Revelation 14:13
And I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from now on: Yes, said the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13)And I heard a voice . . .—Translate, And I heard a voice out of the heaven, saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth; Yea, saith the Spirit, in that they shall rest from their labours; for their works follow with them. We are not told whose voice speaks, but it proclaims a blessing on (not only martyrs, but) those who die in the Lord, in happy union and fellowship with Him (John 15:2-5; 1John 1:3); such are happy, for they rest from toil, and their works of faith and labours of love (even if only the giving a cup of cold water in the name of Christ) follow with them into the presence of their Lord (Matthew 10:41-42; Hebrews 6:10). The words “from henceforth” form a difficulty; the reason for their introduction is to be found in the state of trouble which the last verses describe: the righteous are happy in being taken away from the evil to come. Or may it be that the words are designed to console the mourners in an age when dark unbelief robs away the sweet resurrection trust, and writes over its graves, “Farewell for ever”? If the climax of world-power should be bitter scorn of the idea of a life to come, and complacent satisfaction with a portion in this world, then words of faith, proclaiming that the dead are happy and restful, and that their work is not in vain in the Lord, may find new force to sustain a fainting courage or a wavering trust.

Ecclesiastes

NAKED OR CLOTHED?

Ecclesiastes 5:15
. - Revelation 14:13.

It is to be observed that these two sharply contrasted texts do not refer to the same persons. The former is spoken of a rich worldling, the latter of ‘the dead who die in the Lord.’ The unrelieved gloom of the one is as a dark background against which the triumphant assurance of the other shines out the more brightly, and deepens the gloom which heightens it. The end of the man who has to go away from earth naked and empty-handed acquires new tragic force when set against the lot of those ‘whose works do follow them.’ Well-worn and commonplace as both sets of thought may be, they may perhaps be flashed up into new vividness by juxtaposition; and if in this sermon we have nothing new to say, old truth is not out of place till it has been wrought into and influenced our daily practice. We shall best gather the lessons of our text if we consider what we must leave, what we must take, and what we may take.

I. What we must leave.

The Preacher in the context presses home a formidable array of the limitations and insufficiencies of wealth. Possessed, it cannot satisfy, for the appetite grows with indulgence. Its increase barely keeps pace with the increase of its consumers. It contributes nothing to the advantage of its so-called owner except ‘the beholding of it with his eyes,’ and the need of watching it keeps them open when he would fain sleep. It is often kept to the owner’s hurt, it often disappears in unfortunate speculation, and the possessor’s heirs are paupers. But, even if all these possibilities are safely weathered, the man has to die and leave it all behind. ‘He shall take nothing of his labour which he can carry away in his hand’; that is to say, death separates from all with whom the life of the body brings us into connection. The things which are no parts of our true selves are ours in a very modified sense even whilst we seem to possess them, and the term of possession has a definite close. ‘Shrouds have no pockets,’ as the stern old proverb says. How many men have lived in the houses which we call ours, sat on our seats, walked over our lands, carried in their purses the money that is in ours! Is ‘the game worth the candle’ when we give our labour for so imperfect and brief a possession as at the fullest and the longest we enjoy of all earthly good? Surely a wise man will set little store by possessions of all which a cold, irresistible hand will come to strip him. Surely the life is wasted which spends its energy in robing itself in garments which will all be stripped from it when the naked self ‘returns to go as he came.’

But there are other things than these earthly possessions from which death separates us. It carries us far away from the sound of human voices and isolates us from living men. Honour and reputation cease to be audible. When a prominent man dies, what a clatter of conflicting judgments contends over his grave! and how utterly he is beyond them all! Praise or blame, blessing or banning are equally powerless to reach the unhearing ear or to agitate the unbeating heart. And when one of our small selves passes out of life, we hear no more the voice of censure or of praise, of love or of hate. Is it worth while to toil for the ‘hollow wraith of dying fame,’ or even for the clasp of loving hands which have to be loosened so surely and so soon?

Then again, there are other things which must be left behind as belonging only to the present order, and connected with bodily life. There will be no scope for material work, and much of all our knowledge will be antiquated when the light beyond shines in. As we shall have occasion to see presently, there is a permanent element in the most material work, and if in handling the transient we have been living for the eternal, such work will abide; but if we think of the spirit in which a sad majority do their daily tasks, whether of a more material or of a more intellectual sort, we must recognise that a very large proportion of all the business of life must come to an end here. There is nothing in it that will stand the voyage across the great deep, or that can survive in the order of things to which we go. What is a man to do in another world, supposing there is another world, where ledgers and mills are out of date? Or what has a scholar or scientist to do in a state of things where there is no place for dictionaries and grammars, for acute criticism, or for a careful scientific research?

Physical science, linguistic knowledge, political wisdom, will be antiquated. The poetry which glorifies afresh and interprets the present will have lost its meaning. Half the problems that torture us here will cease to have existence, and most of the other half will have been solved by simple change of position. ‘Whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away’; and it becomes us all to bethink ourselves whether there is anything in our lives that we can carry away when all that is ‘of the earth earthy’ has sunk into nothingness.

II. What we must take.

We must take ourselves. It is the same ‘he’ who goes ‘naked as he came’; it is the same ‘he’ who ‘came from his mother’s womb,’ and is ‘born again’ as it were into a new life, only ‘he’ has by his earthly life been developed and revealed. The plant has flowered and fruited. What was mere potentiality has become fact. There is now fixed character. The transient possessions, relationships, and occupations of the earthly life are gone, but the man that they have made is there. And in the character there are predominant habits which insist upon having their sway, and a memory of which, as we may believe, there is written indelibly all the past. Whatever death may strip from us, there is no reason to suppose that it touches the consciousness and personal identity, or the prevailing set and inclination of our characters. And if we do indeed pass into another life ‘not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness,’ but carrying a perfected memory and clothed in a garment woven of all our past actions, there needs no more to bring about a solemn and continuous act of judgment.

III. What we may take.

‘Their works do follow them.’ These are the words of the Spirit concerning ‘the dead who die in the Lord.’ We need not fear marring the great truth that ‘not by works of righteousness but by His mercy He saved us,’ if we firmly grasp the large assurance which this text blessedly contains. A Christian man’s works are perpetual in the measure in which they harmonise with the divine will, in the measure they have eternal consequences in himself whatever they may have on others. If we live opening our minds and hearts to the influx of the divine power ‘that worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure,’ then we may be humbly sure that these ‘works’ are eternal; and though they will never constitute the ground of our acceptance, they will never fail to secure ‘a great recompence of reward.’ To many a humble saint there will be a moment of wondering thankfulness when he sees these his ‘children whom God hath given him’ clustered round him, and has to say, ‘Lord, when saw I Thee naked, or in prison, and visited Thee?’ There will be many an apocalypse of grateful surprise in the revelations of the heavens. We remember Milton’s noble explanation of these great words which may well silence our feeble attempts to enforce them-

‘Thy works and alms and all thy good endeavour

Stood not behind, nor in the grave were trod,

But as faith pointed with her golden rod,

Followed them up to joy and bliss for ever.’

So then, life here and yonder will for the Christian soul be one continuous whole, only that there, while ‘their works do follow them,’ ‘they rest from their labours.’Revelation 14:13. And I heard a voice from heaven — This is most seasonably heard when the beast is in his highest power and fury; saying unto me, Write — He was at first commanded to write the whole book. Whenever this is repeated, it denotes something peculiarly observable. Blessed Μακαριοι, happy, are the dead which die in the Lord — In the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ; and, in consequence of that faith, in a state of vital union with him, he being thereby made of God unto them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and thereby imparting unto them, 1st, A satisfactory knowledge of the nature and greatness of their future felicity, in their illumination; 2d, A title to it, in their justification; 3d, A meetness for it, in their sanctification; and, 4th, Bringing them to the enjoyment of it, in their complete redemption from all the consequences of the fall; from henceforth — Particularly, 1st, Because they escape the approaching calamities, or are taken away from the evil to come, as the expression is, Isaiah 57:1-2, to which passage there seems to be an allusion here; 2d, Because they already enjoy so near an approach to, and indeed an anticipation of, glory — the glory to be conferred at the second coming of Christ, and the resurrection of the dead; for they rest — No pain, no purgatory follows; but pure and unmixed happiness; from their labours — And the more laborious their life was, the sweeter is their rest. How different is this state from that of those (Revelation 14:11) who have no rest day nor night! Reader, which wilt thou choose? And their works — Each one’s peculiar works, done from a principle of faith and love, with a single eye to the glory of God, and in a spirit of humility before God, resignation to his will, and patience under all trials and sufferings; and in meekness, gentleness, and long-suffering toward those who oppose them in their Christian course of cheerfully doing good, and patiently suffering ill; follow them — And will be produced as evidences of their faith and love; or of the genuineness of their religion at the day of judgment. But the words, τα εργα αυτων ακολουθει μεταυτων, properly signify, their works follow with them, or follow them immediately; that is, the fruit of their works; they reap this, in some measure, immediately on their admission into paradise. Observe, reader, their works do not go before, to procure for them admittance into the mansions of joy and glory, but they follow or attend them when admitted. Bishop Newton accounts for the expression, From henceforth, blessed are the dead, &c., by observing, that though from the time of the Reformation, “the blessedness of the dead who die in the Lord hath not been enlarged, yet it hath been much better understood, more clearly written and promulgated than it was before, and the contrary doctrine of purgatory hath been exploded and banished from the belief of all reasonable men. This truth,” adds he, “was moreover one of the leading principles of the Reformation. What first provoked Luther’s spirit was the scandalous sale of indulgences; and the doctrine of indulgences having a close connection with the doctrine of purgatory, the refutation of the one naturally leads to the refutation of the other; and his first work of reformation was his ninety-five theses, or positions, against indulgences, purgatory, and the dependent doctrines. So that he may be said literally to have fulfilled the command from heaven, of writing, Blessed are the dead, &c., and from that time to this, this truth hath been so clearly asserted, and so solemnly established, that it is likely to prevail for ever.” But though what the bishop here states might be one reason of the expression, from henceforth blessed, &c., yet the principal reason of its being used seems evidently to have been that above suggested, namely, to intimate that the sufferings which the people of God would be exposed to at this period, from the persecutions of the antichristian power, would be so great that those individuals who escaped them by being taken out of the world by death before they came, would have reason to think themselves happy.14:6-13 The progress of the Reformation appears to be here set forth. The four proclamations are plain in their meaning; that all Christians may be encouraged, in the time of trial, to be faithful to their Lord. The gospel is the great means whereby men are brought to fear God, and to give glory to him. The preaching of the everlasting gospel shakes the foundations of antichrist in the world, and hastens its downfal. If any persist in being subject to the beast, and in promoting his cause, they must expect to be for ever miserable in soul and body. The believer is to venture or suffer any thing in obeying the commandments of God, and professing the faith of Jesus. May God bestow this patience upon us. Observe the description of those that are and shall be blessed: such as die in the Lord; die in the cause of Christ, in a state of union with Christ; such as are found in Christ when death comes. They rest from all sin, temptation, sorrow, and persecution; for there the wicked cease from troubling, there the weary are at rest. Their works follow them: do not go before as their title, or purchase, but follow them as proofs of their having lived and died in the Lord: the remembrance of them will be pleasant, and the reward far above all their services and sufferings. This is made sure by the testimony of the Spirit, witnessing with their spirits, and the written word.And I heard a voice from heaven - A voice that seemed to speak from heaven.

Saying unto me, Write - Make a record of this truth. We may suppose that John was engaged in making a record of what he saw in vision; he was now instructed to make a record of what he heard. This passage may be referred to as a proof that he wrote this book while in Patmos, or as the heavenly disclosures were made to him, and not afterward from memory.

Blessed are the dead - That is, the condition of those who die in the manner which is immediately specified, is to be regarded as a blessed or happy one. It is much to be able to say of the dead that they are "blessed." There is much in death that is sad; we so much dread it by nature; it cuts us off from so much that is dear to us; it blasts so many hopes; and the grave is so cold and cheerless a resting place, that we owe much to a system of religion which will enable us to say and to feel, that it is a blessed thing to die. Assuredly we should be grateful for any system of religion which will enable us thus to speak of those who are dead; which will enable us, with corresponding feeling, to look forward to our own departure from this world.

Which die in the Lord - Not all the dead; for God never pronounces the condition of the wicked who die, blessed or happy. Religion guards this point, and confines the declaration to those who furnish evidence that they are prepared for heaven. The phrase "to die in the Lord" implies the following things:

(1) That they who thus die are the friends of the Lord Jesus. The language "to be in the Lord" is often used to denote true attachment to him, or close union with him. Compare John 15:4-7; Romans 16:13, Romans 16:22; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 7:39; Philippians 1:14; Colossians 4:7. The assurance, then, is limited to those who are sincere Christians; for this the language properly implies, and we are authorized to apply it only as there is evidence of true religion.

(2) to "die in the Lord" would seem also to imply that there should be, at the time, the evidence of his favor and friendship. This would apply:

(a) to those who die as martyrs, giving their lives as a testimony to the truth of religion, and as an evidence of their love for it; and,

(b) to those who have the comforting evidence of his presence and favor on the bed of death.

From henceforth - ἀπάρτι aparti. This word has given no little perplexity to expositors, and it has been variously rendered. Some have connected it with the word "blessed" - "Blessed henceforth are the dead who die in the Lord"; that is, they will be ever-onward blessed: some with the word "die," referring to the time when the apostle was writing - "Blessed are they who, after this time, die in the Lord"; designing to comfort those who were exposed to death, and who would die as martyrs: some as referring to the times contemplated in these visions - "Blessed will they be who shall die in those future times." Witsius understands this as meaning that, from the time of their death, they would be blessed, as if it had been said, immediately after their dissolution they would be blessed. Doddridge renders it, "Henceforth blessed are the dead." The language is evidently not to be construed as implying that they who had died in the faith before were not happy, but that in the times of trial and persecution that were to come, they were to be regarded as especially blessed who should escape from these sorrows by a Christian death. Scenes of woe were indeed to occur, in which many believers would die. But their condition was not to be regarded as one of misfortune, but of blessedness and joy, for:

(a) they would die in an honorable cause;

(b) they would emerge from a world of sorrow; and,

(c) they would rise to eternal life and peace.

The design, therefore, of the verse is to impart consolation and support to those who would be exposed to a martyr's death, and to those who, in times of persecution, would see their friends exposed to such a death. It may be added that the declaration here made is true still, and ever will be. It is a blessed thing to die in the Lord.

Yea, saith the Spirit - The Holy Spirit; "the Spirit by whose inspiration and command I record this" (Doddridge).

continued...

13. Encouragement to cheer those persecuted under the beast.

Write—to put it on record for ever.

Blessed—in resting from their toils, and, in the case of the saints just before alluded to as persecuted by the beast, in resting from persecutions. Their full blessedness is now "from henceforth," that is, FROM THIS TIME, when the judgment on the beast and the harvest gatherings of the elect are imminent. The time so earnestly longed for by former martyrs is now all but come; the full number of their fellow servants is on the verge of completion; they have no longer to "rest (the same Greek as here, anapausis) yet for a little season," their eternal rest, or cessation from toils (2Th 1:7; Greek, "anesis," relaxation after hardships. Heb 4:9, 10, sabbatism of rest; and Greek, "catapausis," akin to the Greek here) is close at hand now. They are blessed in being about to sit down to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Re 19:9), and in having part in the first resurrection (Re 20:6), and in having right to the tree of life (Re 22:14). In Re 14:14-16 follows the explanation of why they are pronounced "blessed" now in particular, namely, the Son of man on the cloud is just coming to gather them in as the harvest ripe for garner.

Yea, saith the Spirit—The words of God the Father (the "voice from heaven") are echoed back and confirmed by the Spirit (speaking in the Word, Re 2:7; 22:17; and in the saints, 2Co 5:5; 1Pe 4:14). All "God's promises in Christ are yea" (2Co 1:20).

unto me—omitted in A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic.

that they may—The Greek includes also the idea, They are blessed, in that they SHALL rest from their toils (so the Greek).

and—So B and Andreas read. But A, C, Vulgate, and Syriac read "for." They rest from their toils because their time for toil is past; they enter on the blessed rest because of their faith evinced by their works which, therefore, "follow WITH (so the Greek) them." Their works are specified because respect is had to the coming judgment, wherein every man shall be "judged according to his works." His works do not go before the believer, nor even go by his side, but follow him at the same time that they go with him as a proof that he is Christ's.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write: these words denote the excellency of the following saying; it is a voice from heaven, therefore worthy of our attention. John is commanded to write it, to be kept in memory for the comfort and encouragement of God’s people, who might be discouraged at the hearing of those calamitous times which they were like to meet with during the reign of antichrist, in which many of them were like to be put to death.

Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord: this phrase of dying in the Lord, is applicable to any persons that die united to Christ by a true and lively faith; all such die in the Lord. But if we consider the Scriptural usage of it, it seems rather to signify martyrs, such as die for the Lord; for en often in Scripture signifieth for, Romans 16:2,8,12 1 Peter 4:14, &c. If any shall be put to death for adherence to Christ, they shall be no losers; for they shall be blessed, and that not only upon the account of that glory into which they shall pass, but upon the account of that

rest which their death will give them from the troubles of the calamitous times before or hereafter mentioned.

From henceforth: there is some little difference amongst interpreters about the sense of this particle: certain it is, it is not to be understood of the time following this revelation exclusively, as to those who before died to Christ; for they also were blessed, they also rested from their labours, &c.; yet the particle seems to refer to the time to come. The emphasis of the particle seems to be, to obviate the doubts of those who should happen to die under antichrist’s rage, because they died not by the hands of pagans and avowed enemies of the gospel, but of such as should call themselves Christians; such, saith God, die for the Lord, and are blessed, and shall be blessed.

Yea, saith the Spirit; the Spirit of truth affirms it.

That they may rest from their labours; they shall be at rest from the troubles of this life.

And their works do follow them; and their good deeds and patient sufferings shall follow them, as witnesses for them before the Judge of the quick and the dead.

Here follow two visions, the one of a harvest, the other of a vintage; there is no great difficulty in determining, that they both signify some judicial dispensations of God, that he would bring upon the world, or some part of it, the latter of which should be greater than the former: yet Dr. More and Mr. Mede have another notion of them. But there is some doubt amongst interpreters, whether they signify God’s general judgment in the last day, or some particular judgments before that day, mentioned Revelation 15:1-8 and Revelation 16:1-21, and belong to the vials which we there read of. Those who think that the last judgment is here showed to John, are led to it from the representation of the day of judgment, under the notion of a harvest, Matthew 3:12 13:39. But I rather agree with them who think that the harvest here mentioned, is a representation of some judicial dispensations of God before that time, particularly God’s vengeance upon the beast, more fully expressed, Revelation 16:1-21. For:

1. The last judgment is fully described afterward, Revelation 19:1-20:15.

2. To express that, there needed not two types, the one of a harvest, the other of a vintage.

3. Here is no mention of the resurrection, which must go before the last judgment.

Mr. Mede hath noted, that there are three things belonging to a harvest;

(1.) Cutting down of corn.

(2.) Gathering it into the barn.

(3.) Threshing it.

Whence, in Scripture, it signifieth either cutting and destroying, or safety and preserving, which is the end of gathering corn into the barn. We have examples of the former, Isaiah 17:3,5 Jer 51:33; but of the latter we have only examples in the New Testament, Luke 10:2. It is his opinion, that the conversion of the Jews, going before the great slaughter mentioned Revelation 19:1-21, is that which is here meant; but I rather agree with those who think, that by this parable is signified God’s judgments upon antichrist, and that the general scope of both the parables is to declare, that God would grievously punish antichrist, first by lesser, then by greater judgments, as is more particularly expressed in the two next chapters, to which this, to me, seemeth prefatory. Let us now come to the text itself... See Poole on "Revelation 14:14". And I heard a voice from heaven,.... Like that which was heard at Christ's baptism and transfiguration, certifying the truth of what follows, so that that may be depended upon as an undoubted verity:

saying unto me, write; which is a further confirmation of the following sayings being true and faithful; see Revelation 1:9

blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; merely to die is not an happiness, for death is common to all, good and bad; it is a disunion of soul and body, and cannot be in itself desirable; it is the fruit of sin, and has something in it awful and terrible; and though it is the privilege of believers, as its sting is removed by Christ, yet not as simply and absolutely considered; but to die in the Lord is a blessedness: some render the words, "which die for the Lord"; so the Arabic version, "which die for the faith of the Lord"; and the Ethiopic version, "which die for God"; and so restrain them to the martyrs of Jesus: to suffer death for the sake of Christ and his Gospel is a gift and an honour, and what glorifies Christ; and there is a glory consequent upon it, which such shall enjoy; but then in the spiritual reign of Christ, to which this passage refers, and after the destruction of antichrist, there will be no more suffering for Christ, no more martyrdoms; wherefore this cannot be the sense of the words: nor do they mean dying in the lively exercise of faith and hope in the Lord; for though it is a happiness so to die, both to persons themselves, and to their friends and relations, yet these are not the only persons that are blessed; there are some who all their lifetime are subject to bondage, and go off in the dark, and yet are happy; but to die in the Lord is to die interested in him, in union to him; which union is not dissolved by death, and which preserves from all condemnation, at death or at judgment, and secures the soul's immediate entrance into happiness, and the resurrection of the body at the last day, and therefore such must be blessed: the phrase, "from henceforth", is differently placed; the Ethiopic version connects it with the word "write", rendering it, "write now"; and the Vulgate Latin version reads it with the next clause, "hereafter, yea, saith the Spirit"; and so the Latin interpreter of the Syriac version, though that itself seems rather to place it as ours does, and which is most correct; and is to be understood not of the time of John's writing, thenceforward to the resurrection; for those that died before his time were as happy as those who died after; nor of the time of death, though it is a truth, that from the time of the saints' death, and from the very moment of their separation, they are blessed, and are in a state of happiness until the resurrection; but of that period of time which the declarations made by the three preceding angels refer to, from thenceforward, and after the destruction of antichrist, and during the spiritual reign of Christ: and the sense is, that happy will those persons be that die in Christ within that time, and before the Laodicean church state takes place; when coldness, lukewarmness, and carnal security will seize upon men, and Christ will come upon them at an unawares; and those sharp and severe times will commence, signified by the harvest and vintage of the earth in the following verses, and which seem to be no other than the end of the world, and the destruction of it; wherefore happy will they be that are going to heaven before that time comes; see Ecclesiastes 4:1

yea, saith the Spirit; the third witness in heaven, who sets his seal to the truth of what the voice declares, and shows wherein this blessedness will consist:

that they may rest from their labours; both of body and soul; from all toil of body, and laborious work, from all diseases and distempers of body, and all outward sorrows and calamities men labour under, and are fatigued with in this life; and from all inward troubles, from a body of sin, from the temptations of Satan, and from all doubts and fears, from their present warfare state, and all conflicts with their spiritual enemies:

and their works do follow them; they do not go before them, to prepare heaven and happiness for them; nor do they take them along with them, and use them as pleas for their admission into the heavenly glory; but they will follow them, and will be found to praise, and honour, and glory, and will be taken notice of by Christ, and graciously rewarded by him, at his appearing and kingdom. This is directly opposite to the notions of the Jews, who say, that when a man departs this life, his works "go before him", and say unto him, thou hast done so and so, in such a place, and on such a day (w); and that whoever does a good work in this world, it shall "go before him" in the world to come (x); and so they (y) represent good works as saying to a man when he is about to die,

"go in peace; before thou gettest thither, , we will go before thee, as it is said, Isaiah 48:8 "thy righteousness shall go before thee".''

Sometimes they say (z), they go along with him at the time of a man's departure: neither gold, nor silver, nor precious stones and pearls accompany him, but the law and good works, as it is said, Proverbs 6:22 "when thou goest it shall lead thee", &c.

(w) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 11. 1.((x) T. Bab. Sota, fol. 3. 2. & Avoda Zara, fol. 5. 1. & Nishmat Chayim, fol. 21. 1.((y) Pirke Eliezer, c. 34. & Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 55. 4. (z) Pirke Abot, c. 6. sect. 9.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die {b} in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their {c} works do follow them.

(b) That is, for the Lord.

(c) By works, is meant the reward which follows good works.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 14:13. A heavenly voice,[3511] concerning which it is in no way said to what person it belongs,[3512] commands John to write down what was itself just proclaimed as a word of revelation of his spirit (viz., Μακάρ.

μετʼ αὐτῶν), because[3513] this word of revelation contains the most effectual consolation for believers who are oppressed by the secular power, and even threatened with death.[3514] Züll. is wrong in considering that there are two voices, for the voice of the Spirit (ναὶ, λεγ. τ. πν., ἳνα, κ.τ.λ.) is distinguished here as little from the “voice from heaven,” as in the epistles, chs. 2 and 3, what the Spirit says is to be distinguished from what the Lord commands to be written. The voice from heaven belongs to a heavenly person, who, as interpreter of the Spirit, communicates his revelation to the prophet in intelligible words. The first sentence, which concludes with ἀπʼ ἄρτι, contains what is properly the main point of the consolatory declaration, and, as it were, the theme, whose meaning (μακάριοι) is more fully explained in the following sentence. Not only by the formal plan, but also in a still more inward way, is this latter part of the heavenly discourse to be distinguished from the former; the ναὶ already shows us the beginning of a new declaration, and a new declaration is also actually presented, since—as the parenthetical words λέγει τὸ πνεῦμα affirm—this confirmation and exposition (ναὶ

ἴνα ἀναπαήσονται, κ.τ.λ.), added to the first words Μακάριοι

ἀπʼ ἄρτι, appear in a definite way as a revelation of the Spirit. It is, therefore, incorrect to refer the ἀπʼ ἄρτι to the latter sentence, whether in the sense of Vitr., who combines the ἀπʼ ἄρτι with ἀναπαήσ., or in that of Lamb., Bos., who[3515] writes ἀπαρτί (i.e., ἀπηρτισμένως), and tries to explain the wonderfully composed formula of assurance ἀπαρτὶ ναὶ by the absolute plane profecto.[3516] The reference of the ἀπʼ ἄρτι[3517] to the emphatically prefixed conception of μακάριοι is shown by the relation of the thought.[3518] By a combination with ἀποθνήσκ., Züll. reaches the incorrect interpretation: “Better on this account than those who experience the impending time of distress, are the martyrs dying just at the beginning of this time;”[3519] but the conception μακάριοι means much more and differently from what Züll. expresses, and to refer it alone to martyrs is as certainly incorrect as ἀποθνήσκειν ἐν κυρίῳ is not “to die for the sake of the Lord.”[3520]

The dead “who die[3521] in the Lord,” i.e., bound with him by faith, and kept in fellowship with him[3522] by fidelity to the faith even unto death,[3523] are “blessed from henceforth,” because, viz., now the glorious end, which will bring condemnation to enemies[3524] and complete blessedness to all believers,[3525] immediately impends. This is the eschatological reference of the ἀπʼ ἄρτι[3526] presented in the connection, in its combination with the idea μακάριοι, which in itself points already to the goal of the Christian hope.

Incorrect is the explanation of Stern, who, in uncertainty, refers the απʼ ἄρτι to the entire sentence μακάρ.

ἀποθν., and incorrectly tries to apply what is said only of the end of time in such sense that then they who die in Christ immediately enter paradise—with intermission of purgatory, which is, therefore, indirectly fixed for the dying prior to that final time; while just as incorrectly, in order to escape the doctrine of purgatory, Calov., etc., explain the ἀπʼ ἄρτι by “from the death of every one.” [See Note LXXVII., p. 405.] ἵνα ἀναπαήσονται ἐκ τῶν κόπων αὐτῶν. The future is formed from ἀναπαύω, just as κατακαήσομαι from κατακαίω.[3527] The ἵνα here can depend as little upon the parenthetical λέγει τ. πν.[3528] as the ἵνα in 2 Corinthians 8:7 upon the succeeding λέγω. But this passage is not, with Ewald and De Wette, to be explained from 2 Cor. (above cited) and Ephesians 5:33, as an idea lying at the foundation of a purposive command; but the close analogy of Revelation 22:14 shows that the clause ἵνα, κ.τ.λ., is to be elucidated after the manner of the restrictive idea of μακα̇ριοι,[3529] that it is expressed at the same time how the goal of blessedness (μακάρ.), held forth by the promise, includes that heavenly ἁνάπαυσις, and is to be afforded those dying in the Lord.[3530] The solemn expression[3531] which designates the blessed rest from all troubles of the earthly life of conflict[3532] is the more significant, because it sets forth a peculiar opposition to the lot of the damned, Revelation 14:11.

τὰ δὲ ἔργα αὐτῶν ἀκολουθεῖ μετʼ αὐτῶν. The δὲ marks excellently the contrast between the just-mentioned ἀνάπαυσις ἐκ τῶν κόπων and the ἔργα, to which the κόποι themselves belong.[3533] This significant contrast becomes uncertain if the idea of the “works”[3534] be resolved into that of the reward itself.[3535] The thought, which occurs in like manner both in the classics and in the rabbins,[3536] is the profound view that the works wrought by believers in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58) are themselves an eternal good.

[3511] Revelation 10:4.

[3512] Against Hengstenb., who wants to refer it to a departed saint, or one of the elders.

[3513] Cf. Revelation 19:9, Revelation 21:5.

[3514] Cf. Revelation 13:7, Revelation 10:1-6.

[3515] Exercit. phil. Francq., 1713, p. 299 sq.

[3516] i.e., with unconditional certainty.

[3517] Matthew 26:64; John 11:52.

[3518] Beda, C. a Lap., Calov., Wolf, Ew., De Wette, Hengstenb., Ebrard.

[3519] Isaiah 57:1. Cf. Coccejus: “The time is impending, in which it will be better to die than to live.” Hammond.

[3520] Also against Grot., Laun., Vitr., etc.

[3521] The part. pres. marks the words οἱ ἐν κυρ. ἀποθν. in relation to the idea οἱ νεκροί (Züll., incorrectly: “Those exposed to death”), as a designation given more accurately than in a mode having no regard to time.

[3522] 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

[3523] Revelation 2:10.

[3524] Revelation 6:10, Revelation 8:3 sqq.

[3525] Revelation 7:9 sqq., Revelation 11:16 sqq., Revelation 14:1 sqq., Revelation 21:1. sqq.

[3526] Cf. Matthew 26:64.

[3527] Winer, p. 83.

[3528] Ebrard.

[3529] (Hengstenb.) Not αποθν., as Winer, p. 297, attempts, who by the partic. understands the temp. fin. ἀποθνήσκουσι.

[3530] Cf. Revelation 9:20.

[3531] Cf. Hebrews 4:9 : κατάπαυσις.

[3532] κοπ., Revelation 2:3. Cf. Revelation 21:4.

[3533] Revelation 2:2.

[3534] Cf. Revelation 2:5; Revelation 2:19, Revelation 14:13. The approaching climax of retribution upon pagan Rome affects the dead as well as the living. The latter are encouraged to hold on in hope; the former are brought nearer their reward (cf. Revelation 6:11, Revelation 11:18). Ἀπάρτι goes with μακάριοι (note here and in Clem. Rom. 47. the first application of μ. to the dead saints) rather than with ἀποθνήσκοντες, and οἱ ἐν κ. ἀποθ. (which is timeless, like προσκ. τ. θ. in Revelation 14:11) denotes all who die in the faith, loyal to their Lord, i.e., primarily martyrs and confessors (cf. Revelation 13:8; Revelation 13:15). They die “in His fellowship, as it were in His arms” (Beyschlag). Like Paul (in 1 Thessalonians 4:15), though on different grounds, the writer is controverting a fear (cf. 4 Esd. 13:24) that at the advent of messiah those who survived on earth would have some advantage over those who had already died. “Yea, saith the Spirit”—ratifying what has been said—“happy to rest from their labours” (i.e., their Christian activities, not the special form of their death for the faith). So far as the sense is concerned, it matters little whether ἵνα κ.τ.λ. depends on μακάριοι or ἀποθνήσκοντες. Both constructions are grammatically legitimate, though the former is perhaps closer. The point of the passage (note πνεῦμα and γράψον, as in 1–3., Revelation 22:6 f.) is that the bliss of death for a Christian consists not in mere rest from labour but in a rest which brings the reward of labour. While death brings the rest, the reward cannot be given till the final judgment. Consequently the near prospect of the latter is welcome, among other reasons, because it means the long-deferred recompense (Revelation 11:18) for the faithful dead. So far from being forgotten (Revelation 2:2 f., 19, 23, etc.), their ἔργα accompany them to judgment and—it is implied—receive their proper reward there (cf. Milton’s fourteenth sonnet). The bliss of the departed therefore depends upon two grounds: their ἔργα are not to be overlooked, and the interval of waiting is now (ἀπάρτι) brief. The fourth degree of bliss in 4 Ezra 7 :[95] is that the departed spirits of the just understand “the rest which, gathered in their chambers [cf. Revelation 6:9-11] they can enjoy now with deep quietness, guarded by angels, as well as the glory which still awaits them in the latter days”. John does not share the current pessimistic belief (cf. Apoc. Bar. xi.–xii. 4, Verg. Aen. i. 94, with Isaiah 57:1 f.) that death was preferable to life, in view of the overwhelming miseries of the age. His thought is not that death is happier than life under the circumstances, but that if death came in the line of religious duty it involved no deprivation. The language reflects Genesis 2:2 (with κόπων put for ἔργων), but while it is true enough, it is hardly apposite, to think of the dead as resting from works (Hebrews 4:9), no more being needed. The root of the passage lies not in the Iranian belief (Brandt, 423 f., Böklen, 41) that the soul was escorted by its good deeds to bliss in another world (cf. Maas, Orpheus, 217 f.), but in the closer soil of Jewish hope (cf. Bacher’s Agada d. Tannaiten,2 i. 399 f.; Volz 103) as in En. ciii. 2, 3, Apoc. Bar. xiv. 12, 13, and Pirke Aboth vi. 9 (hora discessus hominis non comitantur eum argentum aut aurum aut lapides pretiosi aut margaritae, sed lex et opera bona). In 4 Esd. 7:35 (where, at the resurrection of the dead, “the work shall follow and the reward be disclosed”) opus may be a Hebraism for “recompense” (Psalm 109:20 ἔργον, cf. 1 Timothy 5:25). Contemporary Jewish eschatology also took a despairing view of the world (cf. 4 Esd. 4:26–33). But while the dead are pronounced “blessed,” e.g., in Apoc. Bar. xi. 7, it is because they have not lived to see the ruins of Jerusalem and the downfall of Israel. Better death than that experience! Death is a blessing compared with the life which falls upon times so out of joint (Revelation 10:6 f.). The living may well envy the dead. In John’s Apocalypse, on the other hand, the dead are felicitated because they miss nothing by their martyrdom. Yet life is a boon. No plaintive, weary cry of Weltschmerz rises from the pages of this Apocalypse.—ἀναπαύω in the papyri means relief from public duties or the “resting” of land in agriculture (cf. U. Wilcken’s Archiv f. Papyrusforschung, i. pp. 157 f.).Blessing on the Faithful Dead, and the Harvest and the Vintage of the Earth, Revelation 14:13-2013. Write] See on Revelation 10:4.

Blessed are the dead &c.] Two questions arise as to this verse, though its touching associations make us unwilling to raise questions about it. What is its relevance here? and why are the holy dead blessed “from henceforth”?—i.e. probably, from the time foreshadowed by the last part of the vision. The answer to both probably is, that in those days a holy death will be the only escape from persecution and temptation, which “if it were possible should seduce even the Elect.” Not only “for the Elect’s sake the days shall be shortened,” but even before they end, one and another of the Elect will be delivered from them. Even now it is a matter of thanksgiving when a Christian is delivered by death “from the miseries of this wretched world, from the body of death, and from all temptation,” and much more then, when temptation is so much sorer that no Saint can dare wish to abide in the flesh.—This seems better than supposing that the special blessedness of the dead of those days consists only in the interval being shorter before their “perfect consummation and bliss.”

that they may rest] The construction probably is, “who die that they may rest”—the sense is, “Yea, they are indeed blessed, for the result, and the providential end, of their dying is, to bring them to rest.”

and their works] Read, for their works.

do follow them] More accurately, follow with them: there is therefore hardly any resemblance to 1 Timothy 5:24-25. The meaning of the passage is much the same as 1 Thessalonians 4:15—we are not to think of the holy dead as if they missed (and as if the dead of the last days only just missed) the glories of the Lord’s coming: for they and their good works are kept by Him safe against that day, ready to share in its glories.Revelation 14:13.[163] Ἀπάρτι, λέγει τὸ Πνεῦμα) That voice which said, Write, Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord, that they may rest, etc., was uttered by one of the inhabitants of heaven, with whose person and condition it particularly agrees to call Jesus Lord. The Spirit Himself, as it were by a parenthesis, interrupts that voice, and at once approves and amplifies it, by the word ἀπάρτι, from now; just as after the words, Write, Blessed, there follows, in ch. Revelation 19:9, an asseveration. From now, that is, they are blessed, saith the Spirit. From now, from this very point of time, when this voice speaks in the series of prophecy. A saying of the Spirit occurs also, ch. Revelation 22:17, Revelation 2:7, etc. Moreover the Spirit speaks in the saints, especially those who are afflicted, 1 Peter 4:14; and seeking their home, 2 Corinthians 5:5. Ἵνα depends upon the word ΜΑΚΆΡΙΟΙ, as ch. Revelation 16:15, Revelation 22:14. ΝΑῚ[164] appears first to have occurred in the margin, as in ch. Revelation 22:20, the second ΝΑΊ: whence some have made it ΝΑῚ ΛΈΓΕΙ, others, ΛΈΓΕΙ ΝΑΊ. The sense is plain without this word.[165] The Latin did not contain this reading, but expressed it in a twofold way, ἀπʼ ἄρτι, a modo jam, as in Galatians 1:6, sic tam. [Comp. App. Crit. Ed. II. P. IV. N. IX. § cxvi. cxviii.] —ἵνα ἀναπαύσωνται) A future, as ἽΝΑ ἜΣΤΑΙ, ch. Revelation 22:14.

[163] ἀποθνήσκοντες, dying) either by a violent or a natural death.—V. g.

[164] B has ἀπʼ ἄρτι λέγει ναί; Vulg. “A modo jam.” The other oldest authorities have ἄπʼ ἄρτι. ναὶ, λέγει.—E.

[165] But still the margin of Ed. 2 fixes a higher value upon it than the larger Edition.—E. B.Verse 13. - And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me. It seems most natural to suppose that the voice is that of the angel who directs the visions of St. John (cf. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 4:1; Revelation 19:9, 10), but there is no certainty in the matter. Omit "unto me." with א, A, B, C, P, and others. Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth. "Henceforth" should probably stand thus, and not in connection with the following sentence. We have just had mentioned the necessity for patience on the part of the saints; here we have an encouragement and incentive to that patience, inasmuch as they who die in the Lord are henceforward blessed. In what their blessedness consists, the next sentence slates. The full consummation of their bliss may not occur until after the judgment, but the faithful have not to wait until then for peace; their conflict is, after all, only for this life, and thus they may well be content to suffer for so short a period (comp. Revelation 6:11). Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them; that they shall rest... for their works, etc. The first part explains the "blessedness" of the previous passage; in this rest consists their blessedness. The last clause, "for their works," etc., explains why the blessedness consists in rest; they have henceforth no need of labours, for the effects of their former works accompany them and permit them now complete rest. Contrast the opposite fate of the wicked, described in ver. 11. St. Paul urges upon Christians the same duty, and proffers the same encouragement: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58). Blessed (μακάριοι)

See on Matthew 5:3.

From henceforth (ἀπ' ἄρτι)

See on John 13:33. To be joined as in A.V. and Rev., with die in the preceding clause, and not with blessed, nor with the following clause. Not from henceforth saith the Spirit. The meaning is variously explained. Some, from the beginning of the Christian age and onward to the end; others, from the moment of death, connecting henceforth with blessed; others from the time when the harvest of the earth is about to be reaped. Sophocles says: "Show all religious reverence to the gods, for all other things Father Zeus counts secondary; for the reward of piety follows men in death. Whether they live or die it passeth not away" ("Philoctetes," 1441-1444).

That they may rest (ἵνα ἀναπαύσωνται)

See on Matthew 11:28. The ἵνα that gives the ground of the blessed.

Labors (κόπων)

From κόπων to strike. Hence to beat the breast in grief. Κόπος is, therefore, primarily, a smiting as a sign of sorrow, and then sorrow itself. As labor, it is labor which involves weariness and sorrow.

Follow them (ἀκολουθεῖ μετ' αὐτῶν)

Rather, accompany. Rev., follow with them. Compare Matthew 4:25; Mark 3:7, etc. See on John 1:43.

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