All Saints Day is quickly approaching (Nov 1)! This is a Christian Holiday celebrated primarily within the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions (it’s less celebrated in Protestant tradition, as is often the case with events in the traditional Christian calendar). All Saints Day is where Halloween finds its origins in the contemporary, secular, consumerist context.
So what is All Saints Day all about? For starters the Christian Church is traditionally and historically divided into two groups: (1) the militant Church and (2) the triumphant church. These two together make up the universalchurch (referred to in the Apostles Creed as the “catholic” church as the word “catholic” comes from a Greek work meaning “universal”).
The militant Church is made up of Christians today who live and serve to advance the Kingdom of God on earth through the preaching of the righteous reign of Christ over the creation (as opposed to the reign of death and sin) and the forgiveness of sins for those who believe. “Militant” extends from the reality that the church is at spiritual war with the powers of death and darkness on earth by preaching the message of goodness, light, and Christ’s power over sin and death.
The triumphantchurch is made up of all the believers who have died and are now in heaven with Jesus awaiting Christ’s return, final judgment, and the establishment of the new heavens and earth on which all believers will live in eternal bliss with Jesus as King and as the divine/human co-regent over the creation as God had always intended. This group is referred to the “triumphant” church because they persevered in their faith through persecution and death (Matt. 24:13).
All Saints day, then, remembers and celebrates the triumphant church. It commemorates the faithfulness of those who have gone before us victoriously and faithfully in testifying to the reign of Christ on earth thereby advancing the Kingdom of God and bringing healing and deliverance to a world bound by sin.
I think there are (at least) three things we can take away from All Saints Day: (1) thankfulness, (2) encouragement, and (3) hope.
First, when we think of the believers who have gone before us—beginning with the New Testament apostles and the authors of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)—we are to be thankful. It’s because of the faithfulness and obedience of generations of Christians who have gone before us that we have the heritage of our spirit-filled faith today. Regardless of what critics may say, Christianity is alive, well, and growing today and that is thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit’s work through triumphant church.
Second, we are to be encouraged by those who have gone before us. The triumphant church comprises million of invidious who are examples to us of what it means to stand firm and persevere in faith. I think of more contemporary victors in Christ such as Billy Graham, Dallas Willard, A.W. Tozer, Watchman Nee, Andrew Murray, Hudson Taylor, the Reformers, John and Charles Wesley, and especially the unknown martyrs who have died for their faith. The unknown martyrs were faithful to Jesus without any earthly reward other than knowing Him.
Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. (Matt. 5:10–12).
Third, and last, our hopeis inspired by the triumphant church. The triumphant church reminds us that this life is a blink in light of eternity and that there is a hope of a life everlasting with Jesus in the new creation. They remind us that our daily devotion to Jesus is never, ever in vain. In Philippians 3:14, Paul writes, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”