The Victorious Christ Revelation 14
The conflict between good and evil is vividly described in Revelation 13 and 14. In chapter 13 the two beasts reap a harvest of souls through deception and persecution, in what could be called the darkest period of world history. In chapter 14 John is given a vision of Christ’s victorious triumph over evil as He thrusts in His sickle of judgment to destroy Satan’s rule over the earth. This parenthetical chapter previews a series of seven proleptic visions to be fulfilled in the last half of the Tribulation.
John sees “a Lamb [standing] on Mount Zion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand” (v. 1). This is the same group of Jewish believers mentioned in Revelation 7:4, who will be saved, sealed, and kept safe throughout the Tribulation. Some commentators teach that the 144,000 will be in heaven with the Lord, but the text clearly teaches that they will stand with the Lord on Mount Zion in Jerusalem after His Second Coming. John sees the “Father’s name written in their foreheads” (v. 1), denoting ownership and guaranteeing their protection throughout the seven years of the Tribulation. They have come through the Great Tribulation victoriously and are ready to enter the Millennial Kingdom in their natural bodies.
The apostle provides a graphic description of the 144,000 Jewish believers. They are virgin men who have not been “defiled with women” (v. 4). They are loyal to Christ, willing to “follow the Lamb” (v. 4) wherever He leads them. They are “first fruits unto God and to the Lamb” (v. 4) who are saved at the beginning of the Tribulation. There is no “guile” (deceit) in their mouths, “for they are without fault [blemish] before the throne of God” (i.e., in God’s sight) (v. 5). They possess a sterling character and commitment to the Lord, giving them the needed strength to stand against the Antichrist’s demonic program.
The apostle “heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of a great thunder” (v. 2). In all likelihood, this is the voice of God the Father. John also heard other voices coming from heaven that sounded like many melodious harps (v. 2).
The “new song” that John heard “before the throne” of God could not be learned by any man “but the hundred and forty and four thousand, who were redeemed from the earth” (v. 3). The phrase “And they sang” (v. 3) refers to the singing of an unidentified group in heaven, but the words are intelligible to the 144,000 who stand triumphantly on Mount Zion after the Tribulation. Speculation on the identity of these singers in heaven ranges from an innumerable group of unidentified angels (cp. 5:11) to the martyred Tribulation saints (7:9–13). The theme and content of the song are not revealed, but it seems to be a song of praise, sung in celebration of Christ’s victorious triumph over the earth following His Second Coming, just before the Millennial Kingdom begins.
In the verses that follow, six angels appear to announce various phases of God’s final judgment on the ungodly world system that has been set up and controlled by Satan. There has been much discussion on the identity of “another angel” (v. 6) because no angel is mentioned thus far in this section. Most likely John is connecting this angel with the ones in 8:3, 10:1, 11:15, or the angels associated with Michael in 12:7.
The first angel flew “in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth” (v. 6). Some scholars presume that this is the gospel of salvation being preached worldwide during the Tribulation. Others teach that it is not the gospel of God’s grace and salvation, but rather a call for people to turn to God, who is about to bring judgment on the world. This view teaches that the “everlasting gospel” is a proclamation of God’s sovereign rule over the earth, and people should worship Him—not the beast and his image—in light of the impending judgment. This position seems correct for the following reasons. There is no call to repent of sin or invitation to receive Christ. The substance of this gospel is that the pagan world should “Fear God, and give glory to him…and worship him” (v. 7) who is about to bring judgment.
Embracing the second view, Dr. John Walvoord writes: “Ordinarily, one would expect this to refer to the gospel of salvation. In verse 7, however, the content of the message is quite otherwise, for it is an announcement of the hour of judgment of God and the command to worship Him…The everlasting gospel seems to be neither the gospel of grace nor the gospel of the kingdom, but rather the good news that God at last is about to deal with the world in righteousness and establish His sovereignty over the world…To refer to the gospel of grace as an everlasting gospel is to ignore the context and usage of the term” (John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 217).
According to this position, it will be good news to the believers who suffered under Satan’s wrath during the Great Tribulation—good news of their impending deliverance and reward. But to the unsaved world who refused to put their faith in Christ and worship the God of creation, it is bad news of coming “judgment” (v. 7). This is the first time the word judgment is used in Revelation. This judgment is for a specific “hour” (v. 7), or a fixed time, and “is come” (v. 7), or already on the way. This will be the last opportunity for unsaved people to turn to Christ.
A second angel followed saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (v. 8). The announcement of Babylon’s fall anticipates the coming judgment that will be poured out on that wicked city. Other nations who participate in Babylon’s religious and political corruption will suffer the same judgment. “Fallen” is mentioned twice to emphasize the certainty of Babylon’s destruction. Although it will come near the end of the Great Tribulation, John speaks of it as already having taken place. Various views are held concerning Babylon’s role during the Tribulation. Some believe that Babylon refers to a literal city yet to be rebuilt in Iraq. Others believe it refers to the city of Rome. Still others believe it refers to the religious practices of ancient Babylon that will be manifest through a one-world religious and political system that will emerge from the area of Rome.
A third angel followed saying, “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God” (vv. 9–10). Those who worship the beast or take his mark during the Tribulation will be sealed to damnation with no possibility of salvation. Such people will not be shown mercy while on earth or at the Great White Throne Judgment. Their torment is “without mixture [undiluted]…with fire and brimstone…forever and ever” (vv. 10–11) in the Lake of Fire (cp. 20:15). Neither will they experience any reprieve from their suffering, for “they have no rest day nor night” (v. 11).
Scripture does not teach the concept of purgatory, where the soul goes to an intermediate place for purging and cleansing from sin in readiness for eternal union with God in heaven. Neither is the concept of the annihilation of the body, soul, or spirit taught in Scripture. Although the suffering of the damned is described as visible “in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb” (v. 10), this will only be temporary until the new heaven is brought forth.
At this point in the chapter there is an abrupt transition from those who will be eternally tormented to faithful believers suffering for their commitment to Christ during the Great Tribulation. John writes, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (v. 12). The warning of damnation to those who follow the beast will be a great assurance to faithful believers. This word of encouragement will strengthen the weak in faith, who might consider succumbing to the Antichrist’s worldwide control. Those believers will realize that martyrdom for their faith is far better than eternal death and suffering in the Lake of Fire.
Commitment to Christ during the Tribulation will mean martyrdom for many true believers, but there will be blessing at the time of their death. John “heard a voice from heaven saying…Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth” (v. 13). This is the second of seven beatitudes mentioned in Revelation. The Holy Spirit is announcing a special blessing and reward for those who are martyred for their loyalty to and love for the Lord. They are given “rest from their labors [troubles]” (v. 13; cp. 6:11). Note the contrast: Faithful believers will have rest from their troubles, but the damned will have no rest, day or night, forever (v. 11). The Holy Spirit assures believers that “their works do follow them” (v. 13). Everything done for Christ will be justly acknowledged and richly rewarded.
Vision of Armageddon
The last section of this chapter describes God’s judgment poured out at the end of the Tribulation. John wrote, “I looked and, behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat, like the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle” (v. 14). This is Christ poised to bring judgment. His crowned head symbolizes that He is victor over the earth. The sharp sickle in His hand indicates readiness to carry out His judicial role in pouring out divine wrath and judgment on the ungodly at the end of the Tribulation.
The first three angels announced that judgment would be forthcoming, but the fourth angel commanded the Lord to accomplish it: “Thrust in thy sickle, and reap; for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe” (v. 15). This is not a dual harvest—reaping the elect to heaven and the wicked to hell—as some hold, but judgment on the ungodly. The word ripe (dry, withered) indicates that this judgment is long past due. The phrase the time is come indicates that God has a specific appointed hour in which He will execute divine wrath, and not before. At the signal of the fourth angel, the Son of Man “thrust in his sickle…and the earth was reaped” (v. 16). The wicked are destroyed.
Then a fifth angel appears “out of the temple which is in heaven” carrying “a sharp sickle” (v. 17). This indicates that the Lord will use angels to help carry out destruction on the ungodly during this time.
A sixth angel exhorts the fifth angel to “gather the clusters of the vine of the earth” (v. 18). The altar from which the angel departs is the golden altar of incense (8:3) where the prayers of the saints were offered and divine judgment dispensed. His “power over fire” (v. 18) speaks of a purging judgment that will be poured out in response to the saints’ prayers. Hearing the call to reap the fully ripened harvest, “the angel thrust in his sickle…and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God” (v. 19). The imagery is that of a winepress in ancient Israel, hewn out of solid stone. Grapes were cast into the press and crushed under foot until all the juice was squeezed out of them.
The harvest mentioned by the angel will take place at the Second Coming of Christ. With one word from His mouth, He will “smite the nations” (19:15) who have gathered in Israel for “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (16:14), better known as Armageddon. The huge army that will be destroyed will look like grapes put through a winepress. The carnage will reach to “the horse bridles” and cover an area of “a thousand and six hundred furlongs” (about 200 miles) (v. 20).
Then the world will be ruled by the victorious Christ, who will set up His glorious universal kingdom of peace and justice.