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The Song of the One Hundred and Forty-four Thousand
Rev 14:1. A new scene is shown to John and he invites you with the regularly reoccurring “behold”, to watch together with him. He taps, as it were, on your shoulder and points with his finger to a certain direction and says: Look at that! If you are still thinking about the horrible developments of the previous chapter, you immediately come to rest here. Both beasts with their blasphemous, murderous performance make room for “the Lamb” and His righteous and benevolent performance. In the Lamb you see how God exceeds beyond all rages of hatred, violence and lie and calmly does His own work in those who are His.
For the first time in the book of Revelation you do not see the Lamb in heaven, but on earth, “on Mount Zion”, and particularly in relation to the remnant from the two tribes. Zion is the mountain in Jerusalem that God has chosen to place His sanctuary there (Psa 78:68). He will also establish the throne of the kingdom of David there. That mountain represents the grace in contrast to Mount Sinai that represents the law (Heb 12:22; Psa 125:1; Psa 126:1).
Together with the Lord Jesus you see one hundred and forty-four thousand people standing. This number symbolically indicates a fullness. In chapter 7 this number is also mentioned (Rev 7:4-8). There it refers to a fullness of people from all twelve tribes and are seen before the great tribulation (Rev 7:1-3). Here it is about a fullness of the two tribes in the land, although with this hundred and forty-four thousand there are certainly also some believers from the ten tribes, who however as a whole are still in the dispersion. This group comes from the great tribulation. They have remained faithful to the Lord. They have refused the mark of the beast on their forehead. Now on their forehead is written, as a special distinction, the name of the Lamb and the name of His Father.
Rev 14:2. While the Lamb is standing on Mount Zion with the faithful remnant, John hears “a voice from heaven”. It is a mighty, awesome voice. At the same time it is also a lovely and melodic voice. What a contrast to the bragging and boasting of the beast. This voice and this music are intended for the faithful remnant that has gone through so much suffering. It is heavenly music, played by heavenly saints for the saints on earth. Heaven and earth are brought together in harmony.
Rev 14:3. John does not hear just music, but he also hears something that looks like “a new song”. It is sung by people in heaven. These singers are not the elders, the believers of the Old Testament and that of the church (Rev 4:4). The song is not sung by them, but before them. It is also sung “before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders”. It is a song that is heard in agreement by the symbols of the kingdom of God (throne and living creatures). The singers of the song are believers who after the rapture of the church were killed because of their faithfulness to the Lord and who have a part in the first resurrection (Rev 20:4-6).
They teach those who are on earth to sing the song. The saints in heaven and the saints on earth from Israel are clearly related to one another. The saints on earth are indicated even more clearly as “who had been purchased from the earth” which indicates the contrast to ‘those who dwell on the earth’. They do not stand beside the Lamb on Mount Zion on the basis of their own merits, but on the ground of the redemption work of the Lamb. The same goes for those who are in heaven. They too do not owe it to themselves that they have come there, but also because of what the Lamb has accomplished on the cross of Golgotha.
The Lamb is on earth, but the Lamb is also in heaven. From heaven, where the Lamb stands as though it had been slain (Rev 5:6), the new song is being taught. Could that new song possibly have another content than the Lamb? In heaven and on earth it is sung what the Lamb has accomplished. The relation between heaven and earth has been made possible by the Lamb alone and His work on the cross.
Rev 14:4. There comes a more extensive description of the one hundred and forty-four thousand. Some features and characteristics of them are mentioned. The first is that these faithful ones are “chaste”, which is applied to both men and women. It means that they have not awarded their love to anyone else than Him alone. They have not allowed themselves to be seduced by attractive people or enticing ideas that would cause them to be unfaithful towards the Lord.
During the time of the great tribulation, a time that is full of temptations, they have kept themselves clean from literal and spiritual fornication (cf. 2Cor 11:2). It is the time in which the roman-catholic church will expose herself as the great harlot (Rev 17:1-6). It will take a huge effort to remain clean, because the world is full of uncleanness. It is already now like that of course, but at that time it will be a lot more abundant.
The second characteristic is that they “follow the Lamb” right through the great tribulation “wherever He goes”. And the secret which makes them to be virgins is: their eyes are continuously focused on the Lamb. This is a great example of how you can keep yourself to be clean. Loving the Lamb determines where they go and what they do. Where He goes and is, there they go and are. That is rewarded by the Lamb. They were with Him in the tribulation, now they are allowed to be with Him in His glory. This reward is also waiting for you if you stay with the Lamb.
The third characteristic is their advanced position. They are “first fruits to God and to the Lamb”. ‘First fruits’ have got to do with the harvest. First fruits are the first collection, while the great harvest is yet to be reaped. This is the case with this company. Together with many others they are bought from among men by the blood of the Lamb. Among those who were bought, these one hundred and forty-four thousand are the first fruits that are allowed to have a share in the blessings. Shortly after that a great harvest will follow, from Israel and from the nations as well (cf. 1Cor 15:23; Jam 1:18).
Rev 14:5. The last characteristic that is mentioned is that “no lie was found in their mouth” (Zep 3:13; cf. 1Pet 2:22b). Humanly speaking they have delivered a supernatural performance in this way. They could do that only because of their attachment to Christ alone as the truth (Jn 14:6). They lived in a time that was full of lies and deceit. It was not possible to survive without lying and deceiving. But they kept standing and did not allow themselves to be dragged by the gushing floods of lies that were poured out over the world by the beast and his henchmen.
The biggest lie is the denial of the Father and the Son (1Jn 2:21-23). But they have testified uncompromisingly of the truth concerning the Father and the Son. It is the joy of the Spirit to testify of them that “they are blameless”.
Rev 14:6. In Rev 14:1-5 we watched the scene that will be after the great tribulation. Now we turn back to the time of the great tribulation. Several scenes of that time are highlighted in the rest of this chapter. In total there are six angels related to those scenes. The last angel you have seen was the seventh and last trumpet angel (Rev 11:15). The first angel here is not a new trumpet angel, but “another angel”, the first of a new group of angels.
This angel is flying in the midst of heaven. In that position he is visible and audible for everyone on the earth. He has a special assignment and that is to preach the “everlasting gospel”. This shows how great the love and grace of God are. Also in that special serious time God makes a good news (for that is the meaning of the word ‘gospel’) to be proclaimed.
The everlasting gospel is a gospel that is not related to a certain period. It has always been valid for everyone. It reaches out to “those who live on the earth” for the last time, whatever group they belong to, so that they may repent before God’s judgments break loose. An angel has no part in the redemption, but he can surely pass on a good news of general scope (cf. Lk 2:10).
When it comes down to the gospel of grace, then an angel is to take a step backwards. You see that in the history of Philip and the Ethiopian. An angel led Philip to the Ethiopian, but it was Philip who preached the gospel of grace to the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26; 35).
Now read Revelation 14:1-6 again.
Reflection: Which characteristics of those who follow the Lamb can be applied to you?
Messages From Three Angels
Rev 14:7. The everlasting gospel is not mumbled inarticulately, but it is preached “with a loud voice”. It goes beyond all noise on the earth. The content of this everlasting gospel is simply: fear God, give Him the glory and worship Him. The necessity of this gospel is just as simple, namely, that the hour of God’s judgment has come. Repentance begins with the fear of God (Lk 23:40). God is an awesome God Who will punish every sin, disobedience and rebellion.
As soon as a person realizes that he has sinned against God, he becomes afraid, for he discovers that God is angry about that. Then the soul that is convicted of his sins will give glory to God. He will certainly acknowledge that God would be righteous if He would condemn him to hell and if He would cause disasters and plagues to the world with His visitations. Each person who acknowledges that will not be condemned, but he will be transferred from death to life (Jn 5:24). Finally such a person becomes a worshiper of God Who gave him such a great grace.
God is presented here as the Creator. As the Creator He has the right to the adoration of His creatures. That worship will be claimed by the beast in that time on earth. But God will never give up His rights. He appeals to us to honor those rights, though without coercion (yet).
Rev 14:8. Then “another angel, a second one”, appears. Because in Rev 14:9 there is mention of “a third one”, it indicates that there is a rank order in the events. What this angel announces is an emphasis on the necessity to heed the call of the first angel. The hour of God’s judgment is heralded with the judgment over Babylon. It is “Babylon the great”, because it had great thoughts about itself and also because it had great influence on the nations. But God brings an end to that (Rev 17-18).
In the words “fallen, fallen” you hear the echo of the prophecy of Isaiah (Isa 21:9). The cry of the angel means a warning for the judgment that will come and of which the result is made known here. God never judges without any warning. It should keep people from throwing themselves in the arms of “the mother of harlots” (Rev 17:5) and to be overwhelmed by her tempting religious beauty and splendor.
The overwhelming wealth and worldly charm have made Babylon a desired partner of all nations. World leaders eagerly make contact with the Vatican. They eagerly join in a social glass of the wine of her fornication. They thought they were enriching themselves by having chummed up with this harlot. It was a harlot whom you did not have to pay, but who paid herself for the fornication that she committed.
But they will have to pay a high price for their flirtations. They do not realize that by joining her with this social glass of wine they expose themselves to the wrath of God (Rev 16:19; Rev 17:2; Jer 51:7-8). Just like they wanted to participate in her luxury, they will participate in her fall. Everyone who does not withdraw himself from the great Babylon will receive of her plagues (Rev 18:3-4).
Rev 14:9. “Then another angel, a third one” appears. He announces with a loud voice a message to those who have related themselves with the beast by worshiping him and by applying his mark on their forehead or hand. You have come across these people in chapter 13 (Rev 13:12; 16). Those who have not yet allowed themselves to do that, get a last chance here to repent. The warning is that they should not accept that mark. That means that they must face the great pressure of being abandoned from the society.
Rev 14:10. Whoever, despite this last appeal, sticks to his choice for the beast chooses for an indescribable and endless torture. There will be no softening of God’s wrath for those who are attached to the beast. The torment will happen “in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” (cf. Lk 16:23-26), for they have been horribly provoked by these inventors and executors of the greatest godliness. This will not cause any feeling of delight to the holy angels and the Lamb.
Whoever has lived in rebellion against heaven will, beside the physical torment “with fire and brimstone”, be tormented by something else. While suffering those terrible pains, the remorse that he could have been in the atmosphere of the heavenly angels and in the presence of the Lamb, will continually gnaw at him.
Rev 14:11. To the unspeakably physical and mental torture another torment is added of which the gravity is not to be expressed in words. This torment is that there will never come an end to this torture. Also the absence of any moment of rest, a short respite in that torment is an indescribable increase of this horrible and unchangeable situation. Beside the deep seriousness that this verse contains, it is also a simple and adequate proof that the universal atonement is a harsh lie.
Rev 14:12. The impressive previous warnings addressed to the unbelievers, are an exhortation for the saints to persevere. It will ensure them that it is better to be temporarily tortured by the beast than to be eternally tortured with the beast. Instead of participating with the general worship of the beast they live in obedience to “the commandments of God”. They also keep “the faith in Jesus”, that is the trust in Him Who was once on earth the Rejected. The authority of the Word of God and the love for the Son determine their lives in the midst of the circumstances controlled by satan.
There is mention of ‘Jesus’ and not of ‘the Lord Jesus’ or ‘Jesus Christ’. ‘Jesus’ is the name that recalls the life of the Lord in humiliation on earth. These saints draw strength from the example of His life on earth. He has suffered under the predecessors of both the political and the religious beast. You recognize the representative of the Roman empire in Pilate and that of the apostate Judaism in Herod (Lk 23:12). By looking upon Jesus they will be able to suffer the greatest trials with perseverance and not fail (Heb 12:1-3; Mt 24:13).
Rev 14:13. God orders John to write down that the saints who have lost their lives because of the murderous beast, will lose nothing of the happiness that was promised to them. The earth found that they deserved nothing more than death. Heaven contrarily calls them happy.
They died “in the Lord”. They have acknowledged and served Him Who was rejected on earth, as their Lord. In that way they have given Him the place that God had already given to Him with His return to heaven after the accomplishment of the redemption work (Acts 2:36; Phil 2:11). Their tribute to Him for which they had to pay with their lives, is rewarded by God by giving them a place with Him. The expression “from now on” makes clear that it is about believers who were killed because of their testimony.
With an emphatic “yes” the Spirit confirms what John has to write down concerning the happiness of the dead in the Lord. The voice from heaven is the voice of the Spirit, Who is also God. At that time the Spirit does not dwell on earth anymore, for with the rapture of the church the Spirit also left the earth. Wherever the church dwells the Spirit also dwells (Jn 14:16; 1Cor 3:16; 2Thes 2:7b). The situation will then be like it was before the church was on earth. Then the Spirit did not dwell on earth, but He was working on earth.
After His confirmation the Spirit points to the results of their death. “They may rest.” After they have gone through all uproar and persecution, they now experience a beneficial rest. What a contrast to the endless restlessness of those who are in the everlasting torment (Rev 14:11)! It will take a little while before the saints that were killed will also be rewarded for their works.
Their works of faith were not left on the earth, but they “follow with them”. The works of all who have been killed after the rapture will be remembered by God. Nothing will be forgotten. They will receive the reward out of the hand of the Lord Jesus. It consists of being allowed to reign with Him in the kingdom of peace. For that reason it sounds: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” They are blessed indeed. Aren’t they?
Now read Revelation 14:7-13 again.
Reflection: Which persons or groups of people are addressed here?
The Two Harvests of the Earth
In the last verses of this chapter we see two scenes that both deal with judgment. Both scenes represent the judgment in the picture of a harvest. The first scene (Rev 14:14-16) shows the judgment in the metaphor of a wheat harvest. The second scene (Rev 14:17-20) shows the judgment in the metaphor of a wine harvest. That two metaphors are used here therefore means that the judgment has different aspects. Both scenes are in connection with the coming of the Lord Jesus.
Rev 14:14. Together with John we look at the first metaphor. He sees “a white cloud”. ‘White’ speaks of cleanness, purity. There is also mention of a white horse (Rev 19:11) and a great white throne (Rev 20:11). The cloud makes us think of the glory in which God was in the midst of His people Israel. That cloud led the people through the wilderness and dwelled in the tabernacle and later in the temple (Exo 40:35; 1Kgs 8:10-11; Mt 17:5).
Then John notices a person, One like “a son of man” (Rev 1:13; Dan 7:13). That is the Lord Jesus. He sits on the white cloud like He sits on the white horse and on the great white throne. Absolute purity is one of His features in exercising the judgment. He appears in Divine, royal glory, presented in the “golden crown” that He wears “on His head”. What a contrast to the crown of thorns that He once wore on His head on earth. “In His hand” He has “a sharp sickle”. The instrument for the harvest has been sharpened, ready to cut the harvest in one smooth movement.
Rev 14:15. The picture of the Lord Jesus on the cloud radiates rest. He waits for the time to come into action. The judgment is given to Him because He is the Son of Man (Jn 5:27). Then another angel comes out from God’s holy presence to announce that the hour of the judgment has come. This is the hour which the Lord Jesus did not know of as Man, an hour that was only known by the Father (Mk 13:32).
The reason for the judgment is also given and is clear. An end has come to all patience. Actually “the harvest of the earth is ripe”. ‘Ripe’ possibly has the meaning of ‘rot’, which therefore indicates the incorrigible corrupt moral condition of the earth, so that the judgment that will be executed will be fully justified. ‘Ripe’ also indicates that God has shown an excess of patience before He makes that judgment to be executed.
Rev 14:16. When it has been announced that the hour has come, the Lord Jesus comes into action. He swings His sickle over the earth and reaps the earth. Now what’s going on here? In order to get a better picture of it you should take a look at the parable of the weeds (or tares) among the wheat in the gospel according to Matthew (Mt 13:24-30; 36-43). There you see that with the wheat harvest a distinction is made between tares (a weed that looks very much like wheat) and wheat. When the harvest time has come – which is the moment that the Lord Jesus swings His sickle over the earth – the Son of Man says to His angels that they must gather all things that offend and all who practice lawlessness and cast them into the furnace of fire.
In the parable you see some things that clarify the scene of the reaping of the earth. The Lord Jesus accomplishes the judgment, but He does that through the means of His angels. The wheat harvest is a picture of the separation between good and evil (cf. Mt 3:12), but here the emphasis lies on the judgment over the evil. In the end time the judgments are not accomplished at the same time, but they take place in the total period of the great tribulation of three and a half year. During all those different judgments the angels go out to reap away the unbelievers through the judgment. They gather the weeds (the unbelievers who are judged) in bundles. The great Director, He Who directs everything, is the Man Jesus Christ.
Rev 14:17. After these actions you become a witness of another scene that deals with the execution of the judgment. You can derive that from the “sharp sickle” that, just like in the previous scene, also plays a major role here. As the harbinger of this judgment another angel came out “of the temple which is in heaven”, which means from the holy presence of God. Here it is not the Lord Jesus Who has the sharp sickle, but the angel. Just like the Son of Man he waits for a command to come into action. That command comes from another angel that comes after him.
Rev 14:18. The second angel that appears in this scene does not come out from the temple, but “from the altar”. That makes the altar to be the starting point of this judgment. The thought of judgment is empowered because it is said of this angel that he “has power over fire”. Fire has to do with the exercise of judgment. You have come across the altar already. In chapter 6 you have seen under the altar the souls of martyrs and you have heard them calling for vengeance (Rev 6:9-10). Their cry for vengeance is answered now. Also in chapter 8 you have seen the altar in relation with the judgment (Rev 8:5).
The altar in the Old Testament is the place where the sacrifices were brought as a picture of the true sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. The fire consumed the sacrifice. In this way the Lord Jesus has been in the fire of God’s judgment for each who believes in Him. However, he who rejects His sacrifice will have to undergo the fire of God’s judgment himself (Jn 3:36).
The angel from the altar with the power over the fire commands the angel with the sharp sickle to come into action for the harvest of “the clusters from the vine of the earth”. God presents His people Israel in the Old Testament amongst others as a vine (Psa 80:9; 15-16; Isa 5:2-7; Jer 2:21). In this picture He shows that He expected of His people that they would testify of Him in a way that He was going to receive fruit from it. That fruit would consist of the joy (of which the wine is a picture) that He would find in His people. He did everything that could cause the people to deliver that fruit. But His people have used the fruit for themselves. They have thought only of their own joy and not of what God expected of them. They even rejected and killed the Owner (Mt 21:33-39).
When the Lord Jesus came to earth, He as the true vine (Jn 15:1) took the place of this depraved vine. He was rejected by His people. After He was rejected a new testimony was established, Christianity. The purpose of this new testimony was also that it was to deliver fruit for God, that God would find His joy in it. All who are related with the true vine, the Lord Jesus and have life from Him, bear fruit for God.
There are also some who are related with Him, but do not bear fruit, because they have no life from Him (Jn 15:2a; 6). Their connection with Him is an apparent connection. They confess to be God’s witness on earth and confess to give Him fruit, but it is an illusion, untrue, false. They bring forth stinking fruit, just like Israel did in the past.
When the church will be raptured, only a false Christian testimony will be left on earth. This false Christian testimony will be cut off from the earth by the sharp sickle together with the apostate Jewish testimony. The Lord Jesus will judge every false confession when the false confessor has fully shown his apostasy.
Rev 14:19. This judgment is different from the judgment that is represented by the picture of the wheat harvest. Actually there is no distinction here. The whole harvest is thrown into the great wine press. The seriousness of this judgment is even more underlined by the addition “the wrath of God”. Especially what is put in relation to Him, but in reality denies Him (2Tim 3:5), arouses His wrath. There is nothing else that God hates so much as hypocrisy. Therefore He doesn’t wait until the grapes are overripe as with the wheat harvest. If the harvest is ripe, judgment comes.
The wickedness of the apostate testimony is great (Joel 3:13). Therefore the place of the judgment, where God will have His fierce wrath to be broken loose (Isa 63:1-6), will be great (“the great wine press”). The great wine press is the valley of Armageddon (Rev 16:16), where the nations are gathered to fight against God and His Anointed (Psa 2:2).
Rev 14:20. The wine press lies “outside the city”. That means that the judgment takes place outside Jerusalem. To give you an impression of how horrible that judgment is, it is said how high the blood reaches and to how far it reaches. The blood of those who are killed will splash up to the bridles of the horses. The blood of those who are killed fills the whole land. The “distance of two hundred miles”, which is approximately three hundred kilometers, is the length of the land Israel from Dan in the North to Beersheba in the South.
This judgment is also the fulfillment of the cry: “His blood shall be on us and on our children” (Mt 27:25). At the same time this judgment means the purification of the land of the blood of the Lord Jesus Who was killed by them (Num 35:33). God fulfills His Word, both where it concerns His promises and where it concerns the foretelling of judgment.
Now read Revelation 14:14-20 again.
Reflection: What are the differences between both harvests?
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Revelation 14". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20