Revelation Chapter 14: the Gospel in three aspects; parenthetical details of the second half of the Final Seven Years - the 144,000 with the Lamb on Mount Zion, the redeemed in Heaven, the proclamations of the three angels, the two harvests
There is a lot of conflict and confusion about this chapter among commentators as to what the images and events mean and where they fit in the sequence of events of the Final Seven Years. However, as with every other part of the Revelation, when we step back and consider this chapter in a literal, common-sense manner, in the light of other passages of relevant Scripture, it comes clearly into focus. So, to facilitate that clarification before we get into the verse-by-verse commentary, the following overview of chapter 14 is offered:
The events of this chapter are not in strict chronological sequence or scope, but in giving us an overview of what happens during the second half of the Final Seven Years and after that, they focus on a very important theme that is appropriately in focus at this point in the Revelation: the Gospel. The term “gospel” is the translation of a Greek word (euaggelion) which literally means “good tidings” or “good news.” We also get our term “evangelize” from euaggelion. The Gospel is a very important theme throughout the New Covenant Scriptures ("New Testament"), the term appearing 100 times there. Yahushua's (Jesus') final words to His Disciples before He ascended into Heaven comprise what we call the “Great Commission” - His directive to take the Gospel to all the world, proclaiming it to “every creature” (Mark 16:15). Why? Because it is through the proclamation of the Gospel that people, both Jews and Gentiles, are saved - brought out of this sinful, doomed world into the glorious Kingdom of Yahuah ("God") (Romans 1:16)!
And that gives us a clue as to why this chapter is inserted at this particular point in the Revelation - immediately after the description of the wrath of Satan against Israel and her children in chapter 12 and the description of the anti-messiah’s persecution of the Followers of Yahushua in chapter 13. It is inserted here to encourage Yahuah’s people to, in the face of “great tribulation,” “endure to the end” (cf. verses 12 and 13 vis-à-vis Matthew 24:13).
The Gospel is three-fold in the Renewed Covenant Scriptures: the Gospel of the Kingdom of Yahuah on Earth, including the destruction of the enemies of Yahuah and His People; the Gospel of the salvation of Followers of Yahushua; and the “everlasting gospel” (verse 6), which is the promise of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven to all of Yahuah’s People. All aspects of the Gospel are reflected in this chapter: the Kingdom of Yahuah on Earth and in Heaven in verses 1-6, the destruction of the enemies of Yahuah and His People in verses 8-11 and 17-20, and the salvation of the Disciples of Yahushua in verses 12-16.
14:1-5 (a) Then I looked, and behold, (b) a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him (c) one hundred and forty-four thousand, (d)having His Father's name written on their foreheads. (e) And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard (f) the sound of harpists playing their harps. (g) They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and (h) no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were (i) redeemed from the earth. These are (j) the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being (k) firstfruits to [Yahuah] (l)and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for (m) they are without fault before the throne of [Yehovah]. (n)
a. In the sequence of events, this episode apparently occurs following the midpoint of the seven years, when the “beast” begins his reign of terror (the “Great Tribulation”) (cf. Matthew 24:21 and Revelation 13:5) and during the time when the plagues of the trumpet judgments are being poured out because the 144,000 are not sealed until just before the events of the trumpet judgments begin when the four angels are holding back the winds of Elohim’s wrath (7:4; 8:1). So, it is appropriately inserted here, immediately following the description of the tyrannical reign of Antimessiah in Chapter 13, to highlight the ultimate victory of the Messiah and His chosen People over Antimessiah—which is part of the Gospel (Good News).
b. John sees the Lord Yahushua (He is called the “Lamb” throughout Revelation - 27 times) standing on Mount Zion, the highest mountain in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem is also referred to as “Zion, the city of David” in Scripture - i.e., 2 Samuel 5:7.) There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that there is a Mount Zion in Heaven.
c. There is no reason to think that these are other than the 144,000 of Israel, whose ancestors had killed their brother Yeshua, who were sealed on their foreheads to protect them from the wrath of Satan and the Wrath of Yahuah (7:3), just as Cain was sealed on his forehead after he killed his brother Abel to protect him from the anti-Yahuah pagans of the world and ultimately the wrath that was coming on them (Genesis 4:15).
d. The name with which they are “sealed in their foreheads” (7:3) is the name of the Father (Yahuah).
e. Perhaps this is the voice of the Lord (cf. 1:5) combined with the voice of others in Heaven (cf. 6:1; 10:3).
f. Apparently this refers to the Redeemed in Heaven who are standing before the throne on the sea of glass mingled with fire, having the harps of Yahuah (15:2). Time is transcended in Heaven, so here John sees the Redeemed of the past, present, and future who are in Heaven.
g. Previously, the four living creatures and 24 elders had sung a new song (5:8, 9), but here it is sung “before the four living creatures and 24 elders.” There are numerous passages in the Old Covenant Scriptures, especially in the Psalms, that speak of the new song. See especially Psalm 144:9 which speaks of singing a new song and playing a harp.
h. This apparently means that none on Earth, other than the 144,000 of Israel, could learn the new song that was being sung by the redeemed in Heaven.
i. The 144,000 are among the Redeemed, but this does not refer to the Redeemed who are in Heaven, because Israel was also called redeemed when the Lord brought them out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 13:5). These are those who were “redeemed” when Yahuah sealed them on their foreheads to protect them from the wrath of Satan and from the Wrath of God during and immediately following the "great tribulation" of the second half of the Final Seven Years (cf. the commentary on 7:1-3c).
j. If this is to be taken literally, this is a very special group, who, like the apostle Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:7), remain unmarried so that they can devote themselves totally to the Lord, following Him wherever He goes. But it may simply refer to the fact that they are a portion of the remnant of true Israel who have not been absorbed by the world into which they were dispersed and have remained faithful to the Lord. Ancient Israel was also called, in several passages, “the virgin daughter of Zion” (e.g., 2 Kings 19:21) or “the virgin of Israel” (e.g., Jeremiah 18:13).
k. The children of Israel were called “firstfruits” when the Lord brought them out of Egypt (Jeremiah 2:3). In other words, the ones Yahuah saved from Egypt were the firstfruits of the people chosen by Yahuah to become the nation Israel. Then, regarding the modern-day Jews, Paul wrote, regarding regarding them, “If the firstfruit is holy, the lump [mass] is also holy” (Romans 11:16). According to Jewish interpreters, this is a saying that means the firstfruits of Israel (the 144,000 in Revelation) must be sanctified (saved) before the whole redeemed remnant of the nation can be saved, which Romans 11:26 says will happen.
l. The “firstfruits” of Elohim’s chosen people belong just as much to the Son (the “Lamb”) as they do to the Father (Yehovah). The Father and the Son are one just as much in the redemption of both Israel and the present followers of the Messiah as they were in the Creation (cf. Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3).
m. This does not mean that the 144,000 are literally before the throne in Heaven. It is just a figure of speech indicating that, from the judgment throne of the Lord in Heaven, they are seen as justified, just as as all true followers of the Messiah Yahushua are seen as justified.
n. In summary, the 144,000 are those of the twelve tribes of Israel who, because of their unwavering devotion to the Lord and faith in the coming Messiah, are chosen for a special task during the Final Seven Years. Apparently, as the firstfruits of those who are saved out of Israel, after they flee spiritual Babylon, and perhaps even physical Babylon the Great (cf. 18:4), their job will be to warn their Israelite brethren not to follow the false messiah, witnessing to them that Yahushua is the true Messiah. Indicative that they are protected in a miraculous way during the latter half of the seven years is that here, “following the Lamb wherever He goes,” they appear with Him on Mount Zion during the Great Tribulation of the terrible, despotic reign of Antimessiah.
14:6-13 Then I saw (a) another angel flying in the midst of heaven, (b) having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth - to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people - saying with a loud voice, "Fear [Yahuah] and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water." And (c) another angel followed, saying, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." Then (d) a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of [Elohim], which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of [Yahuah] and the faith of [Yahushua]. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them."
a. Prior to the appearance of the three angels of this chapter, the first angel seen flying “in the midst of Heaven” was the angel who announced the three woes (8:13).
b. The first angel seen here announces the judgment of Yahuah. Notice that this angel preaches the “everlasting gospel [good news].” But, for whom could these announcements of gloom and doom, the judgment of the Lord, possibly be good news? There is no mention of hope or salvation for the earth dwellers here, not even a call to repentance. There is only the proclamation of their judgment and “eternal” punishment, and the command to worship the Creator, as all earth dwellers, even though they have rejected the saving grace of Yahuah, will in the end be compelled to do (Philippians 2:10, 11). Although there is a warning not to take the mark of the beast, it appears to be directed to the Saints who are still on the earth enduring the persecution of the anti-messiah and his followers during the Great Tribulation. As we continue to read, we see that the good news (Gospel) of the judgment and destruction of their enemies is for the encouragement of the Redeemed - for those who are being killed and who, like the 6:11 martyrs, cry out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” So John writes (verse 12), “Here is the patience of the saints.” The Lord is saying to His beloved Bride, “Look, good news: the judgment of Yahuah has already started to come on your persecutors; Babylon has been destroyed. So don’t take Antimessiah’s mark, continue to worship Yahuah, be patient, and in the end you will be saved.”
c. This announcement of the destruction of Babylon seems out of sequence as well. But, as will be seen when we get to Chapters 17 and 18, there are two destructions of Babylon (indicated here by the repetition, “is fallen, is fallen”): one before the midpoint of the seven years, and one at the end of the seven years.
d. This is a warning and word of encouragement to the Community of Believers in Yahushua and to those Jews and Gentiles who, although they do not yet recognize that Yahushua is the Messiah, will not take the mark of the anti-messiah during the Great Tribulation: “Do not take the mark like have the earth dwellers whose end is ‘eternal’ torment in the lake of fire and brimstone. Remain faithful until the end. And if you should die in your faith in the coming Messiah, rejoice, for you are blessed. You will rest from your labors and you will be rewarded in eternity for your good works done on Earth in the name of the Lord Yahuah.”
14:14-20 (a) Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat (b) One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." So (c) He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And (d) another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe." So (e) the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of [Elohim]. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses' bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.
a. These events apparently foretell the fulfillment of Yahushua's prophetic parable of the tares of the field (Matthew 13:24-43). In that parable, a farmer plants his wheat seeds, but an enemy comes along and sows the seeds of tares (weeds) in the field. Then, the tares and the wheat sprout together. The farmer’s workers ask him if they should remove the tares, to which he replies, “No, let them grow together until the harvest, lest you uproot the wheat along with the tares.” Later, his Disciples asked Yahushua the meaning of the parable. He replied that the planter of the good seeds is the “Son of Man” (Yahushua), the field is the world, the good seeds are the “sons of the kingdom” (the children of Yahuah), the tares are the “sons of the wicked one,” and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The Saints and the earth dwellers will continue together until the “harvest” at the “end of this age,” at which time, The Son of Man will send out His Angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Notice that those who do the reaping of the harvest, both of the saved and the lost, are angels sent out by the Lord. So, “one” in verse 14 should not be capitalized, as it is in the NKJV. Also, see the comment on 1:13 regarding "like the Son of Man". He, like the angel of 10:1, is an angel who clearly represents the Messiah, but he is not the Messiah. Another clue that he is an angel rather than the Messiah is that another angel, who comes out of the Temple, the dwelling place of Yahuah, commands him to reap. It is doubtful that any angel will tell the Lord Yahushua what to do, especially when angels will do the reaping.
b. So the angel who represents the Messiah reaps the harvest of the wheat - the redeemed of Yahuah.
c. But, there is another harvest. And the reaping of this harvest is commanded by another angel - one who comes out from the altar and who has “power over fire.” If this angel comes out from the altar of incense, from which the prayers of the saints are offered up with the incense being burned (cf. 8:3-4), then the second harvest may be in answer to the prayers of the martyrs, pleading, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (6:10).
d. And the angel who represents the Messiah harvests “the clusters of the vine of the earth” (the “grapes of wrath”) and throws them into “the winepress of the Wrath of [Elohim],” where their blood flows out to such an extent that it fills up wherever they are to a depth of five to six feet, approximately 7.25 miles in length (indicating a massive slaughter). Some have linked this second harvest to the battle of "Armageddon" (cf. 16:14-16; 19:11-21), but it is apparently more comprehensive than that, including not only the annihilation of the Messiah’s enemies, the “kings of the earth and of the whole world [universe]” (16:14), but of “mighty men, captains [military leaders]; horses and of those who sit on them [military equipment and soldiers]; [and] all people, both small and great” (19:18, 19). It also includes capturing the anti-messiah and the false prophet and casting them alive into the lake of fire (19:20), and finally, casting all enemies of Yahuah, including the devil (20:10), Death, and Hades (20:14), and “anyone not found written in the Book of Life” (20:15), into the lake of fire (the “furnace of fire” in the parable).
So, the chapters 12-14 parenthetical description of the second half of the Final Seven Years includes details of the Great Tribulation (Antimessiah pursuing the Jews into the wilderness [Chapter 12] then persecuting and killing Yahuah’s People the Followers of Yahushua [Chapter 13]); plus a special appearance of the 144,000 with the Messiah on Mount Zion, the angelic proclamation of the good news of the destruction of Babylon the Great, an exhortation to the followers of the Messiah to not take the mark of the beast and to endure to the end, and a preview of the destruction of all the earth dwellers who do take the mark (Chapter 14). And this plus the descriptions of the sealing of the 144,000 Israelites (Chapter 7) plus the plagues of the first six trumpet judgments of the Lord sets the stage for the Second Coming of the Messiah Yahushua and the Day of the Lord and His Wrath after the sounding of the seventh trumpet (10:7; 11:15) at the end of the seven years.
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