Blessed Are the Dead Who Die in the Lord

14: 12-13

   DIG: Previously we are told that there will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name (14:10b-11). Here we see those who remain faithful to Jesus will rest from their labor. It seems like an easy choice. Why do you think some choose to worship the beast and not rest from their labor? Do you think this choice is conscious or unconscious? Why? Why not?

   REFLECT: How do you look upon death? As a rest? A reward? Not that you would forward to it, but do you fear death? Why or why not? What should you be doing when the Lord calls you home? What does patient endurance look like to you ? How are you doing with it?

    There is an important interval here between the first three angels in 14:6-11, and the last three angels in 14:14-20. We are able to take a breath between all the wrath of God, for some much needed comfort about our own salvation.

    The Bible has much to say about blessing, which refers to spiritual joy or satisfaction. It describes an inner peace and contentment that is untouchable. Both the TaNaKh and the B'rit Chadashah reveal much about blessedness (Psalm 1:1-2, 2:12, 32:1-2 and Romans 4:7-8; Psalm 40:4, 41:1, 65:4, 84:4-5, 106:3, 112:1, 119:2; Proverbs 8:32 and 34; Matthew 5:3-12; John 20:29; James 1:12; First Peter 3:14, 4:14; and here). Remarkably, this second of seven beatitudes in the book of Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7 and 22:14) declares a blessing on the dead. They will be blessed because of the way they lived and because of the way they died.

    First, the dead will be blessed because of how they lived. By refusing to take the mark of the beast, the people of God will undergo heavy persecution and martyrdom. The pressure for them to take the mark and declare their allegiance to the antichrist, will be merciless. Yet they will not budge in their devotion to the Lord. This is when perseverance is needed on the part of God’s people, those who observe His command and exercise Yeshua’s faithfulness (14:12 CJB).

    The phrase the perseverance of the people of God introduces one of the most important and most comforting doctrines in the Scriptures. It expresses the truth that all of those whom ADONAI has elected, called and justified will never lose their faith, but will persevere until death. What some point to as biblical proof that believers can loose their salvation (see my commentary on Hebrews), merely highlights unbelievers who were never saved to begin with (First John 2:19). No, the Bible is clear on this most important doctrine. As Jesus Himself says even today: I tell you the truth, those who believe [in Me] have eternal life (John 6:47). That reality provides us with assurance, hope and joy to every true believer in Messiah, and brings an end to fear and doubt. It also reveals that believers’ deaths are blessed because to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord (Second Corinthians 5:8). God keeps His own holy ones by sustaining their faith to the very end, no matter what happens. True saving faith, in its very nature, is eternal and cannot be lost or destroyed (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Ms - The Eternal Security of the Believer).

    The persevering nature of saving faith will never be more clearly seen than in this passage. No group of believers has ever or will ever face stronger assaults on their faith than the Tribulation believers. This large group of holy ones (7:9 and 13-14) will include both Gentiles (7:9) and Jews (12:17). They will be saved through the ministries of the two witnesses (11:3-13) and the 144,000 (7:1-8, 14:1-5). The Tribulation believers will endure the most intense persecution in human history. Yeshua Himself described this period as a time of great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world. The conditions will be so terrible that if those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened (Matthew 24 21-22). The Lord will set a limit on the Great Tribulation so that the elect will not suffer more than they can bear (First Corinthians 10:13). There is no stronger evidence that saving faith perseveres than the reality that the most tested believers in history will maintain their saving faith until the end.332

    Secondly, the holy ones will be blessed because of how they died. Then I heard a voice from heaven say write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. And the Holy Spirit agreed with this, by saying: Yes, they will rest from their labor, and receive a reward, for their righteous deeds will follow them (14:13). There will come a point in the Great Tribulation when it will be better for the saved to die than to live. They will leave their grief and torment behind, enter heaven, and rest in the presence of God where their righteous deeds will follow them. This was a special word of encouragement and comfort to believers who lived during the first century persecution and for those who will die during the Great Tribulation from the persecution of the antichrist.

    The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, has developed a doctrine in which it is held that all who die at peace with the Church, but who are not perfect, must undergo severe and purifying suffering in an intermediate realm known as purgatory. Rome has based her doctrine of purgatory primarily on a passage from the apocryphal book of Second Maccabees 12:39-45, and was not proclaimed as an article of faith until 1439 by the Council of Florence. This doctrine teaches that even if a priest forgives all mortal sins of a Roman Catholic in confession, but he does not perform enough “good works,” he will go to purgatory and remain there in torture until his soul is completely purified. Only after suffering the full punishment due to him for his sin will he be allowed to enter heaven. According to Catholic doctrine, the sufferings of purgatory are very severe, surpassing anything endured in this life. It teaches that the fire of purgatory does not differ from the fire of hell, except for duration, and in some cases lasts entire centuries. The Roman Church says people can pray for the dead and get them out of purgatory sooner, or pay money to the Church and get them out sooner.333 Either way it doesn’t sound like much rest. Redeemed souls are cleansed, not by the fires of purgatory, but by the blood of Christ. The Bible declares that blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin (First John 1:7).

    The lost of this world are the ones who make the disastrous choice to build their lives around something less than the God of the universe, the only proper object of worship. They suffer from a reduced sense of guilt because they refuse to believe the good news of forgiveness and redemption to all who live on the earth (14:6). By contrast, the Holy Spirit calls us not only to keep the faith through perseverance, but to rest from our labors as well. And why rest in that? Because Christ’s decisive victory is assured (14:12-13).

    We who labor for the Lord in this world often find it difficult to enter into the rest that God wants all of His children to enjoy. We are troubled by second-guessing our choices, wondering if we could have done a more thorough job, spoken more boldly, held our temper longer. You name it. We are discouraged by our ineffectiveness not only in turning the tide of evil in the world but remaining faithful to the seemingly simple tasks of seeking ADONAI in prayer; speaking the truth; and loving our spouse, parent, child or co-worker.

    Sometimes we feel like the whole weight of His mission here on earth is entirely dependent on our efforts. No wonder we get tired! Instead, Yeshua invites us to come to Him and find rest, not by making a break from our work but by uniting our efforts with His. In those times of discouragement, we need to be reminded of His words: Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-29). He reminds us that His Holy Spirit is at work within us to accomplish His will (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13). The final outcome depends entirely on Him and may not match what we currently observe with our limited human vision because we now see but a poor reflection as in a corroded bronze mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (First Corinthians 13:12).

    Lord, I so often grow tired of doing Your work. Reveal the pride that lies at the root of my discouragement. Revive my faith in Your power to conquer evil, not only the evil that seems to rule the world, but also the evil that lurks in my own heart. Because You love me so much, renew the strength with which I cling to Your love.334

 

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