The fifth voice of the seven voices of this chapter is the voice of blessing and it comes from heaven. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” Now whose voice is this? It would make sense to say that it is the voice of another angel. It is the voice of three angels that proceeded it and the voice of two further angels will come afterward. There is very little reason for one to believe that it is otherwise with the exception that our text also says that it is the Spirit itself that declares these blessing. But the whole of the message of this book is for us to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. It may be the Spirit speaking or it may be the Spirit that adds the second clause to the voice that declared the first clause of this thirteenth verse; One being began the message and the Spirit bore witness to the truth of the message (Rom. 8:16). Or it may all be declared by an angel as a message from the Spirit. One thing is for sure, the end result of the declaration of the blessing is to draw our attention to Christ in the fourteenth verse. That is the role of the Spirit of God to declare Christ whether it be through preachers, believers, or angels (John 15:26). Another thing is for sure as well, it is a voice from heaven that is declaring the message and thus it is according to the will of the Father which is in heaven. The audience is assumed to be the same as the previous verses. The distinction between the lost world and the redeemed is declared. The fate of the two is clearly described.
The first thing we learn from the voice is that the message was to be written. The first time there was given such a command to write was for a memorial of Amalek who would know final defeat one day (Exo. 17:11). To write something is to set it for a memorial of hope for those who would afterward read. We should for instance be diligent in writing the word of God upon our hearts (Prov. 7:3). It was to be written for the people of John’s generation and for generations to come to be able to read and know that there is hope. It was to be written for those who would find themselves in those dark days that they may have hope (Rom. 15:4). Thanks be unto God that holy men of God wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (I Pet. 1:21). There have been ten times (this being the eleventh) that John has been directed to write what he heard and saw and there has been one instance in which John was told not to write in this book. This again reminds us that this is a guided prophecy. When we read this text as a whole and this declaration in particular we know that this is what Christ in His love toward us wants us to know.
The second thing we see about this text is a blessing that is promised. This is beatitude. The term blessing could well be translated as “oh, how happy!” A blessing is something that comes from God because He is the source of all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3, James 1:17). As with many of the beatitudes given in the scripture this appears to run contrary to the way the world thinks. The world, for instance, sees no value in spiritual poverty or in meekness but Christ connects blessedness to them. So it is here for a lost world that would sell all to avoid death blessedness is connected with dying. Oh, how happy “are the dead which die in the Lord….” This is a blessedness which belongs to martyrs. There is a blessedness there for we are identified with Christ when we suffer for Him: “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified” (I Pet. 4:14, see also Matt. 5:10-12). The prepositional phrase, in the Lord, tells us about what type of death is being discussed, a death that honors the Lord. To die in the Lord may in some cases be to die in old age proclaiming God’s grace. Here no doubt though it speaks of martyrdom. There is no greater blessing for men to trade the temporal for the eternal; to hold fast to Christ unto the end. There is no greater blessing for men and women to proclaim Christ to the world and give their lives as such; to make their lives a living sacrifice unto God. When Stephen was stoned to death he had the blessing of seeing his Lord standing to receive him into His everlasting arms. The psalmist made a similar declaration: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:12-15). It is important to note that this will be specifically true for those that live in the time of our text. Those who are faced with the option to either die for Christ or stand for Satan and antichrist will find blessedness in their choice to die for Christ. Our text says that they are blessed who die in the Lord “from henceforth” or rather from that time and forward. This speaks of the real choice that will be laid upon Israel and any others that will be standing opposite to antichrist. To live for Christ at such a time will be a peril to one’s life but it will lead to blessedness. By faith they will forfeit their lives to take part in a better resurrection (Heb. 11:35). They will learn the words of Paul: “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
The third thing that we note is the testimony of the Spirit as to the blessedness of dying in the Lord: “Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” This is the Spirit bearing witness. In the mouth of two or three witnesses is a matter established. Here the Spirit adds a description of the blessedness. The reason is twofold; they are blessed because they rest from their labors and they are blessed because their works follow them. First, they rest. They rest because they have come finally and completely to Christ who is gives them eternal rest (Matt. 11:28). They will hear Christ say, “well done thou good and faithful servant.” They rest because they have entered in a special way into His work and are in fellowship with His suffering and therefore will know the power of His resurrection (Heb. 4:9, 10, Phil. 3:10). But, in a particular way they are resting from their labors and their toils. They have worked in the vineyard of our Lord and now they can receive their wages. They have labored in the heat of persecution and now they can sit with Christ in heavenly places. They are blessed in their rest because of their labors. Therefore the second reason was given that their works follow them. They have laid a good foundation in the works they have done for the Lord and they receive the reward for those things. “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” (I Cor. 15:58). That is the meaning of their works following them. It means that will get to enjoy the fruit of their labors. The psalmist said it in the sweetest terms: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:5, 6). It will indeed be worth it all. We have an ability if we are laboring for the cause of Christ to do that which shall follow us into eternity. Where the lost world will be judged according to their works; we shall be rewarded for ours. One life so soon is past, only what is done for Christ will last.
Thus we see that faith comes by hearing. The blessedness declared led to a sight of the source of that blessedness which is Christ. “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.” This blessedness of the saints is tied to the grand event that Christ spoke of. Christ said that the days of tribulation would be shortened and would end with the Son of Man coming again in the clouds: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30). The antichrist may be winning small battles as he beheads and murders the saints but Christ is coming and his victory will be cut short. Jesus Christ left in the clouds saying that he would come again and receive us into the mansions he has prepared for us (John 14:1-4). It is the Son of man who has been given authority to judge this world and all therein (John 5:27). The prophecy of our text mirrors that of Daniel: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13, 14). We are sitting on the precipice of the summation of all things. The beasts will have had their day but now comes the Son of Man who will reign forever and ever.
Christ is coming again. He is coming as the true King of kings and He is coming to reap this earth. He is coming indeed to rule. He has on His head a golden crown. In the 19th chapter we will find that He will have many crowns upon His head at His return and that will be a discussion for that time. The only other item in scripture that is said to have a “golden crown” is Ark of the Testimony over which the Mercy Seat was laid (Exo. 25:25). It is fitting then that Christ who is the propitiation for our sins (i.e. our Mercy Seat – the place where atonement was made) and is the embodiment of all God’s Word and works toward mankind should be fitted with a golden crown. It speaks of His exultation above all to have a crown of gold upon His head (Ps. 21:3). Also, it says that “in his hand a sharp sickle.” This tells us beyond doubt that this is the Lord of the harvest (Matt. 9:38). It also tells us that the harvest has come (Mark 4:29). The harvest is synonymous with the judgment (Matt. 13 – see the parable of the wheat and tares). The harvest is the end of the world and the reapers are the angels. It is here that the good wheat (the children of the kingdom – the nation of Israel in particular and any others of this time that may have trusted in Christ) is gathered into the barn, which is the abode of Christ, and the tares shall be cast into the fire. Christ is coming to judge this world as the Lord of the harvest. In the book of Joel it is foretold of the coming battle of Armageddon in the valley of Jehoshaphat. It is there foretold that the Lord will judge the nations there at that great battle. “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:12-14). The sickle (which is a scythe or a sharped curved cutting instrument used in harvesting) is in the hand of the Lord and He is ready to come and judge the earth. This will be a blessing for those that are His but it will be a fearful thing for those who have rejected Him.