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The words of Revelation 14.13 have been running through my mind:
"Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth:
yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; for their works follow with them".
I have commented elsewhere on the blessedness of the saints that die in the Lord. What interests me in this verse at the moment are the words, "That they may rest from their labours; for their works follow with them". The A.V. fails to give the force of the Greek preposition Meta. That is corrected in the R.V. In nature and in grace men and their works stand together. This is alike true of those who have wrought good works and those who have wrought evil.
We have only to think of men in this country who have wrought good things, as for instance Watt, who, as he watched the kettle boiling on the hob, conceived the idea of such steam as the kettle gave off being used to drive an engine to work machinery for man's benefit in his labours. Stephenson thought of applying this principle of the use of steam to drive railway engines. Macadam thought of roads being surfaced with small stones, which course is followed by road-makers to this day. We might multiply instances of men and their useful work being linked together.
Even so it will be in the case of God's saints; their works will follow with them. This verse in Revelation 14 has specially to do with saints in that fearful time of tribulation that is coming, and it will be comforting to them that their works will not depart into a pit of forgetfulness, but will rise with them and be seen and will receive their imperishable reward. Let us not be discouraged, for the same principle will apply in our case, for Paul at the end of 1 Corinthians 15, the greatest chapter on resurrection to be found in the Scriptures, says,
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not vain in the Lord" (verse 58).
We now turn to what Daniel writes of those saints in the time of the great tribulation. After referring to the taking away of the continual burnt offering, and the setting up of the abomination that maketh desolate, to which the Lord referred in Matthew 24.15-21, we are told of the flatteries of the king of the north (who is called the beast in Revelation) on the wicked. But in contrast to these, we are told,
"But the people that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that be wise among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall join themselves unto them with flatteries. And some of them that be wise shall fall, to refine them, and to purify, and to make them white, even to the time of the end" (Daniel 11.32-35).
In that time of violent persecution God shall not lack men that shall be both strong and spiritually wise. They will put their spiritual wisdom to good use and will instruct many as to both the times and the truths that are proper to these times of the last week (of years) of Daniel's prophecy (Daniel 9.24-27, particularly verse 27). These wise teachers shall carry on their work knowing that their life is in danger from day to day from sword and fire, and so forth, such as the martyrs suffered at the hands of the Roman Catholics prior to the Reformation. Only the real saints, the godly people, will stand the tribulations of the last days. Then we are told of the reward of the wise, in Daniel 12.3:
"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever".
It is remarkable that no instruction is given to us in the New Testament how marriage should be conducted. The one thing that is necessary is, that a man and woman who were single persons, should from a certain time be publicly regarded as joined together as husband and wife for their lifetime. Nations have enacted laws to which the Christian must pay attention. The simplicity of the account of the marriage of the Lamb is given us in two verses:
"Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints" (Revelation 19.7,8).
No reference is made here to the glory of the Lamb; all that is said about adornment is of the Lamb's wife. It is important to notice that the wife adorns herself for her marriage with her own works, and these works are acts of righteousness. So, I judge, that unrighteous acts have been eliminated. This leads one to the thought, that for all the saints included in the Lamb's wife, the judgement-seat of Christ has taken place (2 Corinthians 5.10), where will be revealed things good and bad. The fire of that judgement "shall prove each man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3.13-15). Two things are important to observe in these verses, (1) that this judgement is not one of punishments, but of receiving a reward or no reward: the fire having proved the good works or destroyed the bad. (2) The works that are tried are those that are built on the foundation that Paul laid, on which that church of God in Corinth was built, which was Jesus Christ.
It seems clear enough that the unrighteous works of saints are removed from the righteous acts of saints, which are compared to fine linen, bright and pure. These form the marriage dress with which the Lamb's wife shall array herself on her marriage day. This of course is not the righteousness of Christ with which every believer is arrayed from the time of his or her new birth. That righteousness is Christ's work. This marriage dress of fine linen is something that all who form part of the Lamb's wife should take thought for, that we do not reach that day with all we have done consumed in the fire of Christ's judgement-seat.
The order of events following the Lord's coming for the Church which is His Body will be, (1) the presenting of the Church to Himself in all the beauty of His own work, according to Ephesians 5.25-27; (2) the judgement-seat of Christ; (3) the marriage of the Lamb; (4) the marriage supper of the Lamb, which I judge takes place on earth. I judge that Israel forms no part of the Lamb's wife.
While the glorious array of the Lamb's wife at her marriage is made up of righteous acts, some others will be rewarded for their words. I refer particularly to what is said in Malachi 3.13-18. Many of the remnant and the descendants of those who returned from Babylon were in a sad condition, as we learn from the ends of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. In Malachi they were saying that it was vain to serve God, and that there was no profit in keeping His charge; they were walking mournfully before the LORD. In such a scene of departure from God, those that feared God spoke one with another: and the LORD hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written for them that feared the LORD and thought upon His name. Then the LORD spoke of the future day of recompense. They would be seen to be His in that day when He made up a peculiar treasure. If we feel that we cannot do much in this ungodly age, we can at least do as the godly did in Malachi's day; we can speak well to one another of the Lord's things and of our love for the Lord Himself.