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The Lamb standeth on mount Sion with his company. An angel preacheth the gospel. The fall of Babylon. The hatred of the world, and putting in of the sickle. The vintage and wine-press of the wrath of God.
Anno Domini 96.
Revelation 14:1.— The description of the melancholy state of the church and world, during this third period, in the fore-going chapters, might be apt somewhat to discourage good Christians and the faithful worshippers of God; for though God, by a spirit of prophesy, had before revealed this suffering state to the church, and so it was represented as what the wisdom of the divine Providence thought fit to allow, and what was therefore reconcilable to the goodness and power of the great Governor of the world;—yet it was a very useful design of these revelations to subjoin proper principles of consolation and encouragement to such a mournful account of temptation, danger and sufferings. This seems to be the intention of the chapter before us, in whichthe scene of the prophetical vision is changed from earth to heaven, from a view of the church under the persecution of the beast, to a view of the church in the presence of the Lamb, delivered from the state of corruption and oppression so much to be expected from this evil world, and arrived at a state of complete and most perfect religion and happiness in the future world. This vision then representsthe sure destruction of the enemies of truth and righteousness in the end, however they may prevail for a time. It shews the great reward of the faithful and the dreadful punishment of the apostate in the day of trial. Thus this part of the prophesy unites the strongest principles of warning, caution, encouragement, and hope, than which nothing could be more proper or useful for the church in such a state of providence; or more suitable to the general design of the whole prophesy, which is to encourage the constancy and patience of the saints in all their trials. When we consider the present chapter in this view, it will shew a moreeasy, natural, and proper connection between this vision and the foregoing than is generally observed; and make the whole plan and design appear more regular than it is usually thought to be. Such is Mr. Lowman's opinion of the intention of this chapter. But Dr. Newton, the learned Bishop of Bristol, understands it in a different, and, I think, a very just light.
Revelation 14:1-5. I looked, and, lo, a Lamb, &c.— After the account of the rise and reign of the beast (says Bishop Newton), the Spirit of prophesy delineates, by way of opposition, the state of the true church during the same period, its struggles and contests with the beast, and the judgment of God upon his enemies. Our Saviour is seen, Rev 14:1 as the true Lamb of God, not only with horns like a lamb, standing on mount Sion, the place of God's true worship, but with him an hundred forty and four thousand, the same number that was mentioned (ch. Revelation 7:4.), the genuine offspring of the twelve apostles apostolically multiplied, and therefore the number of the church, as six hundred and sixty-six is the number of the beast: and as the followers of the beast have the name of the beast, so these have the name of God, and, as some copies add, of Christ, written in their forehead;—being his professed servants, and the same as the witnesses, only represented under different figures. The angels and heavenly choir, Rev 14:2-3 with loud voices and instruments of music, sing the same new song, or Christian song which they sung, ch. 5. And no man could learn that song but the hundred forty and four thousand; they alone are the worshippers of the one true God through the one true Mediator Jesus Christ: all the rest of mankind offer up their devotions to other objects and through other mediators. These are they which were not defiled with women, for they are virgins; Revelation 14:4. They are pure from all the stains and pollutions of spiritual whoredom or idolatry, with which the other parts of the world are miserably debauched and corrupted. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth; they adhere constantly to the religion of Christ in all conditions and in all places; whether in adversity or prosperity; whether in conventicles and desarts, or in churches and cities. These were redeemed from among men;—rescued from the corruption of the world, and are consecrated as the first-fruits unto God and the Lamb; an earnest and assurance of a more plentiful harvest in succeeding times. And in their mouth was found no guile; Revelation 14:5. They handle not the word of God deceitfully; they preach the sincere doctrine of Christ; they are as free from hypocrisy as from idolatry; for they are without fault before the throne of God: they resemble their blessed Redeemer, who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; (1 Peter 2:22.) and are, as the apostle requires Christians to be, blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; Philippians 2:15. But possibly it may be asked, Where did such a church ever exist, especially before the reformation? And it may be replied, that it has existed not in idea only: history demonstrates, that there have, in every age, been some true worshippers of God, and faithful servants of Jesus Christ: and as Elijah did not know the seven thousand men who had never bowed the knee to Baal, so there may have been more true Christians than were always visible.
Revelation 14:6-7. I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, &c.— Such is the nature and character of the true Christian church in opposition to the wicked antichristian kingdom; and three principal efforts have been made towards a reformation at three different times, represented by three angels appearing one after another. Another angel, besides those who were employed in singing, is seen flying in the midst of heaven, and having the everlasting gospel to preach unto every nation and people, so that during this period the gospel should be preached, which is stiled the everlasting gospel; being, like its divine Author, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; (Hebrews 13:8.) in opposition to the novel doctrines of the beast and the false prophet, which shall be rooted up; Matthew 15:13. The flight of the angel admirably represents the swiftness with which the gospel was disseminated and spread over the world. This angel is farther represented, as saying with a loud voice, "Fear God, &c." Revelation 14:7. Prophesy mentions things as come, which will certainly come. See John 12:31. But what this angel more particularly recommends, is the worship of the great Creator of the universe; worship him, &c. It is a solemn and emphatical exhortation to forsake the reigning idolatry and superstition; and such exhortations were made in the first and earliest times of the beast. Several of the Greek emperors, the council of Francfort in the year 794, the Carolin books, the council of Paris in the year 824, Claude bishop of Turin, Agobard archbishop of Lions, and many other bishops of Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France, opposed the adoration of saints, angels, and images; and this public opposition of emperors and bishops in the eighth and ninth centuries appears to be meant particularly by the loud voice of the first angel flying, aloft, and calling upon the world to worship God. In another respect too, these emperors and bishops resemble this angel, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto every nation; for in their time, and greatly by their means, the Christian religion was propagated and established among the Saxons, Danes, Swedes, and many other northern nations.
Revelation 14:8. There followed another angel, saying, Babylon, &c.— By Babylon was meant Rome, as all authors of all ages agree; but it was not prudent to denounce the destruction of Rome in open and direct terms; it was for many wise reasons done covertlyunder the name of Babylon, which was the great idolatress of the earth, and enemy of the people of God in former, as Rome has been in later times. By the same figure of speech that the first angel cried, The hour of his judgment is come, Rev 14:7 this second angel proclaims, that Babylon is fallen: the sentence is as certain as if it was already executed. For greater certainty too it is repeated twice, as Joseph says that the dream was doubled, Genesis 41:32. The reason is then added, of this sentence against Babylon, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath, or rather, the inflaming wine of her fornication. Hers was a kind of Circean cup with poisoned liquor, to intoxicate and inflame mankind to spiritual fornication. St. John, in these figures, follows the ancient prophets. In the same manner, and in the same words, did Isaiah foretel the fate of the ancient Babylon; (Isaiah 21:9.) and Jeremiah has assigned much the same reason for her destruction; Jeremiah 51:7. As by the first angel calling upon men to worship God, we understand the opposers of the worship of images in the eighth and ninth centuries; so by this second angel proclaiming the fall of mystic Babylon, or Rome, we understand particularly Peter Valdo, or those who concurred with him,—the Waldenses and Albigenses; who were the first heralds of this proclamation, as they first of all in the twelfth century pronounced the church of Rome to be the apostolic Babylon, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth, and, for this cause, not only departed from her communion themselves, but engaged great numbers also to follow their example, and laid the first foundation of the Reformation. Rome then began to fall; and as the ruin of Babylon was completed by degrees, so likewise will that of Rome; and those holy confessors and martyrs first paved the way to it.
Revelation 14:9-13. The third angel, &c.— Not only the capital city, not only the principal agents and promoters of idolatry shall be destroyed; the commission of the third angel proceeds farther, and extends to all the subjects of the beast whom he consigns over to everlasting punishment. If any man worship the beast, and his image, and receive his mark, &c. (Revelation 14:9.) if any man embrace and profess the religion of the beast, or, what is the same, the religion of the Pope, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, or rather, of the poisonous wine of God, Revelation 14:10. His punishment shall correspond with his crime. As he drank of the poisonous wine of Babylon, (Revelation 14:8.) so he shall be made to taste of the poisonous wine of God, which is poured out without mixture, or, according to the Greek, (του κεκερασμενου ακρτου, ) which is mixt unmixt,—the poisonous ingredients being stronger, when mixt with mere or unmixt wine, in the cup of his indignation, &c. By this third angel following the others with a loud voice, we may understand principally Martin Luther and his fellow-reformers, who, with a loud voice, protested against all the errors of the church of Rome, and declared them to be destructive of salvation to all who still obstinately continue in the practice and profession of them. This would be a time of great trial;—Here is the patience of the saints, &c. Revelation 14:12. And it is very well known, that it was a time of great trial and persecution; the reformation was not introduced and established without much bloodshed; there were many martyrs in every country. But they were comforted with a solemn declaration from heaven, "Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from henceforth, (Revelation 14:13.) if they die in the faith and obedience of Christ, and more especially if they die martyrs for his sake;—Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; for immediately upon their deaths, they enter into rest,—and their works do follow them; they enjoy now some recompence, and, in due time, at the day of judgment, they shalt receive the full reward of their good works." It is most probable that St. John, or rather the Holy Spirit by St. John, alludes to a passage in the Old Testament, where the same divine Spirit has made the like declaration, Isaiah 57:1-2. But the greatest difficulty of all is to account for the words from henceforth; for why should the blessedness of the dead who die in the Lord, be restrained to this time, and commence from this period rather than any other, when they are at all times and at all periods equally blessed, and not more since this time than before? The difficulty in a great measure ceases, if we apply this prophesy to the Reformation. For from that time, though the blessedness of the dead who die in the Lord has not been enlarged, yet it has been much better understood, more clearly written and promulgated than before; and the contrary doctrine of purgatory has been exploded and banished from the belief of all reasonable men. This truth was, moreover, one of the leading principles of the Reformation. What first provoked Luther's spirit, was the scandalous sale of indulgences: and the doctrine of indulgences having a close connection with the doctrine of purgatory, the refutation of the one naturally led him to the refutation of the other; and his first work of reformation was his ninety five Theses or Positions against indulgences, purgatory, and the dependent doctrines. So that he may be said literally to have fulfilled the command from heaven, of writing, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: and from that time to the present, this truth has been so clearly asserted, and so solidly established, that it is likely to prevail for ever. The word rendered from henceforth, may signify immediately: that is, from the time of their death, or immediately after their dissolution: and it is observable, thatthe apostle adds, their works follow with them, (μετ αυτων ), and not that they should come many thousand years after them; than which there cannot be a more strong refutation of the doctrine of purgatory. But, be this as it may, we may conceive that the word rendered from henceforth, relates not so much to the blessedness of the dead, which is always the same; as to the writing and promulgating of the doctrine, in opposition to purgatory, by Luther and the Protestant reformers.
Revelation 14:14-20. I looked, and behold a white cloud, &c.— As the voices of these three warning angels had not their due effect, the judgments of God will overtake the followers and adherents of the beast; which judgments are represented under the figures of harvest and vintage, figures not unusual in the prophets, and used particularly by Joel, who denounces God's judgments against the enemies of his people in the like terms; Joel 3:13. What particular events are signified by this harvest and vintage, it appears impossible for any man to determine: time alone can with certainty discover, for these things are yet in futurity:—only it may be observed, that boththesesignaljudgmentswill as certainly come, as harvest and vintage succeed in their season. It is said, Rev 14:20 that the blood came even unto the horses' bridles, which is a strong hyperbolical way of speaking, to express a vast slaughter and effusion of blood: a way of speaking not unknown to the Jews; for the Jerusalem Talmud, describing the woeful slaughter which the Roman emperor Adrian made of the Jews at the destruction of the city of Bitter, says, that the horses waded in blood up to the nostrils. The stage where this bloody tragedy is acted, is without the city, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs: the measure of Stato della Chiesa, or the state of the Roman Church, or St. Peter's Patrimony; which, reaching from the walls of Rome to the river Po, contains 200 Italian miles, which make exactly 1600 furlongs; a furlong being one eighth of a mile.
Inferences.—How delightful is a view of Christ as the Lamb on mount Sion among his glorified saints, and of their singing with inimitable strains of melody, the praises of redeeming love! These have distinguishing marks of the children of God, who own and honour him, and are owned and honoured by him: these are they that were finally redeemed from the earth. They were pure from the superstitious and idolatrous worship of the Papists; and follow the Lamb wheresoever he goes, and are a kind of first-fruits consecrated to him and his Father; they were sincere in their profession of his name, and were holy and without blame in love, and free from guilt and condemnation, through faith in the merit of Christ: in these patience had its perfect work; and they conscientiously obeyed the commandments of God, and maintained the uncorrupted doctrines of Christ, with a humble trust in him for all salvation; and these shall be blessed from the time of their death, and for ever afterwards, as has been declared by an immediate voice from heaven, and by the infallible Spirit of prophesy. How thankful should we be, that, after a long night of Popish darkness, the everlasting gospel was preached in its purity, and with great success at the reformation! What a blessing is this to the church of Christ! and what a humbling and vexatious stroke upon antichrist, and sure presage of her utter downfal! This shall be as certainly accomplished in God's time, as it is now foretold. And, ah! how dreadful will the portion of their cup be, who have drank of the wine of her fornication, by joining in her idolatrous worship! They shall drink of the cup of God's wrath without mixture; and their torment shall be incessant for ever and ever. The Lord Jesus, who appeared on a bright cloud with a glorious crown, will espouse the cause of his church and people, and come forth in righteousness against their antichristian enemies, by gradual dispensations of Providence, in which he will cut them down, as with a sickle in harvest; till, at length, he will make a full end of them, as the grapes of a vintage are cut off, and cast into and trodden in a wine-press, till all their juice is squeezed out. Thus shall it be done in God's time to the idolatrous and tyrannical church of Rome; and the slaughter of them will be great and terrible beyond expression. How should we rejoice in faith and hope of the glorious, though awful manifestation, that will then be made of God's righteous judgments, to open a way for the prosperous and happy state of the church, which shall succeed it.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Dark and gloomy as the former scene appeared, the sun now arises to dispel the night of idolatry, ignorance, and error.
1. The Lamb of God is seen on mount Zion with all his glorified saints, sealed in their foreheads, in opposition to those who had the mark of the beast, over whom they are made triumphant: innumerable multitudes as the drops of the ocean, with voices united, raising a chorus as loud as thunder, yet melodious as the trembling harps which mingled with their concert, sung that song of praise which none but the finally redeemed from the earth can learn.
2. The character of these happy souls is given. They are virgins, not defiled with the idolatries of the great whore; they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, faithful to his gospel doctrines, and observant of his ordinances; they are a peculiar people, even the first-fruits to God and to the Lamb, sanctified to his service, and without guile before the throne of God, uncorrupted by error of doctrine or immorality of conduct, and perfected in holiness. Blessed and happy are they who shall be found to answer these characters of the redeemed from the earth!
2nd, Three angels, or messengers, are sent from heaven to proclaim the fall of Babylon.
1. One, bearing the everlasting gospel through the midst of heaven, cries aloud to all people, nations, and languages, to fear, worship, and glorify God, the great Creator, in opposition to all idols; his judgments upon his enemies speedily approaching. And this may refer either to past times; or to the future period, when, before the final overthrow of Popery, a noble army of preachers of the pure gospel, animated with holy zeal, shall be raised up to plead the cause of God and truth.
2. Another angel followed, crying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and the cause of her doom is assigned, because she intoxicated the nations with her fornications and idolatries, which provoke the fearful wrath of God against her.
3. A third angel followed, denouncing the most terrible woes on the antichristian party, who shall henceforth persist in this idolatrous religion: the eternal torments of hell, intolerable as endless, must be their portion, in the presence of the holy angels, who will applaud the righteous judgment of God and of the Lamb, who inflicts it upon them; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest, day nor night. How fearful the scene! how loudly does it preach to us, Flee from idolatry!
4. Here is the patience of the saints; the blessed issue and effect of it: here in glory are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus, in opposition to all the corruptions of deceivers and persecutors; great and eternal will be their reward.
3rdly, For the farther encouragement of the church, we have,
1. A voice from heaven, declaring the blessedness of all who die in the faith and favour of Jesus, whether martyrs or others; their sufferings are all ended, they enter upon the beginnings of their eternal rest, and their works of piety and goodness, though so ill requited here, shall follow them into the presence of God, shall be acknowledged there in the most condescending manner, and, through the riches of divine mercy, recompensed with eternal glory.
2. A new vision succeeds under the figure of the harvest and vintage. The Lord Jesus appears seated on a cloud, with a golden crown, and holding a sharp sickle in his hand; and an angel, the representative of the ministers of Jesus, cried to him in prayer out of the temple, that he would put in his sickle, and execute vengeance on the wicked, whose provocations made them ripe for judgment: in answer to their cry, the sickle is thrust into the earth. A second angel with another sharp sickle appears, and a third from out of the temple cries to him to put in his sickle, and gather the grapes of the earth into the wine press of the wrath of God; and the blood came out of the wine press up to the horses' bridles, for the space of one thousand and six hundred furlongs. These judgments may refer either to the great destruction which shall be made of the enemies of Christ's church, in the day when the Papal tyranny shall be destroyed, and the most dreadful slaughter be made of all the adherents of the beast; or to the final day of judgment, the perdition of ungodly men. In either case, it is the comfort of the faithful, that however many or inveterate their enemies may be, they shall inevitably be rooted out at the last, and perish for ever. See the Annotations and the Appendix.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 14". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20