Proclamations of Three Angels - Page 3 (series: Lessons on Revelation)
by John Lowe
11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
Those who worship the beast can expect undying torment from an angry God. John says, “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” Their torment begins on earth. Smoke will boil up as from a great furnace. This is neither spiritual nor symbolic smoke—it is real smoke. They find it impossible to rest, for their days become one long horror of anguish, and their nights become black nightmares of torment. And, after that—eternity, an awful eternity of misery. In Revelation 20:10 the devil is cast into the lake of fire where the Beast and False Prophet are.
12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
13 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 the patience of the saints . . .” All that God’s own can do during this period is to be patient and wait for the coming of Christ. Our Lord said, “But the one who stands firm (endures) to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Why will he endure? He will endure because he has been sealed by the Spirit of God, and he is clothed in the righteousness of Christ. He is able to overcome by the blood of the Lamb. Our Lord said, “ Stand firm, and you will win life” (Luke 21:19). All they can do is wait out the storm, and that is what they will do during the Great Tribulation.
“. . . Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth . . .” Believers would face persecution and death at the hands of the Antichrist and his worldwide power and influence. The phrase “from henceforth” doesn’t mean that some martyrs for the faith would not be blessed; in fact, those already dead are waiting for the final vindication (6:9-11). The phrase probably means that they are blessed from the moment of their death because they immediately go to be with Christ. As persecution increases, such a blessing is just as certain for those who remain faithful. To “die in the Lord” does not necessarily refer to martyrdom; all believers die “in the Lord” and go to heaven to be with Christ. Apparently, many of God’s tribulation saints, both of the 144,000 and of the untold number of Gentiles that will be saved during that time, are going to lay down their lives for Christ. They will be martyred. During the time of the Great Tribulation, it will be better to die than to live. At that time this verse will give comfort and assurance. They will have rest from their sorrows, and the Lord will reward them.
For me, it would be unnatural to want to die, but in the Great Tribulation, it will be a different story. They will just be waiting in patience and in sorrow. If they are martyred it will be a wonderful thing. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” He is going to reward them for their faithfulness to Himself.
In happy contrast
with the doom of those who defy the beast is the destiny of those who defy the beast. Two things are said of these as well. They will be resisted. John says, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. 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.” Except for the hundred and forty-four thousand, those who defy the beast can anticipate death in a thousand fiendish ways, but it is death instantly transformed by God into blessings! “I’ll make you suffer!” screams the beast. “You’ll make us saints!” reply the overcomers. I’ll persecute you to the grave,” roars the beast, “You’ll promote us to glory!” reply the overcomers. “I’ll blast you” snarls the beast. “You’ll bless us!” replied the overcomers. The beast’s rage against these noble martyrs will all be in vain. He will utterly fail at last, but those who stay true to God will be blessed. The ones who keep their eyes on the way of God and the work of Jesus will avoid this torment. Those who want to stay true to the Lord during this time risk almost certain death, and for that reason John is told that those who die for the Lord are blessed. All who have ever died in the Lord are blessed. They are blessed because they are absent from the body of suffering in a world where they are despised, and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), and this latter is far better (Philippians 1:23). It will be better for them to be dead than alive.
Moreover, they will be rewarded. “Yea, say the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” The unbelievers may have done some “good deeds” during their time on earth, but those deeds will not save them. In the end, those good deeds will be destroyed. But God remembers the believer’s good deeds; indeed they are the basis for the rewards he will get (1 Corinthians 3:13-15; Ephesians 6:8). The phrase “Their works do follow them” indicates that our works (good and bad) are like tin cans tied to a dog’s tail; we can’t get away from them. They will follow us to the bema seat of Christ.
All believers who have died since the days of Pentecost had gone to the Paradise “far above all heavens” (see Ephesians 4:7-11). The dead in Christ are with the Lord now and will remain with Him until the Rapture. When the Rapture takes place the bodies will be raised, and the spirit which is with the Lord now will reunite with the body. We who are alive will be changed and will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. (Study 2 Corinthians 5:1-8, Philippians 1:21-24, Luke 16:22.) There is no intermediate state of unconsciousness for the dead. The righteous did go immediately to be with the Lord; the wicked did go immediately into hell.
If you are afraid of death, if it frightens you to think of dying, then dear friend you have not experienced perfect love (1 John 4:18). “Perfect love casteth out fear,” and if you are afraid to meet God, then I am afraid you will spend eternity with “the fearful” (Revelation 21:8). Today is the day of salvation. Now is the accepted time. Bow your head and invite Jesus to come into your heart—and He will!