He Shall Come to Judge the Quick and the Dead

Thanksgiving comes providentially at the end of the liturgical church year, which outlines the work of Christ for our redemption.  Beginning with His birth (Christmas) and ministry (Lent), then death and resurrection (Easter), giving of the Spirit (Pentecost), it concludes with a recognition of All Saints’ Day on November 1, noting the Church triumphant that has gone on to glory.

Thanksgiving is an ideal stand-in for the final work of Christ for our redemption: His return to judge the quick and the dead. This follows the death of the saints.  Consider the last verses of a classic hymn at Thanksgiving time.

All the world is God's own field,
fruit as praise to God we yield;
wheat and tares together sown
are to joy or sorrow grown;
first the blade and then the ear,
then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we
wholesome grain and pure may be. 

3 For the Lord our God shall come,
and shall take the harvest home;
from the field shall in that day
all offenses purge away,
giving angels charge at last
in the fire the tares to cast;
but the fruitful ears to store
in the garner evermore. 

4 Even so, Lord, quickly come,
bring thy final harvest home;
gather thou thy people in,
free from sorrow, free from sin,
there, forever purified,
in thy presence to abide;
come, with all thine angels, come,
raise the glorious harvest home.

We are the harvest that the Lord reaps for His barns.  The denomination in which I was raised has a communion liturgy that points us forward to this:  “As this grain was gathered from many fields into one loaf, and these grapes were gathered from many hills into one cup, grant, O Lord, that Your whole Church may soon be gathered from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom.”

So, while the rest of the world rushes to the stores today, Christians would do well to meditate on the spiritual harvest still to come, when our Lord shall come and gather us home.  Jesus was the first-fruits of the resurrection harvest to come, when all the dead in Christ will rise.

The abundance and feasting we experience at Thanksgiving looks ahead to the joyful marriage supper of the Lamb in glory.  Then petition will give way to eternal thanksgiving, “How long?” will resolve to “How great!” and cries for vindication from under the altar will turn to “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!” (Rev. 5-6).

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