Sunday, 11 April 2021
Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” Revelation 14:13
The previous verse brought to our ears the words, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” This was stated at a time when destruction has been mentioned (Babylon is fallen), and when a warning concerning taking the mark of the beast has been made. In calling for patience, it is an obvious indication that hard times lay ahead. With that implicitly understood, John tells what next comes, saying, “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me.”
The Greek is more exacting – “Then I heard a voice from out of the heaven.” It isn’t just a voice of another angel in the midst of heaven like the three that preceded this. Rather, it is a voice separate from and above them. And the words of the voice are, “Write.”
In other words, make sure this is quoted directly and recorded in the book. And the message – “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
There is a particular note of comfort to those who will have to face what the previous angels warned about. The times ahead will be of deprivation, alienation, and looming disaster for any who will not comply with taking the mark of the beast. But it is either take it and live, or refuse it and face death.
Because of the stark contrast, those who must choose are told they will be blessed, but this only applies to those “who die in the Lord.” There may be people all over the world who refuse the mark who are not in the Lord. They may have whatever personal reason to refuse the mark. But for those “in the Lord,” death will not be the end of the story for them. That is seen in the next words, “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors.”
Death for these will actually be a relief. The results of not taking the mark are actually considered labor. It is the labors of staying alive that will be miserable. To die during this time will become a welcome relief, and it is to be considered a time of rest. It is reminiscent of what Paul says concerning believers who die in the Lord –
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14
The labor of life ends for the believer, and a state of rest is the result. This is the same comforting thought for those who die in the Lord during the tribulation period. In this event, John writes the final words of the verse, noting that their labors will not be forgotten, saying, “and their works follow them.”
The martyrdom they will face will be remembered, and they will receive their just reward for having been faithful to the death. That reward is found in Revelation 20 –
“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4-6
This, then, is what it means that their labors will follow them. They will be raised to eternal life, and they will also literally reign with Christ for a thousand years. In other words, the system that took their lives will be replaced with a new government, one in which their lives are to be restored. Further, they will be active participants in that new system.
Life application: The word blessed is the same one that is used in the beatitudes in Matthew 5 and at other key times in the New Testament. It is reflective of great joy that doesn’t depend on any external circumstances of our own making. Rather, it comes from the peace and wholeness of the Lord; true contentment. Those who die in the Lord during the tribulation will receive this.
Scholars who teach that the church has replaced Israel see this blessing as one extended to anyone who dies in the Lord from the time of John writing Revelation. In other words, all believers of the church age. Although it is true that church-age believers are so blessed, this is an incorrect analysis.
First, what about those who died between the Resurrection of Christ and the receiving of Revelation? Secondly, the context is very clear that these events are occurring during the Tribulation period; a time directed specifically to the nation of Israel and those who accept Christ from both Israel and the gentile world during this period.
There will be no rest for them in their time of trial, but they will receive a great and blessed reward for their patience, endurance, and faithfulness.
Endurance through the Tribulation will bring a great reward because of the very nature of the suffering, deprivation, and even death that they are willing to endure for the name of Jesus. For those willing to put aside the temporary and look to the eternal, they will be resurrected at the end of the tribulation to eternal life, never to face death again.
It is always a good idea to have something prepared for those who have not yet received Christ in case the rapture occurs before they do. A note of explanation of what lies ahead and the warning of what should and should not be done should be made.
The main thing is to tell them not to take the mark of the beast, but to trust wholly on the provision of God in Christ. He will restore to them, and more, if they are willing to give up the temporary relief by taking the mark. We can know this is true because He has given the world that restoration already. He has sent JESUS.
Lord, it is wonderful to know that You have secured all the redeemed from all ages and have given them the rest which was available at the beginning when Adam dwelt with You in Eden. Though man lost the right to that rest, it is restored by simple faith in You and Your great work on our behalf. Thank You for restoring that which was lost! Hallelujah and Amen.