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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 14


Chapter 14

1.  Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.

2.  And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps,

3.  and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

4.  It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,

5.  and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

The Lamb and 144,000

Now, we will learn of several things which will occur during the 3 ½ years of the Great Tribulation and I will simply bring them to your attention. The tribes of Israel, the number of apostles and the 24 elders in heaven, all have to do with the number 12. Of course 144,000 is also a multiple of 12. This chapter begins with a picture of the Lamb on Mount Zion, accompanied by 144,000 disciples. They are in sharp contrast to those in 13:16, who receive the number and name of the beast. We have a great number of faithful, loyal followers of the Lamb, who hung in shame on Golgotha, but now stands triumphant with the choicest people on earth in the eyes of God. They may not be among the governmental rulers, the high ranking military officials, the intellectual giants, or the greatest examples of physical strength, but before heaven’s throne these are the finest of creation, the prime product of the earth.

I have already stated that the contents of this chapter seem to unfold during the Great Tribulation, which is evident by the fall of Babylon in verse 8 and the mark of the beast in verse 9. The Lamb and the 144,000 are positioned on Mount Zion (v.1), but the context seems to indicate that this is not literal Zion on earth, but heavenly Zion. Verse 3 shows that only the 144,000 could sing a new song and that song was sung before the throne, the living creatures and the elders. Zion is the southern hill in the city of Jerusalem and the seat of divine worship on earth. It became emblematic of the dwelling place of God in heaven.

Commentators think that these are the same as the 144,000 Jews in chapter 7, although there are some complications to overcome, in order to reach that conclusion. The 12 tribes of Jews are sealed upon earth (7:1 and 3), and these in chapter 14, as already stated, appear to be before the throne in heaven. They are not called Jews, but simply those who have been redeemed from the earth. I have to end this first detail with a question: Are they Jews on earth going through the Tribulation or members of the redeemed and raptured church in heaven?  Or does this section give us a scene that takes us beyond the Tribulation?

There are more questions to consider. As in chapter 7, is this number literal or symbolic of the thousands of disciples of the Lamb?  As first fruits, do they stand out in their purity and devotion to Christ in comparison to the citizenry of the world or are they kind of an elite royal guard of outstanding saints? Do we take it literally that they are unmarried virgins, who devote themselves singularly to the Lamb? Commentators do not give us a conclusive answer and I am forced to leave this scene in question.

6.  Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

7.  And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

8.  Another angel, a second, followed saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

9.  And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,

10. he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

11. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

12. Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

The loud voices of three angels

Many angels have appeared to John already, and yet another comes flying in the sky directly overhead. He is the first of three in this second section of chapter 14. On the eve, when Christ was born, an angel appeared to shepherds, announcing the gospel to them: “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Lk.2:10). The shepherds became the ones who proclaimed the gospel after that: “They made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them” (Lk.2:17-18), The angel in Revelation 14 has the “eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people” (v.6).

The angel announces a special Great Tribulation dispensation of the gospel. The gospel is unchanging; it is the eternal gospel, the only gospel, according to Apostle Paul. “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal.1:8). John the Baptist came as a forerunner to the gospel preached by Christ and his ministry called people to repentance and baptized them with the baptism of repentance. Then Jesus began His ministry saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt.4:17).

The introduction to the gospel, given by the angel is “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water” (v.7). He proclaims the knowledge that mankind needs to know in order to show the proper reaction that is required of them, when faced with the eternal gospel. 1) They must have a fear of God as the primary step towards the wisdom needed to receive it. 2) All of God’s good gifts to men have one aim… to bring glory to God. 3) Judgment lies just ahead as the alternative to those who ignore or shun the gospel. 4) The gospel inspires men to worship their Creator, who is the cause and reason for their existence.

A second angel announced the fall of Babylon. He declares that the world’s system is temporary and will fall; it is a bad choice to follow the system, and the consequence will be eternal loss. Failure and doom are the alternatives, when men reject the gospel. They will go down with the system.

The third angel proclaims judgment upon Babylon’s faithful followers. Egypt was the first great symbol of the world and represented slavery to sin. Babylon is a similar symbol, but it’s evil and perverse system is formed in the last-day, It captures mankind and holds him enslaved. The gospel calls people out of Babylon. We can see now, why the first angel called for a fear of God, for godly worship that will bring glory to Him. There is no middle ground; men worship God or they worship the beast and his image. They are marked and owned by God or they are branded and possessed by the beast.

Verse 10 is a last-day warning and one of the most fearful portions of Holy Scripture. Where the blood of the cross has not been applied, the wrath of God still applies. If the sinner exists outside the cross, there is no refuge from the heat of His anger. The Author of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, could not make it any more vivid: God’s wrath is “poured full strength”. Try to imagine the full strength of the fury of the Almighty! There is fire and sulfur torment ahead and the smoke from it rises forever and ever; if you don’t know what that means, don’t wait to find out! Run from it!! There is no relief, no reprieve, no escape, and no hope for all eternity. If you think that I may be trying to frighten you, you can stop wondering, because that is exactly what I would like to do, if I can! The stakes are too high for me not to try to apply all the weight of Scripture to press down upon the unsaved soul.

The holiness of God will be glorified in judgment. Throughout the Bible, we learn that when God’s grace is not applied in mercy and salvation, He is exalted in His judgment. Holy angels and the Lamb Himself will presence the suffering of the damned. This is as much the revelation of the character of the Lord, as is John 3:16 and 1 John 4:8. It is the final consequence of divine love rejected. We are coming perilously close to the end of the inspired Word and the Holy Spirit is pulling out all the stops.  In the light of the consequences, the Spirit gives this frightening alternative as an incentive to endurance against the mark of the beast and in favor of faithfulness and obedience to the Lord. There must be full trust in the person and work of Christ. The whole being must be bound to the cross and in love to the Savior.

13. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

14. Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.

15. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.”

16. So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

17. Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle.

18. And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.”

19. So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

20. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

A harvest and a vintage

Martyrdom is a final blessing upon a Christian life, especially in the extreme evil and persecution of the Tribulation. The Psalmist declares, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps.116:15). Their deeds follow them and live on; they will be rewarded for them. Matthew Henry makes an important point: “Their works follow them; they do not go before them as their title, or price of purchase, but follow them as their evidence of having lived and died in the Lord.” Works will never buy a ticket to heaven, but they are the natural output of the new nature and the product of faith.

The Son of Man is the Lord of the harvest and He rides on a cloud (Ps.104:3; Is.19:1) Because this immediately follows the blessing upon those who die, particularly in the Tribulation time frame, it seems to me that the Lord is the harvester, who gathers a great host to Himself through martyrdom, after the church has been raptured. The church has been spared this Great Tribulation. Still another angel proclaims that the Father’s will has come to fruition… “the harvest of the earth is fully ripe”. In John 4, Jesus speaks of harvest as the culmination of the purpose of God (Jn.4:34-38), when He was reaping a great harvest in Sicar.

There are a total of six angels in this chapter, along with the depiction of the Son of Man. The fifth angel appears with a sharp sickle and he is followed by a sixth angel, who is called the angel with authority over fire. He calls on the fifth angel to use his sickle to gather the grapes and throw them into the wine press. This is a vintage, differing from the harvest before it. The vintage of grapes signifies judgment and this final swipe of a sickle is definitely a work resulting from the wrath of God. Blood is spilled in abundance and seems to be a foretelling of the Battle of Armageddon.


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