Today, November 2nd, is one of the more obscure days in our contemporary calendar. Of course, we are all familiar with Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, as it is sometimes called and many of us are also familiar with November 1st, commonly referred to as All Saint’s Day. But did you realize that today is All Soul’s Day, otherwise known as the “Day of the Dead?” What’s the difference between these three days that all occur in a row?
Well, Halloween is traditionally thought of as the evening before All Saint’s Day – that’s the day on the church calendar that celebrates the saints of the faith who have passed away and are in heaven. In earlier times it was thought that ghosts and goblins came back to invade the earth just prior to All Saint’s Day and people dressed up in costumes to “hide” and not be recognized by these scary creatures.
The tradition of giving out candy goes back many generations. It is an adaptation of earlier times when people would pass out money and gifts to the poor on Halloween in exchange for the promise of prayers for deceased family members. It is important to realize that many of our current traditions are the result of various rituals that have been in existence for many hundreds of years.
All Saint’s Day, November 1st, is the day that many churches remember those who have died, particularly in the past year. I remember years ago that our church back in Chicago read the names of each person who had passed on during the prior year – this was all part of the first service in the month of November. Some religions only celebrate the more well known saints who have entered eternal glory and there is some difference of opinion as to who all should be included in this remembrance service. It dates back many generations.
All Soul’s Day, or Day of the Dead, happens on November 2nd and is a little more controversial. Some denominations celebrate all those who have died while other denominations concentrate more on those who have died but have not yet successfully made their way to heaven.
Here is where there is a difference of opinion as to the interpretation of salvation doctrine. Several religions believe in “purgatory”, a place where souls are held in limbo before their final resting place is determined. In a number of denominations, it is believed that living family members and others can help pray these souls into heaven.
On the other hand, many other denominations, while they believe in heaven and hell, do not subscribe to the idea of an intermediate place where souls wait for a final determination as to their eternal destination. The question then becomes, “What is celebrated on All Soul’s Day?” Is it the remembrance of all those who have passed, whether they were “saved” or not? Or is it the remembrance of those whose family members are trying to pray them into heaven?
From my viewpoint, I think it is incredibly difficult to know who is saved and who isn’t. That’s such a personal decision that I don’t necessarily believe that we can tell for sure who is heaven bound and who is eternally separated from God. It’s clear that God tells us that the only requirement to have eternal life is to profess a belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior. My personal belief is that once a person has made a profession of faith, they have eternal life; and that begins at the moment of conversion.
That’s it – nothing more. You don’t have to be baptized, although many of us are – as an act of obedience. You don’t have to take communion, or say certain prayers, or anything else. Of course there are other denominations that vehemently disagree with me on this subject.
While I respect each person’s right to have a different view of things, none of us will know the truth for sure until we enter heaven ourselves. I have always been taught that in order to enter heaven, a person must profess their faith while they are still alive. So my personal view on the Day of the Dead are along the lines of remembering all those who have passed way – not just during the past year.
Our verse for tonight is the most fundamental verse in the Bible. It affirms that all we have to do is believe. The apostle, John, records the words of Jesus. We are told, in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That says it all, doesn’t it?
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus died for all of us. Whether we accept God’s offer of eternal life through belief in His Son is up to each of us because we have free will. My prayer is that we will impact the world for Christ and that we will make sure that we accept God’s offer while we are still living. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…