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©Douglas Beyer 2000

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THE HAPPY DEAD
Revelation 14:13

    "I've often wondered
    Why we mortals so often insist
    On putting question marks
    Where God has put periods,
    And periods where he has written
    Only a comma!
                   (H. Delight Nelson, 1977.
                    Quoted in Decision March, 1981, page 15)

Death is not a period. It is a comma; there is much more to follow! What follows is not just a matter of human speculation, but of divine revelation. John says, "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'" (Revelation 14:23). This beatitude tells us three things about the dead: their joy, their deeds, and their rewards.

THEIR JOY

Today's English Version translates this, "Happy are the dead." Happy is not the adjective we are accustomed to associating with death. I don't attend many happy funerals, do you? But at the funeral of every Christian there is at least one happy person — the deceased. Taking a closer look at their joy may help you discover some special happiness in both this world and the next.

To begin with you must remember that God is in the happiness business. From the very beginning the Devil has always tried to get people to believe that God wants them to be holy and repressed, but that Satan offers them a way to be happy and free (Genesis 3:2,3). He tried to convince Adam and Eve that they would be better off eating the forbidden fruit. After all, he reasoned, God knows that instead of dying they would become like him knowing both good and evil. And he continues to work that same spell on you arguing that you would be better off if you weren't so fastidious in your obedience. All temptation paints a thin veneer of synthetic happiness over what is really profound unhappiness.

God wants you to be truly happy. He knows and wants you to know that the only way that can happen is for you to live life his way.

God made the world and laws by which it operates. Breaking those laws does not bring happiness, but misery. Nevertheless in compassion God has reached down to us through his Son, Jesus, and redeemed us to a far happier and holier life.

Holy, Holy, is what the angels sing.
And I expect to help make 
    the courts of heaven ring.
But when I sing redemption's story, 
     they will fold their wings.
For angels never felt the joy 
     that our salvation brings."

THEIR DEEDS

Note that not all the dead are happy, but only those who "die in the Lord." Being "in the Lord" is defined in the preceding verse as "the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus." Today's English Version has "…who die in the service of the Lord."

That is the happiest kind of life to live. Happy are the living who live in the service of the Lord. Their happiness is no less that the dead who die in the service of the Lord. The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it. The greatest waste of life is to spend it on service to self. When death comes, it is not what we have done for ourselves but what we have done for others that gives us joy.

Stephen Vincent Benet said, "Life is not lost by dying! Life is lost minute by minute, day by day, in all the thousand, small, uncaring ways."

If you are unhappy with your lot in life, build a "service station " on it.

G. Linnaeus Banks said,

    "I live for those who love me,
    For those who know me true,
    For the Heaven that smiles above me,
    And awaits my coming too;
    For the cause that lacks assistance,
    For the wrong that needs resistance,
    For the future in the distance,
    And the good that I can do."

Even the salty Mark Twain advised, "Let us endeavor so to live that when we die even the undertaker will be sorry."

Living in the service of the Lord is the happiest kind of life to live. And dying in the service of the Lord is the happiest kind of death to die.

You have no choice about your eventual death. It is a divine "appointment" (Hebrews 21:4). But you can choose the circumstances of your death — whether it will be in Christ or outside Christ.

For those who are in Christ death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. The only ones weeping at Christian funerals are the loved ones of the deceased; those who are dead in Christ will have their tears wiped away (Revelation 21:4).

"Loved ones will weep o'er my silent face,
Dear ones will clasp me in sad embrace,
Shadows and darkness will fill the place
Five minutes after I die.
Thanks be to Jesus for pardon free,
He paid my debt on Mount Calvary's tree,
Paradise Gates will enfold even me,
Five minutes after I die.

God help you to choose! Your eternal state
Depends on your choice, you dare not wait;
You must choose now; it will be too late
Five minutes after you die."
(author unknown)

THEIR REWARDS

Resting from their laborsThe rewards of those happy dead who die in the service of the Lord are two-fold: "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them."

Resting from their labors doesn't mean heaven will be one long eternal loaf. How utterly dull and boring that would be! But it does mean that they will do without weariness what they have always enjoyed doing most: praising and serving God (See Revelation 22:11). They will be occupied in the kind of work that is restful for two reasons.

No limits!First, they will no longer suffer any physical limitations. Never again will it need to be said, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Besides that, they will find the work restful because it is what they really want to do. Heaven is a place where God's servants are free to serve him day and night forever and ever (Revelation 7:15; 22:3).

Another reward of the dead who die in the service of the Lord is that "their deeds follow them." The old clique, "You can't take it with you is not completely true." Of course you are not going to find a hearse towing a U-Haul trailer. That reminds me of the guy who before he died put all his worldly goods in a sack in the attic. He figured that on the way up he'd snatch them. After he died his wife checked the attic to see it his plan worked. Finding the sack just where he put it, she said, "Shucks. I should have told him to put it in the basement!"

You can't take it with you is true of this world's goods. But you can take it with you if you make the right investments. Jesus said, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal" (Matthew 6:20). Every kind and moral deed, no matter how small, will be preserved in the eternal scheme of things. Your deeds will follow you through death into eternity.

"Only one life; 'twill soon be past.
Only what's done for Christ will last."

If what you are doing with your life doesn't count for Christ, then it just doesn't count!

Life has two ends: birth and death. One end has already been used. Take care of the other end.

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord."

 

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