Jay Cutler, NFL quarterback for the Chicago Bears, led his team as they played in the NFC Championship Game. If the Bears won against the hated Green Bay Packers, they would play in the Super Bowl. Cutler was tackled hard a few times during the first half, enough that he took himself out of the game. Some fans became furious when they saw what they thought was a healthy Cutler sitting on the bench. He didn’t appear to be cheering the team on. He simply stared blankly as the Bears lost.
Cutler’s appearance of stoic resignation is how I used to think of heaven: When I leave this earthly contest, I will go to my eternal rest where I’ll sleep a lot. But then I read John’s snapshot of heaven, where martyred saints are shouting to God, “How long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:10). These saints aren’t resting, they’re actively praying!
Origen wrote that “all those fathers who have fallen asleep before us fight on our side and aid us by their prayers.” Gregory of Nazianzus said that his deceased father “accomplishes there now by his prayers more than he ever did by his teaching.” And Martin Luther told his friend that if he died first he must pull him to heaven by his prayers, “For we confess one God and with all saints we abide in our Savior.”
Luther was describing the communion of the saints—all Christians, whether dead or alive, remain connected in Jesus. We pray for them, asking God to give a special hug to our deceased loved ones. They pray for us, cheering us on from stands packed with a great cloud of witnesses. Death may have pushed them to the sideline, but they’re still in the game. —Mike Wittmer
How long before You judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us? (v.10).
Read Hebrews 12 to learn how we remain connected to other Christians who have died.
How does it help to remember that we remain connected to those who have died in Christ? What message would you like Jesus to pass on to someone for you?