Newell: Romans, Revelation
And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.Chapter 12: The 144,000 On Mt. Zion
There are seven distinct sections in Revelation 14:1.
1. The Vision of the One Hundred and Forty-four Thousand (Revelation 14:1-5).
2. The Angel Proclaiming the Eternal Gospel (Revelation 14:6-7).
3. The Prophetic Announcement of Great Babylon’s Fall (Revelation 14:8).
4. The Angelic Warning of the Eternal Doom of the Beast-worshippers (Revelation 14:9-12).
5. The Proclamation of the Especial Blessedness of those who should “die in the Lord” from that time (Revelation 14:13).
6. The Vision of the Harvest of the Earth (Revelation 14:14-16).
7. The Vision of the Vine of the Earth and the Winepress of Blood (Revelation 14:17-20).
To outline the chapter in brief:
1. The Lamb’s 144,000 seen in contrast to the nations and Antichrist.
2. The six “other” angels and their messages.
3. The two “sharp sickles” and what they reap.
The Vision of the One Hundred and Forty-four Thousand
And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on the mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps: and they sing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders: and no man could learn the song save the hundred and forty and four thousand, even they that had been purchased out of the earth. These are they that were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, to be the first fruits unto God and unto the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no lie: they are without blemish.
This is one of the most remarkable scenes, in every way, of The Revelation thus far.
The “servants of our God” whom the angel sealed on their foreheads in Revelation 7:2-8, before any “hurt” should come, are here seen with the Lamb, having, like those three in the fiery furnace, passed through the fearful divine judgments unharmed (see 9:4), and then through the horrors of the forty-two months of Antichrist (chapter 13). They are seen on Mount Zion, the selected seat of the glorious earthly reign of one thousand years, of Christ and His saints.
The 144,000 of Chapter Fourteen- Who Are They?
I. Are they the sealed company of Israelites of chapter 7?
(1) The number 144,000 agrees. (2) They and these in chapter 14 are sealed on their foreheads. (3) They stand on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. (4) They pass through the time of trouble, are victorious, etc.
II. Are they especially devoted saints from all the ages?
(1) The repetition of the number 144,000, one of governmental completeness and fullness, is not necessarily conclusive proof that the two companies are one and the same. (2) Those in chapter 14 are indeed sealed on their foreheads, but the form of the seal is the Lamb’s name and the name of His Father; whereas those of chapter 7 were sealed as “the bondservants of our God.” (3) Those in chapter 14 were “purchased out of the earth”: they are not said to be of Israel’s tribes. (4) They are all men (Revelation 14:4): note the double statement “not defiled with women,” and “virgins.” (5) They are therefore Nazarites unto God, having forsworn even lawful things for a separate walk. (6) They “were purchased from among men, the first fruits unto God and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4). (7) They were absolutely truthful: consequently, “without blemish.” (8) They “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.”
We will give certain further comments concerning this company, not seeking dogmatically to assert, however, that they are the Israelites of chapter 7, though they seem to be these.
For, although we have thus spoken of them, we cannot but leave the question open for further light. Because, in all other Scripture we can recall, Israel’s victors are always named as belonging to that elect nation, and the favor of God is seen as arising from that national election. Whereas, these of Revelation 14:1-20 do not have that mark, but rather seem to be from a larger circle than Israel-even “from among men”; and their peculiar distinction appears to be a reward for their utter self-abnegation. As Dean Alford says, “We are perhaps more like that which the Lord intended us to be; but they are more like the Lord Himself.” Only let it be remembered, a “greater” place is given, in sovereign grace, to the Body of Christ: as our Lord spoke regarding John, in Matthew 11:11.
They are the “first fruits” of the millennial reign. They connect the dispensations-somewhat as Noah did, who passed through the judgment of the flood into a new order of things. Therefore, the Lamb is seen standing on Mount Zion (before He actually conies there, as in Revelation 19:1-21 and Psalm 2:1-12), that with Him may be seen this overcoming host, who will very shortly share His actual reign there. [That the number 144,000 is literal you cannot doubt, without sitting down beside some Sadducee. It is well, when people claim that the Scripture does not mean what it says, to ask, “Who, then, shall say what it means?”]
Seven things are told us of this amazing company.
1. They had written on their foreheads the Name of the Lamb, and the Name of His Father! In marvelous manner they were thus blessedly blazoned out, that all might see! It proclaimed their ownership-they were the Lamb’s and His Father’s. It exhibited their character-they were Nazarites to God, and His holy ones forever. It announced their destiny-they were to be associated wholly with the Lamb whom they had wholly chosen! Beautiful badge of blessedness!
Now, no one who thoughtfully reads chapters 13 and 14, together, can avoid the profound conviction that these, with the Lamb’s and His Father’s Name in their foreheads, are set before us in direct contrast with those who took in their foreheads the name or number of Satan’s awful Christ. [Indeed, it has occurred to us that the presence of the heavenly seal in the foreheads of the remnant from chapter 7 on, is so evident to men that Satan is forced to undertake to break its influence by demanding the opposite seal in the foreheads of his devotees. And especially may this be true, when we reflect that God preserves (as in 9:4) those who have His seal, from woes to which others are subject.]
This earth will at last learn what the words mean, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve!” Of course the Church is not in this scene-cannot be. But how instructive all is for us in a day when darkness is put for light, and light for darkness! And how it thrills our hearts to know that God can triumph as easily in such days as Revelation 14:1-20 portrays, as in our own days. Grace enabled Enoch to walk with God while the earth was ripening for judgment; and grace enabled Noah to pass safely through the judgment!
2. This 144,000 (and no others) could learn and sing the “new song” that burst forth “as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: … of harpers harping with their harps.”
A “new song” was begun in Revelation 5:9-10, upon the Lamb’s taking the seven-sealed book of judgment, and in celebration of His worthiness to do so, and in view of the earthly “kingdom of priests” He thus made possible. The angels, and then all creation, celebrated thus Him that sat upon the throne and the Lamb.
Here in Revelation 14:1-20, we are not told the words of the “new song.” But we know it was of rapturous, thunderous exultation. All heaven has been looking forward eagerly to it. It is connected directly with the setting up of the glorious reign on earth: for the prophetic appearance of the Lamb on Mount Zion with the 144,000 is the signal for it. Only one other event outdoes it in the rapture it gives to heaven, and that is the marriage of the Lamb, in chapter 19. Therefore we ought to wait here; to let our hearts be filled full, as it were, with the spirit of this song and its occasion. If we are in tune with heaven, what gives heaven such ecstasy, must move us deeply!
To those who have followed, in the prophets, the story of “the remnant,” noting all God’s love, His earthly purposes of blessing, His sympathy through their sorrows, in their sorrows (for, “in all their affliction he was afflicted”), His promises to them for the hideous days of the end-to such, the scene that opens Revelation 14:1-20, is a delight indescribable!
Into the heavenly song that now breaks, and swells on with its many “harpers harping with their harps” no one of earth could enter in spirit. Why? These 144,000 souls have passed through fire; have dwelt among lions-to be faithful! So, in their measure, have all those saints who have “suffered with Christ.” After the troubles are over, and the Lord is come, and the kingdom set up in glory and majesty and power, on Mount Zion, and the Lord is “King over all the earth,” and the thousand years of peace are come, it will no longer be possible to learn the song that these will learn-the song of absolute fellowship with the Lamb in suffering.
Ah, how much we miss! “All that would (will) live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). There is a will here. Do we choose to suffer with Christ, that we may also reign with Him?
The Millennium, the peaceful days-how lovely they seem to us! But ah, how much more will this 144,000 know (though they are earthly saints) than others whether of Israel, or of the Gentile nations! Christ Himself, “though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered.” God is infinite; and there are things of God, and in God, that only suffering gives the capacity to know! And the days are coming, when suffering for and with Christ will be forever over. Oh, let us listen when God tells us that this suffering remnant, while remaining earthly saints (and not having died, though being at the gates of death constantly, under Antichrist) learn that new song that will be sung “before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders.” No one else on earth will know it, or can know it! [We should constantly remember that the Church, the Body of Christ, as ministered by Paul, as indwelt by the Holy Spirit, has a calling immeasurably above and beyond this 144,000; or, for that matter, far beyond anything yet revealed in the book of Revelation! Even in Hebrews, Christ and His own are seen as “all of one,” and they, His “brethren.” Where, so far, in Revelation, is such a relation set forth? Even in the seven churches of chapters 2 and 3, Christ is (and must be) Judge. The glorious, overwhelming truth of oneness with Christ, His “fulness,” members of Him, is not set forth. Oh, alas, we do not see it; or we forget it; or we neglect it; or we grieve the indwelling Comforter. And then, we are blind. We can no longer interpret Scripture. We part company with Paul’s epistles, and we desire Moses and Elijah along with Jesus-Moses to give a “rule of life,” and Elijah to call down fire if we fail to beep the “rule.”]
3. “They had been purchased out of the earth.” That is, though being men on earth, they are not, properly, in the earth. Neither do they belong to heaven-though they learn, and can sing, the song that is being sung there. They have been “purchased.” They belong only to the Lamb and to His Father. They will be connected with the Lamb’s earthly rule and reign. They will therefore have their sphere on earth; but it will be manifest publicly that they have been purchased out of the earth. This, in reality, is true of Christians, now! Yet we are to remain among men, for Christ, as witnesses, and are bound up in many proper earthly relationships and responsibilities. But not these 144,000! They will have manifestly been bought away from earth entirely. We look for a body like to Christ’s heavenly body-a higher state than these. But these will be men in human flesh with the open seal of the Lamb and of His Father upon their foreheads! Their history looks three ways:
A. It is the elect remnant of the old nation of Israel.
B. It looks forward to that “receiving” of Israel in the 1000 years that shall be “as life from the dead” (Romans 11:15).
C. It is in touch with heaven-it knows the song sung there!
Most wonderful counsels are those of God! And what a day it will be, when the Lamb of God returns to reign gloriously! What a day-with the Church in the heaven-lies (instead of the angels- Hebrews 2:5-8), with the twelve apostles (Matthias in Judas’ place) on thrones judging (as those with heavenly wisdom) the twelve tribes of Israel; with the Lord, the Lamb, as their returned Messiah, delighted in as the King in His beauty, the King of Israel; with the mountain of the Lord’s House (Zion) raised above all hills of earth, the wondrous temple of Ezekiel 40:1-49; Ezekiel 41:1-26; Ezekiel 42:1-20; Ezekiel 43:1-27; Ezekiel 44:1-31; Ezekiel 45:1-25; Ezekiel 46:1-24; Ezekiel 47:1-23; Ezekiel 48:1-35 upon it, and all the nations coming up to worship the King, Jehovah of Hosts! And Christ, the Bridegroom saying to us, “Behold, thou art all fair My love, there is no spot in thee!” And all about us, at that time, these personal attendants of the Lamb, who follow Him “whithersoever He goeth”!
4. The fourth particular revealed regarding this company of 144,000 is, “These are they that were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.”
Now there is one way only to take these words and that is, in their literal sense. To do this aright, we must compare Scripture with Scripture: for the opinions or prejudices of men must not be allowed here.
And first, let us remember again, that we are not dealing with Church things or with Church days. “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled,” we read in Hebrews 13:4. And again, Paul directs Timothy, “I desire therefore (in view of the tendencies described in 1 Timothy 5:14) that the younger (women) marry, bear children, rule the household, give no occasion to the adversary for reviling.” And concerning himself (1 Corinthians 9:5), “Have we no right to lead about a wife that is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” And even in 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 where Paul declares, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman. … I would that all men were even as I myself. … It is good for them if they abide even as I,” he proceeds with the plainest directions for life in the marriage relation; which, even for those saints who are so desirous of prayer as to separate themselves “by consent for a season,” is yet the normal and safe relation in which to continue.
Yet we must, as the days grow darker, weigh well the apostle’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:25-31. These days are evil. “Distress” is upon us. The apostle uses the fact here to counsel the saints to ponder well the steps they take. “The time is shortened, that henceforth both those that have wives be as though they had none; and those that weep (especially in bereavement, evidently), as though they wept not; and those that rejoice (especially in domestic bliss), as though they rejoiced not; and those that buy, as though they possessed not; and those that use the world, as not using it to the full: for the stage scenery of this world is passing away!”
It is not to be with us (since our Lord and Head and Bridegroom is absent, rejected) as it was with Israel when they were told by Jehovah to enter Canaan and sit peacefully under their vines and fig trees. This world hates us as it hated Christ. Nor is it with us as it will be when our Lord returns and the meek shall at last inherit the earth. All is really present distress! Christ is off His throne. The Church is away from her Bridegroom. Israel is out of her land. The servants have not yet their rewards. Satan is yet in the heavenlies. Creation yet groans. Christ has not yet seen of the travail of His soul, and been satisfied.
But if “distress” is upon us, so that we are to use earth-things “as though we used them not,” what will be the condition of those shortly to pass into The Great Tribulation-the elect remnant of Israel, the 144,000? If, even now, the apostle can say, “Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife” (1 Corinthians 7:27), what would he say to those of the days of which the Lord said: “Woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! … For then shall be great tribulation such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:19; Matthew 24:21).
But not merely in the wisdom of avoiding the complexities of days of distress, do these 144,000 appear. They are complete Nazarites unto God, as touching their relation to women. They are as was their Lord. The explanation given us is explicit: “They are virgins.” Because of the awful doctrine of Rome (really of demons, 1 Timothy 4:2-3), which forbids to marry, earnest students of Scripture have feared, or at least failed, to let the plain words of the Lord and His apostles have their simplest meaning-that it may be “given” of God to some men to abstain from the marriage relation, not from tradition or bondage, but to be the more peculiarly separated, in some service, unto Him. Only those thus divinely led and gifted, our Lord plainly says, in Matthew 19:11-12, can “receive this saying.” Also, the connection with the kingdom is quite striking here in Matthew, though Paul speaks of the same “gift” in 1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 7:17.
But in the fearful days of abandonment “as in the days of Noah”-when lust and violence will again fill the whole earth (as we see beginning now!) how wonderful to behold this company of 144,000 who have chosen to be entirely separated unto the Lamb and unto His Father, and who are thus, despite the days!
5. “These are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” Let us again remember that they are not the Church, which, as the wife of the Lamb, has a wholly different and closer relationship than any others can have. But these are the personal attendants-the bodyguard, so to speak, of the Lamb. Their movements with Him “whithersoever he goeth” remind us of that absolute one- ness of mind and movement of the cherubim (with Jehovah enthroned) of Ezekiel 1:1-28. Remember also the devotedness of David’s mighty men, who may well typify these: for both are connected with the throne of David-on Mount Zion.
6. The next word about this 144,000 is that they were “purchased from among men, the first fruits unto God and unto the Lamb.”
Now James tells us that the Church saints now are “a kind of first fruits” of God’s “creatures.” Paul definitely says, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (or creation); and this is the great fact to be held by us in our walk, by the rule of a new creation (Galatians 6:15-16 R. V.).
We must discriminate here in Revelation 14:4. “First-fruits unto God and unto the Lamb” are kingdom words; and not mere salvation words. The “Church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:1-29) has already gone up on high; the millennial things are not yet come, the kingdom is not yet set up. But this 144,000 belong to that kingdom (as is seen at once by their being with the Lamb on Mount Zion). Marvelous wonder of God’s grace and keeping power: they come alive through the fire of Antichrist’s days, to walk as “first fruits” into the 1000 years-an earnest-purchase from among men for the reign of heaven on earth! And “first fruits” mean that harvest is on! The sight of this 144,000 should remind us that “life from the dead” for the world is made doubly sure by this preserved remnant, just as its promise is connected with the national receiving of Israel. Read Romans 11:15.
7. And finally we read: “In their mouth was found no lie: they are without blemish.”
The days of Antichrist were days of falsehood. His miracles are called in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, “signs and lying wonders” (Greek, pseudos). And it is there said that because they received not the love of the truth God sent them “a working of error that they should believe the lie” (Greek, to pseudei). “The Lie” is that Satan is God, and that the Beast is his Christ and to be worshipped. The gulfs of deceit of damnation are opened wide! All is pseudos, pseudos, on every side.
But in the mouth of this 144,000, we read, was found “no lie.” And the Greek word is, no pseudos!
Now when we turn to Zephaniah 3:13, and read the description of the remnant of Israel after the Millennium has begun, we find: “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid”-we are at once reminded of those great passages in Jeremiah 31:1-40 and Ezekiel 36:1-38, which describe in detail the manner of God’s salvation which He will visit upon the saved of Israel in millennial times. “I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it” (Jeremiah). “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26).
Now all this must be literally fulfilled for Israel. This is no description of our salvation-which is that ye are in Christ; Christ is in you; and the indwelling Spirit would “form Christ” within you. But this prophetic utterance describes the fulfilment by restored Israel of “every jot and tittle of the law” before the “heaven and earth pass away”-as they must do at the close of the 1000 years (Revelation 20:1-15).
These first fruits, therefore, of Israel, this 144,000, are “without blemish” (Revelation 14:5). They are a public example and pledge of what the “all-righteous” nation of Israel will be in the Millennium! What will happen to Israel has already happened to them! “Without blemish” -men on earth in the flesh!
Brethren, we have no excuses to make for dwelling thus upon this 144,000. To understand prophecy is to become absorbed (amidst other wonders) with what God has said He will do to, and through, the remnant of Israel!
And we would the more magnify Jehovah’s promises concerning Israel and the coming thousand years’ reign of Christ “before his ancients gloriously” (A. V.), because some who claim loudly to be “fundamentalists” either deny Israel’s future glory wholly or resort to some poor word like “a-millennialism,”-that is, no Millennium.
In the rest of Revelation 14:1-20, God witnesses publicly by six angels against the awful state of things brought about by Antichrist in chapter 13, and prophetically pictures the fast coming judgment in the two sickles.
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:
And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
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,The Six “Other” Angels
And I saw another angel flying in mid heaven, having eternal good tidings to proclaim unto them that dwell on the earth, and unto every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he saith with a great voice, Fear God, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.
This is a gospel, not an announcement of doom, as is Revelation 13:8; although there is no record that it is believed or heeded. It may not be. Noah was a “preacher of righteousness,” in view of the coming flood; but no one believed him except his own family. This gospel is called (and here alone in the whole Bible) an eternal gospel; one adapted for all ages (the adjective is aionion, that is, “constantly befitting,” “everlastingly applicable”). But it is peculiarly so at the hour when the whole earth, except God’s elect, are madly and blindly worshipping the Beast and his image (Revelation 13:8). And it must be constantly remembered that the days of the Antichrist are on, from chapter 13 through 18-despite prophetic visions of both the coming victory and kingdom of Christ, and of the Great Day of Wrath which shall bring that kingdom in. Universal idolatry, hideous, unreasonable, absurd, God-provoking, as it is, will fill the earth during the time of our present chapter. Slavish, abject prostration before an image of the most wicked man of the human race, with its consequent obliteration of the glory of the Creator, will prevail, even among the majority of Israel (Daniel 9:27; Isaiah 28:15).
God created man in “his own image”; but six times in Revelation the worship of the Beast is described as directed to “his image.”
Now this hateful thing idolatry is called in Romans 1:23, changing “the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man.” And the fact is that this departure was willful, as seen in Romans 1:20, “The invisible things of him since the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity.”
We see then at once a most cogent reason for calling this message an eternal gospel; for it is the recalling of men to the fear of the living God as Creator, and giving Him worship; inasmuch as He is the One who hath “made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.”
In the midst of the multitude of utterances by the Old Testament prophets as to God’s anger at idolatry, one stands out like a flash of lightning in a blackening sky. It is the single Aramaic verse in the great Hebrew prophecy of Jeremiah-(Aramaic or Syrian being the language of the nations, over and against God’s language, the Hebrew) - Jeremiah 10:11, “Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, these shall perish from the earth, and from under the heavens.”
Now we find an angel flying in mid heaven proclaiming this eternal gospel. This should not astonish us. It is then no longer the Church age, when the gospel of reconciliation through the blood of the Cross is being proclaimed for simple faith. (How astonishing that any Christian should dream that the true Church is on earth at the time we are considering!) Angels warned Lot in Sodom and rescued him there from doom. The Law on Sinai was ministered by angels (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19) and especially by one-possibly Michael (Exodus 23:20-23; Exodus 33:2). Jehovah distinctly declares of this angel “my name is in him,” although Moses was not permitted to know him (Exodus 33:12).
The very name “angel,” both in Hebrew and Greek, means “messenger,” and an angel from God is one with a message or commission from Him. Therefore we do not wonder that when universal idolatry prevails, man having refused to hearken to the preachers of the gospel of grace, and God having withdrawn them by the rapture of the Church, he will declare this eternal gospel by the mouth of a mighty angel, who, flying “in mid heaven” all over the earth, will proclaim to every creature, in words understandable, and unmistakable, that the hour of God’s judgment has come; bidding men turn quickly to the Creator of them, and of all things!
The Prophetic Announcement of Great Babylon’s Fall And another, a second angel, followed, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, that hath made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Babylon occupies much notice in Scripture but chapters 17 and 18 are devoted to it. Here, however, let us note:
1. Babylon has been the center of Satan’s operations from the flood onward; idolatry as far as we have any knowledge began there; and the Babylonian system was extended to all the nations, being Satan’s plan to destroy the knowledge and worship of Jehovah; substituting therefore himself.
2. We find here the pregnant expression concerning Babylon the great, “The wine of the wrath of her fornication.” These are three distinct subjects. First, in Jeremiah 51:7 we read, “Babylon hath been a golden cup in Jehovah’s hand that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunk of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.” It is the madness of Babylon’s idolatry that is described in Jeremiah 50:38 : “It is a land of graven images, and they are mad over idols.” This was Babylon’s wine. Next, we have in Jeremiah 25:15, the wine of wrath, “Take this cup of the wine of wrath at my hand, and cause all the nations to whom I send thee, to drink it.” Loving the creature rather than the Creator, and idolatry rather than God, God gave them over to the system of Babylonian Satanism that brought God’s wrath upon them. [Jeremiah 25:15-26 is an astounding passage, revealing as it does the judicial operations of Jehovah through His prophets outlined in God’s commission to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:10 : “I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Next is recorded the awful power for evil committed to Babylon, destroying with its idolatrous influence one nation after another,-Judah, Egypt, Uz, Philistia, and so on, 21 or 22 peoples being enumerated in the series, ending with the king of Sheshach-“he shall drink after them!” That is, the city of Babylon, the source of destruction, was to be the last destroyed, which we find fulfilled in The Revelation-Sheshach is the ancient name of Babylon (Revelation 16:19).]
Thirdly, the last subject is “fornication.” Remember this, when we study Revelation 17:1-5; Revelation 18:3.
3. “Fallen, fallen” indicates coming double destruction, as Revelation 17:1-18; Revelation 18:1-24 will show: of a system, then of a city.
The idolatry which originated at Babylon will yet bring wrath on all the nations, and lastly cast Babylon down to the doom of Sodom. See Jeremiah 50:40 -yet future, we believe.
The Angelic Warning of the Eternal Doom of the Beast-worshippers
And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice, If any man worshippeth the beast and his image, and receiveth a mark on his forehead, or upon his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he 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 goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints, they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
God’s faithful warning comes again by the mouth of an angel, and that “with a great voice.” Not only that the Beast’s rebuilt capital city Babylon is to “fall”-is fallen, in God’s vision, but that unending torment awaits the Beast’s worshippers.
What a fearful “hour of trial” is coming on the earth! (Revelation 3:10). Note that to involve the torment of Revelation 14:10-11, one will not only have “worshipped” the Beast or his image, but have deliberately taken his mark -shut out all God’s warnings, and chosen Satan’s Christ.
Now see what God at last justly does:
1. He withdraws all mercy forever-the wine of His wrath that these shall drink will be “unmixed,” unmingled with any compassion whatsoever.
2. It will be in “the cup of his anger” that His wrath will be served out to them. The impenitent daily and hourly “treasure up for themselves wrath in the day of wrath”: but God withholds His anger. He waits. He suffers long and is kind. But-“who may stand in Thy sight when once thou art angry?” (Psalm 76:7); Consider an Infinite Being “willing” (at last) “to show His wrath and make His power known.” Consider His words, “Vengeance is mine: I will repay.” The same verse that says “love is strong as death” declares “jealousy is cruel as Sheol.” The creature of this human race for whom His Son died who turns his back on the God whose name is Love, and chooses His enemy, the old serpent and murderer-God plainly tells us what He will do with him! He shall have “indignation forever”!
3. Consider the carefully described means of visitation upon such: “tormented with fire and brimstone.” Brimstone is the most terrible substance known in its action upon human flesh-in its torment when it touches the body. Combined with fire it is absolute agony, unutterable anguish! And it is meant to be so: for it will be the infliction of divine vengeance unlimited.
4. Consider the onlookers: “In the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb”! Vast, “innumerable hosts,” of those holy servants of God who watched the fearful choice of these now doomed humans, for whom, to the angelic astonishment, the Son of God once tasted death,-men that hated love and despised holiness: all the countless millions of angels are there, in deep, awful and holy approval of the divine sentence, - for their God hath done this! And in the presence of the Lamb! Oh, where in the universe is such a sight? Mercy is gone forever if the Lamb stands there: and He will! [Let the daringly foolish that deny eternal punishment, and who profess to believe in a God incapable of wrath stay away from this spot!]
5. Consider the duration: “The smoke of their torment (compare Genesis 19:24; Genesis 19:28) goeth up for ever and ever.” [The definite article is not used here. It is eis aionas aionon; for the abstract thought of “age-abidingness” is before us. In Revelation 20:10 the definite article is used, referring to this passage, and emphasizing the fact that the torment (which the wicked share with the Devil- Matthew 25:41) will endure through all the endless ages.] And its unceasingness: “They have no rest day and night.” Let God speak. Let us be still, and believe, and fear. The wickedness of those who even think rebellion against the eternal retribution described thus plainly by God, will become so great as to ruin all faith in God’s Word. It is not your right to question. “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! a potsherd among the potsherds of the earth!” (Isaiah 45:9).
6. Finally, behold the marks of God’s patient elect, “the saints,” in contrast with these self-doomed and damned rebels. God will have His witnesses, in every scene of man’s sin. These, of course, are not the Church. They are God’s “elect” of Luke 18:1-8, who will cry for avenging from the adversary, in that awful time of trouble,-the remnant of Israel and those who help them. They are marked by “keeping the commandments of God,” for they are on Old Testament ground yet, as to law. And they have also “the faith of Jesus,” which is the earthly, Jewish confession of Him, according to Matthew’s gospel. What they show, preeminently, is “patience.” They must wait, and suffer, and still wait; as the Lord saith in Luke 21:19 : “In your patience ye shall win your souls.”
Saints’ Death Best!
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them.
Never before could such a word be spoken! Always it had been better, heretofore, to live out the full time of a saint’s pilgrimage on earth: both for the sake of others, and for the learning of obedience by daily divine discipline. Now, however, the fearful days of Antichrist are on! Death is better than life, and for two reasons here announced by the Spirit:
1. Rest will be entered upon from their labors. The word here is hina-in order that they may rest. Rest is; at last obtainable in no other way but by death. When our Lord said to the mob led by Judas in Gethsemane, “This is your hour, and the authority of darkness” (Luke 22:53 -Greek), He contrasted that hour with “when I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched not forth your hands against me.” No wonder the next words are, “And they seized him.” There was no path then open to Him but death, if He would come home to His Father. And there is a like hour coming on the whole world (Revelation 3:10). He (the Beast) shall “wear out the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:25). “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Revelation 13:7). Not a life of discipline under God’s hand (as now) but death, (and doubtless with tortures such as only ages of Satanic malignity make possible), will be the lot of the faithful of those days-those “in the Lord.” Rest, therefore, will come only through dying!
Neither will it be, as now with us, that they can expect the Lord at any moment. Prophetic times will be known then, and just how much of the 42 months is left!
2. The second reason that those will be “blessed” who die “in the Lord” at that time, is-that their works accompany them. Four times in this very chapter the Greek work translated “follow” (aboloutheo) is used: in Revelation 14:4, “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth”; in Revelation 14:8, “a second angel followed”; in Revelation 14:9, “a third, followed them.” It is the word used of the disciples and multitudes “following,” in accompanying our Lord (Matthew 4:25; Matthew 8:1, etc.). So that we see that these are the last martyrs, in Revelation 14:13. They are seen as the third company of the reigners with Christ, in Revelation 20:6. [The first are those who are already seen sitting on the thrones, to whom “judgment” was given-the Church, according to 1 Corinthians 6:2; the second company are, we believe, those martyrs seen under the fifth seal, in Revelation 6:1-17 -now at last raised (they lived) and those also up to the days of the Beast; and the third-the martyrs under the Beast, as in Revelation 14:13. They are the last; when their company is made up, the Lord arrives to avenge them all. See Revelation 6:11.] They get a higher place than those, even of Israel, who merely “inherit the kingdom” as in Matthew 25:31-46.
Notice that John is called to write, here. It is of especial importance, therefore,-to be laid to heart in particular. And while Revelation 14:13 of our chapter has always a precious application to the death of any saint, it is only these last martyrs to whom the Word is directly addressed. “From henceforth” is a definite time-mark. (It is aparti, as in Matthew 23:39; Matthew 26:29; Matthew 26:64.) It denotes a change of circumstances and conditions; and literally is: “from now.”
The Vision of the Harvest of the Earth
And I saw, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud one sitting like unto a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
And another angel came out from the temple, crying with a great voice to him that sat on the cloud, Send forth thy sickle, and reap: for the hour to reap is come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
And he that sat on the cloud cast his sickle upon the earth; and the earth was reaped.
It is, we have no doubt, the Lord Jesus who is set forth here; but we must attend, in interpreting a passage, to what that passage sets forth. Then we compare it with other Scriptures. And thus we see here:
1. The “white cloud.” This is the first object brought before the Seer’s eyes.
2. One is sitting upon the cloud. Although He “maketh the clouds his chariot” and will come thereon, it is His position, not His movement, here noticed.
3. This Sitter appears as a son of man. There is no note here of the marvellous display of glory which our Lord always emphasized as attending His return as Son of man (Matthew 24:30; Mark 8:38, etc.). The fact that this One who is to reap the earth is a son of man is alone set forth. But compare the words of our Lord in John 5:22; John 5:27 : the Father “hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father: … and he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man.” (Do not read “the son of man,” here, or you will miss the meaning.)
4. On the head of Him sitting on the cloud is a golden crown. The mere fact that He is sitting as a God-appointed King, is indicated-His royal right, for He will come as Son of man, and inherit all dominion as such. Psalm 8:6 will be fulfilled.
5. “In his hand a sharp sickle.” Not the glory of His person, or the process of His coming, but the fact that He is ready with a reaping instrument, is here emphasized. Rights over the harvest, (whatever the harvest is to be) are manifest. “Thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbor’s standing grain,” said the law. Therefore, He is to reap a field over which He has authority. Now, it is striking to discover that the “sickle” is mentioned just twelve times in the Bible, and seven of these are in our verses here! Also that the Greek word translated “sharp” (oxus) occurs seven times in The Revelation: four times describing the sickle here, and three times, that two-edged sword which proceeds from the Lord’s mouth for searching judgment. Inasmuch, therefore, as all after Revelation 4:1, as regards Church matters is meta tauta, or “after these things”; and inasmuch as the preserved remnant of 144,000 is seen before this (Revelation 14:7 and Revelation 14:1-5); and inasmuch as the martyrs under the Beast are addressed in Revelation 14:13, as the blessed who shall die: are there any left for this sharp sickle, but the wicked of the earth?
6. “Another angel … from the temple”; this is evidently the temple in heaven, as in Revelation 14:17. From the presence of the Father, who hath set within His own authority-time and seasons (Acts 1:7; Matthew 24:36) the message is sent by this angelic mouth to the Lord to “send forth his sickle.” We need not wonder at this. Angels have the present world in their administration; they know and report to God continually as to its matters; especially, as in Sodom’s case (Genesis 18:1-33; Genesis 19:1-38); and that of Ahab (1 Kings 22:1-53), concerning times when iniquity is full, and judgment is due. So the “crying with a great voice” is really God’s message to Christ, who has been, all along “expecting” such a message (Hebrew 10:12, 13; Psalm 2:7-9).
7. “Send forth thy sickle, and reap.” Many say this reaping is of both saints and sinners. But we feel that this ‘Revelation scene is purely one of judgment.
From the parable of the tares (Matthew 13:1-58) we learn that “the harvest is the consummation of the age.” But, while in the parable, the householder says: “In the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather up first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn”; in the interpretation of the parable, the Lord says: “The harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. As therefore the tares are gathered up and burned with fire; so shall it be in the end of the age. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and them that do iniquity and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Now note most carefully here, that while the angels gather out the wicked for the fire, they leave the righteous where they are, on earth, where the kingdom is set up. “My barn,” then, of the parable, becomes, necessarily, this earth as ruled by the Lord, when His Father’s kingdom has at last come. Therefore the “sickle” of Revelation 14:1-20 is seen to be one primarily of judgment on the wicked. [That the angels will also “gather together” the earthly elect at the Son of man’s coming is seen in Matthew 24:31. But that these are not “reaped” as are the others, is seen from the preceding verse, where “all the tribes of the earth mourn” at His appearing.]
8. “The hour to reap is come.” This is an ominous announcement! Through the Old Testament prophets again and again we have the warning of a harvest time for the wicked, at this very end-time. We shall note this especially in the next vision-of the vintage. But both harvest and vintage are set forth in Joel 3:13 : “Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe: Come, tread ye; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great.” This verse in itself is a complete answer to those who claim that the harvest in Revelation 14:1-20 means the saved, and the winepress the wicked. Both passages in Joel refer to the wicked; and that both refer to the wicked in Revelation 14:1-20, is shown by the place in The Revelation where it is found and by its conformity to all other Scripture. Note also the sickle, in Joel 3:1-21! It is there used, as here, for cutting down the over-ripe workers of iniquity!
9. “For the harvest of the earth is dry.” The Greek word here is the same as is used of the fig-tree in Mark 11:20; and in Luke 23:31 the adjective form is used: “What shall be done in the dry?”-meaning the dreadful “last state” of Israel in the last days! And at this reaping time of all the earth!
Next we have the Actor, the act, and the result-all that God desires us to see: all in one brief sentence! It involves, of course, the second coming of the King of kings, of chapter 19, with all the heavenly hosts in the Great Day of Wrath. But God wants us to behold, in the majestic simplicity of Deity, what will be done, ere the details come before us. Ah, and alas! how little men dream of the end of all their pride and their ambitions! “The earth was reaped”: that is the end of all things of which man boasts!
The Vine of the Earth and the Winepress of Blood
And another angel came out from the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, he that hath power over fire; and he called with a great voice to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Send forth thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
And the angel cast his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the winepress, the great winepress of the wrath of God.
And the winepress was trodden without the city, and there came out blood from the winepress, even unto the bridles of the horses, as far as a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
Here is before us-not the harvest, but the vine of the earth. Christ is the true Vine. But we now have before us those in active living league with Antichrist! The true Church is gone; false Christianity swallowed up by the Beast and his ten kings (Revelation 17:16-18), and all the earth (but “the elect” of those days) of “one mind, to give their kingdom unto the beast”-Satan’s Christ.
Thus comes “the vine of the earth.” Moses spake long ago of this day, in his great song in Deuteronomy 32:31-35 :
“For their rock is not as our Rock,
Even our enemies themselves being judges.
For their vine is of the vine of Sodom,
And of the fields of Gomorrah:
Their grapes are grapes of gall
Their clusters are bitter:
Their wine is the poison of serpents,
And the cruel venom of asps.
Is not this laid up in store with me,
Sealed up among my treasures?
Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
At the time when their foot shall slide:
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things that are to come upon them shall make haste.”
When we come to the gathering of the nations, in Revelation 16:1-21, to Armageddon, we can look more fully at the great movement under Antichrist to “cut off Israel from being a nation.” But we must quote Joel’s words here:
“Proclaim ye this among the nations: Prepare war; stir up the mighty men; let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears.” (Just the reverse of what Christ the Prince of Peace will do when He comes! - Isaiah 2:4.) “Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat (just east of Jerusalem); for there will I sit to judge all the nations round about. Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe: come, tread ye; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! for the day of Jehovah is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:12-14).
It needs to be known and remembered by us all that this earth is at war with God Almighty! And, although today is a time of salvation, and of restraining grace, when that salvation ceases, and restraint is removed, the whole earth will rush to cut off the name of Israel from the earth (Psalm 83:1-18).
Then God will meet them! “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.” The Lamb of God will come forth. As the Deliverer of Israel He will fulfill Isaiah 63:1-19. He will trample the embattled nations of this whole earth, millions upon millions of them, from Bozrah, in Edom, (where He will begin- Isaiah 63:1) to Megiddo at the foot of Mt. Carmel-the Harmagedon, or Armageddon of Scripture.
What movements of God’s “mighty ones” are in Revelation 14:19. For now we quote the verse in Joel 3:1-21 which we omitted above: “Haste ye, and come, all ye nations round about, and gather yourselves together: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down O Jehovah.” We know, from Revelation 16:13-14, that the movement of the nations to Armageddon will be of Satanic energy (though commanded, prophetically, of God) but the disposition of those forces of all the earth into such a place and order that they may be trampled as one mass by the Son of Man Himself (Isaiah 63:1-19; Revelation 19:15) will be by angelic power.
Ah, such a fearful sight! Rivers of human blood “unto the bridles of the horses”! Yet it will be. If Josephus could say that when Jerusalem was taken by Titus, the Roman soldiers “obstructed the very lanes with dead bodies; and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fires of many of the houses was quenched with these men’s blood” (Wars: 6, 8) - what folly to doubt this word of God that a river of blood will run when the Son of God tramples the nations of all the earth in the Almighty’s anger! Yea, a river from Edom to Carmel, 1600 furlongs! We dare not read the verse that tells this, except as God’s literal fore view of fact!
Here in Revelation 14:20 is the Great Day of Wrath of all the prophets. Isaiah 34:1-17 tells us that Edom (where the slaughter begins) shall be “made drunken with blood,” and its very dust “fat with fatness” at that slaughter. “Without the city” means Jerusalem. Blood to “the bridles of the horses”-four feet of human blood for two hundred miles!
It is a literal trampling of the enemies of the Lord, in His fury: for He so declares, in Isaiah 63:1-19.
Reader, no honest soul can read Revelation 14:1-20, and ever hear again Satan’s preachers of “a world growing better and better.”
“O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of Jehovah.”
Saying with a loud voice, 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.
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.
And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, 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 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 in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
And 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.
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
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 labours; and their works do follow them.
And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.