Surrounded by a Great Cloud of Witnesses

Surrounded by a Great Cloud of Witnesses

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

I miss my grandma a lot. She graduated into her heavenly body in December of 2018. Since then, the only way I can hear her voice is to replay messages I’ve got saved on my phone, or through a couple Facebook videos. Her voice was like no other. From the time I was a baby, then a teenager, and on into adulthood, hearing Grandma always brought a sense of relief to my mind. During her last months on earth she deteriorated rather quickly, yet her voice stayed the same:

“What do you mean leave a message and you’ll call me back. This is your grandmother and I used to change your dirty, stinky diapers. I love you. Call me back when you get a chance, darlin’.”

“Come here, baby. Let Grandma pray for you.”

“I’m so proud of you, Son. If those foster parents who treated you so poorly could only see you now, my oh my. They’d be shocked.”

“Matthew, God’s grace is always sufficient for you. It really is. Just lean into it and things will get better, you’ll see.”

So many phrases and conversations I can recall. The things she taught me by example, such as forgiveness, compassion, empathy, and seeing everyone through the eyes of Jesus, meant so much. I really miss Grandma. I’d like to talk to her but I know she’s enjoying her best life.

There’s a passage in the Bible, in Hebrews, where the author talks about a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, as if we’re being watched by those who’ve died and gone to heaven. I’d like to think Grandma is doing this somehow, looking down on me, but I don’t see that as true. I believe she’s involved in such an uninterrupted glory with God that what’s happening here on earth isn’t her focus. She’s in the timeless realm, and I’m still here, finishing my journey.

And you know what? I’m fine with that. She ran her race of grace for 89 years and now she’s fully immersed in what was beyond the finish line, the reward of the inheritance. Hallelujah, hallelujah, and hallelujah!

Since I’ve grown in the truths of the New Covenant, I’ve learned the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12 isn’t dead relatives peeking in on us. To get the context, first we must understand what the author was trying to accomplish by writing this letter to the Hebrews. He, or she, was trying to make a big deal of Jesus to the Jews–the Hebrews–who refused to believe Christ was their Messiah.

The Jews held angels and prophets in high esteem, so in chapters 1 and 2 the writer explains how Jesus is greater than both. This person does the same thing in chapter 3, pointing out the supremacy of Jesus to Moses. Also, in chapter 3, a giant elephant in the room is introduced. The only unforgivable sin: REJECTING BELIEF IN CHRIST AS SAVIOR.

On and on the author lays out Jesus’ eminence compared to fallible human priests, Levi, Abraham, and even Melchizedek.

“NOBODY HAS SUCH POWER!” was the message to the Hebrews, “BELIEVE HIM!”

In essence, he or she was pleading with the Law-loving Jews, “Please! Don’t shrink back toward the Law! It is a shadow and Christ is making that shadow with Himself! There’s no more sacrifice left to be found at the temple! Don’t wander in the desert of unbelief like your ancestors! BELIEVE GOD ABOUT JESUS! Rest in the finished work of Messiah and drink in God’s grace! Your earthly temple cannot compare to the heavenly temple! Your animal blood cannot compare to the blood of Jesus! Repent of your unbelief because there will be severe punishment for those who reject Him!”

We Christians don’t have to worry about any of that stuff. Why not? Because we’ve already believed. He will return for us without reference to any of our sins (see Hebrews 9:28).

As we work our way to chapter 11 we find out who’s in the great cloud of witnesses. It’s those who believed God and lived before Christ came; a list of people who were justified by faith before the Cross. They longed for what we now have on this side of Calvary! As they patiently waited they never got to see Jesus but they still had a one-time saving faith! The author is making the point, “These people were great because of their faith, because they believed God, so you should too. But now, believe Him about Jesus.”

They had to begin to view Christ as the One their scriptures pointed to. He’s the only way they’d ever see their beloved patriarchs and matriarchs.

So today, my friends, know this: If you want to see your believing loved ones again, believe too, if you haven’t. Today can be your day of salvation. If you’ve lost someone close to you, someone who’s trusted Jesus at least once in their lifetime, you’ll get to see them again! Our finite human minds can’t comprehend what the saints are enjoying! You too are a saint, dear Christian! You too will be there before you know it!

A prayer for you: Father, would you please say hi to Grandma for me. Tell her how much I love her and miss her. Tell her that Jennifer and Grace are doing well and that we all look forward to our reunion one day. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who’ve lost someone special, remind them that our life here is just a blip on the radar of eternity. Because of Jesus, we believers will all meet again! It will be a magnificent day! And Dad, please reveal how powerful Jesus is. Expose His authority in the minds of those who doubt. What He did at the Cross, and through His resurrection, open up the true context of Scripture to those who are struggling with trusting Him. Amen.

This devotional is from The Christian Identity, Volume 3. Get your copy here!

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