1 I looked and saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion! With him were 144,000, who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. 2 Then I heard a sound from heaven that was like a roaring flood or loud thunder or even like the music of harps. 3And a new song was being sung in front of God's throne and in front of the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn that song, except the 144,000 who had been rescued from the earth. 4All of these are pure virgins, and they follow the Lamb wherever he leads. They have been rescued to be presented to God and the Lamb as the most precious people on earth. 5 They never tell lies, and they are innocent.
6I saw another angel. This one was flying across the sky and had the eternal good news to announce to the people of every race, tribe, language, and nation on earth. 7The angel shouted, “Worship and honor God! The time has come for him to judge everyone. Kneel down before the one who created heaven and earth, the oceans, and every stream.”
8 A second angel followed and said, “The great city of Babylon has fallen! This is the city that made all nations drunk and immoral. Now God is angry, and Babylon has fallen.”
9Finally, a third angel came and shouted:
Here is what will happen if you worship the beast and the idol and have the mark of the beast on your hand or forehead. 10 You will have to drink the wine that God gives to everyone who makes him angry. You will feel his mighty anger, and you will be tortured with fire and burning sulfur, while the holy angels and the Lamb look on.
11 If you worship the beast and the idol and accept the mark of its name, you will be tortured day and night. The smoke from your torture will go up forever and ever, and you will never be able to rest.
12God's people must learn to endure. They must also obey his commands and have faith in Jesus.
13Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Put this in writing. From now on, the Lord will bless everyone who has faith in him when they die.”
The Spirit answered, “Yes, they will rest from their hard work, and they will be rewarded for what they have done.”
The Earth Is Harvested
14 I looked and saw a bright cloud, and someone who seemed to be the Son of Man was sitting on the cloud. He wore a gold crown on his head and held a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 An angel came out of the temple and shouted, “Start cutting with your sickle! Harvest season is here, and all crops on earth are ripe.” 16The one on the cloud swung his sickle and harvested the crops.
17Another angel with a sharp sickle then came out of the temple in heaven. 18After this, an angel with power over fire came from the altar and shouted to the angel who had the sickle. He said, “All grapes on earth are ripe! Harvest them with your sharp sickle.” 19The angel swung his sickle on earth and cut off its grapes. He threw them into a pit where they were trampled on as a sign of God's anger. 20 The pit was outside the city, and when the grapes were mashed, blood flowed out. The blood turned into a river that was about 300 kilometers long and almost deep enough to cover a horse.
Chapter 14 opens the last half of the Apocalypse. The key players have been introduced and the drama continues with a slight change in focus.
There are three scenes: The salvation of the 144,000 (vv 1-5), the separation of saints and sinners (vv 6-13), and the slaughter of the sinners (vv 14-20).
Scene 1 – The action takes place on earth at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It’s the beginning of Christ’s earthly rule and the 144,000 are the believing Jewish men chosen from the twelve tribes of Israel who have gone through the tribulation (see Rev. 7:1-8). They’re described as counted (vv 1, 3), a choir (v 3), celibate (v 4), committed (v 4), and cleansed (v 5).
Scene 2 – Three climactic and dramatic angelic announcements follow, with a fourth announcement from heaven. Each announcement provides a summary statement of what’s going to follow. The first angel proclaims the gospel, reminding us that salvation is available right up to the moment of final judgment. The second angel announces the fall of Babylon (see Isaiah 21:9, Jeremiah 51:8). Babylon is a symbolic name for Rome (see Rev. 17:5-9). Both the city and the political-religious system it represents is doomed. The third angel warns against the final and irrevocable judgment against the unbelieving and unrighteous. A word of comfort from heaven follows, saying that those who stay true to Christ will die in the Lord, find rest from their labours, and have their deeds follow them.
Scene 3 – Here we encounter the winepress of God’s wrath (see Job 21:20, Isaiah 63:3, Jeremiah 25:15). Judgment is exercised under God’s sovereign control (see Daniel 7:13-14). Three angels reap the grapes that are thrown into and trampled in the winepress. The grapes represent the unsaved and the juice is their blood. This happens outside Jerusalem (the final battle of Armageddon is 80 km northwest of Jerusalem, see Rev. 16:16, Joel 3:12-14, Zechariah 14:4). The final conflict is so severe that the blood of the dead is sometimes neck deep over an area of about 300 km.
Lord, it’s heart-rending to hear that human history will end with a terrible slaughter. Help me use what time is left to live only all for you. And help me speak out in ways that help others come to know you as Lord and Saviour. Amen.