CHAPTER FOURTEEN - THE END OF THE BEGINNING
(1) Then I looked, and behold, (2) the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and (3) with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, (4) having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.
1. Then I looked, and behold = indicates a new vision is about to be narrated. The relationship between chapters 12-13 and chapter 14 is a difficult one to understand and explain unless the reader understands Revelation 10:11. Revelation 10:11 introduced a new prophetic commission for John. The first ten chapters of the Revelation chronologically moved from the first century through the end of Daniel’s Seventieth Week. With the announcement that God’s delay is ended following the sixth trumpet, the times of the Gentiles is completed. However, Daniel 12:11 indicates that a thirty-day period will follow the conclusion of the Seventieth Week of Daniel. It is with this unique period that Revelation 11-19 is concerned.
John, instructed to prophesy "again against many peoples, and nations and tongues and kings" in Revelation 10:11, does just that. After explaining why God is against peoples, nations, tongues and kings (Rev 11-13), John begins the final destruction of the beast with a preview. Revelation 14 is a preview of the destruction God has planned for the beast/king. In summary fashion, John highlights God’s judgment against the living earth-dwellers (Revelation 14) prior to a detailed description of God’s judgment against the beast, his kingdom and those who take his mark (Revelation 15-19). There are several loose ends, which must be tied up before the final blast of God’s wrath is detailed. This is the purpose of Revelation 14.
2. The Lamb was standing on Mount Zion = begins the first summary episode reported in Revelation 14. The Lamb (Jesus Christ) is seen standing. This is not the enthronement of the Lamb, but the continuing deliverance of God’s people on earth. Mount Zion is the earthly city of God which will be destroyed as highlighted in the seventh bowl judgment (Rev 16:17-21) and detailed in Revelation 18. Verse 2 makes clear that John is on the earth.
3. With Him a hundred and forty-four thousand = alludes back to Revelation 7:4. There, John refers to 144,000 Jews given divine protection from the trumpet judgments. Any doubt that John is referring to the same group could have been removed had John used the article (the) of previous reference. The absence of the article has lead some to conclude that two separate groups are intended. However, given the description that follows all doubt is removed. The purpose of this short session is to demonstrate the faithfulness of God. Those sealed were protected. The sealing protection has eventuated into their salvation. The 144,000 do not represent the entire congregation of believers (Jewish and Gentile). This group must be limited to Jews only.
Unlike the marked of the beast whom God will destroy, the marked of God will be delivered.
4. Having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads = clearly refers back to Revelation 7:3-8. Prior to this, the specific nature of the seal of God was not defined. However, we now know that the seal was in fact the name of the Lamb and His Father. This, of course, lends itself to debate. The length required to write out both the name of the Lord and His Father would make such a mark impossible. Some have suggested an abbreviation of the names be intended. Those who think in these terms forget that English is not God’s first language. If written in Hebrew, without vowels, both the name of God the Father and His Son would fit on the foreheads of this select group.
The intent of the text seems to be to contrast the marked of God and the marked of the beast. God is able to protect His marked people, but the beast is unable to protect his.
(1) And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I head was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.
1. And I heard a voice (sound) from heaven = places John squarely on the earth. Phonan is better translated sound here. John hears a heavenly choir that is both loud and musically harmonious. This choir is not the 144, 000. They must learn the song of the choir.
(1) And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and (2) no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand (3) who had been purchased from the earth.
1. And they sang a new song = refers to the harpists. What this new song is is not explicitly indicated. One can only speculate.
2. No one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand = indicates that John is not a part of the 144,000. This is the only case in the Revelation where the lyrics of a song are not given. John explains that the reason he does not give us the words is that only the 144,000 can learn the song. Since the choir in heaven obviously knows the song, it is clear that John means that only 144,000 on the earth are able to learn the song.
3. Who had been purchased from the earth = contains the same word used in Revelation 5:9 for the universal purchase of the redeemed. Here the term obviously has a religious sense, i.e. salvation. The earth refers to the geographical nature of the redeemed. Taken from the twelve tribes of Israel, these redeemed folk are God’s first fruits of Israel’s national salvation.
(1) These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. (2) There are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. (3) These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. (4) And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.
1. These are the ones (men) who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste = is the first of four descriptive clauses that define who the 144,000 are. Molunein (literally, to make dirty) is used in a figurative sense here to mean to defile or stain (Louw-Nida, § 53.34). Louw and Nida add the following comment, "to cause something to be ceremonially impure, with the implication of serious defilement." John is clearly focusing on the ritual purity of this group. The implication here is that these men have never had sexual intercourse. John does not state why these men adopted celibacy as a lifestyle. However, Jesus indicates in Matthew 19:12 that some men make "themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." Obviously, since these are men and not boys, the decision to be celibate must have been made before Daniel’s Seventieth Week began. This explains why 144,000 are called bond-servants of God in Revelation 7:3. This is an excellent sign to watch for in Israel. Such a large group of men committing themselves to God in this way will be hard to miss.
Some have suggested that spiritual celibacy be intended here. That is, the 144,000 remained faithful to the Lord and did not commit spiritual immorality with the woman presented in Revelation 17-18. However, the text refers to women and not the woman. For they have kept themselves chaste further defines this unique group. Literally, the Greeks says, For they are virgins (parthenoi). Parthenoi usually refers to women exclusively. Here it refers to men only. These men have not engaged in sexual intercourse. They are Jewish celibates. Some have attempted to make "the women" refer to "the woman" of Revelation 17. However, this is unlikely. There is both a ritual and moral purity ascribed to the 144,000.
2. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes = is the second ascription given the 144,000. For those who attempt to identify the 144,000 as a metaphor for all true saints, they do so at the sacrifice of the literal meaning of the text. They choose what they will and will not emphasize to their advantage. For example, the notion of following Christ as a disciple is a central motif of the Gospels and the apostle Paul. A connection between the Revelation and the Gospels or Paul is usually rejected out of hand. However, many interpreters will see a connection here because it allows a figurative interpretation to be forced on this text. In reality, the 144,000 are Jewish celibates who, now saved, follow the Lamb wherever He leads them. Where the Lamb will lead this group is not explicitly stated.
3. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb = is the third defining strait given in this passage. God’s purpose for the 144,000 is clearly stated. They were purchased or saved "from among men as first fruits." The term first fruits occurs nine times in the New Testament (Rom 8:23; 11:16; 16:5; 1 Cor 15:20, 23; 16:15; 2 Thess 2:13; Ja 1:18; Rev 14:4). In Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:15, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, and James 1:18 first fruits clearly refers to the first initial group of converts to Christianity with more to come afterwards.
This is the most logical and reasonable sense here. Since there are only 12,000 Jews from each tribe of Israel and they are specially identified as "first fruits," naturally the salvation of more Jews will follow their conversion. We are not told when the salvation of the 144,000 occurred. However, we know it occurs between their sealing and their standing on Mount Zion with the Lamb. The salvation of the 144,000 guarantees the salvation of the nation of Israel, which must shortly follow this scene given the destruction of Jerusalem detailed in the seventh bowl (Rev 16:19).
4. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless = is the fourth and final descriptive statement that identifies who the 144,000 are. The 144,000 are morally pure. Literally, the Greek says, "in their mouth is found no lie." A similar statement occurs in Zephaniah 3:13. Speaking of the remnant of Israel, Zephaniah states, "The remnant of Israel will…tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths…." These are certainly the first fruits of the remnant of Israel that survive the Day of the Lord. These are blameless is the final descriptive item attacked to the 144,000. Blameless is used throughout the New Testament to describe a faithful follower of Jesus Christ who exhibits moral purity (Eph 1:4; 5:27; Col 1:22; Phil 2:15).
(1) And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, (2) having an eternal gospel (3) to preach to those who live on the earth, (4) and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and (5) he said with a loud voice, (6) "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters."
1. And I saw another angel flying in midheaven = begins the second short story about a flying angel preaching in the sky. John indicates that this is "another angel flying in midheaven." Another requires that an angel preceded this reference. This supports our conclusion that "the eagle" of Revelation 8:13 is in fact an angel. Revelation 8:13 is the only other explicit reference to "flying in midheaven" before Revelation 14. Added to this fact is the reference in Revelation 14:8, "And another angel, a second one, followed…." Clearly, the angel of Revelation 14:6 is the first in a series.
Is this the first contradiction in Scripture? God forbid! How the angel is able to fly in the midheaven is not explicitly stated. Scripture no where indicates that angels have wings. This is the third angelic announcement given in midheaven. The first announcement occurred in Revelation 8:13. Revelation 8:13 states, "Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven…." The figure of speech that describes the actions of an angel as being that of an eagle is here stated explicitly. This is the third angel John sees moving horizontally in midheaven rather than the typical descending/ascending movement of angels described in Revelation 10:1.
2. Having an eternal gospel = begins a description of the task of the horizontal moving angelic being. He has in his possession "an eternal gospel." The adjective eternal (aionion) suggests a message of long standing. Euaggelion (gospel) is normally articular (the gospel), but here it does not have the article. This is not the gospel of Christ (death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for sin), but a message of good news. The content of this message will be defined in verse 7.
3. To preach to those who live on the earth = indicates the purpose of the flying angel’s possession of the eternal message. The angel proclaims. The audience of the flying angel is expressed in two ways. First, to those who live (sit) on the earth is a slight variation of the technical phrasing those who dwell upon the earth that is used nine times in the Revelation. The technical phrasing emphasizes the hostile nature of the audience to God and His people. Those who sit on the earth emphasize the nature of the audience. These people are earthy; that is, they see this earth as their permanent home. This will be the clearest attempt on God’s part to communicate to mankind their need to repent before His final installment of wrath falls upon the earth during the thirty-day period that follows the Seventieth Week of Daniel.
4. And to every nation and tribe and tongue and people = is the second descriptive phrase that defines the audience of the flying angel who proclaims the eternal message. The and that begins this phrase should be translated even because it gives additional information about the earthy people. The phrase every nation and tribe and tongue and people appears with variations throughout the Revelation. It can refer to saved (Rev 5:9) or lost (Rev 14:6) people. This is the final universal call to lost humanity to recognize God’s sovereignty over the earth.
5. He said with a loud voice = is characteristic of proclamations in the heavens. At issue here is whether what follows is the content of the "message" or is an additional sermon of the flying angel. We believe that what follows expresses the content of the flying angel’s message. The Greek literally says, "saying with a loud voice." There is no break in the thought unit.
6. Fear God = is the content of the flying angel’s message. The flying angel calls upon those who sit on the earth "to fear God." Fear or respect for God is an often called for response on behalf of mankind to the true God of heaven. Genesis 22:12 identifies Abraham as a fearer of God. Fearers of God is the future disposition of Israel according to Jeremiah 32:40. Psalm 111:10 declares that, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Luke describes Gentiles who looked favorably upon Judaism as God-fearers (Acts 10:2; 13:16). It is clear that being a fearer of God does not make one a believer in the New Testament sense. However, it is the beginning of wisdom. It is the starting point for those who would go on to call out to God for eternal salvation.
Give Him glory is the second action commanded by the flying angel. This command is similar to the actions of the hostile earth-dwellers in Revelation 11:13. There we saw that "to give God glory" is to recognize His sovereignty. Because the hour of His judgment has come is the stated reason for the flying angel’s admonition. Unlike the "Day of Judgment," which suggests a longer period of time, "the hour of judgment" suggests a shorter period. John is not suggesting here that this is the beginning of God’s wrath, but the end.
The primary question at this point in the chronology of the book of Revelation concerns the purpose of this call to soberness. One would normally expect such a call to occur prior to the beginning of God’s wrath. To understand the placement of this message at this point in the Revelation we must look at the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 24:14, the Lord Jesus prophetically indicated that a universal proclamation would immediately precede the end of the age. The Lord stated, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come."
Many have mistakenly identified "the gospel of the kingdom" as "the gospel of Christ." This has led some to preach that the gospel of Christ must be preached to the whole world before the Lord Jesus could return. The apostle Paul declared in Galatians 1:7 that there is only one gospel of Christ. That is, there is only one salvation by grace through faith for the forgiveness of sin. However, the gospel of the kingdom does not concern the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A simple chronology of the Gospel of Matthew will demonstrate this.
Matthew 4:17 states, "From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Accordingly, Matthew 3:2 indicates that this is the same message preached by John the Baptist. Matthew 4:23 declares, "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom…(similarly Matthew 9:35)." However, Matthew 16:21 indicates a change in message for Jesus. Matthew writes, "From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day." This clearly marks a new message for Jesus. It is the heart of the gospel of Christ; i.e., the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for the sin. That this is a new message that Jesus had not preached before is confirmed by Peter’s response. Notice, "Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You." This can hardly be the response of a man having heard this message repeatedly.
The gospel of Christ is a message of grace. The gospel of the kingdom is a message of wrath. John the Baptist declared, "who warned you to flee from the wrath to come (Matt 3:7)." He also stated that Jesus would baptize "the Holy Spirit and fire." This is spoken in a context of divine judgment against the wicked (Matt 3:11-12). Matthew 24:14 indicates that God will declare to the whole world His intent. He is going to judge and remove everyone that is unlike Himself (both human and angelic) from the earth. The universal proclamation will remove any possible excuse by those found wanting. Revelation 16:7 describes the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14.
Revelation 14:7b records the third and final action that should be taken by the earthy inhabitants to the imminent outbreak of God’s final wrath. Worship Him describes the result of fear and recognition of God’s sovereignty. The sovereignty of God is emphasized in the phrase, "who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters." This underscores the earthy people who think that the earth is permanent. Rather, God is permanent. These people must move from earth sitters to prostrate worshippers before God.
(1) And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, (2) "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, (3) she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.
1. And another angel, a second one = indicates the second angel in this series who moves horizontally while declaring a message to the earth-sitters. Taken with Revelation 8:13, this is the third flying angel in the midst of heaven.
2. Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great = is the central message of this flying angel. Spoken of in the past tense suggests that the author sees the event as so certain that he can represent it as done. Babylon can be used one of two ways here: (1) literally and (2) figuratively. Some futurists have argued for the literal city of Babylon. Preterists have argued for Jerusalem. Others argue for Rome. This issue will be discussed in Revelation 17 and 18 at great length.
3. She who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality = seems to be the primary complaint against "Babylon." She had made to drink reflects a perfect tense influence on the verb potizo (to give to drink). John describes what "Babylon" has done. The nations were compelled to drink by "Babylon." What is it that Babylon compelled the nations to drink? Of the wine of the passion of her immorality is a difficult phrase to understand. This is not literal, but figurative language. Considering the grammatical particulars, this clause could be translated, "She made all the nations drink some of the wine that leads to passion for immorality with her." In other words, Babylon made the nations drink her wine. The wine causes the nations to lust for intercourse with her. This is all figurative language. The woman is not a real woman. The wine is not real wine. Intercourse is not engaging in sexual intercourse. What this literally means will be detailed in Revelation 17-18.
(1) Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, (2) "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and (3) receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand (4) he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, (5) which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; (6) and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
1. Then another angel, a third one, followed them = indicates the third and final angel in a series who moves horizontally in the sky while proclaiming a message for the earthy people below.
The occurrences of this message at this point in the chronology of the Revelation presents a problem. This has led some to conclude that the material in Revelation 14 occurs before or during the middle of the Seventieth Week of Daniel. After all, they reason, it would make no sense to give this warning after the majority of the world has already taken the mark or worshiped the beast and his image. However, this view fails to appreciate the fact that this pericope is directed to the saints and not the wicked. This point will be made forcefully in Revelation 14:12.
2. If anyone worships the beast and his image = is the first part of a first class condition. It could be translated, "if (for the sake of argument) anyone worships the beast and his image…." There is no doubt that people will take the mark and worship the beast. So the statement is not made because of any doubt that people will engage in these actions. Rather, the point is to emphasize the consequences of doing so.
One must remember that at this point in the sequence of end time events, the Seventieth Week of Daniel is either over or within days of completion. Israel is either saved or soon to be saved and put in protective custody in Azal (Ze 14:4-5). However, the sheep of the "sheep and goat judgment" are still on the earth. Many of the sheep will be relatively new converts, converts who will not have had the opportunity to be discipled. The intensification of God’s wrath will bring a renewed effort on the part of Antichrist and his followers to solidify his base upon the earth. As Antichrist gathers his armies to battle at Armageddon, the pressure to join his ranks will greatly increase. We know there will be people who will not have taken his mark upon the earth because of the sheep from "the sheep and goat judgment" that follows Armageddon. This warning is for those who are fighting to be found faithful at the Lord’s coming at Armageddon.
3. And receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand = is the second part of this first class condition. It is not that a person might take the mark but not worship, or worship and not take the mark. Those who worship the beast or take his mark are committed to him. There will not be those trying to deceive the beast by acting on the outside, but refraining in their hearts.
4. He also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God = is the consequences of worshiping or receiving the mark of the beast. Using figurative language that parallels that of Babylon’s actions, God’s wrath will fall on those who worship the beast and take his mark.
5. Which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger = details the nature of God’s wrath. God’s wrath will come upon the beast-marked worshipers with full strength. Unlike the Greeks who mixed their wine with water to soften its potency, God’s wrath will come in full strength, i.e. undiluted.
6. And he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb = is the second punishment promised to beast-marked worshipers. With language reminiscent of the lake of fire, which is the final destiny of the damned, the beast-marked worshipers are promised severe punishment.
(1) And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; (2) they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
1. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever = indicates that the punishment of the beast marked worshipers will be eternal in nature.
2. They have no rest day and night = is a figure of speech, which emphasizes the eternal nature of the punishment of the beast-marked worshipers.
(1) Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
1. Here is the perseverance of the saints = begins a difficult sentence to translate. This verse is the key to why this announcement occurs at this point in the chronology of the Revelation. The reader should remember that we are within days of the final outpouring of the wrath of God—the bowl judgments. The battle of Armageddon is probably four to five weeks away, which adds to the importance of this warning.
Literally, this verse says, "Here is the perseverance of the saints: the ones who keep the commandments of God and (remain) faithful to Jesus." This statement indicates the motive of Revelation 14:9-12. While the content is focused against the wicked, the purpose is not to warn the wicked, but to encourage the faithful. With the salvation of Israel just days before and the sheep and goat judgment to occur several weeks after, God encourages His sheep to remain faithful. God’s punishment of the wicked beast-marked worshipers serves as warning to the faithful. God punishes wickedness. What God will do to His unfaithful followers is not indicated at this point? However, it is not worth finding out.
(1) And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, (2) "Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’" (3) "Yes," says the Spirit, (4) "so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them."
1. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, = is marked off from verse 12 in NASB, but it completes the thought of verse 12. Again, the voice from heaven is not explicitly identified.
2. Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on = is the second of seven beatitudes found in the Revelation. The first one occurs in Revelation 1:3. A drought occurs up until Revelation 14:13. Then, six beatitudes fall rather quickly. The dead who die in the Lord identifies the focus of this blessing. These are obviously believers. In context, their lives are taken from them—martyrs.
This is an unexpected remark at this point in our chronology of the book of Revelation. Just days away from the beginning of the final wrath of God, we would expect most believers to be dead or in protected custody. Where then are there believers to take advantage of this blessing? The sheep and goat judgment of Matthew 25:31ff makes clear that there will be sheep (believers) on earth when the Lord returns immediately following Armageddon. Matthew 25:32 indicates that "all the nations will be gathered before Him…." Out of these nations will come the sheep (believers).
The dead die in the Lord (en kurio). In the Lord is a favorite and exclusive phrase of the apostle Paul occurring more than 40 times in his writings. This is the only exception outside the writings of Paul. This phrase in Paul’s writings speaks of the special relationship believers have with the Lord Jesus. The critical question at this point is this: does John mean the same thing that Paul means by the use of the phrase, "in Christ"? Pretribulationists among others naturally say, "no"! Dispensational pretribulationists limit the "in Christ" formula to New Testament believers only. In their thinking, "in Christ" describes church age believers only. Similarly, since the church age ends with the Rapture and since the Rapture occurs before Revelation 4, any NT language appearing after Revelation 4 is generic in reference, pretribulationists would say.
It is clear that Paul developed a new descriptive phrase to explain the NT believers’ relationship to Christ. However, it is not correct to argue that since NT descriptive language does not appear in the OT, it does not apply to OT believers. It is true that the death and resurrection of Christ signaled a unique turn in God’s program with man. However, the application of God’s special work in Christ cannot be limited to NT believers.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul presents Christ and Adam as antithetical representatives of mankind. Christ is the heavenly man. Adam is the earthly man. Christ is the Spirit-driven man. Adam is the flesh-driven man. The actions of the representatives have bearings on the represented. Clearly, the fate of those represented depends on the decision and actions of the representatives. Adam condemned the represented. Christ saves the represented. Paul illustrates the point by explaining the antithetical outcomes of death and resurrection. The believer’s solidarity with Christ is a historical reality. We shall be raised because our representative (Christ) has been raised.
In Romans, the apostle Paul again refers to Christ and Adam as representatives. The fate of Adam’s descendants rests on his disobedience. The outcome of Adam’s disobedience is sin in the world, death, judgment and condemnation. The outcome of those who believe in Christ is grace in the world, life, justification and righteousness. In Romans, the death of Christ is the turning point. However, this does not mean that the application of Christ’s death is limited to those who believe after the event. If the fruit of Adam’s choice contaminates every man, women, boy and girl born on the earth throughout human history, then Christ’s death can apply to all those who believe throughout human history. Before or after the cross is irrelevant.
Galatians 3:6-14 argues that Abraham is "the believer." Yet, no one in the OT is called a "believer" in the NT sense! In Galatians 3:8, Paul states, "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’" As in this case, Paul calls "all the nations will be blessed in you," the gospel. This signals that Paul may apply NT names and concepts to OT ideas in unique ways. We should be careful not to say more than Scripture says. Abraham is the model of our faith. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law…in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." These folk referred to in Revelation 14:13 are NT believers saved after the Rapture, but before Armageddon.
The latter part of Revelation 14:13 adds the qualifier, "from now on." There is debate as to whether this phrase ends the first sentence or begins the second sentence. Because of the Greek particulars, we are inclined to support the conclusion that "from now on" begins the second sentence.
3. From now on, says the Spirit = indicates that the message comes from the Spirit. Those who die are immediately blessed.
4. So that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them = gives us the content of the Spirit’s declaration. The rest of the believers follow the completion of his divinely appointed task on earth. The permanent record of the works of believers on earth is maintained. The nature of the suffering believers will experience during the final days of the Day of the Lord warrants special attention for them. It is not that others who have died before this point are not resting as well. This is an encouragement to those living at this very difficult time to remain faithful. No doubt many "sheep" will die during the thirty-day period following the Seventieth Week of Daniel as Antichrist attempts to put together his final army to prevent the reign of the Male-Son on earth (Rev 20:4).
(1) Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and (2) sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, (3) having a golden crown on His head and (4) a sharp sickle in His hand.
1. Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud = introduces a fourth event. It is not introduced by a horizontal moving angelic being.
The purpose of Revelation 14:14-20 is to preview the final judgment of God against the wicked earth-dwellers. This section will be expanded in chapters 15-19. Revelation 15-16 will expand Revelation 14:14-20. Revelation 17-18 will expand Revelation 14:8-13. Revelation 20 expands Revelation 14:6-7.
Clouds are a transportation mechanism used to carry heavenly individuals various places in heaven and on earth.
2. Sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man = identifies the rider of heaven’s unique transportation. One like a son of man is clearly reminiscent of Daniel 7:13. However, this is not Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus would hardly need an angelic exhortation to begin the earthly harvest (Rev 14:15). The one thing that can be dogmatically asserted is the fact that this is a unique heavenly being.
3. Having a golden crown on His head = is one indication of the uniqueness of this person. A golden crown is worn by the each of the twenty-four elders as mentioned in Revelation 4:4 and 10. Revelation 6:2 indicates that the rider on a white horse wears a golden crown. Revelation 9:7 depicts the locust cavalry wearing golden crowns. Golden crowns obviously depict authority and status.
4. A sharp sickle in His hand = is the second descriptive item enumerated by John. A sickle is an ancient instrument of the harvest. A sharp sickle suggests the beginning of the harvest with an instrument in prime condition.
(1) And another angel came out of the temple, (2) crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, (3) "Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, (4) because the harvest of the earth is ripe."
1. And another angel came out of the temple = supports the conclusion that the rider on the white cloud is an angelic being. Another angel suggests a previous angel. The immediate context suggests that the rider is the focus. This angel’s job is to deliver a message.
2. Crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud = expresses the recipient of the angel’s message. Emerging from the temple, this angel undoubtedly is under the authority of God. The fact that an angel commands the cloud-rider to begin argues against the identity of the rider as the Lord Jesus. That the aspect of sitting on the cloud is emphasized suggests that the identity of the cloud-rider is not paramount. The Lord Jesus stated in Matthew 13:39 that "the reapers are angels" at the end of the age. This argues strongly that the identity of the rider is an angelic being.
3. Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come = is the content of the angel’s message to the cloud-rider. The command to put in the sickle is an allusion to Joel 3:13. Joel 3:13 states, "Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread, for the wine press is full; the vats overflow, for their wickedness is great." Joel 3:13 combines both the wheat and wine harvests. However, they are separated into two events in the Revelation. The first harvest mentioned is the wheat harvest. The reason the sickle can be put forth is that "the hour to reap has come." That God is in control of this situation is suggested by the fact that "the hour" or time of harvest has arrived.
4. Because the harvest of the earth is ripe = explains why the time of harvest begins at this point. A ripe earth continues the metaphor of the wheat harvest. Literally, wickedness has run its course and demands punishment. As indicated in Joel 3:13, wickedness overflows.
(1) And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and (2) the earth was reaped.
1. And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth = may indicate the nature of this harvest. The reader should ignore the interpretive decision made by the translators of the NASB. The fact that they capitalized He indicates their opinion that the one sitting on the cloud is a Divine Being. It is a heavenly being, but there is nothing in the text that demands that the cloud-rider is Jesus Christ.
2. The earth was reaped = is generalized. There is no clear indication what is reaped. The fact that the wheat harvest is followed by the grape harvest similar to Joel 3:13 argues for the conclusion that this is a preview of the bowl judgments to be unleashed in Revelation 15-16.
(1) And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.
1. And another angel came out of the temple = indicates a second angelic being with a sharp sickle. That this angel came out of the temple indicates that the cloud-rider mentioned in Revelation 14:14 also came out of the temple. This argues against the cloud-rider’s identity as that of Jesus. This angelic being also has a "sharp sickle," in good condition for a harvest.
(1) Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying (2) "Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, (3) because her grapes are ripe."
1. Then another angel, the one who has power over fire = expresses similarity with the wheat harvest. The first angel who commanded the cloud-rider to harvest the earth is not uniquely identified as with this second angel. This angel "has authority over fire." Exactly what this angel does is not explicitly stated. Here he simply instructs the second sickle-carrying angel to harvest the earth.
2. Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth = expresses the second harvest depicted from Joel 3:13. This is the grape harvest. The metaphor is carried forward, but the literal idea is that the wicked get their deserved punishment.
(1) So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and (2) threw them into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
1. So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth = continues the metaphor of the vintage harvest. This is clearly a summary statement. It would be impossible for one angel to reap the whole earth in a single swing. This angel’s job is to gather the wicked of the earth.
2. Threw them into the great winepress of the wrath of God = defines the goal of the angel’s harvesting. The angel gathers the wicked to a place where God’s wrath will be administered. This overview will be expanded in Revelation 16:12-16 (the sixth bowl) and Revelation 19 (the actual battle of Armageddon). As in Joel 3:13, the vintage harvest depicts the eschatological harvest of the wicked. A winepress is the place where the grapes were pressed to separate the juice from the pulp. God’s literal winepress will be on the plains of Magedo.
(1) And the wine press was trodden outside the city, (2) and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.
1. And the wine press was trodden outside the city = indicates the place of God’s punishment of the wicked. The Greek indicates that outside the city is God’s place of punishment. This can be no other city but Jerusalem. The exact location of God’s judgment will be specified in Revelation 16:16.
2. Blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles = describes the outcome of God’s wrath. That this description is figurative can be stated with certainty. The figurative language of a winepress naturally supports the concept of flowing juice. Blood running three to four feet deep for a distance of two hundred miles even with figurative language indicates a great slaughter.