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Bible Commentaries

Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation

Revelation 14

Verses 1-13

Lecture 34

(Revelation 14:1-13)

THE 144,000--THOSE WHO MAINTAIN THE CONFESSION OF CHRIST OVER AGAINST THE WORSHIPPERS OF THE BEAST--THE SAME SEALED ONES OF CHAPTER SEVEN--THEIR CHIEF CHARACTERISTICS--THEIR PECULIAR REWARD--THE FOUR ANGEL--MESSAGES.

Revelation 14:1-13. (Revised Text.) And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on the mount Sion, and with Him an 144,000, having His name and His Father's name written on their foreheads.


And I heard a sound out of the heaven as a sound of many waters, and as a sound of great thunder: and the sound which I heard [was] as of harp-singers harping with their harps. And they sung a new song in the presence of the throne, and in the presence of the four Living Ones and the Elders: and no one was able to learn the song but the 144,000 who have been redeemed from the earth. These are they who were not denied with women, for they are virgins; these [are] they who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth; these were redeemed from men, a first-fruit to God and to the Lamb; and in their mouth was not found what is false; they are blameless.

And I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having a Gospel everlasting to preach to [upon or over] those who dwell upon the earth and to [upon or over] every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people, saying with a great voice. Fear God and give to Him glory, because the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him who made the heaven, and the earth, and the sea and fountains of waters.


And there followed another, a second angel, saying, Fallen, fallen, the great Babylon which hath made all the nations drink from the wine of the wrath of her fornication.

And there followed them another angel, a third, saying with a great voice, If any one worship the beast and his image, and receive [the] mark on his forehead, or on his hand, even he shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mingled without dilution in the cup of His anger, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the angels and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment goeth up to the ages of ages; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Here is the patience of the saints who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice out of the heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they [may, in that they] shall rest out of their labours; for their works follow with them.


The blackest storms often give place to the loveliest sunsets. The winds and thunders exhaust themselves. The clouds empty and break. And from the calm heavens behind them comes a golden light, girthing the remaining fragments of gloom with chains of brightness, and overarching with the bow of promise the path along which the terrible tempest has just passed. Like this evening glory after the summer's gust, is the chapter on which we now enter. We have seen the coming of the Antichrist in all the frowning blackness of Satan's angry malice, and have shuddered at the awful shadow, distress, and darkness which he casts upon the world. We have seen what havoc he makes with human peace, and the base humiliation he brings upon the proud oaks and lofty cedars of the mountains of human conceit and self-will. We have felt the sickening shock of horror at the contemplation of his hellish power, his blasphemies, and his unparalleled tyranny. We have gazed upon the progress of the most disastrous storm hell's malignant wisdom can devise, or that is ever allowed to afflict our race. We have watched the thickening blackness of darkness amid which the indignation of God is poured upon the intoxicated nations which will not have Christ to rule over them. But now the scene begins to change. The reign of terror cannot last. God's merciful goodness cannot allow it long. The earth would dissolve under it if those days were not shortened, but for the elect's sake they are shortened. Three and a half years is the fulness of their duration. In heaven's count the tempest holds but for an "hour." And here already we begin to see the light breaking in from behind the clouds and darkness. Further details of what is to befall these terrible Beasts, their systems and their followers, remain to be looked at; but the golden rays begin to show themselves. Where perdition has been holding grand jubilee of destruction, appear the symptoms of a better order. The still lingering gloom begins to show some gilding of its edges. And over the pathway of "the abomination of desolation" are seen the forming outlines of the arch of beauty, hope, and peace. In place of the horrid Beasts, the Lamb comes into view. In place of the blaspheming herd, the redeemed appear, with the name of the Father and the Son upon their shining brows. Voices from heaven, intoned with mighty joy, and attuned to golden harps, are heard in song,--"new song," fit to be sung before the throne and all the celestial company. A first-fruit of a new beginning is waved before God. Successive angels cleave the air on outspread wing proclaiming messages of hope and patience to the faithful sufferers, and telling of the nearing deliverance. And the whole picture begins to look to the effectual and everlasting sweeping away of the horrible nightmare of a distressed and helpless world. The Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son assist us to a right understanding of what it all means!

I. Who are these 144,000? Some answer, they are representatively the true people of God of all ages--the symbol of the whole body of the sanctified and saved. Others say, they are the choice spirits of the congregation of the glorified, selected and honoured above all common Christians because of their preeminent qualities and abstinences on earth. Others tell us, they are the company of those who have remained true in faith under the errors and falsities of the Papacy. And still others say, they are none else than the assembly of the noble spirits who achieved the Reformation of the sixteenth century; and that their harp-notes and new song is "the harmony of the Reformed Confessions!" I see not how it is possible for either of these interpretations to stand. Without entering upon the many points in which they severally fail to conform to the record, I may say, they all do violence to the consecutiveness and self-consistency of this Book, and defy all legitimate dealing with the particulars of the sacred description. We must find a better meaning, or give in that it is impossible to do anything more than guess at what the Lord intended to show us, whilst one guess is just as good and reliable as another. But God's Word is truth; and therefore there must be truth in this presentation,-truth which will hold together with the rest of the Book, with the dignity of a divine prophecy so solemnly given, and with the grammatical sense of the words in which the account is presented. Nor do I know why candid and earnest men, but for their arbitrary and stilted theories, should be at a loss for an interpretation answering to the requirements. Let us look at the matter carefully, and see.


A considerate glance at the particulars of this vision will at once discover a direct and strong contrast having special relation to what went before in the preceding chapter. The account of the 144,000 is really only another side of what is related of the Beasts, the counterpart of the same history. Over against the wild and savage monster is a gentle and loving Lamb. Over against the confessors and worshippers of the Beast, having his mark, is the company of the Lamb's followers, having their mark, even the name of the Father and the Son written in their foreheads. Over against the Beast's moral system, which is nothing but harlotry, spiritual and literal, the worship of idols and the trampling under foot of all God's institutes, here is an opposing style of life and conformity--a virgin purity which refuses to be debauched by the prevailing fornication. Over against the slavery of those who sell themselves to the powers of perdition which then have command of the world, here is redemption from the earth and from man, a ransom out of the thraldom which holds others. Over against the new order of things set up by the Antichrist, these sing "a new song,"-a victory and glory never shared by any but them. Over against the going of the Beasts and their dupes into perdition, there is here a going whithersoever the Lamb goeth. Over against the doings in the presence of the Beast, under his patronage and authority, the doings here are in the presence of the Throne, and in the presence of the Living Ones and Elders, under the approval and counsels of heaven. Everything in the mouth of the Beasts and all theirs, is pseudos, false, a lie; the special characteristic of these is, that nothing pseudos, false, or a lie is found in their mouth. The Beast's number, and that by which he marks and numbers all his, is six sixes, the bad number intensified; the number and numbering here is by twelves, the sacred number of completeness. And in every item there is distinct allusion to things under the Beast, by way of contrast and opposition, proving that the account of these 144,000 is a counterpart of the same history, which can properly apply to none but persons who live contemporaneous with the Beast, and maintain themselves by divine grace in a course of life and profession over against him.

But this is not the first time we hear of this 144,000. Chapter seven told us of a body of people consisting of this precise number, of which we can hardly suppose two, unless specially instructed to that effect. The fact urged by some that the company here is not introduced as "the 144,000," presents no grammatical reason for considering them distinct from the 144,000 there, as the best of Greek scholars agree. The insertion of the article is needless where the identification is otherwise so clear, and would only tend to fix the emphasis at the wrong place. Nor could the article, if inserted, make the indications of identity any stronger than they are. This company is not so important as to call for the same sort of designation as when reference is made to "The Lamb," "The Living Ones," "The Elders," etc. The number in Chapter VII is the same with the number here,--a number so remarkable and unique, that we must have very clear reasons for supposing that it does not refer to the same parties in both instances; but no such reasons appear. There the 144,000 are presented as a select and special class of God's servants, chosen, marked, and set apart as none else, sealed by an angel with the seal of the living God. So with the 144,000 here there is a special and peculiar isolation from all other classes of the saved. They are distinct from the Living Ones, from the Elders, and from the multitude which no man can number; and they are so unique and separate in their history, experience, and reward, that no one is able to learn or sing the song which they sing. Those in Chapter VII were marked in their forehead with the seal of the living God; these have that mark, even "the Lamb's name and His Father's name written on their foreheads." Those were all Hebrews, chosen from the several tribes of undivided Israel; and so it would seem to be with these. They have on their foreheads the name of the Father, which is the Jewish mark. They also have their place on Mount Zion, which though it may not mean the earthly hill, still connects with the seat of the palace and throne of David, Solomon, and all the Jewish kings. Those sealed ones were to be supernaturally protected and preserved amid the plagues that followed; and these appear as persons marvellously kept and sustained under the consummation of those plagues, the Antichrist. The history of the 144,000 in Chapter VII is incomplete taken by itself. No object or outcome of that sealing is anywhere stated, if not to be found in the passage before us. The position these sealed ones were to hold, the relations they were to occupy as the specially chosen of their time, are all left untold if not told in this chapter. Neither can we find adequate reason for the mention at all of that special sealing without some such continuation of the history as given here. I accordingly conclude with entire confidence, that the 144,000 on Mount Zion are the identical 144,000 sealed ones spoken of in Chapter VII, with only this difference, that there we see them in their earthly relations and peculiar consecration; and here we see them with their earthly career finished, and in the enjoyment of the heavenly award for their faithfulness.


And this fixes what must condition the whole interpretation of this Book, to wit, that from the opening of the sixth seal until after the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the third woe, and the revelation of the Man of sin, no more time elapses than the ordinary length of a human life; for those who are already mature men, and capable of a sacred setting apart as witnesses for God when the sixth seal is broken, are still living and active under the reign of the Antichrist. Alas, what a world of learned labour thus falls to the ground!

II. What are the chief marks or characteristics of these 144,000? The first and foremost is that of a true and conspicuous confession. They have the name of the Lamb and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. This is their public mark as against the mark of the worshippers of the Beast. There is nothing more honourable in God's sight than truth and faithfulness of confession. "With the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:10.) The confession of these people is in opposition to the unbelieving Jew, who rejects and repudiates the Son; and in opposition to the Antichrist, who denies both the Father and the Son. As children of Abraham, they have embraced Christianity; and as Christians, they take issue with the Beast, and persist in testifying against his blasphemous usurpations of the place of God and the only Saviour.


Another particular is their unworldliness. Whilst most people in their day "dwell upon the earth," sit down upon it as their rest and choice, derive their chief comfort from it, these are "redeemed from the earth,"--withdrawn from it, bought away by the heavenly promises and the divine grace to live above it, independent of it, as no longer a part of it. Also is it said that they are "redeemed from men,"--segregated entirely from the common course of the world, and removed from the ordinary fellowship of men. Less than this the language concerning them can scarcely mean. They are quite severed from the world in heart and life.

A third point is their pureness. We are not to suppose with some that these 144,000 are all males who have never been married; for there is no more impurity in marriage than in abstinence from marriage. Celibacy is not the subject or virtue in this description, but purity, freedom from contamination by the corruptions which prevail in their time. The reign of the Antichrist is the reign of harlotry, both literal and spiritual. It is a time when chaste marriage is no more regarded than the worship of the true God. But from all such defilements these people have kept themselves unspotted. "they are virgins," in that they have lived chaste lives, both as to their faithfulness to God in their religion, and as to their pureness from all bodily lewdness. The kingdom of heaven is likened to "ten virgins." The object of Paul's ministry to the Corinthians was, that he might present them "as a chaste virgin to Christ." And this is the sort of virginity attained and maintained by these people.


A further quality is their truthfulness. "In their mouth was not found what is false." There is a peculiar depth in John's conception of truth and its opposite falsehood. Any one who fails to confess Christ in all the length and breadth of His nature and offices, any one who fails to live his profession or to show by his works what he speaks with his lips, is to him a liar. The meaning here has the same deep significance. It is a great thing for people to be careful about their conversation, always conforming their words to the reality of things. To speak falsehood, to exercise a deceitful and untrustworthy tongue, is a devilish thing: for Satan is a liar and the father of lies. These people were truthful in these respects, but had also a higher and profounder truthfulness. The times in which they live are the times of hell's worst lies,-times when the whole world has gone mad over lies,-times when the entire order of society is a lie,-times when men's religion is a lie,-times when their very god is a lie,-times when everything is pryed away from the foundation of truth by the dreadful leverage which perdition then possesses. And it is over against all this that nothing false is found in their mouth. They have the true faith; they hold to it with a true heart; they exemplify it by a true manner of life. They are the children of truth in the midst of a world of untruth.

III. What, then, is their Reward? Taking the last particular first, they stand approved, justified, and accepted before God. "They are blameless." The added words," before the throne of God," are not in the best manuscripts, and are dropped now by common consent as no part of the original. They make no difference in the sense, for the blamelessness of these people must needs be a blamelessness before the throne; but if the phrase be emphasized it might suggest a connection with the throne which does not here exist. It is to be observed that these 144,000 are by no means the highest class of saints, as some have erroneously supposed. They do not come into the congregation of the saved until after the highest orders of the saints have been caught up to God and to His throne. The Living Ones are saints from the earth, for they sing the song of redemption by the blood of Christ. So are also the Elders. But these are already in their heavenly glory wearing the crowns which Christ will give at that day, even before these people are sealed. These 144,000 sing their song in the presence of the Living Ones and the gold-crowned Elders; this expresses a lesser dignity. Neither is there a word said about crowns for them. They sing in the presence of the throne, but they are not connected with it, as the Living Ones, nor seated on associated thrones, as the Elders. They are not therefore of the highest orders of the saved and glorified. There are many mansions in the Father's house many degrees in glory, and many ranks of saints as well as of angels. There is such a thing as being saved with loss, such a thing as missing our crowns even though we may get to heaven. There are also many "virgins," real virgins, who go and buy, and come at length with deficiencies repaired, but are in readiness too late to be admitted to the place and honour of the queen. These 144,000 are virgins; they come to glorious honour through their confession, purity, and devotion; but they come in at a period when the Bride is already made up, and cannot be of the first and highest order of the glorified. But still, they are approved and justified before God, which is in itself a great, high, and glorious attainment. To stand before God approved and blameless from the midst of a condemned world,-a world given over to the powers of perdition by reason of its unbelief and sins,-a world which has become the theatre of all the consummated wickedness of the ages,-a world in which it is death to wear any badge or adhere to any profession contrary to the mark of the Antichrist, is an achievement of grace and faithfulness in which there may well be mighty exultation.


In the next place, they have a song which is peculiarly and exclusively their own. Though not connected with the throne, as the Living Ones, nor crowned and seated as the Elders, they have a ground and subject of joy and praise which neither the Living Ones nor the Elders have; nor is any one able to enter into that song except the 144,000. None others ever fulfil just such a mission, as none others are ever sealed with the seal of the living God in the same way in which they were sealed. None others ever have just such an experience, in such a world as that through which they come to glory. None others share with them in that particular administration of God which brings them away from the earth and men to their place on Mount Zion. Therefore, as angels cannot sing the song of the redeemed, never having been the subjects of redemption, so no other saints can sing the peculiar song of this 144,000. They have a distinction and glory, a joy and blessedness, after all, in which none but themselves can ever share.

They stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion. To be with the Lamb, as over against being with the Beast, is a perfection of blessing which no language can describe. It is redemption. It is victory. It is eternal security and glory. To be with the Lamb on Mount Zion is a more special position and relation. It respects Jerusalem and the throne of David. It will not meet the case to take Mount Zion here as simply "the heavenly Jerusalem;" for that is not so distinctively the standing-place or point of occupation of these 144,000. It must take in some new and exalted order touching the earthly Jerusalem, the Jewish nationality, and that throne and Kingdom of David everywhere promised to be rebuilt and restored, never to fail any more. The scene thus looks over into the new earth, to that time when "the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, and shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:10),-to that time when "they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem" (Jeremiah 3:17),-to that time when "the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously." (Isaiah 24:23.) Glorious things are spoken of Jerusalem which have never yet been fulfilled. On His holy hill of Zion God hath said that He will set up His King, even His Son, who shall rule all the nations. (Psalms 2:1-12.) The Lamb is yet to take possession of the city where He was crucified, there to fulfil what was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin over His head when He died. And when that once comes to pass, these 144,000 are with Him, His near and particular associates in that particular relation and administration.


They are "a first-fruit to God and to the Lamb," not the first-fruit of all the saved, for the Living Ones and the Elders are in heavenly place and glory above and before them; but a first-fruit of another and particular harvest; the first-fruit from the Jewish field, in that new beginning with the Israelitish people for their fathers' sakes, which is to follow the ending of the present "times of the Gentiles." What the Living Ones and Elders are to the Church universal these 144,000 are to the recovered, restored and redeemed children of Abraham, in that new order which is to come when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. They are all Jews. They are brought to the confession of Christ, and sealed in their foreheads with the name of both the Father and the Son, during the time that the rest of their blood-kin are covenanting with and honouring the Antichrist as Messiah. They are the particular witnesses for the Father and Son during those darkest days of Jacob's trouble. And they take the first rank with Christ in His special relations and administrations in the final redemption of the Hebrew race. For this they were extraordinarily sealed, and this is the reward of their faithfulness as against the lies and infamies of the Beast. Hence, also, it pertains to their honour and blessedness to attend the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. They are His heavenly suite and train in all His reign on Mount Zion.

IV. What, now, of the Angel-Messages? When Christ made His last entry into Jerusalem, and fault was found with the loud proclamations which were ringing to His praise as the Messiah-King, He answered: "If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." The truth of God and His claims must be spoken. If men are silent, other things must become vocal to testify for Jehovah. And when Antichrist succeeds in hushing up, or burying away in caves, mountains, and wildernesses all testimony for the Eternal One whom he seeks to abolish, the heavens speak, and the angels whom he cannot touch or slay become the preachers. Mid-heaven is their pulpit, and all nations, tribes, tongues, and peoples are their auditors. Hell may slay, imprison, and silence every human witness for God, but cannot chain the proclamation of His truth. God's word cannot be bound. It liveth and abideth forever. It must be heard.

The First Message.--That an angel is the preacher here, is proof positive that the present dispensation is then past and changed. Of old, Angels were employed for the giving of the Law, and in the Judgment time they are everywhere represented as again taking very conspicuous part in the divine administrations with regard to our world; but in the dispensation under which we now are, the charge of preaching and witnessing for God, and the declaring of His Word, is the peculiar office of the Church. It is a calling and office committed to men, to the chosen of our human race. Angels are ministers to the heirs of salvation, but not in the sense of being the appointed public proclaimers and preachers of the Gospel. That is man's work, and man's peculiar honour, as things now are constituted. But here Angels are the preachers, with three or four distinct messages: one "having a Gospel everlasting;" one proclaiming the doom of Babylon; and one denouncing eternal damnation upon every worshipper of the Beast, or wearer of his mark. Of course, then, we have here another dispensation, a different order of things from that which now obtains. The same is also intimated in the features of the Word preached. It is no longer the meek and entreating voice, beseeching men to be reconciled to God, but a great thunder from the sky, demanding of the nations to Fear the God, as over against the false god whom they were adoring,-to Give glory to Him, instead of the infamous Beast whom they were glorifying,--to Worship the Maker of all things, as against the worship of him who can do no more than play his hellish tricks with the things that are made; and all this on the instant, for the reason that "the hour of judgment is come."


Paul once said, if an angel from heaven preach unto you any other Gospel than that ye have received, let him be accursed. And when he so said, he spoke the very truth of God; but it is the truth with special reference to the present dispensation, till the Church-period has come to its end in the day of judgment; for here, when "the judgment is come," an angel from heaven preaches, and what he preaches is not "the everlasting Gospel" as the English version is, but "a Gospel everlasting." It is not indeed "another Gospel," for it is in inner substance the same old and everlasting Gospel, but now in the dress and features of a new order of things-the Gospel as its contents shape themselves in its addresses to the nations when "the hour of judgment is come," and the great final administrations are in hand.


Luther once said that he did not like this Book, because its spirit did not agree with his feelings as to the Gospel. He was right as to the fact. His great soul, permeated through and through with the very life and spirit of reconciliation in Christ Jesus as now preached to men, felt that here is something different, just as the Christian heart is disturbed by the imprecatory Psalms. But when we locate the matter rightly, and learn that here the Church-period has given place to the presence and ongoing of the day and hour of judgment, the whole matter clears up. Mercy towards the poor infatuated world still lingers in the very hour of wrath. In the heat and height of his indignation God still remembers it. Hence still something of a Gospel message sounds. And when there is no more voice on earth to speak it, an angel from heaven, uttering himself from the sky, proclaims to the guilty nations where they are, what has come, and what immediate revolution is needed, if they would not sink at once to everlasting destruction. It is Gospel, but it is the Gospel in the form it takes when the hour of judgment has set in. It is one of the very last calls of grace to an apostate world.

The Second Message.--With the hour of judgment comes the work of judgment. A colossal system of harlotry and corruption holds dominion over the nations. There is no country, no people, but is won to it, and intoxicated by it, and induced to cast off all the bonds of sacredness for the infamous delusions of the Antichrist and his false prophet. God has allowed it for the punishment of those who would not have Christ for their Lord, but now He will not allow it longer. Therefore another Angel comes with the proclamation:


"Fallen, fallen, the great Babylon, which hath made all the nations drink from the wine of the wrath of her fornication." The announcement is by anticipation as on the very eve of accomplishment, and as surely now to be fulfilled. The particulars are given in the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters. There also the explanation of the object of this announcement is given. It is mercy still struggling in the toils of judgment, if that by any means some may yet be snatched from the opening jaws of hell; for there the further word is, "Come out of her, my people, that ye may have no fellowship with her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."

The Third Message.--And for the still more potent enforcement of this call a third Angel appears, preaching and crying with a great voice, that whosoever is found worshipping the Beast and his image, or has the Beast's mark on his forehead or en his hand, even he shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God which is mingled without dilution in the cup of His anger, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the angels and in the presence of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment ascends to the ages of ages, and they have no rest day and night! It is an awful commination; but these are times of awful guilt, infatuation, and wickedness. And when men are in such dangers, marching direct into the mouth of such a terrible perdition, it is a great mercy in God to make proclamation of it with all the force of an Angel's eloquence. The same is also for the wronged and suffering ones who feel the power of these terrible oppressors. It tells them how their awful griefs shall be avenged on their hellish persecutors. So, therefore, with mighty energy the Angel proclaims the eternal doom of the abettors of the Antichrist.


There be those who mock and jeer at the idea of an eternal hell for the wicked. Many are the jests they perpetrate at the expense of these preachers of fire and brimstone. But here a great and mighty Angel from heaven is the preacher, and his sermon from beginning to end is nothing but fire and brimstone, even everlasting burning and torment for all who take the mark of Antichrist! Shall we believe our modern sentimental philosophers, or abide by the word of our God and of his holy angels? Alas, alas, for the infatuated people who comfort themselves with the belief that perdition is a myth-the bugbear of antiquated superstition!

The Fourth Message.--There is no suffering for any class of God's people in any age, like the sufferings of those who remain faithful to God during the reign of the Antichrist. Here, at this particular time and juncture, is the patience or endurance of them that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. To come out of Babylon, and to stand aloof from its horrible harlotries, is a costly thing. It is equivalent to a voluntary coming forward to the stateblock to have their heads chopped off. Therefore there is another proclamation from heaven for their special strengthening and consolation. Whether this word is also from an Angel we are not told; but it is a message from glory and from God. And it is a sweet and blessed message. It is a message which John is specially commanded to write, that it may be in the minds and hearts of God's people of every age, and take away all fear from those who in this evil time are called to lay down their lives because they will not worship Antichrist. That message is: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may, in that they shall, rest out of their labours, for their works follow with them." This is true of all the saints of all ages, but it is preeminently and specially true of those who at this time lose their lives for their faithful obedience. It may look like calamity, but in comparison with the miseries of a life of faith under such a hellish despot, it is a blessedness. Death to a good man at any time is a greater beatitude than a disaster; and when a life of truth and honour becomes so great a sorrow as at this time, it is a blessedness to have it ended. The implication is, that from this point on till death itself is vanquished, there is no more peace or comfort for a good man on earth, and therefore that no better thing can happen him than to die. When there is no more peace for us but in death, why should we wish to live? When all hope for earth has faded out, why should we desire to remain in it? When to open our mouths for Christ, or to bow the knee or speak a prayer to the God that made us, exposes to indignity and torture, why not welcome death, and account it good fortune to have the chance for such a release? Rest-Rest! What would not those dupes of Antichrist finally give for Rest! But what they can never have, they that die in the Lord get through death. Like the worn mariner wearied out with his long and painful endurance of the tempests, dangers, and hardships of the sea, enters the calm port for which he steered so hard;-like the soldier, scarred, mutilated, and sick of the miseries of deadly conflict, comes back from the field of blood to repose in the peace and security of his happy home;-so do they rest out of their labours. And their works follow with them. The very hardships past make the peace the sweeter. Not a word of faithful testimony, not a tear of sympathy, not a sigh of prayer, not a gift of a cup of water in a disciple's name, shall fail in its contribution to the blessedness. Therefore it is written:


"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth." And when violence, cruelty, and slaughter are the consequence of a life of truth and purity, the sooner it is over the greater the beatitude.

Here, then, is the comfort of the saints. Whatever they suffer, their peace is sure. Unable to live, death is their blessedness. Heaven speaks it. The Spirit confirms it. The apostles of God have written it. And from it springs a consolation-

Which monarchs cannot grant, nor all the powers
Of earth and hell confederate take away;-
A liberty which persecution, fraud,
Oppression, prisons, have no power to bind.

Verses 14-16

Lecture 35

(Revelation 14:14-16)

THE VISION OF THE HARVEST--A HARVEST OF WOE AND JUDGMENT-THE PARTICULARS OF THE DESCRIPTION--THE ANGEL--CRY FOR THE SENDING OF THE SHARP SICKLE-THE REAPING-THE VISION OF THE VINTAGE--THE ANGEL OUT OF THE TEMPLE-THE GREAT CRY FROM THE ALTAR FOR THE SENDING OF THE SHARP SICKLE--THE GATHERING OF THE VINE OF THE EARTH--THE TREADING OF THE WINE-PRESS.

Revelation 14:14-16. (Revised Text.) And I saw and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud is seated one like a son of man, having on his head a crown of gold, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a great voice to him that sat on the cloud, Send thy sickle, and reap; because the time to reap is come, because the harvest of the earth is dried [dead ripe].


And he that sat on the cloud cast his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

And another angel came out of the temple which is in the heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the altar, he who hath power over the fire; and he cried with a great cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, Send thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, because her grapes are fully ripe.

And the angel cast his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast [what he gathered] into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside of the city, and blood came forth out of the winepress up to the bits of the horses, for a distance of a thousand six hundred stadia.


Proclamation having gone forth that the hour of judgment is come, that great Babylon is on the brink of her fall, and that the damnation of every worshipper of the Beast is at hand, we find ourselves face to face with the last great administrations of divine wrath. And the nature and machinery of those administrations is the matter which now comes before us. The more specific details are given in the succeeding chapters, but a general summation is first presented in two visions, the Harvest and the Vintage, which, for awful brevity of narration and expressiveness of imagery, are perhaps the most wonderful in all this wonderful Book. God help us to consider them with reverent and believing hearts!

I. THE VISION OF THE HARVEST.

Some worthy expositors take this as a foreshowing of the final gathering home of the people of God. That the Scriptures often speak of such a harvest of the good seed of the Saviour's sowing there can be no question. John the Baptizer spoke of a time of threshing, when the Lord "will gather the wheat into His garner." (Luke 3:17.) The saviour commenced His heavenly instructions with an account of His sowing and husbandry, the harvest of which he said would be "the end of the age," when He "will say to the reapers, Gather the wheat into my barn." (Matthew 13:1-58.) He also said, "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how; for the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come." (Mark 4:26-29.) But that this is the harvest foreshown in the text seems to me very improbable, if not entirely out of the question. According to the record up to this point, the great harvest of the good seed has already been reaped. The Living Ones, the Elders, the innumerable multitude, the Manchild, and the 144,000, all of whom are of the good seed, are in heaven before this reaping comes. This reaping is also immediately preceded by the gathering of a great company to glory, which is very unaccountably separated from the harvest of saints directly to follow, if so we are to understand it. Ordinarily, indeed, we would think of harvest as a thing of gladness and blessing. The Scriptures also speak of harvest as a great joy. But it is the same with respect to the vintage, which all accept as here applying exclusively to the punishment of the wicked. Any argument of that character bears as strongly against taking the vintage in the sense of a destruction as the taking of the harvest in that sense.


It must be remembered that evil has its harvest as well as good. There is a harvest of misery and woe,-a harvest for the gathering, binding, and burning of the tares,-as well as for the gathering of the wheat into the garner of heaven. And this harvest of punishment has quite as prominent a place in the Scriptures as the harvest of the gathering home of the saints. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; the daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor, it is time to thresh her; yet a little while and the time of her harvest shall come." (Jeremiah 51:33.) Here is a harvest of judgment,-a harvest of woe to Babylon, and the harvest of the text follows as the direct consequence of the proclamation of great Babylon's fall. Is it not, therefore, most naturally to be taken as the same in both cases? So again in Joel 3:11-16, looking to the very time and events with which we are here concerned, the word is: "Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about; thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord. Let the heathen be awakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down, for the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shall shake." Here is both a harvest and a vintage; the one like and part of the other, and both exclusively applicable to the destruction of the wicked. This harvest and this vintage are unquestionably the same described in the text. They belong to the same period of time, they are called for after the same manner, and for the same activities; and they respect the same parties, whether as to the bearer of the sickle, the reapers, or the persons whom the reaping touches. It seems to me impossible, therefore, rightfully to take this harvest as anything else than the final cutting off of the hosts of the wicked, the visitation upon them of the fruits of their sowing. That harvest of which the 144,000 are a first-fruit is a very different matter from this. That is a harvest of gathering to the Lamb on Mount Zion; this is a gathering to the Valley of Jehoshaphat for destruction. Revelation 14:15 is a literal allusion to Isaiah 27:11, which refers to a scene of breaking and burning, and final withdrawal of all mercy. The express mention of the sharpness of the sickle also shows that we have to do with a scene of judgment. The mention of the cloud likewise points to a work of judgment, for wherever Christ appears on a cloud, the work immediately in hand is always a judgment. The name of the Son of man also points in the same direction; for it is as the Son of man that all judgment has been committed to Christ. (John 5:27.) And such a contrast as would make only the vintage expressive of wrath and punishment, and the harvest one of a purely gracious character, has not a single trait or item of the account to support it.[143] The harvest is simply one phase of a great final visitation upon the apostate world, of which the vintage is another phase.-Let us look at it, then, a little more particularly.

[143] Mede, Bishop Newton, Lowman, Doddridge, Bengel, Hengstenberg, Faber, Stuart, W. Robinson, William Jones, etc., agree that the harvest as well as the vintage here denotes a harvest of wrath. Mede well observes, "that the idea of harvest includes three things: the reaping of the corn, the gathering of it in, and the threshing of it; whence it is made a type in Scripture of two direct opposites; of destruction, when the reaping and the threshing are considered; of restitution and salvation when the ingathering is considered." It is here the reaping only.

"I saw, and behold a white cloud." From this we may be quite sure of what is coming. That cloud is the signal of the second advent of the Lord Jesus. When He ascended, "a cloud received him out of their sight;" and at the same time it was told from heaven," Thissame Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:1-26.) The cloud took Him, and the cloud shall bring him. "They shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." (Luke 21:27.)


And what was thus predicted, the Apocalyptic seer here beholds fulfilling. That cloud is "white," like fire at its intensest heat, like the lightning itself, portending the purest as well as the hottest wrath towards the powers which have usurped the dominion of the earth.


"On the cloud is seated one like a Son of man." No one else is here to be thought of but our blessed Lord Jesus. In John's first vision he saw, in the midst of the golden candlesticks, "One like to a Son of man;" and that One said, "I am the First and the last, and the Living One; and I became dead, and behold I am living for the ages of the ages; and I have the keys of death and of hell." (Revelation 1:17.) It was the glorified Son of Mary there, and it is the same here. As the destroyer of the works of the Devil, and as the Judge of the quick and the dead, it belongs to Christ to reap the earth and to clear it of the hellish seed of the great enemy. The man of sin is to be destroyed only by the manifestation of the Saviour's presence. (2 Thessalonians 2:8.)


"Having on his head a crown of gold." Daniel "saw in the night visions, and behold one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the ancient of days, and there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom." (Daniel 7:13-14.) It was the same Son of man, in the same cloud, settled in all the regal prerogatives of the same supreme dominion, and manifested for the same purpose of dispossessing and destroying the Beast. The sitting of Christ on the throne of His glory is for the judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-32), and the taking to Him of His great power as the King is to destroy them that corrupt the earth, that He may set up in their place His own glorious dominion. (Revelation 11:17; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 19:16.)


And to this end, this heaven-crowned King holds "in his hand a sharp sickle." There is nowhere such a description or holding forth of the instrument in any harvest scene referring to the gracious home-bringing of the good. The earth is to be cleared of its ill products now, therefore only a cutting implement is in hand, and so conspicuously displayed. The work is one of vengeance and sore judgment, therefore it is "sharp."


Thus seated in regal majesty, with His terrible instrument in hand for His appointed judicial work as the Son of man, there goes up to Him a mighty cry to send forth His sickle and reap, claiming that the time of the reaping has come, and that "the harvest of the earth" (not the Church) is dried to dead ripeness. This cry is from an angel, called "another angel," in allusion to those mentioned in Revelation 14:6; Revelation 14:8-9. Some take it as the commission of the Father for Christ to proceed; but that commission the great Harvester must already have had in order to take the position and equipment in which He here appears. It is not so much a commission as a prayer, a plea, an urgency. It does not come from the Father, but from the quarter of the afflictions and abominations calling for vengeance. This angel comes "out of the temple;"-not "the temple which is in heaven," as in Revelation 14:17, or it would be so stated, but "the temple" as distinguished from "the temple which is in heaven;" hence the temple on earth, referring either to the material temple rebuilt and reconsecrated, or the spiritual temple as made up of those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, or both; that is, from the very point and place where the Antichrist has enacted his greatest enormities of wickedness. Abel's blood cried unto God from the ground. (Genesis 4:10.) The cry of Sodom's wickedness came up unto Jehovah. (Genesis 28:20-21.) In like manner great Babylon's sins came up into heaven. (Revelation 18:5.) And this cry to the sitter on the cloud comes out of the earthly temple as the cry of righteous indignation at the abominations that are being done against that temple and its God, attesting the over-ripeness of the transgressors, and claiming the due judgment upon them, as the time has come.

The interests of God on earth are all more or less under the guardianship of angels. An angel had charge of the healing in Bethesda's pool, and angels have charge of God's temple too. The Archangel Michael presides over the affairs of the children of Daniel's people, and in the time of the Antichrist it is prophesied that he shall stand up for them. (Daniel 12:1.) And this angel-cry from the temple to the crowned, seated, and armed King of Judgment, to send His sickle and reap, is plainly connected with the administrations of these angel-helpers against oppression and oppressors. It shows us that when the time of judgment comes to the full, everything will be in a condition of one grand outcry for speedy vengeance. Iniquity will then have come to the full, to a thorough drying out of every modifying particle of immaturity, giving mighty argument for the loud outcry of every holy being for judgment to strike.


And as the cry is, the answer comes. "He that sat on the cloud cast his sickle (ἐπὶ) on, or against, the earth, and the earth was reaped." Tremendous words! What an experience for the race of man is bound up in their awful brevity! What plagues descend with that sharp sickle! What a crash comes with its alighting upon a world now dead ripe for final judgment! What powers and systems fall before it! What sores and agonies it brings to them that bear the mark of the Beast and worship his image! What pestilential putrescences it strikes into the sea whence that Beast rises, and into the rivers and fountains whence his subjects drink! What new blazes of consuming heat it gives to the sun! What torment it inflicts upon the throne of the Beast, and darkness and anguish upon his kingdom! What cries, and thunders, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and hailstorms, and trembling of nations, and anxieties of men, it arouses into activity! How does every upas growth give way before the sharp edge of that terrible sickle! Just how much of this great Harvest pertains to the reaping, as distinguished from the vintage, we are not fully informed; but it cuts from their foundations all the main sinews of the Antichrist. It includes all the disasters that come from the pouring out of the great bowls of wrath. It brings down great Babylon with a crash that fills the world with lamentations and horror. It strips the great Adulteress of all her pride and queenliness, and fills her with torment, and sorrow, and burning. It sinks all the riches and glories of a godless world into one common ruin, never to be brought up again. And of the two phases of those ministrations of the wrath of God which are to clear this planet of the products and representatives of rebellion against His Throne, this is one, and perhaps the most general and far-reaching of the two. When the seer says "the earth has reaped," he tells of an amount of cutting down, divesture, and sorrowful sweeping away forever which the Scriptures describe as the termination of the whole present order of things; for "the Harvest is the end of the world." (Matthew 13:39.) But it is nevertheless only one phase of the destruction which shall then be wrought. After the grain-harvest comes the grape-harvest. Accordingly we have.


II. THE VISION OF THE VINTAGE.


"Another angel" appears. He is "another" as a comer forth from the temple, and he is an "angel" with reference to his mission, not with reference to his nature; for this angel is really the same as the Sitter on the white cloud. As to office, Christ is often represented as an angel, both in this Book and elsewhere. His very name, Christ, or Messiah implies as much. He is the One sent and appointed of the Father. In the Old Testament He is continually spoken of as the Jehovah-angel. In chapters 10 and 20 He appears as an angel. And in the very nature of the case we must here understand the Lord Himself, though in the character of an angel. The two images of the Harvest and the Vintage are too closely interconnected for us to assign one to Christ and the other to a created angel. The sharp sickle in the one is the same as in the other. The work is so great, and belongs so essentially to the mission and prerogatives of Christ, that it would trench upon the honour and appointment of Him to whom the Father hath committed all judgment, to refer it to a single ordinary angel. The destruction wrought is unquestionably the same which is more particularly described in the latter part of Revelation 19:1-21; but there it is specifically assigned to the Lord Jesus himself. And so in Isaiah 63:1-19, the treader of the winepress, corresponding to the picture here given, is none other than Christ. We would therefore involve ourselves in too many difficulties, not to admit that this another messenger is the same as the Sitter on the cloud.


He comes "out of the temple which is in heaven;" the temple which is in heaven, as distinguished from the temple which is on earth. "The holy places made with hands are the figures of the true," fashioned after "the patterns of things in the heavens." (Hebrews 10:23-24.) It is in the heavenly temple that Christ now is, there appearing in the presence of God for us, as our great High Priest; and out from thence He is to come when He comes the second time. (Hebrews 10:24-28.) We have here reached the time appointed for the destroying of them that corrupt the earth. Hence the great commissioned One appears. He leaves His place in the temple which is in heaven, and stands ready, with sharp sickle in hand, for the work assigned. Where he stands is not said; but the silence naturally carries us back to the white cloud.


Appearing with the sharp sickle, a great cry goes up to Him: "Send thy sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, because her grapes are fully ripe." He who makes this cry is an angel who comes "out of the altar," of course the earthly altar, or it would be otherwise stated, as in the preceding verse. This angel is "he who hath power over the fire." The altar-fire is the fire of divine justice; the fire which ever burns against sin and sinners; the fire which spares no victim, however innocent, when in the place and stead of transgressors; the fire which ever cries out with mighty voice for the burning up of all rebels against God's righteous authority. There is a living spirit in charge of it; and that spirit calls for vengeance against the Antichrist. The grapes in this case are the grapes of Sodom, "sour grapes," the clusters of wickedness ripened to the full. Such iniquities, blasphemies, tyrannies and systematic abominations, as the Antichrist develops, have no parallel on earth. In these all the depravities head up to their maturity. In these appears the consummation or final ripeness of the whole earth-growth and mystery of evil. The angel of the altar-fires is never so outraged as by this perfected vintage of earth's wickedness. Hence the loud and clamorous outcry for vengeance upon these clusters. The "grapes of gall" are "ripe." The time for cutting them has come. The Messenger with the sharp instrument is present. And the spirit of the justice-fires cries for the sickle to come in all its whetted sharpness. From under that altar had gone forth the plaint of murdered saints: "Until when, Thou Master, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood from them that dwell on the earth." (Revelation 6:10.) But now the very angel of the altar adds his mighty voice, and there can be no more delay.


"And the Angel cast His sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth." The vine of the earth is that which stands over against "the vine of heaven." The true vine is Christ, and Christians are the branches. "The vine of the earth" is Antichrist, and its branches are his adherents and followers. The saints are not of the earth, but born from above; these are of the earth, born from the wisdom that is from below-the seed of the Devil's sowing-the children of the wicked one. The grapes of this vine of the earth are the matured children of wickedness, and "their wine is the poison of dragons and the cruel venom of asps." (Deuteronomy 32:32-33.) They have by this time gone as far as, in the nature of things, they can go. They are "fully ripe." Hence the sharp sickle of the great judgment strikes, and the vine of the earth is cut, and its clusters gathered into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

A more particular description of this gathering of the host of Antichrist into the winepress, and the treading of it by the King of kings, and Lord of lords, is given in the latter part of Revelation 16:1-21 and Revelation 19:1-21. It is in reality a war scene, the gathering of armies, the bringing together of the kings of the earth and of the whole world to the battle of the great day of God Almighty. It is for military purposes that they come, seduced, drawn, and impelled by unclean spirits that issue out of the mouth of the Dragon, out of the mouth of the Beast, and out of the mouth of the False Prophet. The region of their assemblage is the Holy Land. The various names denotive of the locality all circle around Jerusalem. "Armageddon" is the place named in the Apocalypse, which is the mount or city of Megiddo, or the great Esdraelon plain, "the Valley of Megiddo." That has ever been one of God's great battle-grounds for the judging of the armies of the wicked. There Jabin's hosts, with their 900 chariots of iron, were utterly overwhelmed by Jehovah's special interference. There the Midianites, and Amalekites, and children of the East were routed before Gideon's 300 men with pitchers and lamps. There Samson triumphed with his crude instrument over the might of the Philistines. There the ruddy son of Jesse met and slew the great Goliath, and opened a breach of destruction upon those who defied Israel's God. And it is but fitting that here should be the seat of the winepress for the final crushing out of the mightier Jabin and Goliath of the last evil days. "The Valley of Jehosaphat" is named by Joel as the place which, geographically taken, denotes the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem, or else that part of Idumea where, by the special aid of heaven, Jehosaphat put down the rebellion of the Edomites. "Bozrah" is named by Isaiah as the place where the mighty Saviour treads the winepress alone, and stains all His raiment with the blood of His foes. (Isaiah 34:6-8; Isaiah 63:1-6.) The probabilities are that all these particular localities are included, and that a line of encamped forces shall extend from Bozrah, on the southeast, to Megiddo, on the northwest. And, singularly enough, this would measure exactly 1,600 stadia, the distance named in the text as that over which the blood from this great winepress of Jehovah's anger flows. The same would also best realize Habakkuk's vision of the same scene, where he beheld, and "God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise. His brightness was as the light; He had horns coming out of his hand; and there was the hiding of His power. Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet. He stood and measured the earth: He beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow. Thou didst march through the land of indignation; thou didst thresh the heathen in anger. Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; Thou woundest the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck." (Habakkuk 3:3-16.)


The march of the terrific indignation of God on this occasion would, therefore, seem to be from the Sinaitic hills, crashing through Idumea, thundering by the walls of the holy city, and thence on to the great field of Esdraelon, where the chief stress of the awful pressure falls. Along this line will the main bodies of these assembled nations lie, eager, determined, and confident in the schemes that occupy them, not knowing that they are already in the great winepress of the wrath of God. "Multitudes, multitudes," armies on armies, hosts on hosts, are there. The Beast is there; the False Prophet is there; and the kings, captains, mighty men, and drilled legions of all the nations in league with Antichrist are there; all gathered into one great pen of slaughter.

"And the winepress was trodden." What strength have grapes against the weight and power of a man when he comes to set his feet upon them? And the riper they are, the more helpless. They must needs be crushed, their existence destroyed, their life-blood poured out. And so with these "fully ripe "clusters, now gathered into the great winepress of the wrath of God. No weapon they can raise, no resistance they can make, can avail them. The beast was hailed as the Invincible; but his invincibility is nothing now. The False Phophet could make fire come down from heaven in the presence of men, but he can command no fires to withstand the lightnings of the angry and inexorable Judge. The heel of Omnipotence is upon them, and they can only break and sink beneath it.

Long ago had Jehovah spoken of this time and said: "Let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it. For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and His fury upon all their armies; He hath utterly destroyed them, He hath delivered them to the slaughter. Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. And all the host of heaven shall be loosed, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf faileth off from the vine, and as a fallen fig from the fig-tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse to judgment. For it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion." (Isaiah 34:1-8.) But men would not hear, neither believe; therefore, the sword of the Lord is filled with their blood. He cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, treading the winepress alone, treading them down in His anger, trampling them in His fury, and staining all His raiment with their blood. "When they say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, and they cannot escape."


It is "outside of the city" that this treading of the winepress takes place. "The city," mentioned thus absolutely, with no other note of identification, can be none other than "the holy city," the city of Jerusalem. The fact that this great judgment does not come within its gates, is evidence of its being "the holy city," the place owned of God the memorial of His salvation in the time of His fierce anger. Amid all the consuming wrath, the judgment stays outside the walls of Jerusalem. Within its holy enclosure is safety. And by some gracious interposition of Heaven, none of the doomed hosts of Antichrist are at this time inside of it. Has it become the possession of the 144,000 whom we saw on Mount Zion? Has the Lamb by this time cleansed it with judgment as in Ezekiel's vision (Ezekiel 9:1-11)? Hath He already consecrated and appropriated it as the intended metropolis of the new kingdom? Has His wonderworking power come forth in such force in connection with the glorification of the 144,000, as then already to have started there an administration expelling the dominion of the Beast? Joel says, Jehovah shall then utter His voice with power from Jerusalem. (Joel 3:17.) Has it not then already become the seat of His throne? If so, this would explain why all these armies of the nations are there. Even apart from this, the implication is clear that these forces are gathered for war against the holy city, and against the Lamb. In the ordinary course of things there would be nothing in Jerusalem requiring or occasioning such a tremendous gathering of the kings and armies of the world. If, however, some visible presence of the heavenly kingdom about to take possession of the earth has there begun to display and assert itself; if divine majesty, miracle and power have by this time taken hold, introducing a new rule and order, exhibiting the presence of the eternal reign of the Son of man, and manifesting the potencies of the world to come; there is ample call and occasion for this mustering of all the powers of earth and hell. Determined to crush it out, "the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed." (Psalms 2:2.) A power which could thus cleanse and clear the temple and city of everything contrary to God, and hold at bay all attempts of the unsanctified to enter, would be a thing wholly intolerable to Antichrist. He who claims to be the only rightful object of human adoration, could not endure the presence of such temerity against his majesty. If strength in earth and hell exists to subdue and crush it, that strength must be called forth. And thus these kings and nations, with their armies, are convened. It is meant to make sure of success. They fill the land with their collected forces. They mass themselves in line from Bozrah to Megiddo. They compass about the holy city. But into it they dare not enter. And when the winepress of their destruction is trodden, it is "trodden outside of the city." Before they are able to strike a blow, "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" is upon them in all the terribleness of His great exterminating judgment.


"And blood came forth out of the winepress up to the bits of the horses for a distance of 1,600 stadia!" A river of human blood 160 miles in length, and up to the bridles of the horses in depth, tells an awful story. When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, so great was the bloodshed that Josephus says the whole city ran down with the blood to such a degree that the fires of many of the houses were quenched by it. When Sylla took Athens, Plutarch says the blood that was shed in the market-place alone covered all the ceramicus as far as Dipylus, and some testify that it ran through the gates and overflowed the suburbs. Nor are we to think of any exaggeration or hyperbole in the very definite description of what John here saw as the consequence of the treading of this winepress. It is "the great winepress of the wrath of God." It is the last great consummate act of destruction which is to end this present world. The masses on whom it is executed are "the kings of the earth and of the whole world, and their armies" (Revelation 16:14; Revelation 19:19), stationed in a line from Bozrah in Edom to Esdraelon in Galilee. They are to be utterly consumed, so as to "leave them neither root nor branch." (Malachi 4:1.) It is "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" about which all the prophets of all the ages have prophesied. It is the result of the resentment and anger of Him who is Faithful and True, who in righteousness doth judge and make war, whose eyes are as fire, on whose head are the many crowns, whom all the armies of Heaven follow upon white horses, out of whose mouth goeth a sharp sword, and who "treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." And it must needs be all that John here states, a belt of blood from Bozrah to Esdraelon up to the horses' bridles in depth! Isaiah says: "The land shall be drunk with blood, and its dust made fat with fatness, for it is the day of Jehovah's vengeance, the year of recompenses for the controversy against Zion." (Isaiah 34:7-8.)

Ah, yes; men in their unbelief may laugh at the Almighty's threatenings. Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, their hearts may be fully set in them to do evil. And the proud rationalism of many may persuade them that God is too good and merciful ever to fulfil in any literal sense these sanguinary comminations. But it will be no laughing matter then, no mystic fancy, no meaningless orientalism of the age of extravagant speech. God hath set His own eternal seal to it, and said: "Seek ye out of the Book of the Lord, and read: no one of these things shall fail." (Isaiah 34:16.) And yet people make light of it, and turn away to their sins and follies as if it were all nothing!


Child of Adam, hear, and be admonished now while salvation is so freely offered. Be not deceived, for God is not mocked. Those impieties of thine, those guilty sports and gaieties, will yet have to be confronted before the judgment seat. Those gatherings in the gaming-hells and drink-shops of Satan, those sneers and witty jests at sacred things, those fiery lusts burning on the altars of carnal pleasure, are all written down in the account-books of eternity to be brought forth in the great day. That wicked profanation of thy Maker's name, that broken pledge, that unfulfilled vow to God and man, that scene of riot, that hidden going to the haunts of the profligate, all are noted for future settlement. The blood of wronged and murdered innocence will not always cry in vain. The wail of trampled helplessness will not be unheard forever. The mother who destroyed her babe, the clerk who dipped too deep in his employer's till, the enemy who set fire to his neighbour's goods or sought to blacken his good name, the boy who cursed his parents in secret, the spiteful slanderer and persecutor of God's ministers and people, and every despiser and neglecter of the great salvation, must each answer at the tribunal of eternal justice. And if clean repentance out of these and all such sins be not speedy and complete, there is no hope or mercy more. Before us stands the Angel with the sharp sickle for all the enemies of God, and beside Him is the great winepress of destruction. Think, O man, O woman, how would you fare were He this night to strike! If not in the city, in reconciliation with the King, outside is only death and damnation, and nothing can make it different.

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Bibliographical Information
Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Revelation 14". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sei/revelation-14.html.