stained robes are immersed in the blood of the Lord and made whiter than snow. The sin-atoning work of Jesus is given to you in your Baptism. That is the seal. It is an act of God. You have nothing to do with bringing it about. God does it to you. He seals you. He baptizes you. God baptizes you into His Name by means of the pastor’s hand. But it is not the pastor who does it and it is not you who do it. It is God. He washes your sins away. He regenerates you. He calls you His own child. He gives you Christ’s righteousness. He places you in Christ’s death and resurrection. It is all God’s doing, and it is the delivery of your completed redemption.

But though your redemption is complete, your sanctification is not. In other words, you still have to fight against sin, against the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh here on earth. Your glory has not yet been made manifest. Your sanctification has not yet caught up with your justification. Your life appears to contradict the truth of your baptismal seal. You still sin. You still hurt. You still hurt others and you still hurt yourself. You are persecuted for your confession of Christ. You are scared to confess Christ on account of persecution. You are poor and reviled. You get sick. You are susceptible to injury. Men speak all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of Christ and His Gospel. You still see as through a glass, darkly. Is this how it is supposed to be? I sure don’t look like a child of God!

No, you don’t. Your life remains hidden under the cross. You have to suffer. You have to continue your struggle against sin. But you do so knowing the outcome. The victory is complete, even though the battle rages on. This is the truth St. John wrote about in his first epistle: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2; ESV). Appearance has not yet caught up with reality. We are God’s children now. But we don’t look like it yet. We have eternal life now. But we still have to cross through the valley of the shadow of death unless our Lord returns first. Sin has been conquered in us now. But we still sin and ask for forgiveness every day. We live in the time of what Luther called the “Already/Not Yet.” We are already saints of God, made perfect in the blood of the Lamb, and sealed for the day of redemption. But our status is not yet visible to the naked eye. In fact, it appears that we have the opposite status, that we are children of wrath, miserable with sin, having the devil as our cruel taskmaster and death and hell as our fate. But you see, our salvation is an article of faith, not of sight. Not every reality is observable. The greatest realities are impossible to observe. Those who are sealed are called to believe in spite of appearances. They are called to believe because our Lord is faithful. He has never yet broken a promise. He is the firstfruits of the resurrection. And if Christ has been raised, and we have been baptized, sealed, into His resurrection, we know that we too will be raised to immortality.

And we have the example of the saints who went before us. These shining examples encourage us and strengthen us. For they fought the good fight so as to win the crown. They were faithful unto death, and the Lord has given them the crown of life. St. John gives us a glimpse of what the saints even now enjoy in heaven as they await their resurrection. Their sanctification has been made complete. Their glory has been revealed. They rest from their labors. And they are ever praising God who sits on the throne, and the Lamb who is likewise in the midst of the throne. They are dressed in white and they hold palm branches in their hands. Their voices blend with the saints from every nation, tribe, people, and language from across the ages, vastly more than the 144,000, singing, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:10). The angels add their hearty amen to this praise, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen” (v. 12). Who are these saints? “Who are these clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” (v. 13). “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them whit e in the blood of the Lamb” (v. 14). These are they to whom the sin-atoning work of Jesus has been given. They are washed white in His blood. They are sealed in Baptism. They have had His blood poured into their mouths. They are Moses and David and Peter and Paul. They are Ruth and Mary Magdalene and the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are Augustine and Martin Luther and our own Bill Harris. They are all your loved ones who have died in the Lord. They are with Christ, in perfect bliss, awaiting the consummation of all things when our Lord returns and raises the dead and gives all those who believe in Him a new heaven and a new earth in which to live with Him for eternity. They pray for us. We shouldn’t pray to them, but they pray to God for us. And though they do not miss us, they love us, and are united with us, and join us in the feast of Jesus’ body and blood from the other side of the communion rail.

“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For 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” (vv. 15-17). This is your future as well. This is the future of every member of the Church Militant who fights now and believes in spite of all appearances. Because of Christ, because of His cleansing blood, all who believe in Him will be translated into the Church Triumphant. For they are sealed in Him. They have His Name written on their foreheads.

You who are baptized have the Name of God written on your foreheads. It is His seal. You belong to Him. The Lord knows those who are His. He knows every one of them. And He keeps you until that day when you are brought into His rest. It is He who will wake you on the morning of the resurrection. Until then, you are comforted in Him, you believe in Him, and are nourished by His Word and Supper. And you know that the tears you shed now God will wipe away in Heaven. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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