Biblical Text: Revelation 7:2-17
In the Church Year the Day was All Saints (Observed). What is a saint is a little bit different from one tradition to the next. The Roman Catholic tradition a saint is only someone that the Papacy has recognized as “experiencing the beatific vision” (i.e. we know they are with God and not in Purgatory or Hell because reasons.) So All Saints becomes a catch-all feast of the recognized saints whose own day has not been celebrated. No other tradition has a formal recognition process. The Orthodox, Saints are first the martyrs, and then those recognized by public acclimation and what used to be called “the cult of the saints.” Protestants, including Lutherans here, use the term closer to how it is used in the bible meaning all the faithful. One of Luther’s slogans is simul justus et peccator, at the same time saint and sinner. That really describes us – the Church in Warfare. Or following the text of the day, the church in the midst of the great tribulation. The church at rest no longer has that problem with sin. What All Saints becomes in the Lutheran tradition is a celebration or remembrance first of those who have recently died in the faith but also of the great cloud of witnesses in general.
This sermon and the text from Revelation is a look at that great cloud from two directions: the beginning and the end – the alpha and the omega. John’s vision is a vision of All Israel, all believers in all times and all places. The first part is the sealing by God of his own before time. The last part is the outcome of that sealing at the end of the age. The time in between is the tribulation, the time under the cross. What Revelation does so well is comfort. Yes, we are in the tribulation. But you have been sealed by God in the blood of Christ, and he will bring you through it.