And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them” (Revelation 14:13)
Since January 10th, at my local non-Reformed Southern Baptist church, I’ve been teaching on Sunday evenings a class summarizing church history from the days of the apostles through the Reformation. To assist my presentation, I selected a PowerPoint presentation by Rose Publishing called “Christian History Made Easy,” by Dr. Timothy Paul Jones (see also Dr. Jones’ own site) of the Calvinistic Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
My preparation for this survey of church history has enhanced my understanding of, and appreciation for first and second century life in the pagan Roman Empire. Although the Pax Romana largely enabled most to live in relative peace as long as they pluralistically accepted and paid homage to the Roman pantheon, such an existence forced the Christian church to practice its faith underground. The moral implications of following Christ also made Christians a nuisance to Roman society because of their biblically-based respect for women, children and even slaves. Although persecution was not an everyday occurence for Christians in pagan Rome, there were occaisional periods during which persecution would break out. This is the source of the infamous act of throwing Christians to the lions in the Coliseum, where many Christian martyrs were made.
This morning, one of my Facebook friends, Henry Christoph, Jr. directed my attention to a Lutheran YouTube page which apparently commits many classic hymns to video paired with either still art or live action selections to illustrate the spiritual truths featured in each hymn. One such video dovetailes nicely with my current focus on ancient church history. Below, you can view the video of the hymn “For All the Saints,” a processional hymn featured in Anglican and Lutheran observance of All Saints Day and other similar occaisions on the church calendar.
Part of the scriptural basis of this hymn is the text I featured at the beginning of this post. This text, as applied in “For All The Saints” highlights one of the practical applications of the otherwise mysterious book of Revelation: a message of comfort and hope for Christians who are suffering persecution even in the present day. Many dispensational premillennialists view these as applying only to future martyrs, and so at times shy away from preaching from the book of Revelation because their eschatology causes them to miss how the book of Revelation applies to Christians today. Christian martyrdom is a daily fact of life for more believers around the world today than at any time in church history. Is there no valid word from the Lord in the book of Revelation to strengthen the faith and resolve of these suffering believers?
I’ll provide the text of the hymn first, and below you will find the YouTube video. May the Lord grant to each of us the courage to so let our lights shine as it so effectively did in the earliest centuries of church history, and may he continue to be praised for the gift of religious liberty in his common grace. Let us not take it for granted, nor allow it to enable us to forego the taking up of our crosses.
William Walsham How, 1864, 1875
SINE NOMINE 10.10.10.al.
Ralph Vaughn Williams, 1906
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Thou was their rock, their fortress and their might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light.
O may thy soldiers faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.
But lo! There breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on his way.
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost.