Revelation 14 presents us with four different visions, but each vision has the same theme running through it. The message of the four visions could be summarized as the statement that there are only two kinds of people on earth – the saved or redeemed and the unsaved or the wicked. The first of the four visions gives describes the blessedness of the redeemed; the second is a warning to the wicked, whilst the last two visions show the reward of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked.
The Blessedness of the Redeemed
14:1 Then I looked, and here was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were one hundred and forty-four thousand, who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
The Lamb (The Lord Jesus Christ) is seen standing on Mt. Zion, a reference to heaven itself. This word standing conveys the idea of His eternal abiding in God’s immediate presence. The reason we stand in God’s presence is that he abides there for us. In this way He is the surety of all God’s covenant promises.
For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; (Hebrews 9:24)
Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)
Whether the 144,000 redeemed standing on Mt. Zion symbolically represent the whole church or is an actual group of the redeemed (the as those sealed in chapter 7), the description given of them applies equally to every believer in Christ. And what a blessed description it is.
They have their Father’s name written on their foreheads. This means they are sons of God. It is not “their God’s name” but “their Father’s name” God’s redeemed Christ’s people are not adopted, but born of God, by his Spirit. Only those who have a second birth, a spiritual birth, are part of God’s redeemed people.
Jesus said…”Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
It is this new or spiritual birth that makes us children of God. It takes place when we receive the Lord Jesus into our hearts by faith.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: (John 1:12) (See also James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 5.1)
The Father’s “name” means his character or nature, whilst the forehead (or face) shows the character of a man. These saints have been fully conformed to share their Father’s nature. The saying goes, “Like Father like son” You’ve heard someone say “Isn’t he like his dad!” But to be like God – this is godliness and glory. Just as Christ is the image of God, so we shall share his image, for when we see him we shall be like him. (1 John 3.2) This has been the purpose of God for the redeemed since the days of eternity.
For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, Romans 8:29 It is certain that as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1 Cor. 15:49)
This process is continuing now. We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Cor. 3:18
14:2-3 I also heard a sound coming out of heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. Now the sound I heard was like that made by harpists playing their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one was able to learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth.
The voice of the redeemed is heard coming from heaven; it is the whole church singing. The 144,000 Jews saved during the tribulation now join in the song of the redeemed and the body is complete. Only the redeemed can learn this song, for it is born out of experience and cannot be feigned. Like a torrent these millions of redeemed sing praises to God in thanksgiving for what he had done for them. It was like a new song, says John, for it will ever be fresh, even though they will sing it for eternity. The song is an eternal song of praise to the one who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood (Rev. 1.5). It is accompanied by the soothing sound of harps, a picture to my mind of their eternal peace.
Notice how the voice of the church is described in a similar way to the voice of Christ. Their speech has been purified – like Christ it is full of grace and truth and is seasoned by Christ’s own purity.
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, Colossians 4:6 We are also told in Col 3.8 But now you must put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.
14:4-5 These are the ones who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from humanity as first fruits to God and to the Lamb, and no lie was found on their lips; they are blameless.
In their mouth is found no guile; no pretense, deceit or subtlety. The redeemed are the first fruits to God. The first fruits were to be given as an offering to God, as our whole lives are to be given up as a living sacrifice to the Lord. Like a virgin bride has eyes only for her husband, the church of Jesus Christ has eyes only for Christ. (see 2 Cor. 11.2) They remain undefiled for they are presented perfect through the offering of Jesus Christ (Heb. 10.14). They are without blemish. Christ died that He might “present the church to Himself as a glorious church, without spot, wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). That is why we are able to stand before God’s throne, with heaven as our dwelling place forever.
The redeemed follow the Lord wherever he goes. To follow means to be in the same way with. Are you walking in the same way with Jesus? If you are, and you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, then you are going to be among that group of people singing eternal praises before the Lord.
The tragedy is, however, that there is a group of people who will never sing the praises of the Lord. Whilst Christ died for all, not all are saved. Though Jesus paid the price for the sin of every man, only those who accept God’s gift of salvation are saved.
A Warning to the Wicked
14:6-7 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, and he had an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He declared in a loud voice: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has arrived, and worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water!”
How gracious God is that the events depicted in the book of Revelation have not come yet! God is giving all people everywhere time and chance to repent. But the end will surely come in the way described. God’s mercy cannot be rejected forever without consequence. So here follows a vision of three angelic messengers, bringing warning to the inhabitants of earth. The first angel warns that men should fear God and give Him glory, for the time had come to judge the wicked of the world. This is the everlasting gospel: repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, thus glorifying God. It is essential to act on this warning now; for the time is coming when it will be too late to repent and give God glory.
14:8 A second angel followed the first, declaring: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great city! She made all the nations drink of the wine of her immoral passion.”
The judgment of the wicked is announced in the fall of Babylon. This is the first time that this spiritual city, an anti-type of the Heavenly Jerusalem, is mentioned in Revelation. The term “Babylon” represents all that opposes God. This spiritual reality is embodied in all of humankind’s behaviour, even their commercial, international and religious behaviour. After the flood in the days of Nimrod (Gen. 10.8 – 10), God told people to spread out over the face of the earth and repopulate it. Instead, in a spirit of rebellion, they banded together to build a tower reaching to heaven, making themselves (they thought) secure from God’s interference. That tower was built in a place called Babel, later Babylon. So Babylon represents rebellion against God in the heart of every unregenerate person. It is the spirit of lawlessness, manifesting itself in lawless deeds, and through the systems humankind creates to facilitate their rebellion. Zechariah 5.8 depicts wickedness (moral filth) as a woman in a basket, who is taken to her own place in the land of Shinar (Babylon). In this verse we see that all nations are intoxicated—taken over spiritually, like someone possessed—by her harlotry, her moral filth and unfaithfulness to God.
Many commentators speak of two Babylons in Revelation – a commercial or financial and a religious one. In fact, let us be clear that they are both parts of the same system of lawlessness against God.
The second angel’s message is timely yet simple: the Christ-rejecting world system will be brought to an abrupt end very soon.
14:9-11 A third angel followed the first two, declaring in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and takes the mark on his forehead or his hand, that person will also drink of the wine of God’s anger that has been mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath, and he will be tortured with fire and sulphur in front of the holy angels and in front of the Lamb. And the smoke from their torture will go up forever and ever, and those who worship the beast and his image will have no rest day or night, along with anyone who receives the mark of his name.”
The third angel brought a warning to those who will see the culmination of this spirit of lawlessness as the antichristian spirit is embodied in a man – the antichrist. Those who participate in this ultimate rebellion by giving their allegiance to Satan (by receiving the mark of the beast) can be sure of suffering God’s eternal vengeance. This reveals that just as there are only two groups of people on earth, so there are only two destinations at the end of life too.
Jesus said: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (From Matt 25:31-46)
14:12-13 This requires the steadfast endurance of the saints — those who obey God’s commandments and hold to their faith in Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: ‘Blessed are the dead, those who die in the Lord from this moment on!’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they can rest from their hard work, because their deeds will follow them.”
Throughout the ages the faith and patience of the saints has revealed that it is better to die than to lose one’s own soul. Many have given up their lives rather than give up their faith. It is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot lose.
The interjection “blessed are those who die in the Lord” – is forever true and has been given the sanction of the eternal Holy Spirit. Those who sleep in Jesus are at rest – no longer troubled or vexed by pain, persecution, trouble or toil. Their work on earth is done, wrought in them by God according to his eternal purpose and the due reward of their labors – and much more – is laid up for them in heaven.
“EYE HAS NOT SEEN, NOR EAR HEARD, NOR HAVE ENTERED INTO THE HEART OF MAN THE THINGS WHICH GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” 1 Cor. 2:9
Ever since our Lord Jesus Christ arose victorious over death, those who die believing in him are blessed. Their entrance is immediate into the presence of God; to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Cor. 5:8 and To be with Christ.. is far better. (Phil 1:23)
Two Great Harvests of the Earth
The final two visions differ in content but convey a similar message to the first two. The picture is of the final salvation of the righteous and the final judgment of wicked.
14:14-16 Then I looked, and a white cloud appeared, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man! He had a golden crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple, shouting in a loud voice to the one seated on the cloud, “Use your sickle and start to reap, because the time to reap has come, since the earth’s harvest is ripe!” So the one seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
First we see Christ reaping the harvest of the earth – gathering his own to himself. We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:17
Clearly this first harvest happens before the harvest for judgment and is a reference to the ‘rapture’. But remember this is a vision. The Lord, I think, will not need an angel to tell him when to call his people home; for that time is appointed by the Father and known only to him (Mark 13:32).
The Lord Jesus Christ is already gathering in his precious harvest now. The precious seed of his travail on the cross has been sown. Millions are turning to him for salvation as the fields are ripe for this harvest. He alone is worthy to reap this harvest – hence the golden crown signifying his rightful claim and kingship over those he has redeemed – the gold denoting his own glory and God-head. But a time is coming when he will gather his wheat into the barns of his heavenly harvest home. He will gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” Luke 3:17
14:17-20 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.
Such a burning of the chaff is depicted in the final vision. The angels are sent to reap the harvest of judgment. The wicked are described as the cluster of the vine, for they are to be trodden in the press. Notice they are the vine of the earth, not of Christ the True Vine. Their grapes are fully ripe for their wickedness has reached its full potential. The winepress is outside the city of Jerusalem and will be trodden by Christ himself, inflicting everlasting punishment on his enemies (2 Thess. 1.9)
The initial fulfillment of this outpouring of wrath evidently takes place on earth immediately at the coming of Christ; at a place called Armageddon, as the demon inspired armies of the world gather in a futile attempt to fight off our returning Lord. They are literally struck dead by the word that proceeds from his mouth, their blood flowing in deep rivers for miles around. A vast number of people is indicated – for this is no symbolism.
That will not be the end of the matter, for even with such a death their punishment has only just begun, for when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 2 Thess. 1:7-9
Since there are only two groups of people in the world, and only two final destinations for people after life is done, the question has to be, which group are you in? Whose side are you on?
Are you on the Lord’s side? The coming of the Lord will mean, for the believer, unspeakable satisfaction; but for the unsaved person and backslider it will mean unutterable shame and unending separation.
Such truth for today should lead us into holiness of life and busyness in service for our Lord. Remember that Jesus may come today. When the harvest of the redeemed is taken home to heaven and you are left behind, all that will be left for you to face will be the harvest of judgment. Don’t leave it too late! Take Jesus as your Saviour today.