Salvation Belongs to the Lamb!
Salvation Belongs to God and the Lamb!
Revelation 7:1-17 T All Saints Day (Observed)
Prayer: Almighty and most merciful God, in this earthly life we endure sufferings and death before we enter into eternal glory. Grant us grace at all times to subject ourselves to Your holy will and to continue steadfast in the true faith to the end of our lives that we may know the peace and joy of the blessed hope of the resurrection of the dead and of the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
All Saints Day is a day for the church – for the church militant and the church triumphant. It’s a day for the church militant, that is, us still here on earth fighting the good fight of faith, to reveal what the end of our lives has in store for us. And on this day, we remember the church triumphant, that is, those who’ve passed from this life in faith, been sainted by God, and stand before His throne confessing the truth: “Salvation belongs to our God – the one who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Today is a day for the church militant to remember, because the busy-ness of life can cause us to lose sight of what’s good, important, and true, and who holds salvation. As we go throughout our days, going from school events with our kids or grandkids, putting countless hours into work, flooding our lives with leisure, or putting countless hours into our various duties, it’s easy to forget the reality that lies behind our daily lives. We can become so focused on earthly things that we forget that our life on this earth is but a drop of water in the bucket when compared to eternity. Our reading from Revelation reveals the eternity that waits for us. Heaven is to be gained through faithfulness in Christ in this life. But it’s easy to lose sight of that.
The devil’s temptation is to be laser focused on earthly things that will be gone tomorrow, and lose sight of the life that endures forever. The devil’s temptation is to get mankind to buy in to the immediacy of needs. We place priority on things we think are salvific and important for us in this life – fame, popularity, power, riches, status – and put on the backburner, salvation that belongs to the Lamb. Because sinful, corrupted man believes that life CAN actually be good, godly, and sainted on this side of heaven if one works hard enough to run away from tribulations, and surround one’s life with fleshly pleasures.
Just recently, I had a conversation with someone in the church about how easy it can be to consume our days and weeks with so many earthly things, and lose sight of the spiritual things. Ultimately, it can lead to the fact that spiritual habits or gathering with the saints on Sunday sort of gets pushed aside – the immediate need to fulfill one’s pleasure is met, whether that’s going to a sports game, hunting on a Sunday morning, some other leisurely activity, or work. One might SAY that the spiritual things are things they can come back to eventually. But the true goal of eternal life with Christ gets blurred by daily pleasures. Many of our own loved ones and family members live this reality daily.
But even for the spiritually disciplined, All Saints Day refocuses the heart. Because we can be so engaged with spiritual disciplines – like reading our bibles, praying for others, feeding the hungry, being involved with church activities, etc. These are good things to do, but it can be easy to lose perspective on why we do these things. Our focus can quickly become OUR holiness instead of Christ’s holiness. We can become so busy-ed with good works that we fool ourselves into thinking that we’re earning something in everlasting life. Thus, we lose sight of the life that Christ has won for us. So, we must confess, salvation belongs to the Lamb. He won salvation for poor miserable sinners. And out of His mercy, He gives this salvation to us.
Just recently, the frost started to come in the mornings. Before driving to work, I’ve had to clear the ice off my windshield so that I can drive safely on the road. The ice wasn’t much, but it’s just enough to blur your vision and make the drive dangerous.
In this scenario, the frost on the windshield represents the cares, riches, and pleasures of this earthly life that can cloud the heavenly reality that lies just behind it. These things cause us to only see the reality that’s two feet in front of us. As we go about our daily lives, pursuing our various responsibilities and pleasures, it’s like the ice accumulating on the windshield, gradually obscuring our view of the road ahead.
Truth is, the church is comprised of sinners. Those who lack spiritual discipline and have discipline can lose focus on who salvation truly belongs to. Our worship and praise being is too often directed to the world, our pleasures, or our own goodness. These things are temporary and will fail us. They can’t give us life. That’s why worship and praise are directed towards Him, and Him alone.
Our lives are blemished. We stand before the Father exposed – all our thoughts, words, and deeds on display to see. Nothing is hidden from His sight. We aren’t worthy to stand before the King of the Universe – our hearts are too corrupted to stand in innocence and blessedness before our Creator. Thus, we come to the important Gospel truth of All Saints Sunday: God is the one who makes saints. And He knits saints together.
God is the one who makes us holy. He is the one who takes an unrighteous, unclean people and washes them in the purity of His blood and gives them His righteousness. He is the one who takes sinners dead in their trespasses and sins and gives them new life and freedom to be as God created them to be. He is the one who removes our soiled and dirty garments and puts the white robe on us in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Through His sacrificial life and death, given to us in the Sacrament of the Altar, He washes us in the blood of the cross, which graciously grants us forgiveness and life. By all this, HE makes saints – holy, pure, and made perfect through the gift of Jesus. He scraps off the thin layer of ice that reveals the heavenly goal that’s obtained by faith.
He grants us courage and strength and boldness to confess and live the truth of heaven in this world – “Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb!” He is the Savior of the world. There is no life apart from Him! Christ makes things holy. Thus, if the church militant desires to be holy as the church triumphant currently is, we must subsist in Christ.
Yet, not only do Christians find their life and existence IN Christ, but we’re also connected to each other. Our collect of the Day puts it beautifully – ‘Almighty and everlasting God, You KNIT together (kind of like a beautiful tapestry) Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ.’
So, we look to the bliss of life of those who live with Christ now in His eternal kingdom for our inspiration in our lives now. Certainly, we look to Christ as the source and author of our salvation, but we also look to those Christ has knit us together with. We look to the church triumphant for inspiration to the church militant as we navigate tribulations today and learn to live faithfully to the Lamb.
One story is that of Polycarp of Smyrna. The Roman Empire burned him at the stake because he refused to offer up incense as an offering to the emperor. Before they put him to death, they offered him a chance to save his earthly life if he would renounce his faith in Jesus. His response serves as a reminder of faith being properly focused on the life beyond this one, even when trials and tribulations present themselves in this life. His response reminds us who salvation truly belongs to. He said, “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked.” Upon his death, Polycarp kept his eyes focused on the Lamb who sat on his throne with his last words. He said, “I bless you, Father, for judging me worthy of this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ.”
All Saints Day serves as a reminder to clear our vision and refocus on the eternal reality beyond our immediate concerns. Also, it reminds us to put faith in the fact that salvation belongs to God and the Lamb. The other things in our lives, though important, don’t measure up to eternal life in Christ. This is true for us, and this is true for our loved ones who’ve died in Christ. And so this day is good for us to remember that in Christ, God has knit us together with saints made holy by Christ’s blood – past, present, and future. United together in Christian love, we join the saints of all time with the angels and archangels in the song of heaven: “Amen, blessing and glory, and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen!”