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Saturday, May 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 14

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

Introduction

Chapter 14 is a continuation of the previous one. Here is a brief outline of this chapter.

 Description of those who refuse to worship the beast. (1-5)

 Babylon is introduced. (6-11)

 Another view of judgment. (14-20)

1 Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.

A. The 144,000 were discussed in 7:3-4. They are the servants of God who have the seal of God in them. They have the Father’s name on their foreheads. They are faithful, loyal, and obedient followers of Christ.

B. The seal of God shows genuineness and authenticity.

C. Each of us must decide whom we will serve - Christ or Satan - and wear the mark that identifies our loyalty.

Verse 2

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

A. There are several issues that are often discussed here.

1. Does this passage authorize instrumental music in worship? The argument is often made that there are harps in heaven. The claim is made, since it is acceptable in heaven, it must be acceptable in worship. This passage does not authorize the use of instrumental music in worship.

a. First, the harps mentioned here are symbolic. John does not hear harps. He hears voices like harpers playing their harps. There are references in Revelation to horses, frogs, lions, beasts, dragons, thunder, death, suffering, persecution and many other things which John sees in heaven. They are symbolic, not literal.

b. Second, what John heard were voices. Voices can offer praise to God. This is what God commanded the church to do. ( Eph_5:19 ; Col_3:16 ) This is what the angels and 24 elders use to praise God in chapter 5.

2. What did John hear? Did John hear harps? Did he hear thunder? Did John hear a babbling brook? NO! John heard voices. In the next verse this voice sings a new song.

3. What is the picture being painted in verse 2? John hears a voice. Now he begins to describe this voice. He uses three symbols to describe the voice he hears.

a. Many waters - describes the flow and blending of this voice. It sounded like a babbling brook flowing over a rocky creek bed. Great thunder - As John seeks to describe the power of this voice; he says it sounded like a great boom of thunder.

b. Harpers harping - When you think about the melody and beauty of the voice, John describes them as if many harpists were playing their instruments.

B. It is clear that the acceptable worship and praise that God seeks is the voice that offers genuine praise from the heart. This voice sings in verse 3.

Verse 3

3 They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.

A. The voices are here identified as coming from the 144,000. They sing a new song. It is a song that could not be sung before Christ came. Before the death of Christ, there was no redemption, no forgiveness, no salvation before the blood of Christ was shed on the cross.

B. In the previous verse this voice is singular (denoting its unity and unison) and now it is in the plural as 144,000 sing together.

C. Again, there is a parallel to the children of Israel. When they came out of great tribulation in Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, the first thing they did was sing a song of deliverance. So the church of the redeemed sings a new song of deliverance when they come out of the great tribulation of sin.

D. For those who have not obeyed the gospel, the song is not familiar. If one has not committed their life to Christ, the words are just a strange sound.

Verse 4

4 These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.

A. Who are these 144,000? They have not engaged in immoral or adulterous behavior. They have remained pure to the will of God. I do not believe that the word “virgin” is to taken literally. They are spiritually pure. They have remained faithful to their Lord. In 1Co_7:25-27 refers to men as virgins. Here the term is used to simply mean unmarried and not a reference to their purity and fidelity.

B. They follow the Lamb. Jesus said that the seep know the shepherd and follow him. ( Joh_10:4 ) If we want to serve Christ, we must follow him. ( Joh_12:26 )

C. They are the redeemed from the world. Under the Law of Moses, the Israelites were required to give the first fruits to God. ( Pro_3:9 ) We are said to be the first fruits of God. ( Jam_1:18 ) We have, in effect, given ourselves to the Lord.

Verse 5

5 And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.

A. The description continues - There was no deceit in them. They were blameless. The American Standard translates this “without blemish.”

B. In the church at Sardis there were some who had not defiled their garments. (3:4)

C. The 144,000 are Christians, faithful, and loyal. They have kept their garments pure.

Verse 6

6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth-to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people-

A. An angel is seen flying in heaven. This angel carries the gospel. The angel is not seen preaching the gospel. Rather, God, in His providence can be sure that the gospel message is preached in all places.

B. It is obedience to this gospel that will allow us to become part of the 144,000.

Verse 7

7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

A. The angel instructs us to do three things:

1. Fear God . Reverence and a sense of awe will be apparent when we realize we are in the presence of God.

2. Give Him glory. To God belongs all the praise and glory.

3. Worship Him . God is the creator of all things. He made the sea, the earth, and the heavens. God created land and water under the land. His power must be realized. When one realizes the majesty, glory and power of God, worship is a natural result.

B. We must fear God. We must give glory to God. The result is worship. Worship springs from our reverence and glory of God.

Verse 8

8 And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”

A. In contrast to the 144,000, who are pure and blameless, we now meet Babylon. An angel says, “Babylon is fallen.” We are told that she lead nations to commit fornication. We will learn more about Babylon later in our study. For now suffice it to say that Babylon represents immorality and corruption.

B. She led kings of the earth into abominations. She is called the mother of harlots. (17:1-5)

Verses 9-10

9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

A. The third angel announces that all who worship the beast and receive his mark will also suffer the wrath of God. God’s cup of indignation is full. Those who worship the beast will suffer the torment of hell.

B. God will punish the beast that is worshipped. God will punish Babylon who leads men into immorality. God will also punish those who are led astray. It is easy to point fingers and blame others for our sins. God realizes that both the temper and the temped have a responsibility.

C. Many people only see the God of patience, love and compassion. God is all of these things. However, there is another side to God. ( Rom_11:22 ) God is good. God is also a severe God. Verse 10 tells us there will be a time when the cup of God’s wrath and indignation overflows.

D. This punishment will occur, not in secret, but in front of all the angels and in the presence of the Lamb. The wrath of God will be poured out.

Verse 11

11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

A. God will punish the immoral. He will punish Satan, the beasts, and all who oppose God or do harm to God’s sealed people.

B. This verse describes Hell as a place where smoke rises eternally. Where there is smoke, there is fire.

C. The place of torment does not take a holiday. There is no rest, no time off, and no relief.

D. All who worship the beast will occupy Hell. All who receive the mark of the beast and follow the beast will be there.

E. The very knowledge of Hell ought to urge us to remain faithful to our Lord. We must only worship the true and living God. Hell will be our eternal destiny, if we abandon our faith and worship the beast.

Verse 12

12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.

A. God is patient with us. He is longsuffering, waiting for us to repent. Now, God is telling the saints under persecution to be patient.

B. This generation is one of instant gratification. We have instant foods, microwave ovens, and fast modes of travel. We are a Burger King society. We want it our way, right away!

C. We may not be able to see the end of our suffering. All we can do is remain faithful. Keep the commandments. Remain faithful to Jesus.

D. When all else seems to fail - Keep the faith. Stay faithful to Christ.

Verse 13

13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”

A. This voice seems to be the voice of God. Three times previously in this chapter an angel speaks and an angel is identified as the source of the message.

B. John is instructed to write. Of course, he has been writing the entire vision. However, here is a specific statement. God wants to be sure this is recorded. This is not in any cryptic or symbolic language.

C. Blessed are the dead. Yes, some have died. Others will die. God has not forgotten nor is He unaware of the persecution.

D.“Blessed” is a word used 7 times in the book of Revelation. Jesus used this word to begin his “Sermon on the Mount.” The word describes an attitude of joy, happiness. NOTE: These deceased saints are not happy because they suffered and died. They are happy that they were seen as faithful. Their faith is now confirmed.

E. Heaven, more fully described in chapters 21 and 22, is a place of rest. Here, on earth, we labor, toil, work, suffer, and die. The “rest” comes after the labor is over. The message here: Don’t quit too soon. Remain faithful. The situation is similar to a person quitting an employment a week before they are eligible for retirement benefits. For the Christian, the retirement benefits are in heaven.

F. Their works, the good they have done, the example they set, will continue to influence others long after they have died. The Hebrew writer teaches us that even Able, the son of Adam and Eve, continues to speak even though he is dead. ( Heb_11:4 ) If we are faithful and set a good example by our life and in our death, many Christians will be encouraged. Non-Christians will be challenged to consider the faith.

Verse 14

14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.

A. We now move to another graphic scene of the final judgment. John sees a white cloud. On the cloud is Jesus. Some deny this is Jesus because it says, “one like” Jesus. However, similar language was used in 1:13.

B. The gold crown represents power and authority. The sickle is the symbol of one who is about to execute judgment on the wicked and unfaithful.

Verse 15

15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”

A. Now the fourth angel in this chapter begins to speak. This angel announces that the time of judgment is here.

B. Thrust in the sickle. Harvest time is here. In our vernacular, “The fat lady is singing.”

C. The time of patience has ended. The time of grace and mercy are over. Now is the time of harvest. There are two parts to the harvest. The gathering of the good fruit and the uprooting and burning of the rest of the field. Study the parable of the Tares in Mat_13:24-30 . In Mat_3:12 , John the Baptizer makes a similar statement. Save the wheat and burn the chaff.

Verse 16

16 So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

A. Jesus, the righteous judge, thrusts the sickle on the earth. The earth is reaped.

B. The message is clear. The righteous will be separated from the wicked. The wheat will be separated from the tares.

Verse 17

17 Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.

A. We are now introduced to the fifth angel in this section of Revelation. This angel has a sharp sickle. The sharpness of the sickle in the hands of Jesus was not described until now. The word “also” indicates that both Jesus and this angel have sickles sharp enough to separate the wheat from the tares. Their sickles can cut between the wheat and the chaff.

B. This angle came out of the temple. It is clear that this angel is coming from the presence of God. He is not acting on his own. He is functioning under the direction of God.

Verse 18

18 And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.”

A. In rapid succession, here comes the sixth angel. He comes from the altar. He has power over fire.

B. The angel says, “The grapes are fully ripe.” Interpretation: We cannot wait any longer. There is a time for patience. There is a time when it is proper for God to delay judgment. Now, that time is past. Any more postponement would be wrong.

C. Our God is a Holy God. It is His holiness that will not allow Him to be seen as sanctioning or condoning evil. God declares that wicked men cannot come near Him because “I am holier than you.” ( Isa_65:5 ) God also is described with these words, “For you are not a God that has pleasure in wickedness: neither will evil dwell with you.” ( Psa_5:4 ) Christians are given instructions to avoid fellowship with false teachers or bidding them Godspeed. To approve or consort with a false teacher causes you to be equally guilty before God. ( 2Jn_1:9-11 ) If we cannot sanction sin, certainly God cannot.

D. The world is reaching a point of great evil and wickedness. God cannot appear that He is allowing or sympathetic to sin. Something must be done, and quickly.

Verse 19

19 So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

A. The angel with the sharp sickle begins the actual harvest. The vine of the earth, the fruit of all immorality, the product of all false teaching, the outgrowth of wickedness and corruption are being harvested. All of this evil fruit is being thrown into the winepress.

B. The punishment will be great torment. The reason: They have harmed the people of God. If you harm or kill the sealed of God, you will have to face the judgment of God.

C. The wrath of God is a justified anger. This is not quick, violent temper. The wrath of God is often ignored or overlooked. Many focus on the grace and love of God. They forget that God is a Holy and Just God. While this world stands the primary focus of God is on His Mercy, Patience, Love, Kindness, Forgiveness, and Gentleness. When this world ends, at the Second Coming of Christ, the God who will judge us will be a God of Justice, Holiness, Wrath, and Severity. ( Rom_11:22 )

Verse 20

20 And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.

A. The torment of the wicked is outside the city. This term will appear again in Rev_22:14-15 . The obedient are inside the city of God. Outside the city are dogs. The dogs here are defined as sorcerers, harlots, murderers, idolaters and liars.

B. Jesus was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem. ( Heb_13:12 ) The wicked will suffer the wrath of God. Part of the wrath and retribution from God will be separation from Him. ( 2Th_1:7-9 )

C. The disobedient will suffer. All the wicked will suffer punishment.

D. The blood of those in the winepress of God’s wrath will form a river of blood. It is described as a river as deep as the bridle of a horse’s bridle. This river runs for 1600 furlongs. NOTE: A furlong Isaiah 606 feet and 9 inches (606.75 feet). This was the length of a race in the ancient Olympics (just over 200 yards). So, the river is as deep as a horse’s bridle and over 180 miles in length.

E. I do not believe that these numbers have any particular significance. I believe John is adding this information to the drama. The description is given for dramatic effect. Just as the streets of Rome were lighted with the burning bodies of Christians, so there is now a river of blood flowing from the wrath of God. The imagery is unmistakable. The wrath of God will be complete. No one will escape punishment.

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Revelation 14". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/revelation-14.html. 2021.
 
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