...the tide turns as God asserts his Sovereignty over the Unholy Trinity: Satan (aka: the Dragon), the Antichrist (aka: the Beast) and the False Prophet.
In this study, God clearly lays out his issues with the Unholy Trinity and those who follow and worship them. It stems from false worship and rebellion. Because of these, we catch a glimpse of the Final Judgment, which will be previewed in the next chapter.
I pray that this study will encourage you as you trust the Lord for victory over evil. Let me know if you have any questions or comments. May God bless you as you read and respond to his Word. - Kirk McCormick
Creation is Rescued by God
· The picture that has unfolded thus far in the Apocalypse is that of a world ruined by man.
· As the seals have been broken and restraint removed, passions in the human heart, long restrained byGod, have been allowed to come to full flower and fruit.
· The harvest has been one of complete chaos on earth.
· With the blowing of the trumpets, the picture has taken on the even darker hue of a world ruled by Satan.
· Satanic power has been unleashed, and the evil one’s plans for the subjugation of the race have been allowed to mature.
· The world has united beneath the banner of the Beast. He has been hailed as messiah, and worship has been offered both to him and the dragon.
· Satan’s schemes have been allowed at long last to reach this high tide mark.
With chapter 14 there comes a change and a turning of the tide. The ebb sets in and flows faster and ever faster, as God takes over in direct and determined intervention in the affairs of men.
From here on, we have set before us a picture of a world rescued by God. This is a long section of the book. It runs on to the end of chapter 20, and thus covers the final throes of the Great Tribulation, the Battle of Armageddon, the golden millennial age, the final rebellion of Satan, the great white throne judgment, and on to the edge of eternity.
** The section is in three parts:
1. The formal warnings are described, as God reveals to men the high cost of Beast worship.
2. The fatal war is described, as the vials are outpoured and the maddened nations swirl into the maelstrom of Armageddon.
3. The final woes are described, as Satan is loosed at the end of the Millennium and God finally clears the stage for the judgment of the last day.
Now…we shift our focus off of the earth and back into heaven to recapture a part of the story that has already been revealed (Rev. 7): The 144,000 Witnesses
Chapter 14 – A Synopsis of the Final Judgment
vs. 1-5 – The 144,000 – Unique Witnesses
“Mount Zion” = the Temple mount area
· The temple is actually built on Mount Moriah, but Mount Zion is traditionally known as the place of David’s lineage…the place where Messiah would reestablish the Kingdom of God on earth.
· Thus…Mount Zion became a euphemism for the New Jerusalem…i.e.: the place where Jesus would reestablish his throne from which he would rule Creation anew.
c.f.: Hebrews 12:22 – “But you (i.e.: disciples) have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.”
· Note the contrast of the Dragon’s location (13:1)…Satan stands on the sands of the sea, whereas Messiah stands on the solid rock of Mount Zion
· These are the same witnesses mentioned/previewed in Chapter 7.
· They are 12, 000 from the 12 tribes of Israel who are worshipping the “Lamb” (Sacrificed Messiah – Jesus)
· They are “marked” by God so they will not be harmed by Satan during the Tribulation
· They are like a special protected priestly class chosen to serve Jesus in a special way:
o “They sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders.” (v. 3a)
o “No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.” (v. 3b)
o “These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure.” (v. 4a)
o “They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as first-fruits to God and the Lamb.” (v. 4b)
“Purchased from among men” = likely martyrs, but now glorified…no longer subject or belonging to the influences of the earth (i.e.: Satan, the Antichrist, etc.)
“First-fruits” = being set apart to/by God for a sacred mission.
c.f.: Exodus 23:19 – “Bring the best of the first-fruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.”
o “No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.” (v. 5)
vs. 6-10 – the Prophetic Message before the Final Battle
** The prophetic message (i.e.: God giving those on earth one last opportunity – so they are without excuse) comes through three “angels” flying “midair” (i.e.: between heaven and earth)
Angel (Message) 1 – The Gospel is Proclaimed (vs. 6, 7)
** Here is God’s “last call” to those on the earth. It is:
· Universal – “to every nation, tribe, language, people”
· Eternal – this Gospel will not change…no matter the rebellion put forth
· Convicting – “Fear God and give him glory (i.e.: not Satan) because the hour of his judgment has come.”
o Note: it is not “coming”, but is on the doorstep – “has come”
· Consecrating – “Worship him (i.e.: not the Antichrist) who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
Angel (Message) 2 – The Condition of Creation – Specifically Mankind (v. 8)
** The World is fallen!... specifically, the kingdoms of mankind (e.g.: “Babylon”) have led people astray…
…i.e.: People have been drinking the “cool aid” (“All the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”)
“Maddening wine” = wine of their passions/desires/cravings/anger/rage... usually associated with destruction
c.f.: Galatians 5:17 – “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
…so rather than drinking from the “Cup of Salvation”, the world encourages people to drink the “maddening wine” from the “Cup of Destruction”
We read that after the Flood people tried to scale the heights of heaven by building a mighty tower. But God confused the people by causing them to speak in various languages.
So the city/tower was called, Babel (Hebrew: balal = “to confuse” or from Akkadian - an extinct, ancient Semitic language used in Mesopotamia – the “land between the [Euphrates and Tigris] rivers” - balili = “Gate of God”… a sarcastic word play on their attempts to invade heaven by building this tower).
Point: For John, Babylon is the great city, the symbol of mankind in community opposed to the things of God. So, John is combining two thoughts:
1. …that Babylon makes the nations drink the wine of her impurity (she corrupts them with her evil ways), and,
2. …that this impurity brings down on it the wrath of God
Angel (Message 3) – The Warning and Consequence (vs. 9-12)
The Warning –
“If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.” (v. 9)
Note: This “wine” is undiluted (“full strength)… i.e.: there will be no escaping the fury and wrath of God.
Background: Jeremiah 25:15, 16
“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.’”
The Consequence (vs. 10, 11) –
“He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.”
“Tormented with burning sulfur…”
· c.f.: 9:17 – one-third of humanity will be killed by fire, smoke and sulfur because humanity will not repent.
· So, due to this torment, the people on earth will find “no rest day or night”
Point: The wicked will be destroyed by God’s angels in the presence of the Lamb because they refuse to repent and worship God, but continue to worship the Dragon and his image.
Note: But as satisfying as this prospect is to believers, it will take time… and, therefore, “patient endurance” on the part of the saints.
vs. 13-16 – The “Harvest of the Faithful” – The Rapture
** Many ask, “What happens to Believers (excluding the 144,000) who endure during the Tribulation?”
v. 13 – “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
From J.B. Phillips Commentary on Revelation:
“I’ll make you suffer!” screams the Beast. “You’ll make us saints!” reply the overcomers.
“I’ll persecute you to the grave,” roars the Beast, “You’ll promote us to glory!” reply the overcomers.
“I’ll blast you!” snarls the Beast. “You’ll bless us!” reply the overcomers. The Beast’s rage against these noble martyrs will all be in vain.
v. 16 – “So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.”
c.f.: Matthew 26:64 – “I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
** Jesus, wearing the victor’s wreath/crown, and the angels return to take his Own into heaven.
Note: What is happening NOW is the “Parable of the Weeds/Tares” - See Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
…but there will come a day when God harvests the good growth and separates it from the imposters.
vs. 17-20 – The Final Judgment of the World
v. 19 – “The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath.”
Note: The grape harvest is also known as the “Vintage”…
…so the words of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” –
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.
…is taken from Revelation 14:9 and is a reference to the
Final Judgment of God’s enemies.
“Winepress” = always a symbol of Judgment in the Bible
Joel 3:13 – “Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow – so great is their wickedness!”
Isaiah 63:3, 4 – “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come.”
v. 20 – “They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.”
…one stadion = approximately 600 feet
…so…1600 stadia = approximately 960,000 feet…or approximately 183 miles of horse-belly-high blood spilled/accumulated (at its peak) during the final judgment.
BTW… if you measure from Jerusalem (the scene of the final Judgment), 183 miles gets you FARTHER than Amman, Jordan (44 Miles), Damascus, Syria (135 miles), or Beirut, Lebanon (146 Miles)
Note: These “harvests” refer to the grain/wheat and grape harvests during Biblical times. The grain/wheat harvest usually occurred March-April. Whereas the Grape harvest usually occurred in September/October…
…some suggest this means that God’s people will leave the earth mid-Tribulation…but this is pushing things far too much…
…it is difficult to say with certainty that God’s people are taken first or last, and/or that the unrighteous are left for a while AFTER God’s people are taken or if they go BEFORE. The Parable of the Weeds/Tares seems to say unbelievers are judged first, then believers are given their reward.
Point: There will be an end to the madness with believers being given their rewards while unbelievers are condemned…the Final Harvests will happen.
** Now that we have the big picture of the Final Harvest/Judgment, the next few chapters give us the details of HOW this will happen.