“Blessed Are The Dead, Which Die In The Lord.” Revelation 14:12-13
How often we have stood by the bed of a dying friend or relative. Our hearts ache to lose any who are dear to us. We hurt for the husband or wife, parents, children, and others who will miss the love, companionship, and aide of the faithful one who is passing out of this world. Yet, as we watch our friends leave this world of sin and sorrow, knowing that they are entering into heaven’s everlasting glory, knowing that they are falling asleep in the arms of their Savior, we say, “Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord.”
When John heard those words from heaven, he did not have such a picture before him. Far from it. John had in his mind pictures of men and women dying in tormenting circumstances as martyrs. He had before him the picture of those dying because they worshipped Christ and received not the mark of the beast, neither in their foreheads nor in their right hands, men and women who were put to death because they would not deny Christ and his gospel. He says, with regard to those who died upon the rack in a loathsome dungeon, those who were burned at the stake, those Anabaptist drowned in the Piedmont, and all those countless martyrs who have been tortured to death for their faith in Christ - “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.”
C. H. Spurgeon stated the matter beautifully. “Wheresoever on this earth, whether among the snows of Piedmont’s valleys or in the fair fields of France, saints have died by sword or famine, or fire or massacre, for the testimony of Jesus, because they would not bear the mark of the beast…this voice is heard sounding out of the third heaven, ‘Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.’ ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints’ (Psa. 116:15).”
Those who die in the Lord have entered into a state of eternal blessedness. The death of a believer is precious to God and blessed to him. It does not matter when a believer dies, where he dies, by what means he dies, or under what conditions he dies. The blessedness of the believer’s death is that he dies in the Lord.
I once heard Pastor Henry Mahan relating a conversation he had with an old man in his congregation before service one evening. The aging saint said to his pastor, “I’d lots rather be going out of this world than coming in…We’ve got things backwards. We rejoice at the birth of a child and weep at the death of an old man. We ought to weep when a child is born into this world and rejoice at the death of the old man if he is in Christ.”
Very, very soon, we must leave this world. “Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? Are not his days also like the days of a hireling?” We would be wise to take our minds off the cares and troubles, as well as the joys and riches of this world and look across the brief sea of time to eternity, to that future world so surely, perhaps nearly, awaiting us. In this study, we will look at things from the believer’s perspective - “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.”
OF WHOM ARE THOSE WORDS SPOKEN? The voice which John heard from heaven declared, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth.” That is to say, Those who die in the Lord are blessed, from the moment of their death, eternally. I want to know who those people are who die in the Lord, who are blessed forever. I want to be one of them. Who are they? Verse 12 tells us - “Here are the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
Those who are blessed of God in death are the saints of God on earth. Heaven is the land of saints. None but saints can enter therein. Since death does nothing to change a person’s character, if we would be numbered among the saints in heaven we must be made saints on earth. Yet, by nature we are all sinners. How can sinners be made saints? Only a work of God’s almighty grace can make a sinner a saint.
A saint is one who is holy. Nothing short of a work of God’s own hand can transform an unholy man into a holy man. Nothing but grace can make a sinner a saint. That work of grace which makes hell bent sinners to be the saints of God is twofold: (1.) We must be redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. Our sins have to be put away. We must be justified, made righteous, by divine imputation (Rom. 3:21-24). Christ has done that for all who trust him (Tit. 2:14; Heb. 1:3; 9:26). (2.) We must be regenerated, set apart, sanctified, born again, and given a new nature by the Spirit of God (Eph. 2:1-9; Tit. 3:4-7). If we would enter into heaven, we must be made partakers of Christ’s holiness (Heb. 12:14). Being sanctified by the grace of God, believers (saints) set themselves apart and consecrate themselves unto the Lord by faith in him, devoting themselves to him as willing bond slaves (Ex. 21:1-6; 2 Cor. 8:5).
Those who are blessed in death are those who live in the patience of faith - “The patience of the saints.” Believers are men and women of patience. They endure the troubles of life, the temptations of Satan, and the trials of faith with the patience of faith. The word “patience” here means “endurance.” Those who are crowned in heaven endure their crosses on earth. Many who would be saints, when they are faced with a cross, exchange sainthood for ease. God’s saints do not give up. They endure. They patiently run their race in faithfulness (Heb. 12:1). They patiently endure adversity in faithfulness (Lk. 21:19). They patiently wait for Christ in faithfulness (Rom. 8:25; Heb. 10:36). The basis of this patience is the Word of God (Rom. 15:4).
That man is blessed in death who keeps the commandments of God in life. We know that John is not saying, “Obedience to the law is a condition for salvation.” We read in God’s book, “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20). Salvation is by grace alone. Legal works have nothing to do with it (Rom. 11:5-6; Gal. 5:1-4). John is not suggesting that believers are to put themselves back under the yoke of the Mosaic law, “because we are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:15). What John is telling us is that the believer, the child of God, the saint of God, is one whose life is governed by God’s Word (1 John 5:1-4). The believer is one who lives by the rule of God’s Word. He keeps the commandments of the gospel (1 John 3:23-24), obeys God from a principle of love and gratitude, and keeps and observes the ordinances of Christ. To the believer nothing revealed, taught, or commanded by his Lord is non-essential. He counts every word from God precious.
Those men and women who are blessed in death are, “They that keep the faith of Jesus.” God promises salvation, eternal life, everlasting, heavenly blessedness to those who persevere in faith (Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 3:6, 14; 10:38). All true believers perseverance in the doctrine of faith (The Gospel) and in the grace of faith ( Matt. 10:22). This faith is called, “the faith of Jesus,” because it is the faith which Christ gives and the faith of which he is the Object.
Those who are, upon their death, forever blessed of God are men and women who are “in the Lord.” That is the great, essential, all-telling point. Those people could not have died in the Lord had they not lived in the Lord. Settle this matter now - Are you in Christ? Is he all your salvation and all your desire? Are you hanging upon him as a coat hangs upon a nail? Are you in the Beloved? Are you in Christ by the vital union of faith, as branches are in the vine? Blessed indeed is that man, that women who is in Christ! If you are in Christ, you are accepted of God; for we are “accepted in the Beloved.” If you are not in Christ, you cannot be accepted at all.
To be in Christ is to live upon him by faith, drawing life and grace from him. The Scriptures speak of us being grafted into Christ (Rom. 9:24). Wherever a branch is grafted into a tree, two cuts must be made, one in the tree and one in the branch. So it is with those who are grafted into Christ. He was wounded to death as our Substitute, and every believer is cut in his heart in Holy Spirit conviction. The wounded sinner is bound to the wounded Savior by the Holy Spirit and draws life from him. To be in Christ by faith is to have evidence and proof that God has put you in Christ by grace (Heb. 11:1).
Roll this thought over in your heart. If you trust Christ, God has put you in Christ. To be in Christ is to be in his heart as a bride is in the heart of her husband, In his hands as your Surety, in his loins as your Representative before God, in his fold as your Shepherd, and in his body as your Head. To be in Christ is to be saved forever and kept in absolute security.
Once in Christ, in Christ forever! None from Him our souls can sever.
While His power and grace endure, All who trust Him are secure.
Of whom are these words spoken? “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” They are spoken to God’s saints, to those who live in patience, to those who keep the commandments of God, to those that keep the faith of Jesus, to those who are in the Lord.
WHAT IS THE BLESSEDNESS OF BELIEVERS IN DEATH? Obviously, I cannot begin to tell that which eye has not seen, ear has not heard, and the heart of man has not imagined, which God has prepared for them that love him. The blessedness of heavenly glory is infinitely greater than our feeble minds can imagine. But John does reveal, by divine inspiration, something of that blessedness awaiting every believer at death. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors.”
The believer is blessed in his dying, no matter how, when, or where he dies. We have abundant evidence of this fact in the Scriptures. Both Job and Paul were blessed in the prospect of death (Job 19:25-27; 2 Tim. 1:12; 4:6-8). David and Stephen were blessed in the experience of it (2 Sam. 23:5; Acts 7:56-60). Indeed, every sinner saved by grace shall be blessed of God in the event of death - “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
God’s saints are forever blessed after they die - “From henceforth” (2 Cor. 5:1-9). “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Once we have left this world, we shall have forever left behind us every remnant and consequence of sin. In the glory land, there shall be “no more weeping, no more sorrow, and no more pain,” because there shall be no more sin.
Once we have dropped this robe of flesh, we shall rest from our labors. I do not to understand this to mean that the saints of God in heaven have no more service to render to Christ. Not at all. Heaven is a place of unending service, service. But there we shall rest from the labor service. In heaven’s glory, there will be no ignorant ones to teach, no erring ones to rebuke, no despondency to comfort, no weaknesses to strengthen, no error to oppose, no needy ones to help, no enemies to engage, no fences to mend, no strife to heal, no sick ones to visit, no bereaved ones to console, no straying ones to correct, no sinners to convert, and no tears to dry. We shall rest from our labors.
The word translated “labors” has the idea of woe attached to it. It could be read, “they rest from the woes of their labors.” In this world, all that we do for Christ has a certain measure of woe connected with it. When John says, we shall rest from our labors, he means that we shall rest from all the toils, sorrows, faults, discouragements, and disappointments connected with our labor in this world. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”
WHAT DO THE BELIEVER’S WORKS HAVE TO DO WITH HIS ETERNAL, HEAVENLY BLESSEDNESS? We know that our inheritance in heaven is the free gift of God’s grace to which we have been predestinated, which Christ purchased for us with his own blood, and which Christ has claimed for us as our Representative (Eph. 1:11, 14). We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. All the glory and blessedness that Christ possesses in heaven today as the God-man, as our Surety, shall be ours forever by grace (John 17:22). Nothing in this heavenly blessedness is earned or merited by or given to us upon the basis of our works. It is all of grace. Yet, the text says, “And their works do follow them.” What does that mean? What do our works for Christ on earth have to do with our blessedness with Christ in heaven?
Our works do not go before us, as a forerunner, to prepare a place for us in heaven. Christ is our Forerunner. He went to prepare a place for us. Our works merit nothing from God, but wrath and death, because our best works are but sin. Our works do not come beside us as a ground of confidence and acceptance with God. The wicked lean upon their works, boast of their works and plead with God for acceptance upon the basis of their works (Matt. 7:22-23). The righteous are unaware of any good works performed by them (Matt. 25:34-40).
However the works of godly men and women are not insignificant or unimportant, as many seem to think - “Their works do follow them.” That simply means that the fruits of their works follow them in the earth and follow them into heaven. What a blessed promise this is! Those who are the beneficiaries of the believer’s works follow them to heaven. Children follow their parents who taught them the gospel in the path of faith to heaven. Hearers follow their pastors who have faithfully preached Christ to them both in the church below and into the Church of the above. Multitudes who never met on earth will follow humble saints into heaven, who faithfully served Christ on earth, but never thought they did anything of any usefulness to anyone.
Blest are the dead that die in Christ, For they are with Him now!
The glories they now have in heaven No mortal here can know.
Soon as the ransomed soul is freed From this poor, mortal frame,
Before we know its gone, it is With Christ, praising His name!
Faith tries, but here cannot quite see The things God has prepared
For those He chose, redeemed, and called, Who now in heaven appear.
We’ll now rejoice this much to know - They are completely blest!
Freed from all sorrow, pain, and sin, With Jesus Christ they rest!
Our friends their Savior fully see And all His glory share!
Let us be followers of the Lamb; And we will join them there!