9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
1 John 3:1-3
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
If you have been following the US election season even a little bit, it might seem appropriate that our first reading for two days before Election Day is from Revelation!
But then again, that’s based on a flawed assumption of both what the election and, more importantly, Revelation are all about. Despite what you may have read in the Left Behind series, most mainline Christians do not believe that the book of Revelation is full of portents of the end times. Nor, for whatever else may be at stake (and there’s a lot), do I really believe that whatever happens in this week’s election will be a prequel to the end of our temporal world.
In fact, two days before such a divisive political moment in American history, I believe that the message Scripture speaks to us this week is quite the opposite. The saints gathered around the throne in our first reading, having come out of the “great ordeal” (Revelation 7:14), find themselves sheltered and comforted by the Lamb.
For that is the promise: that whatever ordeals, whatever trials, whatever pains this life puts us through, in the next, we will sit around the throne of God. And our tears and our weeping will be no more.
But God doesn’t stop there. God promises that even in this life, even in the midst of division and slander and hate, we will be called “children of God” (1 John 3:1). And in case saying it once wasn’t enough, John repeats it again: “Beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 John 3:2).
God’s love does not hesitate to cross party lines. God’s love—thank God!—is not diminished by the wrong we have done in our past. God’s love is for all. So that even people like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, and you and me, might be called God’s children. All of us. Already. Now.
For while we may not yet know what will be revealed, we do know this: God is love (1 John 4:8). And God’s love knows no boundaries, not even the boundaries of time.
So, this week, as Christians across the globe commemorate the Feast of All Saints, may we take a break from the fighting, the division, and the hate, to celebrate this. And to hope in the already in-breaking purity of God’s Kingdom, in which our loved ones who have gone before us, together with our loved ones who are still among us, gather together with us around the throne and celebrate the only true authority on heaven and on earth—Christ our Lord.
The Rev. Dr. Amy Lindeman Allen is Co-Lead Pastor at The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Reno, NV. She holds her PhD from Vanderbilt University in New Testament and Early Christianity.