[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
14 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.
In chapters 12 and 13, John stepped backward in the time-frame to provide further explanations. Now, he returns to the chronological point of the beginning of God’s wrath. Jesus will now begin His earthly reign from mount Sion (Isaiah 2:2-4; Zechariah 8:3). Sion, called Zion in the Old Testament means “fortification”, and can refer to certain parts of Jerusalem, or to the entire city, or it can refer to heaven. (See also- Hebrews 12:18-24; Joel 2:31-32; Psalm 132:13-14) The next verses clearly show the 144,000 in heaven. Also, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 says that all believers will come to earth with Jesus.
We learned in chapters 7 and 9, that 144,000 is not a literal number, but signifies completeness in number. That first group contained all Christians and Jews still living on earth before the trumpet-judgments began. This 144,000 (the numerical symbol for completeness) contains all Christians and Jews martyred by the beast.
The Father’s name, written on their foreheads, is not literal (Revelation 3:12). It also should not be confused with the seal of God placed on the foreheads of the 144,000 in Revelation 7:1-8. That group, which received the seal, only included Jews, and Christians, which were still alive after the Great Tribulation, and at the beginning of the trumpet-judgments.
2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
While the KJV says “a voice”, the original Greek word literally means “an utterance”, and we see in the next verse that this is many voices. In Revelation 15:2, we will see those martyred by the beast, standing before God with harps in their hands.
3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
We should be careful to note that this group of 144,000 is clearly in heaven (see- Revelation 4:2-11). This is the great multitude from Revelation 7:9-14 which came out of the Great Tribulation. Revelation 15:1-2 will again repeat the fact that this group is in heaven at this chronological point.
This is the only song, in Revelation, in which we are not told the words. It is strictly for the tribulation martyrs after they have overcome the beast. We will, however, be told the words of a different song they sing in Revelation 15:2-4.
4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
This is not speaking of literal virgins, but of spiritual virgins. The 144,000 have not worshiped the beast, or other false gods, but remain spiritually pure before God. The word “women” literally translates “a woman”, and could be referring to the great harlot (Revelation 17) which is the religious organization of the Antichrist. (See also- Revelation 3:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2)
5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
They did not live a sin-free life, but were sanctified by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:10). (See also- Ephesians 5:25-27; Colossians 1:21=22; Titus 2:14)
6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
The phrase “and I saw” indicates a change in scene. We now shift from focusing on the righteous to focusing on the unbelievers.
The words “another angel” shows that this is the second angel John saw flying in midair. The first was in chapter 8, and was symbolized as an eagle. This angel, however, is the first in a series of three, which bring messages to those on earth.
The everlasting gospel, mentioned here, is not simply the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is also the good news of the coming kingdom of God. This message, as well as the two that follow, is not directed at Christians, Jews, or those who worship the beast. All three messages are directed to unbelievers who do not follow the beast. Even at this point, it is still not too late for eternal salvation. The third angel, in verses 9-10, will give a final warning to the non-believers, and sorta-believers, who have not yet followed the Antichrist.
7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
In Revelation 11:11-13, we saw the unbelievers glorifying God after the rapture of the two witnesses. That, however, was done out of fear, and not respect. In Revelation 16:8-9, after the pouring out of the fourth bowl, unbelievers will curse God and refuse to glorify Him. (See also- Joshua 7:1-26)
8 And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
We saw, in chapter 11, that Babylon refers to Jerusalem, after it becomes the command center for the Antichrist. The events of this proclamation will be explained, in more detail, in chapters 17 & 18. (See also- Revelation 19:2)
9 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
Although the worshipers of the beast are bound for eternal doom, the “for ever and ever” spoken of here is not eternity, but is specifically speaking of the time of God’s wrath. In the Greek text, it literally means to the end of the age. This is the same word Jesus used in Matthew 28:19-20, when He said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
Jesus, and His angels, will come to earth at the beginning of God’s wrath (Matthew 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8; Jude 1:14-15). Therefore, those who worship the beast will literally be tormented “in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb”.
12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
The message, from this angel, should be a warning to us now. But, at the time the message will be spoken, it will be a statement of fact, and it will be too late to be heeded as a warning by Christians. It will be, however, a final warning to unbelievers who have not worshiped the beast.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
There are two views concerning this verse. The first view is that it is directed at believers. Notice that John’s vision is interrupted with the command to “write”. It may show that this verse is separate from what John was already writing. The “henceforth” would not be from this chronological point of Revelation, but from the time that John wrote. At this chronological point, all believers will either be raptured or resurrected.
The second view is that this verse is still being directed to unbelievers, as “the dead”, in every other instance in Revelation, always refers to unbelievers (Revelation 11:18; 20:5, 11-13). This would show that it is not too late for unbelievers, who refused the mark of the beast, to accept salvation.
14 And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
“And I looked” shows a shift in scene. I don’t believe that this is Jesus, even though he is “like unto the Son of man” (Revelation 1:13). The word “like” merely means “resembling”. He wears a crown, signifying authority, but others, including the 24 elders, wear crowns. We see in verse 16 that he begins to harvest the earth, but Matthew 13, and Mark 13, say that Jesus will send the angels to harvest the earth. And in verse 15, there is “another angel” who comes out of the temple and orders him to begin harvesting the believers. Also, in verse 17, one clearly identified as an angel, comes out to harvest the unbelievers.
15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
This angel comes out of the temple, meaning that the order he gives, comes from God.
16 And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
This is an overview of the harvesting of believers, which occurs at the second coming of Jesus. This will occur after the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and before the 7 bowls of wrath. The next verses will show the harvesting of unbelievers.
17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
Again, coming from the temple, in heaven, shows that he is sent by God.
18 And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
This is an overview of the harvesting of unbelievers, which occurs at the 7 bowls of the wrath of God. The next verses will show that this does not refer to their eternal judgment, but to earthly judgment as worshipers of the beast. Joel 3:13 says, “Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.” (See also- 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10: Joel 3:9-16)
19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
Revelation 19:15 says that Jesus will tread the “winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God”. The unbelievers will not literally be crushed, resulting in a river of blood. This symbolizes just how terrible the judgment of the wicked will be. (See also- Isaiah 63;1-4)