what follows you?

And I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Favored are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they can rest from their labors, because their deeds follow them.” (Revelation 14:13 CEB)

What fills your mind when you stop to consider God’s awareness of all that you do? Is it the questions you have? How you rarely think of such? That you try not to think about it?

What grips your heart when you pause and reflect on the fact that someday your life will be assessed by God in light of all that you do? Is it uneasiness? Shame? Fear? Terror?

What wells up in your spirit when you pause over these words of God’s Spirit for yourself: “their deeds follow them?” A sense of regret over things you’ve done? Have left undone? How you wish you could do more?

Now read this passage again slowly and ask yourself exactly what it is the writer, John, intended to convey to us by hearing these words.

“Favored are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they can rest from their labors, because their deeds follow them.” (Revelation 14:13 CEB)

Who is being spoken of? Those who “die in the Lord.” How are we to view their condition? As “favored,” that is, “well off in the eyes of God.” What do they experience? “… rest from their labors …”

Now thus far, to say this is “good” is an understatement, no? Without a doubt! Now ask this passage, and yourself, one more question.
On what basis is it that this text says those who die in the Lord are well off in God’s eyes and experience rest?

Answer: “… because their deeds follow them.”

Clearly John is not holding out to us uneasiness or fear, regret or shame, uncertainties or questions. He is deliberately extending to those who labor in the Lord the great assurance, comfort, confidence, peace, security, and serenity that can, and does, come directly from the Spirit of God.

In other words, what you do matters. It matters for good. It matters here and now. It matters forever. It matters for others. And it matters for you.

Your good, no matter how large or small, is remembered by God. The power of your good work in the name of Christ is not dependent on its remembrance by others or even on your own memory. The good you do simply because you are in the Lord and you let him come out through you, as it were, go with you beyond the grave into God’s presence with you. And our awareness of that reality, made known to us by revelation, is a gift to God to us to encourage and spur us on to never cease doing good.

We will do good and not even realize it. We will do good and forget we even did it. We will do good and others will not even know it, remember it, or care. But God cares and remembers perfectly. God does not forget and will do good to those who live their lives expressive of his goodness, being “in him” and “for him” in life.

In this, let your mind find peace, your heart have rest, your spirit take comfort, and your hands, busyness to do good until the day you die. For what you do always matters.

Father God in heaven, remember me for good and help me to remember you in all things, that I might live well by you in Christ’s name. Amen.

at the center of it all

Today we expect a story to move toward a climax at the end. It is as if the story is a plane taking off and the climax, or end, of the story is when it reaches its highest altitude.

But stories have not always been shaped this way and that’s not the ways travelers view a successful flight, either. You see, many stories in ancient times find their climax not at the end, but in the middle. Something like the way a plane slowly ascends, reaches altitude, and then gradually descends on a trajectory similar to, but the opposite of, takeoff. Such structure is known as chiasm and the Bible is chock full of sentences, paragraphs, and whole books with chiastic outlines.

Now most modern interpretations of the book of Revelation are doomed to misunderstanding as soon as they takeoff in that they assume the book follows a modern outline (i.e. its climax is at the end). However, a close examination of Revelation reveals quite the opposite for the entire book appears to be outlined chiastically.*

Prologue: Rev. 1:1-20

A. The imperfect church: Rev. 2:1-3:22

B. God’s power over evil explained: Rev. 4:1-8:6

C. The warning judgments : Rev. 8:1-11:19

D. The Lamb as God’s answer to it all : Rev. 12:1-14:20

C. The judgments consummated: Rev. 15:1-16:21

B. God’s power over evil exercised: Rev. 17:1-20:15

A. The church in perfection: Rev. 21:1-22:5

Epilogue: Rev. 22:6-21

You’ll notice that if the prologue and epilogue are removed from the book, the book naturally falls into seven segments, six of them having corresponding sections. It is the book’s centerpiece, the very center of the book (Rev. 12:1-14:20), that forms the book’s climax. A closer look reveals that each of the seven sections are composed primarily of seven components.

Prologue: Rev. 1:1-20

A. The imperfect church: Rev. 2:1-3:22 (seven letters to seven churches)

  • 1. Ephesus: 2:1-72
  • 2. Smyrna: 2:8-11
  • 3. Pergamum: 2:12-17
  • 4. Thyatira: 2:18-29
  • 5. Sardis: 3:1-6
  • 6. Philadelphia: 3:7-13
  • 7. Laodicea: 3:14-22

B. God’s power over evil explained: Rev. 4:1-8:6 (seven seals)

  • 1. War: 6:1-2
  • 2. Rebellion: 6:3-4
  • 3. Famine: 6:5-6
  • 4. Death: 6:7-8
  • 5. Martyrs: 6:9-11
  • 6. Cosmic signs: 6:12-17
  • 7. The seven trumpets introduced: 8:1-6

C. The warning judgments: Rev. 8:1-11:19(seven trumpets sound)

  • 1. Hail, fire & blood: 8:7
  • 2. The sea becomes blood: 8:8-9
  • 3. The falling star: 8:10-11
  • 4. Sun, moon & stars darkened: 8:12-13
  • 5. Opening the bottomless pit; the first woe: 9:1-12
  • 6. Four angels released; the second woe: 9:13-21
  • 7. The consummation; the third woe: 11:15-19

D. The Lamb as God’s answer to it all: Rev. 12:1-14:20 (seven significant symbols & seven angelic messages)

  • 1. The woman with child: 12:1-2
  • 2. The dragon: 12:3-4
  • 3. The male child: 12:5-6
  • 4. The angel Michael: 12:7-17
  • 5. The beast from the sea: 13:1-10
  • 6. The beast from the land: 13:11-18
  • 7. The Lamb on Mount Zion: 14:1-5
  • 1. Good news: 14:6-7
  • 2. Babylon is fallen: 14:8
  • 3. Wrath on beast worshipers: 14:9-12
  • 4. Blessing is pronounced: 14:13
  • 5. Ripe for harvest / judgment: 14:14-16
  • 6. The harvesting angel is ready: 14:17
  • 7. The judgment of evil earth: 14:18-20

C. The judgments consummated: Rev. 15:1-16:21 (seven bowls of wrath)

  • 1. Sores on people: 16:2
  • 2. The sea becomes blood: 16:3
  • 3. The rivers & fountains become blood: 16:4-7
  • 4. The sun’s fierce heat: 16:8-9
  • 5. Darkness: 16:10-11
  • 6. The foul spirits prepare for Armageddon: 16:12-16
  • 7. The earthquake: 16:17-21

B. God’s power over evil exercised: Rev. 17:1-20:15 (seven descriptions of God’s judgments)

  • 1. The prostitute & the beast identified: 17:1-18
  • 2. The doom of Babylon is announced: 18:1-20
  • 3. The doom of Babylon described: 18:21-24
  • 4. The marriage supper of the Lamb: 19:1-10
  • 5. The defeat of the beast & the false prophet: 19:11-21
  • 6. The binding & limitation of Satan: 20:1-10
  • 7. The final judgment: 20:11-15

A. The church in perfection: Rev. 21:1-22:5 (seven descriptions of the church in perfection)

  • 1. The new heaven & the new earth: 21:1
  • 2. The new Jerusalem, God’s dwelling: 21:2-8
  • 3. The glory of the holy city Jerusalem: 21:9-14
  • 4. The city’s measurements: 21:15-18
  • 5. The city’s foundations: 21:19-21
  • 6. The city’s light: 21:22-27
  • 7. The city’s support: 22:1-5

Epilogue: Rev. 22:6-21

Yes, I can hear you saying now: “Okay, that’s all very interesting to someone, I’m sure, but what difference is all of this supposed to make to me?

This is the difference. As you read the book of Revelation, don’t look for the focus of the book to be at the end, as if to answer your question, “What’s in this for me at the end?” Instead, read it with your eyes riveted on the one at the center of the book, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. See him as the more than adequate answer to all that comes up against the Creator and his creation. Period. For you see, this book was not written with us humans at the story’s center, but God. It was penned not to answer the question “What will we get?,” but the only question that truly matters, namely, “What is God doing?”

Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, forgive us as we all too frequently unconsciously, and sometimes consciously, “rewrite your story to be about us. You are the only Perfect One and you alone are sufficient answer to everything. Grow in us the confidence you longed to place within us by giving us your story and placing us in it, namely, that it’s not about us, rather it’s all about you. Amen.

* For this outline and understanding of the book of Revelation I am deeply indebted to the work of Dr. Nils Lund and my professor in graduate work at ACU in years gone by, Dr. Ian Fair.


After this I looked, and there was a great crowd that no one could number. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language. They were standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They wore white robes and held palm branches in their hands. They cried out with a loud voice: “Victory belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” …

Then one of the elders said to me, “Who are these people wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”

I said to him, “Sir, you know.”

Then he said to me, “These people have come out of great hardship. They have washed their robes and made them white in the Lamb’s blood. This is the reason they are before God’s throne. They worship him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them. They won’t hunger or thirst anymore. No sun or scorching heat will beat down on them, because the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them. He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:9-10,13-17 CEB)

Let me ask us all some questions.

  • What would be heaven to you?
  • What would be heaven to you if your life had been great hardship?
  • What would be heaven to you if your life had been great hardship because you believed the Lord?

What would you want heaven to be?

  • Would it be to wear a white robe?
  • Would it be to wear a white robe and never know hunger or thirst?
  • Would it be to wear a white robe and never know hunger or thirst and never be at the mercy of the elements again?

Or in light of this passage, should the questions more nearly be:

  • Would heaven to you be simply to be in the presence of the Lamb?
  • Would heaven to you be simply to be in the presence of the Lamb who shelters you and shepherds you?
  • Would heaven to you be simply to be in the presence of the Lamb who shelters you and shepherds you and to sing his praise day and night, ever worshiping him?

You see, the question is not, “What do you want heaven to be?” The question is, “Who do you think heaven is about?

  • Heaven isn’t about us and our receiving great blessing, but heaven is about God and our blessing him.
  • Heaven isn’t about our finally being served, but about our finally being privileged to serve him without hindrance.
  • Heaven isn’t about enjoying good things for ourselves that we were denied on earth, but about God being our complete enjoyment so that things no longer have any real existence to us.

The business of heaven is about worshiping God and those who will experience heaven are those who worship God here and now, be it through hardship or ease, want or sufficiency, trouble or comfort. These are the ones who will experience heaven and enjoy God fully and forever.

For to worship him is why we were made. Those who get that, get it. There can be nothing greater and we must not settle for anything less. Here and now. Until we can take it up an octave in heaven.

Our Father who is our heaven, holy is your name. Bring us into your kingdom and let us do your will. May you be our bread. Forgive us when we forget this and bring us back to our rightful mind. Deliver us from anything less for you are the King, the glory and the power forever. Amen.