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A LAMB ON MOUNT ZION, PART 6

 

 

Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “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

 

This verse is often read at the funerals of Christians. Its use in funerals takes the verse totally out of context, but, nevertheless, it is comforting and reassuring to loved ones as they say their final goodbyes.

As those saved from sin and following the Lord Jesus Christ, our ultimate goal in life is to die in the faith and to be received into the eternal presence of God. That motivates us when the going is difficult; that keeps us focused when the cares of life seem to overwhelm us; and, it helps us to deal with aging and physical disabilities that come upon us during life. Who does not want to go to heaven!

To the saints of God, death is not seen as something dreadful; it is seen as rest and that is how Jesus depicts the death of the saints in the parable of Lazarus in Luke chapter 16.

While this may be interesting, we must put verse 13 in its context—it immediately follows the messages of the three angels we have just heard. The first angel preaches the everlasting gospel. The second angel introduces spiritual Babylon, which consists of religions and churches that reject or nullify the everlasting gospel. The third angel pronounces God’s judgement on Babylon. That judgment essentially is the fact that people who follow spiritual Babylon and its watered down gospels will still face the everlasting gospel at the final judgment.

We are told in verse 12 that the saints keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. As the saints are faithful in following the Lamb wherever He goes, we hear a voice from heaven speaking the words of verse 13: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on . . . that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”

In the context of the messages of the three angels, the expression “die in the Lord” evokes thoughts from Romans chapter 6.

 

 

Who are those who die in the Lord?

 

Let’s look at Romans 6:1–3 for our answer.

 

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

 

The everlasting gospel brings people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, which Paul here likens to being baptized into His death. The death of Christ is a death that puts an end to sin in the life of the redeemed. In being saved from sin, we are baptized into Christ and in like manner we are morally dead to sin. Paul says we have died to sin—if we are dead to sin how can we possible continue to live in sin? To continually live in sin after professing salvation is prima facie evidence that a person has not really experienced the salvation made possible in the everlasting gospel. Romans 6:6–7,

 

Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.

 

As Christ died by means of crucifixion, for us to die in the Lord our old man must also die a death through crucifixion—His crucifixion. The expression old man appears in two other passages of the New Testament:

 

Ephesians 4:22, That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.

 

Colossians 3:9, Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds.

 

The old man according to the context of these verses is the life-style of sin, which is contrasted to the new man, the new life-style, mentioned in verses following each of these. The new man is the new life-style that results from the work of the Holy Spirit on the moral condition of the redeemed. In being saved we put off the old man, so we are to understand that we cannot carry this old man around with us and be saved at the same time.

So, who is this old man that is crucified with Christ? Jesus said that we must be born again of the Spirit of God. In the new birth the Holy Spirit applies the merits of the shed blood of Christ to cleanse all sin from the heart of the believer. Second, He fills the heart with His presence and reorients the moral compass to the knowledge of good and directs the will to the spirit prompting works of righteousness. This process moves the moral compass away from the knowledge of evil which is directed to the flesh producing works of sin, and it is in this sense, the old man is put to death.

With the old man crucified with the crucifixion of Christ and the body of sin done away, Paul affirms that we are no longer slaves of sin. As Barnes says it: “The sense is, that before this we were slaves of sin, but that now we are made free from this bondage, because the moral death of sin has freed us from it.” Paul concludes that if we have died in the Lord we have died to sin and as he wrote in verse 7, “He who has died has been freed from sin.”

The voice from heaven in Revelation chapter 14 tells us that those that die in the Lord are blessed in the fact that they rest from their labors. Remember that Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Paul echoes the sense of Jesus’ words in verses 8 and 11, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him . . . Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As we are dead to sin we have the rest from our labors in that we no longer have to submit to sin; in fact Paul states the glorious truth of this in verse 14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you”; to which Adam Clarke adds: “God delivers you from it [sin]; and if you again become subject to it, it will be the effect of your own choice or negligence.”

 

The Works That Follow

 

The voice also tells us that the works of those that have died to sin in the Lord will follow them. What kinds of works follow those that are dead to sin in Christ? They can be nothing other than good works.

The New Testament teaches that we cannot be saved by doing good works, but it does teach that good works follow our faith and are necessary to show evidence of that faith as seen from James 2:17 (The Living Bible), “So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. You must also do good to prove that you have it. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good works is no faith at all—it is dead and useless.”

In writing to Titus Paul said, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.” (Titus 3:8)

Paul believed it is essential for good works to follow our profession of faith. In Titus 3:14 he exhorts us to learn to maintain good works and in verse 1 he tells us to be ready for every good work.

Good works are not limited to acts of charity; good works is the life-style of holiness. Paul defines good works in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” These are the good works that follow and demonstrate a life saved from sin through the everlasting gospel.

In fact, we are told in Ephesians 2:10 that, in addition to being made right with God, the purpose of our salvation is good works as determined by God: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” In the words of Adam Clarke:

 

Our new creation was produced by his power; for we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works. He has saved us that we may show forth the virtues of Him who called us from darkness into his marvelous light. For though we are not saved for our good works, yet we are saved that we may perform good works, to the glory of God and the benefit of man.

 

These good works are prepared or ordained by God to which Clarke says, “For being saved from sin we are made partakers of the Spirit of holiness; and it is natural to that Spirit to lead to the practice of holiness.”

The voice says that our works follow us, not to make people think we are nice people, but for one purpose and only one as Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

While we receive many benefits and blessings in living a holy life, we do not live a holy life just for our own benefit. Jesus demands we live the holy life in the presence of all mankind and that the good works produced by holiness be seen by people to convince them to glorify God. God’s glory is not people thinking we are such nice people; it is people seeing our lives and realizing that if God can do that for us, then He can do that for them. Adam Clarke says the same thing in more formal language:

 

Real Christians are the children of God—they are partakers of his holy and happy nature: they should ever be concerned for their Father’s honor, and endeavor so to recommend him, and his salvation, that others may be prevailed on to come to the light, and walk in it. Then God is said to be glorified, when the glorious power of his grace is manifested in the salvation of men. (Bold added for emphasis.)

 

Good works are essential because they are the logical result of the messages of the three angels about the everlasting gospel, the fallen state of Babylon, and the wrath that follows the rejection of the everlasting gospel. These good works are the basis for the two events that follow in the rest of this chapter.