Revelation 14

Chapter 14

"Mount Zion" is the hill on which Jerusalem was built. It can refer to the hill itself or the city or the people of God. And it is the place the prophets promised God would finally establish his rule. Yet in Heb 12v22 it refers to the heavenly community. What here though? John seems to see Christ and his people at the location of the earthly Jerusalem (v20) with a voice from heaven rejoicing in the scene. The point is that this is to be the centre on the new earth. Three things are in mind: As the Lamb the redemptive work of the true Christ as opposed to the false one; the completeness of God's people as the fulfilment of his promises to Israel; their eternal security as priests in bearing the name of Father and Son as opposed to the name of the beast (equivalent to the seal, 13v7, 14v9-11). In context we're learning that the work of the dragon and two beasts will not thwart God's purposes.
     v2: What is heard seems to be the united voice of the great multitude (19v6). The roar of water speaks of life, thunder of power, harps of praise. Strangely this comes from heaven and is sung before the throne and the angelic beings, whilst the group seem to be on earth. Either the vision suddenly jumps to the group in heaven  awaiting their return, is a vision being seen by John whilst the actual 144000 sing in heaven, or combines Jesus on earth with a door to the multitude in heaven. Whatever, the point is of the privilege of the redeemed, praising God just before the parousia for the fulness of their salvation.
     v3: The new song only the saints learn is that celebrating the redemption and victory only they have received (5v8f, 15v2f). Singing before the creatures and elders if angelic representatives of the redeemed is a way of testifying to them of God's grace. Before the throne denotes it being in praise of God.
     v4-5: The group are now distinguished. The language stresses the utter purity necessary to be in God's presence. Sex isn't wrong, so why virgins? Some think it alludes to the requirement of soldiers to be chaste. Better in context is the idea of the bride being pure for the bridegroom (14v8). Although it is odd to consider that in the context of men not having sex, ther imagery fits of them not committing immorality with the harlot of Babylon (17v1). But the idea of defilement may simply suggest a cleanliness issue. In the OT sex had to do with blood and bore the results of the fall and so required certain cleanliness laws. So the redeemed may be described as virgins to stress their being wholly cleansed as worshippers. Whatever the case, they are those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes because of unwavering allegiance to him. They have been redeemed by God and the Lamb as the first and special part of the harvest that was devoted to God as his (Jer 2v2f, Jam 1v18). And they are utterly honest and so blameless. In other words their ritual purity, allegiance, devotion and sinlessness are stressed. This can only be because they washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb (7v13-14). It's a picture of the righteousness of Christ counted to us, the Lamb in whom there was no deceit (Is 53v9). These are his qualities. And they gaurantee access to the new creation (21v8).
     Interestingly there is a opposite to these qualities in what follows. The rest commit adultery with Babylon, give allegiance to the beast, experience rejection by God, and are those who haven't kept the commandments (14v8-13). This supports the idea of being virgins to be about spiritual faithfulness.
     v6-7: Another angel signals another section. The sense is this one flying off in service - to proclaim a message to the same universal category of people we've been concerned with throughout. But those is the first of the angels making declarations before the end. The cumulative give urges response to the first as Babylon and beast are about to revenue their commupance.
     Were told the message of the first is "a gospel" but v7 suggests it is not "the" gospel but it's elements dealing with judgment. The reason is that with the end drawing near acknowledgement of this truth becomes all the more urgent. It's a reminder that we should not neglect it. The message is eternal in that it's message is unchangeable and won't pass away. And v7 in context must provide the detail of that message. It's a call to fear God which is the heart of wisdom, and so give him glory by crediting him for all he is and has done in Christ. And the reason is because the "hour" ie. time of judgment has arrived - a message ultimately of good news in bringing justice, especially for the persecuted. To fear and glorify is to "worship" or bow down in allegiance to God as opposed to the dragon or the beasts - and the reason is because he is creator of all things, including the "sea" from which the first beast comes and "springs of water" that sustain all life. The foolishness of idolatry is seen here. Only the one on whom all things depend is worthy of worship. The point is that time is running out. We must acknowledge him.
     v8: In context this event must accompany or immediately precede the judgment. Chapter 18 tells us the latter is true. This is the first mention of "Babylon." It cannot refer to literal Babylon (Jer 51v26). Rather, OT history makes it a figure for an immoral and idolatrous city or society (Babylon as the centre of the Babylonian Empire) that oppresses God's people and amongst whom they are exiles. It therefore applies in numerous ways throughout history, although the first readers would undoubtedly have had Rome and it's Empire in mind. Babylon is titled "great" to stress her arrogance and God's power in bringing her down (Dan 4v30). One cannot but consider the arrogance of secularism in boasting of its achievements just as Nebuchadbezzar did of his. The twice "fallen" (Is 21v9) speaks of her destruction and demise - and that of her idolatry too. The reason for this is because she "made" and so caused sin amongst the nations - probably by requiring their business for her protection. In the wider context the immorality here is probably figurative for spiritual unfaithfulness or being "in bed" with Babylon - joining in her idolatry for material gain (18v3). The point is she has corrupted the nations by forcefully intoxicating them with the allure of all she could give by way of wealth etc (Jer 51v7-8). And this has rendered them incapable of responding to the gospel announced in v7. Babylon therefore seems to refer the society of the beast that draws in those of the nations so keeping them from Christ. This is expressed in numerous kingdoms through history, just as it was in the four beast-kingdoms Daniel spoke of. And as with them, it will be finally destroyed and superceded by the rule of Christ.
     v9-10: Again we have a three, symbolising in this book the lead up to the end. This third angel follows the other two flying overhead with a loud declaration to the world. Picking up the significance of Babylon, it announces that if "anyone" worships the beast and the image the second beast brought to life, and receives its mark on forehead or hand (13v15-16), then he will suffer God's wrathful anger. As with the prophets this is described as drinking of the full strength of God's wine because it leaves the drinker reeling and comotosed as if dead. The full strength stresses its severity and contrasts the wine of Babylon. That seemed to bring pleasure. This brings punishment. As with Sodom and Jesus, it is to be tormented with fire and sulphur, stressing the agony and destructiveness of burning. But just as the former is figurative so it is likely the latter is too. However the seriousness of what is received is real. "Torment" in the book denotes spiritual and phychological suffering in being aware of what one has done and what one has subsequently lost by the justice of God (11v10, 18v7, cf. Lk 13v28). Surprisingly we are told this is all in the presence of the holy angels and Lamb because it is right justice, something to be thankful for. The tragedy is that the Lamb is the one who had offered salvation from it. And those in hell will forever know this, forever having to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.
     Verse 11 continues to the worshippers of the beast. One might speculate whether the smoke is of a finite torment, especially given its OT background (Is 34v9-10). But the rest of the verse qualifies it. The smoke of "their torment" implies it lasts the same period - "forever and ever," so they receive no rest "day or night," not even in cessation of life. Verse 13 tells us this contrasts this experience with the "rest" the redeemed experience in the new creation - a freedom from labour, probably that of persevering service of Christ. The "day and night" experience of the wicked therefore contrasts that of 7v15-17. And we should note that torment in the book is always conscious. Moreover, the beast and false prophet are human beings, and we are explicitly told they will be tormented day and night in the lake of fire (20v10).
     The verse ends soberly reminding us who this all refers to. And it is sobering. Here we learn that unlike previous expressions of wrath, this one will be consciously felt everlastingly. And because it is recorded as part of the angels announcement, it is something we should warn the world of just as the angel does here. This is what will follow the fall of Babylon at the hour of judgment (14v7-8).
     v12-13: The call to endurance is to encourage the saints (holy ones) that fitting justice is on its way and so they can persevere amidst their persecutions - keeping the commandments and their faith in Jesus. The note of "commandments" stresses the need for works to flow from faith but also the saints' allegiance to God over the beast. And they counter antinominism into the church. It is this description that provides context for v13. To the saints' reassurance an authoritative voice from heaven that could be that of God or the Lamb tells John to record his promise. Thus gives it weight. And the promise is that from his time onwards those who "die in the Lord" (ie. in obedience and faith towards Christ) are blessed - receiving joy from God. We're told the Spirit agrees and clarifies the blessing. It is in knowing rest from their labours, which could refer to all toil bound with service of Christ in this age, and especially that of persecution. And the reason we're told they can be sure of that is because their deeds will follow them as testimony to the genuineness if their being "in the Lord." It's a verse to provide significant motivation to keep serving in all godliness. Judgment is according to deeds (2v23), and it's results for the faithful are quite a contrast to those for the wicked (14v9-11). The point is surely that any suffering they might face now is little compared to the eternal suffering of the unrepentant, and will itself be followed by eternal joy.
     v14-16: Again "I looked" marks a new section. The white cloud signifies God's presence and alludes to Daniel 7. The Son of Man in context must be returning from heaven rather than arriving there. His golden crown is one of victory and perhaps rule too. Daniel 7 tells us he is the glorified one given authority over all things. He has a sickle to reap a harvest of souls, beginning to do so when another angel commands him to as the hour has arrived and the harvest is ripe. And he does so being seated on the cloud, perhaps as a significant rule. The contrast with v19 shows us this harvest is of the redeemed as opposed to the wicked. The Son of Man is gathering his subjects who have born fruit. Of course their souls are already with him. So this must be the resurrection.

     v17-20: The other angel comes from the place of God's presence in the temple and has a sharp sickle, ensuring none to be reaped are missed. The next angel is from over the altar from which fire was hurled on the earth. It is one of judgment for the persecution of the saints, and commands the previous angel to gather clusters of grapes from the vine of the earth. These are thrown into the wine press of God's wrath. The ripeness of the grapes must therefore denote the sin of the wicked having come to a measure that warrants the judgement. This wine press is trodden outside the city - presumably "Mount Zion" (v1) as these are those excluded from it. The blood flowing around 4/5 feet high and for a great distance is a truly gruesome picture, stressing destruction. God have mercy.