Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And the sea no longer existed. 2And I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And from the throne I heard a loud voice that said, “Look! God’s dwelling is with people. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain, because the former things have passed away.” 5The one who was seated on the throne said to me, “Look, I am making everything new!” He also said, “Write, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6And he said to me: It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To anyone who is thirsty, I will give freely from the spring of the water of life. 7The one who is victorious will inherit these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son. (EHV)
All Saints Day is like Veterans Day for Christians, or even better, like Memorial Day. Every year someone gets scolded for confusing Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is for commemorating those who died serving the country. Veterans Day a week from now is for honoring those who served their country and are still alive, and I’m sorry if I ever get those mixed up. All Saints Day, on the other hand, is for honoring Christians who faithfully served their Lord Jesus and have died but are also still alive! Jesus said, “Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die!”
Of course, on All Saints Day we think of some of the great leaders in the fight of the faith, just as on Memorial Day we think of some of the great military generals. Our reading from Hebrews mentions some of those famous Bible heroes. But just as Memorial Day and Veterans Day are for allsoldiers, not just the famous generals, so also AllSaints Day tells you by its very name that it’s for commemorating all Christians who have died in the faith.
St. John describes “The Hope of Christian Veterans”—the joy that awaits us together if we continue to fight for the faith—and then gives this promise: “The one who is victorious will inherit these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son.”
“The one who is victorious…” is our clue that life is a battle. In fact, we just sang, “And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long.” John and his readers are soldiers in Christ’s Army. How did we get drafted and enlisted? The answer is in this promise of Jesus, “To anyone who is thirsty, I will give freely from the spring of the water of life.” We drank, and now we’re in His army.
Picture a soldier in the middle of a middle eastern desert. What does it take for our soldiers to survive there? Armor certainly. Bullets obviously. But without water, everything else would be in vain. And what does it take for a Christian to survive in the battle in the parched wasteland of the world, against the flaming arrows of the devil and his minions? Answer: “The water of life.” In fact, it’s “the water of life” that initiated us into God’s army. So what is “the water of life”? It’s the reassurance of God’s acceptance, God’s love, God’s adoption, God’s forgiveness. It’s the reminder that God is on our side, when we so often feel on our own. It’s the Good News that Jesus is both our Savior and our Leader in the fight.
It was “the water of life” that washed our sins away in baptism. God gives us “the water of life” through the Word each week. Without coming to church, we begin to die of thirst. We need to drink in God’s promises. At the beginning of each service, God reminds us we’re His children, as we begin with the words of baptism, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” He then speaks to us as our Father each week in the sermon. Think of it as God’s regular Father-son, Father-daughter talk with us. And then He invites us to His table and feeds us with reassurance in the Sacrament of the Altar. That’s how God fulfills His promise in our text: “To anyone who is thirsty, I will give freely from the spring of the water of life.” Through the Gospel, He gives us eternal life and salvation.
We’re not just God’s children. God made us soldiers in His army. So, how did we wind up in this war, anyway? We were born into it. It started thousands of years ago and won’t end till everything ends. The war started when Adam didn’t duck. Satan fired the first salvo, and Adam had what it took to avoid being hit. But He didn’t duck. Eve didn’t duck, and that first shot started a slow and agonizing death. All of Adam and Eve’s children have been born into a warzone ever since. There’s no way to avoid it. The battle is all around us.
Once Satan started the war, God counterattacked. God’s first shot was to foretell, promise, and plan His eventual victory. He promised to send His mightiest warrior—His Son Jesus, as Eve’s descendant. And He kept His promise by sending His great Champion, His Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Two thousand years ago Jesus sealed the victory, ironically, by dying for His troops—by dying for us soldiers of the Cross. Jesus went to the front line and took the brunt force of Satan’s weapon of mass destruction. And then He rose from the dead to lead us to the final victory.
The war has been won. We are currently in the mop-up operation. Our fight is not against flesh and blood. The devil has his snipers hiding in every booby-trapped building. It’s our job to avoid getting hit while rescuing hostages with the Gospel. Our weapon is the Word of God. With the Word of God we can fight ignorance and unbelief. But in addition we need the Full Armor of God to stay safe. “Stand, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness fastened in place, 15and with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace tied to your feet like sandals. 16At all times hold up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the Evil One. 17Also take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:14–17).
Through the years, it’s been reassuring for us Americans to know how powerful our military is to defend us. Far better though, as Christians, is knowing we have the most powerful army in heaven and earth. And best of all, we know that when we engage in spiritual battles here on earth, the war has already been won. Jesus defeated sin, Satan and death on the cross when He cried out “It is finished.” Therefore, as Christian soldiers, we are automatically on the winning side, in the winning army, as long as we trust and follow Jesus.
So keep getting your daily briefings—and especially the weekly briefings!
Our Veterans’ Home
Growing up in Milwaukee, I remember staring at the Milwaukee Veterans Home on a hill overlooking the old Milwaukee County Stadium. Unlike Milwaukee’s current baseball park, the old stadium was open, and during baseball season, you could count on seeing a few veterans in the distance sitting on chairs and wheelchairs in front of it with binoculars, watching the baseball game. The Veterans Home itself was a Victorian architectural masterpiece, a mansion that’s recently been restored for millions.
As we sang in the hymn, “Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest.” Our Veterans’ Home mansion awaits us! The Apostle John got to see it. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And the sea no longer existed. 2And I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And from the throne I heard a loud voice that said, “Look! God’s dwelling is with people. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God.
At the end of time, God will remake our entire world. It will be a physical world, but a perfect one. Our glorified, resurrected, physical bodies will live in it and fully enjoy it. All the sorrows of life will be past. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain, because the former things have passed away.”
Near the old Veterans’ Home in Milwaukee are rows and rows of white crosses, marking the resting place of soldier after soldier. The cemetery is on rolling hills next to Interstate 94, so everyone who drives there on their commute sees them every day. It’s a stark reminder of the cost of freedom, and ultimately death that awaits us all. Of course, while those soldiers’ bodies are resting there, their souls are not. We Christians know and confess each week that we await the resurrection of the body. The crosses on the graves of our loved ones who died in the faith are a reminder to us that their souls are in heaven, as their bodies await the resurrection on the Last Day.
Heaven is great. We get to be with Jesus. We get to be with our loved ones. We get to wait with them together for the glorious Day of the Lord. But the Day of Resurrection will be even better, which is why that is what we confess every week in the creed. We Christians look forward to “the resurrection of the body.” Our bodies will be remade, regenerated, changed into perfected, holy bodies. On that Day we will see what John saw. With our own eyes we’ll see the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. We will get to watch the creation of the New Heaven and New Earth. And then we will get to live there forever. It’s hard to even imagine, but John wasn’t making this up. 5The one who was seated on the throne said to me, “Look, I am making everything new!” He also said, “Write, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6And he said to me: It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
On All Saints, we remember those who faithfully fought the fight and are now at home with Jesus enjoying rest and peace. The older we get, the more friends we have in heaven than on earth. On All Saints, we also get to look forward to joining them, seeing them again, seeing Jesus in heaven.
But, as our text from Revelation reminds us, we also get to look forward to when it’s all done—especially the warfare part. The War has been won, but finally the skirmishes and battles will come to an end too. And we will never weep, feel pain, experience death, or watch anyone else die again. It will be the perfect and final victory. That is “The Hope of Christian Veterans.”
With this text in mind, listen now again closely to some of the words of our Hymn of the Day, “For All the Saints”:
Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou in the darkness drear; their one true Light.
O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong
But lo, their breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of Glory passes on His way. Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.