When I first began this series on the book of Revelation, I never intended to continue the series for as long as it has gone. I thought perhaps I would do a summary of the book. It has turned into a verse by verse exposition. That is really a good thing as expositional teaching is the most important thing that believers need. We see very little of it done in most churches, as many ministers are presenting trite, little topical sermons big on fluff but light on substantive content. It seems that many Pastors shy away from prophecy in general these days, but especially the book of Revelation. This is really a shame when we consider the fact that Jesus promised a special blessing on those who read, hear, and do that which is written in this book. [See Rev. 1:3]
In all fairness I understand why many take the position they do. First, many have bought into the “Purpose Driven” model. In that system Pastors are told not to concern themselves with the prophetic Word. After all, according to Rick Warren, On pages 285-286 of his book, “The Purpose Driven Life”, He claims that Jesus told His disciples, “The details of my return are none of your business.” This is a gross misrepresentation at best of the teachings of Jesus relative to prophecy. The other thing is that admittedly the book of Revelation is not an easy book to understand. As we have stated previously it is written from the perspective of the spirit realm, as John writes those things he sees while, “in the Spirit.” Secondly, it is written primarily in the vernacular of the Old Testament. It has been said that there are over 800 allusions to the Torah (Gen. – Deut.) as well as other Old Testament books. Daniel is understood to be a “sister” book, and understanding the message of Daniel is essential to understanding that which John wrote here.
This chapter, chapter 14, has proven very challenging for expositors. It is somewhat difficult to determine if the scenes that play out before us are occurring in Heaven or on the earth, or a combination of both. Chapter 14 completes a trilogy of chapters. Chapter 12 dealt with the important characters of the time, chapter 13 with the evil rulers of the period, and chapter 14 deals with the ultimate triumph of Christ. John opens this chapter with individuals we have met before earlier in the book.
He wrote, And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. [Rev. 14:1 KJV] “And I looked”, would better be translated, “I saw.” This lets us know that John is still the one observing these events and recording what he sees. “Lamb” of course refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the same Lamb that we have seen in chapters 5 – 7 and in chapters 12, 13. “Lamb” is from the Greek arnion, and means “little lamb” or “lambkin.” The thought is that of the sacrificial lamb in the very act of being slaughtered. Christ is referred to as a “Lamb” some 28 times in the book of Revelation. All of these references point to our redemption being accomplished at the Cross. The work Jesus did at Calvary was a finished work. Nothing needs to be added to it. If this scene represents the ultimate triumph of Christ, then I find it interesting that He is seen as a Lamb and not a lion. This shows us that the place of Christ’s triumph was at the Cross. He won the victory over death, hell, and the grave on the Cross. When He uttered those famous words, “It is finished” and then gave up His spirit to the Father, He meant it was finished! He fully satisfied the claims of divine justice and paid the sin debt for us as our substitute.
The Law, and I speak of the Mosaic Law, had three parts, or components to it. First, there was the ceremonial component. Then there was the ritualistic component. Lastly, the moral component. Jesus’ sinless life, keeping the Law perfectly as a man filled with and anointed by the Holy Spirit, fulfilled the moral Law. His living however could not satisfy the ritualistic and ceremonial aspects of the Law. That took His dying. His victory is our victory. His triumph is our triumph. That victory was won and that triumph occurred at the Cross! Thus, we see the Lamb throughout the book of Revelation. Notice if you will that the Lamb is seen standing, on the mount Sion. Here is where commentators and scholars seem to differ. Is this speaking of Mount Sion (Zion) on earth, or is this scene actually occurring in Heaven? Although I have seen strong arguments on both sides, I personally believe this scene that John is seeing and writing down is occurring in Heaven. I find it fascinating that every significant element of the Old Testament as it regards the work of God on Earth, such as the Tabernacle, the Temple, all of its furnishings, Mount Sion and even Jerusalem, are a copy of the original in Heaven. I believe it is the same Mount Sion the writer of Hebrews referred to in Hebrews 12:22, But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. This is of course, as the writer stated, a heavenly Mount Sion and heavenly Jerusalem.
Notice the group standing with the Lamb, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. This is the same 144,000 that we saw back in 7:3 -8. There we saw they were sealed, here we find out why. In chapter 7 we are told they were sealed in their foreheads, here we learn what the seal consisted of. They were sealed with the Name of the Lamb and of the Father. [RV] As John looked at the Lamb and the 144,000 sealed ones, he hears; a sound from heaven like the sound of rushing waters and like the sound of pealing thunder; the sound I heard was also like that of harpists playing on their harps. [14:3 CJB] As we compare this passage with 1:10, 15 it becomes clear that this “voice from Heaven” is none other than the Lamb, or the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. We are not told what the voice said, but John hears harpers accompanying themselves with their harps. Notice verse 3, And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. The fact that these 144,000 are “redeemed from the earth” to me lends further credence to the fact that this scene is occurring in heaven as John views and records it.
We are given additional information concerning this group here that was not given to us in chapter 7. John writes, These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. [Rev. 14:4, 5] This group is obviously male. The Bible says that they are, “virgins.” This can have both a natural as well as spiritual application. They are “firstfruits” unto God and the Lamb. The “firtfruits” of whom? Israel and the Jews. They, among other things, are the guarantee of a larger harvest of Jews at the end of the Great Tribulation. [See Zech. 12:10, Isa. 45:17; Rom. 9:27; 10:1; 11:26] They are, “before the Throne of God.” Another indication, I submit to you, of a heavenly scene.
Please understand, two groups are sealed in chapter 7. One is clearly Jewish [verses 5 -8]. The other is clearly Gentile, from all nations [verse 9]. As a side note, I find it interesting that when God deals with Israel it is in terms of dates and numbers. When dealing with Gentiles dates and numbers are not given. No Gentiles, or any religious group present in the world today are the 144,000. They have not been sealed as yet, but will be in the early days of the seven-year Great Tribulation.
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. [Rev. 14:6, 7] This begins a parade of six angels mentioned in verses 8, 9; 15; and 17, 18. This begins another radical change in God’s protocol in communication with the earth. During this Church Age the gospel has been committed to men, and they are the sole messengers of it. At the beginning of the Tribulation the 144,000 will be God’s witnesses in the earth. The two witnesses of chapter 11 will be His voice in the mid-point of the Tribulation. As we come to the end of this period, things will have grown so intense that the final message to the earth will be carried by angels, with the 144,000 and the two witnesses having been removed from the satanic scene of the earth by this time. Notice this angel seen flying in the “midst of heaven” (literally “middle heaven”, or the atmosphere directly above the earth) is proclaiming the “everlasting gospel”, or as the Revised Version renders it, “Eternal gospel.” Is this the “gospel” as we understand it during this Church Age? I submit to you it is not. In fact, there are four forms of the gospel mentioned in the New Testament, and it would do us well to carefully distinguish between them.
- The Gospel of The Kingdom – Matt. 24:15 This is the good news of God’s intention to set up a kingdom on this earth, over which David’s son, the Lord Jesus Christ will reign, as prophesied in Luke 1:32, 33. The Gospel of The Kingdom is not about salvation but witness. To announce the time has come to set up the Kingdom.
- The Gospel of The Grace of God – Acts 20:24 This is the good news that Jesus the rejected King died on the Cross for our salvation. This is also known as The Gospel of God (Rom. 1:1).
- My Gospel – Rom. 2:16; Acts 26:16 – 18 This is the same as the gospel of the grace of God, but more clearly defined by the revelation that the Apostle Paul received directly from the Lord.
- The Everlasting Gospel – Rev. 14:6 It is preached by the angel in the chapter we are considering presently. It is neither the gospel of the kingdom nor of grace. Its burden is not salvation but judgment.
- Another gospel – Gal. 1:6 – 12; 2 Cor. 11:4 This is not the gospel at all, but a perversion of the gospel.
Next we see the announcement of the second angel flying in the middle of the sky. Given the fact that these angels, according to the Greek text, will be flying through the sky; they will no doubt be visible and shown on TV and broadcast via satellite. The angel proclaims, And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. It is a prophetic certainty that ancient Babylon will be re-built. I don’t know when this re-building process will begin, but begin it will. It is a possibility that several years, perhaps decades will transpire between the rapture of the Church and the beginning of the Great Tribulation. During those years is most likely when ancient Babylon will be re-built. Construction could begin prior to the rapture of the Church. It seems uncertain to me whether or not it will be re-built on its original site, but it certainly will be of the same spirit as the original. Interestingly, the words uttered by the angel, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, are the exact words that Isaiah the Prophet spoke in Isaiah 21:9 when he predicted the fall of that city to the Medes and Persians. His words will have a double fulfillment.
By the time these words are spoken by the angel, Babylon will be at the zenith of its future glory and will be so for about another three and a half years. However, in the original this would read, “fell, fell is Babylon the great…”. This is because this statement is in the aorist tense. This event is such a certainty that it is stated as if it had already occurred! It is just as sure as if it were history already. It needs to be understood that in the future, during the Great Tribulation period, Babylon will become the financial and commercial capital of the world. It will also become the seat of the Beast religious system. The destruction of the religious Babylon will occur in chapter 17. The commercial and financial Babylon will be destroyed in chapter 18, however it is previewed here by the announcement of the angel. While the prophecy of Isaiah spoke of the destruction of Babylon at the the invasion of the Medes and Persians, it was not completely fulfilled at that time, as it was not destroyed in “one day” as it will be when it falls during the Tribulation at the giant earthquake which will occur at the outpouring of the last vial in Revelation 16:17 – 21.
And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.[Rev. 14:9 – 12] It is pretty certain that any unbeliever who makes it through the Great Tribulation will do so because that person has worshiped the Beast and received his mark in their right hand or forehead. That person however will seal their eternal fate and will be the recipient of the full outpouring of the wrath of God. Then after suffering unspeakable pain and torment on earth, they will then be tormented forever with fire and brimstone in the Lake of Fire. Listen, if eternal punishment is not taught anywhere else in scripture, it definitely is taught here. There are those who see the fire and brimstone as figurative. If that is the case, and I don’t believe that it is, then the literal must be worse than the symbol. All believers alive and on the earth at this time will have to patiently wait for Christ to Return.
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] This verse is often read at the funerals of believers. It really doesn’t belong there. This promise is strictly for the Great Tribulation. Those believers who die during the Great Tribulation are blessed to be delivered from the trials they had been living under.
And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. [Rev. 14:14 – 16] “I looked” and “behold” show John as a participant in these events and not merely a spectator writing that which he sees. What does he see here? “Son of man” refers to Christ. The cloud is a mark of identification. [See Matt. 24:30] The “golden crown” on His head further identifies this one John is seeing as Christ. We absolutely need the book of Revelation to get a complete picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without it our understanding of Him is incomplete. Those who ignore this book do not have a complete revelation of Christ, and ministers who do not preach it are presenting an incomplete picture to their congregations. That is strong I realize, but the truth nonetheless. He is not presented as Prophet or Priest here, but King. His office as King is always connected to His Return to the earth.
A “sharp sickle” speaks of the harvest. This is not the harvest of the Church or the righteous, as that occurred in chapters 4 and 5. This is the harvest of Gentile nation’s, and it is clearly for the purpose of judgment. This harvest was spoken of by Joel in Joel 3:9 – 17. This section actually looks ahead to 16:13 – 16, which speaks of how the armies of the world are to be gathered by three “unclean spirits”to the battle of the Great Day of God Almighty at Armageddon. This battle will actually take place after the fall of Babylon and is described more fully in 19:17 – 19.
Exactly how horrible will the Great Tribulation be? It will be a time like none before or since. How severe will this final battle of the Gentile nations be? We are given a terrible view in this final verse. John writes, And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs. [Rev. 14:20] This battle will occur “without” or outside the city of Jerusalem. “unto the horses bridles” would mean the blood will run to a depth of about four feet, for a distance of about “a thousand and six hundred furlongs”; or approximately 185 miles, the distance from Dan to Beer-Sheba. All of Israel will be the scene of this final battle which begins about the mid-point of the Great Tribulation, and concludes with the personal Return of Christ to earth. Psalm 45, a Messianic Psalm, prophesied this event; Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee. Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.[Ps. 45:3 – 7 KJV]
We have been given a preview of coming events in this chapter. They will be explained in much greater detail in the next couple of chapters. Be sure to join us as we begin to examine them next time.