A Bible Lesson on Revelation 14

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This chapter from Revelation deals with eternal mercy and judgment of God on sinful humans.

Revelation 14:1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.

John sees another scene of heaven. He sees the Lamb, and with Him the 144,000. In Chapter 7, there were 144,000 sealed and protected through the difficulty of life in a hostile world. Here, not one of them has been lost. They are here with the Lamb. They form the city of God.

2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps,

3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

The singing is “new” (as in Revelation 5:9) and special to the 144,000 “who had been redeemed from the earth.” This is “new” in kind, absolutely unparalleled in the experience of the universe. Again, there’s not been a reason for this song before, and none other fits the occasion. It has to do with the experience of the redemption of the 144,000. It’s about deliverance of humans from sin, hell, and the grave. It’s truly a mystery that God’s salvation plan for such insignificant creatures as you and I is unique in the experience of the universe, and cause of special adoration for the Creator of all. The “redeemed from the earth” is “redeemed from earthly things and earthly people.”

4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,

5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

“It is these, it is these, these.” This triple draws attention to the distinguishing marks of the 144,000. First, they have not defiled and are virgins. Almost surely John is speaking here in figurative terms of purity. The gist is that these are ones whose devotion is, and always has been, to God alone. Paul says of the church

2Corinthians 11:2 I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.

Second, they follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They are not in charge or calling the shots. That’s for the Lamb. Their lives are not their own. And third, they have been redeemed/purchased from mankind. They are specially set apart for holy use and they are completely truthful. This is a strange-sounding description in a time when people in ordinary society pretty much expect to be constantly lied to. Christian people ought to stand out like beacons in a time like ours because of their uncompromising truthfulness.

6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

John sees an angel with an eternal gospel, good news that is eternally valid, good news that is universally applicable. It is for every nation and tribe and language and people. He comes with what is the final warning, the final appeal to rebellious humanity to bow the knee and turn to the King for mercy. Judgment is at hand. The judgment that is implied, is absolutely necessary when rebels persist in their folly. It is judgment that is good news in the sense that all WILL be set right. The angel speaks with a loud voice that reaches all of humanity with a final generous plea for surrender.

Martin Kiddle said, “Here is the bitter irony of their lot: though they damn themselves eternally by their refusal to face the truth, on that day they will be forced to face it. Sooner or later, the ‘glory’ they refuse to ‘give’ the Creator willingly will be torn from them by the spectacle of his wrath.”

8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

Fallen, fallen is Babylon. Fallen is the pride of mankind. Fallen is the symbol of humanity banded together in opposition to the things of God, humanity intent on spitting in the Creator’s face. She is fallen because of her bad influence, fallen because she corrupts the nations with her evil ways and brings down on them God’s wrath.

9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,

10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

God’s wrath, is poured full strength. Literally, this is something like “mixed without mixing.” It’s not broken down in any way. God’s wrath will not be mitigated at all. Moderns may have decided to cancel hell, but no one seems to have told St. John. St. John sees here eternal suffering of the most awful sort imaginable for those who choose the side of the enemy of God. And that, in some way, is in the plain sight of heaven.

11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

These choices that we make in this life are not for this life only. Sign on with the rebellion, and eternal torment awaits. Make peace with this world’s system, and that lives on into eternity. At the end of the 1st century John was seeing for people who could easily face martyrdom. Those people could be tempted to think they would be better off to deny the faith. He says they should be under no illusions about what the choice is. Choose your side now, for eternity. If that sounds harsh to postmodern 21st century ears, that’s our problem. The truth is eternally the truth.

12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

If we are thinking right at all, the long view gives us endurance. In the end, the truth will be vindicated and sin punished, eternally. In this short life now, that ought to give God’s people staying power. This is for “those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” Reliance upon Jesus is inseparable from right behavior.

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. That is true in all times and all situations. It is especially true in times when people are called upon to suffer persecution up to an including death for the name of Christ. Blessed indeed. An alternative (and probably better) rendering of “rest from their labors” is “rest from their pain.” The fundamental thing about heaven is not so much a vacation as it is the end of pain, and all being right. The Spirit says their deeds follow them. Far from being without significance, what is done on earth in obedience to Christ, goes with one into eternity.

Three angels have pronounced judgment. Now one is sent to reap. The harvest is the climax, and now is the time for the harvest.

14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.

“a son of man” is apparently a slightly different phrase than the one rendered “the son of man” that always refers to Christ. It seems pretty clear that this is an angel and not Christ. Angels don’t give orders to the second person of the Godhead, and another angel speaks to this “son of man” and tells him to go to work.

15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.”

16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

There is a terrible finality to this. He swung and the earth was reaped. You can just about see this in your mind’s eye. It’s in black and white and the sound has gone dead. All there is in the picture is the blade of the sickle slicing through grain like it was hot butter.

17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle.

Another angel comes, the 6th in this series. And like the one in verse 14, his sickle is specifically called sharp. And then in verses 18-20 there is a 7th angel in this set who speaks to the 6th angel, bringing the final harvest of God’s wrath.

18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.”

19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

1600 stadia is 184 miles. Various interpretations have been offered for the meaning of the 1600 number. For one, it is the approximate length of Palestine, north to south. At the end of the day, the clear meaning of any interpretation is the destruction of all those who set themselves against God.

The contrast could not be more clear: life eternal as part of redeemed humanity pictured by the 144,000, or eternal misery as objects of the just wrath of an absolutely holy God.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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