Catechism Lesson 18: Church Triumphant
There are Three States of the Church.
There is the Militant Church, The Suffering Church, and the Triumphant Church.
In past Catechism classes we have talked about the Militant Church and the Suffering Church.
For more information see:
Catechism Lesson 17: The Suffering Souls in Purgatory
Catechism Lesson 16: The Militant Church and the Armour of God
Catechism 15: Communion of The Saints
Catechism 14: A Description of the Church; The Bride of Christ, Part 2
Catechism 14: A Description of the Church; The Bride of Christ, Part 1
Catechism 13: A Description of the Church; The Sheep of God
Catechism 12: Description of the Church; The House of God
Catechism 11: On the Church Part I
In this lesson we will discuss the Church Triumphant.
And one of the Elders answered, and said to me: These that are clothed in white robes, who are they? and whence came they? And I said to him: My Lord, thou knowest. And he said to me: These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.Therefore they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple: and he, that sitteth on the throne, shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and shall lead them to the fountains of the waters of life, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. (Revelation 7:13-17)
What is the Church Triumphant?
The church triumphant describes the Church in heaven. The realm in which the holy Trinity, the angels and saints who have reached the fullness of salvation in Christ, abide. But it will have its fullest being at the end of time, when all of creation and all the Church whether the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, or the Church Triumphant, will be conformed to Christ and all reality will be one of divine praise and glory.
The term "church triumphant" underlines the truth that in the glory of heaven all human sin will have been transformed, death and suffering will be no more, and the glory of God will have triumphed over all the imperfections of human history.
What is the state of the Church Triumphant in Heaven?
They are in a state of UNSPOTTED PURITY.
The Triumphant Church is said to be "arrayed in white robes, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!" These kind of terms, when used in Scripture, are used to denote purity and the favor of God.
Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. (Psalms 50:9 DRB Psalms 51:7)
If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
White linen is said to be the justification of the saints.
And it is granted to her that she should clothe herself with fine linen, glittering and white. For the fine linen are the justifications of saints. (Revelation 19:8)
This is the Justification in which they stand before the throne. It is a Justification that is done for them and in them, by the merits of a Redeemer's blood, and the power of his Spirit. Their purity is now spotless, being without sin.
"Now to him who is able to preserve you without sin, and to present you spotless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy!" (Jude 1:24)
That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: (Ephesians 5:26)
Heaven is a state of TRIUMPHANT JOY.
They appear there with triumphant honor, as those who have overcome, and are now wearing the robes of victory.
There is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming. (2 Timothy 4:8)
White robes were always allotted to conquerors, to which Christ himself refers when addressing the Churches. (see Revelation 3:4,5, 18; 4:4; 7:9,13,14)
They are victorious over sin, Satan, and the world — they have overcome! They have been made more than conquerors through Christ that loves them! (Romans 8:37) They have therefore received the fulfillment of those precious promises. "To him that overcomes," (Revelations 3:21) They "eat of the tree of life," (Revelation 2:7) and of "the hidden manna." (Revelation 2:17) Each has received the "white counter," and the "new name." (Revelation 2:17) They have received the "palm" of victory, and the "crown of life," (Revelation 2:10) and have been made "pillars in the temple of God, and shall no more go out." (Revelation 3:12)
No demon can tempt their holy souls again. They are forever free from . . .
Heaven is residence in the presence of the exalted Christ.
They "are before the throne," a term expressive of the peculiar favor with which they are received by the King of glory. The glory of this throne is described,
And above the firmament that was over their heads, was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of the sapphire stone, and upon the likeness of the throne, was a likeness as of the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as it were the resemblance of amber as the appearance of fire within it round about: from his loins and upward, and from his loins downward, I saw as it were the resemblance of fire shining round about. As the appearance of the rainbow when it is in a cloud on a rainy day: this was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake. (Ezekiel 1:26-28)
I beheld till thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days sat: his garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like clean wool: his throne like flames of fire: the wheels of it like a burning fire. (Daniel 7:9)
Above it stood the seraphims: the one had six wings, and the other had six wings: with two they covered his face, and with two they covered his feet, and with two they did fly. (Isaiah 6:2)
What must be the honor to stand before that majestic throne of the King of kings, and Lord of lords! The ransomed spirits in bliss are not paying a mere passing visit to the royal court — they have entered the king's palace as their abiding place — for what is their posture? "They stand before the throne," full of wonder, delight, and adoration. (Revelation 7:15-17)
"To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with me in my throne: as I also have overcome, and am set down with my Father in his throne." (Revelation 3:21)
Heaven is a state of delightful, unceasing, and unwearying service.. "And His servants shall serve him" (Revelations 22:3) The Levitical priests were consecrated to their office by being first washed and purified in the sacred laver, (Exodus 40:12, 13) In allusion to this, it is said that his sanctified ones are made priests in his holy temple above, where they serve him without intermission or repose.
"And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth, who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us a kingdom, and priests to God and his Father, to him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:5-6)
And there shall be no curse any more; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him (Revelation 22:3)
They serve him by acts of grateful praise, (Revelation 9-11), where saints and angels adore together, making but one congregation,
"many thousands of angels , and the Church of the first-born." (Hebrews 12:22-23)
Heaven is a state of communion with Christ.
Often did he promise that his disciples would be "with him" in Heaven; and so it shall come to pass; for "he who sits on the throne shall dwell among them," verse 15. "Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God." (Revelation 21:3)
They shall behold him in all his transcendent glory!
They shall hear him speak infinite things with infinite heavenly eloquence!
They shall feel him as his love warms and enraptures their expanded hearts!
They shall speak to him in the language of reverend praise, and humble inquiry!
They shall follow him wherever he leads the way to the tree of life, or the pure river of the water of life, or to the remotest parts of his empire!
They shall constantly receive from him new understanding, new proofs of his wisdom, his power, and his love.
Heaven is a state of perfect and eternal exemption from all distress.
It must be so, since they serve him without interruption, and since he dwells among them. Hence,
(Revelation 7:16). "They shall hunger no more or thirst " "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes," (Revelation 7:17) Poverty has often been the lot of the pious on earth; they have hungered and thirsted; they have toiled and been weary; have been destitute, tormented, and afflicted; but this shall be known no more."neither shall the sun fall on them, nor any heat. " (Revelations 7:16)
Like Jacob, who said that while shepherding the flock of Laban, "In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night;" (Genesis 31:40) so these pilgrims had often been weary and faint in their course, and subject to many hardships. But in Heaven, they will be forever delivered from these calamities — neither the fire of persecution, nor the frost of adversity, shall annoy them any more.
"God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes!" Numerous are the sources of sorrow here on earth — but God will dry them all up in Heaven. They wear no funeral attire, no sackcloth there; for God shall wipe away all tears, and the days of their mourning will be ended.
There will be no prodigal, no penitent, no mourning Christian to drop tears there; "for all sorrow and sighing shall flee away." There is no night there, there is no sin there, there is no ignorance there, there is no affliction there, there is no death there.
All is daylight there, created by God and the Lamb, who are the light of the holy city. There is nothing in that happy residence to distress or annoy.
Jeremiah will utter no plaintive language there. Bartimaeus is the poor blind beggar no more. Lazarus's sores have been replaced by immortal beauty.
The weeping widow is no longer crushed to the dust by the heavy hand of poverty. The orphan child is no longer forsaken and homeless.
There is nothing in that happy residence to distress or annoy. Pinching poverty and wasting disease are unknown.
The distressing complaint will never accost the ear, "I am sick." The sting of death and the terrors of the grave will never present themselves there. There are no graves in the land of eternal life. There is no death of friends there. Martha and Mary go to no beloved brother's grave to weep. No deceitful heart, no secret foe, no fascinating world, no artful Satan, yonder.
The former things have passed away, and the dispensation of immortality has arrived.
The white-robed multitude, the congregated hosts of the Church Triumphant, sing a new song...a song which none can sing but the redeemed from among men!
Such bliss is enough to make the Church Militant and the Church suffering say, "But I am straitened between two: having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, a thing by far the better.!" (Philippians 1:23)
Heaven is a state of participation in all that bliss which God has promised to his redeemed people.
"For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall rule them, and shall lead them to the fountains of the waters of life, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17)
He shall give them everything calculated to secure, continue, and increase their happiness.
"He will lead them to fountains of living water," which shall never be exhausted. A fountain or spring in the Hebrew phraseology, is termed living water, because it is constantly bubbling up, and running on. These "fountains of living water" indicate endless sources of happiness, which Christ will supply to his redeemed people from his own infinite plenitude.
These eternal fountains will make an infinite variety for the enjoyments of the blessed. There will be no sameness, and therefore no weariness to the spirit. Every moment will open a new source of pleasure. They shall make eternal progression into the fullness of God. And as God is infinite, so his attributes are infinite, and throughout infinity more and more of those attributes will be unveiled; and the discovery of each will be a new fountain of enjoyment. These sources must be opening through all eternity — and yet, through all eternity, there will still remain, in the absolute perfections of the Godhead, an infinity of them still to be opened!
[taken from a text by William Nicholson, 1862 and edited for use for a Catholic Catechism lesson]