|Heavenly Temple Opened
v 1: John says he changes his attentions to another vision. He sees a Lamb standing on Mount Zion. As we have learned, the Lamb is Jesus. Mount Zion (same as Mt. or Mount Sion) is the sacred mountain-hill of Jerusalem upon which David built his city (2 Sam 5:7) a little over 3000 years ago. There were two sets of people marked: 144,000 of God's (sealed in Rev 7:1-8) and the Beast's followers. The 144,000 which were marked by God now arrived safely in Jerusalem and are with Jesus on the Mount. Remember, the beast could not hurt the 144,000 remnant. This is the time in the tribulation that the Antichrist has taken over. All those not worshiping the beast must be eliminated. The vision is the picture of Christ in Jerusalem with His protected people. John is apparently seeing the end of the Great Tribulation because Jesus has touched the earth and His people are not harmed. This shows the ultimate power of God to all. The Antichrist decreed that those that do not follow and worship him would be put to death. However, these God marked people could not be touched. If you go to Jerusalem and go to the Mount of Olives, one can see the shape of the hill on which Jerusalem was built. The Temple was at the highest point with its "front doors" facing east. The south side of the hill has the remains of the City of David.
Some commentators say the vision is of heaven and the glorified saints. Some often consider the 144,000 marked by God and this 144,000 to be different. Mount Sion or Zion is taken as the church triumphant or the heavenly home. However, Zion or Sion always refers in Scripture either to the actual mountain or to Jerusalem personified. This description is probably from the Hebrew passage on the Mount (Heb. 12:22-24). The word "come" in the Hebrews passage really means to "draw near" or "consent". The Hebrew passage discusses that the Jewish Christians were not satisfied with only Moses Law but were looking at the doctrine of salvation through the blood of Jesus. Ultimately, the promise is the restoration all things. The heavenly Jerusalem will one day come down out of heaven when the Lord returns. Therefore, both the Hebrews and Revelation scripture are referring to the time when He returns. The connection to the 144,000 is not clear in Hebrews; but, it is clear in Revelation. This is not meant to confuse as much as it is to advise readers of other commentators that there may be other interpretations.
v 2-3: Attention is being placed on the vision location and sound location. The vision is on earth; the sound is from heaven. Now John's attention is pulled from earth to heaven and also back to the "present", mid-tribulation timing. The Lamb is now still in heaven and the 144,000 are still on earth. The voice such as heard before (Rev. 6:1). The voice, noise, or music were heard in a beautiful song of majesty and holiness. John also heard the strings of the harp.
All are celebrating including music: the living creations, the 24 elders, and the angels. It does not say the redeemed sang. The point of "no man could learn that song" is that only those redeemed as the 144,000 could know the song. That was because the redeemed knew the God directed and orchestrated redemption because they knew God.
v 4-5: This verse has always been a problem to understand unless one looks at the true meaning of the words and the times. They, the 144,000 from the previous verse, are not defiled with women, for they are virgins. Are all the 144,000 men only and they have not been with women at all? Some cults and religions try to define the 144,000 to their own satisfactions. However, John is quite specific. The two troublesome words are "defiled" and "virgin". To defile means to make dirty, pollute, or stain. The word "virgin" is popularly used to indicate no sexual intercourse before marriage. It can also mean a young woman. However, it can be extended to a spiritual meaning to refer to being used for first time or having no sin.
So, were these all men? If we take it literally, it would mean the 144,000 were all men. Does that mean woman were not able to persuade others to turn to God? No, of course not; they probably did. However, one of the things we must examine is the context of the times of John. Women were highly respected as women. They were treated differently than they are now; however, that was not bad, necessarily. At that time, the men and women were primarily in fixed roles. The women kept the house and trained and worked with the daughters. The fathers were responsible for the sons. They had three primary functions in the lives of the son: 1). train him in the Lord, reading the Bible, and studying in the synagogue; 2). make sure the sons had a trade. Much of the time it was the same as the father; and 3). find or make sure the son finds a wife. The point of this discussion is to say that men would have been the ones responsible for training and speaking. Back to the 144,000, they were redeemed or purchased. This meant they were specially selected. The were purchased or bought by the payment of the blood of the Lamb. Redeemed believers will not compromise with evil. They will reject false doctrine and refuse to worship the beast. So they were deeply religious, highly dedicated, people that would be spreading the word of God for conversion to occur. They were going to be absolutely dedicated in mind and body to the spread of the word. In reality, they will probably not have time for anything else for their years of teaching. In the Jewish and Christian belief based on the importance God puts on marriage, there is no defiling in marriage. So, not being defiled by women means not being in an illegal or immoral situation with another woman other that the wife.
So the general meaning of this verse is that there are 144,000 men chosen specially by God, marked, and sent out to convert men to God. This had to be done quickly because they were after as many as possible in a very short period of time. It could be the men are young and not married. During this time they would not get involved with a woman because of their very important job. It could also cover men that are married. They would still not be defiled. Being a "virgin" probably means that these had abstained from the pollutions of earth, and not necessarily that they had never married. Spiritually, the men would be binding themselves to Jesus with no other distractions in their way. This is verified by the rest of the words of the verse. These of the man that follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They were the firstfruits to God and Christ. In the New Testament, the firstfruits are the first and best part of a crop to be gathered. This implies that a much larger harvest to come later (1 Cor. 16:15).
When they spoke, there was no "guile" (fraud, deceit, lying, or any other indication of lack of dedication). They were found to be without fault [amomos (Greek - without blame or blemish, faultless, unblameable)]. This is not a natural pureness. They were made pure and holy by "having washed their robes, and made them pure in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:14).
v 6-7: Another angel is seen by John. This is not to refer to the previous recent chapters and verses. It is meant to mean seeing another angel since the last angel. It means an angel since the last declared angel, which was the seventh angel in Rev. 11:15. Michael with his angels are in war in Rev. 12:7. He saw the angel in the "midheaven" or "in the midst of heaven" refers to the middle heaven that has been explained earlier in the commentary (Rev. 4:2 commentary). The angel was between God's abode heaven and our atmosphere (i.e. location of stars, moon, sun, planets, etc.). Some commentators understanding of this verse gives rise to the angel "flying" in the "midheaven". Since the angels can get to where they wish to go immediately, it may or may not have a flying meaning. However, either way it means very fast movement.
The eternal or everlasting Gospel or Good News is carried by this angel. The angel is not mentioned as a specific angel that is important to know at this time. It is simply one of God's messengers. This angel is carrying the message of the Good News to all people (nations), tribe and language on earth. This angel said with a loud voice to fear God. This is a general statement that is used all the time to describe what the relationship should be between God and humans. However, there is justification to be actually afraid of God because of what He could do to you. However, the general understanding of the word fear is to understand the awesomeness of God. The all sovereign God, knowing all, being all, power all, etc. is something about which we should be awesome.
Why did God send an angel to do work He had asked us to do (Great Commission) (Mark 16:15-18). From all appearances, at this time in the Great Tribulation it is very difficult to preach because of the oppression of all believers. The 144,000 will, in my opinion, become not as affective because they are committing martyrdom. The number of mouths to pass the word on is getting less and less. However, it is felt that most of the world DOES know about the almighty God. They have chosen not to follow. Therefore, many scholars feel that the angel was sent as almost a last resort proclaiming the Gospel from one place to another. He was to cover every nation , tribe, and language so that NO ONE can say they did not know. The angel is saying to turn to God Who made heaven and earth, and sea (salt) and springs and waters (fresh). He said the time is here for God's judgment of mankind.
v 8: Now a second angel follows the first angel says that the great Babylon has fallen. Babylon is the center and capital of all operations of the Antichrist. He also has brought much of the original beauty of Babylon back. The angel further describes Babylon as the center of forcing the nations of the earth to drink or take in the wine of passion of immorality (NASB) or fornication (KJV). The Old Testament said that fornication was basically being unfaithful in marriage. It also expanded to male and female prostitution. It was punishable by death. In the New Testament, Jesus taught that by faith one could be forgiven of fornication but it was still a sin. Paul expanded it further to include all immoral sexual activity. John in Revelation further extends the meaning of fornication to include political and religious unfaithfulness. Babylon was the center of all vile, immoral, terrible, oppressive actions and authority. This government forced all people, whether wanted to or not to "worship" the Antichrist.
v 9-10: Now a third angel follows the first and second angels with a loud voice saying that if any person worships the beast and his image and received his mark on his forehead or hand shall have the same wrath of God as said by the second angel. The wine of immorality is in God's cup of indignation. That person that drinks the wine of wrath will be tormented with fire and brimstone. All of this will be witnessed by Jesus and the angels.There is no reason to believe the saved will not be able to see the unsaved punished (Isa. 66:23-24). Understand that the beast has declared that if one does not worship him and his image and has not been marked by the beast will surely die. So the angel is just stating the people that will be tortured. This angel pronounces the sentence ahead of time. These angels are, in effect, a last pleading of God to have the people turn to Him and not worship the earthly "god". To be sure, there must be some additional converts. But, by in large, the people have chosen their path by then. They are enjoying the fruits of their immorality; but, will have to pay for it later. Brimstone is usually referred to as burning sulfur which is not only a very hot flame but the smell is horrible also.
v 11: The concept of eternal punishment is very hard to accept by most humans. As persons who believe in the scriptures as written, it has been known of the wrath of God. For thousands of years He has never hidden His wrath. Some people feel that because God is love, He simply CANNOT torture eternally anybody for anything. The same people forget that God gave us free will to make decisions to follow or not to follow. If we make decisions that are knowingly against God, it isn't God who is putting the person to eternal suffering; it is themselves that have caused it. God is through His judgments is just determining whether you followed His rules. Whether we like is or not, the Bible teaches it. Those that do not accept it are not accepting the Bible. It is not known whether the fire and brimstone is real or the bodies are real (as we know them), being away from God, is the worse one could imagine. This is something that not many people consider, this is also the time for eternal fatigue. Imagine in your life the most tired you have ever been. Just think you will not only get more tired, but you will never be able to make it up. In this verse it is reiterated that the punishment is for the people marked with the beast's mark.
v 12: This is essentially a repeat of verse Rev. 13:10. "Here is the patience of the saints" is just stating the age long patience of all the saints. The Biblical promises are accomplished, the Judgment has come, the humanistic world system is fallen, and all the ungodly are in hell. That is the immediate prospect of all none believers. Those who reject the scripture of God which includes the commandments of God simply do not have the knowledge of Jesus and what He means.
v 13: John now says that he hears a voice from heaven that tells him to write. This is so important it is delivered by a voice from heaven. He is told to write that the dead which will be martyred from now on are blessed.. The Bible does not say who speaks. Most believe it is Jesus. The Holy Spirit speaks also. He speaks in a confirming purpose that those who die will rest from their labors and whatever they do will be remembered. The labor here means properly “wailing", "grief”, or "distress". Twelve times John is told to write specifically (the seven letters to the churches., Rev. 1:11, 19; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5). This is the second of the seven beatitudes of Revelations. They are the "Blessed are" statements. They are in this verse, 1:3; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14). This writing has a very significant difference between it and the rest of scripture. God is taking no chances of errors or memory problems. John is told to write it down NOW. Most scripture has been written after the events happen. Sometimes a significant time later.
v 14: John now views an amazing scene. The Son of Man he had seen in chapter 1 appears again. Jesus has appeared to John in many different forms and contexts in Revelation. Jesus is now sitting on or is near a white cloud. The cloud signifies brightness and dazzling. He has a golden crown on his head and He is holding a sharp sickle in His hand. We can almost understand Jesus on a cloud with a crown. But why would He be holding a sickle. A sickle is an instrument for trimming and cutting. The only real purpose for the sickle in this case is to show He is coming in judgment and will "cut and trim" the masses of people by those judgments. The whole picture is definitely a time of preparation. i.e. the sickle has not been used. The symbol of the sickle is used elsewhere in the Bible for the same purpose (Joel 3:13). In the context of Joel, he is also prophesying the coming of the that great battle of Armageddon (Joel 3:9-16)
v 15: Now comes a fourth angel. He comes out of the temple crying with a loud voice. He is addressing Jesus. The angel says to thrust the sickle and reap. He is saying that NOW is the time to reap. The harvest is right. It is not known where the temple is located: heaven or earth. It seems that this is appropriate to be coming out of the earthly temple. If so, the angel is up on what has been happening and can speak with authority of knowledge. He has been seeing the abomination of desolation, the destruction of the special places in the temple, the blasphemy, the image of the beast, etc. So he cries up to heaven to correct the unrighteousness. Obviously, this is a passionate plea. Certainly he cannot order Jesus to use the sickle.
v 16: To reap means to gather in or harvest. A sickle is used to cut the grapes, wheat, or oats to allow the reaping of the harvest. There are two "reapings" in this chapter. This reaping is apparently symbolic of the "gathering up" or "reaping" of the "crop" in preparation for the winepress or grinding. Jesus is bringing about the sickle of judgment. Jesus is going to bring about the reaping that is represented by the good example of the meaning of the parable that Jesus taught of the wheat and the tares (weed that looks a lot like wheat) (Matt. 13:24-30). Jesus sees that the grapes are ready for harvest. When they mature, you will definitely be able to identify the difference. Then you can reap in the wheat separate from the tares. The tares can then be gathered and burned. The wheat is put in storage for use. Now Jesus is ready to reap the earth harvest and gather the tares for burning. There is also a separating of the wheat from the chaff. This is later on in the grinding process. The chaff is the hard shell that surrounds the grain. That is what is broken and separated by grinding so the grain alone can be used for food. That separation I do not believe is the one most descriptive for the reaping with the sickle.
v 17-18: Then a fifth angel comes out of a temple that is in heaven. That tells us there is another temple and it is in heaven. This also seems to indicate an order from God (out of the temple in heaven). This angel also has a sickle. Recall the previous angel came out of the temple on earth. It appears, with a sickle, this fifth angel may be given a responsibility very similar to Jesus. However, where Jesus' sickle is the sickle of judgment (choosing the good and bad), the angel's is the sickle of reaping the ripe grapes in preparation for the winepress. The word "sharp" refers to a sickle of judgment. The word is used in scripture to indicate judgment.
A sixth angel comes out of the altar. This again is an angel with given direction. The direction this time is from the altar. The angel had the power over fire. It is not known exactly what this means. It could stand for fire as an emblem of destruction; and as the work now to be done was such, it was proper to represent this angel as engaged in it. It could also have some relationship to different levels and responsibilities or angels (Heb. 1:14). Some have powers given to them such as control of winds (Rev. 7:1). This angel has power over fire. This could be a similar power as Elijah used when he called from God to take his sacrifice (1 Kings 18:17-41). The fourth angel requested earnestly Jesus to thrust in His sickle and reap the harvest of the earth. Now the sixth angel will earnestly request the fifth angel to thrust his sickle and gather the vintage (grapes) of the earth. These are the grapes for wickedness and rebellion have now ripened or matured on the vine. That means, the time has come as directed by Jesus. They are now ready for the great winepress of the wrath of god. What is the angel to gather? The clusters of the "vine of the earth" are to be gathered. The "vine of the earth" is to be contrasted with Jesus as "I am the true vine" (John 15:1). The grapes on the branches of the true vine is good fruit (John 15:16) while the grapes of the branches of the vine of the earth yields sour grapes and bitter wine. These sour grapes are to be pressed and trampled now as symbolized by the grapepress. The bad vine refers to the Antichrist. Since Jesus shed His blood by His enemies, now it is His enemies time to shed their blood to the very last drop (as the winepress will squeeze the last of the juice or blood).
v 19: In this verse, the angel with the sickle takes the vine of the earth and casts it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. The cutting of the vine of the earth speaks of a movement of the followers of the beast from their home countries to a single place. The Bible speaks of "gathering all nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat" (meaning, “valley where Yahweh judged.”)(Joel 3:2). "All nations will gather against Jerusalem" (Zech. 14:2). "He gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon" (Rev. 16:16). The beast, earth kings, their armies gather together to make war against Jesus and His army (Rev. 19:19). It appears the winepress is the great battlefield of the last great conflict between Christ and the Antichrist. A great number of soldiers will be there for the greatest of all wars. Once gathered, the condemned can only face a certain end of loss. The squeezing of the grapes to get the juice is the symbolism of the squeezing out the blood of the oppressors and non-believers.
v 20: John's vision is drawn to the end of the tribulation. He sees all the nations being drawn to the land of Israel. The spilling of blood is indescribable. Unnumbered multitudes die. This is a terrible sight. The blood pours out. The vultures await. This size of this massacre will show blood 1000 by 600 furlongs or stadia. A stadia was a Roman term to designate length. It is about 607 feet. To give you a perspective, that dimension is about 2 football fields end-to-end. People used to walk or ride or state distances in the terms of stadia. The homes are 2 stadia apart. The two towns 10 miles apart were about 80 stadia in distance.
So the dimension 1600 furlongs is about 184 miles in length. The armies discussed earlier in Revelation of over 200,000,000 in a space 180 miles long and about a mile wide would give each member about 25 sq. ft to fight. Each man would be separated on all sides by about 5 feet. Horseback riders would be packed like sardines. From where did these 200,000,000 men come? This is the number of the demon horsemen released from the River Euphrates under the sixth trumpet (Rev. 9:16). The beast in a last all out effort to overcome the Lord will order all able bodied men to fight. So one can see, there would be a sea of blood from men and possibly women and animals. It would literally reach the bridles of horses. All of this will be "without the city" or not within the city of Jerusalem. This was because the Lord did not want to contaminate the city. The following is a quote from The Revelation Record (see Bibliography) that gives a good description of the battlefield:
Heb 12:22; Psa 107:2; 1 Cor 7:24-40; 15:58; Lev 23:9-16;
John 1:47; lsa 6:5-7; 63:1-6; 66:24; Matt 24:14; 26:39; Rom 1:21; 8:28-30;
Gen 19:24; Luke 16:23-28; 11 Cor 5:6-8; Joel 3:1-3, 9-16; Zech 12; 14:1-7
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