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We have here a most beautiful View of Christ, as a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, his Church, and with him a blessed Company of his Redeemed. An Angel is seen as flying in the Midst of Heaven. Another is heard, declaring the Fall of Babylon. Here is the Harvest of the Earth, and the Vintage, and Wine Press of the Wrath of God.
(1) 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. (2) And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: (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. (4) 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. (5) And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
This Chapter opens, with presenting a most interesting view to the Apostle's mind, to relieve him from the awful scenes he had in the preceding Chapter been exercised with. The reign of antichrist for the long period of twelve hundred and sixty days, or prophetical years, could not fail of having much depressed John's spirits. The Lord, therefore, here gives him a most lovely prospect of the Church. He looked, and beheld the same Lamb which had so often been seen by him in those visions, and now saw standing on Mount Zion, his Church; and encircled with his sealed ones, having his Father's name in their foreheads. There were many sweet mercies included in this view. As first, Jesus still appeared to the Apostle, in his personal glory as the Lamb, as if to intimate the everlasting sameness of his Mediator-character, and the everlasting efficacy of his blood and righteousness. No time, no, nor eternity itself, can make any alteration in Jesus, as Jesus. For although, when all the great purposes of Christ s mediation in the kingdom of grace shall be accomplished, and the last elect child of God is brought home to the Lord, the Lord Jesus it is said, will deliver up the kingdom to God the Father, that the whole persons of the Godhead may be glorified together, in the accomplishment of their Covenant of grace, yet, the Person of Christ as God-Man, will eternally remain. No period will ever arrive, wherein Christ shall cease to be Christ; that is, God and Man in one Person. Jesus is, and must be the Lamb forever. Yea, and all the communications of glory, will be to all eternity in Him, and by Him, and through Him. For he is then, at much as now the Head of his body the Church, the fullness of Him, which filleth all in all, Ephesians 1:22-23 . Hence, the very great blessedness here manifested to John, and to the Church through John , that Christ appeared to him, as the Lamb on Mount Zion.
Secondly. The place of manifestation was also gracious, and no doubt intended to teach both John and the Church, a most sweet and precious lesson. Mount Zion is Christ's Church, of whom it is said the Lord hath chosen Zion, he hath desired it for his habitation. This (he saith) is my rest forever, here will I dwell, for I have desired it, Psalms 132:13-14 . Here it is, Jesus plants his Church. Here, the king is held in the galleries of his ordinances. His presence is Zion's glory, her strength, her security. And this was most blessedly shown, upon the present occasion to John, because the long reign of Antichrist, in the beast and dragon, with all their persecutions, that the Church laying open to such foes, might be taught Zion's king was still in her, watching over her night and day, and watering her every moment. Nothing could be more gracious and timely, than this vision of Christ, and of the spot where the Lamb stood. It was in exact correspondence to that scripture, Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for, lo! I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her, Zechariah 2:5-10 .
Thirdly. There is also a very striking beauty in this scripture, that the number of an hundred and forty and four thousand are mentioned, being the very same number whom John had in a former vision seen, as sealed by Christ. (See Revelation 7:2 ) So that here was shown, that notwithstanding all the long and wearisome persecutions, not one of them was lost. And moreover, the name of their Father, beheld by John in their foreheads, became as plain a proof, that they had made an open profession before men, whose they were, and to whom they belonged, in direct defiance to them, who had the mark of the beast, Revelation 13:16-17 . Oh! how blessed is it, when the Lord gives grace, in the present hour, to his tried ones, that none of the privileges, of buying, or selling the world's traffic, can induce the Lord's people to worship the beast, or to receive his horrible name in their foreheads.
Fourthly. The mercy of this vision, in seeing Jesus with his redeemed, was intended by way of relief at this time, because the opposition of hell, with the two Antichristian powers, of the East, and the West, were to increase to a still greater degree, in proportion as the time hastened on, for their destruction. It is well known of the serpent of the earth, that he never stretches himself so long as when dying. And the serpent of hell, we are told, is come down with great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. Revelation 12:1-2 . The last bite of the beast, will be the deepest. How very sweet and gracious was it therefore in the Lord, when about to shew his servant John the yet more violent persecutions coming on from the malice of hell and his auxiliaries, to show him here, that Christ was in his Church, and everyone of his little ones protected by him, and in everlasting safety.
Fifthly. But the mercy shown John in this representation, and to the Church through him, was extended further. For, in addition to what he saw, he heard also a voice from heaven, (that is, from the Church,) as the voice of many waters, and as thunder, intimating the multitude, probably the same multitude as John saw, Revelation 7:9 , chanting aloud the song of redemption; no doubt the same as John heard before, the words of which he hath given us, Revelation 5:9 . And, I beg the Reader to notice with peculiar regard, that none could learn the song but the redeemed. What can be more decisive in proof of the sovereignty of grace? In the Church upon earth there are none that truly and spiritually join ordinances, participate in their saving grace, in spirit and in understanding, taste and relish divine things, but the people of God. For how can a dead body partake of food? How can a sinner dead in trespasses and sins, until quickened into spiritual life, partake of the bread, of life? And equally so in the Church of heaven, none could ever sing or learn the song of redemption, unless redeemed from the earth, some men dream of heaven as if it was a place that in itself must be productive of happiness. And hence they think that if they can but get there among the crowd, they know not how, and I had almost said they care not how; they should be as happy as the rest. Alas! it is not the place which constitutes happiness, but the presence of the Lord. Where Christ is, and in the soul where Christ dwells, there is life and joy eternal. But without this saving change wrought on the soul of a sinner by regeneration, heaven, if it were possible to attain it, (and which is impossible by all that are not born again, John 3:5 ) would produce no happiness; but, on the contrary, misery. For the unrenewed man would be forever wretched in hearing this song of redemption, without being able to join in a single note of it, to all eternity.
Sixthly. The features of character given to the Lord's army, come in with much sweetness, to close the account of this vision. And this is by no means the smallest part of the beauty of it. Under the figure of chastity, their attachment to Christ is shown. They are said, not to have defiled themselves with women. By which, in a general way of expression, is evidently meant to contrast the Lord's followers from the followers of the beast. The kings of the earth, and all the nations, are said to have committed fornication, and to have been made drunken with the wine of the beast, Revelation 18:3 . But the Lord's redeemed are described by their chastity to Christ, and as the followers of the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Their mouth without guile, and their being without fault before the throne, cannot be supposed to imply any purity in themselves, for in the similar representation John saw, they are said to have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. See Revelation 7:14 . But it is Christ's righteousness which is the purity of his people, and their robes of salvation in which they appear before the throne, their royal dress. He hath made them kings and priests to God and the Father; and therefore, this is the sole account wherefore they stand before his throne and serve him in his temple night and day.
Reader! ponder well this sweet and gracious vision. Think how blessedly the Lord termed it. How full and expressive of his love not only to John, but to the Church, both then and now. And remember, that it is always the same. By faith you and I may see the Lamb still on Mount Zion, and all his redeemed surrounding him. And, oh! for grace, to sing the song of redemption now; for surely then, we shall sing it one day with the whole Church in glory!
(6) 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, (7) 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.
We have here a beautiful description of the preaching of the ever1asting Gospel. I do not presume to speak decidedly, on any passage in the word of God which may be considered of doubtful signification; much less, on such, as in this book, which are in any degree mysterious. But I would humbly ask, whether, in what is here said, that it is the everlasting Gospel, the Angel, is here said to have been seen by John flying in the midst of heaven (that is, the Church,) to preach is not intended, the everlasting preaching of it, in all ages of the Church, against all the heresies which arise? The angel here seen, cannot be supposed to be any one individual person, or messenger, but the representative of all faithful ministers. By the Gospel preached, can mean no other than Christ himself, who is the sum and substance of all, and the full finished salvation by him, such as was preached by the Apostles, after the descent of the Holy Ghost. See Acts 5:42 . Reader! what a relation is here at once given of the Gospel? What an importance is annexed to it, in that the Lord's people shall have it preached to them, in whatever nation, kindred, tongue, or people, they shall be? So the Lord hath provided; and so will he accomplish his purpose. Oh! how eternally safe and secure are the redeemed of the Lord, Isaiah 27:13 .
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.
Here is the second Embassy, and reaching to a period still further remote, looking indeed into those times, when the heresy of the West, under the Pope, should begin to give way. I do not presume to ascertain the period; but I find some have, and fixed it to about the opening of the fifteenth century. The fall of mystical Babylon, meaning Rome, began much about this time. The Lord raised up certain characters from among her own communion, which began to call her authority in question..
(9) 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, (10) 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: (11) And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever 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. (12) Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
Within these verses we have the awful denunciation against those who worship the beast, and receive his mark, And, what I admire particularly in this account is, the striking contrast, between the Lord's people and the ungodly. While the one is under the awful condemnation of everlasting punishment; the other is said to possess the patience of the saints, in waiting on the Lord.
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.
I would desire permission to consider this verse by itself, for the blessedness and sweetness of it. I do not say but that it might be supposed to have an immediate reference to that age in which it was written. But I do say, that the general, yea, the universal consolations of it, are such, as to suit all ages of the Church of God. Everywhere, and upon all occasions, it must be allowed, that the dead are blessed dead, which die in the Lord. And John, being commanded by a voice to write it down, evidently shows, that God the Holy Ghost will have the Church to know their blessedness in this particular. A few of the more striking features will prove it.
As first. The blessed dead, which die in the Lord, die in union with Christ. They are, in fact, part of himself; members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. And, in the sight of God, to all intents and purposes, they are one. For as Christ is the head of his body the Church, where the head is, the members must be; so that though dying out of time, they still live to him in eternity. And this is what the Apostle said: For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's, Romans 14:8 .
Secondly. The dead are blessed, which die in the Lord, from henceforth: because, from the moment of their death, and from henceforth, they are God out of the gun-shot of the enemy. No heresy, no powers of darkness, neither men nor devils, can anymore annoy them. Oh! the blessedness of being freed from the malice of the world, and from the powers of darkness. Satan cannot anymore forever, throw his fiery darts, to distress the child of God. Even if this had been all, it would have been sweet, to have heard the voice from heaven, saying, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.
Thirdly. They are blessed which die in the Lord, because their own body of sin shall no more distress them. No further sorrows shall arise from the out-breakings of sin, or the indwelling of corruption. No tears shall fall anymore from pain. No anguish from heart-distresses. They rest from their labors, and sorrow and sighing are done away.
And, lastly, to mention no more. Dying in the Lord, they rest in the Lord, their spirits are with the Lord. Hence they are blessed in the Lord. Their works follow them. What works? Not good works, for they have none. Lord saith the Prophet, thou hath wrought all our works in us! Isaiah 26:12 . Not their bad works, for the Lord hath washed away all their sins in his blood, 1 John 1:7 . What works then are these, which are said to follow the blessed dead? Perhaps their works and labor of love, in seeing the fruit of their prayers answered in the Church's prosperity. The cries of the soul awakened by grace, and therefore the Lord's work in them, answered in mercy, when meeting before the throne the redeemed of the Lord brought home, like themselves, by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
(14) 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. (15) 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. (16) And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. (17) And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. (18) And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. (19) And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. (20) 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.
There can be no question who this Person was John saw on the white cloud. His name, Son of Man, defines his Person and character. And indeed, John, at the opening of this vision, had so seen him before. See Revelation 1:13 . And his is the office to reap the fruits of his redemption. And the other angel that came out of the temple crying to the Lord Jesus, though no other than a ministering servant, is not to be supposed to be commanding, but only calling to him. Angels are longing for the period of the Redeemer's glory. And these are said, therefore, to be waiting for Jesus to send them into his harvest, to gather souls. Matthew 13:36 , etc. But the allusions here made, both to reaping, and vintage, are so much one and the same, in reference to Christ's gathering his people, that there can need nothing by way of illustration upon the subject. Instead, therefore, of offering any observations upon what is already so very plain as to need none, I shall rather beg the Reader to attend with me to one or two views, both of this reaping and vintage of Jesus, which are the immediate and sure result of his seed time, in grace; and his redemption-work, in shedding his blood, without the city.
In the first place, the thrusting in Christ's sickle, to the reaping of his harvest, is secured by every assurance of Covenant-faithfulness; because grace given in the seed-time to his people, is an earnest of glory. It is not said, in the scriptures of eternal truth, that the Lord hath called us merely unto grace, but unto eternal glory by Christ Jesus. Grace is the earnest of glory. He will give grace and glory, 1 Peter 5:10 ; 2 Corinthians 5:4 ; Psalms 84:11 .
Secondly. It is not indeed sufficient to say, that grace leads to glory; for grace is glory begun. Grace, like the bud, which contains all the foliage of the future flower, hath in its bosom, all the openings to glory, in Christ Jesus. For what comes from Christ, leads to Christ. And as by grace, we are made partakers of the divine nature; so the interest we have in Christ, must infallibly secure glory from Christ. Jesus himself hath said, because I live, ye shall live also, John 14:19 .
Thirdly. Christ's harvest is secured, because it is not liable to be blighted by winds, or storms, or drought, or any other adverse circumstances, which arise. The issue is doubtful. He that hath called his people with an holy calling, hath guarded against all possibilities of peradventures. Difficulties are for men, not for God. Jesus himself watches over his people, and his harvest; and it is impossible that it shall fail. And the more discouragements which appear to us, the more opportunity is afforded for the manifestation of his grace. Jesus will perfect his strength, in our weakness; and the end will prove, that the whole is his work, as the whole is his glory.
And, lastly, to mention no more. What endears the whole process to the child of God, and shows that from beginning to end it is all grace, is that (to use the figure of harvest and vintage here adopted,) when to our view all seems blighted, and the whole appears, again and again, in withering circumstances; yet to Him that looks, he sees a blessing in it, when we can see none; and the Lord at length brightens up his own heritage, and makes the whole smile, and blossom, and bring forth abundantly. Reader! it is blessed to feel and know our own nothingness, and Christ's all-sufficiency; that in conscious sense, we can bring forth nothing, but as the Lord Jesus disposeth by his grace, we may daily refer all unto Him, and sweetly hear his voice, when he saith: From me is thy fruit found, Hosea 14:8 .
Lamb of God! give me to behold thee with the eye of faith, as John saw thee in vision, encircled with thine holy army, made holy in thy holiness, and sealed with the Father's name written in their foreheads. Oh! the blessedness of being thus acknowledged by the Father, supported by the Son, and sealed with the Holy Ghost.
Lord! do thou still in those awful times, give to thy servants grace to behold thee standing on Mount Zion. Do thou manifest, Lord, thy love to her, in being in her; and thine affections for her, in defending her. Let thy faithful know, and let thine enemies feel, that Jesus is King in Zion, whom God the Father hath set there. Yea! Lord cause every knee to bow before thee, and every tongue to confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father!
Precious Jesus! let thy everlasting Gospel go on, from age to age, to bear down all before it, of the dreadful heresies of the present day, and all that may hereafter arise. Thy harvest must come. Thy vintage shall be sure. Jesus will cause the blood of the winepress to be productive of its full blessing. Men shall be blessed in thee. And thy people out of all nations shall call thee blessed. And, from time to time, the Lord will gather out his redeemed, and fulfil, in every instance, his holy will and pleasure. The voice John once heard, is forever sounding in the ear of faith; and may the Lord give grace to his people, to receive and believe the record: Blessed are be dead which die in the Lord! Yea, the Spirit confirms the certain truth; for they die in Jesus, and are blessed.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 14". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20