In this lesson, we continue with Revelation 14 and Revelation 15. To recap the previous study, we have just finished the description of the final expulsion of Satan from heaven, the prophecies of the destruction of the Antichrist's armies that were moving against Israel, the revelation of the beast of the sea (the Antichrist), the beast of the earth (the false prophet - his religious leader), and a discussion of the mark of the beast.
Revelation 14-15 are parenthetical passages, describing more events going on in heaven in parallel with the scriptures around them. Let's read them and see what they tell us.
The Man child
14:1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.
14:2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
14:3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
14:4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb.
14:5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
At the start of chapter 14, we see a revisiting of the man child. Here, we see them standing with the Father's name written in their foreheads. They are singing a new song before the throne, the four beasts, and the elders. Nobody else is able to learn the song that they are singing. The reason for this is not given. It is stated that only those 144,000 can sing that particular song.
This could be because of the language they are singing, or it could be that each has his own song that he sings (since it comes out sounding like the voice of many waters and thunder) and there isn't a common song that us mortals can follow, but that it all comes out in a pleasing 144,000 channel chorus to God. We'll have to wait till we get there to know for sure.
Here we also learn another interesting fact about the qualifications for the 144,000 sealed as the man child. They are stated to be virgins. This was evidently one of the unstated requirements for the original sealing of the 12,000 from the various tribes listed earlier in Revelation.
The Angel Evangelists
14:6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
14:7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
14:8 And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
14:9 And the third angel followed them, 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,
14:10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
14:11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
To me, this is one of the most uplifting passages in quite a bit of Revelation. It is also one of the saddest. The church has been raptured... God's wrath is being poured out and the great wrath of the last 3 1/2 years has begun, but even then, God doesn't leave His children without a source of truth.
In this passage, we see that there is an angel whose job is to fly through the midst of the heavens, preaching the gospel to all on the earth. He will preach to every nation, every people, using their native language so there is no chance they will misinterpret what God's message is.
What is that message? The everlasting gospel. It's no doubt a similar message to what is being taught today, but with some more timely information added. This includes a command to Fear God and to give God glory. The angel warns that the hour of God's judgment is come. He commands the people of the earth to worship the creator of the heaven, the earth, the sea, and the source of water.
As if this shouldn't be enough, another angel follows stating that Babylon - the great city that starts as the seat of power of the Antichrist before he moves it to Jerusalem - is fallen. The reason is that she has made all nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Literally, the idolatry of the worship of the Antichrist that is commanded from there and the fornication that goes along with it causes God's judgment to fall on that city.
Finally, a third angel goes out to warn all the nations and peoples to neither worship the beast nor his image, nor to receive his mark in his forehead or hand (which you will remember in the previous study was required to buy or sell - basically to provide for yourself or your loved ones). The reason for this is simple. God says that anyone who does will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation.
The person who gives worship to the beast or the beast's image, or receives the beast's mark will be tormented with fire and brimstone for ever and ever. This bears repeating here. Every single person who worships the beast and his image, or who receives the mark of his name will receive this same fate. This is a warning to all. Be ready so you are not put in the position of eternal damnation versus providing food and water for your family! Make sure that you and your family are all ready to go when Christ returns.
The good thing is that everyone will be warned and told of how to accept Christ. No matter how successful the Antichrist is at trying to wipe out Christianity, he won't be able to stop God from sending His word one last time to warn the people of the error of their ways and to warn them of the consequences of doing what the beast is ordering them to do.
He truly doesn't want anyone to have an excuse that they didn't know the truth and consequences of rebellion when they stand at the Great White Throne for final judgment. Even if every last Bible is wiped out by the Antichrist, God will still send angels to proclaim truth to the world and warn. God is merciful that even as His wrath is being poured out, He is faithful to warn the lost and to try and bring them back to Him.
People ask all the time, "How could God bring these things about? Isn't He supposed to be a God of love?" At the time that His judgment is going out to the rebellious people of Earth, He is welcoming the Christians who were ready into heaven and comforting all the Christians who have been martyred by the beast. He is pouring out love on all who accept and turn to Him and accept Christ as the only way to be saved. Sadly, the hearts of the people will be hardened, just as so many are today, and the words will fall on rocky soil and not sprout.
Those Who are Killed by the Antichrist
14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
The last two sections of the chapter focus again on the current events in heaven and on events that will occur at the end. These first two verses show that there will once again be some people who keep God's commandments and have faith in Jesus, even after the rapture. How many people will wake up and follow Christ after the rapture is never stated. However, the fact that they exist is made clear here. All who die in the Lord from this point on in Revelation receive a special promise of rest from their labors and that all that they have done will not be forgotten. Their good works will follow them and be remembered.
More foretelling of Armageddon
14:14 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.
14:15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
14:16 And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
14:17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
14:18 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, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
14:19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
14:20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
Finally, at the end of Chapter 14, we see a brief glimpse of the final harvest that will be done, destroying the armies that are arrayed against Christ by the Antichrist. The Son of man is portrayed as having a sharp sickle. For those of you who didn't grow up on a farm, a sickle is a curved blade, either wielded by hand or sometimes on a long handle like a hoe, that is very sharp on its inner edge. It is used to clear weeds or harvest. (I didn't grow up on the farm, but both of my parents did and I have certainly seen sickles in my time.
An angel comes out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Christ to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe. Christ does so, and the earth is reaped. The Antichrist's armies are defeated. Another angel comes out of the temple, who also has a sharp sickle. Another comes out with the ability to use fire. He cries to the angel with the sickle to gather the clusters of the vine from the earth, because they are fully ripe. The vine's grapes are gathered, symbolic language again for the war against the powers of Satan.
They are cast into the wine press of God's wrath. The Bible says that the blood flows to the horse's bridles for 1,600 furlongs (or around 184 miles). Regardless of whether that is a literal measure from the ground up to the bridles, or more figurative of blood flowing over a tremendous area from cavalry over bridles isn't completely clear here. What is clear is that the destruction will be massive. You might also read Isa. 63:1-6 and Joel 3:12-16 for more descriptions of the battle.
The Seven Vials are Shown
15:1 And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.
15:2 And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
15:3 And they sing 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.
15:4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
Once this bit of prophecy is complete, we see the seven angels who are preparing the final seven vial judgments that will be poured out upon the earth. We will go through many of these over the next study. Here, we see a vision of the start of the process of the final outpouring of God's wrath upon those who have rejected Him.
The contrast with those singing the praises of God is as black and white. Those on Earth have given themselves over to beast worship, accepting the mark of the beast (or living in hiding trying to avoid that fatal final decision). In heaven, we see a sea of fiery glass where those who have gotten victory over the beast (by martyrdom, by the way) sing glory to God. They sing the song of Moses (which he sang when God had gotten victory over Pharaoh and his armies Ex. 15:1-9 and Dt. 32). They praise God for his greatness and marvelous works. They are amazed that the people of the Earth cannot see the truth and fear God, and join them in praising Him.
The Preparation of the Vials
15:5 And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:
15:6 And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.
15:7 And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.
15:8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.
The end of the chapter shows the seven angels coming out of the temple (which Dake says are men and not angels) who are dressed in pure robes (reminding me of the spotless garments of the priesthood in the Old Testament). One of the four beasts before the throne gives them the seven vials full of the wrath of God. No man gets to reenter the temple until the wrath has been poured out on the Earth.
There was a great purity in the Old Testament temple. There is great purity in the temple in heaven. Priests then and now wear pure robes. If they were angels, then since the angels that had sinned had been cast out of heaven at this point, they were sinless. Even sinless creatures wore pure robes to minister in the temple of God.
As we look back to the recorded history of the start of the Church, I am reminded of the consequences of what is today considered such a small thing as lying. Ananias and Sapphira were church members and sold some property. They decided to say that they sold it for a certain amount, while actually selling it for more, and evidently made claims to Peter that they were giving all the proceeds from the sale to the church when they brought the offering.
Peter declares that while they owned the property, they could do what they wanted to with it. When they sold the property, they could do what they wanted with the entire proceeds. But they chose instead to lie to man and to God about their profits in order to obtain greater standing - that pride thing reared its ugly head. God struck Ananias down dead as Peter spoke this proclamation. When his wife came in, Peter asked how much they sold the land for, and when Sapphira told the same story, Peter asked how they conspired together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord. She died as well.
I am not here as a judge of the church. I can only judge myself and see that I have a long way to go to be all that God wants me to be - to use a popular advert's catchphrase. But I am here to warn the church. Throughout the Bible, we see that holiness on the part of His people is what God blesses. He expects His leaders to be holy, even as He is Holy. (Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect Mt. 5:48).
The word perfect here comes from the Greek teleios: to be in complete conformity to God's laws. It is true that everyone stumbles at times. Everyone makes mistakes. But we shouldn't make that our habit. We should strive for perfection. If it wasn't possible to obtain, Christ wouldn't have given the commandment.
The church is in a trough. If you look at the standards of holiness in the Old Testament and heaven, and even contrast the church today with the early church, we have fallen far. It is time to raise our standards of holiness. It needs to start at the top and work down, because we are all to be priests and workers for Christ and not just pew warmers.
If you are a leader and would have fear if you were called on to enter the Most Holy of Holies in the temple that you would be pulled out dead by a rope around your ankle, then get right with God. Moses and the High Priests made an occasional mistake as well, but most lived lives that were basically in line with God's standards. If they didn't, they died at the hand of God. Get out of the gray zone and start living in the white of God's purity. If you want your church to be blessed, start with cleaning up yourself and your ministry.
In the next study, we will begin to look at the final judgments that God has in store for the Earth as recorded in Revelation. I hope that nobody will be in the position of needing to worry about these judgments (or any other judgment that is recorded from Revelation 4 on). It is a continuation of hard times for the Earth.
Just as God sends His angels to proclaim the truth during the passing forth of His judgments as recorded in Revelation, he has sent his ministers out to proclaim the Gospel today. I wish and pray that the Christian church today will be restored to the strength that was present in the days of the disciples and that we can once again be effective in our work and be a body that God wishes to work through.
The people today need a pure church that lives up to what the Bible says and not that lives down to the evil of the world. God's promises are yea, and amen. We need the Holy Spirit living in each of us in fullness and we each need to be doing what God asks us to do in order to be lights to this decaying generation. God give us the strength and the desire to be what He wants us to be!