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Delivered By
Rev. Jonathan Gruen
Delivered On
November 2, 2014
Subject
All Saints Day
Description

Rev. Jonathan Gruen
All Saints’ Day 2014
Text: The Bible

Heaven is for Real

            On this All Saints’ Day, I thought I should share with you for a bit about the ultimate hope for the saints of God: heaven.  Heaven is for real.  I know because I read a book about it.  Maybe you’ve read it too.  Maybe you’ve been encouraged by it too.  Or maybe you need to be told a little about this book, and a little about heaven.  Now, we don’t have time today to read the whole book together, so, if it’s all right with you, I think I’ll page through this book and tell you about it so that you can know that heaven is real, and more importantly, that it is yours through Jesus Christ.  Is that ok?

            Good.  Now, this book that tells you heaven is for real starts like this: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  The beginning of this Book begins at the beginning of time, the beginning of creation, the beginning of all things, except for God, for God always was, is, and ever shall be.

            God creates the heavens and the earth, and “the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

            And then God said, “Let there be…”  He spoke and it was made.  He spoke and chaos was changed into order.  He spoke and things that had never been came to be.  First “’Let there be light,’ and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good…And there was evening and there was morning, day one.”

            The first day—the first day of creation, the first day of the week—God speaks light into existence.  Light into darkness.  Light into the world.  Light for all men, whom he was about to make.  And it was good.

            And God said, “Let there be…” and sky and space was shaped and separated from the waters on the second day.  And God said, “Let there be…” and dry ground was formed and all the vegetation grew on the third day, and it was good.  And God said, “Let there be…” and the sun, moon, all galaxies and stars were formed on the fourth day, and it was good.  And God said, “Let there be…” and all the birds in the heavens and all the creatures of the seas were formed, and it was good, and this was the fifth day.  And God said, “Let there be…” and God made all the beasts, all kinds of animals, every creature, the lion and the lamb alike, everything producing after its own kind, and it was good.

            But then, still on the sixth day, God did something new.  A conversation takes place within the eternal Trinity—the one God, yet three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

            And so mankind was formed, man formed from dust with God’s breath to enliven him, and woman shaped from the man, and they are precious, the crown of creation, far above the animals, not only intelligent, conscious, with body and soul, mind and will, but also perfectly righteous, saints, holy like God, made in His image.

            And then on the seventh day, God rests, not because of his own need, but for us.  God establishes a rhythm for our week, a pattern of work and rest, and dedicates a day to be holy and sacred for us, a day of Word and prayer, a day to be fed by work already done.

            And there in the garden of Eden, it is heaven.  Is it not?  It is paradise.  God is there.  They walk with him, talk with him.  He is their God, and they are his people.  There is no death, no sickness, no pain, no sorrow, no loss.  The lion lays down with the lamb.  The cow and the bear graze together.  The goat plays with the wolf.  The trees yield their fruit in abundance.

            Heaven is for real, because here in this Book we have the true account of heaven on earth, in the perfection of the garden, in the creation that God called good.  Yes, he even called it very good when he added man and woman, who bore his image.

            But sadly, this paradise was lost.  Creation fell.  And if you and I had seen the glory that once was we would see even more clearly just how corrupt the universe and mankind has now become, so much so that we would barely be able to tolerate this miserable existence.

            All becomes corrupt.  Briars grow.  Thorns spring up and choke the good plants.  Disease strikes the crops, and the beasts that now tear each other, and experience themselves suffering and death.  And mankind…

            Man is cursed.  He must work the ground.  He must labor and toil and by the sweat of his brown earn his bread.  He must fight thorns, battle against disease, defend himself from beasts, and be attacked on all sides by his own human race.  And by nature every inclination of his heart is toward evil.

            And woman is cursed as well.  Her pain in labor will be greatly increased.  Her desires against her husband.  And like him, she is fallen, sinful, and doomed to die.

            And all creation now groans because it has been subjected to bondage and corruption.  Brokenness, decay, death are the new normal.  Now all is futile, vain and meaningless.  Now man hides from God.  Now men are cut off from each other until they die.  Their days are but a breath, and they pass like a shadow…

            All this because Adam and Eve exchanged the truth of God for a lie of the devil.  They forfeited paradise for a deadly bite of forbidden fruit.  They fell as once did Satan, fell from grace, fell from perfection, fell from the sainthood that was theirs in the garden.  They have fallen short of the glory of God.

            Heaven is still for real.  It is where God is.  But now man has no access to it.  He is cast out of paradise, driven away from the tree of life.  The flaming sword bars the way.  Who can ascend into heaven?

            But then, dear friends, this Book tells of a promise given—an undeserved promise from the Father of lights that he will indeed break into the darkness of our night.  A gracious promise is given that from this fallen race would come a boy, a man, a son to crush the power and head of the snake Satan.

            And this Book goes on to tell not just of a promise given, but also of the promise continually renewed, a covenant established, a nation chosen, a Promise Land given, a temple built therein for God to dwell, a sacrifice commanded, atonement foreshadowed, a payment prophesied, and a future reconciliation already at work.

            And then, in the fullness of time, God sent forth his son, born of the virgin, born under the law, bearer of the curse, a sinful people within himself so that he might redeem us, laying down his life as a ransom for many.

            And on the sixth day of the week, this Lion of Judah, this Lamb of God brought heaven and earth together in one cataclysmic event as he was hung on a tree.  He is the presence of God, the temple, yet now cut off from the Father.  He sheds the blood of atonement.  He is the propitiation for our sins, the Passover sacrifice.  He is the chosen nation on our behalf.  He is the promise fulfilled, and our reconciliation with the Father.

            He suffers to taste the bitterness of hell itself.  He dies that he too might be overcome by the last enemy death.  And on the 7th day, he takes his Sabbath rest in the tomb—not because he had need, but for us—that we might rest in him, might be fed by work already done, and be sacred because of his doing.

            You see, this Book tells us that heaven is for real, and because of Jesus Christ, we have a living hope to see heaven’s light.  For on the first day of the week, the first day of the New Creation, Jesus “the Light” rose triumphant from the dead.  He is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep; he is the first to be raised and glorified never to die again.  The risen one produces after his own kind, for from this first day of the week we too see his resurrection light.  Light into darkness.  Light into the world.  Light for all men, whom he was about to remake.  And it is good.       For God says, “Let there be” and we are recreated as faith comes by hearing the message of his powerful Word.  The light of Christ, which is the light of the world, shines on us, and we who have been living in darkness have seen its great light.

            He is the image of the Father, the icon of his grace, and we who are baptized into him are remade in the image of God.  In baptism, the pastor spoke God’s name but God said “Let there be.”  We are new creations of the Spirit of God.  His breath enlivens us who were dust and ashes and bids us to have peace.  We are declared to be holy, saints of God.  Male and female, we are the crown of God’s creation, to walk in holy ways and be the people of his blessing.  The poor in spirit are now in the kingdom of God, are satisfied, are called sons and daughters of God, and inherit the earth.

            And now we saints, the holy ones of God, participate in holy things.  We believe the Holy Book and have life.  We rejoice in our Holy Baptism and have peace.  We partake of Holy Communion and are strengthened.  And because of our many, many sins, we are grateful for Holy Absolution and are clothed with righteousness as Christ is clothed with light.  And by the strength of the breath and Spirit of God, we keep his Holy Commandments.

            We do not play around in sin or dabble again in darkness.  We do not walk the path of destruction or travel the road of death.  We do not despise his commandments, but see his statutes as the way of truth.  We no longer run and hide from God, but rather we pray that he might make his dwelling in us, and that we might go at last to him.

             And so it is that saints on earth await his calling, his powerful word, his will that makes reality.  We do his bidding in this life and belong to him even in death.  When the saint—who is a saint only because of Jesus—when the saint dies, the body takes its Sabbath rest in the ground, and the soul is refreshed in the presence of the Lord.  This Book tells us that heaven is for real.  Even though we die, yet shall we live.  We will be with Christ.  We will be in peace.  We will be in paradise, as Jesus promised in his dying testament from the cross.  We will be away from the body, but at home with the Lord.

            The saints on earth and the saints in heaven, though, await yet a greater and more glorious fulfillment of the promise which is described in this Book.  On the Last Day, at the last trumpet, our Lord will return, and with a shout and the command of the archangel, the dead will be raised. The graves will give up their captives, even the sea will yield its dead.  The wicked will be raised to judgment, eternally in bondage.  But the righteous, those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, will be before the throne of God.

             And he will say “Behold, I make all things new,” and “Let there be…” and he will make a New Heavens and a New Earth for our perfected souls and raised and glorified bodies to experience and enjoy each beautiful day after wonderful day after glorious day.  And we will taste and see that the Lord is good.

             This New Heaven and New Earth is paradise.  God is there.  We walk with him, talk with him.  He will be our God, and we will be his people.  There will be no death, no sickness, no pain, no sorrow, no loss.  The lion lays down with the lamb.  The cow and the bear graze together.  The goat plays with the wolf.  The trees yield their fruit in abundance.

            Heaven is real, and it is yours through Jesus Christ alone.  I know because I read a Book about it.  Maybe you’ve read it too.  Maybe you’ve been encouraged by it too.  This Book starts: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  And this Book concludes: “’Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.”