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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Revelation 14

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-20

WE are here introduced to the Lamb and His bride standing on Mt. Zion. The chronological panorama corroborates the conclusion, as in Chapter 7, that the rapture has come, the bride is called, the first resurrection has taken place, the living saints have been translated, and all rendezvoused on Mt. Zion, at Jerusalem, preparatory to their ascension into the firmament. The wonderful supernatural graces of entire sanctification always superscribe the Divine cognomen in the faces of His saints. How much more preeminently will this be verified in the transfigured saints!

2-3. Here John testifies to the uproarious shouts of this multitude, like the thundering billows of the great ocean breaking against the rock-bound shore, commingled with the deafening roar of tremendous thunder-claps, all softened and sweetened by the dulcet clarion of golden harps. Meanwhile, amid the tremendous roar, the prophet distinctly discriminates the new song of redemption, rung out from the immortal and indefatigable voices of the blood-washed throng. He tells us this is the “song of Moses and the Lamb.” Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant, on the basis of justification, and Christ of the New, whose standard is entire sanctification. Hence, we find the members of the bridehood all testify in song to this wonderful double salvation, experienced in regeneration and entire sanctification.

4-5. These verses testify to the complete purification received by all the members of the bridehood. The term “women” symbolizes the spiritual impurity from which we are all rescued by redeeming grace. Its metaphoric signification, “contrastively with virgins,” must not be pressed too far. Remember Paul says (Galatians 3:28):

“In Him is neither male nor female.”

Hence, there is no such thing as sexual distinction in the kingdom of grace and glory. In this Scripture “woman” symbolizes carnality, and virgin holiness. So you must not literalize this spiritual symbolism, as some have done, and gone into fanaticism, teaching the incompatibility of entire sanctification with the conjugal relation. John testifies that the members of the bridehood are the first-fruit unto God and the Lamb, while the glorious harvest is to be reaped during the millennium. This reveals the great and universal mistake on the part of God’s people in recognizing the present age as the harvest. It is a time of toil, conflict, and persecution, in which much seed is sown, irrigated by tears; but, as we are here informed, the reaping is only the first-fruit. This harmonizes with our Savior’s testimony, that “the saved are few.” In vain do we anticipate the wonderful ingathering of the nations while Satan and his myrmidons are loose on the earth. Till they are cast out, the pilgrims on the King’s highway will be here and there a traveler. We should now lay all the powers and agencies of Christendom under contribution to preach the gospel to all nations, that the elect of grace may enjoy a participation of the bridehood. We here see that the only condition of membership in the bridehood is entire sanctification. They are all “blameless,” and “no guile found in their mouth.” Hence we see they are fully saved from all phases of hypocrisy. Where will the bride be during the tribulation period? 1 Thessalonians 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:18 : We learn that the Lord will come and take up His saints, raising the departed from the dead and translating the living. After this, when He comes to reign, He will bring with Him these same transfigured saints. What will the members of the bridehood up in the firmament during the tribulations be doing? While the Ancient of Days here on earth is administering the awful premillennial judgments (Daniel 7:13), the Son of God will be administering a very important premillennial judgment among the members of the bridehood. We are copiously informed in the word of God, that Christ will rule the millennial world through His transfigured saints. Perfect order characterizes the universe of God in all worlds. Consequently, the very Greek word cosmos, which means order, also means the world. Hence, you may rest assured the millennial world will be the beau-ideal of perfect order, as neither the devil nor his emissaries will be here to disturb it. When we contemplate, not only the perfection, but the magnitude and diversity of the millennial administration, we must wake up to the fact that quite an extensive judicial diagnosis and distribution will be necessary to prepare the members of the bridehood to understand, assume, and fulfill the diversified offices in the coming kingdom. Be assured, no interest, however small, will he overlooked by the transfigured custodians of the glorious theocracy, which shall belt the globe from the rising to the setting sun in the good time coming. The present age is significantly called “night” in the apostolic Epistles. During the long night of six thousand years, oh, how Satan and his myrmidons have lacerated, abused, and impoverished this earth! They have barbarically worn out the fertile soils and exposed the valuable lands to the deluging rains, which have washed them into chasms, thus transforming great regions into deserts. All these waste lands will he restored and transformed into the fruitful gardens of the Lord. Thus the members of the bridehood, by their immortal sagacity and loving presence, must superintend ten thousand interests in every land and clime. When Christ descends to enter upon His millennial reign, He will be accompanied by His bride, thoroughly equipped, organized, posted, and ready, in perfect order, to take possession of every nation under heaven, and conduct the millennial administration, eliciting the admiration of angels and archangels. The brutal outrages of Satan and his satellites, demoniacal and human, will sink into oblivion, felicitously forgotten amid the glory that shall cover the whole earth. The powers of the earth at this day, in the different continents, are about twelve. How convenient for the twelve apostles to encumber the great thrones of the nations, as Jesus said unto them, “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; that you may sit upon twelve thrones, ruling the twelve tribes of Israel!” Doubtless the two hundred millions of martyrs will he exceedingly prominent in the millennial administration.

6-7. I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven having the everlasting gospel to preach.” The prophetical panorama clearly authenticates the conclusion that this angel is the present Holiness movement. He is not only commissioned to preach the doctrine of holiness to all nations, but the coming of the Lord to judge the wicked Gentiles and the fallen Churches, and to call back the world to the worship of God only. We see from this chapter that this gospel of holiness and the Lord’s coming is to be preached to all nations by the Holiness people. Bishop Taylor has twelve hundred missionaries in the heathen field, Hudson Taylor eight hundred, A. B. Simpson four hundred, and General Booth twelve thousand, all preaching entire sanctification. Here we see four sanctified preachers, without a dollar, having fourteen thousand four hundred missionaries preaching the gospel of holiness to nearly all the nations of the earth. The Holiness movement, without salaries, has more missionaries in the heathen field than all the Churches on the globe, with their wagon-loads of gold and silver. Men and women without financial resources are flying to the ends of the earth preaching the everlasting gospel of entire sanctification to all the nations. Last year I traveled twenty-two thousand miles, and did not have twenty-two cents to start with.

8. This angel proclaims the fall of Babylon, which will speedily follow the preaching of the gospel to all nations. We see from the 18th chapter that Babylon will fall in the midst of the tribulations. The proclamation here is anticipatory of the coming event.

9-11. Here the Apocalyptic Angel pronounces the unutterable woe of eternal damnation on all who worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in the face or the hands. What is this beast? The Greek, theerion, means a bloodthirsty, carnivorous, ferocious wild beast. Daniel and John use it constantly to denote human governments, independent and defiant of God, in contradistinction to the theocracy, which is God’s government for Church and State. Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, the great empires of bygone ages, are all called beast in these prophecies. Rome, the greatest and most ferocious of all the beasts, had seven heads — i.e., the kingdom, the consulate, the dictatorship, the triumvirate, the tribuneship, the empire, and the papacy — each of which, in its time, enjoyed the headship of this monstrous beast. The sixth head was cut off by the barbarians, A.D. 476. Then and there Satan put on the beast the seventh head — i.e., the papacy — which the beast carries, and through which he rules the world. The beast will retain the papal head till his final ejectment into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).

You see, from these facts, that the beast is the world-power — i.e., this fallen world — including Romanism and all other worldly religions.

Since Satan conquered this world in Eden, it has been the irreconcilable enemy of God. Hence those who serve — i.e., worship — the world are the enemies of God. What is the image of the beast? This is the fashion of the world, with all its pomp, pageantry, and paraphernalia, including the whole concatenation of idolatry in all the fallen Churches of the world. What are the marks of the beast? Tobacco, opium, strong drink, gluttony, and debauchery all distinctly mark their victims. Satan’s corset, compressing the chest, superinducing all sorts of internal ailments of lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, diaphragm, and stomach, destroying the natural symmetry and developing the taper-wasp waist, is a hideous and horrific mark of the beast. All sorts of jewelry and needless ornamentation are forbidden in the word of God, and belong to the marks of the beast. These are mainly about the face and hands, the unclothed parts of the body.

Now, reader, if you don’t want to be “tormented forever in fire and brimstone,” you must not worship the beast nor his image. The literal meaning of the Greek Scripture for conversion is to “take you out of the world.” The lexical meaning of sanctify is to “take the world out of you.” Hence you see the regenerating and sanctifying grace of God is the only possible remedy for this universally-prevalent and damnable idolatry which worships the beast and his image; i.e., the world and its fashion.

ENDLESS PUNISHMENT

This problem, which has been called in question by infidels and skeptics of all ages, who, under the cognomen of religion, have written wagon-loads of books to disprove the eternity of the sinner’s punishment, is here settled by the Holy Ghost beyond the possibility of cavil. He here certifies, in reference to those who worship the beast and his image and receive his mark, who really include this entire wicked world, that “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever.” The eternal ascension of the smoke symbolizes the endless punishment of the wicked. Universalists and Restorationists have labored for ages to find a cessation to the adverb, “forever and ever,” when hell will cool off, Satan relax his grip, and the victims of damnation go free. Now, reader, the positive proof of the utter absurdity of this popular dogma, and the unequivocal confirmation of the Bible doctrine of endless punishment, are now patent and conspicuous before the eye of the candid student. The Greek translated “forever and ever” is “eis aioonas aioonoon,” the meaning of which is unto ages of ages, or eternities of eternities. Now, if this don’t express endless duration, can you tell me what combination of words would convey such an idea? You find this phrase in the 11th verse of the 14th chapter, and used to describe the duration of the punishment which awaits all the people who worship the beast and his image. In the 7th verse of the 15th chapter, where the English says, “God liveth forever and ever,” the Greek is that same combination of plural nouns which we have in the 11th verse of the 14th chapter, describing the duration of the sinner’s doom. Hence, it follows as an inevitable conclusion, from the plain and positive word of God, that the punishment of the wicked will he co-eternal with the existence of God. The very same argument which will quench hell-fire and discontinue the retributions of the lost, will inevitably prove that the time will come when God Himself will cease to exist. From these, and many other similar quotations, you see the utter folly, consummate nonsense, and transparent sophistry of all those facetious dogmas so pompously arrayed to disprove the Bible doctrine of eternal damnation.

WHAT BECOMES OF PEOPLE SO SOON AS THEY DIE?

The saints enter heaven immediately, and the wicked drop suddenly into hell. The intermediate paradise into which the Old Testament saints were gathered was abolished at the resurrection of Christ. (1 Peter 3:18;

Ephesians 4:8. — See my next volume.) Since Christ, the first-fruit, passed into heaven, accompanied by the sacramental host of Old Testament saints, the pearly gates have ever stood ajar for all who die in the Lord.

13. I heard a voice from heaven saying, write: Blessed are the dead from henceforth who die in the Lord.” The Greek word aparti, translated “from henceforth,” means instantaneously, from the very moment. Hence you see the problem is solved and the question is settled. The very moment you die, you are flooded with heavenly bliss, and sweep triumphantly into the glory-land. There, as the Spirit says, “they shall rest from their labors, and their works follow with them.”

THE LORD COMES TO TAKE UP HIS SAINTS

14. In this verse we see the Lord coming in a white cloud with a golden crown upon his head, and a sharp sickle. The 15th verse describes another angel coming out of the temple, and shouting with a loud voice to the Son of man sitting on the cloud, “Thrust in thy sickle and reap, because the hour of reaping has come, and the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.”

16. The one sitting on the cloud cast His sickle into the earth, and the earth was reaped.” The 6th verse of this chapter describes the Holiness movement flying into all parts of the world and preaching the everlasting gospel of entire sanctification and the Lord’s near coming to all nations. This is the great sowing which has been in progress already twenty years. It is sowing down all nations with the gospel of holiness, and ringing out the proclamation, “Behold, He cometh!”

Matthew 24:30-31 :

“Then shall the sign of the Son of man appear in the skies; then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and much glory. He shall send forth His angels with a great sound of a trumpet; they shall gather His elect out of the four winds, from the extremities of the heavens unto the extremities of the same.”

Luke describes the same scene (21:28):

“When these things begin to transpire, take courage and lift up your heads, because your redemption drapweth nigh.”

These Scriptures from our Savior’s sermon on the judgments, which He preached on Mt. Olivet the day before He was crucified, vividly and graphically describe the rapture when He shall come and gather His saints from all the ends of the earth, raising the dead and translating the living.”

Matthew 9 :

“Then two men shall be in the field; one is taken, and one is left. Two women are grinding in the mill; one is taken, and one is left.”

You see plainly and clearly, from these statements of our Savior, that this cannot describe the final judgment; for then all on the earth, both living and dead, will be taken. Therefore, it must be the premillennial resurrection and judgment, in which He will come and take up His saints with Him into the cloud, as Paul says. There is a striking harmony between the prophecies of Jesus, Paul, and John, each of whom describes Jesus coming in a cloud and gathering out His saints from every laud under heaven. Daniel (12:1) also add his testimony: “At that time Thy people shall be delivered, every one that is written in the book.” The connection here shows that it is deliverance from the great tribulations destined to come upon the whole earth, shaking every monarch from his throne, racking all nations with mighty revolutionary earthquakes, and filling the world with blood, slaughter, and desolation.

With these prophetical corroborations, we return to our text.

16-18. These three verses describe our Savior coming on a cloud and reaping the harvest of the whole earth, which are declared to be fully ripe. You must bear in mind the logical connection in this chapter between the sowing and the reaping. While in a sense the sowing has been in progress in all bygone ages, the direct and pre-eminent allusion is to the present great and universal sowing by the Lord’s people in the present Holiness movement. How long this gospel sowing shall continue, till the Lord comes to reap His crop of saints, we know not; but the prophetical connection certainly does involve the conclusion that it will not be long.

THE GATHERING OF THE VINTAGE MEANS THE WICKED

You will see from this chapter the contrastive results of preaching the gospel. Those who receive the message delivered by the holy evangels personified by the angel in the 6th verse, get saved, sanctified, robed, and ready to meet the Lord descending on the cloud in verse 14, constitute the harvest of saints which the glorified Savior will reap when He comes. Do not forget that these angels all represent heavenly influences, and are executives of the Divine administration. They are respectively the subordinates of the Holy Ghost.

17. Another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, himself also having a sharp sickle.” This is the angel of Divine retribution, destined to come upon all who reject the gospel of holiness, which is now, by the angel of the 6th verse, being preached in all the earth.

18. You see the angel described in this verse comes from the altar in heaven, and that he is the custodian of the fire on that altar. This is the fire that sanctifies all the people who receive appreciatively the gospel of holiness. That angel stands by the heavenly altar flaming with the Holy Ghost fire, whose office it is to consume all sin and exterminate it from the heart. Oh, how he delights, in answer to the prayer of complete consecration and appropriative faith, to send down that fire in the copious, sanctifying baptism of full redemption from all iniquity! Now that the people have persistently, obstinately, and finally rejected heavenly fire, they are shut up to the solitary alternative of hell-fire. Hence you see that this angel of heavenly fire flies down to earth and shouts aloud to the angel of retribution: “Thrust in thy sharp sickle and reap the great bunches of the vine of the earth, because her grapes are fully ripe.

19, 20. These two verses glowingly describe the awful doom of the people on the earth who reject the gospel of holiness, preached by God’s ministers in the present revivals. God in great mercy has raised up the Holiness movement in every country under heaven. We know it is of God because it is everywhere; human agency cannot account for it. Last year I traveled in Europe, Asia, Africa, and about twenty States in America, everywhere meeting the heavenly influence of this wonderful revival. It is God’s last call to a doomed world. The thunders of his premillennial judgments are already shaking the nations. The time of retribution is nigh, when the angel will forsake his post beside the heavenly altars to herald the awful doom of earth’s impending ruin. We see, in these Scriptures, the angel of retribution thrust in his sickle, reap the vintage of a God-rejecting world, and cast it into the great wine-press of God’s terrible castigatory judgments, long due the wicked nations and fallen Churches of a God- forgetting world. The red grape juice gushing out of the wine-press emblematizes the blood flowing copiously from the wounded and the dying. Hence this is the awful doom destined to overtake the wicked in the oncoming tribulations.

The battle of Armageddon is here adumbrated in epitome. The blood flows to the horses’ trappings. In the East, war-horses are decorated with regalia, frequently hanging down below their knees. Such was the ornamentation of the noble Arabic steed rode by my armed escort (a Bedouin Arab) when I traveled -through the wilderness of Judea to the Dead Sea, River Jordan, and Jericho. The idea is that the battlefield will flow with rivers of blood, so as to crimson the horses’ regalia. Rome is to be the center of the battleground, which is to extend one thousand six hundred furlongs; i.e., two hundred miles. As Rome is the successor of Babylon, the persecutor of the ancient Church, she here symbolizes antagonism to the Divine government, and represents the apostate Church in all the world. The Holiness movement, symbolized by the angel in the 6th verse, is this day preaching the gospel throughout the whole world with wonderful expedition. Hudson Taylor, with his eight hundred missionaries, is in China. Sanctified Bishop Thoburn, with his five Conferences, is in India. Sanctified Bishop Taylor, with his twelve hundred sanctified missionaries, is in Africa. A. B. Simpson is fast scattering his sanctified missionaries throughout the heathen world. Last August, at Old Orchard Camp- meeting, in Maine, he raised seventy-two thousand dollars for missions at a single collection. The Salvation Army, with twelve thousand holiness preachers, belts the globe. Astounding is the velocity with which the Apocalyptic Angel — i.e., the Holiness movement — is flying to the ends of the earth preaching entire sanctification and the speedy coming of the Lord to all the nations on the face of the whole earth.

As you see in this chapter, the Lord will soon ride down on a cloud, reap the sanctified harvest, and take away His bride. Then the retribution angel comes down and reaps the vintage, which means the wicked who rejected the gospel of holiness and the Lord’s coming. You see this terrible destruction of the wicked immediately follows the Lord’s harvest of the good. They both follow as legitimate sequences of the gospel sowing. The one class received it and were harvested into the heavenly garners; those who rejected it fell in the terrible and universal slaughter, symbolized by the vintage, with rivers of blood two hundred miles wide, and deep enough to crimson the trappings of the war-horses. Daniel graphically describes this terrible doom of a wicked world and a fallen Church (7:9,10):

“I beheld till the thrones were cast down and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool; His throne the fiery flame, and His wheels burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth before Him: a thousand thousand ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The judgment was set and the books were opened.”

This is not the final judgment, because you see, as you read on, that the Lord’s millennial kingdom follows, whereas the conflagration of the world will accompany the final judgment (2 Peter 2:10). Hence, this is the premillennial judgment, in which the thrones of this world will all be cast down, preparatory for the King of kings to descend, establish His kingdom, and reign forever. Whereas the Son will come in His glorified humanity, which ascended up from Mt. Olivet, and be visible to mortal eyes as He was then, the Ancient of Days here spoken of is the Father, who has no incarnation, and is consequently invisible.

The Father said to the Son, “Sit Thou on My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” The Son still encumbers the intercessory throne at the right hand of the Father. He is Prophet, Priest, and King. On earth, He was the most indefatigable preacher — i.e., prophet — the world ever saw. Having finished His gospel ministry, He entered upon His priestly office in the capacity of high priest, offering His body on the cross, a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Then flying up to heaven, He sits down on the mediatorial throne at the right hand of the Father, there, by His intercessory prayers, to perpetuate His priestly office till He descends to reign over the world. Meanwhile, the Father is administering the government of this world amid frequent castigatory judgments, which will finally culminate in the great tribulations, when the invisible Ancient of Days will sit upon the premillennial judgment-seat in this world, till all the thrones shall fall, kingdoms crumble, and Babylon topple to rise no more. Then the Son of man will come down in the clouds, take the scepter of the world from the hand of the Ancient of Days, and rule all nations forever. (Daniel 7:13-14.)

This exegesis is abundantly corroborated by the parable of our Savior in reference to the nobleman “who went away to a far country to receive a kingdom, and to return.” (Luke 19:11-13.) While they heard these things, proceeding, He spoke a parable, because He is near unto Jerusalem, and they think that the kingdom of God is to appear immediately. Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive a kingdom and to return.” This parable clearly, explicitly, and abundantly proves the hypothesis so currently and copiously set forth in all the prophecies relative to our Lord’s millennial reign. This cannot possibly be identified with His spiritual kingdom. Daniel says (7:21, 22):

“I beheld, and the same horn — i.e., the pope — made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.”

Now you know that every saint is already in possession of Christ’s spiritual kingdom. Hence you see this is bound to mean the temporal kingdom, which the saints will receive from the Ancient of Days when He shall have cast down all the usurpatious, rebellious, humanistic, Nimrodic thrones on the earth, both political and ecclesiastical, and thus prepared the way for His glorified Son to descend, sit down on the millennial throne, and reign from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof. It is an unquestionable fact that all of His disciples were on the constant outlook for His temporal kingdom. But we see clearly from this parable in Luke 19 th that He has gone away to His Father in heaven to receive this contemplated kingdom, for which He taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” He is to receive this kingdom from His Father, whose judicial reign on the earth will make His enemies His footstool. This parable proceeds to describe our glorious coming King, distributing the governments of the world among His saints, according to their respective ability, giving to one ten cities, to another five, et cetera. This is in perfect harmony with Daniel 7:22 :

“Judgment was given to the saints of the Most High.”

The meaning of the word judgment, in this and many other Scriptures, is the government of the world. Hence Daniel and Luke, as well as Paul and John, positively certify, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, that the saints of God are going to possess the governments and become the rulers of the world, under the sovereignty of the glorified Christ in the coming kingdom. Lord, help us to be candid, honest, and true and fear to handle the word of God deceitfully. Our Christ is both man and God. His divinity reigns in His spiritual kingdom in the heart. His glorified humanity, filled with the divinity, will reign in the coming kingdom. So surely as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, He will ride in on a cloud. So surely as He hung on a cross, He will sit on a throne. Zechariah says: “His feet shall stand upon Mt. Olivet.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Revelation 14:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/revelation-14.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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