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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Revelation 14

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-20

Chapter Fourteen The Harvest And Vintage

Revelation 14 forms a distinct section of the book. It consists of one vision divided into six parts and evidently has to do with the closing up of the great tribulation and the introduction of the kingdom. It is as though God would give to John, and to us, a heartening view of the consummation, before describing in detail the closing trials that will occupy the last half of the tribulation period.

The Lamb on Mount Sion (Revelation 14:1-5)

Verses 1-5 present a beautiful little prophetic picture, quite complete in itself. It sets forth that which is to take place after the desolations of Israel are ended. The glory will dawn in the land where Jesus lived and died and rose again, and to which He is coming back in person.

Observe, to begin with, that mount Sion is on the earth. The vision has to do with the return of the Lamb to the city that once rejected Him. It is common for Bible readers to spiritualize the various localities mentioned in the Bible. Thus Jerusalem, mount Sion, and Israel are all made to mean the church, or possibly even Heaven itself, whereas they have no such application. When God says Israel, He means Israel. When He speaks of Jerusalem He does not intend us to understand that either Heaven or the church is in view. Mount Sion is that mount Zion which David first set apart to God, and is a distinct locality to this day in the land of Palestine, within the limits of the city of Jerusalem. It is a place on earth, not in Heaven, and there the Lord Jesus Christ is going to gather the Israelite remnant to Himself when He comes to set up His kingdom. For, although many have taught the contrary, I believe that the 144,000 of this chapter are the very same as the sealed 144,000 of Revelation 7. In the earlier chapter John saw them sealed before the great tribulation began; God had pledged Himself to protect them. No matter how vindictively their enemies might assail them, He had set His own mark on them. He had promised to bring them safely through those tempestuous and difficult days. Now, in chapter 14, we see that same company gathered about the Lamb on mount Sion, the firstfruits of the kingdom age.

The Lord reveals His Father’s name to them. The seal of the living God on their foreheads is, in fact, this blessed revelation. They know God as Father and rejoice in His protecting care and tender love. In Heaven there are those who rejoice with them in a very special way. These are distinguished from the elders who represent, as we have already seen, the entire priestly company caught up at the rapture. But as the great tribulation goes on, Jewish believers, who will be martyred because of their faith, will also join that heavenly throng. So we are told that John 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” (2). These sing, “as it were a new song before the throne, and before the [living ones] and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth” (3). These in Heaven and those on earth will have passed through the same experiences in measure. There will be a sympathetic cord struck, to which both respond. The new song here, as elsewhere, is the song of redemption.

The company on mount Sion are next described as undefiled, a virgin band who have kept themselves from the prevalent unclean-ness in those fearful days. It is to be their hallowed privilege to follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They are described as being “redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb” (4). Thus we have a firstfruits of the kingdom age, even as our Lord Himself is described as the firstfruits of the present dispensation and His church, associated with Him, is “a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18).

The portion of this special company is the blessing of Psalm 32 pronounced upon the man in whom is no guile and the blessing that our Lord pronounced upon Nathanael (John 1:47). A guileless man is not a sinless man; he is one who has nothing to hide. When sin is all confessed and judged in the presence of God, guile is absent. And so this guileless company are described as without fault before the throne of God. They certainly do not appear there in any righteousness of their own, but saved by the same precious blood that today makes faultless every believer in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Everlasting Gospel (Revelation 14:6-7)

This everlasting gospel is not to be distinguished from the gospel that has been proclaimed throughout the centuries. In truth, the very fact that it is called “everlasting” shows that it is identical with the gospel as proclaimed from the beginning. It is the good news of all the ages that God is sovereign, and man’s happiness consists in recognizing His authority. In the present dispensation, the full truth of the gospel of the grace of God is added to this blessed fact. The gospel of the kingdom is but another aspect of this same news from Heaven, emphasizing particularly the lordship of Christ. There can only be one gospel, for the apostle tells us, “ Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). But that one gospel has different phases. In the Epistle to the Galatians Paul speaks of “the gospel of the circumcision” and the “gospel of the uncircumcision”-the same gospel, but presented in one way to the Jews and another to the Gentiles. When the Lord was here on earth ministering, as also was John the Baptist, they preached the gospel of the kingdom. But men rejected the kingdom, and so, for the time being, the kingdom is in abeyance. This is the day of the church.

The Son of man is compared to a man who has gone into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. When the word is given by the Father He will descend to take the kingdom, to be proclaimed as King of kings and Lord of lords. Throughout the present dispensation He is taking Jews and Gentiles who believe on His name and uniting them into the one body, the church. After the church has gone, there will not be a Christian left on earth. Then God is going to commence again to work among the Jews and He will send them out to preach the gospel of the kingdom unto the ends of the earth. Finally, we have the very last phase of that gospel immediately preceding His coming. It is the final call for the guilty nations to prostrate themselves in the dust and pay homage to their Creator. It is mercy indeed that in that hour of judgment, before the last blow falls, the call will still go forth to men everywhere to acknowledge the claims of the omnipotent One whose mercies have been rejected so long. In this chapter however we do not hear of any response. But Scripture elsewhere warrants the thought that many who had never previously heard and rejected the gospel will in that day open their hearts to the message and repent and thus be led to welcome the King.

Babylon (Revelation 14:8)

Babylon is more fully described for us in chapters 17-18, but we have to defer any detailed exposition of this subject until a later chapter. I will say that just as Babylon of old was the fountainhead of idolatry, so is mystic Babylon today the mother of all false religious teaching in Christianity. In the time of the end it will be headed up in one great false church. That worldly church, which has proved so unworthy and false to her Lord, is to be utterly destroyed. I have no doubt that all over the world there will then be scenes with men crying, “No God; no church.”

I know that many religious leaders at the present time are very enthusiastic about what they call “the reunion of Christendom” but that reunion will simply be a great federation of Christless churches. They will form the most powerful religious association that has ever been known in this world-Catholic, Greek, Protestant, and all other systems united into one-after the true believers have gone. For a time, this great institution will dominate everything until men will say at last, “What is the use of a church like this; why not destroy the whole thing and be done with it once and for all?” So they will destroy it throughout the world, as they once destroyed it in France and in Russia.

Would that professed preachers of the gospel realized, before it is too late, that when men take up religion in which there is no real conversion and which has no place for the work of the Holy Spirit, the whole thing will soon go on the rocks. In spite of the latitudinarianism of the times in which we live, it is still blessedly true that when faithful men preach the genuine old-time gospel of the grace of God in power, people are willing to go and hear. Speaking generally, even unsaved men and women have more respect for the old, old story of redeeming love than they have for modern shams. When a man comes to the place where he no longer believes in the Bible, in the blood of Christ, in regeneration, he says to himself, “Why am I paying money to keep up the church. I had better pay it to a lodge or a club. I can get more out of something like that than I can get out of the church.” Have you ever noticed that Unitarianism has never been a financial success? Therefore when a preacher, in one of our orthodox churches no longer believes in orthodoxy, you will observe that generally he holds on to his position in the orthodox institution as long as he can. Loaves and fishes are more common there, after all, than in the heretical systems that are languishing all about us. And so we can understand how it will be in the great tribulation. Babylon, for a while, will dominate everything. The head of the nations will be the head of the church. The antichrist will be supreme in religious matters; but when Babylon falls, what a tremendous shake up there is going to be!

The Third Angel’s Message (Revelation 14:9-12)

The angel’s solemn message declared that those who turn away from the true God, reject His Word, and instead worship the beast and his image will have to drink the very dregs of the cup of God’s wrath.

The Seventh-Day Adventists tell us that the third angel’s message is the sabbath message. They teach that worshiping the beast and receiving his mark consists in recognizing the holiness of the first day of the week. Who can conceive of a God of love and grace pouring out His wrath on men because, with earnest desire to glorify Him, they keep the resurrection day? All is perfectly clear when one realizes that the judgment pronounced in these verses is the doom of apostasy. In retributive judgment, God will press the cup of His wrath to the lips of those who have refused the cup of salvation. Nor is there any evidence that that judgment will come to an end, for verse 11 distinctly says, “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever 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.”

It will indeed require courage of a very high order to stand up against that apostate condition and firmly hold to the truth of God as then revealed. And so we are told in verse 12, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” This supports what we have been pointing out that these converts will be Jewish believers. They keep the Old Testament commandments of God and yet the faith of Jesus as declared in the New. Their part is not in the body of Christ. That glorious truth of the present dispensation is not for them. But they will have learned, at last, that Jesus is the promised Messiah. He was rejected by their nation when He came in grace, but He is coming again in mighty power. So they will bring forth fruits befitting repentance, demonstrated by their pious, godly lives and desire to glorify the One their nation rejected.

You have often heard verse 13 used in connection with funerals in the present dispensation. I do not question that it may be so used with blessing, but its full application refers to a coming day. Notice that little word henceforth. A voice from Heaven said, “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.” The point, I take it, is this: the darkest part of the great tribulation is still before them. The storm clouds, heavy with judgment, may break at any moment, but immediately following, the kingdom is to be set up. Those who pass through the tribulation will enter into the kingdom on earth. Those who die during its course will have their part in the heavenly kingdom, and so a special blessing will be theirs. In other words, from that point on it will really be better to die than to live. They will rest from their labors, be spared further tribulation on the earth, and will have their place with their Lord in Heaven. This place will be far better than the highest place in the kingdom here on earth, glorious as that will be.

And now let me press a question on my readers, whether saved or unsaved. You also must leave this world shortly. What kind of works are going to follow you? If saved, what have you been doing for the Lord? If unsaved, then I beg you remember that your sins will follow after you-those sins you have been trying to forget; those sins from which you have fled; those sins for which you foolishly thought you could atone by effort of your own. When you stand up, at last, poor, and naked, and miserable, before the great white throne, you will find all your sins there. They will grab onto you like the hell-hounds that they really are and drag you down to the lake of fire. Do not turn away from this solemn truth. The blood of Christ alone can wash you from all those sins. Then, as a believer in the Lord Jesus, you can live for Him in this world and your works will follow you to Heaven, for all that is done for Christ will abide for eternity.

The Solemn Harvest (Revelation 14:14-16)

You will remember that our Lord Jesus spoke about the harvest. He declared that it is the end of the age, the time when the wicked are going to be separated from the just. He is going to gather the wheat into His garner, but burn up the tares with fire unquenchable (Matthew 13:37-42). This is what you have here; it is discriminating judgment. The earth is reaped. The Son of man will claim for Himself everything that is of God. All that is contrary will be given up to judgment. Observe that it is the Son of man who sits on the cloud and directs the reapers. All judgment is committed to the Son. The One who once hung on Calvary’s cross is the same blessed person who is coming to execute judgment. This is, I take it, the same in nature as the judgment in Matthew 25. It is premillennial and not postmillennial, like the judgment of the great white throne. Jesus is coming back to the world that crucified Him. He is going to gather for His kingdom, out of all nations, those who have heeded His message and cared for His messengers. But all who have heard His gospel and rejected it will be given up to judgment.

The Vintage (Revelation 14:17-20)

The vintage is very different from the harvest. The harvest, as we have just seen, is discriminatory, while the vintage is unsparing judgment.

The vintage has to do with the vine-the vine of the earth-and this vine is apostate Israel. We are familiar with the figure as used in regard to Israel in the Old Testament. Isaiah used it, and in Hosea we hear the Lord saying, “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself” (10:1). The same figure is used in Psalm 80 and 81. When our Lord was here He could say, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1). He was the only one in Israel bearing good fruit. All who accept His message become branches in the living vine. By and by, the vine is going to be replanted in Palestine. In fact, we may go further and say, the vine is being replanted in Palestine. The Jews are going back to their own land; it stirs one’s soul as Scripture is being fulfilled before our eyes. They are being replanted in their own vineyard, but replanted for what? For the vintage of the wrath of God. A remnant will be gathered out, separated to the Lord, but the rest will be given up to unsparing judgment in the time of Jacob’s trouble. Fleshly Israel, the vine of the earth, can produce no fruit for God. But in that day of great distress, the clusters of the vine of the earth will be cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And we are told the winepress was trodden outside the city. Blood came out of the winepress, rising as high as the horse bridles for 1,600 furlongs. This is said to be the actual length of the land of Palestine. The picture is that of the entire land drenched in blood up to the horse bridles. What will the reality be? O Lord, how long?

Thank God, there are brighter things ahead. In fact, the best days for Israel and the whole earth lie beyond that awful scene of wrath and carnage. But we need to remember that the people of the Jews brought their judgment on their own heads by refusing the Prince of Peace when He came in grace to deliver them. In Pilate’s judgment hall they cried, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matthew 27:25). The centuries bear witness how dreadfully this fearful imprecation has been answered by a just God. The scene depicted in these closing verses of Revelation 14 shows that a more dreadful fulfillment is yet in the future. Immanuel’s land, once stained with His own precious blood, will be red with the gore of those who reject Him. Even in that day when their own Scriptures will be so marvelously fulfilled before their very eyes, they will still refuse Him and instead assent to the unholy claims of the antichrist. Of old, they chose Barabbas in place of Jesus which is called Christ. Unchanged in spirit to the very end, they will prefer the “son of perdition” to the Son of God, and thus bring upon themselves swift destruction.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Revelation 14:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/revelation-14.html. 1914.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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