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.
Seventh in a series of short answers to questions about the New Testament.
Consider Matt. 6:24: No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and money.
Can anyone serve two masters? Isn’t it possible to work hard, be successful and serve the Lord?
This isn’t a question of personal wealth or whether a Christian should have a strong work ethic. Many Old Testament and New Testament figures are both wealthy and devoted followers of the Lord. Besides, we are exhorted in Scripture to honor God with our labors. Ecclesiastes 9:10, for example, says: “Whatever your hands find to do, do with [all] your strength …” And the apostle Paul writes: “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).
Jesus’ focus in Matt. 6:24 is more on a person’s allegiance than his or her activities. More to the point, the Son of Man is nudging us to consider our citizenship. We are either citizens of the kingdom of heaven and committed to the King, or we are citizens of this world and enslaved to its evil system. This is not to say there are no carnal Christians, or generous unbelievers. But it is to remind us that where our treasure is — either in heaven or on earth — our heart naturally will follow.