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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Revelation 14

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-20

CHAPTER 14 GIVES US a series of visions, all of which set before us in various ways God’s thoughts and actions from heaven during the period when the two beasts are dominating the earth, persecuting and even slaying the saints. In the first of these visions we see how God will preserve for Himself faithful souls who will be true to the Lamb and free from the corruptions that the beast is enforcing on all under his power. The number given is symbolic. Twelve is the number of complete administration, and here we have the square of it multiplied by a thousand. We have had it before in the number sealed of the tribes of Israel in Revelation 7:1-17, but we must not infer from this that the two companies are identical. There it was a question of securing the elect of Israel before the judgments were permitted to burst forth. Here we have a company redeemed from among men as firstfruits for the millennial earth, who have been preserved in virginal purity, and who have “His name and the name of His Father”—as it should read—written on their foreheads, instead of the name or mark of the beast. As a result of their unique experiences they sing a new song which is peculiarly their own. The tried saint of today may well take courage from the fact that, if special trials are endured with God, we are thereby qualified to sound His praise in a special song. When the heavens and the earth join in the great orchestra of praise in the millennial age, what a variety of tone and utterance there will be! Yet all will be in harmony.

The better attested reading in verse Revelation 14:5 is, “and in their mouths was no lie found; for they are blameless.” The propaganda of the two beasts of Revelation 13:1-18 was one huge lie, just as Paul indicated in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17. The miracles wrought by the beast he characterizes as “lying wonders,” and he tells us that God will send men a strong delusion “that they should believe a lie.” These saints were wholly separate from all this. They were true followers of their Master, who would not take up the names of evil into His lips, as Psalms 16:1-11 prophetically puts it. Hence they were without blame in a course of practical righteousness. The words, “before the throne of God,” lack authority; so it is evidently not the point that they were judicially righteous by the blood of the Lamb, but practically right in their course below.

The second vision of the chapter is in verses Revelation 14:6-7. In that very dark hour in earth’s story there will be rendered to all men everywhere a clear testimony to God in His creatorial greatness, which demands that He be feared and glorified, especially in view of the fact that the hour of His judgment is come. Two things may be noticed. First, it is called “the everlasting gospel... unto them that dwell on the earth.” The presentation of God in the glory of creation is always “glad tidings,” no matter what the age or dispensation. We have lived to a day when the earth-dwellers have been grievously deceived by the devil’s lie of evolution, so we can appreciate how glad is the tidings of a Creator-God. The word “everlasting” may also carry back our thoughts to the “everlasting covenant” of Genesis 9:16.

Second, this gospel is committed to an angel, flying in the midst of heaven. We often say, rightly enough, that no angel can preach the gospel which speaks of the redeeming blood of Christ, inasmuch as no angel has any experimental knowledge of redemption. But when creation is in question angels can speak in a way that men cannot. Angels saw its wonders and shouted for joy. Men only know of it by revelation. By angelic ministration this testimony will be diffused through the earth in that solemn hour.

Verse Revelation 14:8 gives us a third vision of a second angel. The fall of Babylon is briefly announced; full details of which are given to us in Revelation 17:1-18 and Revelation 18:1-24. The wording of our verse suggests first a city and then a corrupt woman, just as we find Babylon portrayed in those chapters. It clearly symbolizes the corrupt ecclesiastical system, headed up in the papacy, which will rise to great heights of splendour and influence after the true church is gone, and which will for a brief moment dominate and seduce all the nations. So in the second vision we have the proclamation of the true Creator-God, just when men are deifying a man in the person of the beast; in the third vision the judgment of the false religious system, which was aiding and abetting this evil.

In the fourth vision a third angel appears—verses Revelation 14:9-13. On God’s behalf he utters the sternest possible warning of the judgment that will fall on all who accept the mark of the beast and worship him. It will indeed be a solemn hour when men have to face such alternatives. If they do not worship the beast death is the penalty before them, as we saw in Revelation 13:15. If they do, the far more awful penalty will certainly come upon them, as verses Revelation 14:10-11 of our chapter state. If we were asked what two verses in the whole Bible present us with the darkest and most terrible picture, we should select these. We may well ask. Why language of such tremendous intensity here?

The answer we believe to be, that here we have the climax of all the preceding ages. Mankind started on its fallen and lawless career fascinated by the lie of the devil, “Ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5). Under the same evil leadership and through the two beasts, mankind will make its supreme and last bid to reach the goal of its desire. At this point then human sin reaches its climax and rises to its highest expression. Is it not fitting that the most bitter judgment is to fall on the highest sin? Testimony to the eternity of punishment is quite uniform throughout the New Testament, but at the same time the Lord’s own words—Luke 12:47, Luke 12:48, for instance—have indicated that with God, as with men, there are degrees in the severity of judgment. Here, then, we have eternal judgment of the utmost severity which will lie on those who will have carried sin to its most outrageous lengths; the very reading of which fills the soul with horror. Those who fall under it will have “no rest,” and they will stand as an eternal witness to the severity of God’s judgment against sin. The “smoke of their torment” will be something for every eye to see.

Verses Revelation 14:12-13 speak of the saints who will not bow to the beast. It will be a supreme test of patience and endurance. When men generally are being forced to comply with the demands and commandments of the beasts, these will keep the commandments of God; and this they will do because they cling to “the faith of Jesus.” They may not know Him in that full way, which is the portion of the Christian today, but they will know that Jesus, who once came and was despised and rejected, is the true Christ of God, and the faith of this will possess them in spite of everything, and they will brave the wrath of the devil.

Some of them will escape his power, but many of them will fall as victims before the beasts, and a peculiar blessedness is the portion of such. The beast-worshippers will pass out of this life into eternal damnation of special intensity—out of apparent glory into the torment. Saints with the faith of Jesus may be martyred in circumstances of utmost distress and apparent defeat, but “henceforth”, from that very moment, their blessedness begins. Great emphasis is added to this by the way the whole Godhead is introduced here. These saints keep the commandments of God; also the faith of Jesus; they die in the Lord; that is, because owning His authority; the Spirit endorses their blessedness. We have just seen that the damned have no rest, but these “rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” into the eternal world, that they may receive their due reward.

The chapter closes with a vision which comprises two sections—the reaping of the harvest, and the gathering in of the vine of the earth. John beheld a white cloud. The cloud indicated the presence of God: its whiteness, the pure and spotless character of the judgment which the presence of God must now involve. One like the Son of Man sat on that cloud—not in it, as though concealed by it, but fully manifested—crowned and with the sickle of judgment in His hand. All judgment is committed to the Son of Man, as we know. He acts mediatorially, and therefore thrusts in His sickle when the word of direction reaches Him from the inner shrine through an angel, and the earth is reaped.

The figure of a harvest is used in connection with judgment in both Old and New Testaments—Joel 3:13; Matthew 13:38-43. It is more particularly a figure of discriminatory judgment, as Matthew shows. The wheat will be reaped as well as the tares. In the final result there is the shining forth as the sun for these, and the furnace of fire for those.

But another angel comes forth; this time not from the sanctuary but from the altar where the fire of judgment burned, and over that fire he had power. The instruction now is to cut down the clusters of the vine of the earth, which were fully ripe. The grapes were gathered and cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God. This indicates overwhelming judgment falling upon that which is so wholly evil that no discrimination is necessary. It is remarkable that Joel 3:13, which predicts the harvest, also predicts the winepress judgment. It is of this terrible moment that Isaiah 63:1-6 speaks also. It is, “the day of vengeance,” according to verse Revelation 14:4 of that passage, but also, “the year of My redeemed,” inasmuch as the total crushing of the adversaries will mean a final redemption of the godly, just as it happened when Israel was redeemed at the Red Sea and the Egyptians crushed. It is “the day of vengeance of our God,” the words which the Lord did NOT read in the synagogue at Nazareth.

The last verse of our chapter gives us in symbolic language an idea of the devastating and widespread effect of this judgment. Jerusalem is, of course, indicated by “the city,” and 1,600 furlongs is about the whole length of Palestine. There will be a complete and crushing sweeping away of all the adversaries who will at that time gather themselves together against God—see again Joel 3:9-16.

The Lord Jesus is not treading the winepress today, nor is He reaping the harvest of the earth. He is sowing the seed through His servants, and fruit therefrom is being reaped. But it is for heaven, and not earth.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Revelation 14:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/revelation-14.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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