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The Lamb and the 144,000
Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were one hundred forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth. 4It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; these follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, 5and in their mouth no lie was found; they are blameless.
The Messages of the Three Angels
6 Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
8 Then another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”
9 Then another angel, a third, followed them, crying with a loud voice, “Those who worship the beast and its image, and receive a mark on their foreheads or on their hands, 10they will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and they will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image and for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”
12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”
Reaping the Earth’s Harvest
14 Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like the Son of Man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand! 15Another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to the one who sat on the cloud, “Use your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16So the one who sat on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18Then another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over fire, and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse’s bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles.
Re 14:1-20. The Lamb Seen on Zion with the 144,000. Their Song. The Gospel Proclaimed before the End by One Angel: The Fall of Babylon, by Another: The Doom of the Beast Worshippers, by a Third. The Blessedness of the Dead in the Lord. The Harvest. The Vintage.
In contrast to the beast, false prophet, and apostate Church (Re 13:1-18) and introductory to the announcement of judgments about to descend on them and the world (Re 14:8-11, anticipatory of Re 18:2-6), stand here the redeemed, "the divine kernel of humanity, the positive fruits of the history of the world and the Church" [Auberlen]. The fourteenth through sixteenth chapters describe the preparations for the Messianic judgment. As the fourteenth chapter begins with the 144,000 of Israel (compare Re 7:4-8, no longer exposed to trial as then, but now triumphant), so the fifteenth chapter begins with those who have overcome from among the Gentiles (compare Re 15:1-5 with Re 7:9-17); the two classes of elect forming together the whole company of transfigured saints who shall reign with Christ.
1. a—A, B, C, Coptic, and Origen read, "the."
Lamb … on … Sion—having left His position "in the midst of the throne," and now taking His stand on Sion.
his Father's name—A, B, and C read, "His name and His Father's name."
in—Greek, "upon." God's and Christ's name here answers to the seal "upon their foreheads" in Re 7:3. As the 144,000 of Israel are "the first-fruits" (Re 14:4), so "the harvest" (Re 14:15) is the general assembly of Gentile saints to be translated by Christ as His first act in assuming His kingdom, prior to His judgment (Re 16:17-21, the last seven vials) on the Antichristian world, in executing which His saints shall share. As Noah and Lot were taken seasonably out of the judgment, but exposed to the trial to the last moment [De Burgh], so those who shall reign with Christ shall first suffer with Him, being delivered out of the judgments, but not out of the trials. The Jews are meant by "the saints of the Most High": against them Antichrist makes war, changing their times and laws; for true Israelites cannot join in the idolatry of the beast, any more than true Christians. The common affliction will draw closely together, in opposing the beast's worship, the Old Testament and New Testament people of God. Thus the way is paved for Israel's conversion. This last utter scattering of the holy people's power leads them, under the Spirit, to seek Messiah, and to cry at His approach, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."
2. from—Greek, "out of."
voice of many waters—as is the voice of Himself, such also is the voice of His people.
I heard the voice of harpers—A, B, C, and Origen read, "the voice which I heard (was) as of harpers."
3. sung—Greek, "sing."
as it were—So A, C, and Vulgate read. It is "as it were" a new song; for it is, in truth, as old as God's eternal purpose. But B, Syriac, Coptic, Origen, and Andreas omit these words.
new song—(Re 5:9, 10). The song is that of victory after conflict with the dragon, beast, and false prophet: never sung before, for such a conflict had never been fought before; therefore new: till now the kingdom of Christ on earth had been usurped; they sing the new song in anticipation of His blood-bought kingdom with His saints.
four beasts—rather, as Greek, "four living creatures." The harpers and singers evidently include the 144,000: so the parallel proves (Re 15:2, 3), where the same act is attributed to the general company of the saints, the harvest (Re 14:15) from all nations. Not as Alford, "the harpers and song are in heaven, but the 144,000 are on earth."
redeemed—literally, "purchased." Not even the angels can learn that song, for they know not experimentally what it is to have "come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb" (Re 7:14).
4. virgins—spiritually (Mt 25:1); in contrast to the apostate Church, Babylon (Re 14:8), spiritually "a harlot" (Re 17:1-5; Isa 1:21; contrast 2Co 11:2; Eph 5:25-27). Their not being defiled with women means they were not led astray from Christian faithfulness by the tempters who jointly constitute the spiritual "harlot."
follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth—in glory, being especially near His person; the fitting reward of their following Him so fully on earth.
being the—rather, "as a first-fruit." Not merely a "first-fruit" in the sense in which all believers are so, but Israel's 144,000 elect are the first-fruit, the Jewish and Gentile elect Church is the harvest; in a further sense, the whole of the transfigured and translated Church which reigns with Christ at His coming, is the first-fruit, and the consequent general ingathering of Israel and the nations, ending in the last judgment, is the full and final harvest.
for—So B, Syriac, Coptic, Origen, and Andreas read. But A and C omit.
without fault—Greek, "blameless": in respect to the sincerity of their fidelity to Him. Not absolutely, and in themselves blameless; but regarded as such on the ground of His righteousness in whom alone they trusted, and whom they faithfully served by His Spirit in them. The allusion seems to be to Ps 15:1, 2. Compare Re 14:1, "stood on Mount Sion."
before the throne of God—A, B, C, Syriac, Coptic, Origen, and Andreas omit these words. The oldest Vulgate manuscript supports them.
6. Here begins the portion relating to the Gentile world, as the former portion related to Israel. Before the end the Gospel is to be preached for a WITNESS unto all nations: not that all nations shall be converted, but all nations shall have had the opportunity given them of deciding whether they will be for, or against, Christ. Those thus preached to are "they that dwell (so A, Coptic, and Syriac read. But B, C, Origen, Vulgate, Cyprian, 312, read, 'SIT,' compare Mt 4:16; Lu 1:79, having their settled home) on the earth," being of earth earthy: this last season of grace is given them, if yet they may repent, before "judgment" (Re 14:7) descends: if not, they will be left without excuse, as the world which resisted the preaching of Noah in the the hundred twenty years "while the long-suffering of God waited." "So also the prophets gave the people a last opportunity of repentance before the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, and our Lord and His apostles before the Roman destruction of the holy city" [Auberlen]. The Greek for "unto" (epi, in A and C) means literally, "upon," or "over," or "in respect to" (Mr 9:12; Heb 7:13). So also "TO every nation" (Greek, "epi," in A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, Origen, Andreas, Cyprian, and Primasius). This, perhaps, implies that the Gospel, though diffused over the globe, shall not come savingly unto any save the elect. The world is not to be evangelized till Christ shall come: meanwhile, God's purpose is "to take out of the Gentiles a people for His name," to be witnesses of the effectual working of His Spirit during the counter-working of "the mystery of iniquity."
everlasting gospel—the Gospel which announces the glad tidings of the everlasting kingdom of Christ, about to ensue immediately after the "judgment" on Antichrist, announced as imminent in Re 14:7. As the former angel "flying through the midst of heaven" (Re 8:13) announced "woe," so this angel "flying in the midst of heaven" announced joy. The three angels making this last proclamation of the Gospel, the fall of Babylon (Re 14:8), the harlot, and the judgment on the beast worshippers (Re 14:9-11), the voice from heaven respecting the blessed dead (Re 14:13), the vision of the Son of man on the cloud (Re 14:11), the harvest (Re 14:15), and the vintage (Re 14:18), form the compendious summary, amplified in detail in the rest of the book.
7. Fear God—the forerunner to embracing the love of God manifested in the Gospel. Repentance accompanies faith.
the hour of his judgment—"The hour" implies the definite time. "Judgment," not the general judgment, but that up on Babylon, the beast, and his worshippers (Re 14:8-12).
worship him that made heaven—not Antichrist (compare Ac 14:15).
8. another—So Vulgate. But A, B, Syriac, and Andreas add, "a second"; "another, a second angel."
Babylon—here first mentioned; identical with the harlot, the apostate Church; distinct from the beast, and judged separately.
is fallen—anticipation of Re 18:2. A, Vulgate, Syriac, and Andreas support the second "is fallen." But B, C, and Coptic omit it.
that great city—A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic omit "city." Then translate, "Babylon the great." The ulterior and exhaustive fulfilment of Isa 21:9.
because—So Andreas. But A, C, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "which." B and Coptic omit it. Even reading "which," we must understand it as giving the reason of her fall.
all nations—A, B and C read, "all the nations."
the wine of the wrath of her fornication—the wine of the wrath of God, the consequence of her fornication. As she made the nations drunk with the wine of her fornication, so she herself shall be made drunk with the wine of God's wrath.
10. The same—Greek, "he also," as the just and inevitable retribution.
wine of … wrath of God—(Ps 75:8).
without mixture—whereas wine was so commonly mixed with water that to mix wine is used in Greek for to pour out wine; this wine of God's wrath is undiluted; there is no drop of water to cool its heat. Naught of grace or hope is blended with it. This terrible threat may well raise us above the fear of man's threats. This unmixed cup is already mingled and prepared for Satan and the beast's followers.
indignation—Greek, "orges," "abiding wrath," But the Greek for "wrath" above (Greek, "thumou") is boiling indignation, from (Greek, "thuo") a root meaning "to boil"; this is temporary ebullition of anger; that is lasting [Ammonius], and accompanied with a purpose of vengeance [Origen on Psalm 2:5].
tormented … in the presence of … angels—(Ps 49:14; 58:10; 139:21; Isa 66:24). God's enemies are regarded by the saints as their enemies, and when the day of probation is past, their mind shall be so entirely one with God's, that they shall rejoice in witnessing visibly the judicial vindication of God's righteousness in sinners' punishment.
11. for ever and ever—Greek, "unto ages of ages."
no rest day nor night—Contrast the very different sense in which the same is said of the four living creatures in heaven, "They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy"; yet they do "rest" in another sense; they rest from sin and sorrow, weariness and weakness, trial and temptation (Re 14:13); the lost have no rest from sin and Satan, terror, torment, and remorse.
12. Here, &c.—resumed from Re 13:10; see on Re 13:10. In the fiery ordeal of persecution which awaits all who will not worship the beast, the faith and patience of the followers of God and Jesus shall be put to the test, and proved.
patience—Greek, "hupomene," "patient, persevering endurance." The second "here" is omitted in A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Primasius. Translate, "Here is the endurance of the saints, who keep," &c.
the faith of Jesus—the faith which has Jesus for its object.
13. Encouragement to cheer those persecuted under the beast.
Write—to put it on record for ever.
Blessed—in resting from their toils, and, in the case of the saints just before alluded to as persecuted by the beast, in resting from persecutions. Their full blessedness is now "from henceforth," that is, FROM THIS TIME, when the judgment on the beast and the harvest gatherings of the elect are imminent. The time so earnestly longed for by former martyrs is now all but come; the full number of their fellow servants is on the verge of completion; they have no longer to "rest (the same Greek as here, anapausis) yet for a little season," their eternal rest, or cessation from toils (2Th 1:7; Greek, "anesis," relaxation after hardships. Heb 4:9, 10, sabbatism of rest; and Greek, "catapausis," akin to the Greek here) is close at hand now. They are blessed in being about to sit down to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Re 19:9), and in having part in the first resurrection (Re 20:6), and in having right to the tree of life (Re 22:14). In Re 14:14-16 follows the explanation of why they are pronounced "blessed" now in particular, namely, the Son of man on the cloud is just coming to gather them in as the harvest ripe for garner.
Yea, saith the Spirit—The words of God the Father (the "voice from heaven") are echoed back and confirmed by the Spirit (speaking in the Word, Re 2:7; 22:17; and in the saints, 2Co 5:5; 1Pe 4:14). All "God's promises in Christ are yea" (2Co 1:20).
unto me—omitted in A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic.
that they may—The Greek includes also the idea, They are blessed, in that they SHALL rest from their toils (so the Greek).
and—So B and Andreas read. But A, C, Vulgate, and Syriac read "for." They rest from their toils because their time for toil is past; they enter on the blessed rest because of their faith evinced by their works which, therefore, "follow WITH (so the Greek) them." Their works are specified because respect is had to the coming judgment, wherein every man shall be "judged according to his works." His works do not go before the believer, nor even go by his side, but follow him at the same time that they go with him as a proof that he is Christ's.
14. crown—Greek, "stephanon," "garland" of victory; not His diadem as a king. The victory is described in detail, Re 19:11-21.
one sat—"one sitting," Greek, "cathemenon homoion," is the reading of A, B, C, Vulgate, and Coptic.
15. Thrust in—Greek, "Send." The angel does not command the "Son of man" (Re 14:14), but is the mere messenger announcing to the Son the will of God the Father, in whose hands are kept the times and the seasons.
thy sickle—alluding to Mr 4:29, where also it is "sendeth the sickle." The Son sends His sickle-bearing angel to reap the righteous when fully ripe.
harvest—the harvest crop. By the harvest-reaping the elect righteous are gathered out; by the vintage the Antichristian offenders are removed out of the earth, the scene of Christ's coming kingdom. The Son of man Himself, with a golden crown, is introduced in the harvest-gathering of the elect, a mere angel in the vintage (Re 14:18-20).
is ripe—literally, "is dried." Ripe for glory.
16. thrust in—Greek, "cast."
17. out of the temple … in heaven—(Re 11:19).
18. from the altar—upon which were offered the incense-accompanied prayers of all saints, which bring down in answer God's fiery judgment on the Church's foes, the fire being taken from the altar and cast upon the earth.
fully ripe—Greek, "come to their acme"; ripe for punishment.
19. "The vine" is what is the subject of judgment because its grapes are not what God looked for considering its careful culture, but "wild grapes" (Isa 5:1-30). The apostate world of Christendom, not the world of heathendom who have not heard of Christ, is the object of judgment. Compare the emblem, Re 19:15; Isa 63:2, 3; Joe 3:13.
blood—answering to the red wine. The slaughter of the apostates is what is here spoken of, not their eternal punishment.
even unto the horse bridles—of the avenging "armies of heaven."
by the space of a thousand … six hundred furlongs—literally, "a thousand six hundred furlongs off" [W. Kelly]. Sixteen hundred is a square number; four by four by one hundred. The four quarters, north, south, east, and west, of the Holy Land, or else of the world (the completeness and universality of the world-wide destruction being hereby indicated). It does not exactly answer to the length of Palestine as given by Jerome, one hundred sixty Roman miles. Bengel thinks the valley of Kedron, between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, is meant, the torrent in that valley being about to be discolored with blood to the extent of sixteen hundred furlongs. This view accords with Joel's prophecy that the valley of Jehoshaphat is to be the scene of the overthrow of the Antichristian foes.