Monday, 31 October 2016

For all the saints

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18 (page 744 in our Bibles) Complicated! The vision starts with four beasts, representing empires emerging from the sea, representing chaos. We then switch to a judgment scene which is presided over by the ancient of days(v. 9) and the climax has one "like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven" who is given dominion, and glory and a kingdom(v14). But the extraordinary thing is that this dominion shall then be given to the "people of the saints of the most high" (v 27). We share in the dominion of the new heaven and the new earth!
Ephesians 1: 11-23 (page 966 in our Bibles). A glorious piece of writing that talks of our "inheritance", and the seal of the Holy Spirit which guarantees it, and speaks of the church as the body of Christ which fills all in all.  
Luke 6:20-31 (page 862 in our Bibles) These blessings and woes are both directed to the disciples and are a challenging portrait of what the community of believers is supposed to look like. The fourth blessing is especially challenging. The gospel will not necessarily make you popular! We are called to be prophets and our fate may well be similar to the prophets of old.

One of the most inspiring speeches ever given started “I have a dream” when Martin Luther King articulated a vision of a better present and a future for America. Here is Daniel we have a vision, whose scope is much larger than America’s future. This vision is of the future of all creation with a special place within it for us, God’s children.
We start with the glorious prophetic imagery of the book of Daniel, which begins in the chaos of the world represented by the sea and the dysfunctional Kingdoms of this world vying for worldly power which are the beasts that emerge out of the sea.
So all the world seems chaotic, hopeless and random – unjust and unkind. But what books like Daniel are at pains to tell is that no matter how bleak or oppressive or hopeless the situation in the world seems – take heart and strength that God is in control and He has marvellous plans for us and the whole creation and because God is the guarantor of this vision we can be sure that it will come to pass.
God here is called the “ancient of days” and is envisioned as a marvellous spectacle as He takes his seat, he is ancient, denoting wisdom, his clothing is white as snow denoting purity and holiness, and the fire denotes judgement on everything that is going on.
Then comes the prophesy that all these earthly kingdoms vying for power on earth are as nothing because a superior unshakeable kingdom of God will be revealed. And then the coming of Jesus Christ and his kingdom is foretold.
And we know this vision is true and will unfold because the first part of it has already taken place. And behold with the clouds of heaven one “like a son of man” will be presented with a new eternal kingdom, and he will have an everlasting kingship.  And you will know of course that Jesus’ favourite way of referring to himself was “the son of man” and this is exactly this passage in Daniel that Jesus is referring to when he uses that term.
All kingdoms, all empires eventually fall; the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Assyrians, the British, all which once seemed impregnable and unthinkable that they might decay and die. But they did.
But this kingdom, the kingdom of God will never die. Remember that this kingdom formed the content of Jesus’ first ever pronouncement. “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”.
But then something even more extraordinary is announced. Whilst Christ is King in this new order, dominion is to be shared. Christ is not a dictator.
Who is this kingdom going to be shared with? “The saints of the most high will share this kingdom.
And just in case we didn’t get it the first time this is underlined in verse 27
“And the kingdom and the dominion shall be given to the people of the saints of the most high”
Who are the saints? That is us. We share in the Royal Dominon.  A saint, before the term was highjacked to denote a few super Christians officially declared “saint” was the term Paul used when he was addressing the whole community of Christians.
We are the saints of the most high whose inheritance is to share in the kingship of Christ in the Kingdom of God.
And Paul talks of our inheritance in his letter to the Ephesians. Saint means holy which means “set apart”. We are a people set apart for a great inheritance and our guarantee of that inheritance is the seal of the Holy Spirit. That is why we call ourselves “the body of Christ” and led Peter to refer to the church as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9)
When we sing “For all the Saints” we are singing about ourselves and all Christians past, present and future who will share in this glorious vision.
Don’t forget we are holy, set apart, different. And Jesus pronounces some blessings and woes. He points out that it is not going to be plain sailing and in fact, it is not going to guarantee you popularity. In fact he says rejoice in that day when people hate you, and exclude you and spurn your name as evil on account of the son of man, for behold, your reward will be great in heaven”.
Jesus talks about our reward, our inheritance as co-heirs of the Kingdom of heaven. If you need encouragement in your faith, keep that vision of the new creation uppermost in your mind.
A glorious inheritance kept for us, the saints of the most high. We have a vision of that glorious future in the book of Revelation.

 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”

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