Intro: What is your opinion of death? We have had some opportunity to think about death this weekend. Death invaded our camp twice. There is much to say against it. It is the great irrespective spoiler. Even when we see it coming it shocks our world.
1. Death in the physical sense is the enemy of all the living. Instinctively we, and the rest of God’s living creatures, constantly fight against dying. In that sense, when it arrives it signals the ultimate defeat.
2. Even when it happens to others it robs us of those we love, leaving us alone.
3. The biblical view of death shows death to be the result of sin, and the tool of Satan himself. (Wages of sin are death – 6:23;had the power of death – Heb. 2:14) this is true of both physical and spiritual death. There is a real sense in which we should shake our fist of rage at death. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, not because He couldn’t do anything about it, but because He understood the power and tragedy of death among us.
So is there anything good to say about death?
I. Revelation 14:13 – 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.”
(This is one of the great promises of the Bible. It is the promise of rest pictured in the promise of heaven. We enjoy rest in Christ now, but there is a final blessing of rest in heaven with God)
A. “Blessed are the dead” – The words that John is instructed to write seem incongruous. How can it be a blessing to be dead? So often the things of life take on a different aspect when viewed from God’s perspective. Certainly we recognize that this statement is not universally true. It is not always a blessing to die. We have just considered the clear negative impact of death.
1. Even the Biblical view of death does indicate that all the dead are blessed. All the dead are not blessed. In fact, the scriptures make it clear that the death of the wicked man is an eternal seal of his separation from God from which there is no remedy.
a. Hebrews 9:27 – And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment
b. In Luke 16 the rich man was condemned to torment at his death, and there was an unpassable gulf between him and any relief.
c. Revelation 20:15 – …anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
d. Contrary to popular assumption, not everyone who leaves this world goes to a better place.
B. “Who die in the Lord” – but there are some who are blessed by dying. Those who die “in the Lord”.
1. The words “in the Lord”, “in Christ” “in Him” or an equivalent phrase appear not less than 169 times in the apostle Paul’s writing alone, plus other occurrences in the writings of the other apostles. In many of those occurrences, the phrase refers to a relationship that one has with God through Christ.
a. To be “in Christ” is synonymous with being saved. Rom 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 Cor 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
b. To be “in Christ” is to be spiritually alive – Rom 6:11– Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
c. To be “in the Lord” is synonymous with being in His body, the church.Gal 3:26-28 – 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. This passage shows us that one is in Christ when he is baptized into Christ; or as Paul says elsewhere one is baptized into his death (Romans 6:3)
d. Paul tells us in 1:3 that all spiritual blessings are in Christ. This relationship even provides a blessing in death.
e. Another way of reading this phrase here (“who die in the Lord”) is that it refers to those die because they are in the Lord. They have remained faithful to the Lord even to the point of death. We do not read it this way much because we have not been called upon to give our life for our faith. But this certainly was true of those to whom John was revealing this message.
2. “Yes”, says the Spirit – the voice from heaven declared the promise, and the Spirit gave it a hearty “amen”. Is it true? Is there a blessing in death YES! The promise is sure and certain. Those who die in the Lord from now on are blessed. Does it feel good to have God’s word on something? As fearful and uncertain as the event of death, there is no reason for doubting God’s promise. 2 Cor 1:20 – 20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.
What is the blessing for those who die in the Lord?
C. “Rest from their Labors” – When the writer of Hebrews discusses the subject of the promise of rest in Hebrews 4 he uses two different words. In vs. 9, and in much of the analogy, he uses a word that refers to the Sabbath rest. God’s promise of rest flows from that OT picture of God’s promise to provide and the people’s trust in that promise. We might view this as rest from a positive perspective. In v. 3, (For we who have believed do enter that rest) though, the writer uses a word that means to cease activity. God rested on the 7th day… He ceased the activity of creation. Certainly the concept of rest means more than just not doing anything. But this is rest from a negative perspective. There are some things that will end, and when they do, we will have rest.Revelation 14 calls this “rest from their labors” What will they rest from?
1. Heaven will be a place of rest from all forms of suffering.Revelation 21:4 –4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” God gives us the ability to contemplate the blessing of death for his children here, as we witness the physical suffering that many have to suffer before they leave this world. We want the suffering to end. For the Christian, death does bring an END to suffering once and for all. We will never have to watch someone we love leave us.
a. The apostle Paul faced the prospect of death often in his ministry. He suffered more than we can fathom as a result of his faith. Consider his own description of his suffering… 2 Cor 11:24-30– From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness — 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? 30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.” He had nothing to boast about except his sufferings. What did the promise of heaven mean to him?
i. 2 Cor 4:16-18 – 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. Paul is saying more than just… “one day this suffering will end” He is saying that even as I suffer it now, it is minimalized by the promise of a rest that will come. He calls it an exceeding and eternal weight of glory.When weighed against the sufferings of this world, the glory of heaven tips the scales. Paul described it as beyond all comparison (exceeding) The Greek text forms a double expression for strongest emphasis. The phrase means, “out of all proportion.” The weight of glory awaiting believers exceeds all limits; it is beyond the possibility of overstatement or exaggeration. (from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary)
2. In heaven, we will rest from the constant struggle with sin. Again from Revelation 21:27 – But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The personal struggle to overcome temptation will be over. There will be no vestige of evil, or the suffering associated with evil choices. We yearn for a place where they will be no deceit, jealousy, greed, racism, injustice, or moral evil. Heaven is that place. It is not that way because of who we are, but because of Who He is.
D. “Their Works Follow them” – John goes on to write that the blessing of death for those who die in the Lord is that their works follow them. Although the toil has ended, the fruit of that toil continues on. God will recognize and reward their faithful deeds. 1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. What a tragedy to know that we spent our life, especially a life of suffering, for nothing. But we can find rest in the knowledge that our works follow us into judgment. We do not earn our salvation or reward, but God recognizes and rewards our faithfulness. 2 Cor. 5:10-For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad”
E. Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men… Heaven will be a place of rest. But the rest of heaven will not be a state of inactivity. We will be there to do what we were created to do – give honor and praise to our Creator. Heaven will be a place of rest because it will be a place of worship. God will be there.
1. We often speak of heaven as a place with a gate of pearl, and a street made of gold – A mansion over the hilltop. The images are not the true appeal of heaven for the Christian. I want to go to heaven. I want to see Grace, Judy, Estelle, Roy, Phyllis, Gano, Roxie, Pat, my mom, my dad, and the list goes on…but there is one there I want to see more than any other. I want to see God… He is there.
a. Revelation 21:3 – 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
b. Revelation 22:1-5 – And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
c. Phil 1:21-23 – 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
Conclusion: Are you ready for the blessing of death? Will those who you leave behind find a comfort and a blessing in your death? Only if you are in the Lord.