Revelation 14–Overcoming the World
In Revelation 11:15, the 7th trumpet sounded signaling the last series of judgments poured out on the world (details of the bowl judgments given in ch. 16). Before the bowl judgments, which will finish off the world and wipe out all evil, chapters 12-14 are an interlude for us letting us see, behind the spiritual curtain, the fall of Lucifer and one third of the angels with him. Then we read about his attempts to destroy God’s people and prevent God’s Kingdom. In ch.13, we are introduced to the representatives of Satan who try to set up Satan’s kingdom and wipe out believers in Christ. Now in Revelation 14, we see the Lamb of God having returned to the Mt. Of Olives in Jerusalem with His angels, and the 144,000 Jewish evangelists from ch. 7 are with Him. These evangelists have survived all the persecution and are seen here with Christ at His second coming. Since they survived the Tribulation, they will have overcome the world. The theme of overcoming runs throughout the New Testament in many passages such as:
Romans 8:37, “we overwhelmingly conquer through Christ who loves us”
1 John 5:4-5, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith”
1Cor. 15:57, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”
2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith, in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness”
These triumphant men will survive God’s judgments and Satan’s wrath because they truly will take refuge in The Lord. Some theologians think the scene is in heaven, but Mt. Zion is in Jerusalem, and a voice from heaven in v.2 suggests the scene is on earth. In verses 2-3, the singing of praise from heaven will be joined by the saints on earth as they praise the Lord for their protection and triumph. These elect saints experienced the full force of the seven year tribulation and now they are honored in a special way through a special song of their own. They are further honored by describing them as the ones who “have not been defiled”, and they followed Jesus faithfully during the tough times. In the midst of the moral darkness of this world, they will shine like beacons of light. They will be “purchased” meaning they will be redeemed by the blood of Jesus at the beginning of the tribulation of the end times. They will be the first fruits of redeemed Israel.
Revelation 14:5 says no lie was found in their mouth and they are considered blameless. I take it they will be blameless in the same way the Apostle Paul was in 1 Timothy 1:12-15. Paul said that he was foremost among sinners, but had been saved and put into service by the atoning blood of Christ.
The Message of the Three Angels, Rev. 14:6-11
In verses 6-11, angels serve as Gods messengers and will have a major role in end time events. The first angel preaches the Gospel, the second angel announces judgment upon the world and all its systems of politics, economics, and religion, and the third angel announces condemnation upon anyone who worships the Antichrist. The first angel is a preaching angel flying at a high altitude proclaiming the good news of forgiveness and eternal life through Christ. Apparently even until the very end of the world there is still an offer from God to fear Him, believe in Jesus and be saved. Based on the activity of the Antichrist in Rev. 13 to threaten and coerce people to follow him, what would Jesus’ message be to people alive at the time? I think His teaching in Matthew 10:28 would come to mind, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”.
The second angel pronounces the bad news which implies the world largely rejects the first angel’s good news. Fallen Babylon the great, could refer to an actual city, or it is more likely an image of Antichrist’s worldwide political, economic, and religious corrupt empire. Babylon has always symbolized in the Bible the world’s rebellion against God. Way back in Genesis 11, Nimrod organized the original city of Babylon as the site of the world’s first organized system of false religion. The Tower of Babel was an expression of that idolatrous religion that would spread around the world. Now in Rev.14, history will have come full circle from Nimrod to the prideful rebellious Satan inspired religion of the end times.
In verses 9-11, the third angel describes damnation upon all who worship the Antichrist by being involved in his false religion. God’s full wrath, so long restrained, will be unleashed. This will not be an impulsive act, but a wrath that has been righteously determined, deliberate, and long warned about in Scripture. In v.10, the author uses the image of wine to express God’s full wrath at that time. This “wine” is “mixed in full strength in the cup of Gods full anger”. This refers to the common practice in the first century of diluting wine. Everybody mixed wine with their water to purify it, and most middle class people diluted wine that was expensive. This metaphorical wine in v. 10 is the full strength righteous vengeance of God. Unfortunately for unbelievers who worshipped the beast, their torment is forever. The main point of these angels is to deliver God’s last call to repentance and the last warning of judgment, just before Jesus returns.
There is a surprising message in Rev. 14:12-13 concerning believers in Christ who have been martyred during the end times tribulation–Blessed are the dead. This may seem contradictory, but offers an important contrast to verses 9-11. The appearance of their martyrdom versus the enrichment of the followers of Antichrist made it seem that believers got the worst of it, but we are reassured here that in eternity the believers will be greatly blessed while unbelievers will receive the full wrath of God.
The Great Harvest at the End of the Age
In Matt. 13:38-43, Jesus taught in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares that there will be a great harvest at the second coming of Christ. This metaphorical harvest will be when Jesus comes back with the angelic host to separate the wheat from the tares. In the parable, the wheat represents believers in Christ while the tares (weeds) represent non-believers. At this harvest, God’s patience is over, His offer of grace and mercy is withdrawn, and unbelievers will be thrown “into the furnace of fire”. This is also the metaphorical grain harvest of Rev. 14:14-16. The second harvest of Rev. 14:17-20 is a metaphorical grape harvest, which represents the great battle of Armageddon, which will be more fully described in Revelation 16 and 19. In Rev. 14:17-18, we see that the time is ripe for the end of this evil depraved world, so the angel is commanded to “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe”. These grapes will be thrown into the “great wine press of the wrath of God”. These evil grapes will be crushed like a wine press crushes grapes so that all the juice flows out. Then we are told that the wine which here symbolizes the carnage of Armageddon will flow for a distance of 200 miles (v. 20). This action will be actually fulfilled at the second coming described in Rev.19:15. The land of Israel is about 200 miles from north to south, so this prophecy could possibly be saying that the last great war will be fought in the Middle East outside of Jerusalem.
Chapter 12-14 are not chronological, but prepare the way for the climax coming in ch. 16-19. Rev.14 is a series of heavenly pronouncements guaranteeing the ultimate triumph of Christ along with the judgment of the unbelieving wicked. Here in ch.14 we see that the evangelists who were active during the tribulation will be preserved and united with Christ on the Mt. of Olives at His return, when they will receive a special commendation and blessing from heaven. Their witness will have been holy and blameless before The Lord. We also see the great harvest or separation of the “sheep and the goats” spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-34. Right now believers live along side unbelievers while God lets them co-exist and we don’t necessarily know who is who, but at the second coming He will separate them. One group unto the Kingdom of God, and the other group into the eternal fire. Knowing this in advance about the future, how should we live now? Knowing that the offer of God’s grace is still available to the unsaved, what should our relationships be like now? Paul answered this well in 2Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us, and we beg (people) on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.”