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…
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. Here is a voice from heaven. Voices from earth are plentiful - they load our air and din our ears. We have voices from the markets and voices from the Parliament, voices from the Church and voices from the college, voices on every subject and in every key. They are contradictory and unsatisfactory; they solve not the deepest problems of the soul. Thank God, there is a voice from heaven - let us listen to it. It comes from infallibility itself; and teaches the most momentous questions of interest and destiny. Notice -
I. HEAVEN'S DESCRIPTION OF THE CHARACTER OF THE SAINTED DEAD. "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord." Their character was that of vital union with Christ. The Scriptures represent this union by a great variety of figure. It is compared to the union of a building with its foundation stone - its existence depends upon it; to that of the branch and the vine - its strength, foliage, fruit, life, of the one depend upon the sap it derives from the other; to that of the spirit and the body - the former being the source of animation, the impulse of activity, and the guide of the movements of the latter. These figures confessedly indicate a union the most close and the most vital. This union may include two things.
1. Their existence in his affections. We live in the hearts of those who love us. Children do thoroughly live in the affections of their loving parents, that they control their plans and inspire their efforts. Because the child lives in the heart of the affectionate parent, the parent lives and labours for his child. In this sense Christ's disciples live in him; they are in his heart; he thinks upon them, he plans for them, he works for them, he causes "all things to work together for good."
2. Their existence in his character. Without figure, we live in the character of those we admire and love. Arnold's most loyal pupils live in his character now. They see their old master in their books, and hear him in their sermons. Christ is the grand Object of their love, and the chief subject of their thought, and to please him is the grand purpose of their life. As loving children identify themselves with all that pertains to their parents, so they feel a vital interest in all that relates to the cause of Christ. This Paul felt. "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." This character implies two things.
(1) A moral change. Men are not born in this state. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." The change is so great that the man must be conscious of it.
(2) A judicial change. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." Their sins are pardoned, their iniquities are forgiven; they "have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Such is the character of the sainted dead as here described. "They die in the Lord."
II. HEAVEN'S DESCRIPTION OF THE CONDITION OF THE SAINTED DEAD. "Blessed are the dead."
1. Their blessedness is in rest from all trying labour. Not rest from work, for work is the condition of blessedness; but from all trying labour, all anxious toil, all wearying, annoying, irritating, fruitless toil.
(1) Rest from all trying labour pertaining to our physical subsistence. By the sweat of our brow here we have to eat bread. Not so yonder.
(2) Rest from all trying labour pertaining to intellectual culture. How much trying labour is there here to train our faculties and to get knowledge! "Much study is a weariness of the flesh." Not so yonder.
(3) Rest from all trying labour pertaining to our spiritual cultivation. Here we have to wrestle hard against our spiritual foes, and often have to cry out in the struggle, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Not so yonder.
(4) Rest from all trying labour to benefit our fellow men. To do good here is a trying work. The ignorance, the callousness, the ingratitude of men whom we seek to help, often distract and pain the heart. Not so yonder. Rest! What a cheering word! It is the couch of the weary traveller; it is the haven for the storm tossed mariner; it is home for the veteran who, after many a battle, has won the victory.
2. Their blessedness is in the influence of their works. "Their works do follow them." No one act, truly done for Christ and in his spirit will be lost. All good works springing from faith in Christ shall follow the worker into the eternal world - follow him in their blessed influence upon himself, in the happy results they have produced in others, and in the gracious acknowledgment of God. The moment we appear on the other side, we shall hear the voice addressing us, "Call the labourers, and give them their hire." We shall then find that the smallest effort is not lost.
3. Their blessedness began immediately after death. "From henceforth, saith the Spirit." From the moment of death the blessedness begins. This stands opposed to two errors.
(1) That there is an obliviousness of soul until the resurrection; and
(2) that there are purgatorial fires which must follow death. "From henceforth." "Not from the waking of the soul into consciousness after the sleep of centuries; not from the extinction of purgatorial fires; but from death. "Today shalt thou be with me;" "Absent from the body, present with the Lord."
4. Their blessedness is vouched by the Spirit of God. "From henceforth, saith the Spirit." Who declares this blessedness? An erring Church? Not even the highest angel. It is the Spirit. He who knows the present and the future; he who hears the last sigh of every saint on earth, and his first note of triumph. The Spirit saith it. Let us believe it with an unquestioning faith. The Spirit saith it. Let us adore him for his revelation. This subject speaks:
1. Comfort to the bereaved. Weep not inordinately for the good that are gone. "Sorrow not as those who are without hope." Your loved ones still live: they "rest from their labours; and their works do follow them."
2. Courage to the faint. You disciples of the Lord, who feel the journey of life to be trying, the battle to be severe, and feel at all times depressed - take heart; yet a little while all your trials will be over. You shall "rest from your labours; and your works shall follow you." "Go thou thy way until the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days."
"I would die my death in Christo;
Breathing in his love, I'm blest;
When this frame to dust returneth,
I shall enter into rest.
In that rest I shall adore him,
In the strains of sacred love,
With the ransomed of all races
Gathered in the heavens above.
Aid me, Lord, to die in Christo.
Oh, in Christo let me die!" (See the 'Biblical Liturgy.') D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: I heard the voice from heaven saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them."