Blessed are the dead, Part 3
Daniel saw in a vision, “Thrones were set up and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and his wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Dan. 7:9-10). John completed the vision, “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Rev. 20:12).
Daniel, in a follow up vision, saw the Ancient of Days hand over all power to one like a Son of man. Jesus was the recipient of that power. In the Book of Revelation, the Lamb of God sits on the throne and appears in the likeness of God similar to His heavenly look He had on the “Mount of Transfiguration.” The court was made up of twenty-four elders and four ferocious beings. This echoes the promise Jesus made to his twelve disciples, that they would be judging the twelve tribes of Israel. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus transferred the kingdom to the twelve and He guaranteed that they would be at His table in the new world, because they remained faithful when they were tested because of Him. Jesus also said that their names were already being written in heaven. “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions, and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10:19-20). How did the disciples qualify for the kingdom and for heaven? The key to their blessing is wrapped in the concept of authority.
The Greek word for authority is “exousia’ and it represents “a divinely delegated power to become and overcome.” This “divinely delegated power” resides in the Man, Jesus, who received it from God, who is Spirit. This special divine authority, Jesus gives to those who receive or who follow Him; and also who accept Jesus’ authority, Jesus’ leadership and Jesus’ Lordship. As a result, they believe in the name of Jesus. It is a divine process. It took the disciples three years before they realized who Jesus was. They were authorized to serve their Master long before they knew who He really was. The Greek text separates “believe” from “receive and give or bestow.” The Greek text has, “But those who received him, to them He gave the power (enabled) to become children of God, those will believe in his name.” Man, by himself, does not have the ability or the power to see Jesus as the one, who can turn him into “a child of God.” God has to have a hand in the rebirth in Christ. Conversion is an act of God; rather, “it is His workmanship through the authority Jesus gives man to serve Him with deeds that shall follow man into eternity” (Eph. 2:10). The Holy Spirit has become that authority for man, and without the Holy Spirit, man will not accept and follow Jesus. Jesus made this point very clear to Peter and the other disciples, who were not certain who Jesus was, “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 16:17).
Jesus has put His stamp of approval on everyone and on everything that is acceptable to God. “He is the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6). Man becomes a Christian through Jesus, the Christ, and man overcomes, because the Holy Spirit empowers man to endure what Jesus endured. It is a tough road. It is the road of the cross. Without the cross, there is no crown. Like Jesus, his followers are expected to pick up their crosses and follow Him, “And He called to Himself the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this life (adulterous and sinful generation), of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of his Father’” (Mk.34-38).
A Christian is not just a believer. A Christian also is a lover and a doer. A doer is one, who puts the “Gospel” into practice called, “deeds.” All deeds, good or bad, are recorded in books with their names. The three groups qualified were those that were killed for Jesus and His words, those that served or labored for Jesus and died, and those that served others without being aware that they were doing it for Christ. Jesus had much to say about this third group that will be welcomed in His kingdom. “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe in me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (Jn. 10:37-38). To me, Jesus is saying, “I do not have to believe in a person in order to accept the good he or she is doing and do likewise.” Nicodemus accepted Jesus for that very reason, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him” (Jn. 3:2). In the “Parable of the Good Samaritan,” the Samaritan did not put his faith first, like the priest and the Levi did, but the victim’s need for help came first. The Samaritan’s deed was an act of love that qualified him for eternal life. The expert of the law, who wanted to know how to inherit eternal life, was told to do likewise.
Jesus was very specific as to what deeds are going to be recognized on the Day of Judgment. “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will gather all the nations, and he will separate them one from the other as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothed thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’” (Mt. 25:31-40). The goats did none of these things and Jesus concluded, “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Mt. 25:46).
Jesus also predicted, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth” (Mt. 8:11-12). And Jesus gave this reason, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives Him who sent me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, ‘he shall not lose his reward’” (Mt. 10:40-42). “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2). Jesus cursed a fig tree for not having fruit out of season, why? The faith of a Christian is always productive and never out of season. Faith without deeds receives no reward, nor is it blessed.
I have been a recipient of deeds that I believe shall be found in the books that grants access to eternal life. I owe my earthly life to a large list of people. At the age of twelve, an enemy that could let me drown saved me. At twenty-one, I was a burning torch in a lumber camp; two men wrapped me in a blanket to extinguish the fire. The physicians and nurses kept me alive until they could take me to Toronto General where a burned specialist performed twenty skin transplants so I could show my face in public. In my sixties, prostrate cancer was stopped from depriving me of witnessing, in behalf of the people, who helped me to continue living for eighteen more years. These physicians, specialist, nurses, technicians and a host of moral supporters have not only saved my life, but they also directed me in the direction to be useful as a handicapped person. The biggest reward goes to my wife, for her courage and patience with me for fifty-five plus years. With her help, we have overcome many obstacles by being faithful to each other, to our children, grandchildren and to God and country. Blessedness began with us two, in our home and with our children. We are our own blessing makers. Before we can share it with others we have to have it in ourselves. Sharing our lives becomes like a stream of living water flowing from our hearts. The blessed are the source of blessings, in life and in death.