Summary: Moments like this make us, like it or not, think about life and death, the future, our loved ones and our own. We ponder whether life is really worth all of the struggles and hardships that can come our way. This verse is God’s Word about all that. I t
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
The Blessing--Revelation 14:13
I offer you one single verse of Scripture to think about today. “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” (Rev. 14:13).
This is an important verse. It is important because of where it is found. It comes from the middle of the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. Revelation is the last book of the Bible because in many ways it is Heaven’s last word about the world we live in. In particular this verse is in the middle of a discussion about judgement, the battles between good and evil, the end of history, and how the Lord is going to make everything make sense. That’s what Revelation is all about. This particular verse comes right in the middle of that kind of discussion. That makes it important.
This verse is also important because of who says it. “I heard a voice from heaven say.” That’s how it begins. What follows is not just any old statement. This is a word from heaven. If that doesn’t make our ears perk up and get our attention, nothing will.
It is important most of all because of what it says. It talks about the very things that are on our minds today. Moments like this make us, like it or not, think about life and death, the future, our loved ones and our own. We ponder whether life is really worth all of the struggles and hardships that can come our way. This verse is God’s Word about all that. I think that’s important.
At first blush, I am not sure what I think about it. Listen to how it begins. “Blessed are the dead.” Actually that term blessed is a bit too religious sounding. How would you react if it said, “Happy are the dead?” That’s the sense of the word. How can that be? We associate death and dying with sickness, suffering, heartache and tears. We associate happiness with wealth, health, fame, and power not with hospitals, funerals and cemeteries. What’s happy about death? The Bible makes the same association. The one place where the Bible says “Jesus wept” was at a graveside. The Bible calls death an enemy. But here heaven says, “Blessed/happy are the dead.” How can that be?
The next part of the verse helps. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” This is not unqualified happiness that it is talking about. Death is not blessed for everyone. Now is not the place to go into it, but preceding this verse is a powerful description of the unhappy future facing those who had no room for the Lord in this life. But our verse looks at the other alternative. It insists that a person’s relationship with the Lord makes a difference. A genuine trust in Jesus Christ, who he is, what he did for, and what he promises provides a qualitative difference in people.
I have seen that. I am sure you have too. Sometimes the difference is subtle. Sometimes it is very obvious. The Lord makes a difference how a person thinks. Does life have purpose and meaning or is everything just one big accident? The Lord makes a difference in how a person lives. The Bible says that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control all grow from the Lord’s presence in a person’s life. I think the Lord makes a difference in how a person dies. I have been at the bedside of many dying people. I know that the Lord makes a difference. He also makes a difference in how a person grieves. Of course, we mourn the loss of a loved one. But their faith and ours makes a qualitative difference.
Why? What makes the dead who die in the Lord blessed, special, or even happy? The verse goes on to explain. It provides two reasons. These are reasons you can bank on because the Spirit of the Lord himself declares them. It is not an angel who speaks or a departed saint or a wise man. The Spirit himself speaks with emphasis. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit.”
The first of the two reasons is negative. They are blessed because of what has ended. “They will rest from their labor.” That’s the promise. The term for labor here is a special term in the language in which the Bible was written. We associate our term labor with work. We think of our jobs or the activities that we do for a living. That’s not the sense of this term. This word means struggles, or wearisome toil. It pictures the kind of activities that wear us down. All of that is over. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord …for they will rest from their labors.”