Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord…that they may rest from their labours.
We modern Christians seem to be a strange breed in many of our ways. We are so completely satisfied with earthly things and we enjoy our creature comforts so much that we would just rather stay on here for a long, long time!
Probably most of us do not tell God about that kind of desire when we pray. But I have made a practice of writing many of my earnest prayers to God in a little book—a book now well worn. I remind God often of what my prayers have been.
One prayer in the book—and God knows it well by this time—is an honest supplication:
O God, let me die rather than to go on day by day living wrong. I do not want to become a careless, fleshly old man. I want to be right so that I can die right! Lord, I do not want my life to be extended if it would mean that I should cease to live right and fail in my mission to glorify You all of my days!
I would rather go home right now than to live on—if living on was to be a waste of God’s time and my own!
Lord, it’s true that shelter and security are key human pursuits as we strive to provide for ourselves and our families. But help me find a balance between focusing too much on myself and not enough on You and Your plan for this world.
14:13 Believers who die during this period will not miss the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom. Man says, “Blessed are the living.” God says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” And, “Their works follow them.” Everything done for Christ and in His name for others will be richly rewarded—every kindness, sacrificial gift, prayer, tear, word of testimony.
A Heavenly Voice
This passage is read and applied at funerals to comfort those who mourn the loss of a near relative or friend. The words presented in the form of a beatitude and supported by the Spirit’s testimony are precious to God’s people. They convey a message of encouragement and support whenever Christians face death. Indeed, they are designed to remove the fear of death, because Christ having triumphed over death and the grave blesses his followers who die in him.
The world that is hostile toward God and his people is destined to perish; by contrast the saints who die in the Lord are entering eternal bliss. God’s enemies are facing downfall and ultimate destruction (vv. 8–12), while the saints enter eternal rest in the presence of their Lord.
- 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 toils, for their works will follow them.”
John fails to identify the speaker, as is often the case in Revelation. Here is a voice that utters the second beatitude in the Apocalypse out of a list of seven (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). The Lord, an angel, or an anonymous speaker uttered these beatitudes.
The voice tells John to write. It was a command he had heard on earlier occasions when Christ ordered him to write and the Spirit uttered a promise to the churches (2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; see also 1:11, 19; 19:9; 21:5). This beatitude is aimed at the dead, namely, those who die in the Lord. In other words, the phrase the dead can be used to describe unbelievers (20:5), but the qualifier die in the Lord clarifies its meaning. Believers whose eyes are fixed on Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of their faith (Heb. 12:2), do not fear death, while unbelievers are filled with fear of judgment and damnation (Rev. 6:15–17).
What is the significance of the phrase from now on? Should it be interpreted with the first clause “Blessed are the dead” or with the entire sentence? Are only the saints who die a martyr’s death called blessed or are all believers blessed? And when does the now begin?
All the saints who look forward to residing in the heavenly Jerusalem, “whose architect, and builder is God,” are commended (Heb. 11:10). Here John adds the clarifying clause “who die in the Lord” to specify a relationship to Jesus. This relationship was a comfort to the persecuted Christians in Asia Minor in John’s day. Next, it is comfort to all believers who know that Christ welcomes them at the portals of heaven. And these words encourage those Christians who even now or in the future endure the full impact of persecution, injustice, insult, and slander because of Christ’s name (Matt. 5:11–12). In short, the heavenly voice speaks reassuring words not merely to those who die a martyr’s death but to all God’s people. Everyone who in faith looks to Jesus is in the now period.
The Holy Spirit affirms the words spoken by the heavenly voice, for he assures the saints that they will rest from their earthly toils that they performed on behalf of the Lord. God does not forget their works, for in heaven he crowns them with his blessing of grace and glory (Rev. 6:11; Heb. 6:10). The saints will not lose their rewards (1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Tim. 4:8). Thus through the Spirit Jesus tells the persecuted saints in Philadelphia that he will give them a new name, that is, the name of God and the name of the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven (Rev. 3:12). And last, Jesus says that at his return he will reward everyone according to what he or she has done (22:12).
How They Died
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, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” (14:13)
Having lived with perseverance, the Tribulation saints will die with promise. This is the sixth time in Revelation that John heard a voice from heaven (cf. 10:4, 8; 11:12; 12:10; 14:2); he will hear such a voice three more times (18:4; 19:5; 21:3). The voice (probably that of God, not an angel) commanded John to write. Twelve times in Revelation John is told to write (cf. 1:11, 19; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 19:9; 21:5); the apostle was under a divine mandate to record the visions he saw.
The heavenly voice ordered John to write, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” That includes martyrs such as Antipas (2:13), those seen underneath the heavenly altar (6:9–11), and the “great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes … the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9, 14). These martyrs are blessed not only because they lived life to the fullest in obedience and trust, but also because they died in the Lord. They will experience in death the fullest reward, because “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” (Ps. 116:15). With Paul, they will be able to cry out triumphantly, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55).
The voice informed John that not only those already dead, but also those who die from now on are blessed. The martyred believers from that point until the end of the Tribulation will have nothing to fear. Their deaths, too, will be blessed.
The Holy Spirit is quoted directly in Revelation only here and in 22:17. His emphatic “Yes” (the Greek particle nai indicates strong affirmation) shows that He agrees with the heavenly voice that the dead are blessed. As their sustainer and comforter, who loves them and is grieved by their pain, the Holy Spirit longs to see that suffering end. He adds two further reasons for the Tribulation martyrs’ blessedness.
First, the Spirit declares them blessed because they may rest from their labors. Kopos describes hard, difficult, exhausting toil. It can also refer to bother, annoyance, or trouble. Certainly the Tribulation saints will experience the whole gamut of the word’s meanings. They will be filled with deep sorrow as they watch those they love—children, parents, spouses, and friends—suffer torment and death. Their lives will be a hard, difficult, dangerous struggle for survival. Not having the mark of the beast, they will be excluded from society, be unable to buy or sell, and live lives on the run as hunted fugitives. Death, granting rest from all the difficulties and sorrows of their lives, will come as a welcome relief. In stark contrast are the damned, who will know not a moment’s rest throughout all eternity (14:11).
The Holy Spirit also pronounces the Tribulation martyrs blessed because their deeds follow with them. Erga (deeds) refers to their service to the Lord. When these believers go to heaven, the record of their diligent labor will follow along with them. The Bible teaches that God will reward believers in heaven for their earthly service to Him. Hebrews 6:10 reads, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” Facing imminent execution, Paul triumphantly declared, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 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” (2 Tim. 4:7–8). First Corinthians 3:12–14 describes God’s testing of believers’ works. The “gold, silver, [and] precious stones” (v. 12) will be preserved, while the “wood, hay, [and] straw” (v. 12) will be destroyed. What is left will form the basis for believers’ rewards (vv. 13–14).
The dead who have lived in obedience and trust will be blessed with rest and reward after they die. Those who live now for wanton pleasure are dead even while they live (1 Tim. 5:6). Being “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), they face the horror of eternal damnation in hell. The sobering truth is that the choices people make in this life will irreversibly chart the course of their eternal destinies. A Christless eternity of unrelieved torment or the blissful rest and reward of heaven: that is the choice faced by every person.
13 A fourth voice comes from heaven (an angel’s or Christ’s?), pronounces a beatitude, and evokes the Spirit’s response. This is the second beatitude in Revelation (cf. comments at 1:3). Its general import is clear, but how are the words “from now on” to be understood? Do they mean that from the time of the vision’s fulfillment onward (i.e., the judgment of idolaters and the 144,000 with the Lord on Mount Zion), the dead will be blessed in a more complete manner (so Alford)? Or do they refer to the time of John’s writing onward (so Beckwith)? If the latter, why from that time? While either interpretation is grammatically possible, the preceding verse, which implies an exhortation to Christians in John’s day, favors the latter view. John expects the imminent intensification of persecution associated with the beast, and the beatitude indicates that those who remain loyal to Jesus when this occurs will be blessed indeed.
Apart from 22:17, this is the only place in Revelation where the Spirit speaks directly (cf. Ac 13:2; Heb 3:7; 10:15). The beatitude is no doubt intended to emphasize the reality of the martyrs’ future. Their blessedness consists in “rest” from the onslaught of the dragon and his beasts and the assurance that their own toil (kopos, GK 3160; cf. 2:2) for Christ’s name will not be in vain but will be remembered by the Lord himself after their death (Heb 6:10; cf. 1 Ti 5:24–25).
 Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2372). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 413–414). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2000). Revelation 12–22 (pp. 103–105). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 724–725). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.