Revelation 14. Act II. Scene III. A Bright Spot.
Key Notes: A new song. Babylon fallen. Reaping the earth. Accept martyrdom.
After the nightmarish monsters of Rev.12–13, Rev.14 presents the believing community with a series of refreshing, compact and valuable teachings.
14:1–5. The Lamb standing on Mt. Zion with 144,000 comes as a great relief after the machinations of the Beast. Christ standing in Jerusalem in the End Times is prophesied in Zech.14:3–5.
"Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as when He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east....and all the holy ones with Him."
The second reference to Christ's return to Jerusalem is Acts 1:11.
"This Jesus, who was taken up from you into Heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into Heaven."
It appears that Christ's return is literal, geographical and in time as we know it.
The 144,000 are learning a new song, singing back to a sound from Heaven that is like a waterfall, like thunder, and like harp music. The waterfall suggests power; the thunder suggests authority, and the harp music expresses beauty. It appears to be like the voice of God singing to them.
"The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will renew you in His love; He will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival." (Zeph.3:17–18).
A second question is the identity of the 144,000. In Rev.7:4 they are 12,000 members each from the twelve tribes, sealed for God. In Rev.14:4–5 they are first-fruits for God, redeemed from the earth, chaste males, spotless, and trustworthy. They follow the Lamb everywhere. They resemble their Shepherd. Although many commentators argue that they represent the whole body of believers, the plain sense of the text is that this is a limited number of people, the same people as in Rev.7:4.
"Those who are left in Israel...shall do no wrong and utter no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. For they shall pasture and lie down, and none shall make them afraid." (Zeph.3:13).
14:6–7 An angel in mid-heavens proclaims an eternal gospel: "Fear God and give Him glory for the hour of His judgment has come". Worship Him as Creator. This may not sound like NT Gospel preaching but it is the beginning of effective evangelism. To fear God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. Prov.1:7
Fearing God, giving Him glory and worship, is where Martin Luther began his spiritual journey. He came to a crisis when his fear of God overcame his worship. He realized that his fear of God was like hatred. When he began to study the Bible, he found God’s grace in justification by faith and was transformed.
14:8 A second message for the Church: Babylon is fallen. It appears that the declaration of Babylon's destruction precedes the event. Similarly, the declaration that the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev.11:15) precedes the actual event. In human terms we know that proclamations and laws may precede their implementation by considerable periods.
14:9–11 A third message for the Church is that anyone who worships the Beast and its image and has its mark on them will suffer the same fate as the Beast: everlasting torment.
14:12 That is a call for endurance of the saints. They must not cave in under pressure.
14:13 A fourth message is that those who die in the Lord are blessed and will be rewarded. "Their deeds follow them" means that their good works are not forgotten by God. Many Christians reject the idea that they should serve God for reward, but we are only to reject the idea that we should look for reward here on earth, i.e., from our fellows. Jesus forbade us to give, pray, or fast to win religious approval from other people. (Matt.6:1–18). Eternal reward, however, is sound Scriptural teaching. ICor.3:10–15
14:14–16. One "like a son of man", i.e. Christ, is given the signal to reap the earth. The result of the first harvest is not spelled out. Could it be the harvest of the righteous? The second harvest is dramatic.
14:17 An angel with a sickle conducts the second harvest, casting grapes into the wine press of the wrath of God. The wine-press is trod outside the city and blood flows 200 miles, 5ft. deep--the length of Palestine. That suggests a horrendous slaughter occurring near Jerusalem.
When will the righteous be reaped from the earth? Rev.7:9–17 describes a vast multitude who came out of the Great Tribulation. As Jesus said,
"The field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire so will it be at the close of the age." (Matt.13:38–40).
Rev.13:7 says the Beast was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them, suggesting that the saints are on earth during part of the Tribulation. That sounds as if the harvest of the righteous and the harvest of the wicked are very close to each other in time.
The chapter can be reduced to a narrative. You are worried about the Beast? Behold the Lamb on Mt. Zion with tens of thousands of Christ-like Jews praising God. Proclaim God's glory among the nations. Babylon is doomed and anyone who goes with Satan's forces will end up suffering eternal Hell with them. Stand firm. Even death will henceforth be a blessing--rest and reward for the faithful. Jesus will soon ingather all of His children. The rest are marked for the sword.
The tough message of the chapter is that believers who cave in to the Beast and worship his image and accept his mark, are doomed to the same fate as the Beast. I think some of us make tentative escape plans. How would I get away from being killed if push came to shove? Would I say whatever they wanted me to say and run away, and come back after the pressure was off and ask to be reinstated? As one religious lady said in a public meeting: "I believe it is our duty to save our lives." The message of this chapter is quite the opposite: accept martyrdom without flinching. The ones who die, win. The ones who surrender to the Beast are worse than dead.
"Are ye able, said the Master, to be crucified with me?"
'Yea', the sturdy dreamers answer, now as then in Galilee."