Blessed are the dead, Part 2
Jesus has been granted the power to bring the souls back from Sheol and keep them out of Sheol. John, of all the witnesses of Jesus, was inspired to record the greatest promise Jesus made. “Truly truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever He does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all He himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show him, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Jn. 5:19-24).
John continued to unfold Jesus’ power over death. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the father has life in himself, so He has granted to the Son to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment” (Jn. 5:25-29). The place of judgment is hell; Jesus described it, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mk. 9:48). God the Father has given his Son the power to cast all evil into hell. John, in “The Book of Revelation” was shown the conclusion of the two events, the resurrection and the judgment.
John, the Apostle, 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.” The reason why they are allowed to rest is, “for those saints that obeyed God’s commandments and remained faithful to Jesus” (Rev. 14:13). These saints were killed for Christ and they will arise to reign with Christ. The other dead that died naturally will not take part in the first resurrection. “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who take part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” (Rev. 20:4-6).
It is not at all surprising that we stay away from the “Book of Revelation” and hang on to concepts and ideas, which set us free from hidden mysteries and even from the truth, we do not understand. “The Book of Revelation” takes us into a world that makes it difficult for us to fit into God’s plan for our life. Yet, it is in “The Book of Revelation” in which Jesus puts the final touches on His purpose for us with Him in eternity. This Book is the ending or the eschatology to “The Gospel of John.” Revelation is what the Apostle Paul called, “We are looking through a glass darkly but then face to face with Christ and see ourselves clearly” (I Cor.13:12). The disciples wanted to know how Jesus would show Himself to them, but not to the world. Revelation provides the answer. Only the eyes of the Spirit help us see through the camouflage of symbolism and through the Words to Jesus, what He wants us to be like in a world, which is headed toward chaos. Revelation has been dropping its leaves, like a fig tree, announcing that fall and winter are upon us.
In Revelation, it is not just the world, which has to face fall and winter, but every person has. I, myself, have faced quite a few storms and tribulations, but I have not yet died physically for Christ. Most of my suffering was not for my faith. At this point in my life, I do not belong in the first resurrection. At best, I can belong to the group that has labored in Christ’s kingdom on earth, and I hope that I have some deeds that will exonerate me in the second resurrection. Will I squeeze by the judge and will He say, “…well done thou good and faithful servant?” The two specific qualifying deeds mentioned are: “The Commandments of God (also Word of God), and having been faithful to Jesus and his words.” At this point, I have a serious problem because people that are dying do so for obeying God’s Commandments and for confessing Jesus in public. I am not even opposed by the world. The only conflict I have, at times, is with other like-minded believers, who differ concerning their opinion on grace without works. Grace for me is work, love, and sacrificing of which I have little to show for. I appear to be rather sufficient with words, but not with deeds. I am concerned what deeds will follow me and what will hold me back. Based on my self-analysis, like Paul, I have to keep working on my salvation with fear and trembling.
The second part is how loyal have I been to Christ? Well, I have stood up behind pulpits, in religious meetings, in classes, and in some personal conversations, but I have never been challenged or threatened for preaching. My messages were never intended to annoy or irritate people. I tried to make friends and not opponents. I had no one try to enroll me into club or organization, which labels and mark the members on the bodies. I do write about Jesus on the “internet” and no one has objected to my witnessing, at least, no one has or is taking me serious. There was one expert carrying a big Bible who may have looked at my blog and informed me that I had to change my theology. I did not take time to inquire what I had to do, and I am not pursuing a theology, but I do seek to follow Jesus, the Christ, who is our way, our truth, and our life. I have had theology in six seminaries and in one University; but when I entered the ministry, I had to abandon theology for practical reality. People preferred bread to love, and the only way to get bread is with deeds. The Bible tells me that Jesus is not much interest in what I believe, but Jesus is interested in what I do for the least of his brethren. It was not believers who got Jesus’ attention, but a Good Samaritan.
In the final analysis, it is not whether I believed in the Lord, but whether I die in the Lord. If I do not die in the Lord, then all the believing will not matter. Regarding works, however, there are quite a few references in the New Testament that God will take notice of. We shall touch on deeds, which will follow later. Presently, we need to ask, what it means to die in the Lord? John was given a description of those that died and would die in the Lord. “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed” (Rev. 6:9-11).
First, we note that these martyrs are different from the people, who rest from their labors. They will be resurrected in the first resurrection to reign on earth with Christ. The martyrs are not resting in heaven, but they are already resurrected and they are with the Sovereign Lord. They do not appear to take part in the one thousand year reign. Like the thief that died with Jesus, they go straight to Paradise. Those that worked for the Lord go to a place, where they rest before they work again for the Lord. The third group rests for another one thousand years, and then they appear with everyone, that has not died for Christ or in Christ before Christ, as the Judge, who sentences everyone according on their merits. “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And 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. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:11-15). The makarioi or the blessed that confesses and lived for the Lord were not in this group where Satan and his angels were sent.