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Rev 14:1. The preceding chapter took us back to the first century of the Christian Era and dealt with the years of Pagan Rome, then came on to the time of Papal Rome and predicted the Dark Ages of 1260 years. The present chapter will continue down through that period and through the days of the Reformation, finally reaching the last great day of judgment and the separation of the saved from the unsaved. The Lamb is Christ and Zion is the true church which has been persecuted all through the Dark Ages. In the course of that period there were multitudes of faithful Christians who would not receive the mark of the beast, but instead they had the name of the Father written in their foreheads.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
V THE DISCLOSURES OF DIVINE JUDGMENTS (Chapter 14)
The fact necessary to remember and observe in perusing the book of Revelation is that the entire Revelation was a visional pageantry of the oppressions of the church by imperial heathen persecuting powers during the time of the then existing powers and the life of the then existing churches. The verbs employed in its terminology are such as was and saw, but that is characteristic of both visional and prophetic expression. An exact example is found in Isa 9:2 : "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them the light hath shined." This prophetic passage is quoted by the Lord in Mat 4:16, as being fulfilled by his coming into the world, yet it was spoken seven hundred years before his earthly advent. This is so throughout the book of Revelation; it was composed a decade or more prior to the destruction of Jerusalem; before several other epistles of the New Testament were written; and was a description of the events of the ten emperor period from Nero to Diocletian, yet its language was largely in past and present tenses, as though the events were current.
The fourteenth chapter appears to be an intentional prolepsis--the dating of events out of chronological order --in that the scenes of judgment indicated the end of conflict and tribulation, whereas the following chapter reverted to the war against the church in accentuated fury. Thus the entire fourteenth chapter was of a proleptic character. The development in order of the progressive descriptions of successive events was abandoned for the in-between scenes of the outcome in the victory of the saints and of judgment on the persecuting powers. The chapter's imagery is that of the defeat of the three great foes of the church --the dragon, the sea-beast and the land-beast; followed by scenes of victory for the woman (the church), and of judgment on her foes.
(1) The hundred forty-four thousand--Rev 14:1-5.
1. And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him a hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads--Rev 14:1.
The Lamb standing on mount Zion was Christ: and mount Zion was the symbol of the new Jerusalem, where the new covenant was inaugurated, and where the church was established; and which Paul declared, in Gal 4:26, to be the mother of us all. This heavenly Jerusalem was held in contrast with the old outward and earthly Jerusalem which here was representative of Judaism with all of its apostasies.
This new mount Zion was the seat of the new spiritual temple, as the dwelling of the New Testament church, described in Rev 11:19 as "measured off for them that worship there"--the firstfruits, further mentioned by Paul as the firstborn, in Hebrews 12;22-23:
"But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect."
The hundred forty-four thousand was the numerical symbol for that great number of saints which were redeemed from the earth. These were the martyred number of the woman's seed, designated in chapter twelve as the man child which was caught up unto God in contrast with the remnant or rest of the woman's seed which remained on the earth to suffer tribulation, but not martyrdom. It is stated that this grand group of the hundred forty-four were redeemed from the earth--they represented the select company of martyrs, purchased by the blood of martyrdom, and having been redeemed from the earth they therefore belonged to heaven where they had been caught up unto God. These redeemed thousands with the Lamb had his Father's name written in their foreheads in contrast with not having the mark of the beast in their hands and on their foreheads. It was their badge of identification and mark of distinction.
The number hundred forty-four thousand was based on the mathematical calculation of twelve times twelve, as a symbolic reference to the twelve patriarchs of the old dispensation and the twelve apostles of the new covenant, and the number signified the full number of martyred saints. Here again the proleptic character of this chapter was applied, in that the full number of martyrs were visualized in the midst of rather than at the end of the scenes of death by martyrdom, which followed in the succeeding chapters. This chapter therefore abandoned the orderly succession of the events for the between scenes view of the final victory of the saints and judgment of the beasts.
Rev 14:2. Voice of many waters symbolizes that great numbers had resisted the temptations of Rome, and thunder is a symbol denoting that the sound of triumph is strong and of great volume. Voice of harpers means the organs of song in the bodies of the redeemed, for the next verse says they were singing with the harps.
Rev 14:3. The saints of God always have the same story to tell and the same song to sing, and that is about redemption through the blood of the Lamb. But that story has a new significance whenever the faithful have another victory over the forces of evil through faith in Christ Jesus, and in that sense it becomes a new song. At the present time they had gained a victory over the apostate institution and hence they had great reason to rejoice and sing. The four beasts (living creatures) and the four and twenty elders are among the grateful listeners to the song. The hundred and forty and four thousand are the same ones we read about in chapter 7. No man could learn that song. Men of the world can sing any kind of song that is written as far as the literal execution of it is concerned, but they cannot realize what it means to express themselves in song as can those who have been redeemed from sin in the blood of the Lamb, and then again experienced the joy of winning out in a battle against the hosts of wickedness as these had. The corrupt institution of Rome had tried to overcome them by its abominable allurements but had failed.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
2. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps--Rev 14:2-3.
The voice from heaven was in unison, and symbolized the same triumphant chorus of victory over the forces of the dragon, as in chapters eleven and twelve. The voice which John heard was as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, and as the voice of harpers with their harps.
It has been asserted that the reference to harps and harpers here justifies the employment of mechanical musical instrumentation in the worship of the church. But a symbol never symbolizes itself, and a type cannot typify itself. Moreover, the scene is that of the spirits of the redeemed from the earth--and heaven is the home of the soul. What use could a redeemed spirit make of a material instrument? It is worse than folly--it is crass stupidity--to make a such literal application of figurative language.
The description is a comparison, indicated by the conjunctive adverb as. The voice of unison in the vision was heard singing this new song of triumph before the throne of the Lamb. In the perfection of rhythm it was us the flowing of many waters; in the mighty volume it was as the peal of great thunders; in the sweetness of melody, it was as if it were attuned to the strings of an hundred and forty-four thousand harps. The Greek text has the same adverb as with the harpers as with the waters and thunders --as harpers harping with their harps. It was the song of the myriad thousand, which no man could learn--which only the redeemed chorus could sing; it was not a song of worship on earth, but a refrain of triumph known only to the select company of martyrs and which belonged only to the throng before the throne. It was beyond all human imagination or contemplation.
Rev 14:4. In figurative language heathenism, paganism or idolatry, likewise any other form of unlawful worship is used to symbolize adultery and other forms of immorality. The persons of this verse were disciples who had remained true to the service of Christ though often tempted to commit spiritual adultery with paganism and other practices of Rome. Follow the Lamb whithersoever lie goeth covers much more than is often realized. It means to follow Him through sorrow as well as joy; through evil report as well as good, and through the valley of death if the enemy drives that affliction upon the servant of the Lord. Incidentally this verse gives us some information on the subject of virgins. The common idea is that only women can be virgins but these are called such because they had not been defiled with women, and men only could be defiled in that way. True the writer is considering spiritual adultery, but the language would not have been used were it not understood that either sex may be a virgin. First fruit s is figurative in the sense of quality, and the word is based on the requirements of the Mosiac law. The Jews were commanded to give the first of all their flocks and herds and the products of the field unto the Lord. The word finally came to mean the best service that one could render to Him. The disciples of this verse had performed such excellent devotions that the word first fruits is used denoting something especially dear to the Lord.
Rev 14:5. Guile means deceit and these faithful disciples had no desire nor occasion to try deceiving anyone. That evil trait was one of the prominent ones of the "man of sin." Fault means blemish or spot in one's conduct or manner of life. Hence this verse represents persons who are correct in both word and deed. That would indicate that their hearts were right also because "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Mat 12:34), and from the heart come "murders, adulteries," etc. (Mat 15:19). These saints were free from all these products of an evil heart so we may conclude they were pure in heart. That explains why they were allowed to be before the throne of God, for Mat 5:8 says the pure in heart shall see God. These brave soldiers of the cross had been strengthened in their fight of faith by the very trials that were intended to destroy them.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
3. These are they which were not defiled with women, for they are virgins .. . which follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth, these were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God . . . in their mouth no guile . . . without fault before the throne of God--Rev 14:4-5.
These verses were a further description of this group of redeemed martyrs, of their spiritual purity while they dwelt among men, before they were caught up unto God. Their virtues were extolled for the impression on the members of the churches in midst of pagan influences and surroundings. Though these martyred saints were in the visional sphere of glory in the triumph of the persecuted cause-- their character on the earth before they ascended unto God was an exemplification of the spiritual purity which should be maintained by all who remained under the evil influences of pagan surroundings in the world. There is no distinction in character between the saints in heaven and the saints on earth.
Rev 14:6. Everlasting gospel is what had been kept from the people during the Dark Ages. As long as Rome could hold her subjects in ignorance of the Bible she was able to continue the dictatorial rule over them. Even the kings and other rulers over the various nations and countries were held back because they were not permitted to make their own application of the scriptures either for the lives of their subjects or for themselves. They were told that the scriptures were "not of any private interpretation" (making a perverted use of 2Pe 1:20), and that they must leave that to the church. Not only were they forbidden to interpret what they might have been able to read. but the Bible was kept in the Latin language so that they could not even read it. But Martin Luther and his associates gave the Book to the people in their native tongue so they could read for themselves. Concerning this great work I shall make a quotation from Edward Gibbon the English historian: "By their hands the lofty fabric of superstition, from the abuse of indulgencies to the intercession of the Virgin, has been levelled with the ground. Myriads of both sexes of the monastic profession [that. of the secluded monks] were restored to the liberty and labors of social life. A hierarchy of saints and angels, of im- perfect and subordinate deities, were stripped of their temporal powers, and reduced to the enjoyment of celestial happiness; their images and relics were banished from the church; and the credulity [blind readiness to believe] of the people was no longer nourished with the daily repetition of miracles and visions." Volume 4, Page 608.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
(2) The three angels of judgment--Rev 14:6-12.
1. And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people--Rev 14:6.
This angel of proclamation symbolized the evangelism of the world with the gospel, and was paralleled with the angels of Mat 24:31, who were to be sent "to gather his elect from the four winds of the earth," after the destruction of Jerusalem. The message of the everlasting gospel of this Revelation angel was the same gospel of the kingdom of Mat 24:14; Mat 24:31 -which was preached by the angels who gathered the elect from one end of heaven to the other, after the destruction of Jerusalem.
These angels of Revelation, as of Matthew twenty-four, symbolized gospel emissaries, and both passages (Mat 24:31 and Rev 14:6) referred to the universal expansion of Christianity which followed the downfall of Judaism. The end mentioned in Mat 24:14 --"and then shall the end come"--undoubtedly had reference to the end of the Jewish state and the termination of the period of the persecution by the rulers of Rome and Judea.
The visions of Revelation are again seen to be an extension of the Lord's abbreviated account of the same events in Matthew the twenty-fourth chapter, both of which were the delineations of the war against the Jews, the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, and of the terrible tribulation which the churches sustained and survived.
The evangelistic angel of verse 6 had the everlasting gospel to preach . . . to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, while the angels of Mat 24:31 were sent to gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. The events were the same, the angels were the same, their evangelistic mission and gospel message were the same, the symbolism was the same and the period the visions covered was the same--the time of trial and tribulation of the churches during the war against Jerusalem, with all of the events connected with its downfall and the subsequent persecution of the church.
The apocalyptist here envisions the immediate postpersecution unrestrained proclamation of the gospel. The angelic evangel was seen flying "in the midst of heaven" --that is, in the domain of the civil governments and political authorities that had waged the persecution against the church. But the persecutors were seen as having been defeated and the period of persecution as having ended, and the angel emissary was seen heralding the everlasting gospel to the people of the whole Roman world. It was the gospel which imperial power could not destroy, which had survived bloodshed and martyrdom--the everlasting and universal gospel then to be preached "unto them that dwell on the earth" (Judea and Palestine), where the saints had been killed, and "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (the whole region of the persecuting powers). It is the same universal, indestructible, everlasting gospel today.
Rev 14:7. The angel is announcing the glorious work of giving the word of God back to the people, and bidding them rejoice over it and give Him glory for it. Hour of his judgment means the time is come when the great apostate institution is to be judged by having her power broken through the work of the reformers. Worship him that made heaven and earth, instead of the superstitious objects held before them by Rome.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
2. Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come--Rev 14:7.
The loud proclamation of this angel was a strong expression of the truth that the gospel has a message of fear and condemnation as well as of joy and salvation.
The message of the evangelistic angel is concluded with the exhortation to worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. These words declare that God is over every realm of the activities of the two beasts--the emperor and his satellite rulers--and that all should acknowledge and worship him.
Rev 14:8. A result of the everlasting gospel which the preceding angel announced is then stated by another angel, namely, Babylon is fallen. The reader is reminded that the term Babylon in this part of the great drama means the institution that was formed by the union of church and state. It is here called that great city because its head was the city of Rome where both the emperor and pope resided. Wine of the wrath of her fornication is a figurative phrase combining the false teaching and idolatrous practices of Rome. As long as the people were kept in ignorance of the Bible, they could be made to drink of this wine. The announcement that Babylon is fallen means that the union of church and state was dissolved as a result of the information brought to the people through the Bible, translated in their native language so they could read it for themselves, and form conclusions independent of Rome.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
3. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication-- Rev 14:8.
The second angel of this vision was the angel of doom-signifying the message of doom on Babylon-which here referred to apostate Jerusalem--and the eminent fall of the once holy city.
In Rev 11:8 apostate Jerusalem was designated spiritually as Egypt and Sodom to symbolize her state of apostasy. The reference to Jerusalem was made indisputable by the identifying phrase "where also our Lord was crucified." The prophet Isaiah referred to apostate Jerusalem as "the faithful city become an harlot ! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers." (Isa 1:21) The Lord's lament over the spiritual desolation of Jerusalem is recorded in Mat 23:34-37, climaxed with the impassioned appeal:
"0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not."
The name Babylon had come to symbolize the ultimate in corruption, and the fallen Babylon of verse 8 is figurative of the spiritual degradation of Jerusalem--"the faithful city turned harlot," and "which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." Rome was never a "faithful city" to "turn harlot," but these phrases are a fitting description of Jerusalem before and during the time of Christ.
The fornication of verse 8 compares with the use of the same term in reference to Israel's unfaithfulness to God in their Old Testament history. The wine of the wrath of her fornication denoted the drunkenness of spiritual idolatry resulting from the wine of wrath, the evil deeds of which called down the condemnation of God which brought the end in the destruction of the city and its temple.
Rev 14:9. A third angel appeared to give a warning for all who might still persist in following after the evil pattern set by Rome. He mentions the three phases of the subject that were treated at chapter 13:14-17. Concerning the image I shall make another quotation from Edward Gibbon which follows that which is quoted at verse 6. 'The imitation of Paganism was supplied [replaced] by a pure and spiritual worship of prayer and thanksgiving, the most_ worthy of man, the least unworthy of the Deity."
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
4. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his Mark--Rev 14:9.
The third angel of this apocalypse was the angel of judgment--the symbol of solemn warning against the worship of the beast, and receiving his mark.
As has been previously shown the beast of the land (in Palestine) obeyed the beast of the sea (the Roman emperor) and caused all the people to worship the Roman emperor whose image was the object of idolatry. This image worship was the mark of the beast. Having this mark inscribed in the forehead or in the hand was symbolic of its binding power, as an inviolable oath of allegiance. This particular announcement of the angel is not a pronouncement of judgment on the beasts, but rather a warning against the beastworship and the condemnation that would come to all men everywhere who thereby received his mark.
Rev 14:10. The false worshippers are told that if they persist in drinking of this wine -of the wrath of Rome, they will be punished by having to drink of another supply of wine; that will be the wine of the wrath of God. Wine has been used figuratively for centuries to symbolize wrath and anger and other intense conditions of the intellect. (See Psa 60:3; Pro 4:17; Jer 25:15 Jer 51:7.) Without mixture means it will not be diluted nor weakened, but they shall get the full effect of the wrath of God upon those who have been devoted to Rome. Shall be tormented with fire and brimstone refers to the lake of fire into which the wicked will be cast at the day of judgment. In the presence . . . of the Lamb. This denotes that the sentence of this punishment will be pronounced in the presence of Christ and his angels. (See Mat 25:31-46; 2Th 1:7-9.) The sentence will be pronounced then but it will be served according to the next verse.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
5. The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone-- Rev 14:10.
The strong fermentation of wine used for liquors was often made more savory and agreeable to the taste by additives of certain spices or ingredients. But the wine of the wrath of God upon the idolaters of the imperial image worship would be poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation--the wrath of God unmingled with clemency and without mitigation would be their condemnation. The worshipers of the imperial beast would share the same judgment pronounced upon him.
The elements of the torment meted out to the idolatrous worshipers of the beast was figuratively described as fire and brimstone. The inflammable mineral known in that day as brimstone was sulphuric in content, and when burning emitted a suffocating smell. It was used to describe the torment of the wicked--symbolic of the ultimate degree of remorse and anguish. It was no less fearful when put in the words of Paul in Rom 2:8-9 : "Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil." It means that the punishment of the wicked will consist of vexation of spirit, distress of mind, remorse of conscience, and anguish of soul.
Rev 14:11. Smoke of their torment refers to that which will arise from the fire in the lake into which the wicked will have been cast. Ascendeth up for ever and ever. If the smoke is to ascend for ever it follows that the torment will continue for ever. It will come from the lake of fire which has been created for the purpose of tormenting the unsaved. The particular unsaved persons named in this place are those who have guilty relations with the beast, the image or the mark (Rev 13:14-15). But all the unsaved will be in this place for Mat 25:41 says they will be told: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." No rest day nor night is another way of saying that the punishment of the unsaved will be endless. Terrible thought!!
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
6. The smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name--Rev 14:11.
The duration of the condemnation on the idolatrous worship of the Roman beast was expressed in these terms of equal fear in the fateful words of this text.
The phrase forever and ever always meant endless. The single term forever may refer to a period of time--and though it must include all of the period to which it refers, it is limited to the duration of that period. On the other side of time, in eternity, there will be no time limitations; therefore, the words forever and everlasting and eternal (all from the same Greek term aionious) when used in reference to reward or punishment beyond this life must denote that which is without end. But when ever and ever are joined together in forever and ever, there is never a modification --it always means endless. So doctrinally, respecting the duration of the future punishment of the wicked, these verses carry no intimation of any limitation. Not only so-- there is no cessation: and they have no rest day nor night --that is, no recess from torment, no release from punishment. The torment of the beast was to be interminable and without intermission.
Rev 14:12. This has the same meaning as Rev 13:10.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
(3) The beatitudes of the martyrs--Rev 14:12-13.
1. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus--Rev 14:12.
The apocalyptist deviates here from warnings and judgements to speak words of encouragement to the beleaguered saints in need of heartening encouragement. The statement here is the patience of the saints means that the existing conditions presented the opportunity to exhibit patience even unto death. In contrast with the mark of the beast received by the disloyal, they would have the distinguished mark of the saints in sustained and persistent faithfulness during the continuing persecution. The refusal to worship the beast (the emperor), or his image (wheresoever it appeared or on whatsoever it should be inscribed) exemplified the faithfulness couched in the words they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
Rev 14:13. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. That can be said of every person who is faithful until death, but it is said here especially with reference to those who have died under persecution. It is peculiarly appropriate to make the statement in view of the thousands who had been slain by Pagan and Papal Rome through the past centuries. Also after the Reformation had stirred up the anger of the "die-hards" of Babylon many others were put to death in their struggles. From henceforth. Some commentators say this means from the judgment day and thereafter. It is true that all righteous people will be blessed (happy) after that day, but I do not believe the Spirit was applying the blessing to that date in this verse. There will be saints living when Christ comes who will never die, yet they will be happy for ever. But our verse is about those who die in the Lord, and they are especially mentioned for the reason described in the first part of this paragraph. And since these who died in the Lord had the experience some time before the end of the world, the passage gives us the grand information that when a righteous person dies he is happy from that moment onward. This all agrees with Paul's remarks in Php 1:21-23. Their works do follow them. The Greek for follow means both to accompany a person and to come along afterwards. Both senses of the word apply to a faithful servant of God. The good deeds he performs will still linger behind to be an influence for others. ("By it he being dead yet speaketh," Heb 11:4.) Also the record of faithfulness will be with him in principle to recommend him before God.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
2. And I heard a voice from heaven- saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them--Rev 14:13.
This passage has been truly named the beatitude of Revelation. It appears to have an identification with Rev 20:6 : "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power." Both passages referred to the martyrs--and here again the proleptic element of chapter fourteen is seen in verse thirteen, as the scene depicted was ahead of the orderly developments of the apocalypse; in that this benediction on the death of the martyrs chronologically belonged at the end; and was therefore a prolepsis with the other events of chapter fourteen.
There is a remarkable variation in the form of address in verse thirteen. Instead of the usual form of seeing the vision of events, John was represented in this verse as hearing a command. The commanding voice said, Write. It was a special voice giving an order, not by vision, but by direct command to write it down.
As stated, this verse along with Rev 20:6 was a martyr scene: "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth"--meaning from then on in martyrdom. They belonged to the martyred group--the aggregation of the man child "caught up unto God"; the hundred fortyfour thousand "redeemed from the earth." They were the dead who had died in the Lord--in the cause for which they were martyrs.
The beatitude of the Spirit was: That they may rest from their labors--that is, from the travail of persecution --and their works do follow them. There was a descriptive distinction here in their labors and their works. The labors referred to the parturition of birth--the travail, the pain, of bringing forth the man child; hence, labors had reference to the rigors of the persecution unto death, or martyrdom. The works referred to their righteous acts in the midst of the period of torture and trial. These works, saith the Spirit " . . . do follow them." Their deeds of faith and fidelity in the unfaltering performance of their prime duty followed on after their martyrdom to abide with, comfort and encourage the rest of the seed--the remnant that remained on the earth--as though the martyrs by these righteous acts were yet among them. In that way one's righteous lives and deeds yet follow on among men after they are transported from this earth on which we dwell.
These blessed dead had been swept from the earth in martyrdom, dying in the cause of the Lord, and though they had been "caught up unto God" and "lived and reigned with Christ" in a state of victory, they nevertheless remained in the spirit of their works with those who were left on the earth to face the next stages of the violent drama of persecution.
Since the subjects of the Spirit's beatitude were represented as having died in the Lord, manifestly the object of the beatitude was to strengthen, encourage and uphold the living in their darkest hour. In that way it may be appropriately applied to the church today. Loyalty to Christ in any generation requires the full measure of the martyr spirit of courage and endurance, and martyrdom in its worst does not always result in immediate death. We may all possess the soul of a martyr, and in that spirit we live in the Lord, as the blessed dead had died in Him.
Rev 14:14. The rest of the chapter is a vision of the day of judgment. Clouds are often used as symbols of glory and power especially white clouds. The person sitting on the cloud is like the Son of man because he is but a symbol. Yet we must think of Christ, who is being symbolized by the vision. Golden crown signifies a king and we are told in 1Co 15:25 that He is to reign until the end. Sharp sickle is an instrument for gathering the fruits of a harvest. Jesus is king in his own right, but he is generally represented as accomplishing the work of His kingdom in cooperation with the angels. Especially is this true of the work to be performed at his second coming. (See Mat 25:31; 1Th 4:16; 2Th 1:7.)
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
(4) The harvest of grain and vintage--Rev 14:14-20.
From the beatitude of the blessed dead in verse 13, the apocalypse turns to symbols of reward and retribution respectively for the living in the earth. As before repeated, the earth in Revelation imagery referred to the land of which Jerusalem was the center--Judea and all of Palestine, the scene of these visions of the persecuted church. The harvest of the grain symbolized the rich reward for the faithful still living in the church; the vintage of grapes signified retribution of the wrath of God for the enemies of the church.
Indulging here in repetition, it is necessary to keep in perspective the fact that this fourteenth chapter is a prolepsis--an interposition between the parts of the apocalypse, relating events out of sequence, on the order of reading the last chapter of a novel first to see how the story ends. So this latter part of chapter fourteen envisioned scenes at the end of the apocalypse of the compensations of reward for the faithfulness of the saints in symbols of reaping the harvest of grain; then the retribution of wrath for the oppressors of the church represented by casting the vintage of grapes into the winepress. With these essential considerations in mind, the latter part of this chapter may be epitomized as follows:
1. The Son of man on the white cloud was Jesus Christ. He alone is called by that title in Revelation--and in one other place only, in the vision of the golden candlesticks of Rev 1:13. The white cloud of this chapter was the same symbol as was mentioned by the Lord himself in Mat 24:30 : "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." It identifies the Revelation symbol with the Lord's description of the destruction of Jerusalem. The passage in Mat 24:1-51 states that "all the tribes of the earth shall mourn," which is parallel with Rev 1:7 :: "Behold, he cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him: and all the tribes of the earth shall wail (mourn) because of him." As mentioned in the comments on this verse in chapter 1, the passages had reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the mourning of all Jewish tribes and families all over the world, because of that calamity which had befallen their city and their state in the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem.
There is a further parallel between the vision of Rev 6:2 and Rev 14:14. Christ was the Rider of the white horse vision of chapter 6, and He was the Reaper of the white cloud vision of chapter 14--both visions being the scenes of triumphant procedure, picturing the conquering of the imperial persecutor and his minions.
The Son of man had in his hand a golden crown--the symbol of the highest royalty, identifying him as the King of heaven, above all potentates of the earth, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. He had in his hand a sharp sickle --the symbol of reaping. The sickle was a harvesting implement comparable to the scythe of our time, which was unknown in scripture language. They are both instruments swung by hand in the mowing of ripened grain. The one sitting on the white cloud had come to reap the harvest of the earth--meaning Jerusalem and Judea.
Rev 14:15. Another angel is said because angels have been named previously in this chapter, and because those heavenly beings are so often em-ployed to act as attendants upon the Lord or sometimes upon other angels as will be done yet in this chapter. There are to be two kinds of crops gathered on the day of judgment as generally happens after any growing season. One kind is the good and the other is the bad, and they are always separated one from the other and different dispositions made of them. In the present case the good is represented in the ordinary phraseology of a good harvest which implies sheaves of grain. The bad is represented by grapes which we have just seen above symbolize the wrath of God upon the wicked. The attending angel signalled to Him who was on the cloud to use his sickle to gather the ripe harvest.
Rev 14:16. The One on the white cloud did as requested and gathered the grain. The reader will understand this represents the good among mankind.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
2. The Son of man employs the ministry of angels to execute his will. One angel came out of the temple and signaled to the One on the cloud to thrust in thy sickle and reap. This was not an order from a superior voice, but the signal for the reaping to begin. It was significant that this angel came out of the temple--symbolizing the sanctuary that had been the object of destruction and desecration in the war against the Jews, which resulted in the fall of Jerusalem.
The voice of the angel proclaimed: the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. (Rev 14:15) This angelic pronouncement signified that the events had approached the end--not the end of time but the end of Jerusalem, of the Jewish state, and of Judaism--and this doom was signified in the declaration: And the earth was reaped--Rev 14:16.
Rev 14:17. The other sickle was in the hands of an angel instead of Him who was on the cloud. This also agrees with the language of Christ in Mat 13:39 where he says "the angels are the reapers." Notice these angels are said to come out of the temple. That is because it is in heaven from where the authority of God is issued.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
Another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sickle in his hand--Rev 14:17. There was a distinction between the two angels and the two temples; the first angel came out of the temple which symbolized the sanctuary of the Jews, and was a proclaimer, having no sickle in his hand; the second angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, the abode of God, with a sickle in his hand, symbolizing a minister with power to execute judgment.
Rev 14:18. The next attending angel came out from the altar. That article was also at the temple and it was the piece that was used for burning certain victims- The symbol is very appropriate since this sickle is to be used for gathering the grapes; grapes for the wrath of God. This angel gave the signal to the one holding the second sickle to use it for gathering in the clusters. The reason assigned by him for the order was her grapes are fully ripe. God is never premature in his operations. He explained to Abraham in Gen 15:16 that the reason for waiting until the fourth generation for attacking the land of promise was that "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." In 2Pe 3:15 it says that the longsuffering of God in delaying the destruction of the earth "is salvation." Whenever God in his infinite wisdom sees that the time is fully ripe for the harvest He will send forth the reapers and bring an end to the earth and its contents.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
A third angel came out from the altar saying to the angel that had the sickle: Thrust in thy sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe--Rev 14:18. This angel from the altar undoubtedly signified the answer to the cry of the martyrs under the altar of Rev 6:9-10 : "How long, 0 Lord, how long, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" The Lord replied that "they should rest (wait) yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." Now, the vision of these angels in chapter 14, sees the role of the martyrs in the visions completed and finished. The angel from the altar was seen answering the souls under the altar (Rev 6:9-10),
and he made an announcement to the angel with the sickle that time had come to avenge the martyrs. With these signals the Son of man reaped the earth of its harvest of grain, and his ministering angel gathered the vintage of grapes. Here was a double vision: the harvesting of grain and the gathering of vintage. With the double vision there was the double instrument of reaping and pruning. It signified reward and retribution. The harvest of grain represented the gathering of the faithful saints, and the vintage of grapes the crushing of their wicked oppressors. The symbols are comparable to the Lord's illustration of the wheat and the chaff, to the extent of the imagery of reward and retribution.
Rev 14:19. As a literal fact a winepress is a large vat in which grapes are placed for extraction of the juice. In Bible times mechanical means had not been invented for pressure, and the result was accomplished by man power. A lattice-like platform was laid on top of the grapes and a number of men walked round and round over it until the juice was forced out, being received below through a trough running from the vat to a receiving vessel. The symbolic feature is in the fact that the desired result was accomplished by a treading under foot. The operation is used to symbolize the act of the Lord in trampling under his feet the wicked people of the earth. The flowing of the wine signifies the flowing of the wrath of God against men's unrighteousness.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
3. The angel of judgment gathered the clusters of the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God--Rev 14:19. This was the vision of the terrible wrath of God that would be administered to the persecutors of His people.
The winepress of ancient time was an excavation in rock, formed in the ground, and lined with masonry, in which to crush the grapes. Another cavity was made in the proper place and shape to receive the juice. Such excavations are even yet to be found in Palestine and Syria. The treading of the winepress was performed with the feet, the red juice of the grapes flowing like blood. The reference to it was the symbolic description of the war against Jerusalem:
Rev 14:20. The symbol continues with the same significance but with some added specifications. Being done without the city denotes that the punishment of the wicked will be outside the holy city in the eternal world. In computing the amount of blood (of the grape) that came out we must not forget that the whole performance is symbolic, and the volume is given in order to furnish us some idea of the terrible fate of those whose unrighteous lives have brought upon them the wrath of God. To be conservative I suppose unto the horse bridles would be about four feet. The amount was enough to flood the ground for a distance of a thousand and six hundred furlongs or two hundred miles. Nothing is said about any kind of retainer on the sides, hence to be wide enough to flow freely that far and that deep (if only in the center) would require a considerable width. It all should give us a profound impression of the fate of those who die out of Christ.
Comments by Foy E. Wallace
And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came from the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six furlongs--Rev 14:20.
This was a description of the Roman armies gathered outside the city as God's agents of retribution against Judah and Jerusalem for their apostasies. The context presents a dual vision. First, the two beasts of the sea and of the land were symbolic of the combined effort of Roman and minion persecutors to destroy the church. These two persecutors were the objects of divine indignation in this vision of the great winepress of the wrath of God. Second, the fallen Babylon of verse 8 was Jerusalem--the faithful city turned harlot.
The symbolic description of these scenes envisioned the terrible war against Jerusalem, when the Roman armies gathered outside the city to tread Jerusalem as the winepress. The blood that came out of the winepress even unto the horse bridles signified the horrible slaughter, as though the battle horses waded in blood to their bridles. This was the vivid apocalyptic hyperbole of wrath so great and terrible that was administered to Judah and Jerusalem by the Romans in the Jewish war.
4. In the closing scene of this chapter the great winepress of the wrath of God would envelop the entire land of the Jews--the whole of Palestine. The last phrase of Rev 14:20 declares that the winepress was trodden without the city . . . by the space of a thousand and six furlongs. Mathematically computed that distance was the approximate length of the land of Palestine, and it was symbolic of the deluge of blood over the whole land during the siege of Jerusalem, and the war against the Jews, which ended with destruction of the city, the demolition of the temple, the downfall of Judaism and the final end of the Jewish state. It was the fearful vision of the inevitable and inexorable judgment of God against an incorrigible nation.
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 14". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/revelation-14.html. 1952.