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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Revelation 14

A.M. 4100. A.D. 96.

To comfort the church in her suffering condition during the reign of antichrist,

(1,) A hundred and forty-four thousand are represented as faithfully adhering to Christ and his truths in that period, and praising God for their preservation from the general corruption, Revelation 14:1-5 .

(2,) While three angels prepare the way for antichrist’s ruin, one by preaching the gospel, a second by proclaiming the downfall of Popery, and a third by denouncing terrible vengeance on its adherents, the Holy Ghost attests the happiness of all that die in the Lord, martyrs or others, Revelation 14:6-13 .

(3,) By the emblems of harvest, corn reaped, and vine clusters gathered and trodden, is represented the sudden and most terrible destruction of the antichristian kingdom and its subjects, Revelation 14:14-20 .

“The description of the melancholy state of the church and world during this period, in the foregoing chapters, might be apt somewhat to discourage the faithful worshippers of God; for though God, by a spirit of prophecy, had before revealed this suffering state to the church, and so it was represented as what the wisdom of Divine Providence thought fit to permit, and what was therefore reconcileable to the goodness and power of the great Governor of the world; yet it was a very useful design of these revelations to subjoin proper principles of consolation and encouragement to such a melancholy representation of temptation, danger, and suffering. This seems the intention of this chapter, in which the scene of the prophetical vision is changed from earth to heaven; from a view of the church under the persecution of the beast, to a view of the church in the presence of the Lamb: delivered from the state of corruption and oppression so much to be expected from this evil world, and arrived at a state of complete and perfect happiness in the heavenly world. This vision, then, represents the sure destruction of the enemies of truth and righteousness in the end, however they may prevail for a time: it shows the very great reward of the faithful, and dreadful punishment of the apostates, who shall fall from the faith and purity of the Christian worship in the day of trial. Thus this part of the prophecy unites the strongest principles of warning, caution, encouragement, and hope, than which nothing could be more proper or useful for the church in such a state of providence; or to the general design of the whole prophecy, which is to exhort and encourage the constancy and patience of the saints in all their trials. When we consider this chapter in this view, it will show a more easy, natural, and proper connection between this vision and the foregoing than is usually observed; and make the whole plan and design appear more regular and exact than it is usually thought to be.” Lowman.

Verses 1-4

Revelation 14:1-4. I looked, and behold a Lamb The Lord Jesus, in the form of a lamb, or as the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world, and not only with horns like a lamb; stood on mount Sion Namely, the heavenly Sion; and with him a hundred forty and four thousand The same select number that was mentioned Revelation 7:4, the genuine followers of the twelve apostles, apostolically multiplied, and therefore the number of the church, as six hundred and sixty-six is the number of the beast; and as the followers of the beast have the name of the beast, so these have the name of God, and, as some copies add, of Christ, written in their foreheads As being the redeemed of God and of the Lamb, his now unalienable property, and as having been, when on earth, his professed servants, and the same as the witnesses. This prophecy often introduces the inhabitants of heaven as a kind of chorus, with great propriety and elegance. The church above, making suitable reflections on the grand events which are foretold in this book, greatly serves to raise the attention of real Christians, and to teach the high concern they have in them. Thus is the church on earth instructed, animated, and encouraged, by the sentiments, temper, and devotion of the church in heaven. And I heard a voice Or sound, from heaven Sounding clearer and clearer; first at a distance; as the sound of many waters Or thunders; and afterward, being nearer, it was as of harpers harping on their harps It sounded vocally and instrumentally at once. And they sung With voices and instruments of music; as it were a new song The Christian song, which they sung before, chap. 5.; and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand Those who had been the true spiritual worshippers of the one true God, through the one true Mediator, Jesus Christ; all the rest of mankind offering up their devotions to other objects, and through other mediators; or not worshipping with a truly spiritual worship; which were redeemed from the earth From this present evil world, being bought by the blood of Christ, and delivered from the guilt and power of sin by the word and Spirit of God. These are they which were not Or, had not been, defiled with women It seems that one kind of defilement, and the most alluring temptation, is put for every other. Or rather, the meaning is, that they had kept themselves pure from the stains and pollutions of spiritual whoredom, or idolatry, with which the other parts of the world were miserably debauched and corrupted. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth Who are nearest to him; or rather, the meaning is, who followed the Lamb in all things while on earth; who adhered constantly to the religion of Christ, in all conditions and in all places, whether in adversity or prosperity; whether in conventicles and deserts, or in churches and cities. These were redeemed from among men Rescued from the corruptions prevalent among mankind, and consecrated as the first-fruits unto God and the Lamb An earnest and assurance of a more plentiful harvest in succeeding times. And in their mouth was found no guile They were as free from hypocrisy as from idolatry; for they were without fault before the throne of God They resembled their blessed Redeemer, who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, (1 Peter 2:22,) and were, as the apostle requires Christians to be, blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, &c., Philippians 2:15. But possibly it may be asked, Where did such a church ever exist, especially before the Reformation? To which it may be replied, That it hath existed, and not only in idea, history demonstrates; as it hath been before evinced that there hath been, in every age, some true worshippers of God, and faithful servants of Jesus Christ; and as Elijah did not know the seven thousand who had never bowed the knee to Baal, so there may have been more true Christians than were always visible.

Verses 6-7

Revelation 14:6-7. And As a further motive to Christian patience and constancy, this vision of the happy state of faithful Christians was followed by another; I saw another angel A second is mentioned Revelation 14:8; a third, Revelation 14:9. These denote great messengers of God, with their assistants. The first exhorts to the fear and worship of God, the second proclaims the fall of Babylon, the third gives warning concerning the beast. Happy were they who made a right use of these divine messages! Fly Or flying, going on swiftly; in the midst of heaven Through the air; having the everlasting gospel to preach unto every nation and people Both to Jews and Gentiles, even as far as the authority of the beast had extended. In the fourth and fifth verses the nature and character of the true Christian Church, in opposition to the wicked antichristian kingdom, were described; and here it is predicted that three principal efforts would be made toward a reformation at three different times, represented by the three angels appearing one after another. Or, that the gospel, here said to be everlasting, because, like its Divine Author, it is the same yesterday, to- day, and for ever, should be preached during this period, in opposition to the novel doctrines of the beast and the false prophet, which should be rooted up, Matthew 15:13. And the swiftness with which the gospel should be disseminated and spread over the world, is admirably represented by the swift flight of the first angel; and the nature of the doctrine, and the earnestness wherewith it should be especially inculcated, is set forth by the first clause of the next verse; saying, with a loud voice That is, urging in the most zealous and forcible manner, Fear God, and give glory to him, who made heaven, earth, the sea, &c. Revere, stand in awe of, dread to offend, worship, and serve him; for the hour of his judgment is come It is now denounced with certainty, and in due time will be fully executed on the impenitent, unbelieving, and disobedient. “It is,” says Bishop Newton, “a solemn and emphatic exhortation to forsake the reigning idolatry and superstition, and such exhortations were made even in the first and earliest times of the beast. Besides several of the Greek emperors, who strenuously opposed the worship of images, Charlemagne himself held a council at Frankfort in the year 794, consisting of about three hundred French, and German, and Italian, and Spanish, and British bishops, who condemned all sorts of adoration or worship of images, and rejected the second council of Nice, which had authorized and established it. At the same time the Caroline books, as they are called, four books written by Charles himself, or by his authority, proving the worship of images to be contrary to the Scripture, and to the doctrine and practice of antiquity, were approved by the council, and transmitted to the pope. Lewis the Pious, the son and successor of Charles, held a council at Paris, in the year 824, which ratified the acts of the council of Frankfort, and the Caroline books, and affirmed that, according to the Scripture and the fathers, adoration was due to God alone. Several private persons also taught and asserted the same Scriptural doctrines. Claude, bishop of Turin, declares, that ‘we are not commanded to go to the creature that we may be made happy, but to the Creator himself; and therefore we should not worship dead men; they are to be imitated, not to be adored; let us, together with the angels, worship one God.’ Agobard, archbishop of Lyons, wrote a whole book against images, and says, that ‘angels or saints may be loved and honoured, but not be served and worshipped; let us not put our trust in man, but in God, lest that prophetic denunciation should redound on us, Cursed is the man who trusteth in man.’ Many other bishops and writers of Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France, professed the same sentiments; and this public opposition of emperors and bishops to the worship of saints and images, in the eighth and ninth centuries, appears to be meant particularly by the loud voice of this first angel flying aloft, and calling upon the world to worship God. In another respect, too, these emperors and bishops resemble this angel having the everlasting gospel to preach unto every nation; for in their time, and greatly by their means, the Christian religion was propagated and established among the Saxons, Danes, Swedes, and many other northern nations.”

Verse 8

Revelation 14:8. And there followed another angel As the admonitions of the first angel had not the proper effect upon the kingdom of the beast, a second angel is commissioned to proclaim the fall of the capital city, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city By Babylon is meant Rome, including the antichristian kingdom, the papal hierarchy seated there. Rome, considered in this light, is called Babylon, upon many accounts. Babylon was magnificent, strong, proud, powerful. So was Rome also. Babylon was first, Rome afterward, the residence of the emperors of a great part of the world. What Babylon was to Israel of old, Rome hath been both to the literal and spiritual Israel of God. Hence the liberty of the ancient Jews was connected with the overthrow of the Babylonish empire. And when Rome is finally overthrown, then the people of God will be at liberty. Whenever Babylon is mentioned in this book, the great is added, to teach us that Rome then commenced Babylon when it commenced the great city; when it swallowed up the Grecian monarchy and its fragments, Syria in particular; and, in consequence of this, obtained dominion over Jerusalem, about sixty years before the birth of Christ. Then it began, but it will not cease to be Babylon, till it is finally destroyed. Its spiritual greatness began in the fifth century, and increased from age to age. It seems it will come to its utmost height just before its final overthrow. Her fornication is her idolatry, invocation of saints and angels, worship of images, human traditions, with all that outward pomp, yea, and that fierce and bloody zeal, wherewith she pretends to serve God. But with spiritual fornication, as elsewhere, so in Rome, fleshly fornication is joined abundantly. Witness the stews there, licensed by the pope, which are no inconsiderable branch of his revenue. This is fitly compared to wine, because of its intoxicating nature. Of this wine she hath, indeed, made all nations drink More especially by her later missions. We may observe, this making them drink is not ascribed to the beast, but to Babylon. For Rome itself, the Roman inquisitions, congregations, and Jesuits, continually propagate their idolatrous doctrines and practices, with or without the consent of this or that pope, who himself is not secure from their censure. But, as Bishop Newton observes, though Rome, with the antichristian power above described, was evidently here intended, it would not have been prudent to predict and denounce its destruction in open and direct terms; it was for many wise reasons done thus covertly under the name of Babylon, the great idolatress of the earth, and enemy of the people of God in former times. By the same figure of speech that the first angel cried, that the hour of his judgment is come, this second angel proclaims that Babylon is fallen; the sentence is as certain as if it was already executed. For greater certainty too it is repeated twice, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; as Joseph said, Genesis 41:32, that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice, because the thing was established by God. The reason then is added of this sentence against Babylon; because she made all nations drink of the wine of her wrath, or rather, of the inflaming wine, of her fornication Hers was a kind of Circean cup with poisoned liquor, to intoxicate and inflame mankind to spiritual fornication. St. John, in these figures, copies the ancient prophets. In the same manner, and in the same words, did Isaiah foretel the fate of ancient Babylon, (Isaiah 21:9,) Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and Jeremiah hath assigned much the same reason for her destruction, (Jeremiah 51:7,) Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad. As by the first angel calling upon men to worship God, we understand the opposers of the worship of images in the eighth and ninth centuries, so by this second angel proclaiming the fall of mystic Babylon or Rome we understand particularly Peter Valdo, and those who concurred with him among the Waldenses and Albigenses; who were the first heralds, as I may say, of this proclamation, as they first of all, in the twelfth century, pronounced the Church of Rome to be the apocalyptic Babylon, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth; and for this cause not only departed from her communion themselves, but engaged great numbers also to follow their example, and laid the first foundation of the Reformation. Rome then began to fall; and as the ruin of Babylon was completed by degrees, so likewise will that of Rome; and these holy confessors and martyrs first paved the way to it.

Verses 9-12

Revelation 14:9-12 . And the third angel followed At no great distance of time; saying As the two former had done; with a loud voice With authority and earnestness; If any man worship the beast, &c. The commission of this angel reaches further than that of the preceding; it extends not only to the capital city, not only to the principal agents and promoters of idolatry, but to all the subjects of the beast, whom it consigns over to everlasting punishment. If any man worship the beast That is, embrace and profess the religion of the beast; or, what is the same, the religion of the Papal hierarchy; the same shall drink, &c. The worship against which judgment is here denounced, consists partly in an inward submission to the beast, a persuasion that all who are subject to Christ must be subject to the beast, or they cannot receive the influences of divine grace; or, as their expression is, “There is no salvation out of the church;” and partly in a suitable outward reverence to the beast and his image the antichristian kingdom, and the pope that rules in it. The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God The wine of God’s indignation, tempered with various ingredients of wrath; which is poured out without mixture Namely, of mercy, and without hope. Bishop Newton renders the expression, the poisonous wrath of God; observing, “His punishment shall correspond with his crime; as he drank of the poisonous wine of Babylon, so he shall be made to drink of the poisonous wine of God; του κεκερασμενου ακρατου , which is mixed unmixed, the poisonous ingredients being stronger when mixed with mere, or unmixed wine;” in the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone In the day of God’s future vengeance; in the presence of the holy angels From hence some conjecture that possibly the torments of the damned may, at certain seasons, through eternal ages, become a spectacle to the inhabitants of the blessed world above; and in the presence of the Lamb This signifies that their punishment shall not only be appointed by the infinite majesty of God, but approved moreover by men and angels, and by him also who loved us unto death, even Christ, our merciful and compassionate High-Priest. In all the Scriptures there is not another threatening so terrible as this. And God, by this greater fear, intended to arm his servants against the fear of the beast. The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever “When I seriously reflect on this text,” says Doddridge, “and how directly the force of it lies against those who, contrary to the light of their consciences, continue in the communion of the Church of Rome for secular advantage, or to avoid the terror of persecution, it almost makes me tremble.” By this third angel following the others with a loud voice, we may understand principally Luther and his fellow-reformers, who, with a loud voice, protested against the corruptions of the Church of Rome, and declared them to be destructive of salvation to all who obstinately continued in the practice and profession of them. This would be a time of great trial, Revelation 14:12. Here is the patience of the saints Manifested in suffering all things, rather than receive this mark of the beast, the badge of their devotedness to him, and making an open profession of his religion; who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus The character of all true saints. It is very well known that this was a time of great trial and persecution; the Reformation was not introduced and established without much bloodshed; there were many martyrs in every country, but they were comforted with a solemn declaration from heaven in the next words.

Verse 13

Revelation 14:13. And I heard a voice from heaven This is most seasonably heard when the beast is in his highest power and fury; saying unto me, Write He was at first commanded to write the whole book. Whenever this is repeated, it denotes something peculiarly observable. Blessed Μακαριοι , happy, are the dead which die in the Lord In the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ; and, in consequence of that faith, in a state of vital union with him, he being thereby made of God unto them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and thereby imparting unto them, 1st, A satisfactory knowledge of the nature and greatness of their future felicity, in their illumination; 2d, A title to it, in their justification; 3d, A meetness for it, in their sanctification; and, 4th, Bringing them to the enjoyment of it, in their complete redemption from all the consequences of the fall; from henceforth Particularly, 1st, Because they escape the approaching calamities, or are taken away from the evil to come, as the expression is, Isaiah 57:1-2, to which passage there seems to be an allusion here; 2d, Because they already enjoy so near an approach to, and indeed an anticipation of, glory the glory to be conferred at the second coming of Christ, and the resurrection of the dead; for they rest No pain, no purgatory follows; but pure and unmixed happiness; from their labours And the more laborious their life was, the sweeter is their rest. How different is this state from that of those ( Rev 14:11 ) who have no rest day nor night! Reader, which wilt thou choose? And their works Each one’s peculiar works, done from a principle of faith and love, with a single eye to the glory of God, and in a spirit of humility before God, resignation to his will, and patience under all trials and sufferings; and in meekness, gentleness, and long-suffering toward those who oppose them in their Christian course of cheerfully doing good, and patiently suffering ill; follow them And will be produced as evidences of their faith and love; or of the genuineness of their religion at the day of judgment. But the words, τα εργα αυτων ακολουθει μεταυτων , properly signify, their works follow with them, or follow them immediately; that is, the fruit of their works; they reap this, in some measure, immediately on their admission into paradise. Observe, reader, their works do not go before, to procure for them admittance into the mansions of joy and glory, but they follow or attend them when admitted. Bishop Newton accounts for the expression, From henceforth, blessed are the dead, &c., by observing, that though from the time of the Reformation, “the blessedness of the dead who die in the Lord hath not been enlarged, yet it hath been much better understood, more clearly written and promulgated than it was before, and the contrary doctrine of purgatory hath been exploded and banished from the belief of all reasonable men. This truth,” adds he, “was moreover one of the leading principles of the Reformation. What first provoked Luther’s spirit was the scandalous sale of indulgences; and the doctrine of indulgences having a close connection with the doctrine of purgatory, the refutation of the one naturally leads to the refutation of the other; and his first work of reformation was his ninety-five theses, or positions, against indulgences, purgatory, and the dependent doctrines. So that he may be said literally to have fulfilled the command from heaven, of writing, Blessed are the dead, &c., and from that time to this, this truth hath been so clearly asserted, and so solemnly established, that it is likely to prevail for ever.” But though what the bishop here states might be one reason of the expression, from henceforth blessed, &c., yet the principal reason of its being used seems evidently to have been that above suggested, namely, to intimate that the sufferings which the people of God would be exposed to at this period, from the persecutions of the antichristian power, would be so great that those individuals who escaped them by being taken out of the world by death before they came, would have reason to think themselves happy.

Verses 14-16

Revelation 14:14-16. And I looked, and behold a white cloud An emblem of the equity and holiness, as also of the victory of him that sat upon it, over all adverse power; and upon the cloud one like unto the Son of man By the majesty of his form, as represented in Daniel; having on his head a golden crown Signifying his high dignity, his extraordinary authority and power; and a sharp sickle in his hand As if going forth to reap some remarkable harvest. And another angel came out of the temple Which is in heaven, (Revelation 14:17,) out of which came the judgments of God in the proper seasons; crying, by the command of God, with a loud voice, Thrust in thy sickle and reap, for the time is come, &c. Namely, the appointed time of judgment, for which the world is ripe; the voices of the three warning angels, spoken of from Revelation 14:6-11, not having their due effect, it is here predicted that the judgments of God would overtake the followers and adherents of the beast, which judgments are represented in this paragraph under the figures of harvest and vintage, figures not unusual in the prophets, and copied particularly from the Prophet Joel, who denounced God’s judgments against the enemies of his people in the like terms, Joel 3:13, saying, Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe; come, get you down, for the press is full, the fats overflow for their wickedness is great.

“Having passed,” says Mr. Faber, “the epoch of the Reformation, we now advance into the times of God’s last judgments upon his enemies, the days of the third wo-trumpet. Two remarkable periods of the most conspicuous of these judgments (the several steps of the whole of which are afterward described under seven vials) are here arranged under the two grand divisions figuratively styled the harvest and the vintage. In the days of Bishop Newton the third wo-trumpet had not begun to sound. Hence his lordship justly observed, ‘What particular events are signified by this harvest and vintage, it appears impossible for any man to determine; time alone can with certainty discover, for these things are yet in futurity. Only it may be observed, that these two signal judgments will as certainly come, as harvest and vintage succeed in their season; and in the course of providence the one will precede the other, as in the course of nature the harvest is before the vintage; and the latter will greatly surpass the former, and be attended with a most terrible destruction of God’s enemies.’ But although both these signal judgments were future when Bishop Newton wrote, it has been our lot to hear the voice of the third wo, and to behold in the French revolution the dreadful scenes of the harvest. Still, however, a more dreadful prospect extends before us. The days of the vintage are yet future; for the time hath not yet arrived when the great controversy of God with the nations shall be carried on between the two seas, in the neighbourhood of the glorious holy mountain, in the blood-stained vale of Megiddo, in the land whose space extends one thousand six hundred furlongs.” Mr. Faber, therefore, considers the harvest and the vintage here as predicting “two tremendous manifestations of God’s wrath, two seasons of peculiar misery;” and that the apostle gives here only a general intimation of these, reserving a more particular account of them for future consideration under the pouring out of the seven vials, which are all comprehended under the third wo, and which he divides into three classes; the vials of the harvest, the intermediate vials, and the vials of the vintage. Dissertation on the Prophecies, vol. 2. pages 378 and 382, edition 1810. Whether and how far these views of Mr. Faber appear to be just and consistent with the general tenor of this latter part of the prophecy, we shall be better able to judge when we come to consider the contents of the two next chapters.

Verses 17-20

Revelation 14:17-20. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven As the former had done; he also having a sharp sickle To assist in this execution, and finish the destruction of the enemies of the truth. And another angel, just at that instant, came out from the altar Of burnt-offering, from whence the martyrs had cried for vengeance. Which angel, it is said, had power over fire This, according to Daubuz, is spoken in allusion to the office of that priest who was appointed by lot in the temple-service to take care of the fire upon the altar, and who was therefore called the priest over the fire. Grotius interprets it, habens ministerium iræ divinæ, having the office of God’s vengeance. And he cried with a loud voice With great vehemence; to him that had the sharp sickle Being sent to bring a message to him; saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters, &c. Begin to put in execution the righteous judgments of God on this wicked generation; for her grapes are fully ripe The time of God’s vengeance, his appointed time, is fully come, for the iniquities of the inhabitants of the earth have made them fully ripe for destruction. And the angel thrust in his sickle Immediately upon this order the angel began to cut down those wicked persons whose iniquities had made them ripe for destruction; and gathered Or lopped off the grapes of the vine of the earth, and cast them into the great wine- press of the wrath of God Which seemed to stand ready to receive them; that is, delivered them over to divine vengeance, which should press them hard with grievous afflictions, as grapes are pressed in a wine-press. And the wine-press was trodden without the city The images in this vision are very strong and expressive. The largest wine-presses used to be in some places out of the city. This expression, therefore, seems to intimate the great numbers that should be involved in this general destruction. And the blood came out of the wine-press even unto the horses-bridles, &c. Which is a strong hyperbolical expression, to signify a vast slaughter and effusion of blood; a way of speaking not unknown to the Jews, for the Jerusalem Talmud, describing the woful slaughter which the Roman Emperor Adrian made of the Jews at the destruction of the city of Bitter, saith, that “the horses waded in blood up to the nostrils.” Nor are similar examples wanting even in classic authors; for Silius Italicus, speaking of Hannibal’s descent into Italy, useth a like expression of “the bridles flowing with much blood.” The stage where this bloody tragedy is acted is without the city, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs, which, as Mr. Mede ingeniously observes, is the measure of stato dello chiesa, or the state of the Roman Church, or St. Peter’s patrimony, which, reaching from the walls of Rome unto the river Po and the marshes of Verona, contains the space of two hundred Italian miles, which make exactly sixteen hundred furlongs.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 14". Benson's Commentary. 1857.