Blessed are the Dead
The third angel’s message is not just about a warning, it is also about a promise. The promise is to those who hear the three angel’s message, they obey the three angel’s message and they reap the reward promised to them. Those who die after accepting the three angel’s message, are promised a special ‘blessing:’
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. Rev. 14:13.
The Great Time of Trouble
Before Jesus returns, the generation that hears the everlasting gospel, in the form of the three angel’s messages, swollen with Holy Spirit power, by the impetus of the fourth angel (see Rev. 18:1-4), must go through the great time of trouble. This time of trouble is called the ‘great time of trouble’ for a reason. Jesus spoke of the 1260 years of trouble as being so bad, that if it was not shortened, “there should no flesh be saved” (Matt. 24:22). The 1260 years of ‘trouble’ serves as a type for the antitypical time of trouble, that occurs at the end of this world’s history. Just as there were many millions of martyrs during the 1260 years, so too, there will be many martyrs during the great time of trouble.
The great time of trouble is also called Jacob’s trouble. This is because Jacob’s trouble also serves as a type for the future antitype:
For thus saith the Lord; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. Jer. 30:5-7.
The original context of Jacob’s trouble, is of the patriarch Jacob, being threatened with destruction, by his vengeful brother and his four hundred men (see Gen. 32:1-6). The same scenario is envisioned in the time of Jeremiah. Both scenarios (Jacob’s and Jeremiah’s) serve as types for the antitype time of trouble prior to and during the seven last plagues.
As the end of time approaches the persecution of God’s people will grow exponentially and intensify. When the mark of the beast is enforced, many of God’s faithful will actively oppose it, as a result many of these people will lose their lives. It is recorded that these martyrs will participate in the judgement of the wicked, during the 1000 years in heaven:
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Rev. 20:4.
It is to these people, who lose their lives, during the time of trouble, that the promise “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth” applies to. They are ‘blessed’ because they are resurrected in a special resurrection, before the general resurrection of the saved. They are resurrected to acknowledge and celebrate a change in the ministry of Jesus.
The Special Resurrection
What did Jesus mean when He said to Caiaphas and all the others responsible for His crucifixion and death, “I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64).
Jesus is warning Caiaphas and his subordinates, that they will witness His second coming. The apostle John heard the words of Jesus and he later wrote:
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Rev. 1:7.
But how can Caiaphas and all those responsible for the death of Jesus, be alive and able to witness the second coming of Christ, when they have been dead for hundreds of years? The answer must be, that there is a special resurrection, for certain people and for a special purpose. Do we find evidence for a special resurrection in Scripture? Yes, we do!
And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Dan. 12:1, 2.
When Jesus rose from the dead, on resurrection Sunday, there was a special resurrection to commemorate and celebrate the momentous event (see Matt. 27:51-53). In like manner, there will be a special resurrection, when Michael stands up. [Michael is Jesus, see Appendix ‘Who is Michael?’].
The Close of Probation
The standing up of Michael/Jesus is referring to the time when Jesus finishes His High Priestly ministry and changes His role to King (see Rev. 11:15-17). Because His High Priestly role has finished there is no more grace and mercy for mankind. This is a momentous occasion – it is the close of probation for mankind. There have been closures of probation in the past, for nations, cities, or peoples – these have all been local and limited closures. This closure of probation, is universal, for all the world, and it is permanent. There will never ever be a rescinding – there will never ever be another opportunity for salvation – the ‘mystery of God’ is coming to its crescendo moment – the second coming of Christ as King.
What follows the closing of probation is the seven last plagues. This is why the prophecy in Daniel says, “and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.” The people of earth, have filled up their cup of iniquity, now they will have to ‘drink’ the consequences of their actions.
Because the change of Christ’s ministry, and because of what it portents (the close of probation), is such a momentous occasion, in the plan of salvation, there is a special resurrection, for a special reason. Just as there was a special resurrection to commemorate Christ’s change of ministry from the Lamb, to High Priest, in 34AD, there will be a special resurrection to commemorate and celebrate, His change of ministry from High Priest to King of kings and Lord of Lords.
Everlasting Life versus Everlasting Contempt
In the special resurrection there will be two distinct classes of people. One group will be raised to everlasting life and the other to everlasting contempt. Those who are raised to everlasting life, are all those who died during the proclamation of the third angel’s message. Many of them will be those, who refused to accept the mark of the beast, and because of their faithfulness, paid for it with their lives. This is why it is said “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth” – they are resurrected as a reward for their steadfastness and sacrifice. Those who are resurrected to “everlasting contempt” are all those who played a role in the death of Christ. Their reward is to witness, the success of what they worked so hard to prevent.
There are many principles that govern God’s universe. These principles are all discoverable in the Bible. One such principle is, ‘The reap what they sow Principle:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Gal. 6:7-9.
Nowhere is this principle more applicable, than at the end of time. Everyone will reap what they have sown. God is gracious to those who have sown good seed. But to those who have sown evil seed, He will be an all “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). To those who have been the sheep, Jesus will be the Lamb. To those who have been the goats, Jesus will be the Lion.