“Got a big week coming up. Lots of exciting things!”
As soon as I say this your mind likely begins to consider what I might possibly be talking about.
“Oh yea, obviously,” you think to yourself, “we have church on Sunday and it falls on a special day: All Saints Day.”
All Saints Day is a holiday that the church has celebrated since the 7th century. On it we remember all those who have gone before us in the Faith, especially those who did “not love their lives even to the point of death” (Rev 12:11).
Okay, so that’s not the first thing that came to your mind.
Many of you immediately went to the Presidential election on Tuesday. Some of you thought of Halloween as well.
Now, I am not saying that you cannot participate in Halloween or be concerned about the election. I get it. Halloween is great fun for many kids and families. And it is a great opportunity for the church to reach out to the community (of course, the pandemic has certainly changed how we are going to approach it this year).
But Sunday is All Saints Day.
And it is my suggestion that much more hangs in the balance for the Church in the US with regard to All Saints Day than with regard to the election two days later.
Why is All Saints Day so important?
The author of the book of Hebrews presented his/her readers with a long list of heroes of the faith (see Hebrews 11). A list of men and women who were faithful to the Lord despite the fact that oftentimes they were brutally treated at the hands of the nations. The author presents this list of heroes in order to encourage his/her readers to persevere just as they did:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Heb 12:1-3).
Note that the author of Hebrews’ final example is Jesus.
The message is clear: these heroes serve as “a cloud of witnesses” for us. We too ought to follow their example in order that we might serve as a “cloud of witnesses” to the next generation.
All Saints Day serves as that annual reminder for us that just as God was faithful in the lives of these men and women, so He will be faithful for us as well. We celebrate All Saints Day to remind us of the call to “run the race with endurance” and to “fix our eyes on Jesus.”
As we approach election day 2020 in the US, it wise to remind ourselves that our hope is in Christ.
It is a bit disconcerting for me that so many Christians are convinced that everything is at stake with the election this year.
Though, I might agree that a lot is at stake for the nation what is not at stake in the election is the fate of Christianity.
David deSilva, one of the pre-eminent NT scholars today, says,
“If, with John, we know Jesus as “the ruler of the kings of the earth” and as the “one who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, who made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father,” our primary identity will be rooted in our place in the kingdom of God, which we share with the redeemed from every people, tribe, nation, and language group. It will not be rooted in some national or political body constructed by human beings and their party lines.”
I am convinced that there is a lot more at stake when it comes to the advancement of the kingdom with All Saints Day than with the election.
After all, if we stop this All Saints Day and affirm, or reaffirm, our faith and our willingness to “run the race with endurance” and to “fix our eyes on Jesus,” then the state of the Church will be far better off regardless of the outcome of the election.
When it comes to empire, we must remember that the kingdom of God began and flourished in the midst of the Roman empire! Rome was not a place renowned for its friendliness to new religions: especially new religions that demanded its followers abstain from worshipping the gods of Rome and the practice of emperor worship.
Rome, in fact, was not friendly to the vast majority of its residents either; especially the poor, the needy, and the oppressed. Rome, in fact, prospered at the expense of such people. (see my post on ”The book of Revelation and the 3rd Seal” for a discussion on how the elite in Rome profited at the expense of everyone else).
Rome was not much different than any other empire. Empires exist for the sake of the empire. The empire’s first concern is prolonging its own existence. We may wish to think that an empire’s first concern was the well-being of its people. Unfortunately, that is not merely wishful thinking, it is dangerously naïve.
It is important to recognize that most of Christianity’s greatest advancements have taken place within nations and empires that were strongly opposed to Christianity.
The recent history of Christianity in China presents an obvious example. In 1953, China expelled all Protestant missionaries from the country. At the time there were an estimated 4 million Christians in China. Today, with little help from foreign missionaries and with severe limitations imposed by a hostile government, the number of Christians is significantly greater (estimates are in the 40-50 million and up range).
Christianity grew exponentially when it was forced underground in China.
The explosion of Christianity within China in the last century is not an anomaly. Historically, Christianity has flourished when it was not endorsed by the ruling power.
In light of this, it is a bit puzzling why Christians in America are so concerned with the election and its impact on the fate of the Church.
In fact, I am convinced that what the Church in America needs is not going to be solved by the coming election. I am convinced that the only thing that will bring life and restoration to the Church in the US is persecution.
With that in mind, perhaps, we might celebrate All Saints Day a little more carefully this year.
 We do not know who wrote Hebrews. Some have suggested that it was Priscilla the wife of Aquila (cf Acts 18:1-3, 18, 26; Rom 16:3; 2 Tim 4:19).
 deSilva, David A. Unholy Allegiances: Heeding Revelation’s Warning (Kindle Locations 1252-1255). Hendrickson Publishers. Kindle Edition.