Pastor Chuck DeVane
Special to The Sentinel-Record
But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.
-- Daniel 7:18, ESV
Heaven is an exclusive place. Both the Old Testament and New Testament confirm it is for saints only. But who on earth really qualifies to be a saint? There may be more of them than you might think.
In Roman Catholicism, there are few saints. To be one, you have to be in the upper echelon of the church, live an exemplary Christian life, accomplish some great and enduring ministry, provide at least one post-mortem miracle, and, finally, gain approval from the Pontiff. This is an order taller than the Pope's hat, and very few climb that high.
Baptists and other Protestants have no such saints. If you've been in Baptist churches for 40 years like I have, you'll understand why. We are all a bunch of rascals. On the other hand, could it be that all Christians are, in fact, saints?
The word translated "saint" in the Bible is a common uncommon word. It is common, because it appears over 300 times. It is uncommon, because it speaks of a very unique person who has received an uncommon gift of a holy and total transformation, who then persists to live a uniquely godly life. The word could just as easily be translated "holy" or "holy ones" as well as "saints."
There are only two types of Christians in the membership rolls of churches today: unholy and holy. The unholy may profess faith in Jesus Christ, but they do not possess faith. Sometimes they are nominals, Christians in name only, who are inactive in church and undisciplined in following Christ. We call the worst of them hypocrites, because they are often active in church but ungodly in nature and character. They are all simply unholy, having never received the Holy Spirit, never truly revered the Holy word of God, and never understood "the holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (ref. Hebrews 12:14).
On the other hand, all genuine Christians have been born again and indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God (ref. John 3, etc.). They have been deeply convicted of sin and deeply convinced of the salvation God gives by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. They consider responsible church membership and regular Bible study important, significant, holy. Their lives, while not perfect (Jesus alone fit that bill), are characterized by sincere love and persistent obedience. They are the true members of the church, the true citizens of Heaven, the "holy ones," the "saints." And, you want to be one.
Most of us know by heart the first stanza of the song made famous by Louis Armstrong in 1936, although it was written by James Black and Katherine Purvis in 1896.
Oh, when the saints go marching in,
Oh, when the saints go marching in,
Oh Lord I want to be in that number,
When the saints go marching in.
Less popular are some of the other verses:
Oh, when the trumpet sounds its call,
Oh, when the trumpet sounds its call ...
Oh, when the horsemen begin to ride,
Oh, when the horsemen begin to ride ...
Oh, when the moon turns red with blood,
Oh, when the moon turns red with blood ...
Oh, when the stars fall from the sky,
Oh, when the stars fall from the sky ...
The Day of the Lord, the second coming of Jesus Christ, is at hand. Sinners and saints will be separated for all eternity. You will be numbered with one or the other. And yes, you want to be in that number, the number of the saints, because when Jesus comes again, you're either a saint, or you ain't, getting into Heaven, that is.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]