(cf. Rev. 14:1-8)
I think chapter 14 of the Book of Revelation is a balance of two chapters – chapter 12 and chapter 13. We saw the evil one in chapter 12, we saw the the two beasts in chapter 13, and the question comes, “what about the righteous, what about God’s people?”. Well the first few verses of chapter 14 answer that. Beginning in verse 5, many people see 7 angels as a pattern through chapter 14. There are a lot of angels and i’m sure John and his structure uses 7 over and over, but i don’t see anything really significant about the use of 7 angels although i think they are here, it’s a tremendous balance to the evil we see in the previous chapters. In verse 1, “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb…” – now of course the ‘Lamb’ is from Revelation 5. It’s the Messiah slain but is alive now, the One who purchased us with His blood, the One whose blood washed away our sins, that’s the One standing on Mount Zion. There have been a number of different positions on this, as you know quite often our presuppositions interpret the book of Revelation because the symbols are so fluid. And so some say it’s obviously from the old Testament, and it refers to a literal Jerusalem (cf. Isa. 24:23; Joel 2:32). Others who see the church in here would say it’s spiritual Jerusalem or heavenly Jerusalem, and of course they would go to Hebrews 12:22-23 and Galatians 4:26. Others have said, no it comes from a Jewish apocalyptic literature, and that would be 2nd Esdras 2:42-47 and 2nd Esdras 13:35. Others say it goes backl to the Old Testament where it speaks about an end-time gathering of the people of God, and we have several of that, possibly Micah 4:1 & 7; Obadiah 21, and Psalms 48. God’s people are going to gather unto Him at Zion which i think in even the Old Testament tends to go beyond the city of Jerusalem to the mountain of God. Some see here a continuing allusion to Psalm 2, and it’s obvious that Psalm 2 has been the basis for much of the metaphors through this section, particularly Psalms chapter 2:6. “…and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand,…” – I think it’s spiritual Israel, and this is obviously the same group that’s the redeemed back in chapter 5:9. It’s the same group that was sealed in chapter 7:4-8. It’s the same group that was washed in the blood of the Lamb in chapter 7:14-17. I think it’s the people of God, and it says, “…having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. I think it’s one name, and many have assumed that maybe it goes back to Isaiah 9:6 where it talks about “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, where those titles would apply to God and to the Son, That’s a possibility.
Then it says, “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters…” – originally that was a phrase to describe the voice of God in Ezekiel 43:2, but in Revelation, it’s used to describe the voice of Jesus in chapter 1 verse 15. So obviously it’s a divine voice, and “… and like the sound of loud thunder,…” – now here it’s not used for judgement, it’s just used for a sign of the presence of God, as it was back in chapter 11:19. “…and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.” – the question has been, as it says in verse 3 that they were singing a new song, who are they? Is it the harpist and the angelic creatures like the new song back in chapter 5:9? Well, because it says a little bit later in this verse that no one could learn the song except the 144,000, it seems to me the redeemed are singing the song. Perhaps the angels are the band behind, we really don’t know. Now it says, “…who had been purchased from the earth.” – you might want to see chapter 5:9 and chapter 7:14 for this concept of someone buying back which is the basic idea of what Christ has done for us; He purchased us. I always love to think about 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 7:23. We’ve been bought with a price; that’s the idea of redemption. Notice here about the 144,000 having 2 qualifications and this has caused commentators the miseries because it seems to pick this group as kind of select group or special group, and yet when you look at the number, and look at the context, it seems like to be all the people of God. “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste.” – they are as it were pure virgins. When you read that, you almost get the idea that celibacy is a much higher spiritual state than marriage, and that contradicts all the Bible says. This is what Roman Catholicism picks up and says it’s a symbol for actual celibacy. And there are a lot of other interpretations, but really in the New Testament, this same allusion is spoken of as the church being the pure bride of Christ. You might want to see 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesians 5:27 where the same concept of purity as a bride is given to the church.
Now then it says, “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” – it seems like they are the dedicated servants, you might want to see John 10, which speaks of Him as the Good Shepherd whom the sheep follow wherever He goes. For the same type, but not exactly a parallel, James 1:18 which talks about the first-fruits of His creatures, meaning the whole body of believers, the church. Then it says in verse 5, “And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.” – what does that mean? Several times in the New Testament, the ‘lie’ is the idea of unbelief. You might want to see Romans 1:25 and 1 John 2:22, and that may be a real possibility. They never tell a lie with their lips, and they are blameless. The word ‘blameless seems to have a sacrificial implication. It’s used of animals that could be offered on the altar. So here, it has the idea that we’ve been purchased by Christ and we’re blameless. This is using the church in Ephesians 5:27 that in Christ we’re without fault or blemish, and likewise here, there may be a hint to the truth that Christian service or ministry is sacrificial.
VISION OF THE ANGEL WITH THE GOSPEL
In verse 6, notice where it says, “And I saw another angel flying in midheaven,…” – back in chapter 8:13, there was an eagle flying through the air (‘through the air’ seemed to be where everybody could see it and hear it). “… having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth,…” – this is very important because this seems to be another emphasis that God’s plagues are for the purpose of offering a chance of redemption for the unredeemed inhabitants of the earth. We saw it first back in chapter 9:20-21, and we’ll see it again in chapter 16:8. The phrase ‘inhabitants of the earth’ is always used for unbelievers. So here the eternal good news is for unbelievers that they might come to God in faith through Christ. “…and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;…” – is the idea that the gospel is for all. We could go to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, or we could look at Matthew 24:14 about ‘the gospel must be preached to all the nations’, and this may be a fulfilment of that prophecy now. Notice where it says, “and he said with a loud voice,…” and he’s going to say two imperatives, “Fear God, and give Him glory (worship Him). Back in chapter 11:13 there was a temporary ‘fearing God and giving Him glory’ but obviously the miracles of the beast in chapter 13 lured these fickle-minded followers away very quickly, so it wasn’t true faith. But here’s the thing, they are to fear or revere God and give Him glory, and look what it says, “…because the hour of His judgment has come;…” – this word ‘hour’ is used so often in the Gospel of John for the very time Jesus was to be crucified. It’s probably used here in the very specific time of the judgement of God in John. You might want to see John 12:23; 16:32; and 17:1 for the ‘His hour had come”, and khere it’s the hour of judgement. Then it says, “…worship Him…” – another imperative, “…who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” – this sounds very familiar to Paul’s sermon in Acts 14:15 where he describes God as the Creator. The ‘springs of water’ is rather new. We’re not just certain about that. Now verse 8, “And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great,…” – ‘fallen’ is put first in the sentence for emphasis, and it’s repeated for emphasis (aorist tense which means once and for all). One of the real difficulties in trying to interpret Revelation is that a theme is picked up in one point and developed in several successive stages: the real fall of Babylon which i think is symbolic of Rome; which was symbolic of Babylon; which is symbolic of all human society organized and functioning apart from God. From Daniel 2, this series of kingdoms shows us is becoming more and more anti-God which will one day stand for the world government of the anti-Christ. This is developed particularly in chapter 17 and 18, but the allusion brought for here is of mighty Babylon. Now there is some Old Testament precedents for this. You might want to see Isaiah 27:9 and Jeremiah 51:8 for the same idea of ‘Babylon is fallen’. ‘Babylon the great’ as it is quite often mentioned in the book of Revelation seems to be a symbol of Babylon for Rome. Notice as it says, “…she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.” – this has the idea that Babylon corrupts the nations with her evil ways, and consequently this impurity brings down on it the wrath of God; the nations therein really drunk the wine of God’s wrath.