November 1, 2015 – All Saints Sunday Text: 1 John 3:1-3
Dear Friends in Christ,
Think of our modern-day rockets. It is characteristic of rockets to go through multiple stages. At some point after initial lift-off, the rocket, amoeba-like, divides; one part left behind to disintegrate, another part entering a new trajectory and beginning a new phase.
Well, the Christian life, in some respects at least, resembles a multiple-phase rocket: the first phase is conception to birth; the second phase is birth to death; and the third phase is death into eternity. Like with the rocket there is a phase that needs to occur to attain our goal. Having been born, we need to be “born again” of water and the Spirit. We call this conversion. The Holy Spirit has called us to faith. If this doesn’t happen the whole process fizzles out into eternal death.
Today is All Saints Day. We are in the middle stage of the process. But there is one more process to go through.
“ANOTHER LIFE AHEAD OF US”
You and I are in the second phase of our multiple-phase existence. We have been converted. “Beloved, we are God’s children now,” our text assures us. The Holy Spirit’s application to us through the gospel of the saving work of Jesus has given us this glorious status. This is only the second phase. Another one, the final one, still lies ahead. This final phase of course is heaven. “And what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” Our goal today is to fix our sight a bit more firmly on this, the last and grandest stage in our progress.
It is common among many that they regard these years on earth as the whole meaning of life. They mistake a mere phase for the goal of the journey. Even as Christians we have our weak moments. The rhythmic lapping of water on a beach, the continuous hum of a fan on a hot summer day – and our doubts are triggered. How can a person live forever? What kind of life can it possibly be? Maybe the grave is the end and we want to face it bravely.
Perhaps we can better keep in mind the final phase of our journey, heaven, by thinking for a moment of the first phase. I refer to that nine-month existence before we were born. None of us, at this stage of our development, would regard that nine-month period, as the whole meaning of life beyond which there is nothing more. By know we know better.
But let’s say by way of illustration, that during our pre-natal life we had the capacity to think, to hope or not hope, and so on. While in our mother’s womb we get word that another life lay ahead us, that may last 70, 80, 90 years. This new world would have light and unlimited space to move around. There would be mountains and trees and skyscrapers and four-wheeled vehicles moving at shocking speeds. Someday, we were assured, we could do impossible things like walk and talk. We wouldn’t be alone in this world. There would be other creatures like us. Yet strangest of all would be the mode to enter this new world. A perilous process called birth, involving danger, pain, doctors, and hospitals, a process we would never guess could thrust us into such a beautiful life as we live at present.
If an unborn child could have reactions how would they react to this talk of another more abundant life? It would be something to look forward to and would make the nine-month existence more pleasant. Or the unborn child could be a realist and look at the dreaded process of birth and see no more after that. All of this talk about another life is just wishful thinking.
Then comes the day – the day of birth. It turns out true, after all, gloriously true! There is another life. You can live for a number of years. There is light and space and mountains and skyscrapers and fast-moving vehicles. You can walk and talk. This dreaded process called birth, in spite of appearances, turns out, after all, to be the gateway to this new and wonderful world.
I’m sure you begin to see what we’re after this morning. Our present life is not the climax to life; it is but a phase in our journey. In relation to the heavenly life, we might call it a pre-natal stage. We have it on good word – God’s Word – that there is another life, another world, ahead of us called heaven. In it we shall live forever! It is a world without space or time. Angels will share its mansions with us. We shall behold the face of God. We shall see Him as He is. In fact, we shall be like Him. All the ills and inconveniences of this present life, chief of which is sin, will have vanished because of Christ our Savior.
Strangest of all, the mode of entering this world is a dreaded and painful process called death, involving funeral homes, caskets, tombstones, and bodily decay, a process we would never guess could thrust us into such a beautiful life as the heavenly existence is. Best of all, no part is left behind to disintegrate. The capsule of the second phase, the body, is recovered and restored; there is a resurrection.
Obviously, we can’t conceive of this life, anymore than an unborn child can imagine life on earth. But we can believe in it and be confident that the hope is real. We can join the Apostle John in saying, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (v. 2)