Commentary on Revelation (covers all chapters from 1 thru 22, including Introduction)
Copyright © 2019 by Steve Sewell, Theology First. All Rights Reserved
All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Chapter 13 discusses the nature of the Church-age beast, while chapter 14 discusses the judgment of this beast. The fact that this chapter is about the harvest of the earth – the judgment of the world – confirms the interpretation of this commentary that the beast is the kingdom of darkness, which manifests itself via its image, which is the kingdom of the world—the world system that opposes the truth, in which Christ is central, who is Himself the truth (Jn 14:6).
The subject matter of this chapter is the same as chapter 19. Both talk about the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:6-10). Both talk about the judgment of Babylon the Great, which is the Great Harlot (Rev 17:4-5; Rev 18:2,10,16,18-20,21,24; Rev 19:1-2). Both talk about the judgment of the beast, and of the whole world (Rev 19:17-21). The difference is, they each provide a different viewpoint. Both provide details that the other doesn’t. That’s what the book of Revelation does. It provides many different viewpoints of the same events.
This chapter begins with the 144,000, which is symbolic of the Church, consisting of those who have been “purchased from among men” (vs. 4) and “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (vs. 4). This is contrasted with those who “worship the beast and his image” (vs. 9). Clearly we’re dealing with two different kingdoms here – the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness – and those who belong to those kingdoms. It’s the kingdom of Christ versus the Kingdom of Satan.
In review, the sea-beast of chapter 13 is not the abyss-beast of chapter 17 (“eighth king” – also known as the “man of sin” of 2 Th 2, and “the antichrist” of 1 Jn 2:18). He does not come to power until just prior to the return of Christ. His world-reign will be brief. While this chapter (14) is primarily focused on the beast of chapter 13, it needs to be pointed out that the eighth king (abyss-beast) is alluded to in the harvesting of the earth (judgment) of this chapter, which occurs when Jesus returns.
We have to keep in mind that the Church-age beast (seventh empire) is a two-headed beast. It has two kings. Satan himself is the king throughout the Church era (Christian era/gospel era), up until close to the return of Christ. That’s when the eighth king rises to power as the second king. Both kings are rulers of the seventh world empire.
(see chapter 13 and 17 for full explanation).
(Rev 14:1) – 1 And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on the mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.
This represents the whole Church, all the redeemed, which is true Israel. Therefore, this is a future scene in Heaven of all the saved. Israel has its fulfillment in Christ and His Church. Thus what we see here in the beginning of this chapter is a revelation of the complete Church in Christ. This takes us to the end of the Church age, and the end of this present world via the judgment of God upon the world, as described beginning in verse 7.
(For a detailed discussion of the 144,000, see commentary on Rev 5:9-10; 7:2-10)
Refers to the city of Jerusalem, which is representative of all Israel. In this context, it’s symbolic of true Israel, which is the Church in Christ. Israel has its fulfillment and continuation in Christ and the Church as a spiritual nation (1 Pet 2:4-10). This phrase points to our Jewish roots, which we have in Christ, who was Himself a Jew. Jesus fulfilled all the covenant promises that the people of Israel could not. Thus He Himself is true Israel, and we (the Church) are spiritual Israel in Him.
“the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.”
This is a symbolic mark of identification, of belonging to God as followers of Christ.
(Rev 14:2-3) – 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps: 3 and they sing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders: and no man could learn the song save the hundred and forty and four thousand, even they that had been purchased out of the earth.
NET – 2 I also heard a sound coming out of heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. Now the sound I heard was like that made by harpists playing their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one was able to learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth.
“like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder”
(Rev 19:6) – 6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying….
Marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:6-10)
Based on Rev 17:1,15, “many waters” is probably symbolic of people—specifically the redeemed from all around the world (“peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues”). [see vs. 6. Also Rev 5:9-10; Rev 7:9]
Notice the sound that John heard was “like” that of “harpists playing their harps.” He doesn’t say that what he heard was actually harps being played—only that’s what it sounded like. We have to keep in mind all the symbolism and figurative language that is used in this book. However, it could be, that while these were not actual harps being played (such as what we have in our world), it could be that God creates the sound of harps. It could be that Heaven will be filled with music as we sing our “new song” to the Lord. Thus harps could be symbolic of all music that accompanies Heaven.
In addition to what sounded like “harps” being played, John also heard what sounded like “many waters” and “loud thunder.” He’s not saying that it was these things that he was actually hearing, but only that is what it all sounded like. Since singing is involved, what John heard may be the dynamic and melodious singing that he was actually hearing. When all the redeemed in Heaven are singing before the Lord, one can imagine what that would sound like, and John was merely telling us what it sounded like to him.
“singing a new song”
Again, this is a future scene in Heaven of all the redeemed of the earth, those who are in Christ. This “song” is a song of worship, and it’s a “new” song. It’s new, in that, it’s a new beginning of life in the eternal presence of God. The old world and the old life with all its sins is past, and the beginning of the Eternal Kingdom has begun (Rev 21:1-4). The music and songs of this world is replaced with the music and songs of Heaven. There will be no more disagreements about types of music!
“they that had been purchased out of the earth”
“These were purchased from among men” (vs. 4)
This can only describe all the redeemed in Christ throughout history. This refutes the idea that the 144,000 is a group of Jewish believers who appear on the world stage during the so-called seven year tribulation period, as Dispensational Premillennialism teaches. There’s no justification for limiting the “redeemed from the earth” to one group of people—namely, ethnic Israel.
(Rev 14:4-5) – 4 These are they that were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, to be the firstfruits unto God and unto the Lamb. 5 And in their mouth was found no lie: they are without blemish.
NET – 4 These are the ones who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from humanity as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb, 5 and no lie was found on their lips; they are blameless.
Again, this whole description can only refer to all believers in Christ, all who obtain salvation in Him throughout history. This is a future scene of the complete Church.
“have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins.”
(2 Cor 11:2)
“who follow the Lamb”
“no lie was found on their lips”
“they are blameless”
All of these statements are figurative language that describes our pure position in Christ as forgiven and cleansed of all sin, and as being complete in Christ. However, it also describes the obedience of those who are truly saved. The outworking of true salvation is faithfulness. In other words, the evidence of true salvation is someone who “follows the Lamb wherever He goes.” A Christian is one who lives his or her life in sincere allegiance to Christ their King.
(1 Cor 15:20-23; James 1:18)
This refers to believers collectively, to the whole Church. The Church itself – with all its members – is the “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” Paul refers to Christ Himself as the “firstfruits” in 1 Corinthians 15:20,23. This is in the context of the resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is “first,” which assures us of our own resurrection, which follows His (secondly). Thus we are “firstfruits” in Christ.
Therefore, what we have pictured here is all the redeemed after we’ve been resurrected.
(Rev 14:6) – 6 And I saw another angel flying in mid heaven, having eternal good tidings to proclaim unto them that dwell on the earth, and unto every nation and tribe and tongue and people;
NET – 6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, and he had an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language, and people.
(Matt 24:14; Mark 13:10)
This is the “good news,” the gospel of Jesus Christ that is to be proclaimed throughout the whole world until the Church is complete and Jesus returns in judgment—as the remainder of this chapter describes.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is what’s proclaimed throughout the whole Christian era, which is the Church age between the two advents of Christ. This is the gospel of the whole gospel era. This verse strongly confirms that the book of Revelation is about that period of time and history, and not simply about a mere seven year period before the return of Christ. In Matthew 24:14, Jesus informs us that once the gospel has been proclaimed throughout the whole world, “then shall the end come.” This refers to the return of Christ when He resurrects His people and brings judgment upon the unbelieving world—which brings ringing end to this present world. That’s what we see in this chapter.
The whole context of this passage confirms that the 144,000 refers to all the redeemed in Christ, both believing Jews and believing Gentiles who make up the whole Church throughout history.
(Rev 14:7) – 7 and he saith with a great voice, Fear God, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.
“Fear God, and give him glory”
This is the last call to turn to God through faith in His Son before He brings “judgment” upon the world. This is, of course, a call to the world throughout the Church age, which could be the last call for many in our own day—for we don’t know what the next day will bring, or even the next minute. As Paul said, “now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).
This is also a warning to professing Christians who may have one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven, or who are living in outright sin. We can’t live in the Kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the world at the same time. At some point we have to decide who or what we’re going to live for. We can’t have it both ways. The line is drawn between the two kingdoms, and so if we profess Jesus as our Savior and King, then we must be all in with Christ and His teachings. As we get closer to His return, that line of distinction will become more and more defined and apparent, and people will have to decide which side of the line they want to be on. That time of decision is now.
“the hour of his judgment is come”
Again, once the gospel of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed to the whole world and the Church is complete and He’s resurrected His people, then He will bring judgment upon the world of unbelievers.
(Rev 14:8) – 8 And another, a second angel, followed, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, that hath made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
This is the first mention mention of “Babylon” in Revelation.
(See Rev 16:19; 17:5: 18:2,10,21)
This is God’s judgment upon “Babylon the great,” which is the whole world and its system. Babylon the Great is to be understood as the “image of the beast,” which is the kingdom of the world. This judgment is the end of the world and of those who belong to it. We see this judgment described in detail in Rev 18 (also Rev 16:12-16; 17:16-18). This is God’s judgment on the world of unbelievers after He’s resurrected His people (Rev 19:19-20; 20:10).
The idea that the beast is just about one man or one world ruler, who rises to power in the final years of the world, is an incomplete picture of who this beast really is. While that’s certainly involved, it goes far deeper than that!
Central to the world and its system (Babylon), are the false religions and philosophies and idols of the world. While the whole world system is the “image of the beast” – which is the kingdom of darkness – false religion is central because the religions of the world are the counterfeits of the truth. They are a false and useless means of obtaining a right relationship with God. These false religions and false gods lead people away from the truth of Christ and the true God. Therefore, in the end, false religion and false gods will be utterly judged and destroyed forever and ever.
(I talk more about “Babylon the great” in my commentary on chapters 17 & 18)
Sex outside of marriage is of Satan. Sex within marriage is of God. Likewise, false belief systems are of Satan, while the truth of Christ is of God. Therefore, “fornication” refers to the false form of the true form. Outside the truth of Christ, all forms of belief systems are corrupt, unclean, unholy—and damnation.
“hath made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
This is referred to in chapter 17:
(Rev 17:2) – 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and they that dwell in the earth were made drunken with the wine of her fornication.
The world is “drunk” on the false belief system of the world (Babylon). Meaning, the whole world is engulfed in all forms of false religion and idols and philosophies, and people are not seeing them for what they really are. They’re not seeing the truth. They’re staggering through life on a crooked path that leads to destruction.
In regard to “the wine of the wrath of her fornication,” Satan is ultimately in view:
(Rev 12:12) – 12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe for the earth and for the sea: because the devil is gone down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.
The devil is carrying out an assault on the people of the world through the world’s false belief system. It’s his wrath against the people of this world because of his hatred for God. He has but a “short time,” so he wants to take as many with him to hell as he can. Thus his “wrath” is seen in the form of false religion—indeed, the whole false belief system of the world. Not only is this false system a vehicle for his wrath, but belief in this false system leads to the “wrath of God,” which begins in judgment of the world when Christ returns, and ends in the eternal lake of fire (Rev 14:10-11; Rev 20:14-15).
So we see that the “wine of the wrath of her fornication” is contrasted with “the wine of the wrath of God.” The “wrath of her fornication” reaps the “wrath of God” in judgment.
Therefore, all false belief systems are associated with wrath. Whereas, the truth of Christ is always associated with peace and eternal blessings.
(See also Rev 18:2-3,9; 19:2)
(Rev 14:9) – 9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice, If any man worshippeth the beast and his image, and receiveth a mark on his forehead, or upon his hand,
NET – 9 A third angel followed the first two, declaring in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and takes the mark on his forehead or his hand,
As we learned in chapter 13, “the beast” is the kingdom of darkness, and its “image” is the kingdom of the world or the world system (Babylon – the harlot Rev 17 and 18). The “mark” is a symbolic mark that identifies unbelievers with the kingdom of darkness—those who belong to Satan and his kingdom (1 Jn 3:8-10). Those are the ones who “worship the beast.” They worship the beast in the sense that they don’t worship Christ. Instead, their heart is devoted (worship) to the things of the world, with all its false teachings and philosophies and values.
Therefore, the sea-beast (Rev 13:1), the land-beast (False Prophet – Rev 16:13; 19:20; 20:10), the image, the mark—it’s all representative, to depict the kingdom of darkness, the world system, and those who belong to it.
(Rev 14:10-11) – 10 he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: 11 and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name.
I think these three verses (9-11) confirm the given interpretation of this commentary regarding the beast and the image and the mark of the beast. Verse 11 makes it clear that the ones who are “tormented forever and ever” (in the lake of fire – Rev 20:14-15), are those who “worship the beast and his image, and who receives the mark of his name.”
I think it’s clear that chapters 13 and 14 are a revelation of the kingdom of darkness and the associated world system, and of the final judgment of both.
Note about Universalism: In regard to “the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever,” this completely shatters universalism, which is the teaching that everyone eventually gets saved. This description totally refutes that false claim. The “smoke that goes up forever and ever,” refers to those who are being burned, a burning that never ceases. Of course, the smoke arising from those being burned, neither is not to be taken literally. Fire (which produces smoke) is symbolic of judgment and suffering. Therefore, this description is symbolic of the eternal suffering of those being tormented. So the most important thing to understand here is that those who die without Christ, will suffer torment forever—as the penalty for their sins and rejection of Christ. Universalism has no reasonable answer to this.
(Rev 14:12) – 12 Here is the patience of the saints, they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
NET – 12 This requires the steadfast endurance of the saints – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to their faith in Jesus.
It’s completely unreasonable that this refers to a limited seven year period. This describes all Christians throughout the whole Church age up to the return of Christ. Life in this world is difficult for followers of Christ, especially for those who live in countries where the persecution of Christians is severe. But through it all, we must be “patient” and remain strong in our “faith” (faithfulness) and keep our eyes on eternity.
Prior to God’s judgment on the world, persecution for Christians all around the world will become very severe. Eventually, that will even include the United States—which is becoming more anti-Christian with every passing decade. Therefore, this is an exhortation to remain firm in our faith through it all.
“faith in Jesus”
tn Grk “faith of Jesus.” The construction may mean either “faith in Jesus” or “faithful to Jesus.” Either translation implies that ᾿Ιησοῦ (Ihsou) is to be taken as an objective genitive; the difference is more lexical than grammatical because πίστις (pistis) can mean either “faith” or “faithfulness.”
Christians are described as those who “obey God’s commandments and hold to their faith in Jesus.” A true Christian is one who follows Christ and the teachings of the Christian faith. They’ve turned from self-will and the things of the world in order to live for the glory of God. A true Christian is one who endures in his or her faith—even in (or especially in) the midst of severe persecution. True faith is revealed or demonstrated by a life of faithfulness.
(Rev 14:13) – 13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them.
We have to keep in mind that this revelation is given at the beginning of the Christian era. Those who “die in the Lord from now on,” refers to all Christians up to the time of Christ’s return and the judgment of the world. This is just one more indication that this book covers the whole Church age.
To be more specific, those who “die in the Lord from now on,” refers to all those who die in Christ from the time of His death and resurrection. In other words, before Christ, we were not in the Christian era (the gospel era). With Christ’s work of redemption completed, everyone is in the sphere of “from now on” from that point forward.
However, in context, considering the worldwide assault against Christians prior to the return of Christ, where they (collectively) will experience such worldwide hatred and attacks from unbelievers like never before, I believe this is intended to be an added word of encouragement to that particular group of Christians. They will be right at the doorstep of the return of Christ, the resurrection, and the Eternal Kingdom of Revelation 21 and 22. Therefore, I believe Jesus is basically saying to them, “now is not the time to give up! You’re almost Home!”
But to be clear, whether we are part of the end-time group of Christians or not, life in this world is hard. For many Christians around the world, they’re already suffering severe persecution. Therefore, no matter what we’re going through, we’re not to give up! Life in this world is temporary. We’re almost Home!
“that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them.”
Those who truly belong to Christ will show the fruit of true salvation. Serving Christ our King is what we do as those who belong to His kingdom. Everything we do for Christ will follow us into eternity where we will be rewarded for our faithful service.
(Rev 14:14) – 14 And I saw, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud I saw one sitting like unto a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
Over and over, Jesus refers to Himself as the “Son of man” in all four of the Gospels. So by this title alone we can safely identify who this is. We must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. Therefore, the “golden crown” belongs to Jesus, which refers to His majesty as King and Judge. The “sharp sickle” symbolizes two things: judgment and separation. In regard to unbelievers, it symbolizes the judgment of the world at His return (Rev 16:12-21; Rev 19:11-21). In regard to believers, it symbolizes the separating of believers from unbelievers via the resurrection.
(Rev 14:15-16) – 15 And another angel came out from the temple, crying with a great voice to him that sat on the cloud, Send forth thy sickle, and reap: for the hour to reap is come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. 16 And he that sat on the cloud cast his sickle upon the earth; and the earth was reaped.
This is the “harvest of the earth” (Matt 13:30), where Christ separates the “sheep from the goats,” where He separates believers from unbelievers at the end of the world. Jesus talks about this harvest in Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43; 47-50. Once separated, both believers and unbelievers will stand before Christ — “goats on His left and the sheep on His right” — where the unrighteous will “go away into eternal punishment,” while the righteous will go “into eternal life” (Matt 25:31-46).
(Rev 14:17-19) – 17 And another angel came out from the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, he that hath power over fire; and he called with a great voice to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Send forth thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. 19 And the angel cast his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vintage of the earth, and cast it into the winepress, the great winepress, of the wrath of God.
Apparently in verses 14-16, we’re seeing the separation (gathering via resurrection) of the righteous, the “sheep” who belong to Christ. In verses 17-19, we’re seeing the judgment of the unrighteous, the “goats” who do not belong to Christ.
The first reaping (vss. 14-16) refers to the resurrection (also the rapture of those still alive) of the righteous, while the second reaping (vss. 17-19) refers to both the outpouring of “God’s wrath” (Rev 16 & 18; Rev 20:7-10) and of the resurrection of the unrighteous (Jn 5:29). Thus this reaping of both groups is a separating of the two, which puts them both before the throne of Christ at the final Judgment (Rev 20:11-15). Those who die without Christ, who are not found written in the “book of life,” will be “cast into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:14-15; 21:8), while the redeemed who are found written in the “book of life,” will enter into the Eternal Kingdom of the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev 21:1-7). It’s at this judgment that rewards for faithfulness will be determined (2 Cor 5:10).
(Rev 14:20) – 20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and there came out blood from the winepress, even unto the bridles of the horses, as far as a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
“without the city” (outside the city)
Not to be understood as a literal city. This city is symbolic for the Church, the “holy city” of believers (Rev 3:12; 11:2; 20:9; 21:2,10). This passage pictures the physical judgment of all those outside of that city—of those who do not believe in Christ. In other words, this is the outpouring of God’s “wrath” upon the world of unbelievers (Rev 16 & 18; Rev 20:7-10), which occurs after He delivers His people (the “holy city”) via the resurrection.
“blood from the winepress, even unto the bridles of the horses, as far as a thousand and six hundred furlongs.”
NASB – “and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.”
Again, this is not to be taken literally, because what’s described here would be impossible. This is figurative language that depicts the judgment of the entire unbelieving world, and not a literal 200 mile radius. That idea is ridiculous. We must always keep in mind the symbolic nature of this book. The “blood” refers to the judgment and death of those judged. The blood “up to the horses’ bridles,” simply refers to the complete and worldwide aspect of this judgment. In other words, there is nothing left uncovered or untouched by God’s judgment upon the world of Christ-rejecting sinners.
Therefore, the “two hundred miles” is symbolic for the whole world. One hundred is in multitudes of ten (10×10), which is a number of completeness. The doubling of that number suggests emphasis. Thus what we see here is the complete and utter judgment and destruction of this world and its entire system.
Horses in this context, no doubt, refers to war, for it was on horses that soldiers went to war in those days. Whhat we’re seeing in this judgment is the “War of Armageddon” (Rev 16:16), where Christ returns in defeat of all His enemies (1 Cor 15:23-26; Rev 19:11-21), which marks the end of the world.
Note: The beginning of the “War of Armageddon” begins with a worldwide attack on Christians, in which most are killed, but then resurrected (see commentary on verses 17-19. Also commentary on Rev 11). This war ends with the return of Christ in judgment.