Revelation 14 - part 1
Revelation 14 - part 2 through chapter 15
Good students MUST study chapters 12 – 14 as a “unit.” Chapter twelve shows we Christians are the object of Satan’s desire, viz. to consume us from ever existing and furthering the truth of God’s Word. Chapter 13 explained the associates of the dragon (i.e., Satan) as being a beast of civil government and another beast of religious falsehood. Both are oppressive and deceiving and have no purpose other than destroying God’s children. Here in chapter 14, we find the protection of God for His children and the continuing conditional promise of eternity with Him. Remember the book of Revelation is NOT a book of ominous, foreboding disaster unless you observe the wrath of God upon those of disobedience (Col. 3: 3 – 7). Instead, the book of Revelation carries a message of VICTORY, HOPE, PROMISE, AND GLORY for God’s faithful. Among the many proofs of this reality is verse 13 of this chapter!
Within this chapter, we find two separate, yet united parts: the first a description of Jesus and His “sheep” (John 10), and the second of judgment. When we begin examining the second part of this chapter, we will show passages similar to this one that shows the judgment IS FUTURE, and yet portrays it as having already passed. The reason for this type of description is HOPE for these souls who must remain faithful unto (or as the original meaning says, “though it may cause”) death.
The Lamb (note the capitalization of the word) is Jesus Christ. Throughout scripture, Mount Zion is a descriptive term referring to “the place of God.” In the Old Testament, it referred to the temple in Jerusalem wherein God had placed His name (1 Kings 9:3). In passages like Isaiah 2: 1- 3 and Joel 3:16, mount Zion is used figuratively in describing the church; where it would begin and what message would be preached. Thus, in this passage, we note the Lamb stands in this holy place, and with Him 144,000, with their Father’s name (note the capitalization) written in their foreheads. Since the beast of chapter 13 demanded a mark (666) with which to do commerce, the name of God permits these to do business with their Father! It is a sharp contrast to the “businesses” for the beasts have only the interest of temporal things, and God the interest of eternal things.
There is great COMFORT in this reality for those who received this letter. These sheep are equated with those who have died (perhaps via martyrdom) and yet are in the very presence of the Lamb. As the Hebrew writer proclaimed, “We are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses …” (Heb. 12:1 – 2). This gives ENCOURAGEMENT to these readers and to us to continue onward in fighting the good fight of faith. THERE IS NO WAY TO AVOID A CONFLICT (1 Tim. 6:12; Eph. 6:10 – 17), so we are best to fight well and take courage and comfort from the reality of this vision!
The voice is that of God. Several times in scripture, we find His voice “thundering” or as portrayed here, as the sounds of many waters. John includes BOTH many waters and thunder in describing His voice, thus making us realize the inescapable attention given to what He says. Further, there are harpers harping with their harps. THIS IS NOT CONDONING MECHANICAL INSTRUMENTS OF MUSIC, for it is symbolic. It is the sweet melody God receives, and verse 3 proves it came as singing. Also, notice the benefits already described from such an environment within the book of Revelation:
Rushing water: steadfast, constant, strong – Revelation 1:15
Thunder: power, authority – Revelation 8:5
Harpist: melody, praise, beauty – Revelation 5:8
Now we learn the identity of the 144,000 and their actions. They SANG as it were a new song before God, the four beasts, the elders. No man (ordinary, only of the earth and without God) could learn this song. Only the REDEEMED from the earth could do so! Remember redemption comes ONLY through the blood of the Lamb. (1 Pet. 1: 18 – 25).
The description of these follows: they are not defiled with women; for they are virgins. This speaks to their purity in their conduct. Obviously, it is a “generic” symbol here for if it were taken literally, only unmarried, celibate men could be saved. No scripture will verify that conclusion. Now note the exactness of the meaning: “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. These were [are] redeemed from among men [mankind] being the firstfruits unto God and to the lamb.” Now examine the bold typed wording.
Pure virgin – 2 Corinthians 11:2
Follow His steps – 1 Peter 2:21
Purchased (redeemed) – 1 Peter 1:18 – 25; Revelation 5: 9 – 10
Firstfruits – James 1:18
There is no greater evidence of these souls being children of God whose earthly lives have expired, yet their EXAMPLES OF FAITHFULNESS stand as encouragement and comfort to those remaining to fight this good fight of faith.
In their mouth(s) was no guile – just the same as the commanded example of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21 – 25). These are without fault before the throne of God. This is indeed a marvelous example of faithfulness and one that must encourage all of us (Heb. 12: 1 – 2).
Now John hears the voice of an angel going through the midst of heaven (i.e., the church.) This angel (messenger) has with him the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth. We must acknowledge the GOSPEL is God’s power to save (Rom. 1:16 – 17; 1Cor. 15: 1- 4). Obviously, the redemptive POWER within these souls gathered around the Lamb comes from the gospel. We notice this angel (messenger) as well is to preach this gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Thus, this is NOT the end of the world, but a vision showing the continued necessity of preaching that souls might be saved from God’s wrath upon the unrighteous. We have noted often that Revelation shows God’s consistent desire to save man from sin (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Since it saved these 144,000 (a great number to represent a greater number), it will save all who will obey!
The message of the gospel is within “earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7) so we understand the “angel” is symbolic of one preaching. The message is this: “Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” It is reminiscent of Solomon’s charge at the close of Ecclesiastes. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” The New Testament carries the same message of obedience when we note 1 Peter 2:17 and Luke 12:5.
A second angel now enters John’s vision saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” Just as Isaiah prophesied of the future destruction of Babylon (Isa. 21:9) this angel declares VICTORY before it actually arrives. The reason is MOTIVATION for those who remain in the earth yet are obedient to God and the Lamb. They cannot lose if they remain faithful; they cannot succeed if they defect and side with the beasts. The reason for Babylon’s fall (the defeat of all powers of evil) is due to her insistence on imbibing her sinful behaviors. There is NOTHING of righteousness in the beast of the civil government, nor in the beast of false religions. Together, they formulate a city of evil (Babylon – or as many commentators suggest, the Roman Empire as the immediate meaning for these recipients) that cannot stand against the TRUTH of God and His people!
A third angel now appears and with a loud proclamation says, “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand,
the same shall drink of the wind of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he [the offender] shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever: and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name,”
We have intentionally written out these verses so you may refer to them as we comment. This passage shows what we said in the comments of verse 9 is the truth. Identity with the beast is contrary to the RIGHTEOUS identity of God’s name. Therefore, to partake of the beast’s commands is to reap the consequence of God’s wrath (called “cup of … the fierceness of His wrath” –Rev. 16:19) It is without mixture (it is His PURE judgment, but cannot be mingled with compassion now, for these have defied Him in their actions). It is interesting to note the phrase, “in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” Do NOT make the mistake of this being “final judgment” for that would contradict 2 Thessalonians 1:7 – 9. This wrath has to do with the TEMPORAL CONSEQUENCES of sinful actions. Just as we have seen in past chapters, God’s desire remains to SAVE and not destroy souls. However, THERE IS COMING A TIME when His mercy is exhausted, and all earth time shall end. Notice these sufferers “rest not day or night.” They continually abandon God and so will suffer now, AND eternally!
This verse is critical to our understanding. PATIENCE of the saints must be combined with the WISDOM explained at 13:18. We must examine again 2 Peter 1: 5 – 11 and the reason for the STRENGTHENING of our faith.
Now the voice John hears is from heaven, and the context shows it is the Spirit speaking. “Blessed [rejoicing; happy] are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth:” Here is the COMFORT and the PROTECTION assured from the previous verses. None who dies in Christ needs to fear that death. Whether by a torturous death or by natural causes, dying in the Lord is from henceforth a blessing! Note: “Yea, sayeth the Spirit …” This phrase is as if we would say, “Assuredly so; amen; let it be do” Thus the death of those dying in the Lord has meaning and purpose of GOODNESS. The reason is very plain: IT IS FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF THOSE WHO FOLLOW. “That they may rest from their labors (see also Isa. 57:1-2) and their works (i.e., accomplishments in the service of Christ) do follow them.” Their works are the motivating factor that encourages those remaining in the flesh to keep on keeping on. Note the word “rest.” It does NOT mean, “Do nothing” but instead has the context of “receive comfort” as indicated in the earlier verses of this chapter.
The remaining verses of this chapter deal with the certainty of JUDGMENT. One need not think this a “new” subject, as chapters 8 – 11 have described this coming event. This passage shows a marked separation of RIGHTEOUS and WICKED; of those RECEIVING REST ETERNAL and TORMENT ETERNAL.
That Jesus Christ is the Judge we cannot deny (Acts 17:31; John 5:22; 12:48; Rom. 2:16; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8). John sees one like the Son of man (thus we know this REMAINS a vision and not the actual judgment – a prophesy of its coming!) Throughout the book of Revelation, we see the glorious majesty of this Judge:
White = purity (Rev. 1:14)
Cloud = the means of His arrival (Rev. 1:7; Acts 1:11)
“Son of Man” with a crown = victorious Jesus (Rev. 1:13)
Sharp sickle = eternal gospel (Mark 4:26 – 29)
i. Compare to the sword – Rev. 1:16
ii. Compare to sword/word – Hebrews 4:12
iii. Compare to word/judge – John 12:48
It is well to here describe TWO TYPES of crowns. The one here is a STEPHANOS crown meaning VICTORY. The other crowns noted are DIADEMS meaning “ruling symbol.” The context in which the word “crown” appears will usually indicate where the crown is one of VICTORY (which would necessitate Christ) or one of RULE. Often, as with Christians, the crown is our “kingship” over our own bodies (Rev. 1:6). At times, the diadem is merely an indication of rule, such as those crowns worn by the beasts. Be sure to differentiate the two when studying the passages. We will find as we continue that Christians will also wear the STEPHANOS crown!
– 16. The TIMING of Judgment Day is set by God the Father (Acts 17:31). Here prophetically the time is announced (thus warning again for the faithful to retain their readiness) and the One sitting upon the cloud thrusts in His sickle and reaps. As noted above, the “sickle” is the gospel. IT is the judging factor between righteous and wicked (John 12:48) and is so well ingrained in Christ Jesus that He is known as THE WORD (John 1:1 – 5, 14, 17; 14:6; 17:17) as we learned in chapter 12 TRUTH is protected in God’s throne of ETERNAL HEAVEN.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCES: John 5:19 – 47; Matthew 24:36; 2 Peter 2:4 – 9; 3:9 – 14
– 18. This angel has not only the sharp sickle (i.e., gospel, TRUTH which convicts the gainsayers meaning wicked speakers – Titus 1:9) but coming out of the ALTAR, has power of fire. Remember our discussion in chapter 8:3 – 5 regarding the prayers of the saints, and previously to this, the discussion of the prayers in chapter 6:9 – 10. Their prayerful request was “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (6:10) This is the answer to those prayers. The same word (TRUTH; GOSPEL) that SAVES THE RIGHTEOUS is the same word (TRUTH; GOSPEL) that CONDEMNS THE WICKED.
– 20. We must note God’s wrath is not His FIRST desire: He would have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). However, once every effort to convince mankind of their need to obey God has been exhausted, punishment upon the wicked is immanent. The fact of this wrath being so great must not alarm us: wickedness IN GOD’S JUDGMENT deserves no less! These had trampled under foot God’s children, His word, and every opportunity to obey Him (Heb. 10:29). Just as they crucified Jesus outside the city (God’s name was within the city of Jerusalem and in the temple) God shall punish these outside His city – the eternal home of the righteous souls. The punishment is so severe, that it comes to the horses’ bridles (approx. five feet deep by some measurements) and covers a space of some 180 miles (1600 furlongs). While this is figurative language, one cannot escape the fact of SERVITY from God on those that obey Him not (Rom. 11:22; 2 Thess. 1:7 – 9). Therefore, the warning again to the wicked, BUT MORE, THE PROMISE OF VICTORY, THE CONTINUANCE OF HOPE, THE ASSURANCE OF PROMISE, AND THE GREATNESS OF GLORY to those who are found faithful at His coming!
REVELATION – CHAPTER 15
1. Chapters 12 – 14 expressed vividly the following facts:
a. ALL CHRISTIANS SHALL SUFFER PERSECUTION (2 Tim. 3:12)
b. SATAN HAS HIS ALLIES (i.e., 1st beast – civil government; 2nd beast – religious error) AND FORCES HIS MARK UPON MANKIND
c. GOD HAS PROMISED PROTECTION TO HIS CHILDREN. THEY MUST BEAR HIS NAME IN THEIR FOREHEADS
2. From these facts, we learn the encouragement of Romans 8:31. Therefore, we can enter this final section of Revelation with the utmost confidence GOD PROTECTS THE FAITHFUL. Remember we have every conviction of VICTORY, HOPE, PROMISE, AND GLORY being ours for eternity!
3. There are two important factors the Christian must obtain and retain from these previous three chapters:
a. Wisdom (Revelation 13:18)
b. Patience (Revelation 14:12)
These elements come by FIRST learning the Word of God and then APPLYING that word to our lives. The process of “diligently” adding to our faith (2 Peter 1: 3 – 11) is the key to this understanding. Also, consider Paul’s inspired writing in Romans 5:3 – 11).
1. Notice the opening verse states it is NOT an ominous sight, but rather a “great and marvelous” sight. It is due to the observation of the RIGHTEOUS … the avenging of their souls (souls of the martyred – Rev. 6:10) is coming forth. There is completeness in this sight (“seven angels … seven last plagues”) of God’s judgment. We note within these last plagues, God’s wrath upon those of disobedience (including continued denial of His Word). REMEMBER: GOD DESIRES THAT ALL MEN BE SAVED AND COME UNTO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH. However, God’s patience expires and leaves Him no choice but to exact His promised punishment upon the wicked. (Ex. The great flood; Sodom and Gomorrah; Israel’s division and subsequent punishment for going after idols; etc.) God’s promise of salvation is absolute to the obedient. And we must understand God’s promise of punishment eternal is just as sure to those who disobey Him!
2. – 4. The sea of glass was examined in chapter 4:6. It is indicative of our mortal life in this world, including the evidence of suffering. That those standing on this sea are described as “victorious over the beast, his image, his mark and his number” we note these are the SAINTS who endured the conflict: the same as those represented by the 144,000. These possess the harps of God. The harps are NOT mechanical instruments of music (see 14:3 – 4), but rather the melodic praises of thanksgiving to God.
They sing two songs: one is of Moses (a song of VICTORY OVER OPPRESSION – Ex. 15), the other of the Lamb (a song of righteousness, mercy, and justice). Each song includes rejoicing for the following reasons. Examine first the words and they the reasons mentioned become clear: “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.”
In the song of Moses (VICTORY OVER OPPRESSION) note:
a. The greatness of God’s actions --- “Great and marvelous are thy works.
b. Justice of His actions --- “Just and true are Thy works.”
c. The purity of His actions -- “Thou King of Saints”
In the song of the Lamb note:
a. Call to fear God --- “Who shall not fear thee?”
b. Call to glorify Him --- “And glorify Thy name?”
c. Call to worship Him --- “For all nations shall come and worship before Thee.”
Note also the acknowledgment stating, “THOU ONLY ART HOLY … FOR THY JUDGMENTS ARE MADE KNOW (manifest)” These words verify the certainty these singers are ones VICTORIOUS, HOPEFUL, RECEIVERS OF THE PROMISE, AND GLORY. They are grateful for God’s care and keeping.
5. “The temple of the tabernacle in heaven” should strike us as a most interesting and authoritative statement. The TEMPLE was a permanent house of God – His name had been placed in that temple. His authority and therefore His Law issued forth from that established place of holiness. We have continued our view that “heaven” in the Revelation is symbolic of the church. Notice the church, until our Lord’s return, is “portable” even as the tabernacle was portable. Therefore, in this symbol, we see the steadfast AUTHORITY (i.e., His UNCHANGEABLE AND PERMANENT WORD – THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL [Rev. 14:6]). It is this testimony (i.e., covenant) we see opened. It has NEVER BEEN CLOSED since the opening of the seven seals (Rev. 5). We see its impact increasing with every cycle of God’s attempts to save man from sin. This chapter is introducing God’s final attempt. Such is proven in the statement, “seven last plagues.” Just as God’s patience expired in times past with such attempts, there shall be no further dispensation of His Word. Rejection now is final … acceptance now is final!
6. Now we see the exiting of the seven (complete) messengers (angels) with the AUTHORITY OF GOD. We note here the MESSENGERS being complete (seven) indicate US who are “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10). Since this message comes OUT of the temple, we know is the AUTHORITY OF GOD. We recognize it is the FULLNESS of His wrath based on the number seven. We note the PURITY of the messengers as they are adorned in PURE WHITE LINEN. Further, we note the value of their mission for they also have GOLDEN GIRDLES wrapped around them.
7. Take careful note these are seven GOLDEN bowls. Therefore, it is of GREAT VALUE to contain this wrath of God. It is NOT for the righteous, but the wicked. In this very fact is seen the GREAT MAJESTY OF GOD. It is RIGHTEOUS judgment and not some irrational vengeance. It is intended to bring man to repentance and obedience to God! One of the four living creatures presents these bowls to the messengers.
8. We here note the reality of God’s sovereignty via the smoke “from the glory of God and from His power.” It is a scene reminiscent of when His glory and power filled the tabernacle and later the temple. Remember this is a scene depicting the mind of God and His rule through the church! No one will enter the eternity of God’s TEMPLE until ALL His bidding is complete!