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.
Verse 1. - And I looked; and I saw, indicating a fresh phase of the vision (cf. Revelation 4:1, etc.). Having described (Revelation 12. and 13.) the trinity of enemies with which Christ and his people contend, the vision now passes on to depict the blessedness in store for the faithful Christian, and, on the other hand, the final fate of the dragon and his adherents. We are thus once more led to the final judgment. And just as in the former vision, after the assurance of the salvation of the faithful (Revelation 7.), came the denunciation of woe for the ungodly (Revelation 8-11:14), leading once more to a picture of the saved (Revelation 11:15-19), so here we have the assured blessedness of the faithful portrayed (Revelation 14:1-13), followed by the judgments upon the ungodly (Revelation 14:14 - 18:24), and leading on once more to a picture of the saints in glory (Revelation 19.). And, lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion; and behold, the Lamb standing on the Mount Zion, as in the Revised Version. "The Lamb," with the article, referring to "the Lamb" described in Revelation 5, whom the second beast had attempted to personate. He stands on Mount Zion (cf. Hebrews 12:22, "Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem"). The appropriateness of the position is seen
(1) in its strength (cf. the position of the beast, rising from the sea, perhaps standing on the sand, Revelation 13:1; and cf. Psalm 87:1, 2, "His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob").
(2) Because there is the temple of God, in the midst of which is the Lamb, and there is the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2).
(3) Zion is the new Jerusalem, the opposite extreme to Babylon (ver. 8). And with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's Name written in their foreheads. The reading, τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὸ ὅνομα τοῦ Πατρὸς αὐτοῦ, his Name and his Father's Name, adopted in the Revised Version, is supported by א, A, B, C, with most cursives, versions, and Fathers. Note the similarity to the description in Revelation 7. Here, as there, the hundred and forty-four thousand are those "redeemed from the earth" (ver. 3). The number denotes a large and perfect number; a multitude of which the total is complete (see on Revelation 7:4). In Revelation 7. the sealing in the forehead is described. This sign marks out the redeemed in contradistinction to those who have received the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:16).
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:
Verse 2. - And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder. Evidently the song of the heavenly inhabitants, as described also in Revelation 7:9-11, where we are told they "cried with a loud voice." The greatness of the voice is evidence of the vastness of the number. "Heaven," from which the sounds come, includes the "Mount Zion" of ver. 1, on which the Lamb and his followers stand. And I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps. The Revised Version is better, and the voice which I heard [was] as [the voice] of harpers harping with their harps. This reading is supported by א, A, B, C, and other good authorities. As the voice; that is, in regard to its pleasantness; reminding the hearer of the temple worship. (On the word "harp," see on Revelation 5:8.)
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.
Verse 3. - And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders. They sing; that is to say, the heavenly inhabitants. The four living beings; viz. those of Revelation 4:9, where see an explanation of the positions occupied, and of the nature and signification of the "living beings and the elders." The "new song," which can only be understood by the hundred and forty-four thousand, is (as explained by ver. 4) a song of victory won by those who have been tried in the world and subjected to temptations. And no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth; even they that had been purchased out of the earth (Revised Version). These only can know the song for the reason given above. The joys of heaven and the song of victory are not for those who have succumbed to the world.
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.
Verse 4. - These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. There is little doubt that these words are intended in a spiritual sense. In the Old Testament the employment of the figure of adultery and fornication to denote spiritual unfaithfulness is common (cf. 2 Chronicles 21:11; Jeremiah 3:9, etc.). St. John elsewhere in the Apocalypse makes use of the same symbolism (cf. Revelation 2:20," That woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols;" also Revelation 17:5, 6). Similarly, also, St. John pictures the faithful Church as the bride adorned for her Husband the Lamb (Revelation 19:7, 8). So also St. Paul (2 Corinthians 11:2), "I espoused you as a chaste virgin to one Husband, Christ." Παρθένοι, "virgins," is a word equally applicable to men or women. This verse, therefore, seems to describe those who are free from spiritual impurity and unfaithfulness; those who have not worshipped the beast and his image. Alford, however, thinks the words should be understood literally. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These words describe the great source of the bliss of the redeemed, viz. that they are continually in the presence of Christ. This is their reward for following him on earth; but the words must not be taken as referring to the earthly course of the saints (as Bengel, De Wette, Hengstenberg, and others). These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb; these were purchased from among men, the firstfruits unto God and unto the Lamb. Some have erroneously concluded that a reference is made to a portion of the redeemed to whom special honour is conceded; or to some who attain to glory before the rest. The firstfruits were the best of their kind (Numbers 18:12), selected from the rest, and consecrated to the service of God. So the redeemed are the best of their kind; they who have proved themselves faithful to God, who voluntarily separated themselves from the world, and consecrated themselves to the service of God while in the world, and who are thus afterwards separated by him and consecrated to his service forever.
And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
Verse 5. - And in their mouth was found no guile; no lie (Revised Version). They had not suffered themselves by self deceit (the second beast) to be beguiled into worship of the first beast - the world. Alford very appropriately refers to Psalm 15:1, 2, "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart." For they are without fault before the throne of God; they are without blemish. The following phrase is omitted by nearly every authority. The word ἀμώμος, "without blemish," reminds us of the "Lamb without blemish" (cf. 1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 9:14). Thus again they receive appropriate reward. While on earth they kept themselves undefiled; now they are, like the Lamb, free from blemish (see on ver. 4).
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,
Verse 6. - And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven. "Another" is omitted in some manuscripts, but should probably be inserted. "In mid heaven," as in Revelation 8:13, etc. Having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people; having an eternal gospel... every nation and tribe and tongue and people. 'Probably (though not certainly) "the gospel" in the ordinary sense, which is the signification of the expression throughout the New Testament, though the word is not found elsewhere in St. John's writings. The idea of this and the following verses is to portray the certainty of coming judgment. As a preliminary to this, the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, in accordance with our Lord's words in Matthew 24:14. The gospel is eternal in its unalterable nature (cf. Galatians 1:9), and in contrast to the power of the beast, which is set for destruction (cf. Revelation 13:7). The fourfold enumeration shows the universal nature of the proclamation of the gospel (cf. Revelation 5:9, etc.) in reference to the world.
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.
Verse 7. - Saying with a loud voice. Λέγων, "saying," in nominative, though agreeing with the accusative ἄγγελον," angel." The "great voice" is characteristic of all the heavenly utterances (ver. 2; Revelation 11:12, 15, etc.). Fear God, and give glory to him. Thus the angel proclaims the gospel in opposition to the second beast, who bids those that dwell on the earth to make an image to the first beast (cf. Revelation 13:14). Compare the effect of the coming judgment, described in Revelation 11:13. For the hour of his judgment is come. This is the reason given for the fear mentioned. That it has effect is seen by Revelation 11:13. Is come; that is to say, is at hand. And worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. As remarked above, the angel thus directly opposes the invitation of the second beast to pay homage to the first beast. Again we have the fourfold enumeration of objects of creation, denoting the universal nature of the assertion (cf. on ver. 6).
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.
Verse 8. - And there followed another angel, saying; and another, a second angel, followed. That is, of course, the second of the three who here make their appearance in close connection. Each new scene is unfolded by its own special messenger. Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication; fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, which made, etc. The second "is fallen" is omitted in א, C, etc., but is inserted in A, P, some cursives, versions, and Fathers. Omit "city." Babylon is the type of the world power. Like so much of the Apocalypse, the image is supplied by the Book of Daniel. There the kingdom is spoken of as great (Daniel 4:30; cf. also Isaiah 14.). In its oppression of the Jewish nation, Babylon is a type of the world power which persecutes the Church of God. At the time when St. John wrote, this power was preeminently possessed and wielded by Rome, and that empire may thus be intended as the immediate antitype of Babylon. But the description is also applicable to the persecuting power of the world in all ages, and its denial of and opposition to God. Babylon is representative of the world, as Jerusalem is of the true Church of God. Alford observes, "Two things are mingled:
(1) the wine of her fornication, of which all nations have drunk (Revelation 17:2); and
(2) the wine of the wrath of God, which he shall give her to drink (ver. 10 and Revelation 16:19). The latter is the retribution for the former; the former turns into the latter; they are treated as one and the same." The description seems taken from Jeremiah 51:7, 8, "Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord's hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad. Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed." Again is the figure of fornication used to depict idolatry and general unfaithfulness towards God (see on ver. 4).
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,
Verse 9. - And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice; and another, a third angel, etc. (see on ver. 8). (On "loud voice," see on ver. 7.) If any man worship the beast and his image. Here those who worship the beast and those who worship his image are regarded as one class, which they practically are (but see on Revelation 13:14). This is the fornication referred to in ver. 8, the retribution for which follows in ver. 10. And receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand; a mark; but doubtless the mark of the beast alluded to in Revelation 13:16 (which see). In his forehead, etc. (see on Revelation 13:16).
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:
Verse 10. - The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; he also... which is mingled unmixed (i.e. undiluted) in the cup of his anger (Revised Version). The warning is given to men while there is yet time; the fall of Babylon, which is prophetically spoken of as having taken place (ver. 8), being yet in the future; that is to say, at the end of the world. The language in which the retribution is couched corresponds to that in which the sin is described (see on ver. 8). The verb κεράννυμι, which originally signified "to mix," gradually came to signify "to pour," from the ancient custom of mixing spices, etc., as well as water, with the wine. The Authorized Version "poured out," therefore, is a correct translation. The pouring is in this case not accompanied by dilution with water; that is, God's wrath will not be tempered, but the wicked will feel the full force 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. The figure which is here used to portray the punishment of the wicked is common in the Bible. Isaiah 34:9, 10, cf. with Genesis 19:28, may supply the origin of the simile. The punishment is in the presence of the angels and of the Lamb; that is, probably, the purity and bliss of heaven is visible to the wicked, and the sight of it, combined with the knowledge of its in- accessibility to themselves, is part of their torment (cf. Luke 16:23). It is part of the wrath of God described in the first part of the verse.
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.
Verse 11. - And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever. Compare the wording of the passages quoted above on ver. 10, especially Isaiah 34:9, 10, "The smoke thereof shall go up forever." This statement of the eternity of punishment is also in agreement with Luke 16:26 and Mark 9:44. And they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. "No rest," in contrast with the blessed rest of the saints (ver. 13). Wordsworth says, "Οἱ προσκυνοῦντες τὸ θηρίον is a stronger expression than 'those who worship the beast;' it means those whose distinguishing characteristic is that they are worshipping the beast, and persist in worshipping him, even to the end. This characteristic is so strongly marked that they are here represented as keeping it even after their death." (On the "mark," see on Revelation 13:16-18.)
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
Verse 12. - Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus; here is the patience of the saints, they that keep, etc. The patience of the saints is exhibited in believing in, and waiting for, the due retribution which will overtake the wicked at the last, and in maintaining the conflict against the dragon who goes to war with those "who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 12:17), the testimony which is the outcome of faith (see also on Revelation 13:10).
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.
Verse 13. - And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me. It seems most natural to suppose that the voice is that of the angel who directs the visions of St. John (cf. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 4:1; Revelation 19:9, 10), but there is no certainty in the matter. Omit "unto me." with א, A, B, C, P, and others. Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth. "Henceforth" should probably stand thus, and not in connection with the following sentence. We have just had mentioned the necessity for patience on the part of the saints; here we have an encouragement and incentive to that patience, inasmuch as they who die in the Lord are henceforward blessed. In what their blessedness consists, the next sentence slates. The full consummation of their bliss may not occur until after the judgment, but the faithful have not to wait until then for peace; their conflict is, after all, only for this life, and thus they may well be content to suffer for so short a period (comp. Revelation 6:11). Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them; that they shall rest... for their works, etc. The first part explains the "blessedness" of the previous passage; in this rest consists their blessedness. The last clause, "for their works," etc., explains why the blessedness consists in rest; they have henceforth no need of labours, for the effects of their former works accompany them and permit them now complete rest. Contrast the opposite fate of the wicked, described in ver. 11. St. Paul urges upon Christians the same duty, and proffers the same encouragement: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58).
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.
Verse 14. - And I looked, and behold a white cloud; and I saw, introducing a fresh phase of the vision (see on ver. 1, etc.). White; the heavenly colour (see on Revelation 3:18, etc.). Cloud is the symbol of Christ's glory (Acts 1:9, 11; cf. Matthew 24:30, "And they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven;" also Revelation 1:7, "Behold, he cometh with the clouds"). And upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man; one sitting. That Christ is here intended is shown by
(1) the cloud (cf. Luke 21:27, "They shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud");
(2) the expression, "Son of man" (cf. John 5:22, "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son;" and John 5:27, "And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man;" and Acts 17:31, "He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he hath ordained");
(3) the white colour (cf. Revelation 6:2);
(4) the golden crown, which distinguishes him from the other appearances. He who, as Man, redeemed the world, comes as Man to judge the world. He sits, because he comes in judgment. Having on his head a golden crown. The crown, of victory, στέφανος, which he gained as Man (cf. also Revelation 6:2, where the description is similar). And in his hand a sharp sickle. With which the "Lord of the harvest" (Matthew 9:38) reaps the harvest of the world. The figure is found in Joel 3:12, 13, "Then will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe" (cf. also John 4:35-38).
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.
Verse 15. - And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud; another angel; in addition to those already mentioned, not implying that he who sat on the cloud was an angel. Out of the temple, or shrine (ναός); the inner sanctuary of God (cf. Revelation 7:15). The angel acts as the messenger of the will of God to Christ in his capacity of Son of man, because the command is one concerning the times and seasons which the Father hath kept in his own power (Alford). The characteristic "loud voice" (see on vers. 7, 9, etc.). Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe; send forth thy sickle and reap: for the hour to reap is come; for the harvest of the earth is over ripe (Revised Version). Over ripe, or dried; that is, as Alford explains, perfectly ripe, so that the stalk is dry, the moisture having been lost.
And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
Verse 16. - And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. "Cast his sickle;" not the same verb as that in ver. 15, but which, nevertheless, has the same signification (cf. the use of this verb in John 20:25, 27). There are two gatherings described in this place:
(1) the harvest of the earth by the Son of man;
(2) the gathering of the vintage by the angel.
On the whole, it seems probable that the first refers to the selection by Christ of the faithful at the end of the world, while the secured describes the ingathering of the wicked for punishment immediately afterwards. This agrees with the general tenor of the whole chapter, viz, a portrayal of the opposite fates in store for the faithful and the wicked. The description thus corresponds with the account of the end of the world given in Revelation 7, with which chapter this one has so much in common (see on the first verses of the present chapter). In Revelation 7. the saints are first selected and sealed, before the wicked meet their doom. Thus, also, the judgment is described by our Lord in his parables of the wheat and the tares, and the sheep and the goats. This accounts also for the first gathering being presided over by the Son of man, while the second is conducted by an angel. The punishment in connection with the vintage seems to distinguish it from the first harvest. This also corresponds to the announcements of the former angels, who first preach the everlasting gospel, and afterwards denounce those who serve the beast (vers. 6-11).
And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
Verse 17. - And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle; from the shrine, or sanctuary (as before, see on ver. 15), the dwelling place of the undivided Trinity, from whence come God's judgments (Alford; cf. Revelation 11:19).
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.
Verse 18. - And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire. Both in Revelation 6:9 and Revelation 8:3 the altar is connected with judgment. The angel here described is he who is referred to in those places, the fire being the fire of the altar, the fire of judgment (Revelation 8:3), or, less probably; the angel who has power over fire generally (as Revelation 7:1; Revelation 16:5). And cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying. Again the "loud voice," characteristic of the heavenly utterances (cf. ver. 15, etc.). Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe; send forth thy sharp, etc. (see on ver. 16). The sickle is figurative of the instrument by which the career of those on earth is terminated. The "sickle" and the "wine press" are both alluded to in the passage quoted above (on ver. 14) from Joel 3:13. (For the meaning of this gathering of the vintage, as representing the punishment of the wicked, see on ver. 16.)
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.
Verse 19. - And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth. This angel is described in quite a different manner from "him who sat on the cloud" (ver. 16). And cast it into the great wine press of the wrath of God; into the wine press, the great [winepress], etc. The feminine substantive has agreeing with it a masculine adjective. It is doubtful whether we ought to see in this anything more than a mere slip of grammar. Possibly the word is of either gender. It is connected with the festival of Bacchus. Wordsworth, however, accounts for the masculine form of the adjective by supposing that the writer wishes to give a stronger force to the word, and to emphasize the terrible nature of the wrath of God. We have the same image in Revelation 19:15, and it seems derived from Isaiah 58, and Lamentations 1:15. Destruction by an enemy is alluded to as the gathering of grapes in Isaiah 17:6 and Jeremiah 49:9. The text itself explains the signification of the figure. There seems also some reference in the language to those who "drink of the wine of the wrath of her [Babylon's] fornication" (ver. 8).
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.
Verse 20. - And the wine press was trodden without the city. "The city" is Jerusalem (cf. ver. 1), that is, the Church of God; the idea thus being either
(1) that the wicked are punished in a place apart from the just (cf. Revelation 22:15); or
(2) that no unclean thing (e.g. the blood) can enter the city of the saints (cf. Revelation 21:27). And blood came out of the wine press, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs; as far as sixteen hundred stadia. The Greek stadium is rather less than an English furlong, being about six hundred and six English feet; it was the length of the race course at Olympia, and the eighth part of the Roman mile. The "blood," of which the juice of the grape is a type, depicts the punishment inflicted. Horses seem to be mentioned by proleipsis, in anticipation of Revelation 19:14. The description, of course, implies the terrific nature of the punishment - probably nothing more. In the same way the distance mentioned is no doubt intended to denote the extensive nature of the punishment, though why that particular number is chosen is not absolutely clear. Possibly it is derived from the square of 4 multiplied by the square of 10; four being significant of the created world (see on Revelation 4:6), and ten being the sign of completeness (see on Revelation 13:1); the number thus portraying completeness as regards the created world, and the inability of any one to escape God's judgment.