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Bible Commentary on the
Book of Revelation
By Brian Pepper
King James Version
The Lamb and the 144,000
And I looked, and, lo, a lamb stood on mount Sion
As we have already noticed John did not write Revelation in exact chronological order; quite often John presents a scene that is later in time than the scenes that immediately precede and follow it. The vision John described in this chapter is an example of this.
After viewing the strife and oppression of the previous chapter where the two beasts are pictured as trying to destroy God's people, suddenly we are carried forward in time to the ultimate victory of the 144,000.
A Lamb stood on the mount Sion
This should read "The lamb" for the lamb pictured here is no longer the slain lamb standing before the throne who opened the Seven Seals, but rather the great and mighty conqueror and deliverer of His people.
And with Him an hundred forty and four thousand
At last the 144,000 stand with the lamb on Mount Sion; after the terrible trials they have passed through, now they are safe and secure. They have triumphed over the Beast and his Image, having passed through the severest trials such as the boycott where they are not allowed to buy or sell and the death decree.
The question might be asked "Where is mount Sion?” however the Scriptures make this plain enough. Psalm 48:2 says, "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King." In the first verse we are told that mount Zion is "the city of our God." In Joel 3:16 "The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem…" Verse 17 says "So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain..." These Scriptures make it quite clear that Mount Zion, called Sion in the K.J.V., is the capital of God's universal Kingdom and is situated in heaven.
It is very important to recognize that all who are in Christ constitute God's Israel irrespective of nationality. The apostle Paul makes this very clear in Galatians 3:29 "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise."
The 144,000 are a special group that have triumphed over the Beast and his Image right down at the end of time. In chapter 7 they were still on earth surrounded by their enemies. They were being gathered out of all the nations and sealed with the Seal of the Living God. Now in this 14th chapter we see them triumphant at last standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion. The Scripture makes it very clear that they are Spiritual Israel and not Literal Israel, though of course there will be literal Israelites among them. They cannot be any other than Spiritual Israel as there will representatives from every race and every colour, black, red, yellow and white and in between colours as well.
To briefly establish that they are Spiritual Israel we will examine a few texts. James 1:1, 2 says, "James a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting, My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." James is addressing Christians for they are his brethren, some were converts from Paganism, and others were converted Jews. His repeated references to Jesus Christ as "LORD" makes it very plain he is addressing himself to Spiritual Israel. Another thing which bears this out, James greets them as "my brethren," the apostle expresses the spirit of fellowship he feels for his readers; this warm greeting shows that his heart is bound with theirs in Christian fellowship.
Some people have difficulty in understanding how it is possible to be Spiritual Israel. The apostle Paul explains the whole thing in a very simple way. In Romans 11:17-24 he uses the illustration of grafting of new stock into the old Olive tree (ancient Israel). He says that some of the branches, that is, the natural descendants of Abraham (literal Israel) were broken off because of unbelief in Christ. But through Christ, the wild Olive (that is, the Gentiles) are grafted into the old Olive tree and in this way the Twelve Tribes are perpetuated. Then we have the statements of Paul in Romans chapter 9 which make it even clearer. Romans 9:6 last half says "... For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” Romans 2:28, 29 says, “For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, But he is a Jew which is one inwardly..." Our Lord said in John 8:39 last half, "If ye were Abrahams children ye would do the works of Abraham."
It is character that makes a person an Israelite; the same character as that of Abraham himself. All who enter heaven enter as Israel, that is, Spiritual Israel. Notice Revelation 21:12. "And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel."
Having His Father's name written in their foreheads
Earlier on in chapter 7 we read of those who are sealed before the close of time. Revelation 7:3 says, "Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” Those who are sealed stand out for God, their hearts and minds are consecrated to Him; they have surrendered their all in His service.
In chapter 7 and verse 3, there are two additional points brought to our attention that are well worth noting. “...till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads heads.” They are SEALED and they are the SERVANTS of God. To be Sealed means that they have the stamp of God's approval upon them.
The Sealing is the final act of God and when this work is completed then God will pour out the Seven Last Plagues. In Isaiah 8:16 we are told exactly what this sealing is, "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples." It is very clear from this statement that those who are sealed are commandment keepers, and in the Book of Revelation God clearly identifies them as such. Revelation 12:17 last half says,"...which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Revelation 14:12 says, "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
It is also interesting to notice that those who are sealed are the Servants of God. To be servants means that they do the will of God, that they are obedient to Him. And what does it mean to do the will of God? Let us notice what the Scripture says. Matthew 7:21 says, "Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
You will notice that Jesus says that unless we do the will of the Father we will be lost. In that case it is very important to know just exactly what is the will of the Father. Psalm 40:8 says, "I delight to do thy will, 0 my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." To do the will of the father is to have His law written in the heart. Thus the 144,000 will have the Law of God written in their hearts. God is able to call them His servants because they are obedient to Him. Satan at one time was also a servant of God but when he disobeyed God he was no longer a servant but instead he became an adversary.
And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder
John says that he heard a voice or "I heard a sound." We are not told whether this great chorus comes from the 144,000 or whether it was a combined chorus of this company and the celestial beings. Seeing it is likened to great thunder, then obviously this sound is produced by a mighty concourse of people.
And I heard the voice of Harpers harping with their harps
Listening, John heard music such as never been heard by mortal ears before, music is the voice of inspiration, the melody of the human soul. The inspiration of this great occasion calls for the most sublime lyrics and melody. The Redeemed do justice to the occasion as their voices blend in the richest harmony, backed by full orchestral accompaniment.
And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders
Entering the temple, the 144,000 sing a new song before the throne and before the four beasts and before the four and twenty elders. In chapter 15 John gives us another glimpse of this same company and in verse 3 we are told "And they sang the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints."
And no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand.
Their song is called the song of Moses and the Lamb. To sing the song of Moses is to sing a song of deliverance for Moses was used of God to deliver Israel out of Egyptian bondage and to lead them through the Red Sea.
Deliverance is a key word in the Books of Daniel and Revelation. When proud Nebuchadnezzar was about to have the three young Hebrews thrown into the fiery furnace he asked this question: Daniel 3:15 last part, "...and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" They knew the answer for in Daniel 12:1 last part says, "...and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book." The 144,000 have experienced divine deliverance from almost certain death and thus they are able to sing this part of the song.
In chapter 7 and verse 14 we read, "These are they which came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." The 144,000 go through the most difficult and the most trying time that man has ever experienced, when the plagues begin to fall, even though God has promised protection to His people, they will go through a very trying experience. It will be more mental than physical, for it is known as the Time of Jacob's trouble. It will be upon this company that the death decree will be pronounced.
We read about it in Revelation 13:15. "And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." All the world renders homage to the Beast but this company stand true to God for they refuse to worship the Beast and his Image and in doing so come out of great tribulation. So they are certainly able to sing a song of experience.
They also sing the Song of the Lamb, this is a song of Redemption. The angels, the beings of other worlds, even the vast company of the redeemed from all the ages, cannot sing this song, for it is a song of experience. Only a person who has had a personal experience of the power of Christ in his or her life, can truly worship Jesus in song. Just so the 144,000 can sing this new song because of the unique experience they have had, Christ has become very real to them for they are pictured as being clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
Which were redeemed from the earth
They are "redeeemed from among men," being rescued by divine grace from the corruptions and abominations of Babylon. Therefore they are able to sing a song of redemption and victory.
These are they which were not defiled with women
“These are they which were not defiled with women"; if you took this literally you would have a good case against getting married. However the Bible says that marriage is honourable for it was instituted by God and has His blessing upon it. So what does it mean when it says they are not defiled with women? The 144,000 are a people who have kept themselves unspotted from false doctrine and error.
Women play a very important part in the Book of Revelation for in chapter 12 we have the pure Woman a symbol of the Christian Church. In Revelation 17 there is brought to our attention the harlot Mother with her illegitimate daughters, a symbol of the great apostate Church called Babylon. The 144,000 have been true to the teachings of Jesus and spurned the commandments of men and the false doctrines of Babylon.
For they are virgins
The prophecy mentions that they are virgins. Jesus spoke of the Ten Virgins, five were wise and five were foolish. We have no difficulty in understanding what He meant for He was speaking of Church members. For in the parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus said that some were prepared for the Second Advent and others had not made the right preparation. This can be easily seen as we read Revelation 19:7 "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come and His wife hath made herself ready.”
It is worth noting that this term "Virgins" is used for both men and women; because they have a pure faith they are called virgins. These are they which follow the lamb withersoever he goeth. They have lived during the time when Satan's deceptions have been the greatest, when he has put forth his most intense efforts to sweep God's people into the many snares he has laid for them. The 144,000 have stood their ground and what a wonderful reward is theirs for they are honoured by being made Christ's closest companions and accompany Him as He moves through the universe.
Being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb
They are the first fruits, the first fruits of what? Certainly not of the dead for they have gone before. Matthew 27:52, 53 says, "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. And came out of the graves after His resurrection; and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." These were the firstfruits of the dead for when Jesus ascended to heaven He took them with Him.
In Ephesians 4:8 we are told that when Jesus ascended to His Father He took with Him a multitude of captives (margin). In Revelation 5:9 we read of this special company praising God as they stand before the throne and the presence of the Lamb. Revelation 5:9 says, "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take this book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
The 144,000 is not the firstfruits of the Dead but of the Living. They are translated, for they are living when Christ comes in Glory. They are the firstfruits of the living and will never taste death, but will be changed "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump..." (1 Corinthians 15:52 first part)
The apostle Paul speaks of the two groups who will be taken to glory when the Saviour comes the second time; those who have died in Christ or "the dead in Christ" (1 Thessalonians 4:16) and "we which are alive." (Verse 17) The 144,000 will be alive to welcome the KING of GLORY when He comes in His majesty and power. Except for Enoch and Elijah they will be the only members of the human race to live without seeing death. Great Controversy page 649 says, "These, having been translated from the earth, from among the living, are counted as 'the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.'
And in their mouth was found no guile
Philips says "They have never been guilty of any falsehood; they are beyond reproach." We have already noticed that the 144,000 are spiritual Israel for they are made up of all "kindreds, and tongue, and people, and nation." If they are "the children of Israel" then they are also Israelites.
What does it mean to be an Israelite? The answer is found in John 1:47. "Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile." Right from the lips of the Master comes the description of an Israelite: a person with pure lips, no deceit, honest and true, no trickery.
For they are without fault before the throne of God.
How can we ever come to the place where this could be said of us? There are many who would say "This is impossible, I could never be that good." In the Scriptures we are told how this can come about.
Jude 24 says, "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” How wonderful! The promise is that the Saviour will cover our weak sinful lives with His perfect sinless life, and in place of our unrighteousness we are clothed in garments of righteousness.
The 144,000 will be like Jesus who was "without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19) and who delighted to keep God's law (Psalm 40:8). They will have characters like Jesus, for in the last hours of time they will pass through a time of trouble similar to the sufferings of Jesus in His last hours on earth. They will have to stand without an intercessor, experiencing the time of Jacob's trouble as Satan tries to terrify them with the thought that they are lost, their case is hopeless, that they will fail to be saved. Through the trying hours they will rely on God's promises. The wicked will taunt them saying "Where now is your faith? Why does not God deliver you out of our hands if you are indeed His true people? (Great Controversy page 630)
God is going to transform this people of the last days and make of them what He originally intended man to be, with a character like His. This is very clearly indicated in verse 1 of this chapter where we are told they have His Father's name and that means they posses the faultless character of God in Christ.
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven
The next few verses bring to our attention what is known as the Three Angels Messages. In the Book of Revelation an Angel represents a message from God. The word "angel" in both Hebrew and Greek means "messenger". God always sends His messages to the world through His church so the Three Angels of Revelation 14 represent those who accept the light of God's messages and go out to sound this warning throughout the earth.
The Angels are symbolic, for the preaching of the Gospel has not been entrusted to literal angels but rather it has been committed to men. Each of these Three Angels have been commissioned to make known to the world the special truths God has for the people of the Last Days.
There is no question that this is a Last Hour message for we have the climax in verse 14. "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle."
The fact that the angel flies in the midst of heaven indicates the world wide nature of the angels work and that it is to be brought to the notice of all mankind.
Having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth
A special Gospel message that goes to all the world, not a new Gospel but the "everlasting Gospel, the same gospel that was accepted by faith in Old Testament times, the same gospel that Jesus preached and later His disciples. It is the same old gospel, but given in the setting of the Last Days when there is not just one Gospel but a thousand gospels and the true gospel message has been almost lost sight of.
In God's plan there is only one Gospel, there is only one plan of Salvation, there is only one Church, there is only one Holy Spirit who guides believers into Truth.
Today there are scores of churches each claiming that they have the gospel truth, and yet at the same time denying many of the cardinal truths of the Holy Scriptures, even the virgin birth and the divinity of Christ.
In this last message to mankind the "everlasting gospel" is to be given calling men and women to restore the "faith of Jesus" in the last days. Thus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, is the central theme of the Three Angel's Messages. Righteousness by Faith is wrapped up in this same message.
And to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people
This Gospel message is to know no boundaries; no limitations are to be placed upon it. Every country must hear this vital message, for it is life and death, life to those who hear and respond to it, death to those who turn from it.
Saying with a loud voice, fear God, and give glory to Him
To "fear God" is to reverence God. The Modern Language Bible says,” With a mighty voice he said, Revere God and ascribe to Him glory…” The call given here is to have men and women give God the respect that is due to Him. This message is very timely, for men and women today have little if any knowledge of God, the majority are worshipping the gods of materialism and pleasure.
For the hour of His judgment is come
The Hour of His Judgment is come, it does not say "is coming" or “is to come" but it very clearly and very positively says “is come". That means that it is on now, right now, while the everlasting Gospel is being preached the judgment is on.
A lot of people are afraid of judgment, somehow they seem to associate it with the smell of burning flesh and screams for mercy. But Revelation 14:6, 7 tells us that the judgment is part of the good news. To the Christian the judgment is good news if we have confessed our sins and had them blotted out. The judgment is good news, for according to the Three Angels Messages, the Judgment brings us to the Second Advent.
Although it is in the Bible there are very few who know that there is such a thing as an investigative judgment. Many think of judgment as a punishment that is meted out at the Second Advent but have never considered that before that judgment is carried out, careful consideration has to be given to each individual case.
The 7th chapter of Daniel makes this very clear and Revelation adds more detail so we may grasp the full significance of it. There is an excellent description of the investigative judgment in the book The Great Controversy, page 425. "Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ will cease in the sanctuary above, are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort, they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth. This work is more clearly presented in the messages of Revelation 14."
And worship Him that made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters
Why should this Gospel message of the Last Days call for men and women to worship the Creator? This seems rather strange for naturally one would think that every Christian worships the Creator. Unfortunately this is not the case, for there are millions of so called Christians who do not believe the record of Genesis, there are many who believe in evolution.
This last message emphasizes the worship of the Creator and the only way we can know how to worship the Creator is by reading carefully the first four of the Ten Commandments.
1/ Tells us to worship God only, to place Him first in our affections.
However there is something more to this part of the text we ought to consider carefully and it concerns the last days; as we noticed in chapter 13 the big issue will be the day of worship. The Beast and his Image will enforce Sunday keeping by law but in God's last message to mankind the call is to worship Him and on the day He has commanded. In the crisis to come the inhabitants of the earth will be called upon to make their choice, just as the three Hebrew youths who were thrown into the fiery furnace in the days of Nebuchadnezzar.
And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city
The message of the Three Angels is to prepare men and women to make the proper choice and to stand firm in the time of crisis. It has often been said that the Book of Revelation is the Tale of Two Cities, Jerusalem and Babylon. In Revelation, Babylon is a symbol of compromising religion and is represented as an apostate woman.
Revelation 17:5 says, "And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS and abominations of the earth." When it says Babylon is fallen, it is not speaking of the final fall of this great power when it completely crashes and crumbles never to rise again, but rather that it has fallen away from the truths of the Bible.
Babylon of course represents all religious bodies and movements that have apostatized from the great truths and doctrines of the Holy Scriptures. Babylon means confusion and today there is religious confusion. Many professing Christians like the ancient Babel builders have turned from the everlasting gospel to follow a gospel of their own devising. Today there are many who no longer believe in the Bible as God's revelation to man.
James Gilkey in his book A Faith To Affirm, quotes from modernist preachers "We believe that Jesus was a human being, that He was born in the normal way… To us Jesus’ death is, in essence, no different from the death of other heroes." (pp, 9,10) Summing it up he has this to say: "Today the ancient belief that Jesus will reappear in the sky, inaugurate a dramatic world judgment… has dwindled from a universally accepted and enormously influential Christian conviction to the esoteric doctrine of a minority (for the initiated only). Once a modern man accepts what scientists tell him about the nature of the evolutionary process, he cannot believe that there will ever be any such spectacular windup of the world's affairs as the one which early Christians believed would presently take place." (Page, 24)
Because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication
The expression "made all nations drink" of the unholy wine of Babylon's false teachings or doctrines suggests that pressure has been applied. Rome has used pressure in the past and will continue to do so in the future as the prophecy indicates. Babylon contends that in drinking of her wine this will bring peace to the nations, but according to this prophecy it will result in bringing upon them God's wrath or anger.
Fornication is a figure of illicit (unlawful or forbidden) connection between the church and the world or between the church and the state.
And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice
This message is so important that God commissions three angels to bring it to earth.
Saying with a loud voice, if any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand
There is no other warning in all the Bible quite so solemn as this, it is the most severe threatening of divine anger. The Third Angel's Message is a Fourfold warning.
1/ It warns man against worship of the beast
The First Angel's message calls to "worship Him that made heaven and earth.” The Third Angel's message warns against the worship of the beast. As far as God is concerned there are only two classes, those who worship God and those who worship the beast.
If any man worship the beast
The word worship means to “obey". It is either Christ or the Beast and if any follow the Beast in any way God will punish them.
This verse also warns against the worship of the Image of the Beast. In other words if we yield to the pressure of apostate Protestantism as it joins hands with the civil power to enforce the mark of the beast, then God says we will receive His wrath.
It also warns against receiving the Mark of the Beast. In the last hours of the crisis, the papal mark of Sunday-keeping will be enforced by civil law. At the same time there will be the Loud Cry or Latter Rain with a genuine Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, bringing to the attention of God’s true people the real Bible Sabbath of the Ten Commandments.
Joel 3:14 says, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision." Multitudes will be making their decision at this time and thousands will respond to the call of God and come out of Babylon and to worship the Creator. Others will make their decision to worship the Beast.
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God
God's wrath or God's anger is poured out in the 7 Last Plagues. This will be a fearful time for the inhabitants of this earth, but especially so for those who have been drinking of Babylon's wine, that is, accepting her false doctrines and unscriptural teachings.
Which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation
Without mixture means without mercy. God pours out His anger without mercy during the time of the 7 Last Plagues. Always in the past, God has tempered His judgments with mercy, but not now, for the limit of His divine patience has been reached.
Every nation on earth has had the opportunity to accept God's message for it was of world wide nature. Every individual has been given the opportunity to honour the Creator for this last message has called for men and women to worship the Creator. Everyone has had sufficient light to decide to do that which is right or otherwise. Those who have rejected the warning will suffer the anger of God without mercy. It is sad that this should be so but they have been told what to do and have refused to do it.
Revelation 18:4 says, "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."
And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the Holy Angels, and in the presence of the Lamb
This passage has been used many times to prove that the wicked are to be subjected to torture of the flames of hell fire. The torment mentioned here is not the torture usually inflicted upon men to force them to confess or to change their ideas on religion as was common during the Dark Ages and the Inquisition. It is not torment or torture to force a person to acknowledge something but rather this torment is the horror of the second death when the wicked are consumed by fire which will envelope the earth.
In the twentieth chapter of Revelation, the final destruction of the wicked is described. Revelation 20:9 says, "And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." The wicked are determined that they are going to kill God's people who are inside the Holy City so they attack the city and if God had not intervened by destroying them they would have forced their way into the city and slaughtered God's people. They are murderers and suffer the fate of murderers for they are annihilated.
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever
In the book of Psalms there is an interesting commentary on this statement. Psalm 37:20 says, "But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away." When the fire from God destroys the wicked you will notice that they become smoke. Fire usually produces smoke which lasts as long as there is something to burn.
The Scripture describes the ultimate and final end of the wicked in Malachi 4:3. "And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts." There is not much left when you have ashes. Speaking further of the fate of the wicked the Bible goes on to say "...they shall be as though they had not been." (Obadiah 16)
The fact that the smoke of their torment (or destruction) ascendeth up for ever and ever means it is complete and final, it is over and done with for all time.
There is no mention in the Bible that when God remakes this earth as it was in the beginning in all its edenic beauty, that there will be a lake of fire burning constantly and the wicked suffering in it.
The Scripture clearly indicates that all pain and suffering will be forever ended. Revelation 21:4 says, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
And they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image
We need to give this statement careful attention for it is obvious that this statement cannot apply to the wicked after they have been completely destroyed. We are told that the wicked are completely destroyed by the fire of God which does not go on burning through the ages, for when the fire has done its work and purified the earth and the atmosphere then it is that God remakes the earth's surface. It must apply to the time in which they are alive and that time is a time in which God punishes them. So this must apply to the time of the 7 Last Plagues. When the plagues are poured out they will suffer those dreadful sores, the scorching heat and the depressive darkness. Only death will bring rest to them and at the same time relief to God's people for they are determined to kill God’s people.
Before we leave this subject it would be well to line up some passages of Scripture so we might have a clearer picture of the whole thing.
"The wages of sin is death"
Romans 6:23 first half
There are many statements as to the final end of the wicked and they all indicate that it will be complete and permanent.
Who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name
God makes it very clear how abhorrent the worship of the Beast is as far as He is concerned. That is why the Three Angel's Messages are given to the world firstly to call God's true people out of Babylon so they may worship God as the Creator and that people might be warned regarding the penalties of worshipping the Beast and his Image.
Here is the patience of the saints
The word "patience” can also be translated "steadfastness" or "fortitude”. God's people will be engaged in a fearful struggle with the Beast and his Image and every effort will be made to force them to join up with the Sunday movement, even including the threat of boycott and death. The prophecy makes it clear that the whole world will be led captive by Satan's delusions.
It will be at the same time the Beast and his Image are imposing their boycott, that Satan will make it appear as if God is in the movement for there will be miracles and wonders. Because of this God's people receive a special commendation for their steadfast endurance.
Here are they that keep the commandments of Gad, and the faith of Jesus
The whole world captured by Satan's delusions will give their support to the Beast and its Image and beast worship will be practically universal. However God's people will refuse to yield to the pressures and will stand firm in their obedience to God's commands.
Sunday observance will be compulsory, being enforced by civil law, and those who refuse to yield to that compulsion will be punished by imprisonment and death. In this dark hour God's people will cling to the Bible and will refuse to give homage to any other than Christ.
Testimonies to the Church by E G White Vol 9, p.16 says, "The worshippers of God will be especially distinguished by their regard for the fourth commandment, since this is the sign of God's creative power and the witness to His claim upon man's reverence and homage. The wicked will be distinguished by their efforts to tear down the Creator's memorial and to exalt the institution of Rome. In the issue of the conflict, all Christendom will be divided into two great classes, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and those who worship the beast and his image and receive his mark."
The Faith of Jesus and the Keeping of the Commandments of God represent two important aspects of Christian living. John and the other apostles constantly stress the importance of faith in Christ.
Faith in Jesus means a number of things such as an implicit belief in the deity of Jesus Christ; in His pre-existence as the Son of God, His virgin birth, vicarious death, His resurrection and bodily ascension to heaven. This is the kind of faith mentioned here by John.
Faith in Jesus would naturally include faith in the atoning power of His death upon the cross for the Salvation from sin. Faith in Jesus is a sincere acceptance of the things that Jesus taught and that the Bible is the inspired authority in matters of faith and doctrine. Faith in Jesus directs the true believer to make an earnest study of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. Faith in Jesus gives complete confidence in Jesus promise to return to this earth the second time and to tell others of this wonderful event.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth
A special blessing upon the dead; why should this be? One would expect that all those who have died in Christ are blessed. You will notice that it says "from henceforth". This blessing mentioned here applies at a definite time, that is, the time that the Beast worship is enforced by the False Prophet and the boycott is imposed and the death penalty passed.
Those who go down to their graves at this time will be privileged to come forth in a special resurrection that precedes the great Resurrection. Although they die they will still see the actual coming of Christ Himself. They will also see the Law of God as it appears in the heavens just before the LORD actually appears. They have upheld and defended the Ten Commandments so God honours them by raising them for this special occasion. They are also blessed in that they will not have to live through the time of the Seven Last Plagues when God's anger is poured out.
To God these are the glorious dead, those who "die in the Lord” and are called “the dead in Christ". Usually the most beautiful and expensive tombstones and monuments are not found on the graves of the people of God. They do not need them for their characters have erected for them memorials far more beautiful and enduring.
The death of a righteous person is not a calamity but rather it is a triumph, for in Psalm 116:15 we are told "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." Numbers 23:10 says, "...Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!"
Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them
Death is a rest from the trials and struggles of life, and to those who have gone through such a trying experience it is a welcome relief. The good things they have done stand as a record or witness to their loyalty to Christ. Their devotion to the cause of Christ even under the most severe trial has been faithfully recorded in heaven.
And I looked, and behold a white cloud
The culmination of the great Threefold Message is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is graphically described in Great Controversy page 640. "Soon there appears in the east a small black cloud, about half the size of a man's hand. It is the cloud which surrounds the Saviour, and which seems in the distance to be shrouded in darkness. The people of God know this to be the sign of the Son of man. In solemn silence they gaze upon it as it draws nearer the earth, becoming lighter and more glorious, until it is a great white cloud, its base a glory like consuming fire, and above it the rainbow of the covenant. Jesus rides forth as a mighty conqueror..."
And upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle
Christ is the Lord of the harvest, He is the Royal Reaper. The harvest is the time of the great separation when the Sheep are separated from the Goats and the Wheat from the Tares.
The first Advent began the sowing time when the precious seeds of the Gospel were sown. The Second Advent is the reaping time, the time when Christ gathers the fruit of His labours into the Father's garner. The sharp sickle suggests that it will be done quickly. The harvest is ripe and ready there must be no further delay.
Mark 4:29 says, "But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle because the harvest is come." It is only fully ripened grain that is gathered into the garner; no half ripe or partially developed grain is gathered. So it is that only fully developed character in Christian graces will be accepted.
And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud
That is, in addition to the three angels who delivered the messages of warning before the Second Advent.
Came out of the temple
This angel makes a very special announcement. This announcement is that the Investigative Judgment is over; at long last it has come to the end. This announcement is made in heaven; it is for the benefit of heavenly listeners only, for on earth no one will know the time when the last case has been decided.
Thrust in thy sickle and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap: for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
At last the time has come; the Saviour puts on His Kingly robes and escorted by the mighty hosts of heaven, He begins His journey to this earth to claim His redeemed ones. The Latter Rain or Loud Cry has ripened the harvest of Wheat for under the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, God's true people of the last days, have experienced a spiritual revival that has prepared them for translation. At the same time the delusions of Satan have fastened in deception the wicked so that they too are ready for destruction.
At last the long awaited event takes place. God's people who have been resting peacefully in their graves, some for many centuries, others but a short time now hear that mighty shout of the Saviour. Psalm 50:4 says, "He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people." Isaiah 26:19 latter half says, “...Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust..." 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 says, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
He that sat on the cloud, with His symbolic sickle reaped a very special harvest made up of God's people, those who had died and those who were living. This other angel with a sharp sickle reaps a different kind of harvest as we will notice in the next verse.
And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying
Before we move forward into this passage it would be well to take a look at the description Jesus gave us of the final harvest. Matthew 13:38 says, “The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one". Verse 39 says, "The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world: and the reapers are the angels. Verse 41 says, "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity”.
CHRIST is the LORD of the harvest
Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
In ancient Israel there were two harvests; the harvest of grain and the harvest of fruit, especially grapes. In this passage these two harvests are used to represent the judgment of God's people and that of the wicked. In both cases the harvest takes place after the grain and the grapes have ripened.
It is interesting to notice that there are six angels mentioned in Revelation 14 in addition to Christ. The first three angels announce the judgment; the second three angels carry it out. The fourth angel is sent by God to instruct Christ to begin the harvest of grain which is a symbol of the gathering of God's people. The Fifth angel also leaves the temple but awaits instruction from the sixth angel before he begins his work.
This harvest is also fully ripe but the difference is that this harvest is ripe for punishment and destruction. It is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Latter Rain that ripens both harvests. The same Rain that causes the Wheat to grow and to mature to perfection for the sickle also develops the Tares for the devouring fire. By rejecting the Three Angels Messages especially under the Latter Rain is this harvest produced.
Malachi 3:18 says, "Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not."
The illustration of the wine press is a fitting one. The grapes are placed into the vat and the juice is pressed out by men treading them with their feet. In Revelation chapter 19:13 Christ is pictured as being “... clothed with a vesture dipped in blood..." Verse 15 says, “...and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Never before has such divine anger followed a heaven sent message. Under the worship of the Beast, rebellion against heaven ripens into open revolt and so the winepress of God's wrath is trodden "without the city".
And the winepress was trodden without the city
In the Book of Revelation many of the passages have been drawn from Old Testament prophecies and this one comes from Joel. Joel 3:12, 13 says, "Let the heathen be wakened and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great." This prophecy describes the destruction of God's enemies outside Jerusalem.
And blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles,
This Scripture declares that the blood ran to the horse bridles. This is a figure of speech which describes the great and terrible slaughter of the wicked hosts. A parallel figure is found in the apocryphal book of Enoch: "And in those days in one place the fathers together with their sons shall be smitten. And brothers one with another shall fall in death Till the streams flow with their blood ... And the horse shall walk up to the breast in the blood of sinners, And the chariot shall be submerged to its height." (Ch. 100:1-3; R.H.Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha on the Old Testament, vol 2. p. 271)
By the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs
1600 furlongs amount to 200 miles. There will be so many millions of people involved in the last great struggle of Armageddon who will be struck down by the power and glory of the Coming of Christ; that it can be spoken of figuratively as a river of blood 200 miles long.
In Revelation chapter 14 God's people are very clearly defined.
1/ They will be preaching a WORLD-WIDE JUDGMENT HOUR message. It was in 1844 that a people arose and began to preach the message that the great investigative Judgment had begun. Their burden was to reach the whole world and today this message is being preached in well over 1,000 languages and dialects.