A Blessing for Those Who Die From Now On
Revelation 14:13
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14:13 a
Jesus cares

  "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." (Rev. 14:13)

   This verse may remind you of times when you needed the assurance of God's comfort. All of us have lost loved ones and God certainly cares. When Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, He was not mourning the loss of His friend because He knew Lazarus would soon hear His call of resurrection. He was sorrowful because it hurt Him to see the sisters in grief. As certainly as He cared about them, He cares about us when we are down or when we grieve! I'm sure He longs for the day when sorrow will end and when death is cast into the fire of final destruction. (Rev. 20:14)
   "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." (Isa. 53:4; see 1 Peter 5:7).
 

    Does Jesus care when my heart is pained Too deeply for mirth and song;
   As the burdens press, and the cares distress, And the way grows weary and long?
   Oh yes, He cares I know He cares! His heart is touched with my grief;
   When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.

   Does Jesus care when I've said good-bye To the dearest on earth to me,
   And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks Is it aught to Him? does He see?
   Oh yes, he cares I know He cares! His heart is touched with my grief;
   When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.

Frank Graeff (public domain).

   Precious Saviour!

14:13 b
Those who die from now on

     "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." (Rev. 14:13)

   What significance do we find in the term, "from henceforth" (or "from now on")? And what might that blessing be? The term implies a special point in time. After then, things are to be different. A blessing not available earlier is to be granted. Where is the first place to look for clues about what this might mean? Okay, first we read the verse carefully, but then what? We look at the context, especially the verses that come just before.
   Beginning at verse 9, we saw the dreadful warning of the third angel. In fearful tones, he declares that anyone who accepts the demands of  beast power the false religious system will receive the wrath of God poured out, undiluted. Then at verse 12, we saw the saints in contrast. "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." These people are standing firm, prepared to face the beast power (Rev. 15:1, 2). They have heard the warning and have chosen to obey God's commandments, holding to the strength of Jesus.
   As we discussed earlier, the messages of the first and second angels were present tense. In other words, they tell what is happening at the time they fly. This symbolism of flying angels, of course, represents the time when the last appeals are being given to the world. The call of the third angel is about a present circumstance but a future punishment. "If any man worship[s] the beast and his image, and receive[s] his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God. . . ." The punishment comes after the appeal ends.
   Now let's consider the "henceforth" time. At verse 12, we read, "Here is the patience of the saints. . . ." and in verse 13, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth." It is therefore now, during this time of the appeal of the third angel, while the saints are patient and those among them who die are blessed or happy (the Greek word is translated either way).

A blessing for the dead?
   This idea of a blessing for the dead seems a little strange. Let's take a closer look. The text could mean that dying is a nice escape from the terrible time of God's wrath. We remember that Jesus told us that suffering for Him is a blessing Matt. 5:11. For those who are old or feeble, however, escape could be a blessing considering conditions in the world as the four winds blow more furiously. I believe the blessing is more than this, however.
   Could the text also mean that they were happy while they were dead? Not according to Solomon Eccl. 9:5, 6. This commentary looks at passages which seem to disagree with this clear statement and concludes that the Bible is consistent. One is the story of the rich man and Lazarus Luke 16:19.
   Also our verse itself doesn't support very well the popular idea that dead people really aren't dead but are living in heaven. The righteous who die "from henceforth" being blessed in heaven would imply that those who died earlier were not blessed or happy there (contrary to Isaiah 35 and Rev. 21:4). It could be argued that these end-time dead people are be blessed differently from others, but this would seem awkward and no texts, as interpreted by the popular theory, confirm this.
   With these insights about how not to interpret the blessing, we still do not know what it means. Verses in the Bible which seem obscure or contradictory often hold special meaning that the Holy Spirit can help us understand. To see truth, we must continually seek the gift of the Spirit by prayer.

14:13 c
What might the blessing be?

   Let's read the verse again: " And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." (Rev. 14:13).
    To understand, let's recall a group of dead people whose sleeping souls, like the blood of Abel (Gen. 4:10), metaphorically expected a dual blessing but were told to wait for part of it.
   " And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." (Rev. 6:9-11).
   Unless you understand our discussion of this complex passage, I suggest you study it carefully so you can make sense of the blessing in our present verse. See on Rev. 6:9.
   The brethren to be fulfilled (or "perfected") are seen in chapter 7 as the 144,000 who are sealed to enable them to stand during the great day of the Lord's wrath (Rev. 6:17). The cry of the souls under the altar represents the hope of judgment and resurrection. The "souls" symbolize first the interests of all who have faced death in the Lord. The first was Abel whose blood cried out from the ground (Gen. 4:10) representing his need for resurrection and vindication at the second coming of the Messiah (Gen. 3:15).
   Perhaps more directly, the souls under the altar represent the interests of the righteous people who have died or will die believing, from Daniel 8 and Revelation 14, that the judgment hour had come. See on Rev. 6:10, 11. Some among each generation since that time have hoped and expected to be living to meet their Lord without seeing death 1 Thess 4:16. For these is the promised blessing. They will be among those living at the coming of Christ if resurrected before that time. Without the seal of God they would not be prepared to pass through the time of trouble Rev. 6:17; Rev. 7:3, so would be raised after that time, when Christ has taken His power as king. The promise to the souls was that they would have to wait for vindication until their brethren were perfected. That time comes just before the righteous (whether still living or resurrected) are taken to heaven. It is the time described in Rev. 11:17, 18.
   This quick explanation of the blessing rests on a number of passages. Experiencing the blessing does not require understanding the passages. Still it is exciting to see how God has a precise plan for dealing with the crisis which I believe is just before us, and how He will care for those who have accepted His fabulous love.

Clarification
   As you saw if you reviewed our comments on the souls under the altar (link above), part of the preaching about the 2300 days was correct and part was in error. Thus the two answers to the souls, essentially yes and no. This announcement of the judgment which was to precede the coming of Christ is seen in the cry of the first of the three angels in our current chapter. The cry that the judgment had begun, the judgment involving the everlasting gospel. See on Rev. 14:6, 7.
   Those who preached the judgment hour message before 1844 thought that the judgment time was when Christ would come and involved cleansing the sanctuary (which they thought was the earth) with fire. Only later did some learn that the judgment was for those who claimed to be Christians and that it only began in 1844. They learned also that the sanctuary to be cleansed or justified (Dan. 8:14) was in heaven (Heb. 8).
   The punishment of the wicked, which would avenge the blood of the souls under the altar (Rev. 6:10), would not come at the beginning of the judgment. Instead, it would be after their brethren of the future would be "killed" and fulfilled or sealed. It would be during the time of trouble (Dan. 12:1), the great day of the Lord (Zeph. 1:14, 15). Daniel was told that his people would be "saved out of it." To get a better  perspective, see the table with Rev. 6:12. The sequence is roughly as follows. We can see it better as we study the various passages that deal with these times.

Three times near the end of the present world
A. The preadvent judgment. Preaching of three angels (Rev. 14:6-13). It is a time to prepare for the sealing (Rev. 7:1-4). Toward the end of this time, the righteous will be harassed by the false religious powers under the image to the beast (Rev. 13:15-17) and we may expect some to die for their faith. I believe we are living in this time. Those who die now, in the Lord, are to be blessed. This period is known as "the time of the end." (Dan. 8:17; 12:9).
B. The preadvent judgment ends and human probation closes as the time of trouble for the wicked begins (Dan. 12:1). Sealed ones are protected but have anguish of soul (Jer. 30:1-9).
C. The righteous dead are raised and, with the living, are taken to heaven (1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 14:16). The end-time wicked die (Rev. 19:17-21) to be raised later (Rev. 20:5). The 1000 years begin (Rev. 20:1-3; 11:17, 18).

   This idea is worthy of continued study. I don't claim to understand it perfectly. We will understand many things better as they happen. We do know that our Lord is faithful and that any sacrifice of taking up our cross and following Him is an honor to experience. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Cor. 4:17). Praise God!

14:13 d
Why did the voice say, "Write"?
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The following comments compare the time when John was not to write with a time, in the present verse, when he was told to write. See chapter 10 for an understanding of the setting. I share the ideas in this section for you to consider and perhaps to replace with better ones.  tw

     "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." (Rev. 14:13)

   The command, "Write," appears a number of times in the book of Revelation. John's being asked to write messages for the seven churches is a prime example. However, on only one other occasion did a "voice from heaven" give the order. "And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not." (Rev. 10:4).
   After this, an angel announced something about time and, looking ahead, he added that just before the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the mystery of God would be finished (Rev. 10:7). What happens at the sounding of the seventh trumpet? Christ takes over the kingdom (Rev. 11:15-18). Also, the righteous dead are raised. "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Cor. 15:52, also in 1 Thess. 4:16).
   And what did we see would happen just before that? The mystery of God would be finished (or completely revealed). The transformation of sinners into the likeness of Christ is impossible except for the miracle of Christ's power. This mystery is demonstrated at the very end of time, in the lives of fallen humans, as they remain faithful under the refiner's fire the severest test. It is associated with the fullness of gospel truth which I believe the seven thunders revealed. Also, at this time, the blessed ones who died are raised to stand with the sealed ones to witness the coming of Christ! (See comments above.) The blessed ones, as I see it, also appear in da1212.
   "Sanctify them through thy word, thy word is truth." (John 17:17). All followers of Christ have been changed by the promise in this prayer of Christ, but those at the end of time will demonstrate its fullness. They will go through the most severe test. ". . . the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness." (Mal 3:1-3).
   The little book of chapter 10 was not correctly understood by the advent believers. It seemed so sweet but became bitter. The angel knew it would become bitter (10:9). God had a purpose in telling John not to write what the thunders said just as Jesus allowed the crowd to misunderstand His full mission. He accepted their praise in proclaiming Him king as He rode the donkey. The sweet experience turned to bitterness when He was crucified.
   The message of the thunders was held back. The completeness of truth about Christ came after His resurrection at the beginning of the Christian era. At its end, truth, lost during the centuries, was to be revealed after disappointment. With the messages of the the three angels, all the basic truth of the Scriptures was to be understood, and in standing for that truth, those who are sealed will fully reveal the mystery of God's power to save to the uttermost.
   The blessed ones, during this end time, will know the fundamentals of truth. The sealed ones, will demonstrate it. As the angels began to fly the voice from heaven said, "don't write." As they stop flying, the voice will say, "Write." Those living at the end of time will be blessed in knowing the completeness of truth will be seen in the sealed ones who have fully accepted Christ's power in their lives.

14:13 e
Followed by their works

   We have still more to discover in this verse that, at first, seemed to be only a few nice words. Let's read at it again: "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." (Rev. 14:13).
   Their works follow them. Those who will die "from now on" will have been part of the third angel's voice of final warning. Their works follow in the sense that the the results of their witness are seen in the saved ones to whom they had witnessed those who pass through the sealing time. After being raised, those who rested in their graves during that time will see the fruit of "their labors" in souls standing firm against the threat of the powers of wickedness. "That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Heb. 6:12; cf. 1 Cor. 11:1). At that time, human probation will have closed. The righteous will be shielded from the wicked.

Is it reasonable to see a special resurrection before the major one at the call of Christ?
   God blessed a group of righteous people, raising them to life at the crucifixion of Christ. "Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." (Matt. 27:50-53).
   And at the end of time, another group of special people will be raised. Do you remember the story of Jesus' trial before Caiaphas? "And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." (Matt. 26:62-64). John tells us, "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him. . . . ." (Rev. 1:7).
   This second group is special in a different way they are among the wicked. Otherwise, only the righteous are raised at the coming of Christ (1 Thess. 4:16). "But the rest of the dead [those not reigning with Christ for a thousand years] lived not again until the thousand years were finished." (Rev. 20:5; compare Dan. 12:1, 2).

A parting thought on this verse about the blessed ones
   People have often doubted as Peter pointed out: "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." (2 Peter 3:3, 4). I'm sure they still say this, but it's difficult to ignore that our world is headed for disaster. Things are not continuing as they were.
   Above it all, we may look to the certainty of the promises realizing that, as we are faithful, we may be among the honor guard that see Jesus come. If we die, we will be raised for the event. By God's grace, I intend to be there and I know you do too.

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