Wednesday, November 16, 2011

“A Little Bit of Heaven!” (Revelation 7:9-10)

S-1272 All Saints Day/3C11/06/11 Hymns TLH(O) #656; (S) #457; (C) #360

Text: Revelation 7:9-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

Theme: “A Little Bit of Heaven!” (Revelation 7:9-10)

Main Street Living TV. Taped in Sioux Falls and will be aired on November 6, 2011

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for All Saints Day is a portion of the Epistle lesson: “After 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, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen, cherished, loved and adored in His sight and mine; in April of 2008, I was privileged to travel on behalf of the South Dakota District to Detroit, MI., for The Friendship of Jesus and Muslims Conference. After I arrived in my hotel I went to register for the conference. What a day that was. There were over 188 people registered for this conference. There were many Synodical representatives, along with the Mission Board, and the POBLO (People Of the Book Lutheran Outreach) servants of Detroit.

As the evening waned I felt I was experiencing heaven on earth and the fulfillment of Revelation 7, which states: “After this I saw a large number of people that no one could count, from all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues standing before the throne and the Lamb, dressed in white garments and holding in their hands palm branches.” (Rev. 7:9). This day to me was a mini Pentecost, a microcosm of eternity with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It was a moment in time when I literally saw a glimpse of heaven before my very own eyes. At the evening banquet there were Muslim converts to the Christian faith, from these different nations—Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Indonesia, Pakistan, Kosovo. Tears ran down my cheeks, as I sat at the conference and heard of the power of the Gospel in the lives of these people who have come to KNOW Jesus as the FRIEND of sinners. They spoke of the freedom of being burdened to earn God’s favor, or not certain of their salvation. They rejoiced when they came to know that their friends introduced them to the True Friend, Jesus Christ who won their freedom by the shedding of His blood on the cross. They spoke of the joy that filled their hearts because they knew this love that they have never experienced in the Muslim religion.

This is the scene here in our reading for this All Saints Day. It is righty called Saints Day, because these are the Saints that St. John on the Island of Patmos declares he saw. And what he saw is an amazing sight. Can you envision the sight?

It will be a beauty to behold. There will be billions of believers—a huge heavenly crowd far too great for any human eye to count. People from all nations and tribes, all races and languages will be there. These saints who have gone through any number of great tribulations, martyrdoms, persecutions, violent deaths and violent crimes, painful surgeries, setbacks, sorrow supreme, and Pauline perils will be perfectly united. They will be standing, dressed in white robes, waving palm branches, singing a heavenly salvation by grace song. They will be singing this heavenly hymn before the Throne of the Father and the Throne of the Lamb, heartily sing:

Salvation to our God on His Throne!

Salvation is from the Lamb, the eternal I Am!

This is a marvelous picture to behold and reflect on. All Saints Day helps us to think of those loved one who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb and have gone ahead of us to be with Him who loved us and gave Himself for us on that cruel and cursed tree. PAUSE.

On this day, let me remind you that you are precious in the sight of the Lord, you are loved, you are adored and you are blood-bought by the precious blood of the innocent Lamb—Jesus the Friend of sinners. And because of what the Savior has done for us, we have become saints—holy unto the Lord, washed from every stain of sin, and live under His grace now and look forward to the day we will be numbered among the throngs waiving our Palm branches with other saints from other places, and peoples and nations.

In order to be wholesome leaven we need a little bit of heaven—to enter our heart so that we can impart salt and light, love and life, help and hope to those who don’t know the Savior as their FRIEND.

The paradox here is that this little bit of heaven is quite a bit of heaven, even now. The often quoted, or should I say misquoted 1 Cor. 2:9 is speaking of how even now the Lord has blessed us with gargantuan gospel lifts. For example, we have been blessed with the gift of sainthood. Holiness, righteousness, sainthood are genuine gifts we have even now. Very few Christians grasp such a great gift as this.

In Romans 8 it declares we are already glorified. Paul uses a Greek tense to emphasize how much of the glory of God that has already come to us. A little bit of heaven turns out to be a lot of heaven even now, when we consider the rich resurrection realities that are already ours. Even now Jesus dwells within us as God and man. Even now The Holy Spirit has made us His temple. Even now we are incorporated into the body of Christ. Even now we are already saints. Even now we receive the very body and blood of the Savior. Even now holy angels surround us. We also sojourn through life knowing that God is working everything together for the good of the church—everything. We have been sanctified through the Word via our second birth—baptism. A little bit of heaven comes to us big time every time we receive Christ’s true body and blood.

This little bit of heaven, or more accurately a lot of heaven is yours today, because of Jesus our true Lamb who suffered our punishment. This little bit of heaven is yours not because of heritage, inheritance, position or possessions, but simply because someone washed you clean. Someone loved you enough to die for you on the cross (if there is a cross turn and point to it). On that cruel instrument, you and I have been made saints by your FRIEND and mine—Jesus the Christ—OUR ONLY SAVIOR. PAUSE.

At the Conference in Detroit, we were reminded that 90% of all who come to church come because of a friend who has invited them or told them about Jesus. Many of the Muslim converts spoke of the friend who cared and spoke about this Jesus who loved them by dying their death and rose again to give them life and salvation. One friend cared. One friend shared, and one friend told the truth that apart from Jesus Christ there is no salvation (Acts 4:12).

I further learned that in (2008) there were 350.000 Muslims who have gone through the on-line course provided by The Lutheran Hour Ministries about Christianity. What a blessing to witness and to behold how our Church body is reaching out in the name of the Friend of sinners to others, especially to the Muslims.

I like to inform you that there were 23 nations represented at the Conference. Here are the nations: Jordan, Syria, Togo, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Morocco, Iraq, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Ireland/Scotland, Russia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, India, Philippines, Malaysia, and USA. THIS IS A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN FOR SURE.

What a blessing to have attended this conference. What a blessing to have heard former enemies of the Cross speak of their FRIEND Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. What a blessing to know that our church body is reaching out to others in the name of Jesus Christ.

On this All Saints Day, I encourage you to remain steadfast in the faith that is yours. And remember this little bit of heaven is a lot of heaven for today and forever. And soon, very, very soon, we, ALL BELIEVERS will be before the Throne and the Lamb shouting and saying: ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”Amen.

Now the peace…


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