Blessed Are the Dead Who Die in the Lord
The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us that the saints “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city” (11:16). Please don’t misunderstand: The saints don’t hate this world; this world hates them, just as Jesus said it would (John 15:18-19). The Book of Revelation paints just such a picture—from the ancient Church to the end of time. Indeed, Hebrews has it all starting when Cain (a citizen of this world) murdered his own brother Abel (a citizen of the world to come [11:4]). The Apostle Paul tells us plainly that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). This is why it is critical that in this world we gladly embrace and proudly march under the banner bearing the titles: “Exiles,” “Sojourners,” “Pilgrims,” and “People Just Passing Through,” keeping ourselves unstained by the world while doing as much good in the meantime as we can (1 Peter 1:2; 2:11; James 2:27).
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great,” we read yesterday. And what music to the ears of the saints this is! One day, the world which seeks to destroy us through the idolatry of materialism and immorality will itself be destroyed. The world will finally collapse under its own weight of sin when God’s wrath is ultimately poured out upon it. For God so loved the world, meaning the people in it whom He would save. God has never loved the world under the dominion of sin and death; indeed, He has ever hated it. For it is that world that has tormented and persecuted His chosen ones beginning with Abel and continuing even to our own day, and it is that world He must soon judge—to avenge the spurning of His holy name through idolatry, the desecration of His creation through sin and death, and the abuse of His people through temptation, trial, and ill-treatment. All of this calls for judgment and retribution, and we may rightly expect that the Judge of the earth will execute justice (Genesis 18:25).
But the saints will come marching in: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” The Psalmist said it centuries before: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (116:15). We shall no longer be exiles and pilgrims, for we shall have reached the Eternal City and our Destination. But until then, we must persevere by “keep[ing] the commandments of God and [our] faith in Jesus Christ.” Do not compromise; do not fall away. Eternity is at stake. The flames on earth last but a little while, but the flames of hell forever. Our exile is but a glitch; our homecoming the joyful new normal.