Incentives to Fear God and Give Him Glory – Part 2 | Revelation 14:12-13 | Dr. David Harrell
Incentives to Fear God and Give Him Glory – Part 2
Dr. David Harrell | Bio
September, 13 2009
Incentives to Fear God and Give Him Glory – Part 2
Each transcript is a rough approximation of the message preached and may occasionally misstate certain portions of the sermon and even misspell certain words. It should in no way be considered an edited document ready for print. Moreover, as in any transcription of the spoken word, the full intention and passion of the speaker cannot be fully captured and will in no way reflect the same style of a written document.
I invite you to take your Bible and turn to the book of Revelation chapter 14. Since I think it was last January, we have been making our way through the Apokalypsis Iesou Christou, the unveiling of Jesus Christ, the words of our Lord regarding the consummation of human history and his glorious return to earth to establish his millennial kingdom, at the end of which will be the eternal state. Some wonderful, wonderful truths.
And we come this morning to the second in a two part series that I began last week regarding incentives to fear God and give him glory. Last week we looked at the first three of four incentives and this morning we will look at the final one.
Let me read the text this morning beginning in verse 12 of Revelation 14.
Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
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."1
May I encourage you this morning, beloved, that the Lord really wants us to understand this book? He didn’t put it in there because he had nothing else to do. He put it in there for a reason. And it is interesting to note that this parentheses that we have come to in chapters 12 to 14 occurs in the middle of the Lord’s Revelation of the book that he has given to us and also, keep this in mind, in the middle of the chronology of the seven years of tribulation, just after the sounding of the seventh trumpet. So you have this interlude, this parentheses right in the middle of the book, right in the middle of the chronology of Daniel’s 70th week, the coming time of tribulation upon the earth. And in the middle here he gives us this parentheses.
And I just marvel at this, to think that our omniscient teacher is so concerned that we understand these events in their proper sequence that he gives us this little interlude. Of course, he tells us in Revelation one and verse three, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”2
By implication, if you do not read, if you do not hear, if you do not heed, you are going to rob yourself of some of God’s intended blessing. I certainly don’t want to do that nor do you, I hope.
Now, bear in mind that the details of the final judgments will resume in chapter 15 that will lead up to the Lord’s arrival. But in chapters 12 and 13 the Lord recapitulates the events of chapters six through 11.
You will recall in chapter 12 there is a description of the career of Satan. And then in chapter 13 we have the unveiling of the career of the coming antichrist and his false prophet. And beginning in Revelation 14 and verse six through verse 13 where we are at today, the Lord reveals to us four announcements that will be made during the last half of the tribulation. And each of these proclamations give incentives to believers to stay the course and to remain faithful to the Lamb come what may as they excitedly await the Lord’s return.
I believe that by now the Church has been translated into heaven. We have been raptured. We have been snatched away. This now pertains to Daniel’s 70th week, the judgments that, once again, God resumes on behalf of his covenant people Israel. There will be many Gentiles that will be saved during this time, but certainly Israel as a nation, the remnant that is left will be saved and enter into the Promised and long anticipated kingdom. But these announcements also give warning to unbelievers that will be exist during this time, those who reject the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ and worship the beast.
Now, by way of review this is very important for you to keep in mind here. Last week we examined, as I say, the first three of those four angelic announcements. The angel is preaching, flying in mid heaven. We see three of these, each one giving incentive to fear God and give him glory because of, number one, the eternal gospel. We have the eternal gospel, that is what he preaches, the exceedingly good news that God who is the Creator and the sustainer and the consummator of all things has made provision for sinful man to be reconciled to a holy God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And because of that and that alone we need to fear God and give him glory.
But there was a second incentive that is announced and that is the fall of Babylon. You will recall that that is a reference to the coming religious, political and economic empire ruled by Satan and his stooge, the antichrist. To know that all of this political world will eventually fall, all of these governments, all of them will be destroyed becomes yet a second reason to fear God and give him glory.
Might I pause for just a moment? May I remind you folks of something? Don’t place your faith in government. Don’t place your faith in politicians. It is amazing to me all of the time and resources, even Christian people put into politics trying to somehow Christianize America. You must remember, dear friends, we are citizens of another kingdom. And to somehow moralize America is only going to produce hypocrisy. These people need the transforming power of the gospel. They need to be saved. That is our commission. So to try to moralize our country and vote in enough people that are going to be Christian so that we can turn this thing around is utter foolishness. All you are doing is rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic.
So, beloved, we need to preach the gospel. And as we look at the coming fall of Babylon we see, again, that all of these things that are going to merge into that monolithic empire of the antichrist are all going to fall apart, and the Lord will come. Another reason to fear God and give him glory.
But the third incentive that we studied has to do with the torment that awaits the beast worshippers, that which was proclaimed by the third angel. And let me reads this to you in verse nine.
And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.3
Now this leads us to where we are at today, the fourth announcement. This is a fourth—and I might add—very positive incentive to fear God and to give him glory. That has to do with the blessings that await the Lamb worshippers that we have just read a minute ago in verses 12 and 13.
Now, keep in mind, put yourself in the tribulation period that is coming. This message will be crucial for saints to hear as they contemplate the increased persecution that will be poured out upon them, as they contemplate in many cases their own martyrdom, as they endure the wrath of Satan.
Bear in mind again that by now the dragon has been banished from heaven as we read in chapter 12 and verse nine. This is now “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” the worst period in the history of God’s covenant people Israel, a period of unprecedented persecution for them and for all who worship the Lamb. And by the now the Lord Jesus Christ is blasphemed and hated in ways that are utterly inconceivable. You think it is bad now, it will be far worse then.
Now there are three important themes that I believe emerge from this stunning pronouncement of blessing that awaits the Lamb worshippers. They are, number one, the perseverance of the genuine faith; secondly, the promise of future blessing and, thirdly, the perpetual reward of righteous deeds.
Now, beloved, these astounding truths should stir the heart of every saint and cause us all to fear God and give him glory. And, again, these will be profound words of encouragement and promise to those who are living in that day. And, I might also add, it is a welcomed respite from the previous narrative of God’s judgment that we have studied in the past, that judgment upon the beast worshippers and all the unbelieving world.
Now, notice, first, John’s inspired Word of encouragement that really distinguishes those who will remain loyal to the Lamb, versus those who will choose to be loyal to the beast and, consequently, be made to drink of the wine of the wrath of God.
In verse 12, “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”4
Now, here we are reminded of a most precious and profound doctrinal truth, one that is rooted in a biblical understanding of the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, namely, number one, the perseverance of genuine saving faith. Sometimes this is called the doctrine of eternal security.
He says, “Here is the perseverance of the saints,”5 hupomone in the original language. It means to patiently endure. No other group in redemptive history, beloved, will ever experience the level of persecution as will these dear people during the time of tribulation. Yet, despite their suffering, they persevere.
Beloved, please understand. Like all of salvation, this is a work of God. This is not a work of man. This is the glorious promise of God that genuine saving faith will persevere. Our salvation is eternally secure. You must bear in mind that the same Spirit that caused us to be born again unto eternal life secures our eternal salvation.
In Ephesians 1:13 we read, “You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.”6 In chapter four verse 30 we read that the Holy Spirit is the one “by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”7 To say otherwise would imply that the Spirit’s work of sealing is insufficient.
We persevere, beloved, because our salvation is part of God’s sovereign plan that was decreed in eternity past. You will remember that the Lord said in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”8
Scripture teaches that we persevere because of the intercessory ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of every believer. For example in Hebrews seven verse 25 we read, “He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”9
Beloved, to say, as some unfortunately do, that we can lose our salvation would imply that the Lord’s intercessory work is deficient and ineffective. I am not willing to say that.
A believer will persevere as well because of the faithfulness of God to his Word who assures us of our salvation. In 1 Thessalonians 5:24 we read, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. He also will bring it to pass.”10 Amazing.
Again, bear in mind according to Ephesians 1:4 we are told that he chose us in eternity past. That is when he set all of this into motion and in verse five we learn that we have been predestined to the status of sonship in Christ. So this is all a work of grace. Beloved, it is the power of God that will accomplish his purposes in our salvation.
We have been, according to 1 Peter 1 and verse three:
Born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for [us].11
And he goes on to add—and I love this— we are “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last [day].”12
I ask. Are you not united to Christ? Are you not united with Christ through your faith, therefore making you secure with respect to your inheritance even as the Lord Jesus is secure? For this reason the apostle Paul said in Colossians three and verse three, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”13
Beloved, genuine, saving faith never fails and that is what we see here in this text. God secures and guarantees the final salvation of all true believers and he will cause them to persevere in his grace. Our security is the result of the fact that it is God who is the author of salvation. 1 John verse three we read that “no one who is born of God practices sin because his seed abides in him and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians one and verse eight, he shall, “confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”14 Philippians 1:6. “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”15
Beloved, never forget this. There was absolutely nothing that you did to save yourself. So why would you assume that it is going to be up to you to stay saved? I have to confess, dear friends, if I could lose my salvation, I would. I have no doubt. So I rejoice in the words of our Lord in John 6:39 where he said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”16
And I love Psalm 37 verse 23:
The steps of a man are established by the LORD; And He delights in his way. When [not if, but when] he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; [why?] Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.17
And in verse 28 we read that the Lord, quote, “does not forsake His godly ones; They are preserved forever.”18 What did Paul say in Romans eight? There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.
And people will ask, “Well, but what about those who apostatize, those who renounce their faith? Well, the answer is simple. They were never born again. Theirs was a false profession. 1 John 2:19. “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.”19 Despite their profession, Matthew seven, the Lord says that not everybody that calls me Lord is going to enter the kingdom. In fact, most people will deceive themselves into believing that they know Christ when, in fact, they do not.
“Well, but what about those who professed Christ and then later just kind of fell away?” Well, Jesus explained this in his parable of the soils. These are the ones represented by the rocky soil. You will recall in Mark four verse 16 where the Lord says:
These are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.20
Dear Christian, we can rejoice as Jude tells us in verse 21. We are “waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” And in verse 24 he says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy...”21
So we come back to this wonderful encouragement in verse 12 where the Lord speaks through his apostle and says, “Here is the perseverance [the patient endurance] of the saints.”22
So bear in mind, not even the prospect of martyrdom will cause them to renounce their faith. And on what basis can we know that a person is genuinely born again? What validates genuine saving faith that will persevere come what may? Well, we see that here at the end of verse 12. They will be, “Saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”23
Beloved, true believers love the Word and live the Word regardless of consequences. It is as simple as that. They will refuse to wear the mark of the beast during this time. They will prefer death before they would be disloyal to the Lord Jesus. And notice their obedience will manifest itself in their faith in Jesus.
Last October when I was in Siberia with my dear Russian friends and pastors I learned some about the tactics of the Communists that were used in persecuting Christians. And even since that time I have heard even from some who are part of our church who had family in Russia who experienced these same tactics. And they told me that one of the things that they would commonly do would be to substitute the name of a Christian person, usually the father of a family, the husband. They would substitute that name on a file, on a dossier of either a fictitious or a real criminal and they would bring that file into that family and bring the family around and have that family sit while the father reads his name on a file that had nothing to do with him. And the word would basically be “either you renounce Christ or this is what is going to court and you will be executed.”
We don’t know how the enemy will work in the coming days of tribulation, but, beloved, it would certainly be similar to that. Can you imagine, men, reading that and having your family hear that? And now you have got a choice. Are you going to die for Christ and leave your family or are you going to renounce Christ?
Stories abound like this of those who persevered. Periodically I like to read from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It reminds me of the true cost of discipleship. You know, it is easy to lose that in our culture where it really doesn’t cost you much to be a Christian even though it is mounting. But when I read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs I am reminded of that true cost and yet also the infinite value of following Christ.
Let me give you an example so that we can understand the depth of the types of things our brethren will endure during the time of the tribulation and yet even in the midst of this, they, by God’s grace, will persevere.
On the 16th of October 1555 two godly and learned pastors, Dr. Nicholas Ridley, bishop of London and Mr. Hugh Latimer, the bishop of Worcester were burnt in one fire at Oxford. I have been to the very place where this occurred. Their crime? They opposed the many heresies of the Roman Catholic Church, especially the heresy of the Catholic mass which was described as, quote, “manifold superstitions and trifling fooleries,” end quote.
Upon his sentencing pastor Ridley gave the following sharp reproof unto the papists and especially to the higher house of parliament. Here is what he said, and I quote, “As you have banqueted and lain by the whore in the fornication of her whorish dispensations, pardons, idolatry and such like abominations, so shall ye drink with her, expect ye repent betimes of the cup of the Lord’s indignation and everlasting wrath which is prepared for the beast, his false prophets and all their partakers. For he that is partner with them in their plagues and, in the latter days, shall be thrown with them into the burning lake, thus fare ye fell, my lords all. I pray God give you understanding of his blessed will and pleasure and make you to believe and embrace the truth,” end quote.
In the last paragraph of a very lengthy farewell to his family and fellow believers he said this, and I quote, “Fare well, dear brethren, fare well. Let us comfort our hearts in all troubles and in death with God’s Word. For heaven and earth shall perish, but the Word of the Lord endureth forever. Fare well, Jesus Christ’s dearly beloved spouse, here wandering in this world in a strange land encompassed about with deadly enemies who seek thy destruction. Fare well, fare well, to you oh ye the whole universal congregation of the chosen of God here living upon earth, the true church militant of Christ, the true mystical body of Christ, the very household and family of God and the sacred temple of the Holy Spirit. Fare well. Fare well, oh, thou little flock of the high heavenly pastures of Christ. For to you it hath please the heavenly Father to be an everlasting and eternal kingdom. Fare well, thou spiritual house of God, thou holy and royal priesthood, thou chosen generation, thou holy nation, thou one spouse. Fare well. Fare well,” end quote.
Beloved, we can thank the Lord that he has secured us. We can praise him for his securing work in our lives that will cause even us to persevere in his grace come what may.
There is yet a second theme that emerges from this stunning pronouncement of blessing that awaits the Lamb worshippers who fear God and give him glory. Not only because of the perseverance of their faith, but, secondly, the promise of future blessing. Notice in verse 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.’”24
Now here God himself speaks to John and commands him to express his deep concerns for those who will be martyred for their loyalty to Christ, victims of the beast, those who are, as we read here, the dead who die in the Lord. These are the ones that are described, as well, in chapter 12 verse 11, the ones that “did not love their life even to death.”25
I might also add that this is the second of seven Beatitudes in Revelation, the blessing here. “Blessed” means happy or fortunate. It refers to spiritual joy that one has in the Lord regardless of circumstances. Biblically it speaks of the internal experience of fulfillment and peace and satisfaction and contentment regardless of what is happening in life. And, indeed, all the tribulation saints that will experience the cruel and violent consequences of the antichrist simply because of their love for Christ will find death to be a welcomed relief and the bliss of heaven, the ultimate blessing.
Now, bear in mind. All of us who are in Christ are blessed. However, the experience of joy and serenity and contentment available to us from Christ will be something that, frankly, we won’t experience unless we are obedient to him.
Let me digress for a moment. If you are here today or within the sound of my voice and you are unhappy, I would encourage you to measure your life against some of the Old Testament descriptions of the blessed, attitudes and actions that lead to blessing. Of course we know that happiness begins with trusting God for salvation. In Psalm two verse 12 we read, “How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”26 referring to the Lord Jesus, God’s Son.
In Psalm 32 verse one:
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!27
Now, might I add here that neither the objective reality nor the subjective experience of divine blessing will ever exist within a person apart from salvation.
Now, some might say, “Pastor, I know I am saved, but I confess, I am a very unhappy person.” Well, very often if you are kind of sour and sullen, often there is a doctrinal issue here as well as an obedience issue. You either do not understand the glorious blessings that are yours in the Word of God and or you are not living obedient to the Word.
For example in Psalm one verse one we read, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!”28
But his delight is in television.
But his delight is in wasting countless hours texting your friends concerning idiotic frivolities.
But his delight is in his hobbies.
But his delight is in entertainment.
But his delight is in his career.
And on and on it goes.
No, the blessed man will have his delight, the text says, “in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.”29 That is the Word of God.
Psalm 34:8. “O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”30
Psalm 40 verse four. “How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.”31
Psalm 41 verse one. “How blessed is he who considers the helpless; The LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble.”32
And it can go on and on.
Psalm 106 verse three. “How blessed are those who keep justice, Who practice righteousness at all times!”33
Dear friend, if you are an unhappy saint you need to measure your life against the Word of God. Psalm 112 verse one. “How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments.”34 I love that.
Do you fear the Lord? Do you greatly delight in his commandments? Do you love one another? Do you love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength? Do you forgive one another?
The Word says that we are not to let any unwholesome word ever come out of our mouth. We are told not to forsake the assembling together of the saints. Pray without ceasing. There are so many commands. Do you love those commands?
Let me get a little bit more personal. We are commanded to be good stewards of what God has given us, to worship the Lord through financial giving. I am aware that there are those within our church who virtually give nothing ever. I assure you, you are unhappy because you are not living consistently with what God has called you to do. You are not practicing righteousness at all times. We are told in the Word of God that we are to give as God has purposed in our heart. If it is only 25 cents, give it. We are commanded to give regularly, joyfully, sacrificially, expectantly as an act of worship. Yet many Christians spend everything on themselves and give him nothing.
And, beloved, please hear me. That is symptomatic of much deeper spiritual issues. Instead of delighting in the Lord’s commandments, you are disregarding them and disobeying him. Wherever this is true, your joy, your happiness, your contentment will be directly linked to circumstances in life. If things are going good, you are happy and you feel, “oh, isn’t it great, the Lord is blessing me.” All of the sudden things go bad and you are down for the count.
Well, there are many other examples of the consequences of disobedience, but, beloved, please hear me. Take inventory. The blessed man greatly delights in the Lord’s commandments. He does not disregard them. He does not disobey them, because to do so is to forfeit blessing. So take inventory. Where am I dishonoring the Lord in my life?
Psalm 119:2. “How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all their heart.”35
In the New Testament, in Matthew five Jesus defined those who were blessed as those who were poor in Spirit, who mourn over their sin, who are meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Is that you? This is the description of a believer. I hope it is so. Those who are merciful, pure in heart, peace makers, those who are persecuted because of righteousness.
These are the marks of genuine saving faith. But also bear in mind that even in the New Testament the concept of blessing that is summed up by the Greek term makarios is really a divine paradox. It is an amazing thing because what it really is, is an inner experience of the riches of the kingdom of God amidst the external trials of this world. It is an amazing thing.
When I was in Kenya a few years ago and as I continue to interact with the pastors I was able to train there and as we continue to support some of them, I will never forget the first time I entered the classroom in that seminary and I saw these pastors sitting there. They had nothing. A couple of them were shivering in the back corner with Malaria their fever was so high. And yet they had a huge smile on their face, absolutely astounding.
I noticed that a number of them did not have pens that worked very well and I had put a whole bag of pens in one of those little sandwich bags thinking that I might need some extras. I started handing out pens. You would have thought it was Christmas.
I began to realize that many of them were hungry. I went and bought some candy bars, cost us virtually nothing. To them it was an amazing treat. I had men coming up and hugging me for a candy bar. I never heard any complaints. I never heard and murmuring, any whining. Some of these men had traveled as much as a week on foot and on bicycle and hitchhiking to get there. Absolutely astounding. They were not sour nor were they sullen like so many depressed Americans. Why? Because their trust was exclusively in the Lord and his provision and they were rejoicing in what mattered the most.
What a paradox. The blessings of inner joy, the inner experience of the riches of the kingdom, even though the world is very, very painful. 1 Peter three the apostle says this in verse 14 that, “Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.”36 And he went on to say in chapter four verse 14, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”37
Oh, dear friends, what a marvellous promise. To be sure, this will be the experience of those tribulation saints. However, it is important to understand. While all saints are blessed when they die with the ineffable riches of the glories of the kingdom of God, the emphasis here in Revelation 14 and verse 13 is on the particular blessings that will await those who suffer the extreme persecution during this time of the tribulation, during the last half of Daniel’s 70th week, during this time when Satan will be absolutely apoplectic with rage having been banished from heaven and now confined to earth knowing that his time is short.
Again, put yourself there. You have no job. You have no ability to buy or to sell because you refuse to wear the mark of the beast. You refuse to capitulate to the political correctness of that day, so your family is starving. Your family members are being ripped from you. Some of them are being killed. Every ecosystem of the world will be virtually destroyed by this time because of the seal and the trumpet judgments. It is a horrible time.
So, beloved, this Beatitude will be especially comforting to those who will live during that day, those who—as we read here—“die in the Lord from now on.”
You see, these dear martyrs will be examples of what James tells us in chapter one verse 12. “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”38 Here is the promise of future blessing. So here the Lord speaks through his beloved apostle reminding us of his love and the promises regarding the power of persevering faith and the promise of future blessing. Again, promises that are yet more incentives to fear God and to give him glory.
But look again at verse 13. We read, “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’”39 Then notice, “Yes!” The Greek grammar here indicates that this is a strong affirmation. “‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.’”40 And here we discover a third and final theme of deep encouragement and incentive to fear God and give him glory, that is the perpetual reward of righteous deeds.
It is interesting. This is the first time the Holy Spirit speaks in the apocalypse. He is going to speak again in chapter 22 and verse 17 with respect to the Lord’s appearing when he says, “Come.”
And here we learn of the basis of the blessedness. Notice that, “They may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”41 The word “labors” in the original language is a term that means to work to the point of exhaustion, hard work that produces weariness, that produces fatigue. And, again, these dear saints will witness their spouses and their children, their family members and friends who love Christ being ripped away from them. They will experience martyrdom like the world has never known. Yet they never stop proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God, the only Savior. Nothing silences their confession.
Again, though they are filled with sorrow, though their physical bodies are fatigued and their spirits are wounded, though they are hungry and thirsty and no doubt sick, no doubt untold cruelties will buffet their bodies and their minds, they will persevere in grace. You see, a living faith does not die because it cannot die.
Then, finally, the welcomed relief—and this is the point of the passage—the welcomed relief of death suddenly snatches them away into the instant glories of heaven. In a moment they are absent from the body and they are present with the Lord. One second they are suffering in the toil of living for Christ in a world that is fallen, that hates them and hates the one that they love. And then in a moment they slip through the veil and suddenly they are in the ineffable presence of the God of glory. What a rest. And with this in mind the Spirit says, “Yes... that they may rest from their labors.”42
You see, friends, this is the blessed hope of every saint, but especially the tribulation saint, both Jew and Gentile. And what an incredible contrast. Think of this. Those who worship the Lamb are assured of eternal rest from their labors. But, according to verse 11 those who worship the beast have no rest day or night. Instead, in verse 10, they:
....drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever.43
But notice, finally, what our precious Holy Spirit adds, another fascinating thought. He says, “For their deeds follow with them.”44 The word “deeds” is a reference to the outward expression of the inner man, the character and the conduct of faith and obedience even in the face of torture and death. Beloved, a man can say what he wants to about his spirituality, a man can say what he wants about his love for Christ, a man can make all manner of claims about his steadfastness of faith, but who he is in the face of death is the measure of the man.
Sometimes the most godly people are the least recognized. Sometimes the most ungodly are the most recognized. But their sincerity of heart, their steadfastness of faith will not go unnoticed. Indeed, the virtues and deeds that have made up their character and conduct will go with them into paradise. But we are never separated as a person from what we do. Regardless of who sees our works, God sees them. 1 Timothy 5:25 we read, “Deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.”45
God will see them. That is the point. Hebrews 6:10. “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.”46
Beloved, here is the perpetual reward of righteous deeds. Do you remember in 1 Corinthians three verses 12 through 14 we read how that God will one day test our works to determine if they are gold, silver and precious stones or if they are merely wood, hay and straw. Did we as workmen build with quality materials or worthless ones? Did we serve the Lord and build in the kingdom with the quality materials of selfless sacrifice, selfless ambition, wanting God to receive all the glory, with pure motives to see God exalted in all things? Or with the wood, hay and straw of selfish ambition, of self centered service, of giving God the left overs of our time, of our talent and of our treasure? God will see. God will test. What is valuable will be rewarded. What is not will be burned up.
Oh, dear friend, fear God and give him glory in every area of your life. Please hear that. Live in the light of Christ’s return. He is coming. He is coming soon. Rejoice knowing that by God’s grace you will persevere in your faith come what may. Rejoice as you anticipate the promise of future blessing and rejoice being assured that your labor is not in vain. God sees it all and soon we will all have rest from our labor. I am looking forward to that day knowing that there awaits for us in heaven a perpetual reward for righteous deeds.
Let’s pray together.
Father, we thank you for the truth of your Word. I pray, Lord, that you will nourish our heart with them, that you will cause us to bear the fruits of the Spirit of God in our life. Lord, may we truly fear you and give you glory? And, Lord, I pray especially for those who really know nothing of the Savior we love, who know nothing of the transforming power of the gospel. Oh God, I pray that by your grace you would overwhelm them with the reality of their sinfulness. Lord, may today be the day that they run to the Savior, that they fall on their face in brokenness and humility and cry out to you to save them. Lord, we pray that today will be the day that they will experience the miracle of the new birth. For it is in Jesus’ name that I pray. Amen.
Transcript Explanation: Each transcript is a rough approximation of the message preached and may occasionally misstate certain portions of the sermon and even misspell certain words. It should in no way be considered an edited document ready for print. Moreover, as in any transcription of the spoken word, the full intention and passion of the speaker cannot be fully captured and will in no way reflect the same style of a written document.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. David Harrell. © Olive Tree Resources. Website: olivetreeresources.org
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1 Revelation 14:12-13.
2 Revelation 1:3.
3 Revelation 14:9-11.
4 Revelation 14:12.
6 Ephesians 1:13.
7 Ephesians 4:30.
8 John 6:44.
9 Hebrews 7:25.
10 1 Thessalonians 5:24.
11 1 Peter 1:3.
12 1 Peter 1:5.
13 Colossians 3:3.
14 1 Corinthians 1:8.
15 Philippians 1:6.
16 John 6:39.
17 Psalm 37:23-24.
18 Psalm 37:28.
19 1 John 2:19.
20 Mark 4:16-17.
21 Jude 24.
22 Revelation 14:12.
24 Revelation 14:13.
25 Revelation 12:11.
26 Psalm 2:12.
27 Psalm 32:1-2.
28 Psalm 1:1.
29 Psalm 1:2.
30 Psalm 34:8.
31 Psalm 40:4.
32 Psalm 41:1.
33 Psalm 106:3.
34 Psalm 112:1.
35 Psalm 119:2.
36 1 Peter 3:14.
37 1 Peter 4:14.
38 James 1:12.
39 Revelation 14:13.
43 Revelation 14:10-11.
44 Revelation 14:13.
45 1 Timothy 5:25.
46 Hebrews 6:10.