The fourteenth chapter ends with a note of God’s final judgment. Remembering that chapters 12 through 14 are felt to be a bit of an interlude in the middle of the book of Revelation we would do well to rehash some of the themes.
In chapter 12 was seen the fall of Satan from heaven to earth. He made an unsuccessful bid to destroy the Lamb and the mother of the church. Infuriated after that failure he turned his dogs out on the followers of the Lamb.
- Chapter 13 spoke of the Dragon, Beast 1 and Beast 2 all of which represent the assembly of his evil, anti-God, anti-righteousness network on earth.
- Chapter 14 revealed the arrival of the Lamb, the missionary angels and will conclude with the final judgment of God on the anti-righteousness, the anti-God of Satan and man.
With that as background let us turn to the final section of Revelation 14. There John will see 2 harvests. The first will be a harvest of the righteous and the second a harvest of the anti-righteous.
The preface to judgment
Before the visions is prepended the 13th verse: a preface.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13–ESV)
That voice is from heaven
In this preface to judgment note the origin of the prophesy was from heaven. It was not from men and as such came with utmost authority. That it came from heaven is a thing that almost goes without saying. To tell someone the sky is blue is of little use in most contexts. Reminders can be good though and we would do well to take them to heart. A voice of prophecy from heaven carries the greatest authority and will not fail.
A written record
In the early 1970’s the Watergate scandal was breaking. While much of the legal outcome that enmeshed the White House pivoted on obstruction of justice that was not the whole story. The thing which unsettled the American public was that the American President and the men around him had a systematic approach to disrupt their opponents basic campaigning. As the story came together piece by piece many unsavory tactics were revealed: planting protesters at opponent rallies, impersonating members of the opponents organization to cancel events, investigating the personal lives of low level campaigners, writing damaging purposefully erroneous letters on stolen letterhead and releasing them to the public, and then of course bugging the phones and offices of places like the Democratic National Committee offices.
As the masterminds of this system realized the FBI and the press were swirling in around them what did they do? They destroyed written records. That happens all the time. When Germany began to overrun Europe in the mid-20th Century the foreign embassy staffs burned documents. When people are about to get audited they may destroy their financial records. Why? Because the written record bears evidence of what was really going on.
God intended his people to know certain things.
Take this back to Revelation 14:13. What did the voice from heaven preface this part of his proclamation with? “Write this.” Indeed this is much of how the whole book of Revelation started. So even now in the intermission of this book Heaven intends that a written record, a preserved record might be given. “Write this” was not visionary. “Write this” was for you and I, for the believers through the ages both at ease in their faith-lifestyle and those who would be oppressed. God intended his people to know certain things.
Why does God want his people to know certain things? That they might go to them in their time of need. When God’s people are faltering and weak, when they are troubled and burdened God wanted, intended even, his children to go look at what he had put down, preserved of his intentions.
Minds loosed to their own devices will conceive of all sorts of systems. God has published his intentions through the Jewish project. That project culminated at the first Christmas. When the time was right Jesus came. Jesus is the answer to mankind’s deepest need: permanence. Through his teachings and the way he made we can go on after death.
That written lifeline for the oppressed Christian
Death in the Lord is a great thing: a blessing even.
That is what the voice from heaven said to write down. The Sermon on the Mount said blessed are the persecuted, those who suffer for following the ways of God. This, end of time passage, says, blessed are the dead quickly appending to it in the Lord.
Why is there a blessing in being dead? One does not need to speculate for the voice went on and John continued to write. Looking back at verse 13 we see two things: there is rest and there is reward.
The Spirit appended this bit of knowledge. Note that in verse 13 there are two speakers: the voice and the Spirit. The voice just tells a truth of blessing after death. The Holy Spirit elaborated upon it.