Revelation 14 opens with an inspiring heavenly scene which serves as a great encouragement after the daunting displays of earthly scenes wrought by the blasphemous beast of Papal Rome. Here the vision of St John turns to the heavenly realm where a great assembly of the saints engage in a victory celebration
Verse 1: Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. – Seeing the genuine Lamb of God standing upon the true place of worship sets the record straight after the previous scene of the papal beast who had two horns like a lamb, pretending to the virtue & authority of Christ, yet spoke like a dragon. And with the true Lamb of God were His true saints who are assigned a number – one hundred and forty-four thousand – and – having His Father’s name written on their foreheads – in stark contrast to the name and number of the beast.
Considering the symbolic nature of prophesy, it’s not likely the number of these saints is limited to 144,000; Rather this number from 1200 x 1200, which corresponds to the 12 Apostles and the 144,000 of spiritual Israel in chapter 7, displays a prophetic aesthetic of numerology which illustrates great multitudes of tried & true saints who achieved victory over the beast during the 1260 year period.
Verse 2: And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. – The resounding display of a grand victory celebration with thundering exuberance.
Verse 3: They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. – This is a figurative expression of genuine worship of God in contrast to false worship: a new song illustrates the spontaneity of a vital communion with God as opposed to monotonous mantras of Roman Catholic prayers & rituals. – and no one could learn the song except the hundred and forty-four thousand – Only the true saints of God understand the nuances & patterns of God – as it were a new song – like rhythms, melodies & harmonies which only His faithful have skill to discern & perform. As a music minister, I always knew true worship is much more than music and anyone can sing a worship song, but it takes a true saint to live out that song in daily life, to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).
Verse 4: These are those ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. – this is a figurative way to say they are not defiled by spiritual whoredom of idolatry, which in biblical terms is so often referred to as fornication & adultery.
– These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. – The first disciples of Christ literally followed Jesus wherever He went, even to the cross. So His apostolic descendants followed the same path, closely adhering to the teaching & example of their Lord, despite the intense pressures to deviate with traditions & corruptions of men. – These were redeemed from among men, being first-fruits to God and to the Lamb. – being rescued and set apart from the corruptions of men to be consecrated as holy offerings, like first-fruits, they are holy to God.
Verse 5: And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God. – like a holy offering without spot or blemish, God’s redeemed have remained faithful to sincerely worship God in spirit and in truth throughout all circumstances; Who so resembled their Lord Jesus, Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22); so St Paul instructed the saints, “…that you would be blameless and innocent, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in world…” (Phil 2:15).
To this concept of a blameless church – many may discount as a lofty ideal which has never quite been realized after seeing the prevailing forms of “Christianity” so far from this ideal. Yet there has always been a truly holy Church, even if just a remnant. I quote Thomas Newton who expresses this truth better than I can:
“Where did such a church ever exist, especially before the Reformation: and it may be replied, that it has not existed but only in idea; Yet history demonstrates, as it has been before evinced, that there have in every age been some true worshipers of God, and faithful servants of Jesus Christ; and as Elijah did not know the seven thousand who had never bowed the knee to Baal, so there may have been more true Christians than were always visible.”
Continuing with St John’s vision, the scene now moves back to the earth at verse 6: Then I saw another angel flying with the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth – to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people – here we see a divine commission to preach abroad the everlasting gospel of the everlasting God, which has no need for revisions or amendments, but is the unchangeable constitution of the Christian religion, as opposed to the novel inventions of the Roman Church which bears a different gospel.
Verse 7: – …saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea, and the springs of water”. – as opposed to honoring idols of eminent figures like popes & kings, or invoking deceased saints with dedicated shrines to worship & adore and give glory to any other than Almighty God, Who’s hour of judgment is now imminent, Who is the Almighty Creator of all things, Who alone is worthy of all praise & worship.
Verse 8: And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all the nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” – That papal beast of Rome which perpetuated the Babylonian legacy (in the name of Jesus), both its mystery religion and political system, which induced the nations politically with her shrewd diplomacy, and in the socio-religious sector through her unity movement and mysticism.
Verse 9: Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives the mark on his forehead or on his hand, – We already identified in the previous chapter the beast is Papal Rome and the image of the beast is the pope, as the true essence of the mark is ones loyalty & devotion to this entity.
Verse 10: …he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out in full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. – Those loyal to the Roman antichrist will share in the same punishment served to the hierarchy, which will be the full and unrestrained fury of God. Here, such severity is figuratively expressed as the poison cup of the highest potency.
Verse 11: And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; – their destruction will be total & permanent. – and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” – The third angel completes his strong declaration of the severity of God’s wrath upon this blasphemous beast of Babylon.
Verse 12: Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. – Amidst such trials & tribulations shall the patience of the saints be proved; Like gold refined in the fire they shall be tested, purified, tried & true.
Verse 13: Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” – This is a curious declaration since God’s faithful are blessed for dying in the Lord in any age. Yet there is such circumstances during this 1260 year tribulation period, such insidious deceptions and seductive temptations, so invasive, confusing, and chaotic – that any who overcome during these last days are especially blessed for keeping their faith, and then having rest from such intense trials. – “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”
Verse 14: Then I looked and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. – At this juncture, the hour of judgment has come, as Jesus Christ is represented the same way Daniel saw Him in his vision of the four beast – “One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!…” (Dan 7:13). With such detail denoting His divine & preeminent nature, His supreme lordship is displayed with a golden crown. And the last detail of this verse – and in his hand a sharp sickle. – God’s rod of judgment rendered here as a tool for harvesting crops.
Verse 15: And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” – This other angel proceeding from the heavenly temple, giving directives from the very throne of God, bears an authoritative message to execute judgment, expressed in figurative insignias of harvest & vintage.
The Spirit of prophesy had already established a genre of harvest & vintage imagery as a way to illustrate the wrath of God through the prophets of old: Joel 3:13 – “Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; For the winepress is full, the vats overflow – for their wickedness is great.”
Such imagery painted a graphic illustration of bloody reprisal, as we may see in Isaiah 63:3, “I have trodden the winepress alone, and no one from the nations was with Me. I trampled them in My anger and trod them underfoot in My fury; their blood spattered My garments, and I have stained my robes.”
Even back then was this genre applied to Babylonian idolatry through Jeremiah 51:33, “The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time it is trampled. In just a little while her harvest time will come.”
Verse 16: So He who sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. – The Son of Man, Jesus Christ, directly executes such judgment upon the enemies of God; Just as sure as the time of harvest will come, so shall the time appointed for divine retribution.
Verse 17: Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. – out of the heavenly sanctuary from the very presence of God comes another angel with a sharp sickle to assist in the judgment.
Verse 18: And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” – Yet another angel comes from the throne of God who had power over fire – bearing the emblem of God’s wrath and delivering divine directives to the previous angel to assist with the execution of judgment. Still speaking in the language of harvest & vintage, the angel issues the divine order to – Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth – signifying the reckoning of those who bear the mark of the beast who are set apart for wrath – for her grapes are fully ripe – that is to say their wickedness has reached its limit.
Verse 19: So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. – Such imagery displays the fierce characteristic of God’s wrath with such severity towards those wicked powers & adherents of the blasphemous beast of Babylon, their judgment so ferocious that its as if they were grapes being pulverized in a winepress.
Verse 20: And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs. – With this imagery, there can be no doubt that wine is an emblem of blood – blood came out of the winepress. Then further expressed as such a magnitude of blood illustrated as up to the horses’ bridles – emphasizing the immense slaughter with exaggerated language not uncommon in Jewish literature. The last detail is for one thousand six hundred furlongs.
I would be at a total loss in finding the meaning of this last detail if it wasn’t for Mr. Mede’s calculations. First off, we must remember that Babylon is referred to as that great city (verse 8), and this last verse 20 says the winepress was trampled outside the city; Mr. Mede had discovered the exact distance between the walls of Rome to the River Po is 200 Italian miles, which equates to 1600 furlongs exactly. While this detail is rather encrypted, its meaning uncovered serves as yet another piece which reinforces the identity of that great city, Babylon, as The Roman Church.
The next vision begins in chapter 15, which displays another sequence of prophetic judgments, which we may continue this discourse by proceeding with The Seven Vials.