1 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.
Here we have a preview of what is going to take place regarding the 144,000 when Christ returns. The vision simply details future events as though they had taken place beforehand. This chapter should be viewed as another parenthetical insight that transports the reader forward to the close of the Tribulation.
In verse 1 we see the 144,000 standing on Mount Zion with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Lamb), yet in verse 3 we find them before the Throne of God in Heaven. Something must have happened between these two events. To avoid mentioning another ‘rapture’ some commentators suggest that this Mount Zion is in Heaven rather than on earth, but this does not tell us how they arrived in Heaven. It is better to take Mount Zion as literal, the very place where the Temple was built.
The 144,000 here are the same as those mentioned in Revelation 7, thus they are exactly the same group that had a teaching and preaching ministry throughout the Tribulation. This may sound obvious, but there are Bible teachers who state that the 144,000 is different from the one mentioned in Revelation 7, and that this is not a literal figure, instead it must be seen as symbolic of all the redeemed. Such an interpretation as this amounts to the same scripture twisting notions of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The 144,000 will be taken up to Heaven towards the end of the second 3½ years, therefore they are still alive at the Second Coming, since they have been under God’s protection (Revelation 7:3-4).
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:
The thunderous voice here may be the mighty voice of Christ (Revelation 1:5). Notice that there are two distinct voices heard by John here. Is this when the 144,000 are caught up into Heaven? If so, it seems that they receive a Heavenly fanfare as they enter God’s presence, not with the blast of trumpets, but with the soothing music of harps. “Harpers harping with their harps” has a special ring to it, doesn’t it?
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.
The 144,000 have a special song. As they appear before the Lord God, they will sing a song only they can sing. It must be a song of praise and victory for the wonderful ministry they had received on earth. Why did not the apostle John record the lyrics of this song for us? Well, only the 144,000 are permitted to sing it, and we know that some bright spark would set them to music if they were written, thus making void God’s word. The word “learn” may imply that they are taught the song by someone in Heaven.
“Redeemed from the earth” here must refer to the ‘rapture’ of the 144,000, otherwise only that number of saved people will be in Heaven – exactly as the Jehovah’s Witness cult believes. To avoid this conclusion many commentators say that the number 144,000 is only symbolic and should not be taken literally. How foolish of them to twist God’s word to fit their teachings!
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.
We must remember that the 144,000 are unmarried male Jews. They are the first of the end days Jews to reach Heaven’s shores.
They would have preached the Gospel to Israel throughout the Antichrist years. The description of them in verses 4-5 reveals that they are the purest of the Jewish Christians living in the final hours of this present world system. There may be a suggestion here that they will remain the Lord Jesus’ special attendants throughout the Millennium and all eternity.
They are certainly committed and loyal to the Lord. They are termed “the firstfruits”, this simply means that they are the first Jews to be saved during the beginning of the Tribulation years. They are the first of “all Israel” to “be saved” (Romans 11:26; Zechariah 12:10).
5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
They remained faithful to Christ throughout the terrible events on earth in the Last Days. They will not lie, cheat, deceive or compromise to stay alive. During the Tribulation years they remain faultless. “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid” (Zephaniah 3:13). How many of us can go even a single day without some kind of guile and compromise? This proves that they have been especially set apart unto God – sanctified for His purpose. This is another reason why they are called “firstfruits”. The firstfruit offerings in the Old Testament had to be perfect, pure, and without any blemish. Thus are the 144,000.
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.
This angel can only preach after the Church and the 144,000 have been raptured, and he must of course preach the true Gospel. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). The Church of Christ is now responsible for spreading the message of salvation. After the Church is raptured the 144,000 will tell others about Christ.
While there are those who remain unsaved, and have not taken the mark of the beast, the eternal gospel must be preached – “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14). The New Testament era began with angels announcing the Good News, and it seems that it will end the same way. Not about a baby born in a manger, but that the King is coming!
There are some who believe that John’s vision was actually symbolic of a satellite beaming back to earth the message of Christ, but it is better to allow the Scripture to speak for itself, therefore this is a literal angel. The main point here is that nothing can hinder the true gospel of Jesus Christ from being preached. The angel will travel around the earth. Everyone will see and hear him. This could not be true if it were a manmade broadcasting system. His message has a two-fold application for those on the earth at that time: 1) It will be an invitation to the unmarked to turn to Christ before it is too late; 2) It will reveal that it is too late for those who have received that mark.
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.
There are two parts to the angel’s message. Firstly, there is a call to fear God. Few people then or now fear God. Even though terrible things will be taking place, most of the people will be cursing God. “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18, Psalm 36:1).
Just like Pharaoh the majority harden their hearts in the midst of judgement. We try preaching love to win the lost, but they do not listen. Nor do they respond when we tell them of coming judgement. There is nothing wrong with the message, it is simply that they have hardened their hearts towards God. Secondly, there is a call to give glory to God. This must include the need for true repentance. Anyone who does glorify God must be stating that God is right. To glorify Him means that they must bow their knee and accept Him as Lord. Those who do repent realise that God’s judgement has come, and that the end of all things is at hand. To glorify God is to worship Him. But look how the angel prompts the unsaved to worship God. They must praise Him as the Creator. The God who created this world is the true Master. “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker” (Psalm 95:6). The angel points man back to Genesis. No wonder the devil hates both Genesis and Revelation. He deceives people into believing that the first did not happen, and that the last will never happen. This is why corrupt religious leaders see both Genesis and Revelation as fairy tales.
The angel’s message must also include the idea that God is about to bring all He created to an end. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3:10-12). These will be the main points of the angel’s sermon. It is left for people living at that time to make a choice to accept Christ or go on to damnation. The angel preaches a “Heaven or Hell?” message. Nevertheless, we, too, must decide to follow Christ or not.
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.
The Lord Jesus Christ must triumph over all godless societies. He must be victorious over all corrupt religions (this means all who are not part of the Born Again Bible Believing Church). His wrath is going to be poured out upon Babylon. She is going to fall. This is the first time that Babylon is mentioned in Revelation, and it probably refers to literal Babylon in the Middle East rather than mystical Babylon in Rome. Revelation 13, in a sense, did suggest its existence, and it will be discussed in detail in chapters 16 to 18.
In this verse we find a prophetic statement regarding her imminent destruction. We must remember that the Antichrist’s political headquarters will be in Iraq, and that his religious capital will be in Rome. “And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground” (Isaiah 21:9). Babylon, though a literal place, is also symbolic of everything that is anti-God. Sometime in the future the city is going to be rebuilt and will be Antichrist’s political, economic and religious centre. As we will see in a later chapter, he will, it seems, destroy Rome and move the religious side of things to Babylon.
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.
Here we see those who are doomed to Hell and the Lake of Fire. These people will experience the full weight of God’s wrath. We must understand that they have chosen to worship the Beast, and, in doing so, reject God. They have chosen to pledge their undying allegiance to the Antichrist, thus they have sold their souls to Satan. This verse also reveals that the state will control religion in the last days. It is of interest to note that it is religion rather than politics that unites people together at the end.
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:
The damnation of the lost is eternal in nature. The doctrine of annihilation is false. In reality it is a false hope spread by those who do not believe a God of love can send anyone to Hell. If God did not send the unrepentant to Hell then Christ’s sacrifice (which is eternal proof of His love) would be undermined forever. The damned are those who reject the Lamb of God as the only way of salvation. There is nothing more God can do for them except send them to Hell. The mention of “fire and brimstone” is significant. God is reminding us that all who refused the way of escape in Sodom and Gomorrha perished.
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.
Hell and the Lake of Fire will exist throughout eternity (Matthew 25:46; Romans 2:3-9; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). This means that the torment of the lost will last just as long. There will never be a single moment of relief from the torment. No light at the end of the tunnel. No hope of release from a so-called, and fictitious, purgatory. Note: God’s love, coming through His only begotten Son, can only be applied to sinners on this side of eternity.
12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
This, because of the prophetic setting, is primarily spoken to the Tribulation saints, though there is an obvious lesson here for us all to learn. Only the true saint of God will enter into the everlasting Kingdom. When we compare Revelation 13:9-10 and 14:12-13 we see that the call for “patience” is placed in the gloom narratives to inspire hope and offer comfort during persecution.
All true saints endure to the end … “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22). They do not compromise. True saints keep the word of God … “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:22). Obedience is proof that a Christian truly loves God. True saints maintain their faith in Christ. This means that they believe and promote the fundamental doctrines of Christ. Only true saints escape the coming judgement … “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:15). Even so, there are very few of them on the road to eternal life … “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14).
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.
This passage reveals who gets to Heaven and what their reward will be. As believers we know that we will pass from this earth to enter into our heavenly reward.
The question we must ask here is, who are the dead who die in the Lord? It has to refer to those who truly lived for Christ through the Tribulation, and that they followed Him with all of their heart and soul. In life and death Jesus Christ was their Lord.
True believers live, die, and arise in Christ. It is important to lay stress on that little word “in”. Those who enter Heaven must first be “in” Christ on the earth. Those in Christ have the image and identity of Christ in this life. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (1 Corinthians 5:17). When the day of our death comes we will have no fear. For if we were in Him in life, we will be in Him in death. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Those who are in Christ are the only ones who can be truly blessed.
This brings us to the rewards of those who enter Heaven. It is obvious from the text that those who live in Christ labour for Him on earth. They preached, witnessed, taught, and guided others to Christ. Only labourers for Christ can enter the Rest of Christ. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). They are Christ’s faithful ones who laboured day and night in His service. The apostle Paul reminds those who are still alive, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). This heavenly rest does not mean we are going to float around on fluffy clouds doing nothing for eternity, but it refers to the fact we will be in the glory of God – the place of real rest … “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).
“Their works follow them” means that God will never forget their service for Him on earth. This being so, their reward must be eternal. What is your personal reward in Heaven? Only God knows the answer to that, but a few Scriptures might help us understand and prepare … “But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven” (Matthew 6:20)…. “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward” (1 Corinthians 3:12-14) … “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Whatever rewards, joys and blessings we experience in Heaven is only a result of being “in” Christ on earth. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7).
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.
Verses 14-16 reveal the Great Harvester of souls. He will reap the few remaining stalks of wheat from the great mass of tares. Only Jesus has been given the authority to do this (Matthew 13:41; John 5:27).
Here He is given the title of “the Son of Man”, which indicates that He is the Messiah, the Perfect Man, and the representative of mankind, coming on clouds of glory. His first advent brought Him to the world as the Saviour of sinners, but He will soon return to gather together those whom He has saved through His blood. The majority of mankind reject the fact that Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter, is the only means of salvation. When Christ returns they will realise that what Scripture says of Him is absolute truth.
The white cloud should not be seen as literal as it represents the Lord’s perfect holiness, purity and glory. He is seen wearing a golden crown. This symbolises that He is King, Lord, and Eternal Governor. He is coming to take His rightful place in the world. The God of Heaven will establish His Kingdom upon the earth after the Antichrist kingdom is destroyed – this is also known as Christ’s Millennial Reign.
In His hand is a sharp sickle. This will be used to harvest the “wheat” from the earth … “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:30).
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.
The “Temple” is likely to be the one in Jerusalem (see verse 17), for the angel has probably investigated the abomination in the holy place and announces it is time for judgement to fall. Both here and in the parables we find that there has to be a separation of the saints from the unsaved, see Matthew 25:32. Notice that the harvest has to be “ripe” – Paul described this as happening when “the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25). Though an angel announces this Rapture, it is Christ Himself who will gather the saved together at His coming.
16 And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
Verse 16 reveals that there is a preordained time for this to take place. The saints of God will be free from sorrow, pain, persecution, and all the evils of the present world. They will be in the presence of their Lord. This harvesting is a gathering together, a removal from the earth, into the shelter of Heaven … “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable” (Luke 3:17).
17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
A angel comes out of the Heavenly Temple holding a sharp sickle. The mention of the “Heavenly Temple” here reveals that the Temple of verse 15 must indeed be earthly. Unlike the one that the Lord uses to harvest His saints, this sickle will be used to bring the wrath of God upon the ungodly. This sickle is symbolic of the Battle of Armageddon. The angel comes from the very presence of God with orders to pass sentence upon the earth.
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.
A second angel appears from the altar of incense with the command to strike the earth with the sickle (Joel 3:13; Revelation 19:15). We see here that it is all according to God’s perfect timing. Armageddon cannot come until the preordained time, and it is certain that true believers will not be around to see it. This wrath is a result of the world rejecting God and His word. They have done this by persecuting and ridiculing the Church of God – Biblical Christianity.
Notice again the word “ripe”. When the full measure of sinfulness appears, that is when the unleashing of the final part of God’s wrath comes. Notice too that they are called “grapes”. We see here that there are two vines in the world; One is Christ, and the believers are the grapes (see John 15:5), the other is Satan (and Antichrist), the ungodly being the fruit of that vine. Each person chooses which vine he wants to be connected to. When each is fully ripe the sickle must be put in …. “When the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come” (Mark 4:29).
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.
Now the angel plunges in his sickle. The vine of the earth, the ungodly grapes are harvested. These are not gathered into God’s barn but immediately go into the winepress of His wrath. It is at this point that the world’s worst nightmare is realised. The picture is one of merciless judgement. It will be His perfect justice on a Christ-rejecting world … “For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18) … “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:12).
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.
This judgement takes place on earth outside the city of Jerusalem in the valley of Armageddon. The prophets Isaiah and Joel graphically describe this event (see Psalm 110:5-6; Isaiah 34:6; 63:1-4; Joel 3:9-17). Combined with this passage we understand that it is a picture of armed forces gathering together to destroy Jerusalem.
As soon as the Antichrist’s army assembles in the valley in preparation for advancing on the City, Christ intervenes and destroys them … “Then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the spirit of His mouth, and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). It is at this time that the Antichrist and the false prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire (see Revelation 19:13-21) and Satan is bound in the Bottomless Pit for a thousand years.
These are the events that will take place just prior to the Lord setting up His Millennial Reign on earth. Therefore, we see that He cannot allow Jerusalem to be destroyed. If Satan could destroy Jerusalem, Jesus could not reign!