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Dying 'In The Lord'

Revelation 14:13
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, 'Write this: blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.' (NIVUK)

This is the fourth proclamation in heaven which John heard in his vision. The third called for God's people to patiently endure the backlash of God's judgement on those who reject Him (Revelation 14:9-12). This new announcement makes clear that some believers will suffer as their Lord did; and die in the process. They are described as those who 'die in the Lord'. What does that mean? Firstly, their death was real and physical. The worst the world can do to believers is to kill the body. But Jesus said, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28). It was an occupational hazard of following Jesus (Romans 8:36).

Death is not good; it is the result of the curse on sin (Genesis 3:19). Death is still our last enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). And yet the divine voice said, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord …". Not all dead people are under God's blessing. Those who die outside of Christ will rise again to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2). But those who die in the Lord are encased in His righteousness (Romans 4:24), they are redeemed from sin by His blood (1 Peter 1:18-19) and their souls are sealed by the Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22). All who are in Christ Jesus are not under condemnation (Romans 8:1). Although their bodies die, they are with Christ and shielded by God's power until Jesus comes again (1 Peter 1:5): and then they are made alive with Christ at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

What a joyful position to be in. The work on earth is done, the painful struggle and weariness is past, and they are with Christ - which is far better (Philippians 1:23). And yet the legacy of their service will continue to be seen, in the lives of those who remain in the battle, and in the reward to be received (2 Timothy 4:8). Some work will prove to have been useless to Christ's kingdom and will be consumed, but all that He sees as precious will remain to be rewarded (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). The Lord is just and fair: "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." (Hebrews 6:10).

None of us likes the idea of death. We are not designed to die, but to live (and live we will throughout eternity). However, death will come to all of us, unless the Lord Jesus comes while we are still alive. The only eternally worthwhile question we should ask about life is, 'Will Jesus be pleased?' Our own personal monuments to pride will be irrelevant, only what honours Jesus will remain. To hear the 'Well done' commendation from Jesus is our objective (Luke 19:17). The persecutor may have done his worst, disease may have ravaged the body, but the soul is at rest in Jesus. Let us live in the light of eternity. Hebrews 4:11 says, "Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience." That is the divine challenge for today, and every day, until Jesus comes or calls us home.

Heavenly Father. Thank You that this life is not everything, because You have planned for an eternity in which I will be in Your presence, productive without stress in undiluted worship. Forgive me for the many times when I have lived to achieve my own ambitions and satisfy my own desires. May these verses spur me into renewed holiness as I set my course for heaven, despite all that would oppose me – for I know that You are with me, always. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams