The Harvest of the Earth.
The Lamb and the 144,000 . v1 - 5.
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."
The scene changes dramatically from the vision of the beasts to one of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, which is a reference to heaven itself. With Him are the 144,000 who were sealed in their foreheads with His Name and His Father's, so most translations read (Rev. 7:3).
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."
John hears a voice from heaven sounding like a great waterfall and like the rumbling of mighty thunder. The voice sounds like the music of harpists accompanying themselves on harps.
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 that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth."
They sang a new song, before the throne of God, the four living creatures and the elders - new possibly meaning that it is sung in a fresh or different way (see Rev. 5:8 - 10) Only the 144,000 redeemed from the earth are able to learn to sing this song.
4. "These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being first fruits to God and to the Lamb."
John's description of them is a reference to their spiritual character. The saying, "they have not defiled themselves with women and are virgins" is not a reference to their marital status. (This would imply that the 144,000 were all men).
They have kept themselves morally pure, free from illicit sexual intercourse and idolatry, from the contamination of a godless world (Col.3:5). They are fully committed disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. They have been redeemed by Christ and together with all who have been purchased by the blood of Christ they are a kind of first fruits (James 1:18).
5. "And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God."
There is no deceit or falsehood in them for in the sight of God they are blameless, not in themselves, but in Christ. Col. 1:22.
The Proclamation of the Three Angels. v6 - 13.
6. "Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth--to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people-"
Here begins another series of visions about events which actually should precede the events recorded in first five verses. John saw an angel flying in mid heaven announcing the good news of salvation through the atoning death of Christ to put away sin and His resurrection to justify the believer. This is the everlasting Gospel. Yet whilst the Gospel is everlasting in its effects it is limited in its application to the present age of grace. The message is to be made known throughout every tribe and nation (Luke 2:10 - 11).
7. "Saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgement has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water."
The call of the angel is for all men to fear God as creator and to give Him honour and praise for the time of His judgement has come (John 12:31 -32, John 16:8 - 11).
8. "And another angel followed, saying, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."
Another angel followed the first to proclaim the fall of Babylon. This is the first time in Revelation that "Babylon" is mentioned. The literal city of Babylon was founded by Nimrod (whose name means "rebel" (Gen. 10:10). It was here that men began to build the tower of Babel (meaning confusion) in direct rebellion against God. Gen. 11:7 - 9. The city was a centre of idolatry and oppression. Peter refers to Babylon in his epistle (1 Pet. 5:13) and it is generally excepted that it is a synonym for Rome. Babylon is mentioned again as the object of God's wrath in Rev. 16:19, the mother of harlots, Rev. 17:5, its fall, Rev. 18:2, judgement Rev. 18:10, thrown down and found no more in Rev. 18:21. It is the source and centre of godlessness, greed, idolatry, perversion etc. a cesspit of iniquity. It has ensnared and engulfed the whole world in the passions of its harlotry. It may not be a literal revival of the city is meant here, but rather that the fruits of the rebellion against God which it came to symbolise - a world system opposed to its maker - is meant. It is of course possible that such a system may be governed from a particular city at the time of these events. However, the age of rebellion and of man's casting off God will come to an abrupt end.
9, 10. "Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out 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."
A third angel cries a warning with a loud voice that anyone who bows to pay homage to the Anti-Christ or his statue or who receives his mark will suffer the fullness of God's wrath and indignation in the same measure as it will be poured out on "Babylon". God will show no more mercy in those days, for all will have been given every possible opportunity to repent, without effect. They shall therefore be tormented with a combination of fire and sulphur before the presence of the angels and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
11. "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
This punishment will be an eternal punishment; it will never cease or for one moment be made more bearable. This will be the everlasting conscious punishment of all those who gave themselves over to worship Anti-Christ and his image.
12. "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."
The patience and endurance of the saints on earth will be tested at that time, for they will remain true to the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ whilst all others worship the beast.
13. "Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labours, and their works follow them."
Those who are Christ's and martyred during the reign of Anti-Christ, will enter into the same blessedness of everlasting rest that Christ gives to all His people, who have died in Him throughout the church age. John is recording these words from heaven as being true and faithful. Tatford records that one expositor says: "These Jewish martyrs had not only lost their part in the rapture of the Church, but also in the glory of the Kingdom". However, they enter into that same rest as the Church that had gone before them (Heb. 4:9 - 10). Their patient endurance will be their testimony."
Reaping the Earth's Harvest . v14 - 16.
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."
John sees the Lord Jesus sat on a white cloud wearing a golden crown (the victor's wreath) and having a sharp sickle in His hand (Matt. 24:30 - 31).
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 time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe."
An angel comes from the presence of God proclaiming that the time had come for Christ to reap in the harvest of the earth (Joel 3:12 - 13). The measure of the sins of the wicked are now filled up and the time of their destruction has come.
16. "So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped."
In response to the angel's call the harvest is cut down and gathered ready for judgement.
Reaping the Grapes of Wrath. v17 - 20.
17, 18. "Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. 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."
A fifth angel comes from the temple in heaven with a sharp sickle in his hand. Another who has power over fire comes from before the altar and shouts to the one who has the sickle to thrust it in and gather the grapes from the vineyard of the earth for they are ready (Rev. 6:9 - 10).
19, 20. "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. 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."
This being done, the harvest is thrown into the winepress of God's wrath (Rev. 19:15). The crushing of this harvest takes place outside Jerusalem where rivers of blood shall flow for a distance of 200 miles as high as a horse's bridal. The Anti-Christ, false prophet and all the rulers of the earth will be there and all of them shall be finally overcome. (Joel 3:11 - 14; Rev. 19:17 - 21).
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