The readings we have reflect this in that the Revelation passage talks about those who have died standing before the throne praising Jesus (the Lamb of God) - There are so many they cannot be counted; people from every nation are represented ('all the earth') and they're worshipping the Lamb with palm fronds in their hands (which represent triumph and jubilation - just like when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday). This is an image of wonderfully exuberant worship - something that typifies how it's going to be in the eternity bit.
Now a quick aside: I was once challenged by a non-believer regarding the 'boring singing songs and worshipping God for eternity bit' - I pointed out that they had spent three days at Heathrow airport with their hairband radio tuned in to the approach frequency as they waited to get a first glimpse of some new airliner and how they were singing the praises of it interns of engineering with the other anoraks whilst they all waited. A scenario that is not dissimilar to the believers singing God's praise and wanting to get a glimpse of Him perhaps? Hope this give some sort of context :-)
And now a bit of more technical stuff in that here we have this bunch of people out there worshipping, with the angels (because that's what they do too - and it's good to notice that the 'sevenfold' worship -''the blessing, the glory, the wisdom, the thanksgiving, the honour, the power, the might unto the ages of the ages.' - implies (bit of numerology here for you here) something absolute and solid.
The question, "Who are they?" is rather special because those seen are not angels but people like us! People who have died during the 'great tribulation' (which is all about the end times, something we will deal with later, but suffice to say it does make me think that the Christians bugging out before the trouble starts looks like a loser with this information). These are people who stood against the enemy and his demands for worship - these are the faithful who endured and because of this, although they lost their lives, they have gained eternal life - now what a great message on All Saint's Day :-)
So here we have a text that supports the promise that those who are willing to lose their life for Jesus will also gain it for eternity I guess - can't be bad,can it? (Of course eternalise and not giving it up always sounds like a more desirable bet doesn't it?).
And the 1 John reading, "When Jesus is revealed we will be like Him!" What a promise, one that is found demonstrated in the Revelation reading - what a promise for us who are 'children of God'.
And now, as then, the Psalmist talks about the praise of God being upon our lips 'ALL THE TIME' - how I wish this was true for me (is it for you?) but we continue and strive and look to the day when this is a reality; as we do we seek God's blessing and the promise that Jesus gave us in the 'blessed are you' bit (what we call the 'beatitudes' - be attitudes).
In the beatitudes we find promises for those who seek, have needs, act rightly and endure persecution too. In everything we feel, experience, live within and live without there is the promise that God will respond and bring blessing. This is a great thought for those who we celebrate who have died serving God, under the curse of ill-health, persecuted and in need. It is message of comfort such as Karl Marx referred to when he spoke of our faith being the thing that enables us to rise above and endure (when he referred to it and an opiate this was not the criticism many would like to make it). Wherever, whatever and however you find yourself as you read this, God is willing, ready and able to respond and bring blessing - may these words find a place in our hearts and bring forth fruit that this world cannot take away.
God of holiness, your glory is proclaimed in every age: as we rejoice in the faith of your saints, inspire us to follow their example with boldness and joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Meet is where we are Lord, touch us at our point of need,
Strengthen us to withstand the challenges of this world,
the ignorance that comes from those who think themselves intelligent,
the poverty of those who consider themselves to be rich,
the bias and bigotry of those who call for openhandedness and inclusivity,
and help us to be a voice of reason, love and reconciliation - to others and to you.
This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
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. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
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 worshipped God, singing,
‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ 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. 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. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre 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.’
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth. My soul shall glory in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Look upon him and be radiant and your faces shall not be ashamed. This poor soul cried, and the Lord heard me and saved me from all my troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is gracious; blessed is the one who trusts in him. Fear the Lord, all you his holy ones, for those who fear him lack nothing. Lions may lack and suffer hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.
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. 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. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Post Communion Prayer
God, the source of all holiness and giver of all good things: may we who have shared at this table as strangers and pilgrims here on earth be welcomed with all your saints to the heavenly feast on the day of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.