Rev. 14:13 – Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “let them rest from their labors, for their works follow them!” (HCSB)
The dead who die in the Lord
This section ends with a voice from heaven saying, “Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.” This is followed by the Holy Spirit, who speaks, “Yes, let them rest from their labor, for their works follow them!”
Certainly, those who “die in the Lord” are blessed. Their names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life. The angels have rejoiced at their entrance into the kingdom. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house and will return to resurrect and glorify them. They will live forever with Jesus in the new heavens and new earth. Meanwhile, at the moment of death, they are absent from the body and present with the Lord. And they will be wherever Jesus is forever and ever. These are blessings for which every believer may rejoice for they are gifts of God’s grace, secured through the finished work of His Son.
But what does the phrase “from now on” mean? It cannot mean that those who previously have died in the Lord are lesser citizens of the kingdom or are denied the full benefits of eternal life. Nor can it mean that God withholds His promises from particular saints just because they lived in a different chapter of human history. Rather, the voice from heaven seems to be assuring those who remain faithful to the Lord during a time of extreme persecution that in death they are spared further suffering. Even more important, they are reminded that “their works follow them,” meaning they will be richly compensated in eternity for what they willingly sacrificed in time.
Eleventh in a series of short answers to questions about the New Testament.
Consider Matt. 7:21-23: Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but [only] the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’
Claiming to be a Christian doesn’t make one so. Doing good deeds – even miraculous deeds – in the name of Jesus does not secure salvation for anyone. Satan is capable of the supernatural, and his followers masquerade as “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). More than 2 billion people in the world today call themselves Christians, yet Jesus is clear that many self-professed Christians will stand before Him in judgment one day and be cast from His presence.
So what makes a Christian? Jesus says a Christian is one who does “the will of My Father in heaven.” What is His will? To believe on Jesus and not on human efforts (John 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross.
Calling yourself a Christian — even attending church regularly — does not make you a Christian any more than living in a garage makes you a car.
In Matt. 7:23, is it true that Jesus “never” knew those who called themselves Christians but in fact were not? Of course He is aware of them; as the eternal Son of God, Jesus is all knowing. But the word “knew” in this context refers to a personal relationship.
That is what it means to be a Christian in a nutshell — to have a personal, everlasting, unbreakable relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus did all of the work necessary for sinful people to be restored to a right relationship with Him. To enter that relationship we must entrust our lives — our eternal destiny — to the One who loves us and gave Himself for us.