Today we remember.
Remembrance is about memory: it is about looking back and considering with gratitude the sacrifice of so many who gave so much, so you and I may live today in a nation of peace, of multi-culturalism and immigration, of acceptance and goodwill.
But remembrance isn’t just about memory: the opposite of remembrance is not forgetfulness.
The opposite of “remember” is “dis-member”; “cut-off”; “amputate”.
So on Remembrance Day we re-member – we re-connect with our forbearers, we re-connect ourselves to their stories of sacrifice. We re-join ourselves to them, in solidarity. We re-member them, re-member ourselves to them.
As Christians, remembrance doesn’t just mean re-connecting ourselves to those who gave their lives in the past for our prosperity; who sacrificed their freedom for our freedom.
We remember not just the past, but also our future. We re-connect ourselves to the glorious hope before us that servicemen and women of our parish and our world were looking forward to when they signed up to give their lives to fight for good.
We remember today the glorious future that awaits all who give their lives to follow Jesus.
Remember the Past: War is Hell
William Sherman was a military general who fought in the American Civil War, and afterwards taught and spoke at Military Colleges to cadets. And in all his recorded speeches, he ended with the now famous words: War is Hell.
To one class of new recruits, he said, “You don't know the horrible aspects of war. I've been through two wars and I know. I've seen cities and homes in ashes. I've seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!”
My Grandfather (pictured above) fought in World War II for the British. It was Hell. After the war he could never share his experiences of battle. It was too painful for him to re-member, so he dis-membered, he amputated the memories from his life and ensured his family would never have to re-member them either.
God tells us through Isaiah that on Earth we live under the shroud of death. Living on Earth is living under the veil of death that has been cast over all people (Isaiah 25:7). We are reminded of this reality no more sharply than when confronted with War.
War is Hell. Battle involves restless conflict and unimaginable suffering.
Remember our Future
If War is Hell, then what is Heaven like? Today we remember backwards in history, and forwards to glory.
According to Revelation 7, there are two things primarily what define Heaven. Two things we ought to re-member about the destiny available to all who trust in Jesus.
Revelation 7:15: “He who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
Heaven is living under the shelter of God. Heaven is living in perfect Peace.
God has swallowed up death, He has thrown off the curtain of sin that suffocates us, and now he places over us his own roof, his own house, his own presence.
Remember that one day God will extend his tent, his tabernacle, his home, over our heads.
In the Old Testament, God’s tabernacle and God’s temple were inaccessible to humans. If you went in to God’s home, and stood in God’s presence, you instantly died. In Heaven, God extends his tent to cover all his people. He shelters those who persevered in their faith on Earth.
The Peace of God
The first thing we will experience in Heaven is God’s Peace; God’s Presence.
The presence of God provides for us. “ They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore.” (Rev. 7:16a)
God’s Peace protects us: “The sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat” (Rev 7:16b)
If War is Hell, Heaven is peace. God’s Peace. God’s presence with us forever.
The Rest of God
Heaven means secondly experiencing the rest of God.
“The Lamb in the middle of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17).
War is restless, Heaven is living in God’s rest.
Heaven is where the Lamb will be your pastor, your shepherd, guiding you to the very best nourishment. Heaven is where God wipes away your tears, never to return, with his nail-scarred hands. There we rest, with Him, and in Him, forever.
Today we remember war. War is Hell. War is conflict and war is restless.
But also we remember Heaven. Heaven is Peace in God’s Presence. Heaven is rest with God forever.
Re-membered to Christ
The Last Book of the Bible is not just called, “Revelation”. That is a nickname, a short-form.
The full title is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”. (Rev 1:1)
Literally: The unveiling of Jesus Christ. (The Greek word for unveiling is apocalypse)
Revelation unveils Jesus for us. Revelation 7 is centred on Him. Heaven is centred around him. He is the Lamb of God who sits on God’s Throne. Heaven is our destiny, because of him. The Great World War is over because Jesus has come and defeated our greatest enemy.
Rest and Peace with God are promised to us because Jesus gave up all of those things to do battle with the Devil. Without Jesus, Heaven is a fairytale. He is the only way to Heaven, the only truth, the only life after Death. No one comes to God except through Him.
To re-member Heaven, and ensure you experience in its fullness all the glories that are unveiled in this text, you need to re-member yourself to Christ. Learn about him, believe in him and give your life to follow him, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the World.
Then, and only then, can we truly Rest in Peace.