Technically, the beginning of November earmarks the annual time when those who have passed away in the prior year are remembered. Halloween is the day before All Saint’s Day, which occurs on November 1st, with All Souls’s day following on November 2nd. All Saints’s Day commemorates those who have died since the last memorial service a year earlier and in essence, provides a period of remembrance for the saints who have presumably entered into God’s presence in heaven. Similarly, All Soul’s Day, November 2nd, takes into account those people, primarily from the Catholic faith, who have passed away but may be in purgatory and have not yet entered heaven. It is a chance to pray for them and hope that God will accept them into his heavenly realm.
Aside from prayer, the lighting of candles was thought to provide “light” for those suffering in purgatory and the ringing of bells on the day was also a way to provide temporary relief for those awaiting entrance into heaven. The Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Protestant faiths all deal with these two celebratory days differently. Interestingly, some churches are even postponing the services of remembrance until mid month – somewhere around November 16th this year. And in early times of the church, through the end of the 10th century, there were numerous Sundays throughout the year that were used to commemorate the remembrance of the dead. During the second millennium, the prayers for the dead, both those in heaven and those struggling in purgatory, were reduced to these annual services occurring in the month of November.
The study of biblical eschatology, that is, the study of the endtimes when Christ returns to rule over the earth, is a really complex field of theology. Most areas of theology have to do with what has happened in the past whereas eschatology deals with what will happen in the future. In fact, the word in the Greek has to do with the study of the “exit” so we don’t know for sure what will happen with the endtimes actually get here. This makes things a little less sure – there are many thoughts on what will happen in the future – and most of them are from very well known, recognized theologians who are passionate about their respective positions.
Whatever the eventual outcome with the endtimes, we should not forget those who have passed away. It is important that we remember them. While All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day are not reserved exclusively for family members, that does tend to be the focus of the remembrance services. Our verse for the evening is from the New Testament, where the apostle Paul discusses what God has said about how the endtimes will unfold. From 1 Th. 4:13, we are told, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”
My encouragement this evening is that God promises eternal life for those who believe – and He wants us to remember those who have gone ahead of us. My prayer is that you have achieved a status in life whereby there will be people who remember you for your contributions to the faith and to the lives of others when you enter heaven. In the meantime, have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…