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GOD’S SEVENFOLD INTERVENTION IN GRACE AND JUDGMENT.
The point at which we have arrived in these apocalyptic visions is a most sad one. Truth has fallen in the streets;the blood of God’s saints shed as water; open defiance of God and proud boasting are witnessed and heard; good is almost banished from the earth (Psalms 4:6 ), and faith in God almost gone (Luke 18:8 ). “The man of the earth,” or the Antichrist, ravages in Palestine amongst the saints, glorifies and deifies himself in Jerusalem and in the temple, deceives the world, and turns the whole prophetic scene into a playground for Satan. The Beast in pride, persecution, and blasphemy is equally busy as Satan’s powerful vicegerent in the wider sphere allotted him. Now is heard the oft-repeated cry to Jehovah of the Jewish remnant, suffering more than all others under an accumulated load of distress, “How long?” The touching appeal strikes a responsive chord in our hearts, as in spirit we take our part in the circumstances: “Why standest Thou afar off, O Lord, why hidest Thou in times of trouble?” (Psalms 10:1 ).Chapter 14 of the Revelation is the answer to the cry of the remnant. It records God’s intervention in grace and judgment. We have had the marvellous activity of Satan and his seeming triumph for are not Christendom and Judaism the spheres of his special operation? so it might be supposed that God is indifferent, and had abandoned His people to the cruel mercy of the enemy. But it is not so, as the contents of this chapter conclusively show.
We have already remarked that chapters 12, 13, and 14form one connected prophecy. The hidden source of evil is shown to be the dragon: the Man of God’s purpose is the Child; Israel the mother of the Man-Child flees from the dragon’s vengeance: these are the three main subjects of Revelation 12:1-17 , not, however, presented as history, but as seen in Heaven. Then, as the subjects of Revelation 13:1-18 , we have the character, history, and doings of the two Beasts through whom Satan works out his evil plans on earth. We arenext to be shown in a series of events the hand of God (Revelation 14:1-20 ). There are seven distinct subjects in thechapter: first, the spared remnant of Judah on Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1-5 ); second, God’s closing testimony, or the Everlasting Gospel (Revelation 14:6-7 ); third, the announcement of the fall of Babylon (Revelation 14:8 ); fourth, the awful doom of those who worship the Beast (Revelation 14:9-11 ); fifth, the immediate blessedness of those who die in the Lord (Revelation 14:13 ); sixth, the harvest of the earth reaped, discriminating judgment (Revelation 14:14-16 ); seventh, the vintage of wrath, unsparing vengeance (Revelation 14:17-20 ). Thus, then, those three chaptersform an episode of great interest. Their place between the Trumpets and the Vials explains much. It is shown who is the real author of earth’s horrible iniquity, the human instruments by whom it is practised, and, lastly,the intervention of God in the scene. Moreover, as we have had the wickedness of the Beast, we are about to see its awful judgment under the Vials. Those chapters,too, serve as a necessary prelude to the yet severer chastisements inflicted in sharp and rapid succession, which sum up the providential judgments of God, and are followed by the vengeance of the Lamb in Person.
I. THE SPARED JEWISH REMNANT
(Revelation 14:1-5 ).
MOUNT ZION, THE LAMB, AND THE JEWISH REMNANT.
. “ And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing upon Mount Zion, and with Him a hundred (and)forty-four thousand, having His Name and the Name of His Father written upon their foreheads. ” The Revised Testament reads “a Lamb,” and omits “having his Name .” Both blunders are corrected in the Revised Version.
Zion is only named once in the Apocalypse. “Out of about 110 times that Zion is mentioned, ninety are in terms of the Lord’s great love and affection for her, so that the place has great, very great significance, and Heaven knows it too.” *“Revelation of Jesus Christ,” by W. R. Hartridge, page 54. The first mention of Zion when capturedfrom the Jebusites by David (2 Samuel 5:7 ) is pregnant with interest, for, adds the sacred historian, “the same is the city of David.” Saul, the predecessor of David on the throne, was the man of the people’s choice, and typified “the king” who reigns in Jerusalem before the Lord comes. David, the true king of Israel, was Jehovah’s chosen, and Zion the seat of his government. He is thus the prototype of our Lord, Who will reign in Zion, “and before His ancients gloriously” (Isaiah 24:23 ). Zion is rich in sacredmemories to the Jew. It is his goal of hope. It is, too, God’s chosen city. “For the Lord hath chosen Zion: He hath desired it for His habitation. This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it” (Psalms 132:13-14 ). “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King” (Psalms 48:2 ). It is the seat of universalgovernment for earth, and the centre of interest to the millennial world (Isaiah 2:1-22 ). It is where Jehovah has in purpose set His King (Psalms 2:6 ). There are three distinct thoughts connected with mount Zion: (1) It is the seat of royal power; (2) of God’s intervention in grace; (3) of Jehovah’s sovereignty, but all in respect to Israel.
The vision is a bright and gladdening one, a calm after a storm. Christ does not yet reign on Zion, but the time is near, and in the meantime He stands as the Lamb with His chosen ones. The vision is an anticipative one. Both the crowd of saved Gentiles (Revelation 7:9 ) and the millennial kingdom (Revelation 11:15 ; Revelation 12:10 ) are anticipative visions which have their actual fulfilment at the Advent in power.Here the Lamb stands on mount, Zion, but the Vials have yet to be poured out. The 144,000 here witnessed are of Judah ; a similarly numbered company of all Israel (Revelation 7:4 ) forms a separate vision. This company has theName of the Lamb and His (not their) Father’s Name written upon their foreheads. The mark of the Beast is on each one of his worshippers. The Name of the Lamb and His Father’s Name as well on the forehead of each confessor of Christ. These witnesses are viewed as having come out of the fiery trial under the Beast. They are Jews who steadfastly maintained the rights of God and of the Lamb; now they are publicly owned of Him. Many of their brethren suffered even unto death, sealing their testimony with their blood. Those here were spared through the horrors of the Tribulation. We gather that the innumerable company of Gentiles (Revelation 7:9 ) are identical with the sheep who go into everlasting life (Matthew 25:34 ; Matthew 25:46 ); further, the “third part,” refined as silver andtried as gold (Zechariah 13:8-9 ), the same as are here spoken of as 144,000 Jewish saints who occupy the leading place inthe earthly millennial kingdom. They stand with the Lamb on the seat of royalty. What an exchange! From the tyranny of the Beast to fellowship with the Lamb! From the place of suffering to the seat of glorious power!
HARPERS AND SINGERS.
Revelation 14:2-3 . “ And I heard a voice out of the Heaven, as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of great thunder.And the voice which I heard (was) as of harp-singers harping with their harps; and they sing a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders. And no one could learn that song save the hundred (and) forty-four thousand who were bought from the earth. ” Heaven is stirred and breaks out into song. We have had the Babel sounds of earth, the mingled cry of the victor, and the wail of the vanquished. We have witnessed the Beast treading down the earth and breaking it in pieces (Daniel 7:23 ) an exhibition of insensate brute force and his fellow in crime, the Antichrist, morally darkening and deceiving the world. But now other sights delight the eye, and other sounds and songs greet the ear. We meet with a new company in Heaven, distinct from either the living creatures or elders, for they harp and sing “before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders.” Harps are mentioned three times in the Apocalypse, in each instance associated with song (Revelation 5:8 ; Revelation 14:2 ; Revelation 15:2 ).Thus is set forth the choral praise of the redeemed and heavenly host. The elders, representatives of the redeemed of past and present ages, each celebrates with song and harp God’s intervention in mighty saving grace (Revelation 5:8-10 ).Then, again, the martyred company of Judah tell out their gladness and triumph similarly to those of the elders (Revelation 14:2-3 ; Revelation 15:2-3 ). We understand the harpistsof our chapter and those on the sea of glass (Revelation 15:2 )as being one and the same class. The song and harp are so blended that they are spoken of as “a voice” majestic as “many waters” and powerful as “great thunder.” Then this company of harpists sing a “ new song” in contrast with the old song. The former has as its theme redemption;the latter has as its subject creation (Job 38:7 ).The Lamb and the new song are conjoined (Revelation 5:8 ;Revelation 14:2 ). God and the old song are united. “The song of Moses” and “the song of the Lamb” (Revelation 15:3 ) link upin one God’s past ways of power toward Israel with His present grace to them and to us. The crowd of saved Gentiles who form the nucleus of earth’s millennial inhabitants is said to stand “before the throne” (Revelation 7:9 ). So here the company sing “before the throne.” But as the former are on earth, while the latter are in Heaven, the position differs accordingly. The saved Gentiles have a standing morally before the throne, whereas the martyred Jewish company have an actual place in relation to the throne.
Revelation 14:3 . “ No one could learn that song save the hundred (and) forty-four thousand. ” The choristers in Heaven and those with the Lamb on Zion are evidently in closest sympathy. The two together formed one company on earth. Nationally they were Jews, spiritually fellow-saints.They had been companions in labour, in testimony, and in suffering under the oppression of the Beast and the Antichrist. Many sealed their testimony with their blood, others passed through the Tribulation, keeping themselves free from the corruptions of the wicked scene. The former class are the harp-singing company in Heaven; the latter are the preserved of Judah on mount Zion; thus the intimate connection between the two companies. How fitting, therefore, that the saved and delivered Jews on Zion should be those who alone on earth enter into and learn the song of their brethren “before the throne” in Heaven. On earth they learn ; in Heaven they know (1 Corinthians 13:12 ).
As showing the ground of blessing even though victors over the Beast and occupying the place of royalty on Zion,the words are added, “who were bought from the earth,” not “redeemed” as in the Authorized Version, but “ bought ,” or purchased , as here and in verse four. All saints in Heaven and in earth are both purchased and redeemed. The former term applies to all men and all things on earth, the latter to believers only, and to thingson earth at the Coming. *For a fuller elucidation of the truths of purchase and redemption, see section on Revelation 5:9 .The reader is also referred to our “Doctrinal Summaries; or, Expositions of Important Scriptural Truths.” Fifth edition.
THE HUNDRED AND FORTY-FOUR THOUSAND ON MOUNT ZION.
Revelation 14:4-5 . “ These are they who have not been defiled with women, for they are virgins: these are they who follow the Lamb wheresoever He goes. Thesehave been bought from men, firstfruits to God and to the Lamb: and in their mouths was no lie found; they are blameless. ” In this first vision we have three companies of redeemed people: (1) The elders, the saints of past and present ages; (2) the praising company ofmartyred Judah in Heaven; (3) the victorious part of Judah who had emerged out of “the great Tribulation.” This latter company are associated with the Lamb in His triumph, standing on mount Zion, the seat of royalty and of sovereign grace. Amidst the grossest corruptions, open idolatry, proud boasting, daring blasphemy, and open wickedness, these saints had not defiled themselves. They had walked through a scene abandoned to Satan without defilement. They lived and walked in virgin purity *“These are they who have not been defiled with women, for they are virgins.” To refer this to literal impurity, as some do, manifests a lamentable want of spiritual discernment; moreover, the absurdity of such an interpretation would necessarily confine the company on mount Zion to men only. (2 Corinthians 11:2 ). They had “kept themselves unspotted from the world.” But not only is there virgin purity of life, but there is also virgin love, undivided heart affection for the Lamb. We have had their purity attested, now we witness their obedience , which is full and unqualified; they “follow the Lamb wheresoever He goes,” their discipleship is unquestionable.
4. “ Bought from men ” and “bought from the earth ” (v. 3) respectively signify the race and the place out of which God in His grace had taken them. Their purchase is regarded as a special act of sovereign grace.
“ Firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. ” These are an earnest of earth’s coming blessing. God and the Lamb are to reap a rich and bountiful harvest, and these are a sample. Priority in time and blessing of a like character are indicated in the term “firstfruits” (see Romans 8:23 ; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 ; James 1:18 , etc.).
Revelation 14:5 . “ In their mouths was no lie found. ” Truthfulness in word characterised them. Their confession of Christ as the real Messiah was a true one (1 John 2:21-27 ),in contrast to the mass given over to believe a lie in the reception and acknowledgment of the false Messiah, the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:11 ; 1 John 2:22 ).
5. “ They are blameless. ” Thus ends the beautifully descriptive character of the 144,000 on mount Zion. The Authorised Version substitutes guile for “lie,” and adds “without fault before the throne of God .” This is a serious interpolation. The meaning and force of the simple statement, “they are blameless,” is that they were so in practical ways and conduct generally. They refused to conform to the persecuting and blaspheming edicts of the Beast, they neither wondered after the Beast nor worshipped him. The seductions, too, of Antichrist, by which the mass were deceived, were avoided with holy loathing. In these respects “they were blameless.” Were the absolute holiness of God, the claims of His throne and nature in question, none on earth could stand and say, “I am blameless in myself.” This the passage does not assert, but is simply God’s estimate of their practical conduct when under the Beast.
The opening vision is that of the Lamb standing on mount Zion immediately preparatory to His assumption of royal power as King of Israel. With Him is associated a defined number of Jews who have emerged out of the great Tribulation. They publicly bear the Name of the Lamb and His Father’s Name, and are thus, in light of the full blaze of millennial glory, openly owned of God. Then a voice is heard “out of,” or proceeding from, Heaven, grandly majestic and loud and powerful. It is one voice in which the harp and song of many are expressed. These singers and harpers are in Heaven. Who are they? They are as a company distinct from the elders, the raised dead and changed living of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 . Theharpist choir are the brethren of those on mount Zion. They had laid down their lives rather than succumb to the Beast and his minister who dominated the conscience of the mass. They are here seen as raised in vision only; actually the whole scene is an anticipative millennial one. Their brethren on earth, once their companions in confession and sorrow, alone can learn the song of Heaven. How near is Heaven to earth in those days! How interested and how real the fellowship of saints in Heaven with those on earth! It is the day of Hosea 2:21-22 , and the day of John 1:51 .
Then we get the ground (twice stated) on which these saved ones stood in holy and royal fellowship with the Lamb. They had been purchased at what a cost, even the blood of the Lamb. Then we have their practical conduct (not the inward state), which is equally true in principle of every child of God. (1) Separation , thorough and unqualified,from the wickedness and idolatry of their surroundings. They maintained virgin purity from evil and virgin affection for Christ. (2) Obedience and Discipleship are marked features. They followed the Lamb wheresoever He went at a time and in a crisis when all save the elect wandered after the Beast. Following the Lamb is a characteristic truth. They followed Him in His rejection;they equally follow Him in His glory. The word translated “follow” is in the present tense. (3) Truthfulness ,in word and confession, is another feature of the practical character of these saints. When Christendom as a whole had been given over to believe the devil’s lie (2 Thessalonians 2:11 ) these godly Jewish saints clung to the truth of Holy Scripture in its teachings as to the true Messiah and Prophet. (4) Blamelessness in outward conduct and ways before men, not “before the throne of God” (an interpolation), is a fitting and condensed epitome of their practical character and life. They were the firstfruits of the harvest gathered out of Israel, a joy to God and to the Lamb.
II. PROCLAMATION OF THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL.
Revelation 14:6-7 . “ And I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven,having the everlasting Gospel to announce to those settled on the earth, and to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people, saying, with a loud voice, Fear God, and give Him glory, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him that made the Heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and fountains of waters. ” The chapter from verse six to the end unfolds the order of events. The first vision anticipates the happy scene when, after the dark clouds of judgment have rolled aside, the bright dawn of the coming day fills the earth with gladness. The first and most joyous company in the scene delivered from the thralldom of Satan is the 144,000, the godly remnant of Judah standing in safety and in holy fellowship with the Lamb on mount Zion.The time and place of the vision itself (vv. 1-5), therefore, must be distinguished from its fulfilment. The sequence of events as the end is drawing to a close commences with verse six, the announcement to the world at large of the Everlasting Gospel.
6. “ I saw another angel flying in the mid-heaven. ” The word another angel does not connect itself with the seventh angel (Revelation 11:15 ), nor with the militant host under Michael in Revelation 12:1-17 , but with the eagle messenger flying in mid-heaven announcing woe (Revelation 8:13 ). Itmay be said that the connection does not hold good, inasmuch as one is an eagle and the other an angel, but the objection is more apparent than real. The term “angel” in itself does not denote nature , but office , and is used both of spiritual beings and of men. The context, and not the word merely, must determine its application to men or spirits. Angel literally signifies messenger . Both the eagle and the angel are messengers. Both are witnessed flying across the firmament so as to scan the earth, even to its remotest bounds, and aloud proclaim their message.The flying eagle is a herald of judgment , the flying angel is a messenger of mercy .
. Will there be a literal announcement of the “ Everlasting Gospel ” by an angel? Will a spiritual being actually proclaim the glad tidings from mid-heaven in his rapid course? Angels will be largely employed in the providential and governmental economy both prior to and during the millennial kingdom. But the preaching of the Gospel, whether it be that of the kingdom, of the grace,or of the glory of God, is a task committed to men and not to angels, while the latter will, without a doubt, providentially expedite the work of declaring the good news in the closing days of the last prophetic week. But we apprehend that the preachers of the Everlasting Gospel will be converted Jews chiefly, and that the result of their mission will be an ingathering of a vast and countless throng of saved Gentiles for millennial blessing (Matthew 25:34 ; Revelation 7:9 ). Isaiah 66:19-21 is by some applied tothe same mission as we have here, but that is a mistake. The Isaiah mission has its place when the Lord comes in Person to plead with all flesh, as the previous part of the chapter conclusively demonstrates; whereas the Everlasting Gospel is announced to the nations before the Lord comes. The angel flying on his mission indicates that a widespread and rapid testimony to grace and a warning note of judgment are proclaimed on the eve of “the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:2 ). It is only in visionthat the angel announces the Everlasting Gospel.
The Gospel preached now is that of God’s rich and sovereign grace to guilty sinners (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ; Romans 1:16 ); and of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4 ). The Gospel of the kingdom was preached prior to the death and resurrection of Christ (Matthew 10:7 ), and will be preached again after the removal of the Church (Matthew 24:14 ). We gather that the Everlasting Gospel is in substance that of the kingdom, here termed everlasting ,because it is an ever-abiding truth that the Creator and not the creature is the only object of worship. This, too, is the only instance of the word “everlasting“ applied to the Gospel. The earliest mention of the good news is contained in Genesis 3:15 , and on through the dark and ever-changing ages of man’s history this Gospel remains unchanged in character, for God is everlastingly merciful, and from the entrance of sin into the world till its judgment at the Coming God alone is the hope of His creatures.
Those to whom the Gospel is announced are stated under five terms: (1) “To those settled on the earth.” We have had the same moral * See pages 74 on Revelation 2:13 , 156 on Revelation 6:11 , 235 on Revelation 11:11 . We may add that we greatly question whether any of this class bow to the proclamation and receive the glad tidings; when the results of this mighty and extensive work of grace are before us, as in Revelation 7:9 , there is no mention of those “that dwell on the earth.” Here we have five classes to whom the Gospel is preached, there only four when the results are stated (see also 2 Thessalonians 2:10 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:12 ). class of persons brought before us on several occasions (Revelation 3:10 ; Revelation 6:10 ; Revelation 11:10 , etc.). Theyare Christian apostates who had rejected God’s call to Heaven (Hebrews 3:1 ), and deliberately chose the earth and its interests instead. They have been described as those that “ dwell on the earth,” but here a somewhat stronger expression is used, “ settled on the earth.” (2) “To every nation.” (3) “And tribe,” or a part, a division of a nation or people. (4) “And tongue,” signifying the numerous languages and dialects spoken. (5) “And people,” whether organised or not; the masses of mankind. These last four terms really embrace the race, and express as a formula universality (Revelation 7:9 ; Revelation 11:9 ).Those then are the persons to whom this Gospel is preached. As to its reception by some and its rejection by others we are not here informed: that must be learned elsewhere.
Revelation 14:7 . What is so publicly and widely announced is next declared. “ Fear God, and give Him glory, for the hour of His judgment has come. ” The first duty of the creature is to “fear God,” which is indeed the “beginning of wisdom” twice repeated (Psalms 111:10 ; Proverbs 9:10 ).It is, too, a call to turn from the Beast to God: from the creature to the Creator. The mass were glorifying a man whom Satan had deified. Him they worshipped. God alone was, is, and ever shall be glorified both in His character and in His works and ways. The world is here recalled to this grand and fundamental truth, almost entirely forgotten, “Give Him glory.” The solemn ground on which this call is based is next stated, “ For the hour of His judgment has come.” What an awful moment in human history! God is about to intervene in judgment,and no power can arrest the stroke. It is about to fall on the ungodly world and apostate peoples, christian and Jewish. “And worship Him that made the Heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and fountains of waters.” The primary truth that God is the Creator of all, the visible and the invisible (Colossians 1:16 ), has been lost sight of. Man has usurped the place of God, and the claim of the Creator tothe homage of the creature is well-nigh effaced from the minds of men. The truth of creation is the first and fundamental subject of divine revelation (Genesis 1:1-31 ). Here it is recalled and enforced in light of immediate judgment.The worship of the Creator is a necessary law for men and angels. As we have had the race under a fourfold designation nation, tribe, tongue, and people so here creation is stated in four terms equally universal with the other:Heaven, earth, sea, and fountains.
How good, how gracious in God, ere His righteous vengeance search out the guilty of earth, to send to the race at large this final message couched in terms forcible and solemn! The moment is opportune, for every true thought of the Creator has been almost banished from theearth. All worship the Beast save the elect, then in a weak and feeble minority.
III. THE FALL OF BABYLON.
Revelation 14:8 . “ And another, a second angel, followed, saying, Great Babylon has fallen, has fallen, which of the wine of the fury of her fornication has made all nations drink. ” It will be observed that there are three specific angelic announcements (vv. 6, 8, 9). The first and the third are proclaimed with a “loud voice.” Not so the second. Babylon, civil and religious, figures largely in Bible history. Whether viewed as a city (Jeremiah 51:1-64 ), or as a religious system (Revelation 14:8 ; Revelation 17:1-18 ; Revelation 18:1-24 ), it is a vast consolidated system and the enslaver of God’s people. Babylon of old was the first and only Gentile power on which God directly conferred governmental authority (Daniel 2:37 ). Its doom, and the deliverance of Judahfrom the seventy years’ captivity were associated events. It will be so at the end. The Beast of the Apocalypse, which inherits the civil and political power of ancient Babylon, perishes at the Coming (Revelation 19:1-21 ), and God’s people are delivered. But what is before us now is the mystic Babylon, that huge system of spiritual adultery and corruption which holds sway over the whole prophetic scene. It is scarcely possible to conceive of a huge system of wickedness eagerly embraced by the nations once called christian. It will nevertheless be so. Babylon here is the full development of the state of things under the Thyatiran condition of the Church (Revelation 2:18-23 ). Protestantism as a system is destroyed at the Coming (Revelation 3:3 ). Babylon falls before the Coming (Revelation 17:1-18 ).
Babylon, the city of old, was the oppressor of the nations, and the centre and stronghold of the world’s pride and idolatry. Satan stamped his own character upon it. But Israel and her renowned capital, Jerusalem, should have been the people and city from whence the knowledge of Jehovah and power over the nations emanated. But Israel, having falsified her position as set on earth to administer righteous government in headship over the nations, and also having proved unfaithful to her mission in making known the character of the true and only God,is set aside. Babylon is the contrast to what Israel should have been, and, in fact, to what she will be when under the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:1-40 ). The Church should have been a witness to God’s character as light and love, instead of which she has shown herself an unfaithful steward of the truth, and has failed as a witness to God and to Christ. Then , consequent on the moral ruin of the Church, the ground is prepared for Satan to introduce the mystic Babylon, the corruptress of the earth, and the spiritual enslaver of the nations who are madly intoxicated with her adulteries and corruptions. Her meretricious charms are gilded chains; her cup is full. The nations have yielded to her seductions, and have eagerly drunk out of her golden cup. Here her downfall is intimated, and that with intensity of utterance. The repetition of the word “fallen” must not be regarded as a mere Hebraism. The fall of the literal, as of the mystic, Babylon is similarly announced (Isaiah 21:9 ; Revelation 18:2 ).
In the passage before us we have merely the fact announced that Babylon has fallen. It is regarded as an accomplished judgment. Particulars are reserved.The character, doom, and human instruments of her destruction are specified in chapters 17 and 18, while her utter and everlasting ruin is grandly celebrated in Heaven in the first three verses of Revelation 19:1-21 , and that as preliminary to the marriage of the Lamb. The whore is destroyed, and then the bride is displayed.
8. “ The wine of the fury (or wrath) of her fornication ” drunk by all nations is a singular expression, and exceeds what is said of the Euphratean city (Jeremiah 51:7 ). The Babylon of the Apocalypse has by herseductions, unholy allurements, and incitements to evil enthralled the nations. Their passions have been fearfully roused, and they are not only mad (morally, of course), but her illicit intercourse with them has wrought them up to frenzy. In the height of the ungodliness and folly of the unholy union between the corrupt Church and the equally corrupt nations, the welcome message falls upon our ears, “Babylon has fallen, has fallen.” In every respect the Babylon of the Apocalypse may be termed “great ” in contrast to the city of old.
Delete the word “city,” erroneously inserted in the text of the Authorised Version (v. 8). It is almost unanimously rejected by the authorities.
IV. THE AWFUL DOOM OF THE WORSHIPPERS OF THE BEAST, AND ENDURANCE OF THE SAINTS.
Revelation 14:9-12 . “ And another, a third angel, followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any one worshippeth the Beast and his image, and receive a mark upon his forehead or upon his hand, He also shall drink of the wine of the fury of God prepared unmixed in the cup of His wrath, and he shall be tormented infire and brimstone before the holy angels and before the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up to the ages of ages, and they have no rest day and night that worship the Beast and his image, and if any one receive the mark of his name. Here is the endurance of the saints, who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. ” We have had the fall of Babylon proclaimed in the previous announcement.The empire, in its full and consolidated strength of will and power, is the human destroyer of Babylon (Revelation 17:16-17 ). Read “The ten horns which thou sawest and the Beast.” These, the horns and Beast, work together in united purpose to destroy the woman, or Babylon. This leaves the Beast unchecked in his career of wickedness and blasphemy. He had previously carried the woman, i.e. ,supported her. But now, utter hatred and disgust take the place of a former admiration for her spiritual pretensions. He must reign without a rival, be the sole possessor of power. A system of brute force is established, and its decrees unrelentingly enforced. After the destruction of Babylon the Beast assumes its worst character. The full development of evil, in the absence of the harlot, is rapidly consummated, and a stern and inflexible policy is pursued with the determination that all rich and poor, great and small must bow down and worship the Beast. Absolute subjection to the Beast is the law in the coming crisis. It is under these appalling circumstances that the loud note of warning is sounded to the Beast worshippers. The awful doom here announced, unequalled in its severity, is proportioned to the guilt and horrible iniquity then openly practised.
The Beast and his image must both be worshipped, and his mark received either in the hand or forehead, and that under the dread penalty of death. There is no escape. The alternative to the worship of the Beast is death , probably in its severest forms, and all commerce, trade, and barter are sternly prohibited to those who refuse to recognise his claims (Revelation 13:17 ).
The devotees of the Beast are here warned and threatened with punishments of so terrible a character that the very mention of them is enough to make one’s flesh creep. But what of those who will have to endure them? The “third angel” says “with a loud voice” so that all may hear, and thus be without excuse “ he ,” who has worshipped the Beast and received his mark, “also shall drink of the wine of the fury of God.” The nations had drunk out of the harlot’s cup (v. 8); now in retributive justice they shall drink out of God’s cup (v. 10). In this cup there are no palliative ingredients (Psalms 75:8 ). It is pure, unmixed wrath. “ He shall be tormented in fire and brimstone.” The awful torment is individual. Each one shall suffer eternal misery in his own person. “Fire and brimstone” (Isaiah 30:33 ; Revelation 20:10 ) are symbols of unutterableanguish. Another awful feature of the agony inflicted upon each adherent of the Beast is that the torment has to be endured “before (or in the presence of) the holy angels and before the Lamb.” The holy angels had been witnesses from their place on high of the horrible wickedness of the Beast and his abettors; now they will witness God’s vengeance, and each tormented one will know that the angels are looking down upon the scene of indescribable anguish, *At the period referred to, especially at its commencement, angels will be largely employed in the execution of decreed judgment (Matthew 13:49-50 ; Revelation 20:1-3 ). Then we read of that terrible expression, “The wrath of the Lamb.” Both the Lamb and the angels take part in executing the vengeance of Almighty God on the Beast and his followers. and also “before the Lamb,” *“The specific torment here alluded to for those who receive the mark of the Beast is that of fire and brimstone, ‘in the presence of the Lamb,’ and this latter clause seems to contain the pungency of the curse, in the same way as is expressed in Revelation 6:16 , which expresses the horror felt by the wicked at seeing ‘the face of Him that sitteth on the throne.’” “Notes on the Revelation,” by Brodie, page 133. Whom they had openly defied, and Whose blood had been wantonly trampled upon. This will, of course, add greatly to the horror of the situation.
Revelation 14:11 . “ The smoke of their torment goes up to the ages of ages. ” In the previous clauses of this deeply solemn passage we have had the individual before us, as indicated in the use of the personal pronouns. Now, however, that the company is made up, the aggregate is spoken of “the smoke of their torment.” What a lurid picture of complete and overwhelming judgment! (Genesis 19:28 ; Isaiah 34:10 ). The harlot is similarly judged and punished (compare with Revelation 19:3 ).
The expression “for ever and ever” is translated “the ages of ages” in all its eleven occurrences in the Apocalypse in the margin of the Revised Version. It is used to express:
The eternal *In eternity nothing is either past or to come but subsists. Philo . existence of God (Revelation 4:9-10 ; Revelation 5:14 ; Revelation 10:6 ; Revelation 15:7 ).
The eternal glory of the Lamb (Revelation 5:13 ).
The eternal reign of believers (Revelation 22:5 ).
The eternal doom of the devil (Revelation 20:10 ).
The eternal torment of the lost (Revelation 14:11 ).
The torment of the lost and of the devil is eternal. “No rest day and night” is the solemn pronouncement in chapter 14: 11, and “ tormented day and night” is the equally emphatic declaration of chapter 20: 10 no cessation, no alleviation; the agony is ceaseless. The endless horror of the Beast worshippers is beyond human conception. The eternal punishment of the lost is graven on the imperishable records of revelation. Sin and its punishment are measured by the greatness, the glory, and the eternity of God. He alone can reveal who and what He is. Sin against an infinite Being must necessarily entail infinite and eternal consequences.
“Here is the endurance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” In this state of things, unequalled in the history of the race, the saints can only hold fast and hold on. They are forbidden to resist with the sword, even if they could (Revelation 13:10 ). But faith and patience at length, however sorely tried, win the day. Death is before them, but better to be killed by the Beast than to be tormented with the Beast. The afflicted saints cling to the clear commands of God and the faith of Jesus. In the apocalyptic record the martyrs are the martyrs of Jesus (Revelation 17:6 ). The name of sweetest sound is but rarely introduced in the book, but the connections in which it appears are full of interest (Revelation 14:12 ; Revelation 17:6 ; Revelation 22:16 ).
V. THE BLESSED DEAD WHO DIE IN THE LORD.
Revelation 14:13 . “ And I heard a voice out of the Heaven saying,Write, *“This command to write is repeated twelve times in the Revelation to indicate that all the things it refers to are matters of importance.” Blessed are the dead who die in (the) Lord from henceforth. Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; for their works follow with them. ” The voice, but not the name, of the speaker falls upon the ear of the christian Seer. The Authorised Version interpolates unto me . The message was not addressed to John, although he heard it, but it is one for all saints,while it has its own special application to saints in that critical hour preceding the Coming of the Lord in judgment. It is ever true that those who die in the Lord are blessed, but why is the statement reserved for this awful juncture in human history? and why is it added, “from henceforth?” Why from that particular moment? The answer to these questions is a simple and satisfactory one. The word “henceforth” intimates the near end, and that the blessing is just about to be entered upon.
In Revelation 20:4 we have the complement of the heavenly saints who reign with Christ a thousand years. There are three classes of such: (1) A recognised and well-known company sitting upon thrones. These are the raised dead and changed living at the Coming into the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 ). When caught up they arespoken of as “elders” throughout the prophetic part of the Apocalypse. (2) “The souls of those beheaded on account of the testimony of Jesus, and on account of the Word of God.” This company forms a class of martyrs by themselves, who were slain before the Beast was in existence as a persecuting power. They are witnesses under the fifth Seal (Revelation 6:9-11 ). (3) “Those who had not worshipped the Beast, neither his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and hand.” There is an interval of some time, probably years, between the martyrdom of the two latter companies. If, therefore, the whole company of reigning saints is embraced in the three classes referred to (Revelation 20:4 ), in which of them are we to place those who “die in the Lord from henceforth?” Undoubtedly amongst those martyred under the Beast.
Another and helpful consideration follows. If the two martyred companies named comprehend all who die after the Rapture, then it is evident that no saint during the “crisis week” of seven years dies a natural death. Those who “die in the Lord” are slain; hence the inapplicability of our text engraved on stone and monument in memory of our precious dead. Those who “die in the Lord from henceforth ” do so as martyrs. They are about to share in the blessedness of “the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:6 ). Their blessing in character and fulness greatly exceeds those who survive the Tribulation. The former take a distinguished place in heavenly glory, the latter are accorded the highest place on earth; the former reign with Christ, the latter are reigned over; the former are kings, the latter are subjects.
The Spirit responds to the voice from Heaven, “Yea,” and adds a word of rich consolation, “that they may rest from their labours; for their works follow with them.” Probably none amongst “the cloud of witnesses” had so walked in the vigour of faith as these; none so served and suffered under the most appalling circumstances. But now these witnesses of whom “the world was not worthy” are about to enter on their everlasting rest toil and suffering for ever past. God is not unrighteous to forget their work and labour of love. When these saints are raised and taken up, their works accompany them, not come after them, but “with them.” Their works will be appraised at their true value by the righteous Judge, Who will reward every man according to his work. Rest and reward are the immediate portion of those then dying in the Lord.
VI. THE HARVEST OF THE EARTH REAPED.
Revelation 14:14-15 . “ And I saw, and behold, a white cloud,and on the cloud one sitting like (the) Son of Man, having upon His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, Send Thy sickle and reap; for the hour of reaping is come, for the harvest of the earth is dried. And He that sat on the cloud put His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. ” Judicial judgment is about to sweep the guilty earth with the besom of destruction and clear it of evil. The harvest and the vintage are the familiar figures employed to express God’s closing dealings. The former is discriminating judgment, the latter unsparing wrath. In the harvest thewheat is separated from the tares. In the vintage these latter, i.e. , the tares, are alone in the prophetic scene, and form the subjects of the Lord’s righteous vengeance.
. “ I saw, and behold. ” This expression is only employed in the introduction of subjects of unusual interest. There are two matters of weighty import selected out of the seven series of events contained in our chapter,to which special attention is called by this word “behold” (see vv. 1, 14).
14. “ A white cloud ” is peculiar to this action, so also is the white throne in the judgment of the dead (Revelation 20:11 ). The cloud symbolises the divine presence(Revelation 10:1 ; Matthew 17:5 ; Ezekiel 10:4 ), “white” the purity and absolute righteousness characterising and governing the action.
14. “ On the cloud one sitting like (the) Son of Man. ” Christ is said to come in a cloud (Luke 21:27 ),but He is also said to come on the clouds (Matthew 24:30 ,R.V.). In the former His Person is veiled; in the latter He is publicly displayed. He sits on the cloud. It is a calm, deliberative judgment; no hurry, no haste. “Like (the) Son of Man.” It is under this title that Christ deals with the state of things on the earth, and judges the ungodly (Matthew 25:31 ; John 5:27 ). As Son of God He quickensnow the spiritually dead (John 5:25 ), as in the future the physically dead (v. 28). We have before called attention to the absence of the definite article in this title as used in the Apocalypse and in Daniel 7:13 . *See remarks on Revelation 1:13 . As Son of Man He comes and claims universal dominion. His connection with the race and with the world in general is intimated in the title Son of Man, but in that very character He bearsthe attributes and moral glories of the Ancient of Days (compare Daniel 7:13 with verse 14 of our chapter, also with Rev 1:13-14 ). Without doubt the Seer beheld in vision the Son of Man, but in the absence of the article it is what morally characterises Him that is prominent. The article would make it definite and personal. The attributes of the Son of Man are called into exercise, and to these we are directed to what is characteristic of such a One, rather than to the Person Himself.
14. “ Upon His head a golden crown ,” the sign of royal dignity (Revelation 4:4 ; Revelation 6:2 ). The crowns upon the heads of the locusts were “ like gold” (Revelation 9:7 ). Theirassumption of royal authority was spurious. Here it is real, divinely conferred. But the crown of gold is also the expression of divine righteousness in victorious action.
14. “ In His hand a sharp sickle. ” It is not the execution of judgment either moral (Hebrews 4:12 ) or physical(Revelation 19:15 ), else a sword would have been named.But the sickle is needed to reap the harvest. It is “sharp” in order to do its work thoroughly, and in the “hand” of the Reaper, Who is about to begin the separating process the wheat garnered and the tares gathered in bundles.
Revelation 14:15 . “ Another angel came out of the temple. ” Another , as distinct from those previously numbered in the chapter (Revelation 14:6 ; Revelation 14:8-9 ). The throne and the temple , both in “the Heaven,” are the respective sources of judgment on earth. The throne judgments are characteristic of the first great portion of the book, closing with chapter 11: 18.The temple chastisements are in question from chapter 11. 19, and on to the pouring out of the Vials (Revelation 16:1-21 ). In the seventh Vial, which brings the wrath of God to a conclusion, the temple and throne are united in action (v. 17).For the throne see Revelation 4:5 ; for the temple see ?Revelation 11:19 . The throne sets forth the exercise of divine government; the temple refers to the immediate presence of God. In the second main part of the Apocalypse, from chapter 11: 19, the judgments are of a severer character than the preceding ones, as the evil to be dealt with is of a more acute kind, more open, daring, blasphemous, and of a religious-secular character. Hence judgment comes out from the very presence of God, i.e. , the temple the nature of God as light is roused to action.
15. The angel from the temple cries “ with a loud voice .” It is a call for immediate action on the part of the divine Reaper. “Send Thy sickle and reap; for the hour of reaping is come, for the harvest of the earth is dried up,” or “overripe” (R.V.). There are two reasons assigned why the Son of Man should at once proceed to gather in the harvest. First, the appointed hour of final dealing has come; second, the harvest was fully ripe, yea,“dried up” (see Revelation 16:12 ). The hour of judgment(v. 7) and the hour of harvest (v. 15, R.V.) are both said to have come, and both refer substantially to the same character of action.
15. “ Send Thy sickle and reap. ” The Son of Man does not Himself personally reap. He superintends.Instrumentally He reaps. The actual reapers are the angels (Matthew 13:39 ).
15. “ The harvest of the earth ” is both political (Joel 3:9-14 ) and religious in character (Matthew 13:24-30 ).The former is directly connected with Israel, and has its sphere of operation in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:12 ); the latter is of much wider extent, embracing within its range the whole scene of Christendom (Matthew 13:38 ).
Revelation 14:16 . “ He that sat on the cloud put His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. ” The result is instantaneous, but that is in vision only. We must not regard these actions as signifying a momentary exercise of divine power. Events are regarded in the various visions which may extend over a considerable time and employ many agencies as completed in a single act. In the visions the completed results are briefly and tersely summed up. But in other portions of Scripture the details, equally important to know, are unfolded. But how gracious in God to afford us the certainty that His purposes shall be fulfilled; that these apocalyptic visions affirm.
We have already observed that the harvest discriminates and separates the wheat from the tares. “Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into My barn” (Matthew 13:30 ).This, then, is harvest work. It is the same character of separating work in which the good fish are gathered into vessels and the bad cast away (v. 48). This severing process is at the end of the age. There is no actual execution of judgment in the harvest. That is accomplished in the vintage; nor is the harvest here the completion of the firstfruits of the company of virgins of verse 4. That harvest is one of blessing, and is reaped when the millennial kingdom is set up. The harvest here is one of discriminating judgment prior to the kingdom being established.Reaping is in view of judgment.
VII. THE VINE OF THE EARTH AND ITS JUDGMENT
?Revelation 14:17-20 . “ 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,having power over fire, and called with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Send thy sharp sickle, and gather the bunches of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripened. And the angel put his sickle to the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast (the bunches) into the great winepress of the fury of God; and the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood went out of the winepress to the bits of the horses for a thousand six hundred stadia. ”
. “ Another angel. ” In these visions there is mention made of six angels (vv. 6, 8, 9, 15, 17, 18). The ordinal numbers, second and third (vv. 8, 9, R.V.), areevidently meant to form a group of three angels as distinct from those which follow and are not numbered. The numbered angels announce specific events which are closely related. The fourth and the fifth come out of the temple (vv. 15, 17), from whence all the Vials are poured out (Revelation 16:1 ). The sixth angel comes out of the altar (v. 18).
17. “ Having a sharp sickle. ” There is a certain minuteness in the previous description not observable in this one. There “in His hand a sharp sickle” (v. 14); here it is simply “having a sharp sickle.” In the one “a loud voice ” (v. 15); in the other a “loud cry ” (v. 18). These and other minute distinctions are to be noticed if full profit is to be gained. There are, of course, certain things in common, as “harvest” and “vintage” would necessarily suggest.
Then “another angel” is seen coming “out of the altar, having power over fire.” This is the brazen altar, the altar of judgment. The loud and urgent cry of the souls of the martyrs under the altar for righteous vengeance (Revelation 6:9-11 ) was but partially answered. Now the fullmeasure of judgment is to be inflicted on their enemies. The brazen altar speaks of acceptance (Lev. l), and, with the blood upon its horns, of forgiveness (Leviticus 4:34 ). But it is a holy altar, and hence it demands the judgment of sin;it is also the ground of divine forgiveness. Here the thought is one of pure, unmingled judgment divine judgment on the vine of the earth (compare with Ezekiel 9:2 ).The altar angel “called with a loud cry.” It was a loud, peremptory, urgent call, and one which could brook no delay.
Revelation 14:18 . “ Gather the bunches of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripened.” Israel of old was the vine brought out of Egypt (Psalms 80:8 ) Jehovah’s fruit-bearing system on earth. After centuries of cultivation and care the vine only produced “wild grapes” (Isaiah 5:2-4 ). The noble vine planted by the Lord God of hostshad in the days of the weeping prophet “turned into a degenerate plant of a strange vine” (Jeremiah 2:21 ). Israeltherefore was set aside, to be morally replaced by Christ the true Vine, Who alone could and did bear fruit (?John 15:1-27 ). The mark of a true disciple is not simply to be a branch in the vine (Judas was that), but to be a fruit-bearing branch. The expression “the vine of the earth” contemplates the whole religious system in the coming crisis, not Judaism only. The grapes are ripe for judgment. They are gathered in bunches and cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God. The great religious apostasy of earth is now to be unsparingly dealt with in judgment. “The winepress was trodden without the city.” The tares are now cast into the fire (Matthew 13:40-42 ) “a furnace of fire.” It is, too, the consuming of the fruitless branches (John 15:6 ). There is no mercy, no separating judgment, but absolute vengeance. The winepress signifies this. It is the day of vengeance of our God. It is the time of Isaiah 63:1-19 : “Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like Him that treadeth in the winefat?” asks the prophet. The Messiah answers, “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the peoples there was none with Me; for I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury: and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment. For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come” (vv. 2-4). The vine of the earth is a far-reaching expression, embracing apostate Jews and apostate Gentiles (Psalms 85:5 ;Isaiah 34:1-17 ; Jeremiah 25:15-16 ; Joel 3:1-21 ).
Revelation 14:20 . “ The winepress was trodden without the city. ” Jerusalem is the city here referred to. The valley of Jehoshaphat was outside Jerusalem, and it is there that the fullest vengeance of God shall be poured out, “the press is full” (Joel 3:13 ). In fact, both the harvest and the vintage are directly grounded on the prophecy of Joel (chap. 3), with, of course, a wider application. Outside the city, or “without,” signifies Palestine as a whole.
20. “ Blood went out of the winepress to the bits of the horses for a thousand six hundred stadia. ” Blood, not wine or the juice of the grape, but that which it signified, poured out of the winepress to the depth of the horses’ bits; the length of the stream of blood nearly two hundred miles. There may be certain measurements of the Holy Land *As from Dan to Beersheba. to which these would apply, but nothing certain can be affirmed. What is signified is a vast destruction of human life over a circumscribed area.Certainly what is stated of the vast slaughter is beyond anything ever known. We gather that the scene of the vintage in its worst form is that referred to by Joel (Joel 3:9-14 ), as also where the battle of Armageddon is to befought (Revelation 16:14-16 ): the scene, too, of Revelation 19:19 . All these have their centre in Palestine. It isthere that the wickedness of earth will be concentrated. The Beast and the Antichrist both fall there, and their followers as well. Gog, too, and his subordinate, the king of the north the political oppressors of Israel meet their doom in Palestine (Ezekiel 38:1-23 ; Ezekiel 39:1-29 , for Gog and his allies;Isaiah 14:25 ; Daniel 11:45 , for the Assyrian or king of the north). The final dealings of God at the end of the age as expressed in the harvest and vintage are centred in Palestine, but are not confined in their effects to Israel, then the most guilty of all peoples, but extend to the utmost bounds of Christendom. We do not, of course, hold that the actual valley of Jehoshaphat and Armageddon are literally meant, as both are utterly inadequate to serve as a gathering place or centre for the nations who will assemble in close proximity to Jerusalem, and thus Judea becomes the battlefield of the nations. May God graciously preserve His beloved people from the unholy principles and spirit so characteristic of the day in which our lot is cast!
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Scott, Walter. "Commentary on Revelation 14". "Scott's Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20