The Blessing of Death 7-14-19
Revelation 14:12-13-11 Lesson 45
Let’s, if we could, take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 14 and verse 12. The title of our message this morning is a title that might startle you at first but I find it to be biblical. The title of our message this morning is The Blessing of Death. We certainly are going to read about that today in our chapter.
We continue to move through the Book of Revelation, I always like to remind you where we are in the chronology of the book; the seventh trumpet has been sounded with the announcement of a legal transfer. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” [Revelation 11:15] And I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to that. With the jurisdiction of God through His kingdom on the earth reasserts itself and everything that was lost in Eden is restored. But in the meantime Satan is not going to take that lying down and so we have chapters 12-14 in the Book of Revelation which is a description of the Satanic countermove. God has made a move, the kingdom of His Son is coming to the earth but Satan has enjoyed running the world over these many millennia and he’s not about to give up without a fight at least.
So chapters 12-14 is really a description of Satan’s fight against God. Revelation 12 is his attempt to destroy the instrument through which the kingdom will come, the nation of Israel. Chapter 13 is a description of the two people that he will use in his last stand, the two beasts, the antichrist and the false prophet. And by the time you get out of chapter 13 or reach the end of chapter 13 it looks somewhat depressing. It kind of looks like Satan is winning and that’s why chapter 14 is so important because it tells us that Satan is not winning; his days are numbered as is evidenced by or illustrated by six scenes of hope.
These scenes are sort of what we would call in language proleptic, in other words they’re spoken of as if they’re present realities even though they haven’t occurred yet. You know, there are some things in God that are so certain, it’s so certain that they’re going to happen that God can speak of them in a present tense. That’s what we mean by proleptic. And that’s what you have here in chapter 14. The first scene is the 144,000 Jews, God’s chosen instrument during this time period are going to be protected by God. The second scene is God is not at a loss in terms of how to get the gospel out to people because even an angel, verses 6 and 7, is going to fly to and fro during this time period giving people the eternal gospel. Verse 8 is about the destruction of Babylon; Babylon represents the height of the antichrist’s empire. A lot more on that in chapters 17 and 18. But even Babylon in her zenith, even evil at its height is destined to be toppled by God.
The fourth scene of hope is what we kind of started a little bit last time; it’s the doom of the beast worshippers. You kind of get the impression as you look at the unsaved that they’re really getting away with something. They always seem to be prospering, they always seem to be getting ahead and we are reminded, verses 9-12 that they’re not getting ahead at all. [Revelation 14:9-12, “Then 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 on 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; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”  Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”] In fact those who buy into the beast’s system are actually on a route to eternal damnation.
And looking a little bit more carefully at this fourth scene we saw last week, number one, a plea. The plea is this: do not take the mark of the beast because once a person takes the mark of the beast they are consigning themselves to an eternal hell. And then the plea is followed by the punishment, verses 10 and 11. It’s one of the most graphic descriptions you have in the whole Bible about the reality of an eternal hell. If you don’t believe in an eternal hell then there’s really no urgency in getting the gospel out to people. And so we have a description of that punishment in verses 10 & 11.
And then you move into verse 12 where we pick it up today, is the perseverance that those who have not bought into the beast’s system and are seeking to live for God; this is a plea or an exhortation for the perseverance they will need as they go through this very difficult time period. And notice, if you will, verse 4, Revelation 14:4, notice what it says: “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus Christ.” These people are going to need a great deal of perseverance. Why is that? Because they don’t want to go to hell and because they don’t want to go to hell they are saying no to the beast’s system. You might recall the beast’s system; it was described at the end of Revelation 13. Do you remember what it says, verses 16 and 17?
“And he” that’s the beast, “causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead,  and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.” If you want to participate in the world economy during this time period you need to take the mark of the beast. If you take the mark of the beast you’re damning yourself. Well, what about those who do not want to take the mark of the beast? What about those who want to live for God? They’re shut out! Shut out of the economy, shut out of an ability to provide for themselves and their families. And you can see how making a choice of this magnitude is going to require a special word or a special exhortation of patience and encouragement for them. And that word of exhortation and encouragement and patience is right there in verse 12; that’s why it’s there. Revelation 14:12, “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”
And although, as I’ll explain in just a minute, we as the church are not going to be on the earth during this time period. I believe that we have to make similar types of choices today, do we not, as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s interesting to me that the Bible gives you two choices: you can either be judged by God or you can be judged by the world system. If I decide to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ I will find myself judged, I will find myself out of sorts with the world system. But the opposite, of course is true, if I fall in love with the world system I find myself out of sorts with God. I’m either going to be judged by the world or judged by God; I’ve got to be judged by somebody. And we have to make this choice as disciples of Jesus Christ every single day of our lives. There is no middle ground here.
The Book of James, chapter 4 and verse 4 says, “You adulteresses, do you now know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” If you fall in love with the world you make yourself immediately an enemy of God, and yet the present course of this world until Satan is evicted is controlled by Satan himself. And if I make the opposite choice and I decide not to fall in love with the world but I decide to fall in love with Jesus Christ I find myself at odds with the world system. The opposite end of this ledger is given in John 15:18-19. Here is what Jesus said in the Upper Room. He said, “If the world hates you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world the would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”
Would you rather be judged by God or judged by the world? I guess at the end of the day the judgment of God is more severe and I’d rather find myself judged by the world than by God Himself, and so I make a decision every single day of my life to follow the Lord Jesus Christ knowing that there’s always a price to pay as we find ourselves at odds with the world.
Even though this presentation that we just saw by our youth pastor, Gabe Morris, concerning this trip to the art exhibit there in Kentucky, you know you can imagine the derision such an activity would have in the eyes of the secularist. What, you believe in a Noah’s ark? What kind of crazy person are you? You believe that this world was drowned in a global deluge? Don’t you understand science? Don’t you understand modern sophisticated thought? Why are you taking us back to the dark ages. The ridicule of the world would have towards such an idea, and has towards such an idea. And yet it’s a belief in that very foundation of the Bible that’s so necessary to become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. And you can imagine God smiling on our youth group as they were making that tour, and yet the secularist scoffing at the whole thing.
What would you rather have, the smiling of the secularist or the smiling of God? Even that trip itself involved a decision. This is the type of decision that we are all locked into every single day. And yet you can see how people living in the tribulation period itself with the mark of the beast system in place and fully up and running will have to pay the ultimate price as they decide to walk with God they’re find themselves completely locked out of the world system. And so those who are walking in that difficult time are going to need a word of comfort and encouragement.
There’s a parallel passage over in Matthew 24:13, I believe it’s describing virtually the same thing. A parallel passage is a passage in another part of the Bible that speaks to the same issue. It’s dealing with people who are alive and are disciples of Christ during the tribulation period itself, Jesus says, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” End of what? The end of the tribulation period. Saved from what? Saved from the wrath of Satan and the antichrist, protected by Him, by Jesus Christ, protected from them I should say with the physical bodily return of Jesus Christ at the end of the seven year tribulation period. It’s interesting how these passages go together exhorting people in the difficulty of walking with God when they’re having to make that ultimate choice.
You know, we here in the United States we meet in an air conditioned building, we have the comfort of meeting openly under the banner of constitutional rights where the government forces can’t come in and disrupt a service. And we praise the Lord for these freedoms and privileges and liberties that we have today in the United States of America. But I can guarantee you this much, our brothers and sisters all over the world know no similar luxury; they find themselves constantly having to make a decision, am I going to be judged by the world system or judged by God. Even obeying the simple command of evangelism or the simple command of “do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together” is the type of obedience to a command that requires a very high price tag today around the world.
And if things don’t change here in North America we can expect that same level of persecution one day to come to our shores. People ask me all of the time, do you think the church will be persecuted. My answer is the church is persecuted, the church for the last 2,000 years has been persecuted. What you’re really asking me is this bubble or this anomaly that’s existed for the past 200 plus years, called the United States of America, going to continue because what we have today in the United States you have to understand worldwide and historically is an abnormality. It’s an anomaly in history, it’s a bubble, if you will, and what people really want to know is how long is that bubble going to last. I really don’t have an answer.
I personally think it’s just a matter of time before what is happening around the world eventually catches up to what will happen here in the United States and it may come to a point where we have to start making decisions. I mean, how serious are we about this walk of discipleship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We may have to start paying greater and greater prices and those in the tribulation period itself paying this ultimate price. You can’t serve two masters, Jesus said. [“Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”] You’ll either love the one and hate the other, or cling to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon, you can’t walk a line forever that makes both camps happy. It’s an impossibility.
I’m either going to be judged by God or judged by the world. And here in this country we’re just not used to thinking of it in those terms but around the world as people maybe are listening to my voice via social media they know exactly what we’re talking about here from the Word of God because they’re making the choice even to listen as we speak. And by the way, backing up just for a minute, this word of exhortation to those who are deciding to walk with God, you don’t just find it here in this chapter, you don’t just find it there in Matthew 24:13. [Matthew 24:13, “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”
You’ll find if, you’ll recall, in Revelation 13:10, the same exhortation was given back there. Revelation 13:10, it says, “If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” These people here, that we’re talking about prophetically, are going to need an awful lot of encouragement and perseverance and the Lord recognizes them at least three times in the Scripture, according to my count. Once here in our passage, once in Revelation 13:10 and once again in Matthew 24:13. Folks, this type of teaching that I’m doing here is not going to max out coliseums. This is not your best life now, this is not how Jesus can make you rich and wealthy and powerful or whatever it is they’re promoting. This is the walk of discipleship that is expected of every disciple of Christ over the last 2000 years.
But there is some good news in the whole thing. If you look very carefully at verse 12, notice what it says? It says, “Here is the perseverance of the” what? the church… does it say that? It says here is the perseverance of the saints.” Now we have made reference to this many times, that the Book of Revelation has three parts to it. John is told to write down the things that he has seen; number two, the things that are, number three the things that will take place after these things. The things that he has seen is chapter 1, the vision of the glorified Christ at the end of the first century that he personally saw about A.D. 95 on the island of Patmos. Then he says “the things that are,” that’s chapters 2 and 3; we’ve worked very carefully through that section, the seven letters to the seven churches. And then he says, “after these things,” that’s part three, that begins in chapter four and goes to the end of the book. That’s the futuristic section of the book. It’s very, VERY interesting to me that the word “church” ekklesia, is used 19 times in chapters 1, 2 and 3 and suddenly you get to chapter 4 and the word “church” disappears. It starts referring to the earth dwellers that are believers as saints.
I find that very, very interesting. I think I have an answer for it. The church, Revelation 4:1, pre-tribulational rapture, is removed from the earth before these events take place. [Revelation 4:1, “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”] I’m not promising folks in this room an easy life but I am promising, I think, what God Himself has promised that we are not destined unto wrath. We are not appointed unto wrath as the church. In this time period God is pouring out His wrath.
In fact, if you go down to verse 19, which maybe we’ll make it to today (maybe not) but you’ll notice at the end of verse 19 it mentions the wrath of God. [Revelation 19:15, “… He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.”’] Why does it say “the wrath of God? Because the “wrath of God” is being poured out during this time period. How could the church be present when the church has been promised an exemption from divine wrath, 1 Thessalonians 5:9, evidence of the pretribulational rapture. [1Thessalonianss 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”]
Why does it keep saying church, church, church, church in chapters 1-3 and then it starts using the word saints and the word church never even appears again in that third section of the book. A very simple reason, the church has been removed. And people say well, pastor, it does say “saints” here. Aren’t saints the church and isn’t the church the saints? What you have to understand is the word “saints” is a nontechnical word. What does that mean? It’s a word that… a technical word is a word that always means the same thing everywhere it’s used. And so people look at the word “saints” and sometimes the church is called saints and so they think saints equal the church and church equals the saints. And yet that’s not true.
Jesus, when He was on the earth, spoke of a future church; the church didn’t even exist when Jesus made this statement. “I say to you that you are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church.” What tense there is the verb “I will build” in? It’s in the future tense, the church didn’t exist yet when Jesus made that statement. The church wouldn’t come into existence until Acts chapter 2. There is no church, there is no church in the gospels, except a [can’t understand word] in terms of its coming. There is no church in the Old Testament and yet what are Old Testament folks routine called. They’re called saints. Psalm 50:5, “Gather My saints together to Me.” Psalm 149:1, “And His praise in the assembly of the saints.” So does saints always mean church? It couldn’t always mean church because here are some examples where the word “saints” is used of the people of God before the church was ever in existence. And I think the word “saints’ is used here to describe, not the church, John is very good at using the word “church” which he does in chapters 1-3, but he stops using it at the end of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4 through the end of the book.
He throws at us the word “saints” which is a nontechnical word which could mean just the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ after the church is gone. That’s how the word “saints” is used before the church was ever in existence. So the word “saints” in no way, shape or form proves that the church will be here on the earth during the tribulation period itself. I just take some time to explain these because there’s a lot of confusion out there on this.
Another area of confusion is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. What does it say here in verse 12? “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus Christ.” [Revelation 14:12] What is this “perseverance of the saints”? It’s the doctrine of Calvinism. Calvinism is the idea that if you are really one of the elect then you will always, with very few exceptions, persevere or overcome in good works. And if you’re not overcoming in good works then you were never one of the elect. That is a doctrine that has ensnared multiple minds within Christianity. And if you believe that you knowledge what you’re always going to be wondering? Am I one of the elect or not? It’s sort of like picking off petals on the rose, she loves me, she loves me not, today I overcame, I’m saved, tomorrow I didn’t overcome, I’m not saved.
And what is destroyed in the life of the child of God is something that God wants all of us to understand, the assurance of salvation. Not just the fact that you are eternally secure but you can actually know you’re eternally secure. That’s what is destroyed with the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. And yet most Christians, by way of denominational affiliation are taught this doctrine over and over and over again. Calvinism says if you don’t persevere in good works, whatever that means, they never tell you how fast, how much, how quick, then you were never saved to begin with. Arminianism comes along and says if you don’t persevere in good works then God is going to rip the carpet out from under you and you’re going to lose your salvation. Both doctrines have this effect on the mind of the child of God robbing them of their assurance.
Folks, let me tell you something, your good works did not get you in the door to begin with. Amen! And your good works aren’t going to keep you in the door. What’s going to keep you in the door is not your good works but the good works that He did for you. [people say amen] And if you build your life on that promise you’re going to have total assurance of salvation. And I can’t tell you how many spiritual leaders and pastors will never teach this doctrine, the assurance of salvation, because they’re afraid that if you teach this to people you’re going to lose control of people and they’re going to go out and live like the devil Monday through Saturday.
Let me tell you something about the assurance of your salvation. Once you get settled on that what it will do for you is your mind and your heart will be overwhelmed with an attitude of gratitude and you will have natural desire to obey God and serve God and deposit your body unto God, Romans 12:1, as “a living sacrifice.” [Romans 12:1, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”] And you’re doing it for the right reasons, not out of fear that you’re not one of the elect or your salvation is going to be taken away but you do it because you can’t believe what God has done for you.
Isn’t that the story of the Bible? I mean, is the story of the Bible what we do for God? That’s not what the Bible is about at all; it’s about what God has done for man. And once the human mind wraps itself around what has God done for us what’s the reasonable thing to do? To go out and live like the devil? NO, you deposit your body to the Lord as a living sacrifice and you say “now my will be done but thy will be done.” And it changes your whole motivation for service. But the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints reigns supreme in many corners of the church. John Murray said incorrectly, “The crucial test of true faith is endurance to the end, abiding in Christ, and continuance in the Word…He cannot abandon himself to sin; he cannot come under the domination of sin;” folks,
if I can’t come under the domination of sin as a Christian then why does the Bible tell me in Romans 12 to not be overcome by sin? [Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”] Wouldn’t the command be a waste of time. “He cannot abandon himself to sin; he cannot come under the domination of sin, he cannot be guilty of certain kinds of unfaithfulness…Let us appreciate the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and recognize that we may entertain the faith of our security in Christ only as we persevere in faith and holiness to the end.”
Is that where your sense of assurance comes from, the fact that you’re persevering in faith and holiness to the end? What if you have a bad day? What if you have a down time? What if you walk away from the Lord? Your assurance is destroyed if that’s what you believe because doctrine of the perseverance of the saints has to be aggressively challenged. Arthur Pink wrongly says, “Readers, if there is a reserve in your obedience, you are on your way to hell.” [A. W. Pink Practical Christianity, p. 16.] Wow, that’ll put a smile on everybody’s face. [Laughter] What does that mean “reserve in your obedience”? Folks, this was a war for me this morning just to get out of bed. Was I like somehow unsaved during that time period? I mean, that would make my salvation dependent upon what I do. If your salvation depends on what you do, you know what? You’re your own savior; now that’s a depressing thought.
John Piper says this: “No Christian can be sure that he is a true believer. Hence, there is an ongoing need to be dedicated to the Lord and to deny ourselves so that we might make it.” [John Piper and Pastoral Staff, TULIP: What We Believe about the Five Points of Calvinism: Position Paper of the Pastoral Staff (Desiring God Ministries, 1997), 25, cited in Dave Hunt, What Love is This?, 379.]
What is that? That’s salvation by works! That’s not necessarily works on the front end, but it’s works on the back end to keep yourself saved, perseverance of the saints.
John MacArthur, I like some of the things John MacArthur says but we at Sugar Land Bible Church are not promoters of the teachings of John MacArthur. John MacArthur says this, and he’s completely wrong on this subject. By the way, he says this in his book, Saved Without A Doubt, p. 177. I can’t think of a more misnamed book in all of Christianity. He says, “If a person fails to love and obey the Lord through the trials of life,” are you telling me you’ve never had a doubt as you go through the trials of life? “… then there is no evidence that he possesses saving faith. How many people do you know who came to church for a while, had a little trouble in their lives, and left? Although they may have made a profession of faith in Christ, they cannot be identified as those who love Him because their lives are not characterized by enduring obedience.”
I’ve used this quote before of the late R. C. Sproul in front of five thousand people asking everyone to pray for James Boice, a tremendous writer, a tremendous Christian who was dying that night and we have to pray that he dies in the faith because if he doesn’t die in the faith then he wasn’t persevering to the end and maybe James Boice was never saved to begin with.
It says this: [During the first message presented at Ligonier’s Conference in Orlando last June, Dr. R. C. Sproul indicated that Dr. James Boice, a scheduled speaker at the conference, was dying in faith that very night.] Then at the end of the message he asked all 5,000 of us present to pray that Jim dies in faith.” [“This struck me as sad. Here was a great pastor, theologian, teacher, and author. Yet Sproul was not sure that he was regenerate. (In Reformed thought, if a person fails to die in faith, he proved he was never saved in the first place.) I was reminded of R.T. Kendall’s remark that nearly to a man the Puritan divines died doubting whether they were saved and fearing they were going to hell. Dr. Boice died that very night, June 15th.”]
What if Jim is struck by senility towards the end of his life and can’t remember things? Is suddenly his salvation in doubt? Of course not, because through salvation James Boice or anybody else in Christian was never based on what James Boice did to begin with. James Boice’s good works did not get him in the door and so James Boice’s good works don’t keep in the door. It’s based on not your own good works but the good works He did for you 2,000 years ago. That’s what you build your house on and if you won’t build your house on that you’re going to be weighed down your whole life, doubting whether you’re really saved to begin with.
What does the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints come from? It comes from Roman Catholicism. Cardinal John O’Connor of New York says this: “Church teaching” speaking of Roman Catholicism, “is that I don’t know, at any given moment, what my eternal future will be….” I hope you’re not living under this doctrine because you’re living beneath your privileges as a child of God. “Church teaching is that I don’t know, at any given moment, what my eternal future will be…. I can hope, pray, do my very best – but I still don’t know. Pope John II doesn’t absolutely know that he will go to heaven, nor does mother Theresa of Calcutta, unless either has had a special divine revelation.” [quoted in Samuel Howe Verhovek, Cardinal Defends a Jailed Bishop Who Warned Cuomo on Abortion, New York Times, February 1, 1990.]
You know what? Here’s your special divine revelation. Are you ready for this: In John 5:24, the promise that the Lord made you, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My Word and believes Him who sent me has” present tense, “eternal life,” and by the way, if eternal life is eternal life how do you lose eternal life? How can you lose something that’s eternal? “…and does not come into judgment but has passed out of,” now that’s the perfect tense in Greek, one time action ongoing results, “but has passed out of death unto life.” That’s your divine revelation. If you fulfill the condition of believing in Christ, trusting in Him in other words, for your eternity then God has made you a promise… by the way, is God in the fibbing business? Does not the Scripture say it’s impossible for God to what? To lie. [Hebrews 6:17, “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,  so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”]
Here’s the promise, you’ve already passed out of death unto life, perfect tense, and you already HAVE, present tense, eternal life which can never be taken from you. 1 John 5:13 says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God,” anybody here “believe in the name of the Son of God? “… so that you may” what? 90% sure, no, it says, “know that you have eternal life.”
You know, the doctrine of the assurance of salvation to a lot of folks is like the weather report, 80% chance of rain; it’s interesting how these people are wrong 80% of the time anyway. [Laughter] And a lot of people live like that—maybe I’m saved, maybe I’m not! What a tragedy that is! What a tragedy the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is, the emotional duress that it puts people under. You know, Minirth and Meier, two Christian psychologists, I don’t know if I endorse everything Minirth and Meier said and wrote but they have a very interesting article and you ought to look it up and read it. It’s called The Psychological Effects of Lordship Salvation. What does the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, Lordship salvation, what does it to psychologically to the human mind that lives under this? And the psychological fallout, the emotional fallout is not a healthy one.
At a recent conference I was asked a question, what is the biggest issue out there in terms of pastoral ministry? You know what? Based on my experience this is the number one issue because you have Christians under bad doctrine all the time and they don’t know if they’re Christians or not. And they don’t know, should I serve the Lord out of fear or should I serve the Lord out of worship? And isn’t it interesting how the whole thing can get solved simply by stop listening to everybody and listening to what Jesus said in John 5:24. [John 5:24, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My Word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life,”]
You know, I’ve talked to airline pilots and they’ll tell me that when you’re flying an airplane there are times where it seems like the plane is going to crash. In fact, there are times when it seems like the plane is flying upside down. All of your senses are telling you that but you know it’s not going to crash because your eyes are on what? Not your subjective feelings but on the what? The compass which mathematically is always going to tell you the truth. I mean, it really doesn’t matter how you feel if you’ve got mathematical precision through the compass telling you exactly what’s happening. It doesn’t matter what your feelings are.
And beloved, I think it’s time that we start living the Christian life like this. You know, we’re so impacted by our emotions, by our ups, by our downs; we’ve got to start being like a pilot and forget all that stuff and look at the compass which is precise and cannot lie. And your compass of course is God’s Word. It’s based on promises God has made you!
I was so saddened, I was listening to Nancy Reagan, former First Lady of the United States, prior to her death, I believe I have this right, she passed on not too long ago, (if she’s still alive, Nancy, please forgive me). But the question that came up, would she ever see her husband again, Ronald Reagan, in heaven. And I was very interested in her answer as she was being interviewed. And her answer to me was so sad, she said, “Yes, because Billy Graham said so.” She was basing her assurance of salvation for her husband on something Billy Graham said concerning the eternity of Ronald Reagan and seeing him one day. I’m not here to lower Billy Graham’s status at all but my own mother would say that the Billy Graham that the Billy Graham Crusade, but the fact of the matter is there’s a lot higher word out there than Billy Graham. It’s Jesus Christ!
Your assurance of salvation comes from a direct promise, not from your pastor, not from the elder board, not from your church, not from your denomination, not from someone’s literature. It comes from Christ and that’s how you live; you live every single day of your life and as you live that way you can’t believe what God has done for you and you have a desire to give yourself away unto Him, not out of fear but out of belief in His promises.
You say well why are you bringing up all of this stuff now? Because these are the kind of passages that people use and abuse to promote the perseverance of the saints. It is so easy to take Bible passages out of context to make them teach anything you want them to teach. Judas went out and hung himself… go thou and do likewise; what you do, do quickly. Well there we have it, the Bible promotes suicide. NO it doesn’t, I just ripped a bunch of verses out of context to prove a preconceived point. People do this all of the time in the area of theology. And they’ll want to build a doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and they’ll quote this verse here, Revelation 14:12, “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus Christ.” Well there it is in black and white, and they haven’t gone to Sugar Land Bible Church. And they’ve never been exposed to a contextual verse by verse reading of the Book of Revelation so they think that’s what the Bible says when in reality all they’ve been exposed to is an out of context verse.
Folks, do we understand that the devil himself quotes the Bible? The devil himself in Matthew 4 quoted Psalm 91:11-12 and totally mutilated the verse and presented it before Christ as an out of context verse, making it sound like God said something He never said. [Psalm 19:11, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways.  They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone.” ]
And how important it is to go back into the Word of God and understand exactly what the Word of God says. That is the ONLY thing, beloved, that is going to fortify your mind in the age of deception that we find ourselves in today. The “perseverance of the saints,” there is no such doctrine. This is talking about people in the tribulation period who are going to have to endure being cut out of the beast’s system; they’re going to have to endure, “he who endures to the end will be saved.” [Matthew 24:13, “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”] They’re going to have to make it to the end of the 70th week of Daniel so that they might be protected by Jesus Christ Himself. That’s what it’s talking about. It has nothing to do with what Calvinism and Arminianism are presenting today as the perseverance of the saints.
You say well, pastor, if you don’t believe in the perseverance of the saints what do you believe in? Here’s what I believe in. Try this on! I don’t believe in the perseverance of the saints. Do you know what I believe in? I believe in the preservation of the saints where the onus is not on me for the safe keeping of my soul; the onus is on who? From God. Peter, the apostle, taught the preservation of the saints in 1 Peter 1:4-5. [1 Peter 1:4-5, “to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,  who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”]
He says of their inheritance, “reserved in heaven for you.” How do I know I’m going to get to heaven Peter, to experience this inheritance. Peter says I’m glad you asked, 1 Peter 1:5, You “who are protected by the power of God” you want to believe in a doctrine, don’t believe in the perseverance of the saints, believe in the preservation of the saints that God is the one that keeps you. It’s by my works that got me in the door, it’s not my good works that are going to keep me in the door. It’s the power of God that keeps me and protects me.
By the way, when Peter made that statement do you know what was about to happen to those people that he’s writing to there? Something horrific is on the scene called the Neronian persecution where Nero, a mad man, had ascended to the throne, Christians were being thrown in the coliseum to the lion’s den in front of jeering crowds. Nero was about to burn Rome, most of it to the ground, and blame it on the Christians. He actually would take Christians and light them on fire to illuminate his garden parties. That’s what was happening to the body of Christ when Peter made that statement and in that context he tells them that you are protected by the power of God, through faith for a salvation already to be revealed at the last time. Hey, Nero is going to get the upper hand on some of you, but what did Jesus say? None of them, John 10, will ever be snatched from His hand. [John 10:28, “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”]
I mean, what can Satan do? What can Nero do? He can torture you, he can take your life, but he has ABSOLUTELY no authority whatsoever to alter your eternal destiny because that was something that God did. Now if that’s something that I did I’ve got to keep it. You know, if you believe that your good works are going to keep you saved, not only do you believe in the fact that you’re your own Savior but when you think about it, you also actually believe in salvation by works. If it’s me that keeps me saved is that not salvation by works? That goes completely contrary to everything God has promised us that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. And what an exhortation that is in verse 12. [Revelation 14:12, “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”]
And we switch subjects here to a fifth scene of hope, the blessing, and that’s why I’ve entitled this The Blessing of Death, there’s a blessing here pronounced upon the tribulation martyrs. We have the beatitudes, the first part of verse 13, their promised rest, the second part of verse 13, and their promised reward, verse 13. Don’t you think that if your life is on the line you’re going to need comfort and exhortation from the Lord. This is what you have here in chapter 14 and verse 13.
Notice what it says. “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Blessed”” you ought to circle that word in your Bible, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on! ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, so that they may rest from their labors,” look at this, “for their deeds follow with them.”
Notice the first part of it, the beatitude, the adjective “blessed” makarios, it’s the exact same word used in the Sermon on the Mount that we call the Beatitudes where Jesus pronounced how many Beatitudes, anybody know? Eight; that’s why when you go to Israel and you visit the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus most likely gave the Sermon on the Mount, there’s a church there, The Church of the Beatitudes and it’s shaped like an octagon, eight sides. You say why eight sides? Because in Matthew 5 you’re going to find eight beatitudes.
The Book of Revelation does not give you eight beatitudes; it gives you seven. There are seven repetitions of the word makarios or it’s a description of how to be blessed. Now is there anybody here that does not want to be blessed, please put your hand up. The Book of Revelation uses makarios seven, not eight as in the Sermon on the Mount, but seven times.
Number one, there’s a blessing, makarios, on the reader and heeder of the Book of Revelation. We’ve already seen that one way back in chapter on 1.
Number 2, there’s a blessing on the tribulation martyrs that die, right here in our passage.
Number 3, there’s a blessing pronounced upon the spiritually prepared.
Number 4, there’s a blessing on the marriage supper invitees. You want to go to that marriage supper? You’re blessed if you get invited. By the way, I’ve seen the invitation list, your name is on it.
Number 5, there’s a blessing pronounced, makarios, upon those who participate in the first resurrection. Revelation 20:6. [Revelation 20:6, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”] Because if they participate in the resurrection unto life then they won’t participate in the resurrection unto death.
Number 6, there’s a blessing pronounced upon the heeder, reiterating what was said earlier in the Book of Revelation.
Number 7, there’s a blessing pronounced upon the eternal cities, New Jerusalem, their citizens, verse 14. By the way, doesn’t the Apostle Paul say “our citizenship is” where? “in heaven.” Philippians 3:20. [Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;”] Do you believe that? You’re blessed, the Book of Revelation tells us. And what we have in our list of seven is just a second of the seven blessings; most of these we haven’t even looked at or studied yet.
And so what is the blessing to these martyrs shut of the beast’s system during this time period? “I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord from now on.” [Revelation 14:13, “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, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”] If you die you’re blessed.
Now I tell you this folks, I don’t think this way, I mean, isn’t death something we’re to be afraid of? Isn’t death something we don’t even want to think about? I mean, isn’t that why everybody is getting plastic surgery and trying to get younger? [Laughter] Isn’t that why there’s such an emphasis on health and beauty in the culture. We don’t even want to think about death even though we’re all dying.
I saw one celebrity, she came out with something, an ointment, that’s designed to beat plastic surgery. In other words, you put the ointment on, you don’t need plastic surgery anymore because you’re automatically look younger. And she sold out of everything she owned within the first three days of putting it on the internet. I mean, we love that kind of stuff, right? Show me how to escape the curse! The reality of the situation is your Bible says death is, for the Christian, is not necessarily something to be afraid of. It’s actually a promotion when you think about it. Isn’t that why Christ came into the world.
Here are the eight reasons Christ came into the world, one of which is to remove the fear of death. Hebrews 2:15, of Christ and why He came, “to release those who through fear of death who were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Christ came into the world to take those shackles of fear off so death is not something even to be afraid of. I don’t have to live in fear of it anymore, and be in bondage to it any more.
By the way, your glorification is so certain in God that God, at the very end of the chart there, looks at you as if you’re already glorified. Your glorification is on such a fast track that God says oh yeah, it’s already happened. And as I’m looking out at you guys today I don’t think you guys look very glorified to be honest with you. I doubt I look all that glorified either, even though I had to put a tie on. I’m not glorified yet, yet God said I already am glorified. Why is that? Because His promises are that certain, that’s why. That’s what you build your house on as a Christian.
2 Corinthians 5:8, Paul says, “We are of good courage, and I say and prefer” look at this, and “I say, and prefer” look at this, in other words I’d rather have it this way, Paul says, “to be absent from the body and to be at” what? “home with the Lord.” Are you “of good courage” as you look at death? Paul was. In fact, Paul, it’s interesting, he kind of gets mad at God for keeping him here. Philippians1:21-24, Paul says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am hard pressed from both direction, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is much better,  Yet to remain on in the flesh for your sake is necessary.” Paul even seems to get sort of resentful. He says to the Philippians the only reason God keeps me around is for you; in fact, if I had my way I’d rather just check out and die. It’s a completely different perspective on death than we think about in the world system. It’s actually a promotion; it’s actually a home going. He says death is very much better.
So if the tribulation martyrs die they are blessed, one of the seven beatitudes in the Book of Revelation. Why is that? Two things, they both begin with the letter R, rest and reward. Rest and reward ! Rest and reward! Look if you will at the second part of verse 13. “Yes, says the Spirit, so they may” what? “rest from their labors. [Revelation 14:13, “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, “so that they may rest from their labors, [for their deeds follow with them.]”’ What happens when these people die? They’re taken out of this world that’s in a state of bondage.
Do we realize that the world system that we’re living in is anxiously longing for the revealing of the sons of God for the creation was subjected to futility, not unwillingly but because of Him who subjected it in hope. Who would that be? That would be Adam. Verse 22 of Romans 8, “for we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” And you’re telling me that the bestselling book today within modern day Christianity is Your Best Life Now. [Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential by Joel Osteen.]
I mean, how do we get this messed up? How did our thinking get so wrong on this? Because we don’t look at the Bible. What is this world in? It’s in a state of bondage, it’s in a state of corruption. You say well I don’t believe you—well, I’ll prove it to you. Go home today and look at your high school yearbook and compare it to your modern driver’s license picture and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. I mean, even the bodies that we’re in are sitting there and deteriorating as we speak, as that second law of thermodynamics entropy from order to chaos is taking place right now, even as we’re sitting here in an air conditioned building. And you think some ointment cream or something is going to reverse that? [Laughter] I mean, may God help us understand this.
You say well pastor, you believe in diet and exercise, don’t you? Yeah, I do, but you know what that does? That kicks the can down the road a little bit. That maybe postpones the inevitable but the inevitable is still coming. The mortality rate is still 100%. What did God say to Adam? “From dust you are to dust you shall return,” Genesis 3:19. But to die is an escape from that bondage, separated from this body that’s deteriorating in the presence of God Himself with the hope of a body that’s coming that’s glorified. You just got promoted.
Do you think death for the Christian is the end? It’s the beginning. It’s a promotion. This is why He says here, Revelation 14:13, ““Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors,” what labors? Living in a cursed bondage centered world that Christ came into the world to liberate us from. And by the way, those chains are going to come off. You’ll find that in Revelation chapters 20, 21 and 22. Those chains are going to come off but in the meantime we’re subject to these constraints. But we live with hope, we live with courage because of the promises of God.
And then what else follows here, “Blessed are those who die from now on because of rest and” what? “rest and reward.” Rest and reward! What does it say there at the end of verse 13, and with this we’ll close. “For their deeds will follow them.” Well, pastor, how are you going to explain that one, you just went off fifteen minutes ago or three and a half hours ago, whatever it was, against good works, you’re against good works! NO I’m NOT! I’m in favor of good works rightfully understood because you know what good works do for you as a Christian? They don’t save you, they don’t keep you saved, but if you allow the Lord to work in you via good works you know what happens? It adds to your bank account in the next life. It adds to your rewards.
You say well do you really believe that God rewards actions taken for Him in this life? You don’t really believe He rewards that in the next life do you? What does Matthew 5:11-12 say? ““Blessed are you” now we’re talking about the makarios in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” Why?  “Rejoice and be glad,” why? “for your reward in heaven is great; [for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”] I mean, of course God rewards actions taken for Him under His power in this life.
Matthew 10:42, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” You know what Eric [can’t understand name] does for me after every service as I stand up here? And by the way, how do I get out there so fast, a lot of people ask me about this. I do out that door over there. There was not such a high entrance exam to be a pastor of this church that I had to pass through walls. [Laughter] But I go out there and He hands me a bottle of water and I always say well you get a reward for that. So I notice he’s been handing out water for me more frequently. [Laughter]
But even something as trivial as giving out a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name God sees it and He rewards for it in the next life. You say well these are all tribulational saints, are you sure this is true for church age believers? Well, we’ve gone through the five crowns, haven’t we? There’s five crowns that are going to be given or not given. This is not determining salvation but these crowns are given or not given to God’s people at the Bema Seat Judgment following the rapture of the church.
Scripture’s Five Crowns (Revelation 4:10; 3:11, 2 John 8)
Scripture Crown Purpose
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Incorruptible Gaining mastery over the flesh
1 Thessalonians 2:199-20 Rejoicing Soul Winning
James 112; Revelation 2:10 Life Enduring trials
1 Peter 5:2-4 Glory Shepherding God’s people
2 Timothy 4:8 Righteousness Longing for His appearing
There’s the incorruptible crown for the believer that gains mastery over the flesh. There’s where holy living is going to start counting. It doesn’t keep you saved, it doesn’t get you saved but it sure qualifies you for a reward, a crown that doesn’t even get corrupted. There’s the crown of rejoicing for the soul winner and you see all the Scriptures where I’m getting these from. There’s this one, “there’s a crown of life for the Christian that endures trials.” Anybody here going through trials? You go through trials under God’s power, God rewards you for it in the next life. There’s a crown of glory for the one who faithfully shepherds God’s people. And there’s a crown of righteousness for the believer that longs for His appearing. WOW!
So we see there beatitudes, their rest, their reward and I feel like patting myself on the back today because we made it through two whole verses. Parise the Lord. Of course you know all this talk about death and the next life and the gospel, what we teach here is that the gospel is available for all. Everybody is savable but people are not saved until they trust in what Jesus has done for them for their eternity. And that’s more of a condition of the heart; there has to come a time in a person’s life where the Spirit places them under conviction and they trust in what Jesus has done.
And the moment that happens the promise of John 5:24 is applied to your life from heaven. [John 5:24, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My Word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life,”] And so our exhortation to folks here in the building or anybody listening on line as the Spirit convicts them of their need to trust Christ is just to go ahead, right where you are, you don’t have to raise a hand, walk an aisle, join a church, give money, it’s just a matter of privacy between them and the Lord where the Spirit convicts you of your need to do this and you respond by trusting in what Jesus Christ has done. And from that point on you are secure in Christ. You can do that now as I’m speaking. If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.
Shall we pray. Father, we are grateful for today, we’re grateful for Your Word, we’re grateful for these exhortations you give to these folks in the tribulation period. And we’re grateful for the application that these things have to our lives. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen!