People often talk about the Book of Revelation as if it’s a taboo book. You hear comments along the lines of – it’s too freaky – I don’t understand it – it’s too frightening with all that stuff about the dragon, the mark of the beast, Armageddon and all that end of the world stuff. Others misuse it as if it’s some sort of timeline for judgement day and trying to figure out where we are in the timeline of Jesus returning. And when we see all the troubles around the world especially in the Middle East doomsayers try to find where in Revelation it speaks about it. But the book of Revelation is a book of hope. It is a book about Worship and our relationship with God in Heaven which is not just a future event but a current event.
It was written by John who was persecuted for his Christian faith and banished to the Island of Patmos as punishment because he wouldn’t reject Christ and bow down to the emperor. There on the Island of Patmos John has a vision where God reveals to him that despite what his eyes see and his life experiences that God is in control of the spiritual warfare battle against the powers of darkness. Here in today’s reading we hear of great comfort as we read about the great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. crying out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. This, as I mentioned earlier, describes worship both of our future existence and also our current experience. We hear that whenever we celebrate Holy Communion where we gather and commune with the angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim and all the company of Heaven.
Even though our eyes don’t see it, if God were to unveil our worldly flesh we would see ourselves among that heavenly gathering standing before the Lamb crying out to the one seated on the throne. As Hebrews say – we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses – the heavenly saints gone before us. That’s what God did for John. He wasn’t taken up into heaven away from his earthly existence but had the veil removed – which is what the word Revelation means – which in its original language was called the Book of the Apocalypse. Again, the word ‘apocalypse’ has changed in meaning to create fear – a destruction. But, the origin of that word was far from that meaning to uncover, reveal. Which is what John has had done to him. He has had the veil covering his earthly eyes to have the heavenly realm revealed to him.
St Paul talks in very similar ways in his letter to the Colossians – and remember St Paul was also taken into Heaven but he wasn’t sure if it was in the body or out of the body. And in Colossians 3 he writes about that uncovering or revelation: He says: Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Note Paul speaks of the future in present terms – already but not yet – it’s often described as. You HAVE died. Your life is hidden NOW. Paul says elsewhere – we ARE citizens of Heaven – not WILL BE citizens. When Christ’s glory is revealed then your glory that you have NOW will be revealed.
So on this day that we commemorate as All Saints Day our focus is on giving thanks to God for those of our loved ones who have run the race and finished. They have received their crown of glory. As Paul said to the Philippians – For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul was torn – he wanted to be with Christ in Heaven but he also knew that while he remained here on earth he had opportunity to share the Gospel with others. But until then we live in the hidden glory which Jesus speaks about in our Gospel reading. Where he begins with the reality we live in (that is, what our eyes see and our lives experience) and the revealed glory hidden in Christ:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, – the hidden glory – theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, – the hidden glory – they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, – the hidden glory – they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, – the hidden glory – they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, – the hidden glory – they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, – the hidden glory – they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, – the hidden glory – they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, – the hidden glory- theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
The hidden glory – Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.
So, particularly on this All-Saints Day as we grieve for our loved ones – Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. It is human nature to grieve. It is not a sign of lacking faith as St Paul says – We do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. So Paul confirms that grieving is a natural process when someone we love dies- or as Paul calls it – who sleep in death. But, we grieve with Christian hope a hope that means ‘blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted’. Comforted by the reality that Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life and that those who die believing in him shall live forever in Heaven.
It’s not easy dealing with death but how would one ever cope without our Christian faith. Death is death without Christian faith. And so we hear Jesus words to his disciples as they prepared for his death: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; I am going there to prepare a place for you? And I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
So as we grieve, as we mourn, we take comfort knowing that this is part of God’s true plan in Christ.
To bring us all home to him where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
So may God bring you the comfort and peace that only God can give by him who is the resurrection and the life and that whoever believes in him will not die but receive eternal life.