Chapter 14: The 144,000 and the Victorious Judgment of the Lamb
It must be remembered that the Spirit of Prophecy (19:10) that
inspired the Apostle John to write the Apocalypse, intended the imagery of the Revelation
to be understood in a conversational manner, "face
to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend" (Exodus 33:11).
But, in the narrative of Chapter 14, like our own conversations, not every event
described is in a rigidly chronological order. Thus, this chapter depicts a heavenly
scene with the "hundred forty and four
thousand" (14:1) "before
the throne of God" (14:5) after the Pre-Wrath Rapture
(about 9 days prior to the End of the Tribulation Week). [See our Tribulation
Chart ---New Window.] It then speaks of three angels preaching
to the Earth (14:6-13). A statement follows, that "Blessed
are the dead which die in the LORD from henceforth" (14:13),
which this commentator believes to be a retrospective statement of the blessedness
of the death of Saints prior to the Pre-Wrath Rapture (11:15). Concluding
the chapter, another three angels act in concert with the Son of Man, Who is judging
the Earth (14:14-20), finishing the Tribulation Week.
The Lamb (14:1) of God "which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), is Jesus. In this vision, John sees the LORD Jesus Christ on "mount Sion" (14:1), which in this instance, refers to a heavenly scene. "But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels" (Hebrews 12:22). It has become more apparent that much of what God has directed man to do, i.e., "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in Heaven, so in Earth" (Luke 11:2), and build upon Earth, has been modeled upon what exists in Heaven, i.e., earthly Jerusalem was based upon heavenly Jerusalem. "Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount" (Hebrews 8:5).
The 144,000 (14:1)-- the same 144,000 Jewish Believers, who were sealed in Chapter 7 shortly before the Middle of the Tribulation Week-- are standing with Christ in Heaven. [See our comments on "Chapter 7: 144,000 Sealed on Earth and a Throne Scene of Delivered Saints" ---New Window for more background on the 144,000.] This triumphal scene in Heaven indicates that the 144,000 were preserved from the Antichrist and were Pre-Wrath Raptured, i.e., "Hurt not the Earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads" (7:3). Again, why the trouble to seal the 144,000 from the effects of the Divine Judgments, only to be killed by the Antichrist? "3 O LORD, Thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit... 9 What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise Thee? shall it declare Thy Truth?" (Psalm 30:3, 9).
The "voice from Heaven" (14:2) that John heard was that of the Almighty God, i.e., "as the Voice of many waters"
(14:2). "And, behold, the glory of the
God of Israel came from the way of the east: and His voice was like a noise of many
waters: and the Earth shined with His glory" (Ezekiel
43:2). God's awesome Voice was heard as a mighty Niagara, and His Speech was punctuated
with the "Voice of a great thunder" (14:2). "The LORD thundered
from Heaven, and the Most High uttered His Voice" (2Samuel
22:14). As mortals, we often forget that this God of power and majesty has condescended
to make a covenant with us-- His presence in exchange for our trust-- i.e., "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called
thee by thy name; thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will
be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou
walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle
upon thee" (Isaiah 43:1, 2).
Throughout the ages, the Saints have been enjoined to sound their praises of God with "all manner of instruments" (2Samuel 6:5), even as David and all Israel used harps, psalteries, timbrels, cornets, and cymbals. Both men and angels are seen before the Throne praising God with harps, i.e., "And when He had taken the Book, the four beasts [angelic seraphim] and four and twenty elders [glorified Saints] fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of Saints" (Revelation 5:8). "Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto Him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings" (Psalm 33:2). Who are the "harpers harping with their harps" (14:2)? Most probably the harpers are the 144,000 Jewish Believers, who have been Pre-Wrath Raptured-- for they would have much to celebrate! "1 O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of Our Salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms" (Psalm 95:1-2). [See our article, "The Seventh Trumpet and the Second Rapture: Or, The Last Trump and the Pre-Wrath Rapture" ---New Window, to Biblically explore the concept of more than one Rapture.]
Jehovah Jesus, Who is the Lamb (14:1) before the Throne, will teach His people their New Song, because He personally will serenade us after we come into His presence. "The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17). Likewise, the 144,000 will sing a "New Song before the Throne" (14:3) of God. The Creator alone is truly the Author of "all things new" (Revelation 21:5). "And have put on the New Man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Colossians 3:10). In Salvation, Jehovah "hath put a New Song in my mouth" (Psalm 40:3). [See our comments on "Chapter 5: The Worthy Lamb Prepares to Open the Seven Seals" ---New Window to see both the Seraphim and Elders further described.] "No man could learn" (14:3) the song of the 144,000, because God has covenanted His secret personally and only to those that fear Him. "The secret of the LORD is with them that fear Him; and He will shew them His covenant" (Psalm 25:14). [Read our series, "Keeping Covenant" ---New Window, for instruction and encouragement to be faithful to God, even as He is the "Faithful God, Which keepeth Covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His Commandments to a thousand generations" (Deuteronomy 7:9).] The 144,000 "were redeemed [Greek, agorazo] from the Earth" (14:3) by a miraculous Rapture. The Father, Who purchased us "with the precious Blood of Christ" (1Peter 1:19), will simply take delivery on His purchased possessions, i.e., the Tribulation Week Saints at that Rapture. "Ye are bought [Greek, agorazo] with a price; be not ye the servants of men" (1Corinthians 7:23).
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul speaks of the entire Body
of Believers as a "chaste virgin", i.e., "For I am jealous over
you with Godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to One Husband, that I may present
you as a chaste virgin [Greek, parthenos] to Christ" (2Corinthians 11:2). The Apostle
John also uses the Greek word parthenos, in describing the 144,000 as "virgins" (14:4). Virginity,
though it most often describes a woman who has not known a man sexually, was also
used to identify both the men and women of Israel, i.e., "This
is the Word which the LORD hath spoken concerning him [Sennacherib
king of Assyria]; The virgin, the daughter
of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem
hath shaken her head at thee" (Isaiah 37:22). However,
(14:4) here described, "were not defiled
with women" (14:4), seems to indicate that the 144,000
are unmarried and chaste men, who will abstain from marriage during the difficult
days of the Tribulation Week. Even the married Saints of these Last Days, as much
as possible, should dedicate themselves more to the LORD than their devotion to their
cherished spouses. "But this I say, brethren,
the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they
had none" (1Corinthians 7:29).
To "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth" (14:4) describes the 144,000; but, should no less characterize the Saints of these Last Days. "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps" (1Peter 2:21). Consequently, the 144,000 have simply followed their Master home to Heaven, with His blessing and at His Command, i.e., "Come Up Hither" (Revelation 11:12). Just as the 24 Elders, who represent the entirety of both Old and New Testament Saints, were bought, purchased, and redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, i.e., "And they [24 Elders] sung a New Song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the Book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed [Greek, agorazo] us to God by Thy Blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (5:9), the 144,000 will also be "redeemed from among men" (14:4). "And from Jesus Christ, Who is the Faithful Witness, and the First Begotten of the Dead, and the Prince of the Kings of the Earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own Blood" (1:5). These 144,000 male virgins represent the first of the eventual harvest of Elect Israel at the Second Coming of the LORD Jesus Christ; therefore, they are called the "firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb" (14:4). "Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? shall the Earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children" (Isaiah 66:8). [See the section, "Feast of Firstfruits: The Resurrection of Our LORD Jesus Christ" ---New Window, of our article, "The Appointed Times: Or, How the Seven Feasts of Israel Represent God's Timeline for the Ages" ---New Window, for more background on the firstfruits concept.]
In completing the description of the 144,000, John records that "in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the Throne of God" (14:5). Guile is the willful deceit of heart that cannot be separated from a man without the cleansing that comes from the forgiveness of God. "If we confess our sins, He is Faithful and Just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1John 1:9). Salvation under both the Old and New Covenants has always been by the LORD imputing His righteousness to man, in response to faith and repentance. "Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile" (Psalm 32:2). It will take the miraculous preservation of the Almighty to keep alive these 144,000 during the Second Half of the Tribulation Week, for they imitate their LORD's guileless conduct before His persecutors. "22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: 23 Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" (1Peter 2:22-23). Their position is "before the Throne of God" (14:5), meaning that they have been translated from their earthly position to the joyousness of Heaven, where Jesus is. "2 In My Father's House are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3).
Three angels preach to the Earth (14:6-11), much like a team of evangelists:
(1) The First Angel (14:6-7) universally declares the necessity and opportunity of embracing the fear, glory, and worship of God.
(2) A warning is given by the Second Angel (14:8) that the worship system of Babylon the Great is collectively dead. And,
(3) individually, the Third Angel (14:9-11) warns his hearers against their personal participation in the worship of the Beast.
Since "God is no respecter
of persons" (Acts 10:34), the Everlasting Gospel (14:6)
is not limited to any specific location or group of people, but it will be preached,
as it was always intended, to "them that
dwell on the Earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (14:6). "19
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end
of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:19-20).
What a compelling event! Three angels canvas the globe, assaulting the senses of all Earth dwellers with the sight and sound of the preaching of the Gospel (14:6-11). "O Earth, Earth, Earth, hear the Word of the LORD" (Jeremiah 22:29). This is akin to giving the Earth dwellers one last chance before the Almighty returns for the Final Judgment of the Earth, which occurs only a few days hence. "Who hath heard such a thing?" (Isaiah 66:8). Though the term Gospel has many connotations today, it specifically describes the Good News of man's opportunity to turn away from his selfishness and return to trusting God. "Repent ye, and believe the Gospel [Greek, euaggelion, or Good News]" (Mark 1:15). As the Gospel announces man's opportunity for repentance and Salvation, the Law of God simply declares what God justly requires of man, "Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind... and... thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:37, 39). The Gospel understands that man has transgressed that Law, thus, requiring his death. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20). "2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 how shall we escape, if we neglect So Great Salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the LORD, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him" (Hebrews 2:2-3).
The Gospel message preached by the First Angel is a righteous command
to "fear God",
"give glory to Him",
and "worship Him"
(14:7). Though the Gospel offers the opportunity of repentance for Eternal Salvation,
it requires, then as well as now, obedience to the commands of the Gospel, i.e.,
"But they have not all obeyed the Gospel" (Romans 10:16). When the First Angel preaches the Everlasting Gospel (14:6)
with a "loud voice"
(14:7), the impression is that all the inhabitants of the Earth are constrained to
hear his command to respond to the Gospel. This has always been the case with the
preaching of the Gospel, that God "now
commandeth all men every where to repent" (Acts 17:30).
The command to "fear God" (14:7) is the "beginning of
wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). To "give
glory to Him" (14:7) is God's demand to return to the
original purpose of man, i.e., "Thou art
worthy, O LORD, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all
things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created"
(4:11). And, to "worship Him" (14:7) is the clarion call whereby God requires man to return to True Worship,
i.e., "True Worshippers shall worship
the Father in Spirit and in Truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him" (John 4:23).
The phrase, "the hour of His Judgment is come" (14:7), similarly refers to the "hour of temptation" (3:10), which is a period of 15 days from the Pre-Wrath Rapture (the Second "Come Up Hither" [11:12]) to the Millennial Reign of the LORD Jesus Christ. [See our comments on "Chapter 3: Letters to Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea" ---New Window for a discussion of how we arrived at 15 days.] Though the Promise to the Church of Philadelphia, "I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation" (3:10), is commonly appropriated as a Promise for the Pre-Tribulational Rapture (the First "Come Up Hither" [4:1])-- which this writer believes to be spiritually true, since there is more than one Rapture-- but, it more specifically applies to the last 8-9 days of the Tribulation Week following the Pre-Wrath Rapture, as well as the approximately 6 days following the Tribulation Week, i.e., Armageddon and the Second Coming, up to the beginning of the Millennial Reign of the LORD Jesus Christ. An appropriate Scripture of encouragement for the Pre-Tribulational Rapture would be Luke 21:36, which promises escape from all the events of the Tribulation Week for those who watch and pray, thus, necessitating a Pre-Tribulational deliverance. "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36).
Advising all Earth dwellers that "Babylon is fallen" (14:8) is appropriate, because at this point Babylon has already fallen. By this, it is meant that the judgment of "Babylon the Great" (18:2), the Harlot Religious System that seats itself in that "great city" (14:8) of Rome, must have already occurred at the beginning of the "hour of [Jehovah's] Judgment" (14:7) upon the world. It appears that this judgment of Religious-Economic Babylon, as described in Revelation 17 and 18 occurs immediately after the Pre-Wrath Rapture, which takes place about 8-9 days before the End of the Tribulation Week. [See our series of articles, "Babylon the Great" ---New Window, for an historical, contemporary, and prophetic look at this formidable foe of our LORD Jesus Christ.] Few cities have ever had the infamy of representing the wickedness of the world system than Babylon and Rome. "Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon" (Acts 7:43). Babylon the Great is primarily the Harlot Religious System that makes "all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" (14:8) through an ecumenical sharing of her false religious practices; however, she exerts inordinately large influence through her enormous economic power throughout the Earth. "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1Timothy 6:10).
Thus far, the preaching of the Everlasting Gospel (14:6-7) and a powerful reminder of the deadness of the Harlot's Religious System, i.e., "Babylon is fallen, is fallen" (14:8), have been given to all Earth dwellers by the first two angels; but, the third angel's warning is even more personal to his audience of entirely unregenerate mankind. Since the Pre-Wrath Rapture has just removed all the remaining Tribulation Saints, only a portion of lost humanity that remains is "elect-but-still-lost"-- to be saved at the appearance of Messiah Jesus. "Thus saith the LORD GOD, Behold, I will lift up Mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up My standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders" (Isaiah 49:22). The third angel begins a loud warning to all that remains of mankind on the planet-- unhushed by Satan, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and their minions-- saying, "If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand..." (14:10). Worship of the Antichrist and reception of the Mark of the Beast (13:11-18) have already been a stark fact of life for nearly 3 1/2 years. When the Faithful God tires of warning humanity of the eternal perils of their present course of actions, then all hope has been removed. "And the LORD said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man" (Genesis 6:3). After the warning stops, only Judgment remains. "God is a Consuming Fire" (Hebrews 12:29). "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).
Question? With only 8-9 days left in the Tribulation Week, all of the regenerate of mankind Pre-Tribulationally and Pre-Wrath Raptured from the Earth, and only the horrors of the Vial Judgments (16:1-21) remaining, why now would the angel warn those who have received the Mark of the Beast, about the consequences of receiving that mark? Evidently, the All Wise God expects to see the very Last Fruits to be finally and certainly harvested, for He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2Peter 3:9). But, how so?
First, the Almighty never gives anyone the impression that they can continue in present sin, without a "certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation" (Hebrews 10:27), i.e., the "same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God" (14:10). Even our witness that we are His, is based upon our present loving obedience to Him; whereas, a present disobedience can only be given God's anger, fearful displeasure, and threatening of Eternal Judgment. "3 And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His Commandments. 4 He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His Commandments, is a LIAR, and the Truth is not in him" (1John 2:3-4). "ALL LIARS, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the Second Death" (Revelation 21:8).
Second, the certain consequences of worshipping the Beast and receiving his mark (14:9) is Eternal Damnation, i.e., "he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb" (14:10). No one ought to doubt the sincerity of this threat from the God "that cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). "Hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19).
Third, this threat, bulwarking the Doctrine of the Justice of the Endless Punishment and Misery of the Wicked, however, does not diminish mercy from the character of the Almighty, especially to those who may yet repent. "I will proclaim the Name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy" (Exodus 33:19). God delights in mercy, for which His people rightly exalt Him. "Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18).
And, finally, the "just-in-time" repentance of the "elect-but-still-lost" Jews and Gentiles will take place as the LORD Jesus Christ begins His descent in the clouds to the Faithless Earth, i.e., "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the Earth?" (Luke 18:8). These "just-in-time" penitents will be the seed population and citizenry of the Millennial Earth, while all others will simply wail and cry without True Repentance or Faith. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the Earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen" (Revelation 1:7).
The enormity of the reprobate Earth dwellers' rejection of the
True Christ for the Substitute Christ is measured by the "smoke
of their torment [that] ascendeth
up for ever and ever" (14:11). "And
even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to
a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient"
(Romans 1:28). Because man has such a low estimation of the value of God's Law, they
would necessarily esteem His Judgments as nonsense or excessive; but, the Judge of
All the Earth "will render to every man
according to his deeds" (2:6). "8 But unto them that are contentious,
and do not obey the Truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, upon every
soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile" (2:8, 9).
Those who "have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name" (14:11), are reprobated by God for their foreseen iniquities from which the Omniscient God knows they will never repent. Charles G. Finney ---New Window addressed these reprobated Earth dwellers in 1851.
"Do you ask how I know that the reason why God does not make you willing is, that he sees that it would be unwise in him to do so? I answer, that it is an irresistible inference, from these two facts, that he is infinitely benevolent, and that he does not actually make you willing. I do not believe that God would neglect anything that he saw to be wise and benevolent, in the great matter of man's salvation. Who can believe that he could give his only-begotten and well-beloved Son to die for sinners, and then neglect any wise and benevolent means for their salvation? No, sinner, if you are a reprobate, it is because God foresaw that you would do just as you are doing; that you would be so wicked as to defeat all the efforts that he could wisely, make for your salvation. What a variety of means he has used with you. At one time he has thrown you into the furnace of affliction; and when this has not softened you, he has turned round and loaded you with favours. He has sent you his word, he has striven by his Spirit, he has allured you by the cross; he has tried to melt you by the groanings of Calvary; and tried to drive you back from the way to death, by rolling in your ears the thunders of damnation. At one time clouds and darkness have been round about you; the heavens have thundered over your head; divine vengeance has hung out, all around your horizon, the portentous clouds of coming wrath. At another time mercy has smiled upon you from above like the noon-day sun, breaking through an ocean of storms. He urges every motive; he lays heaven, earth and hell, under perpetual contributions for considerations to move your stony heart. But you deafen your ears, and close your eyes, and harden your heart, and say, 'Cause the holy one of Israel to cease from before us [Isaiah 30:11].' And what is the inference from all this? How must all this end? 'Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord has rejected them [Jeremiah 6:30]'" (from Chapter 75 "Reprobation" ---New Window of Charles G. Finney's "Systematic Theology" ---New Window).
Verse 12 introduces verse 13, both of which are an interlude of peace between the warnings and threatenings to those who "worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark" (14:9-11) and the Final Judgments of the "great winepress of the wrath of God" (14:14-20). Three words stand out in verse 13-- patience, Commandments, and faith.
First, the "patience of the Saints" (14:12) is that attribute of love that "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1Corinthians 13:7). Patience comes only from the "trying of your faith" (James 1:3), which will be greatly needed by the Tribulation Saints to complete their appointed course of trying, testing, and suffering, that they "may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:4)-- in preparation for Heaven.
Second, keeping the "Commandments of God" (14:12) is not simply the hallmark of a True Saint, i.e., "My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27); but, it represents our joyful opportunity to demonstrate our love for Him, i.e., "Thy Law do I love" (Psalm 119:163). Resisting fidelity to the Antichrist by refusing his mark is an act of the Tribulation Saints' loving obedience to the Commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3).
And, finally, the "faith of Jesus" (14:12) is the Saints' supreme confidence in our LORD and Saviour, Whose Name "is above every name" (Philippians 2:9)-- especially above the name of the Antichrist-- that Jesus will "yet deliver us" (2Corinthians 1:10) from the Antichrist or from dishonoring Him by yielding to temptation. "The LORD knoweth how to deliver the Godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished" (2Peter 2:9).
Normally, we speak about events in a chronological fashion, but
we may also need to regress in order to emphasize and develop thoughts that need
additional explanation. "Let all things
be done decently and in order" (1Corinthians 14:40). Verse
13 speaks of a retrospective, referring to a time before the Pre-Wrath Rapture,
where there are still Tribulation Saints awaiting martyrdom or Rapture. "Blessed are the dead which die in the LORD from henceforth" (14:13) makes special reference to the Martyred Tribulation Saints, giving
the Apostle John a third personal message from the Father (10:4, 8), i.e., a "Voice from Heaven saying unto me" (14:13). The encouragement is true for all Saints throughout history, but
is especially necessary for those who will be martyred, reminding them of the Eternal
Blessedness of those that "resist stedfast
in the faith" (1Peter 5:9). Later, we are told that those
Martyred Tribulation Saints will be numbered among those who will rule and reign
with Christ during the Millennium. "And
I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw
the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of
God, and which had not worshipped the Beast, neither his image, neither had received
his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with
Christ a thousand years" (20:4).
A fugitive knows no rest; and, those Tribulation Saints who are not caught after they are converted, will be Pre-Wrath Raptured. "And they heard a Great Voice from Heaven saying unto them, Come Up Hither. And they ascended up to Heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them" (Revelation 11:12). [See our comments concerning the Pre-Wrath Rapture in "Chapter 11: The Two Witnesses and the Seventh Trumpet" ---New Window, especially verse 12.] However, the Tribulation Saints that will not be Pre-Wrath Raptured, may not be simply caught at the outset of their conversion to the LORD Jesus Christ, making flight a reasonable alternative before they are caught and executed. "Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto" (Luke 21:21). Rest is a luxury that belongs only to those who are beyond the reach of their pursuers. These martyred "dead which die in the LORD" (14:13) will ultimately, successfully evade the enemy and will cheat the Second Death of its prey. "55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the Law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our LORD Jesus Christ" (1Corinthians 15:55-57). Not simply rest, but "great recompence of reward" (Hebrews 10:35) awaits the Martyred Tribulation Saints, i.e., they "rest from their labours; and their works do follow them" (14:13). "And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:10). [See our article, "Martyrdom: They Loved Not Their Lives Unto The Death" ---New Window, which discusses the plight of the Tribulation Saints, when physical escape is no longer an issue.]
Christ Jesus, Who is the "LORD of the Harvest" (Luke 10:2), i.e., "in His hand a sharp sickle" (14:14), is also the "Judge of All the Earth" (Genesis 18:25), to Whom the Father "hath committed all judgment" (John 5:22). Here, the Apostle John is directed to gaze upon a white cloud, and "upon the cloud One sat like unto the Son of Man" (14:14). Painters often depict God surrounded with clouds. "Clouds and darkness are round about Him: Righteousness and Judgment are the habitation of His Throne" (Psalm 97:2). Scripture describes the Almighty as:
(1) the "High and Lofty One That Inhabiteth Eternity" (Isaiah 57:15),
(2) flying "upon the wings of the wind" (Psalm 18:10),
(3) the "Blessed and Only Potentate, the KING of Kings, and LORD of Lords" (1Timothy 6:15), and
(4) coming again "with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" (Revelation 1:7).
The "golden crown" (14:14) on the head of the LORD Jesus, can only be seen by the eyes of faith, until the time will come that all must admit-- willingly or unwillingly-- that Jesus "ONLY hath immortality, dwelling in the Light which no man can approach unto; Whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to Whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen" (1Timothy 6:16). "9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name: 10 that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in Earth, and things under the Earth; 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).
The Apocalyptic "Harvest
of the Earth" (14:15) will be both a gathering of the
Righteous and a separating out of the Wicked. "10 And now also the axe is laid unto
the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is
hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11 I [John the Baptist]
indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He [the
LORD Jesus Christ] that cometh after me is
mightier than I, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the
Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 Whose
fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat [the Righteous] into the garner;
but He will burn up the chaff [the Wicked] with unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:10-12).
A repeated theme of the Gospels is that the LORD Jesus Christ is the King of Glory
(Psalm 24:7, 8, 9, 10) that will sit upon His Throne, making His enemies His "footstool" (110:1). "31 When
the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall
He sit upon the Throne of His glory: 32 And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate
them one from another, as a shepherd divideth His sheep from the goats" (25:31-32).
Harvest festivals in Old Testament Israel took place in both the spring and fall. Leviticus 23 outlines Seven Feasts that Jehovah declared which Old Testament Israel was to observe. "The feasts are the foreshadowing-- of events that were yet to come. The Seven Feasts of Israel prophetically forecast and outline the main events of Israel's relation to Jehovah" (from our article, "The Appointed Times" ---New Window, which describes the festivals, their relationship to past and future prophetic events, and boldly asserted a now past May 31, 1998 Rapture date.) "16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17). The fall feasts yet point to the fulfillment of the Pre-Wrath Rapture (Feast of Trumpets a.k.a. Rosh HaShanah), the Second Coming of Christ (Day of Atonement a.k.a. Yom Kippur), and the Inauguration of the Millennial Reign of the LORD Jesus Christ (Feast of Tabernacles), making the harvest festivals a time of anticipation. "Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her Appointed Times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but My people know not the judgment of the LORD" (Jeremiah 8:7).
The following is taken from our editorial series "From the Editor's Desktop" ---New Window, "Love and Vengeance" (in its entirety):
John the Beloved informs us that "He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the Earth; and the Earth was reaped" (Revelation 14:16). It may be difficult for the human mind to imagine, but the Almighty's judgment of the Earth is in keeping with the Eternal Law of Love. "If ye fulfil the Royal Law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well" (James 2:8). Not so strange to say, but the Eternal God only demands of man what He is willing to give Himself. And, the righteous demand of God's Moral Law has always been supreme love and consideration for God (for it is only right and fitting) and an equal love of our neighbour as ourselves. "Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind... and... thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:37, 39). So then, when Christ the Judge harvests the Earth, He may, without divorcing Himself of Perfect Love, say, "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay" (Romans 12:19).
A great failure of Professed Christianity, is not to properly distinguish between the two kinds of love-- disinterested benevolence and complacent love-- that God employs in the administration of His vast Moral Government. The nineteenth century American evangelist Charles G. Finney used the terms disinterested benevolence and the love of complacency to make the distinction. [See Finney's "Lectures on Systematic Theology" ---New Window for a thorough discussion of these two terms.] Disinterested benevolence would be represented in the Scriptures with the love that God demonstrates to all men, regardless of their character-- evil or good. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life" (John 3:16). The good will of God towards man is disinterested (free of bias or self-interest) benevolence in that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
Further, the term complacent love or the love of complacency has virtually lost its meaning in the 21st Century. Complacent or complacency now has the negative connotation of being self-satisfied or unconcerned, while the nineteenth century used the term complacent to encompass the positive idea of resting in a satisfied way upon something. Scripturally, God manifests complacent love towards only the Godly, i.e., He rests in a satisfied way upon the right character of the righteous. "He that hath My Commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21). And, when man demonstrates True Obedience to God, it is the love of complacency, for man is then demonstrating his satisfaction with the character of the God that he obeyed. "If ye love Me, keep My Commandments" (14:15). It is appropriate, then, to say that God loves complacently only those who love and obey Him. "23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My Words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth Me not keepeth not My Sayings: and the Word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father's which sent Me" (John 14:23-24). Then, to equate the love of God, i.e., the love man ought to have toward God, with our obedience to God, is to describe why God can approve and rest in our character, which is complacent love. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His Commandments: and His Commandments are not grievous [i.e., unbearably burdensome]" (1John 5:3).
So then, how can the God of Love be also the "LORD God to Whom Vengeance Belongeth" (Psalm 94:1), reaping the Earth in the Apocalypse? Since the Almighty has manifested Himself in His Son as the "Saviour of the World" (1John 4:14), it is unequivocal that "God so loved the world" (John 3:16) with a disinterested benevolence, giving to the good and to the evil the Gift of His Son. But, since "all men have not faith" (2Thessalonians 3:2) and "many" (Matthew 7:13), ultimately, will be cast "into outer darkness" (22:13), then God does not cease to love the damned with a disinterested benevolence. But, He never did love these finally damned with the love of complacency, because there was never anything in them, in which He could approve of their character, i.e., these wicked never repented. "37 But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed NOT on Him: 38 that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, LORD, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the LORD been revealed? 39 Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them" (John 12:37-40).
"Another [Greek, allos, another of the same kind] angel" (14:17), again, refers to another angel of the same kind as verse 15, i.e., the angel which said to the Son of Man to thrust in His sickle and reap. Multiple angels are described as having a part in the Final Harvest of the Earth, because they are messengers [Greek, aggelos, translated as angel or messenger], transporting a message of judgment, which translates into their execution of the command to judge the Earth. "The harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels... The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity" (Matthew 13:39, 41). Since God's Word is depicted as a "sharp sword" (Revelation 19:15) proceeding out of the mouth of the Son of Man, Whose "Name is called The Word of God" (19:13), and "with it He should smite the nations" (19:15), then the angelic bearers of that message become the effective tools of the execution of that judgment. "1 He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. 2 And, behold, six men [i.e., angels] came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar. 3 And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon He was, to the threshold of the house. And He called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; 4 and the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. 5 And to the others He said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: 6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house" (Ezekiel 9:1-6).
Verse 18 describes "another
angel", which had "power
over fire". Jehovah is a "Consuming
Fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24), and "His
angels spirits, and His ministers [i.e., angels] a flame of fire" (Hebrews 1:7).
Just as the Angel of the LORD, which was the Pre-Incarnate Christ, ascended into
Heaven with the flame from off the altar, i.e.,
"For it came to pass, when the flame went
up toward Heaven from off the altar, that the Angel of the LORD ascended in the flame
of the altar" (Judges 13:20), this angel of the Apocalypse
(14:18) deals with the holiness of the sacrifices to God, i.e., he "had power over fire" (14:18). "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies
of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,
which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). Fire
represents the cleansing, purging, and acceptance of the sacrifice by God. "And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and
consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people
saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces" (Leviticus
9:24). The Bema Seat Judgment of the Saints will not reveal the sinfulness of the
Saints' works, but the worth of all that is done by the Saints, while in the flesh,
for the purpose of reward-- not punishment. "13 Every man's work shall be made
manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and
the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon,
he shall receive a reward. 15
If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be
saved; yet so as by fire" (1Corinthians 3:13-15). [See
our article, "The Judgment
Seat of Christ" ---New Window, for an explanation of the Bema
Seat Judgment of the Saints, at the end of the Church Age.]
This angel "from the altar" (14:18) instructs the angel previously described in verse 17, "that had the sharp sickle" (14:18), saying, "Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the Earth; for her grapes are fully ripe" (14:18). The Almighty must be instructing the angel as to the appropriateness of the timing of this Judgment, for it would take a Mind of Omniscience to know how to deal with the ungodly and wicked, without destroying the Godly, at the same time. "27 So the servants of the Householder came and said unto Him, Sir, didst not Thou sow good seed in Thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto Him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares [i.e., the ungodly], ye root up also the wheat [i.e., the Godly] with them. 30 Let both grow together until the Harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into My barn" (Matthew 13:27-30). For the comfort of the Godly in these Last Days, the "LORD knoweth how to deliver the Godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished" (2Peter 2:9).
It may be viewed by the modern reader as very poetic or figurative
that the Apostle John records that the "angel
thrust in his sickle into the Earth, and gathered the vine of the Earth" (14:19), but it is most certainly a more accurate description than any
attempt by an uninspired writer of a humanly unimaginable event. "8 For
My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD.
9 For as the heavens
are higher than the Earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts
than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9). Negatively, the "vine of the Earth" (14:19)
describes the world with its interconnected groupings of wicked man together with
his evil fruit. "31
For their rock is not as our Rock, even our
enemies themselves being judges. 32 For
their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are
grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter" (Deuteronomy
32:31-32). Even the righteous are described as part of the Living Vine of the LORD
Jesus Christ, but have no part in this "vine
of the Earth" (14:19). "I
am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth
forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing" (John
The very fact that the harvested vines with their fruit are cast "into the great winepress of the wrath of God" (14:19) indicates that the harvest does not expect to produce the excellency of the "wine of Lebanon" (Hosea 14:7); but instead, it knows that it will yield the "wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation" (14:10). This is also known as the "wine of astonishment" (Psalm 60:3), the "wine of violence" (Proverbs 4:17), and the "wine of the condemned" (Amos 2:8). Asaph the Psalmist declared that the dregs of the winepress would be consumed by the wicked (as well as themselves being pressed for the yield). "For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and He poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the Earth shall wring them out, and drink them" (Psalm 75:8). The close of chapter 14 of the Apocalypse is the definitive picture of the Judgment of the Lamb as viewed from the winepress of His Wrath. "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him" (Psalm 2:12).
The "city" (14:20) undoubtedly refers to Jerusalem, for it and its Godly inhabitants
will again make it the "apple of [Jehovah's] eye" (Lamentations 2:18). "And give
Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the Earth" (Isaiah 62:7). The "blood of
the grapes" (Genesis 49:11) has figuratively described
the pressed juice of the grapes, but here it actually describes the blood of formerly
living human beings, who have been slain in the judgments surrounding the Second
Coming of the LORD Jesus Christ. "I have
trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me: for I will
tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled
upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment" (Isaiah
63:3). The LORD God has never taken pleasure in the death of the wicked. "Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have
no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and
live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 33:11).
However, at this time (14:20), the death of the wicked will purge humanity of sin; and, the Almighty will defend the purity and integrity of the City or the Great House that He has invited all men to dwell in-- which invitation, only His children have accepted. "24 Therefore whosoever heareth these Sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it" (Matthew 7:24-27). Blood will come out of the winepress "even unto the horse bridles" (14:20). Some speculate that the blood of slain men at Armageddon will yield a flow of blood deep enough to come up to the bridle of a horse, while others conjecture that it represents only a liberal splattering of blood. However the LORD brings His Word to pass, we are assured that the life of humanity will be liberally dissipated in this Judgment, for the "life of the flesh is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:11).
A "thousand and six hundred furlongs" (14:20) is the distance in which the blood will flow "unto the horse bridles" (14:20). A furlong, according to "Easton's Bible Dictionary" (1897), is "a stadium, a Greek measure of distance equal to 606 feet and 9 inches [or, 606.75 feet]". 1,600 furlongs would then be the equivalent of 183.86 miles. What do we believe to be the manner of the LORD Jesus Christ's Second Coming?
(1) Christ will descend to the Mount of Olives, just as He previously ascended from it. "11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven. 12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day's journey [i.e., approximately 2,250 feet, or less than half a mile]" (Acts 1:11-12). "3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when He fought in the day of battle. 4 And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south" (Zechariah 14:3-4).
(2) Christ will then pursue His enemies, slaying them, down to Bozrah. Bozrah lies approximately 18 miles southeast of the Dead Sea in the mountain district of Petra, according to the "Davis Dictionary of the Bible", and it is approximately 58 miles southeast of the Mount of Olives. "6 The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea. 7 And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness" (Isaiah 34:6-7). And,
(3) Christ will then continue His pursuit and slaying of His enemies from Bozrah to Megiddo-- Megiddo being the ancient city close by the final conflict at Armageddon-- traveling approximately another 128 miles. "1 Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. 2 Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like Him that treadeth in the winefat? 3 I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me: for I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment. 4 For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart, and the year of My redeemed is come. 5 And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore Mine own arm brought Salvation unto Me; and My fury, it upheld Me. 6 And I will tread down the people in Mine anger, and make them drunk in My fury, and I will bring down their strength to the Earth" (Isaiah 63:1-6). Combining the distances from the Mount of Olives to Bozrah of 58 miles with the distance from Bozrah to Megiddo of 128 miles, is a distance of 186 miles, which is approximately the same as 1,600 furlongs (14:20).
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