But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.
Except in reference to a football team that bears the name, most of us don’t talk much about saints anymore. There was a time when most Christians did.
During those years, people thought that a saint was a person who had lived such a holy life they could go to heaven immediately upon death. This was supposed to be a rare event because it was also thought that a person earned heaven by holy living—and most people failed at that.
Sadly, it was thought that after death, even believing Christians would need to spend time in a hellish place called purgatory in order to pay for sins their good works did not cover.
It was taught that the time in purgatory could be shortened by using the leftover good works that a saint had piled up. It was even said that one could buy those good works by giving money to the church.
But the most common way was to offer prayer and worship to the departed saint. Each day of the year was named for one of them. Prayers to the saint on its special day earned extra credit.
However, on November 1, the credit was multiplied since it was a day on which it was claimed that all saints offered spiritual credits. Thus, on that day, All Saints Day, the churches were filled. It was better than a modern Black Friday sale.
Through the Lutheran Reformation, the true meaning of sainthood was restored. Salvation is gained not by doing good (we never could do enough of it), but by the holiness of Christ that is offered through faith in him.
According to the Bible, every person who believes that Jesus died for his sins is a saint. In the eyes of God, that person’s sin has been replaced by the holiness of the Son of God. Jesus carried sin to the cross, where he paid for it with his suffering and death.
That’s why we call the holy Christian Church “the communion of saints.”
This is the good news of the gospel. Salvation is free to us because it has been already paid for with holy blood.
We are still to strive for holy living. Not to make up for sin, but as a reflection of the holy God who now calls us his own. Children of the heavenly Father should be able to be recognized as belonging to him.
Their lives should reflect their standing as saints.
While on earth, that reflection may be cloudy. But not when they cross over to heaven.
Death has separated those who died in the faith from the sin that had plagued them on earth. Released from earthly ties, their souls have hurried to a place reserved for them in their Father’s house–the place Jesus said he was going to prepare for them.
There is no purgatory. Every departed believer is in heaven. They are no longer tempted to sin. No longer do they face failure or fear.
Never will they lose their place in glory.
We are told: “But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.”
Yes! Forever and ever.
Good to remember that! Their victory celebration inspires us. In song, it has been written: “And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song.”
The song of triumph is for us—for all the saints.
We join those who have sung the hymn before:
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
All who their faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Oh, blessed communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine,
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest,
Sweet is the calm of Paradise the blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.
(Christian Worship 551:1,4,6)
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.