What Happens Next? Revelation 14: Who Will You Worship?

“In Revelation 14, John continues describing vision two that began in chapter 4. He is now describing the end of a great drama (12:1–14:20) that explains why the consummation is necessary. This chapter has four scenes. The first one is in heaven, where the perfected 144,000 have arrived to worship the Lamb; the second is in the skies where three angels tell of coming judgment. The last two scenes describe Christ’s return for his people as a gathering of grain and his judgment on the wicked as a gathering of grapes for treading.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 244.

14 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.

  • Verses 1-5 find their root in Revelation 7. Here John reemphasizes that the Lamb has fully protected those who are his.
  • “Mount Zion” – only used here as a reference for heaven. The permanence, loftiness, and security of the Lamb’s location is probably meant to contrast directly with that of the dragon’s location in Ch. 13 – the sands of a beach, which are lowly and unsteady. It is hard not to think of the same contrast made by Jesus in Matt 7.24-27.
  • “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
  • “with him 144,000” – the same group mentioned in 7.3. – those sealed with seals of God’s protection. In ancient times, a royal representative which carried official documents sealed with a royal seal were given rights of safe passage.
  • “144,000” – What scholars suggest is that the number was chosen, not literally referring to 144,000 specific individuals, but because of it’s mathematical precision. It is a “number easily factorable into smaller numbers: twelve squared times ten cubed. The precision of the number suggests the doctrine taught elsewhere: God’s election of a precise number of individuals. He knows the exact number of Gentiles chosen for salvation (Rom. 11:25); he knows the exact number elected to martyrdom (Rev. 6:11). Thus, we would expect him to predetermine the exact number elected for this special sealing.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 125.
  • THIS IS A PROTECTED GROUP. Their number mentioned here for the second time reveals that Jesus has lost none of his followers. “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” – John 6.39.
  • Believers in John’s day would’ve understood this to be a large number of believers.
  • “Basically there are two views about this host. These sealed individuals are either direct descendants of the patriarch Jacob from the Book of Genesis or else they are end-time Christians regardless of ethnic background.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 126.
  • “foreheads” – in contrast to those who received the mark of the beast, highlighting the fact that who one chooses to worship will be clearly known at this time.

And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps,

  • “voice” – one voice, highlighting the unity of THEIR song.
  • Later in 19.6, John uses the same description to describe worship around the throne of God.

and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

  • We are not specifically the content of their song, be we can understand that it is sung from a unique perspective. Either from those martyred or more generally those redeemed from sin.

It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,

  • Verses 4-5 are somewhat perplexing.
  • “defiled themselves with women…virgins” – most see this as a figurative reference to spiritual adultery, meaning these individuals are fully committed to their bridegroom – Christ.
  • “where ever he goes” – THIS IS A PLEDGED GROUP.

and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

  • The question John answers here concerning why the consummation is necessary can be answered…because the redeemed will provide great glory in what Christ has done for them.

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

  • Flying overhead to reiterate the importance for all to hear.
  • APP: The gospel is for everyone. Every group. Every individual.
  • The gospel calls for us to 1) fear God, 2) give him glory, and 3) worship him
  • QUES: In what way is God’s judgment good news?

Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

  • “Babylon” – later covered in 17 and 18, but can be summed up as the political, social, and religious system of the beast.
  • “passion of her sexual immorality” – in contrast to the pure 144,000.

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,

10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

  • “full strength…fire and sulfur” – John does not hold back describing the judgment of God against those that choose to worship the beast. Fire and sulfur harken back to the judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • Bitter agony may be a way to understand John’s word pictures.

11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

  • This verse leaves no room for annihilation of the wicked. Everyone lives for eternity, the real question is where and how.

12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

  • patiently endure
  • love God by keeping his commands (John 15.10)
  • maintain saving faith in Jesus (Rom. 1.8)

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

  • “from now on” – from John until Christ returns. This is us.
  • Those who followed the beast will never find rest, but torment, those who follow Jesus will find rest in him.
  • “deeds follow them” – meaning God does not forget all that is done through and in His name. Remember, John 6 teaches that our main work is to believe.

14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.

  • The return of Jesus.
  • “white cloud” – representing purity and majesty.

15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.”

  • Why would Jesus receive an order from an angel? Perhaps because no one except the Father knew the time, as Jesus declared in the gospels. Now, the Father declares that the time for Christ’s return is here.
  • “fully ripe” – the number of God’s people has been fulfilled.

16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle.

  • a separate harvest from the grain, In NT times, about 3 months. We can only speculate as to the chronological distance, if any, between the two. But we should understand them as distinct.

18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.”

  • “fire” – judgment

19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

  • Isa 63.3 speaks of the winepress of God’s wrath.

20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

  • “horses bridle…1,600 stadia” – 4 feet deep, 180 miles long.
  • Once again John paints a picture of the fullness of God’s judgment upon sin.