Nobody Can Take This Away From You

Text: 1 John 3:1-3

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the mighty waters of baptism, you are a child of God.  That is not a pious childhood sentiment or a fairy tale dream but an objective reality in the present – you are God’s child.  Nobody can take that away from you, no one can cancel this reality, and nothing can destroy your status as God’s very own child.  

But what about death?  Can’t death ruin this?  

Death indeed ruins so much in this life.  Death has a way of throwing a wrench into life.  One day, you are OK with a spouse, child, job, and family – the next day, death blows all of that up. Death can take a husband or wife and make them into a widow.  Death can take a child and make them into an orphan.  Indeed, death has a way of blowing up a family, destroying culture, and instilling fear.  And so, does death have the power to blow up your status as God’s own child?  

In our reading from the Epistle of 1 John, the Apostle John tells you and me that we are not only called ‘children of God’ but that we actually are ‘children of God.’  In other words, John speaks of our status as children of God, as if nothing has any sway over this reality.  John doesn’t say, 

“You Christians are God’s children, that is unless you die.  If you die, you are out of luck.”     

He also does not say, 

“You are called Children of God for now, until sin, death, and the devil snatch you out of God’s hands.”

He said none of this. 

And so, regardless of what you feel, regardless of what other people say, and regardless of death itself – you are a child of God.  In baptism, you were put into Christ, and in the Holy Supper of Communion, Christ is put into you.  As Martin Luther once said, “You are cemented to Christ!” You are a child of God –Death cannot change this reality.  

Now, I am certainly not trying to be disrespectful, mean, or rude when I say this: when a loved one dies, we often hear comments about grandpa smiling down upon us from heaven.  In other words, we hear about parents, friends, or neighbors watching down upon us from heaven and how they send us messages and help from heaven.  Now, to my knowledge, theologians are uncertain for sure if loved ones can see us from heaven at all.  However, the Bible is clear that loved ones cannot send us special messages from heaven.  But this is not the point that I want to make.  Instead, the point that I am hoping to make is that these sentiments of a loved one seeing us from heaven and sending us messages are due to a very deep desire to still connect with loved ones after they die. That is to say; we have tremendous comfort from loved ones in this life, especially when they support us.  However, when death happens, we want to keep that connection with our loved ones.  And so, we look for ways to still connect with the dead, which is why we will say that they are watching us from heaven and sending us messages.  

Now, dear friends, I want to tell you a secret.  Actually, it isn’t a secret.  It is a reality.  You are already united with friends, relatives, and family who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  That is to say, to connect with Christians who have died in Christ, you must do nothing. The reason is - you are a child of God right now in life and they are a child of God right now in death.  And since death cannot separate us from Christ, you and your loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus are 100% united through Christ – Christ, who holds the living and the dead.  That is to say; there are not two churches… one church for the living and one church in heaven for those who have died. There is no such thing as one church for those alive in Christ in the pews and another for those alive in Christ in paradise.  No, there is one church because there is one Christ.   Your loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus… they are still children of God, just like you and me.  Death changes nothing, so in Christ, we are profoundly connected with them.  

But part of us is still discontent right now.  And that makes sense.  In other words, while it is a great comfort to know that the souls of these saints are in paradise with Jesus just like we are currently with Jesus as well, we know that their bodies still lie in the grave.  And that hurts.   

The Apostle John has some great comfort for you and for your loved ones who have died.  And that is this: all of God’s children will be like Jesus on the great last day.  

Before we expound on this anymore, perhaps we need to make another gentle correction to another misconception: when we die, we do not become angels.  Sure, when we die, our soul goes to paradise with Jesus, and our body goes into the ground.  But that does not mean we become angels.  You see, angels are spirits who do not have flesh and bones.  Although angels often appear in bodily form, they are spiritual beings and not physical beings.  And so, while it is true that right now, our loved ones in paradise do not have physical bodies, it is not true that they will stay like that.  In other words, those who have died in the faith and all of us here today will be like Jesus.  On the great last day, we look forward to those who are alive being changed to a glorious body and those in the grave being bodily resurrected to a glorious body as well.  You heard that correctly; we will not exist forever as spirits without a body in paradise/heaven.  Instead, God almighty will make a new heaven and earth and grant us glorified, immortal, and incorruptible bodies just like Jesus’.  

Mark this: if Jesus does not come back before your death, your grave is nothing more than a temporary bed.  It is nothing more than a sleeping place for your body – a body that awaits its raising at the very end.  Baptized Saints, you and your loved ones will receive your bodies back without sin and corruption.  You will see your loved ones face to face.  You will dance, laugh, jump, and giggle with profound joy before Jesus, who refuses to let go of you.  As a child of God, your bodies and souls will be put back together again; those who have died in Christ will not remain souls forever, like angels who have not body.  Instead, God’s children – you and your loved ones in Christ – will be like Jesus.  

But what does it mean to be like Jesus precisely?  What is Jesus like right now?  

Ah, this is so good to consider.  As we confess in our Creeds, Jesus is at the Father's right hand.  He is in a position of power – bodily.  Never forget that Jesus rules all things, not as a spirit.  Remember that the tomb is empty.  And since the tomb is empty, Jesus currently reigns with a body at the Father's right hand.  And so, just as Jesus lives right now with a glorified body, as it has already been said, you and your loved ones in Christ will have glorified bodies as well – bodies and souls free from the deficiencies of sin and death.   Again, the reason is that you are God's child in life and death. 

Today, we observe All Saints’ Day.  We cry for those who have died this last year and the years before that.  And these tears that we cry?  They are holy tears of love.  But they are also tears that are filled with hope and excitement, for we will see the departed saints again.  And so, we rejoice while we weep, knowing that in a little while, all things will be made right and new.  We weep now, knowing that in a little while, our tears will be no more, as Jesus will soon remove every tear from our eyes, and we will see our loved ones face to face, as well as the Son of God, who lives and reigns for His church, here and departed.   

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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