1 John 3:1-3
"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." What we will be has not yet appeared. In fact, what we are is still hidden from our eyes. We are saints! A saint is a holy person, that is, a person set apart by God. A saint is a child of God, one of Jesus' little lambs, one clothed in a white robe washed clean in the blood of Jesus. You become a saint in this life through Baptism and faith in Jesus Christ.
But this isn't what you see, is it? Saints are holy and without sin! Yet, we still sin. You'd think that children of God would behave like their Father: be merciful, slow to anger, quick to forgive, and willing to serve. You'd think that we would obey our Father's commandments. Yet we are disobedient. We do not resemble saints. We're poor in spirit, having nothing to offer God. We mourn our sinful condition instead of rejoicing in our holiness. We're hungry and thirsty for a righteousness we don't have. Even after eating Christ's true body and blood for forgiveness and strength, we soon fall into sin again and hunger and thirst again.
On All Saints Day we celebrate the saints, who have gone before us. We confess that they rest from their labors, that they are in paradise with their Lord. Yet, again this is not what we see. Death is surrounded by mystery. No one, who has died has come back to tell us what has happened to them; where they are; that they're okay. We just see their body for the last time before the casket closes and we're left to look at a piece of stone and fading memories. We can't see how they are now.
So, we cling to God's promise through faith. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."(Hebrews 11:1) God did not wait for you to make yourself holy before he sent Jesus to die for your sins. Jesus died for us sinners, while we were still sinners. God saves sinners and makes them saints.
Yet, in this life we don't see it. At least not fully. God has forgiven our sins, yet our old sinful nature still hangs around our necks. We are justified by God, yet we remain sinners in the flesh. St. Paul expresses his frustration at this reality in Romans 7, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing."
Sin is evil. It defies God and hurts your neighbor. It also violently attacks your faith. When you contemplate your sins, and compare them to God's holy and good law, you will doubt your status as a saint. You certainly won't feel like a saint. And Satan's goal is that you doubt that you are a saint so that you will also doubt Christ Jesus. But you are not a saint, because of your ability to follow God's law. You are a saint, because Jesus has died for your sins and forgives you by grace. You are a saint through faith, not through your good works.
Now this is not to say that you should continue to sin, so that grace may abound. The new spirit given to you by Christ must constantly be at war with your sinful flesh. While you live in this life you must mourn your sinful condition and repent every day. When you stop repenting of your sins in this life, you stop being a saint.
And so, we look to the future when we will no longer sin; when we will see God as he is, because we will be like him. Yet, Jesus wants us to believe that we are blessed now. Because he wants us to have faith in him now. This doesn't involve adjusting your eyes. It involves adjusting your heart and opening your ears.
What will heaven be like? Perhaps a better question is, what is the closest thing to heaven on earth. When I was growing up my brothers and I used to say that if it weren't for the mosquitoes our family's lake cabin would be heaven on earth. But heaven on earth is not a tranquil place far from traffic, labor, and homework assignments. Heaven on earth exists, but it can only be seen through faith. Heaven is where Jesus is. We find Jesus where his word is taught and his Sacraments are administered.
That might sound disappointing. Heaven will be like church. Isn't that boring? Well it might be to the naked eye. But what your faith sees is the Lamb of God on his throne. Here Jesus proclaims the words of eternal life. The very body and blood of Christ that hung on the cross is given to us in a manner we cannot comprehend. And don't forget, here we are joined with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven in praising our God. Our sainted loved ones join us in Communion with the one holy Christian and apostolic Church.
If your faith does not grasp Jesus in this life, neither will you recognize him as your Savior in the life to come. Being a saint is about being set apart by God. Set apart from what? From the sinful unbelieving world. And set apart to whom? To Jesus. Saints want to be with Jesus, like sheep want to be with their good shepherd and like children want to be with their compassionate father. We want to be with Jesus now. So we hold onto him in faith, so that we may behold our God on the Last Day, when we will see him in our glorious resurrected and sinless bodies, wearing white robes and singing with all saints of all time and places hymns of praise to God on his throne and to the Lamb, Jesus Christ. May God grant us to see this even as he grants us faith to believe it. Amen.