"And I looked" (Gr. kai eidon) introduces three scenes in chapter14 ( Revelation 14:1; Revelation 14:6; Revelation 14:14), as this phrase did twice in chapter13 ( Revelation 14:1; Revelation 14:11). "Behold" (Gr. idou, cf. Revelation 14:14) calls special attention to the greatness of the sight that John saw here.
John saw in this scene the time yet future at the end of the Great Tribulation when Jesus Christ will return to the earth. His second coming does not take place here but in Revelation 19:11-21. John only saw it as happening in his vision here. He saw the Lamb standing on earth, specifically on Mt. Zion, with the144,000 Jewish witnesses that God had sealed for the Tribulation ( Revelation 7:3; cf. Zechariah 14:4-5). The contrast of the gentle Lamb standing and the fierce dragon pursuing ( Revelation 12:13-17) and the evil beasts arising ( Revelation 13:1; Revelation 13:11) is particularly striking. An interesting detail is that John saw the beast standing on sand ( Revelation 13:1) but the Lamb standing on rock ( Revelation 14:1; cf. Matthew 7:24-27).
Many dispensationalists take Mt. Zion to refer to earthly Jerusalem, but some dispensationalists take it (cf. Revelation 11:1; Revelation 11:18; Revelation 12:5) to refer to the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Hebrews 12:22). [Note: E.g, Ryrie, p88; Smith, A Revelation . . ., p208; and Wiersbe, 2:607.] Most covenant theologians also take it as the New Jerusalem that God will bring down to earth from heaven ( Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:5). [Note: E.g, Ladd, pp189-90; Mounce, p267; and Beale, p735.]
"To interpret this as a heavenly city ... involves numerous problems .... If this group is the same as the144,000 of chapter7, they are specifically said to be sealed and kept safely through the tribulation. In this case, they move on into the millennial earth without going to the third heaven [God"s abode], since this is the meaning of the seal (cf. Revelation 7:3)." [Note: Walvoord, The Revelation ..., p214.]
Others take Mt. Zion as a figure for strength (cf. Psalm 2:6; Psalm 48:2; Psalm 78:68; Psalm 87:2; Psalm 125:1; Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 59:20; Obadiah 1:17; Obadiah 1:21; Micah 4:7). [Note: Swete, p177.] However Zion, as that name occurs elsewhere in Scripture, usually refers to earthly Jerusalem (cf. 2 Samuel 5:7; Psalm 48:1-2; Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 24:23; Joel 2:32; Obadiah 1:17; Obadiah 1:21; Micah 4:1-2; Micah 4:7; Zechariah 14:10). [Note: See Newell, p209; and McGee, 5:1006.] I think it probably does here too.
"Further, the argument that the144,000 must be in heaven as they hear the song before the throne may be disputed. There is no statement to the effect that they hear the Song of Solomon, only the declaration that they alone can learn it [ Revelation 14:3]." [Note: Walvoord, The Revelation ..., p214.]
Apparently their sealing ( Revelation 7:3) protects them from God"s wrath but not from the wrath of the dragon and the beasts (cf. Revelation 12:12; Revelation 12:17). Some of them will evidently die as martyrs ( Revelation 13:15). [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, pp192, 194. ] Many interpreters believe that none of the144,000 will die during the Great Tribulation. [Note: E.g, Walvoord, The Revelation . . ., p216.] The seal is the earnest of their ultimate victory (cf. Revelation 22:4).
"The Divine name on the forehead suggests at once the imparting of a character which corresponds with the Mind of God, and the consecration of life to His service." [Note: Swete, p177.]
The triumph of the144,00014:1-5
John did not identify the person who spoke from heaven. This could be the voice of Christ (cf. Revelation 1:15; Ezekiel 1:24; Ezekiel 43:2), the Tribulation martyrs ( Revelation 7:10), an angel (cf. Revelation 6:1; Daniel 10:6), or many angels ( Revelation 5:8; Revelation 5:11; Revelation 7:11; Revelation 19:6). Perhaps the last option is best in view of how John described it here and in the next verse (pl. "they sang"). These angels do not include the four living creatures and the24elders, however ( Revelation 14:3).
These angels sang a new song. A new song in the Old Testament was a song of praise to God for new mercies, particularly victory over an enemy and sometimes for God"s work in creation (cf. Psalm 33:3; Psalm 40:3; Psalm 96:1; Psalm 98:1; Psalm 144:9; Psalm 149:1; Isaiah 42:10).
"A "new song" is one which, in consequence of some new mighty deeds of God, comes from a new impulse of gratitude in the heart, [?] xl13, and frequently in the Psalm, Isa. xlii10, Judith vi13, Apoc. Revelation 14:9." [Note: Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalm, 1:402.]
The song this group sang in heaven is one that only the144,000, of all God"s creatures, could learn. Probably they were the only ones who could learn it in the sense that they were the only ones who could appreciate what it expressed (cf. Revelation 15:2). God had purchased them from the earth for their special ministry in the Great Tribulation (cf. Revelation 14:4), not just for salvation.
Three occurrences of "these" (Gr. houtoi) in this verse identify the144,000 as worthy of special honor. First, with women (emphatic in the Greek text) they had not been defiled because they were celibates (Gr. parthenoi, virgins). Should we understand this word literally or figuratively? Literally the text would mean that these males had no sexual relations with women.
"One of the special criteria for these slaves of God was that they have no intercourse with women.... So in the future Great Tribulation, virginity will be requisite for this special group." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p195. Cf. Alford, 4:685-86; Newell, pp215-16; and Wiersbe, 2:607.]
Figuratively it would mean that they had remained faithful to the Lord, as the NIV translation "they kept themselves pure" suggests (cf. 2 Kings 19:21; Isaiah 37:22; Jeremiah 18:13; Jeremiah 31:4; Jeremiah 31:21; Lamentations 2:13; Amos 5:2; 2 Corinthians 11:2).
"It is better ... to relate the reference to purity to the defilement of idolatry. In fact, John seems to use molyno [defile] this way elsewhere of cult prostitution ( Revelation 3:4; cf. Revelation 2:14; Revelation 2:20; Revelation 2:22)." [Note: Johnson, p539. Cf. Walvoord, The Revelation . . ., p216; Ladd, p191; and Beale, p739.]
I think the balance of evidence is slightly in favor of the literal interpretation. If this seems too severe, it may be helpful to remember that Paul advised the Corinthians to remain unmarried because of the nature of the distressing times in which they lived ( 1 Corinthians 7:26; cf. Matthew 19:12). A figurative interpretation of "celibates" could be the correct one, however. Of course, both may be true; they may be unmarried and faithful spiritually. [Note: McGee, 5:1008.]
Second, the144,000 receive special commendation because they followed the Lamb faithfully during their lives. This was especially difficult due to the time in which they lived, the Great Tribulation.
Third, they receive honor because they not only experienced purchase by God but because they were firstfruits to God. Some view this as expressing the idea that they are the first of others who will follow, specifically believers who will enter the Millennium as living believers. [Note: Walvoord, The Revelation . . ., p216; Ryrie, p89; Smith, A Revelation . . ., pp210-11.] However there will be no others who follow that are just like the144,000; they are unique. Probably the firstfruits figure represents them as a special gift to God. This is the idea behind abut two-thirds of the references to firstfruits in the Old Testament. [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p198.]
Furthermore, they spoke the truth even though deception abounded ( Revelation 13:14; cf. Isaiah 53:9; Zephaniah 3:13; John 8:44; 1 Peter 2:22). In short, they were blameless, that Isaiah, perfectly acceptable to God as firstfruit sacrifices (cf. Philippians 2:15; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19; Jude 1:24).
John next saw another angel (cf. Revelation 7:2; Revelation 8:3; Revelation 10:1) flying between heaven and earth (cf. Revelation 8:13). He was "another" probably like Michael ( Revelation 12:7), the nearest specific angel in the context. This is the first of six specific angels who individually participate in the events recorded in this chapter ( Revelation 14:8-9; Revelation 14:15; Revelation 14:17-18). He was flying in mid-heaven, so nothing hindered people on earth from hearing his words.
He had an "eternal gospel" to preach to the worldwide population. "Gospel" means good news. What this good news is comes out in the next verse. It is "eternal" because it has eternal significance.
The everlasting gospel14:6-7
Four climactic announcements14:6-13
"And I saw" (Gr. kai eidon) signals another scene of this vision on earth. In this one John heard four announcements that provide incentives for remaining faithful to God and resisting the beasts. Angels made the first three announcements, and a voice from heaven gave the fourth.
The angel spoke loudly, revealing his urgency and concern. The loudness of his voice implies that everyone will hear his message. He called earth-dwellers to fear God (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:13; Luke 12:5), to acknowledge their accountability to Him (cf. Romans 1:32). To give God glory means to repent having acknowledged His attributes (cf. Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20; Matthew 4:10; Acts 14:15-17). [Note: Swete, p182; Lenski, p430.] The positive response to this invitation appears in Revelation 15:4 and the negative response in Revelation 16:9; Revelation 16:11; Revelation 16:21. The reason for fearing God is that the hour of His judgment has come. This is the very last chance that these unbelievers will have to change their allegiance from Satan to God before the final judgments of the Great Tribulation begin.
The angel referred to natural revelation in making this appeal. Some commentators believed the eternal gospel is the witness of natural revelation that has gone out since Creation. [Note: E.g, Wiersbe, 2:607.] God is worthy of worship because He is the Creator, and He has the right to judge what He has created (cf. Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 33:6-9; Psalm 146:6). The four categories of creation encompass all of it. The first four bowl judgments will affect each of these four aspects of creation ( Revelation 16:2-9).
The fall of Babylon14:8
The fact that separate and succeeding angels make these announcements stresses their importance and their sequential relationship. A second angel followed the first with the message that Babylon had fallen. This is another proleptic message, in this case given before Babylon falls. It anticipates that event (ch18; cf. Revelation 11:7 and Revelation 13:1-8). [Note: Newell, p235.] The repetition of "fallen" is for emphasis, and the aorist tense of this verb stresses the imminence of Babylon"s fall.
One popular view concerning the identity of "Babylon" is that it is a code word (atbash) for Rome, which the Christians used to disguise references to Rome, especially when Rome was persecuting Christians. That use occurs elsewhere in the New Testament (cf. 1 Peter 5:13). The other view is that "Babylon" is literal Babylon on the Euphrates River. The second option is better in Revelation because in this book place names describe literal locations (cf. Revelation 1:9; Revelation 2:1; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 2:12; Revelation 2:18; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 3:7; Revelation 3:14) unless specifically identified as figurative (e.g, Revelation 11:8). Furthermore "the great," Nebuchadnezzar"s description of Babylon (cf. Daniel 4:30), always modifies the literal Babylon elsewhere in Revelation. Viewing this place as literal Babylon does not exclude further implications of the religious and political systems that have arisen from the city, which become the focus of the revelation later (chs17, 18). [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p207; Walvoord, The Revelation . . ., p218.] "Babylon" will epitomize ungodliness in the world during the Tribulation, as it has throughout human history since the tower of Babel ( Genesis 11:1-9). Like "Hollywood" the name represents the world system as well as being the name of a particular city.
The angel personified Babylon as a temptress who gives wine to a man to seduce him to commit fornication (cf. Revelation 17:2; Revelation 17:4). The man would not choose to drink this wine without her influence. [Note: Robert Wall, Revelation, p185.] However what this man drinks comes ultimately from the cup of God"s wrath that He gives, through Babylon, to those whom He will punish (cf. Revelation 14:10; Psalm 60:3; Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:22). This wine not only leads all who drink it to commit sexual licentiousness but every kind of excess that expresses unfaithfulness to God (cf. Revelation 17:1-2; Revelation 17:5; Revelation 17:15-16; Revelation 18:3; Revelation 18:9; Revelation 19:2). [Note: Hughes, p162.]
A third angel followed the former two with a third message in this sequence, warning the beast-worshippers of their judgment (cf. Revelation 13:11-17). The goal of this warning is to alert potential beast-worshippers to their doom, if they follow the beast, and to encourage believers to remain faithful (cf. Matthew 10:28). [Note: Mounce, p274.]
The fate of beast-worshippers14:9-12
The beast will kill people who do not follow him, but those who follow the beast will receive worse judgment from God. Contrast the blessing of the faithful in Revelation 14:1-5. The combination of "wrath" (Gr. orges, settled indignation) and "anger" (Gr. thymou, vehement fury) stresses the reality and severity of God"s hostility (cf. Numbers 12:9; Numbers 22:22). Normally people added water to wine to dilute it, but God will not weaken His punishment of beast-worshippers. Their torment will be excruciating (cf. Genesis 19:24; Isaiah 34:8-10), but this is not a reference to their eternal torment. Their final torment will be in the lake of fire removed from the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb ( Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:14-15; cf. Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:43; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
"The opposite case is that of the overcomer who will receive open recognition in the presence of the Father and His angels ( Revelation 3:5)." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p211.]
An endless trail of ascending smoke is the constant reminder of the permanent misery of beast-worshippers (cf. Revelation 19:3; Genesis 19:28; Isaiah 34:9-10). The temporary judgments of beast-worshippers under the coming bowl judgments now give way to judgment that is eternal (cf. Matthew 25:46; Romans 2:3-9; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). If the ceaseless praise of the Lamb by the living creatures is eternal ( Revelation 4:5), so must be the punishment of these unbelievers since the same phrase, "forever and ever," describes both.
"The modern vogue of dispensing with hell has no counterpart in Revelation." [Note: Morris, p181. See also C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, ch8: Hell; Mounce, pp276-77; and Robert A. Peterson, "Does the Bible Teach Annihilationism?" Bibliotheca Sacra156:621 (January-March1999):13-27.]
"This is the most horrible picture of eternal punishment in the entirety of Revelation ..." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p212.]
This verse contains John"s word of encouragement to believers in the Great Tribulation (cf. Revelation 13:10 b, 18; Revelation 17:9). It is better to experience the beast"s punishment, even martyrdom, than God"s punishment.
This verse is not saying that if genuine believers apostatize and worship the beast they will lose their salvation and suffer eternal punishment. It is saying that if they worship the beast they will experience temporal punishment from God along with beast-worshippers ( Revelation 14:10). This temporal punishment is only the first phase of the punishment that unbelievers will experience ( Revelation 14:11), but it is the only phase that believers will experience (cf. Romans 8:31-39).
In view of their hope, believers during the Great Tribulation should persevere in obedience and trust, good works and faith in God, plus ethical conduct and reliance on Jesus Christ. This is an encouragement to persevere, not a guarantee that the saints will persevere. [Note: Beckwith, p658; Moffatt, 5:439; Robertson, 6:413. See Robert N. Wilkin, "The Mark of the Beast and Perseverance; Revelation 14:9-12," Grace Evangelical Society News6:6 (June1991):2-3.] Obedience to God"s commandments and continuing trust in Jesus will see the faithful through these days of tribulation successfully.
The blessedness of those who die in Christ14:13
This "voice" was probably the Lamb"s ( Revelation 1:10-11; Revelation 1:19; cf. Revelation 10:4; Revelation 10:8; Revelation 11:12; Revelation 14:2; Revelation 18:4; Revelation 21:3). The voice told John to record that it would be a blessing for the believers who live during the Great Tribulation to die as martyrs. They will receive a unique blessing reserved for no one else. [Note: Moffatt, 5:439; Robertson, 6:413.] This is the second of seven beatitudes in the book (cf. Revelation 1:3; Revelation 16:15; Revelation 19:9; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:14). Here, as often in Scripture, the blessing assures a future reward for present obedience to God. [Note: Beckwith, p422.]
"The faithfulness of the martyrs unto death is not a legalistic work which merits eternal bliss, but a manifestation of their devotion to Christ. These works follow them in the sense that there can be no separation between what a man is and what he does." [Note: Mounce, p278.]
Many believers will die as martyrs for refusing to worship the beast ( Revelation 13:15). They will die "in the Lord" in the sense of dying as their Lord did, namely, for His faithfulness to God. The word order in the Greek text makes this interpretation preferable to the one that takes "in the Lord" as simply a designation of believers who are "in Christ." "From now on" means from this time in the Tribulation on, specifically during the bowl judgments. They will thereby escape the intense persecution of the beast, which they would otherwise experience, if they remained faithful to Christ (cf. Revelation 12:17).
The Holy Spirit added (cf. Revelation 22:17) that they would also experience blessing because they would be at rest beyond the grave and because God would then reward their faithful deeds (cf. 1 Timothy 5:24-25; Hebrews 6:10). In contrast, the beast-worshippers have no rest ( Revelation 14:11) and receive punishment for their unfaithfulness to God ( Revelation 14:10).
"God does not save anyone for his works, but He does reward us for our works. Our works (good or bad) are like tin cans tied to a dog"s tail; we cannot get away from them. They will follow us to the bema seat of Christ." [Note: McGee, 5:1011.]
This is a positive incentive to remain faithful that balances the negative warning previously given ( Revelation 14:9-12).
"And I looked" (Gr. kai idou) again marks a new scene and an advance to another important subject. The whole description is very similar to Daniel"s prophecy of Messiah"s second coming ( Daniel 7:13-14). The cloud probably represents the glory of God, the Shekinah. The person John saw was evidently Jesus Christ, though some commentators think he was an angel in view of Revelation 14:15. This seems clear since John saw Him wearing a victor"s crown (Gr. stephanon) and holding a sharp sickle (Gr. drepanon oxy) with which He does the work of judging (cf. Mark 4:29). Since the sickle is sharp the reaper can do His work swiftly and completely. [Note: Lenski, p445.] "Son of Man" is a messianic title of Jesus Christ in Scripture (cf. Revelation 1:13; Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 8:20; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; John 5:27). That He receives and follows the instructions of an angel ( Revelation 14:15) does not imply His inferiority to an angel. It only indicates that an angel will signal God"s proper time for judging, and then the Son will proceed to judge.
The reaping and treading of God"s harvest14:14-20
This is the final scene that furnishes background information before the revelation of the seven bowl judgments. Again what John saw was mainly on the earth.
"The total scene in Revelation 14:14-20 closes the section on coming judgment ( Revelation 14:6-20) with a proleptic summary in anticipation of the more detailed account of the same in chapters15-20 ..." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p218.]
Another angel (cf. Revelation 14:9) came out of the opened heavenly temple (cf. Revelation 11:19; Revelation 15:5) and announced that the time to judge those living on the earth had arrived. Three previous angels ( Revelation 14:6-7; Revelation 14:9) announced that judgment was coming, and now this one conveyed the command to execute it without delay. The harvest was "ripe" (Gr. exeranthe). Some scholars take this word as describing an over-ripe harvest and others simply a ripe one. The earth-dwellers during this late stage in the Tribulation were ready for judgment (cf. Revelation 19:11-21). Some believe that this is a judgment of believers. [Note: E.g, Alford, 4:691-92; et al.] But this runs counter to the context ( Revelation 14:1-5; Revelation 14:12-13), which is a judgment of unbelievers (cf. Joel 3:13).
"The harvest is an OT figure used for divine judgment ( Hosea 6:11; Joel 3:13), especially on Babylon ( Jeremiah 51:33). Jesus also likens the final judgment to the harvest of the earth ( Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:39)." [Note: Johnson, p543.]
The Judge ( John 5:27) then judged those on the earth. This judgment will occur at the end of the Tribulation ( Revelation 19:17-21). This is a proleptic description of what Revelation will describe further in its sequential unfolding of events. [Note: Robertson, 6:415.]
"The brevity of the statement dramatizes the suddenness of the judgment." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p221.]
The fifth angel in this group came out of the heavenly temple ready to execute judgment (cf. Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:39-42; Matthew 13:49-50).
Another angel, the sixth in this chapter, came out from the golden altar of incense in heaven ( Revelation 8:3). This is probably an allusion to his responding to the Tribulation saints" prayers for vengeance from under the altar ( Revelation 6:9-10). His "power over fire" may indicate his authority to execute punishment. It seems clear from Revelation 14:19 that this angel was addressing the angel with the sickle ( Revelation 14:17), not Jesus Christ. John saw a different crop here ready for harvest. The two reapings seem to describe a single judgment at the end of the Great Tribulation ( Revelation 19:15; Revelation 19:17-21).
"Following the pattern of Joel 3:13, the scene furnishes two pictures of the same judgment for the same reason that Joel does, i.e, to emphasize the terror of it." [Note: Ibid, p220. Cf. Isaiah 34:1-3, 6; 63:1-6.]
The vine may represent Israel and the wheat Gentiles.
The earth had yielded a crop of unbelievers that now, at the end of the Tribulation, would come into judgment. The angel took them from the earth to undergo judgment in God"s great grape press (cf. Isaiah 63:1-6; Lamentations 1:15; Joel 3:13).
"In Biblical days grapes were trampled by foot in a trough which had a duct leading to a lower basin where the juice collected. The treading of grapes was a familiar figure for the execution of divine wrath upon the enemies of God." [Note: Mounce, p282. Cf. Robertson, 6:416; and J. P. M. Sweet, Revelation, p232.]
Since the city in view escapes this judgment, Babylon is evidently not the city in view. It is instead Jerusalem. The Old Testament predicted that a final battle would take place near Jerusalem, in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (i.e, the Kidron Valley just to the east of Jerusalem; Joel 3:12-14; Zechariah 14:4; cf. Revelation 11:2). It seems probable that blood will literally flow up to the height of horses" bridles (about four and one-half feet) in some places in that valley. Obviously many people will have to die for this amount of blood to flow.
Blood came out from the wine press of God"s wrath for a distance of200 miles (lit1,600 stadia). Evidently this figure describes the judgment that will take place all over Palestine, not just in the Valley of Jehoshaphat near Jerusalem, at this time. Much of this action will take place in the Valley of Jezreel in northern Israel (i.e, the battle of Armageddon; Revelation 19:17-19). There God will put vast numbers of people to death (cf. Isaiah 63:1-6). The blood will evidently drain out of the Jezreel Valley for a distance of200 miles, probably eastward down the Harod Valley to the Jordan Valley and south into the Dead Sea.
Many interpreters, even some dispensationalists, believe that what we read in this verse is simply a symbolic way of picturing a terrible judgment. [Note: E.g, Wiersbe, 2:608.] Amillennial interpreters often take this description as picturing a worldwide judgment. [Note: E.g, Beale, p782.]
This chapter contains a prophetic preview of the major events yet future from John"s perspective in his vision. That Isaiah, they deal with events leading up to the end of the Great Tribulation.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 14". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
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