SUMMARY.--The Lamb and His Saints on Mt. Zion. The New Song. The Angel of the Everlasting Gospel. Blessed Are Those that Die in the Lord. The Son of Man in the Clouds. The Harvest of the Earth. The Elect Gathered. The Clusters of the Vine of the Earth Cut Off. Trodden Down in the Wine-Press.
The gloomy picture of the terrible foes of the Church, given in chapter 13, is calculated to fill the saints with fearful foreboding. A persecuted, suffering Church, beholding these mighty enemies, their terrible work, these fearful struggles of the future, these triumphs of the wicked, might almost be led to despair of the final victory of the Redeemer's cause. Hence, for the encouragement of the saints, their eyes are turned, in the fourteenth chapter, upon a brighter vision. The dark clouds are lifted off the future, and they are enabled to look beyond and to see the glorious fruition of all the tears and sorrow, the struggles and trials of the Church. The vision of this chapter cheers the saints and encourages them to press on in the hour of darkness, by leading them forward to the final triumph of righteousness at the end of time.
1-5. And I looked, and, behold. This is the usual formula in Revelation which introduces a new vision. The Lamb stood on the mount Zion. In chapter 13, a false lamb has been seen, one that had a voice like a dragon. Here, in contrast, is seen the Lamb of God, the same as in chapter 5, taking the book with seven seals. On the Mount Zion. Here and in Heb. 12:22 are the only places in the New Testament where this expression occurs. It is equivalent to the "Jerusalem above" of Gal. 4:26 and Heb. 12:22. Mount Zion, the city of the great King, the seat of the worship of God in Jerusalem, was a type, and is used as a symbol of the true Church. In Hebrews 12:22, the saints who have entered into the covenant of Christ are said to have come, not to the mount that could not be touched, but to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. It is there used for the church of the saints, and such is its meaning in this passage. With him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having his name, etc. In chapter 7:4, the same number are spoken of as sealed from the twelve tribes of Israel. It means there, a great, indefinite number. Here, I take that the meaning is the same. It is a great multitude, a round number, who are associated with the Lamb. 2. And I heard a voice from heaven. Whose voice is not stated, but it was a mighty voice, the voice of harpers harping with their harps. Always when great triumph are achieved or about to be achieved, heaven rings with the praises of singers. Compare 5:8, 9; 7:10-12; 11:17. 3. And they sung as it were a new song before the throne. A song that has some new features. It was sung in the presence of the Father and the attending princes of heaven. No man could learn that song but the hundred and forty four thousand. None could understand the song but them, those who had been redeemed. 4. These are they which were not defiled with women. This thought is always a symbol of purity of life; of refusing sinful intercourse with the world. Spiritual adultery or fornication is being wedded to the world and partaking of its sins. They are virgins. This term is a symbol, and means that their lives are not defiled by the world. See 2 Cor. 11:2. First fruits. First fruits were always dedicated to God. See Num. 18:12. These holy ones are set apart and dedicated to God and the Lamb. 5. And in their mouth, etc. This verse states that their lives were holy and pleasing to God and the Lamb.
The Lamb on Mount Zion in the midst of these saints is a prophetic picture, and the thought should be, What do these symbols signify? These saints stand forth as the representatives of a class. "They are first fruits to God and to the Lamb." As the first fruits, devoted to God, were representative of the whole harvest, so these stand forth as the representatives of the harvest of souls. We are to behold in them as they stand on Mount Zion with the Lamb in their midst, a picture of the Church in some age of the world. Let us observe the facts stated of them: 1. The Lamb is in their midst; a characteristic of the holy saints. 2. They are pure, unspotted, undefiled, not fornicators, nor sullied with unholy desires. 3. They follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes. They are sheep that hear the Shepherd's voice. They are obedient to all his commandments. They follow his example as well as his words. They live a Christ-like life. 4. In their mouths are found no guile, and they were without fault before the throne of God. Whenever the Church of God becomes purified, ceases unholy fornication with the world, these are the marks which it will exhibit. I believe this to be a picture of the Church, yet to come, which shall have put on the white robes and have only Christ for its King.
6, 7. I saw another angel flying in mid heaven. An angel is a messenger. Any agency that does God's work or carries his message may be an angel. This angel is a symbol. (1) His flying indicates some movement or change that shall take place with great rapidity. (2) The fact that he has the everlasting gospel shows that the movement symbolized is the evangelization of the world. (3) That the movement will be world wide is shown in that he speaks to all races. (4) His proclamation shows that he not only offers the glad tidings, but declares the consequences of their rejection. This all implies that the purification of the Church will be followed by a mighty gospel impulse which will sweep over the world. There is a sublime missionary spirit on the part of the revived Church. Full of zeal, breathing the spirit of the Master, permeated with the apostolic spirit, as in the days of old it will go everywhere preaching the world. The old, old story told by a holy people, told with a burning zeal and overflowing love, shall exhibit its divine power in the salvation of the nations.
8-12. There followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen. As a result of the great gospel revival shown in verses 6, 7, the city of sin, here called Babylon, but called "spiritually Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified" (11:8) shall fall. The wine of wrath of her fornication. This Babylon was a city of fornication, of unholy alliance with the world, wedded to the prince of this world instead of to Christ, and made the nations sin with her, or drink her wine. Wine of wrath. So called either because her wrath was manifested in persecution against those who refused to drink, or because the wine of God's wrath shall be poured on her (see verse 10). 9. And the third angel followed. This angel proclaims God's judgment on all that worship the beast and his image. (See Ch. 13). 10. The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God. Those who received the mark of the beast, worshiped the beast, drank the wine of Babylon, shall drink the wine of God's wrath. His judgments shall be poured out on them. Shall be tormented with fire and brimstone. These are symbols, just as wine and cup are symbols. The meaning is that they shall suffer bitter anguish. 11. And the smoke of their torment. This is also a symbol suggested by fire and brimstone. The thought of this verse is the eternal unrest and pain of those who have followed the beast. 12. Here is the patience of the saints. The thought that the enemies who oppress them and torture them will be finally utterly overcome gives the saints patience to endure.
BABYLON. What is meant by this city Babylon? The term only occurs in the New Testament in 1 Pet. 5:13, and in the Book of Revelation. It is shown in this passage that Babylon virtually signifies the same as the "beast and his image," while in 17:5 Babylon is shown to be the mystical harlot who sat on the seven-headed and ten-horned beast. In chapter 18 the fall of Babylon is again declared, and it is said that all the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her. Of this spiritual Babylon the old Babylon on the Euphrates was a type. It was (1) A wicked world power. (2) It oppressed God's people and led them captive. (3) It was only when it was overthrown that Jerusalem was restored. (4) In addition it might be added that it was at or near Babylon that the confusion of tongues took place. This old Babylon in some way is a type of the Babylon meant by John. The facts stated of the spiritual Babylon are that it was (1) identified with the beast; (2) a mighty oppressor of God's people; (3) that it led them captive; (4) ruled the earth; (5) is a harlot, or idolatrous church. It has been found in the preceding chapter that the beast and its image point to Rome; it will be found in chapter 17, that the woman who is called "Mystery, Babylon the Great," who sitteth on the beast, is the great apostate church which has ruled the nations. This passage shows the means by which this dominion shall be overthrown. It will be done by a pure and holy Church, filled with missionary zeal. It is the preaching of the ancient gospel which shall bring Rome to destruction. When this shall be done is not revealed, but I am led to cherish the idea that it is not so far distant as some suppose.
13. I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write. We are not told whose voice, but it is a voice of authority. The words to be written are next stated. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord. Not all the dead, but those dead who die in the Lord. Only those die in the Lord who are in the Lord when they die. The Christian life, begun by faith and baptism into Christ (Rom. 6:3), is a life in Christ. To be assured of this blessed death one must live a Christian life. From henceforth. Probably from the time of this utterance to John, though some have supposed that the time meant is that of the Lord's coming, which is declared in verse 14. Yea, saith the Spirit. The Spirit confirms the blessing pronounced and states the reason. They may rest from their labors. Yet though they rest their labors are not lost; they follow them to eternity to speak for them.
14-16. I looked, and behold white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of Man. Jesus has himself said that the Son of man shall be seen coming upon the clouds of heaven (Matt. 24:30). John here sees the Son of Man sitting upon a white cloud. The Savior says that his coming shall be with great power and glory. John now sees upon the head of the Son of man a golden crown. The Savior says (Matt. 24:31) that he will send his angels to gather the elect. John hears an angel bid him who sat upon the cloud, to reap the earth, for its harvest was ripe. 15. Send forth thy sickle and reap. There is gathered first the ripened harvest of the elect of God. It is an angel that came out of the temple of God as a messenger of God, carrying to the Son the Father's command to gather the elect from the four corners of the earth. Then a longing, waiting Church, "loving the appearing of the Son of man," shall first be gathered into the heavenly garner. The ripe sheaves are gathered. 16. The earth was reaped. The harvest of souls is ended forever. But those who are upon the earth "shall not prevent them that are asleep." At the voice of the archangel the dead shall wake from their long sleep in the embrace of earth. Death shall be swallowed up in victory. "Blessed henceforth forever are the dead who died in the Lord. Yea, saith the Spirit, they do not rest from their labors and their works do follow them."
17-20. Another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. The ripened harvest of the saints has been gathered first. That was symbolized in verses 14-16. The gathering of the wicked to judgment is now shown in the symbols. Another angel comes forth with a sickle in his hand. Christ, by his angels, was the great reaper of the righteous harvest. They that are Christ's are gathered by him at his coming, but the wicked are gathered by another, here presented as an angel reaper. 18. Another angel came out from the altar. The altar of burnt offerings. Which had the power over fire. This angel, one that has power over fire, comes forth from the altar where fire was kept burning. Fire is an emblem of punishment, of destruction. He bids the angel who holds the sickle to begin his work, "to put forth his sickle and cut off the clusters of the vine of the earth, for they are ripe." Grapes are chosen as a symbol of the wicked because of their harmony with the figure that describes the fate of the wicked. "The vine of the earth" means the world that lieth in sin, "earth" being used in an unfavorable sense thus far in Revelation. 19. Cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. They were cast into the wine-press, then trodden under foot, and from the bruised and bleeding mass ran red juice like blood. The symbol implies delivery over to punishment and destruction. As the grapes were trodden and crushed in the wine-press, so the clusters "of the vine of the earth" are crushed under the wrath of God. 20. And the winepress was trodden without the city. The city, whenever it is not shown to be a wicked city, is Jerusalem, the Apocalyptic symbol of the Church. These judgments are without the church, judgments upon the world. And blood came out of the winepress. This is what John saw. The pressed juice of the grapes ran out red like blood, and ran in a mighty stream, deep as the bridle bits of the horses, 1600 furlongs; about 200 miles. There has been much discussion concerning what this distance signifies. Some have cited the fact that Palestine is about 200 miles long, and held that a fearful carnage in that country is predicted. Others have noted the fact that Italy is about 200 miles wide, and held that this country is to be the scene of a terrible conflict. In my opinion, the whole is symbolic of the terrible judgments of the wicked in that day. The figures, 40x40, or 4x4, multiplied by 10x10, imply the universality of the judgment. The four quarters, the four winds, the four corners of the earth are often mentioned, and four is held to be an Apocalyptical symbol of the earth, while ten, like seven, is a perfect, or sacred number.