Summary: All those who believe in Jesus can look forward to a happy ending and new beginning.
“Return of the Jedi”, the sixth and final episode of the Star Wars series, is a movie of happy endings and new beginnings. Darth Vader finally dies, not as a villain, but as a hero because he returns to his Jedi roots and destroys the evil emperor in the final act of his life. The end of the evil empire signals a new beginning for the Jedi knights under the leadership of Luke Skywalker.
Likewise, the sixth and final episode of our sermon series, Seer Wars, is one of happy endings and new beginnings. Elijah’s life on earth comes to an end and begins in heaven - an occasion for celebrating, not weeping. That’s what’s in store for every believer in Jesus. We’ll also learn how God sends the Holy Spirit to help believers make a new beginning here after a loved one has been taken to heaven.
Although there was a lot of fighting in the movie version of “Return of the Jedi”, the sermon series version is quite placid. Wicked King Ahab has long since met his end, as has the son who succeeded him as king. And although Jezebel remained alive and another one of her sons held the throne, God’s people were making a comeback in Israel. God’s prophets not only worked openly, they actively trained future prophets in at least three seminaries located in Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho. Together with his apprentice Elisha, Elijah visited these schools to encourage the students and their teachers. This would be Elijah’s last visit, for God had made it known to him that his time on earth was coming to an end.
If you knew that your time on earth was soon coming to an end, how would you spend it? Would you spend the time on yourself doing the things you had always wanted to do like traveling to all the places you had wanted to see? Elijah demonstrates for us that even the final days of our life belong to God, not to us, and are to be used in service to others. That doesn’t mean you can’t take that trip you had always wanted to take, but even when you do, look for ways to glorify God by serving and encouraging others – especially fellow believers.
Although Elijah knew that his life on earth would soon come to and end he didn’t know exactly when. That’s true for all of us isn’t it? Even though we may be young and healthy and think that we have our whole life ahead of us, or may be sick and think that the end is right around the corner, we can’t know for sure. Therefore instead of ensuring that we get a good education because we think we have our whole life ahead of us, or making sure that our will gets updated because we think our life will soon end, it’s more important that we get ready to meet Jesus.
Are you ready to meet Jesus? Elijah was ready. No, not because he had served God his whole life and therefore was deserving of heaven. We’ve seen in our sermon series how Elijah sometimes failed the Lord – like the time he doubted God would keep him safe from Jezebel and ended up running 500 km from his preaching post. In the same way even though we may have strived to serve God our whole life, we’ve failed too. Think of those times when we came to church because we “had to” not because we wanted to. Or think of how we’re good at wearing a smile for a couple hours at church on Sunday but sport a frown the rest of the week grumbling against the people we live with.
So what made Elijah ready to meet Jesus? What makes us ready to meet Jesus? Jesus makes us ready to meet Jesus. He worked 33 sin-free years in this sin-filled world to provide clothes for us to wear in heaven - clothes that are free from the stain of sin. Jesus also shed his blood on the cross to scotch-guard those garments of salvation. That’s why even though we don’t live sin-free lives, Jesus’ blood whisks away our sins so that the garment of salvation he earned for us remains sparkling clean. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection guarantees our readiness for heaven.
If we ever doubt our readiness for heaven, we’re probably doing what Luke Skywalker urged his father, Darth Vader, to do at the end of Episode VI. As Luke was about to be killed by the emperor, he sought his father’s help. Luke kept saying to Darth Vader: “You’re not evil. I know there is good in you. Look inside yourself and help me!” If we were to do the same, look inside ourselves for goodness, we’re only going to find reasons why we don’t deserve heaven. That’s because by nature there is no goodness in us (Genesis 8:21). Only Jesus makes us acceptable to God and ready for heaven. So focus on him, not yourself and you won’t doubt your readiness for heaven.