Happy are those who die by a lord, Revelation 14:13

Luther Walker

In Revelation 14:13, we come across the phrase “by a lord” when John is instructed to write, “Happy are the dead, the ones who die from now on by a lord (ἐν κυρίῳ).” The word “lord” is capitalized in some English translations, indicating it is in the Lord Jesus. However, the context does not support this interpretation. The timing of Revelation chapter fourteen, starting in verse six, is in the last half of the Tribulation Period, just before the return of Christ. Three angels are seen giving distinctly different messages. The first angel has good news related to eternity, the gospel for those in the Great Tribulation. This is not the gospel message presented today, which has the inherent ability to save a person, Romans 1:16, and relates to the death for sin and resurrection of Christ three days later according to the Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. This messenger is bringing a message to the Nations, telling them to worship the God, Who is the Creator of heaven and earth, for the hour of His judgment has come, Revelation 14:7. The second angel cries out with the message that Babylon, the great religious harlot, has fallen, Revelation 14:8. Her fall is just before the return of Christ to claim the earth and set up His kingdom. A third angel is then heard shouting that anyone who worships the beast and his image, having received his mark, will now face the wrath of God, Revelation 14:9-11. At this point, John is instructed to write, “Happy are the dead, the ones dying by a lord from now.” They are happy because they are able to rest from their hard labor, Revelation 14:13.

The tribulation period will be a very difficult time upon this earth. Such a time of trouble that has not ever been before, Daniel 12:1. Those who accept the message of the Kingdom of the Heavens will face dangerous times, especially during the last part of the Tribulation Period when the man of lawlessness declares himself to be a god and all those who do not receive his mark cannot participate in commerce. During this time, even having a bit of cold drinking water, much less food, will take a lot of hard work. The saints will be killed, enslaved, and persecuted. Therefore, death for those who believe in the coming Messiah will bring them rest from their labor, resulting in happiness.

En (ἐν) is a Greek preposition meaning “in, among, or by.” Grammar and context are important in determining the case being clarified by the preposition. The specific phrase “in lord” is used ninety-six times in forty-seven verses, using both the locative and instrumental cases. In 1 Corinthians 16:19, Paul writes that the assembly in Asia greets them, along with Aquila and Priscilla in [the] Lord. In Greek, there is no need to place an article before Lord because the context indicates it is a title. When a noun is used as a title, the article is unnecessary; however, it should be supplied in English for clarity. In Romans chapter fourteen, Paul writes concerning the weaker brothers. The one who is stronger in the faith is to accept the weaker one without causing doubt. Paul has been persuaded by [the] Lord Jesus that nothing is common because of itself, Romans 14:14. When Paul went to Troas to bring the good news of the Christ, a door was opened to him by the Lord, 2 Corinthians 2:12. In these verses, the preposition (ἐν) is used in an instrumental sense for the Lord was the means by Whom Paul came to this knowledge, and the One who opened a door for him to present the gospel in Troas. Within these few passages we can already see that “en (ἐν)” is used in an instrumental sense with the noun “lord”. Although the primary meaning of this preposition is “in”, the context dictates how the preposition relates to the noun; therefore, it can express both location and means.

If we imply that Revelation 14:13 is referring to Christians, all who die in their position in the Lord from the time of John’s writing, we violate the context of Revelation. The tribulation time is not for the Church. She has been removed from the earth, cleansed, glorified, and presented to the Father; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:17. The patience of the saints, in the context, refers to those who did not get the mark of the beast, or worship his image, Revelation 20:4. They face total financial ruin and even death. Many will be sold into slavery and killed, Revelation 13:10. All who are saved during the tribulation period do not have a position in the Lord Jesus. Therefore, in order to make this apply to saints in our dispensation, this passage has to be ripped from its context and set aside as though it is a comment from John about what he is writing, implying that those who do not have to face this troubled time will be happy. However, John is instructed to write this. He is not giving a response to the information he just received. In addition, nowhere in the letters to the Church does Paul, or another Apostle, write that death today brings happiness. Peter writes of persecution for refusing to be involved with the way of the Gentiles. This should not discourage a saint; instead, they should be happy because the Spirit of glory rests upon them, 1 Peter 4:14. James writes about happiness regarding enduring a temptation and not being a forgetful hearer, James 1:12, 25. Paul writes of our happy hope, the appearance of our great God, even Savior, Jesus Christ, Titus 2:13. He also addresses the issue of having a good conscience. One who does not violate his conscience is happy, Romans 14:22. Since those of the Church are not part of the Tribulation Period, we cannot impose their presence upon the text to indicate John is writing to the Church concerning happiness and death.

The term “Lord” is not restricted to a title for God or Jesus. Within the Greek language, it is used for one who is a master, within a position of authority, and a polite response. The woman at the well does not refer to Jesus as Lord, meaning God, when He asks her for water. Instead, her response is of respect, knowing that He is a Jew, John 4:11. It is always the context that determines how the word “lord” is used. In Revelation 14:13, the noun lord is not specific as to who is the master. Nor does the context in Revelation 14 indicate lord is a title. Therefore, it implies someone with the character or quality of a master. Following the original language and context, the verse is properly translated with a lowercase “lord” since it does not refer to Jesus. And I heard a voice out from the heaven saying, “Write, ‘Happy are the dead, the ones by a lord dying from now on.’” “Yes”, says the Spirit, “In order that to rest out from their labor, for their works follow with them.”

Therefore, Revelation 14:13 refers to the Tribulation Period saints who are put to death by a lord, not Christians who have or will die in their position in the Lord. These are those who believe the message of the Kingdom of the Heavens during the Tribulation Period, rejecting the lies of the man of lawlessness and his false prophet.