I hadn’t really intended to do a series on “Beatitudes,” but apparently the Lord had other ideas. In my case, He often does. When I began to think about this post, I thought this beatitude truly was the last in the Bible, but when I checked to make sure, it was only the second of seven promises of blessing in The Revelation.
So why did I keep the title?
In a sense, it is the last beatitude, because it speaks of death, which is the cessation of life. There are a couple of others which may be taken to refer to events after death, but this beatitude lays the groundwork for those others.
Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, “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 (NKJV).
To be honest with the verse, though, this blessing seems to be limited to people who die “in the Lord” at or after a particular time: “from now on”.
What does this mean?
The Revelation is a difficult book to understand. Without getting into all the viewpoints about what it says, this portion describes a time of great wickedness in which, it seems, the whole world is engulfed in the worship of Satan and those who refuse to do so are killed, 13:15. Chapter 14 describes God’s message of judgment on those who follow this worldview.
Though these believers are judged and condemned by an ungodly world, God promises them the blessing in 14:13. It follows v. 12, which says, Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” In other words, though there may come a time when it seems like it’s impossible to serve the Lord without dying for it, though it seems like the world is completely saturated with evil, God says to be patient. It isn’t over yet. Judgment is coming and those who deny and rebel against God will get what’s coming to them.
So, are these verses saying that those who die in the Lord before this time aren’t blessed?
Of course not.
These verses are written for a specific time and to a specific people. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t blessings for those who die in the Lord – those who are saved – at other times.
Paul put it like this:
…we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man in perishing – our body is aging and deteriorating – our inward man in being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house, this tent – this body – is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this [body] we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven…. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord, 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:8.
Even Job, the first book in the Bible as far as the things it records – understanding Genesis records the very beginnings of this earth; Job likely lived before Abraham, there being no mention of him or his descendants, and certainly before Moses and the giving of the Law at Sinai – even Job said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27. Love that last sentence!
So, from very early on, God’s people have known that this life isn’t all there is. There has been hope and assurance that the grave isn’t the end. If I were to be buried, I would like my tombstone to read: “This, too, shall pass.”
But, isn’t everybody headed to “a better place”?
That’s a very popular and prevalent view, but, alas, it isn’t true. The Lord Jesus clearly said so:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Matthew 7:21-23.
Not everyone who preaches is going to heaven.
Not everyone who casts out demons is going to heaven.
Not everyone who performs miracles is going to heaven.
These are terribly sobering words, especially in this day and time, when casting out demons and performing miracles seems to be the focus of many ministries, and is said to be the Lord’s blessing and a demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit. All these things, highly esteemed among men, and sought after by them, – yet our Lord calls them “lawlessness,” or as the KJV has it: “iniquity.”
And these things were all done in “the name of the Lord!” These weren’t atheists or members of some religion that denies the Lord Jesus. These are professed believers in the Lord! Yet, the Lord rejects them and their works and casts them out from His presence and from His blessing.
How can this be?
Our Lord taught fairly early in His ministry that there are tares among the wheat. The modern translation of “weeds” is terrible. It misses the point altogether. Now, tares resemble wheat so closely that it’s very difficult to tell them apart. In the parable, the Lord told the people to wait til the judgment, when angels would do the dividing.
Simply put, not everything in church is of God. Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:12-14. Paul, writing of those who opposed his ministry, wrote this: For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
How can we tell the difference? Everything must be measured by Scripture – not just a few favorite verses here or there, not just a couple of verses on some subject, or some collection of “proof texts,” but by the Scripture. The Bible has clear teaching on salvation, on the church, on the future, on the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit. To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them, Isaiah 8:20.
But what about us? What is our hope of heaven – yours and mine? Are we looking to our works, our best, our whatever, to gain us entrance into heaven?
We do not want to be among those in Matthew 7:21-23.
There’s only been One who ever had a “Best.” Who had works God would accept. He is the only Way into heaven. That’s not popular today. “All roads lead to heaven” is a common thought, even those “roads” which completely deny or contradict Scripture. Not so. Not so. The road is very narrow. Only those who come through the Lord Jesus are on that way which leads to life. And only the only way to come to Him is through repentance and faith.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31. God grant it to many today, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
To those, and those alone, is there “blessing” after death.