The blessed ones
Jun 16, 2016
Revelation 14:13 reads,
13 And I heard a 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 deeds follow with them.
The Greek word translated “blessed” is makarios, which refers to a state of blessedness, rather than the act of blessing. It is the same word used in the Beatitudes of those who are “blessed.” Why are these people “blessed” if they “die in the Lord from now on”? What does “now” mean? To what time frame is this referring?
First of all, these “blessed” ones are those “who die in the Lord.” In other words, John was speaking of believers, and no doubt this refers to “the saints” in the previous verse. Yet the time frame, “from now on,” has to do with the time of judgment when the nations “drink of the wine of the wrath of God.” This is the time when the beasts have concluded their contract with God to rule the earth.
During the time that the saints rule the Kingdom, those who are raised in the first resurrection will be immortal, so verse 13 could only refer to them if this refers to the brief interval between the fall of Babylon and that first resurrection. More likely this refers more generally to all believers, otherwise John would have used the term from the previous verse, “Blessed are the saints who die from now on.” But the phrase “the dead who die in the Lord” probably refers more generally to all believers during the thousand years lying ahead.
Conditions During the Thousand Years
In Daniel 2:35 the fall of the beast systems of government comes about from the great stone kingdom that strikes the image on its feet and then grinds it to powder. Then we read,
35 . . . But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
In Daniel’s interpretation in verse 44 we read,
44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.
In other words, this thousand-year Tabernacles Age will be a time where the Kingdom of God will ultimately fill the whole earth. The implication is that this will not all happen immediately, but will take a thousand years to accomplish. It will be done under the ministry of the overcomers who will have the full anointing of the Feast of Tabernacles—that is, the fullness of the Spirit.
The “saints” who reign with Christ during this Age will continually take more and more ground as the Kingdom of God grows and the kingdom of darkness shrinks. When verse 12 says, “Here is the perseverance of the saints,” John uses the term hupomeno, a compound word that is almost impossible to translate into English. Hupo means “under,” and meno means “to abide, to dwell.” Compounded together, it means “to gain more and more ground, as in warfare.” This describes the continual increase of the Kingdom in the Age to come.
At the start of this Age, as the first nations declare Jesus Christ to be their King, those who oppose His rule “shall be cast out into the outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12). Many have supposed that these will not be able to enter the Kingdom, even if they repent, because they usually equate this “outer darkness” with a “hell” from which there is no escape. However, the outer darkness contrasts with the Kingdom of Light, which is described in Revelation 21:23-26,
23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 And the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it. 25 And in the daytime (for there shall be no night there) its gates shall never be closed; 26 and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.
Yet John makes it clear in the next verse that no unbelievers will be able to enter this “city,” that is, the New Jerusalem. In other words, “the nations” will enter as believers seeking the light and knowledge of the law and ways of God. As the Kingdom of Light increases its territory over the earth, many will be converted and gain citizenship in the Kingdom.
Isaiah 2:2, 3, 4 tells us that many nations will come to (prophetic) Zion to learn the laws of God. “All the nations will stream to it,” Isaiah says. So it can hardly be said that once men are cast out of the Kingdom, there will be no further opportunity for salvation. The primary purpose of the growth of the “stone” is to encompass all nations and incorporate all men under the rule of the rightful Heir and King of the earth.
Yet from Revelation 20:7-9 we see that even at the end of the thousand years the Kingdom of God has not filled the entire earth, for when Satan is loosed, he is able “to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth.” From this we understand that there will be unbelievers in the earth virtually until the time of the Great White Throne judgment. Only then, when all are arrested and brought to trial, will every knee bow. Meanwhile, as Revelation 22:15 says,
15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
Though life spans will be greatly increased, there will still be death during that thousand-year period of the Tabernacles Age. Isaiah 65:20 describes it,
20 No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be thought accursed.
This verse describes the blessed state of those “who die in the Lord from now on.” It is only after this thousand-year Age of Tabernacles that death will be abolished (Revelation 20:14). Death will be the last enemy abolished—not the first, as is often taught. There will yet be many “enemies” of Christ (those not yet reconciled to Him) during the Tabernacles Age. These will not be subjected fully to the authority of Christ until the time of the Great White Throne judgment. At that point, they will have no say in the matter, for then Jesus Christ will claim the whole earth by the Law of Creator’s Rights.
One like a Son of Man
After telling us briefly about the “blessed” ones “who die in the Lord from now on,” Revelation 14:14 says,
14 And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head, and a sharp sickle in His hand.
When Jesus was questioned by the high priest as to whether or not He was the Messiah, He said in Matthew 26:64,
64 Jesus said to him, You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.
According to Dr. Bullinger’s notes on Psalm 8:4 in The Companion Bible, the term son of man “relates to dominion in the earth.” He says also Appendix 98, section XVI,
“This title, when used of Christ, always has the Article …. When used of a human being, as in Ezekiel, it never has the Article….”
When John uses this term in Revelation 14:14 above, there is no article (“the”). This is why the NASB renders it “one like a son of man.” So who is this “son of man”? It is the corporate “son,” the body of overcomers manifesting the nature and character of THE Son of Man, Jesus Christ.
It is the arnion, the little lambs that Jesus said to feed in John 21:15—not the Amnos, who is the Lamb taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Yet, keep in mind that this corporate “son” includes both Jesus (the Head) and the sons of God (His Body). In a sense, this is a joint work of the New Creation Man that is called to bring righteousness to the earth.
This “son of man” has a crown on his head. Obviously, Jesus Himself is the highest authority, because He was the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18). But when the sons of God are raised in the first resurrection to join those who are yet alive, they are like the second-born from the dead. They will have the next highest authority. Authority is based upon the order of birth from among the dead.
The Apostle Paul wrote just before his martyrdom to his co-worker in 2 Timothy 4:8,
8 In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Paul was speaking of that son of man with the crown of righteousness in Revelation 14:14. It included Paul, and “also to all who have loved His appearing.”
This is also the same “son of man” who carries “a sharp sickle in his hand.” While the Head of this “son of man” is Christ, the hand is part of the body. The Head directs the hand, but the hand actually carries out the work as the executor of His will. The “sickle” is a prophetic picture, not the literal farm instrument. So what is its meaning?
The Sickle and Harvest Time
Revelation 14:15, 16 says,
15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth; and the earth was reaped.
Reaping is done only when the harvest is ripe. In a personal application, each person is ready for harvest at a different point in his life. But in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:39, He prophesies that “the harvest is the end of the age.” The point of the “harvest” theme is that God has sown good seed into the earth, but that it takes time for that crop to ripen. One should not try to reap a crop before it is ripe. James 5:7, 8 says,
7 Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Those who study timing are better equipped in patience than those who do not. There is, of course, more than one level of timing for people to study. First there is the long-term study of things like the Pentecostal Age and the Tabernacles Age. The verses above refer to such things.
Secondly, there is the short-term timing in one’s own personal life. God may have sown His word in the lives of multitudes, but not all of those seeds have germinated. Yet some ripen every day. This has gone on for generations. In this sense, Jesus said in John 4:35,
35 Do you not say, There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.
In other words, while we must be patient for the greater fulfillment of the harvest at the end of the age, there is even now a work to be done on an individual basis. There are many individuals who are now “ripe” for harvest, even though we must have patience with those yet unripe.
But let us not pit John 4:35 against James 5:7, for then we will have one side arguing against the other, when in reality, both are correct on their own level.
Revelation 14:15, 16 (quoted earlier) is not talking on the individual level. It is a long-term prophecy of “the end of the age” (Matthew 13:39). What sort of reaping is it? That really depends upon which people we want to discuss.
The harvest of the field (i.e., “the world”—Matthew 13:38) begins with the offering of the first fruits (overcomers). When the sons of God are manifested after the first resurrection, the overcomers will be the first fruits of a general harvest. This is why Revelation 14:1-5 speaks of the overcomers being manifested. That event marks the beginning of harvest. Then immediately in verse 6 John speaks of the gospel being preached to all nations. That is the general harvest of the “field.” That preaching brings about the final collapse of “Babylon” in verse 8.
A farmer harvests wheat in order to make bread out of it—not to destroy the crop. Even so, God is a farmer who sends His angels to harvest His field—the world. While it is true that the tares are removed first (Matthew 13:24-30), we ought not to think of the tares as being all non-Christians. Tares are imitation wheat. Tares look like wheat and can only be distinguished toward harvest. At that time, the grains of wheat are heavy and cause the wheat to bow. The tares have a small, black, poisonous seed that is lightweight and can easily be seen at the time of harvest.
The tares are those who claim to be God’s chosen, but who are only imitators, whose doctrines are poisonous. They are the followers of the Old Jerusalem, “the bloody city” (Ezekiel 22:2), rather than those of the New Jerusalem, the true “City of Peace.” They are twins like Jacob and Esau, making it difficult for most people to distinguish between them. The removal of the tares will precede the actual harvest. That time is nearly here.
This is part 112 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones