This will begin by giving you the scripture from the King James Version of the Bible, then will go into our description of what the verses mean. You will be able to read various additional information contained in more specific files under "Research Materials".
Revelation chapter 14 begins with the Lamb standing on Mount Zion and with Him 144,000 having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.
According to Tim LaHaye in his book Revelation unveiled, anyone who would accurately interpret the book of Revelation must locate the scene of the activity before he or she begins interpretation. Chapter 14 is a good illustration of that fact. Many bible scholars consider this to be a scene in heaven, while others regard it as a scene taking place on earth. The difference in viewpoint will seriously affect one's interpretation.
Another rule to be kept in mind is that the time should be pin pointed. This passage, which falls within the "great parenthesis" that covers Revelation 11 verse 16 and running to chapter 15 verse 4, takes place in heaven at the middle of the Tribulation period. An examination shows that the seventh seal judgment at the end of the first quarter of the Tribulation opens up into the seven trumpet judgment in chapters 8 and 9. Chapters 12 and 13 describe events that culminate in the middle of the Tribulation. Now, before we begin the bowl judgments that come out of the seventh trumpet, covering the last half of the Tribulation, we are about to look on the upheaval that will take place at the end of the three and one half year period, or the at the middle of the Tribulation.
14:1 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.
The identity of
this group of 144,000 subjects has for some reason eluded many outstanding Bible
scholars. Most commentators have a tendency to assume that they are identical
with the 144,000 described in chapter 7. 144,000 Therefore we must examine them in
The Similarities of the Two Groups: Two basic reasons are usually advanced for considering the two groups similar:
Both groups total 144,000, and
The Differences of the Two Groups: Far more important, however, are the differences between the two groups:
The Revelation 7 group is specifically Jewish, 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes. The Revelation 14 group comes "from the earth" or "from among men."
The Revelation 7 group is sealed with the Father's seal. The Revelation 14 group has the name of both the Father and the Son.
The scene of chapter 7 occurs on the earth. Chapter 14 takes place in heaven, but only halfway through the Tribulation. This can be explained in that the 144,000 witnesses of Revelation 7, like their converts of verse 9, are slain and under the altar by the middle of the Tribulation. Thus they are described in chapter 14 as before the throne, in their spirit or "soul" state, "away from the body and at home with the Lord". (2 Cor. 5 v.8)
The additional qualifications for being a member of this group (see verses 4 and 5), are not recorded in chapter 7. The 144,000 of chapter 7 are "servants of our God"; the 144,000 of chapter 14 are people "purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb." This indicates that their selection was not for the propagation of the gospel on the earth during the Tribulation, but for a special position at the throne of God before Him and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Not Jews, But Christians - Since only two similarities and several differences exist between these two groups, we can safely conclude that they are not the same. The fact that the numbers are the same, 144,000, is not so overpowering when one bears in mind a statement by Dr. William R. Newill in his book on Revelation: "The repetition of the number 144,000, one of governmental completeness and fullness, is not necessarily conclusive proof that the two companies are one and the same." This suggests that for God's perfect governmental operation He has selected multiples of twelve to be His special servants in the Tribulation and another group to enjoy a relationship with Him in heaven, the difference between them being that those in chapter 14 have earned their position because of their faithfulness in doing whatever the Lord commissioned them to do.
have understanding on their foreheads is certainly not conclusive evidence
one way or the other. The chapter 7 group is "sealed unto God"; the chapter
14 group have the name of Christ and the Father written on their foreheads.
This could be a spiritual thing, exemplified by people of the stripe of the
Apostle Paul, whose mind (behind the forehead) was filled with a desire to
serve Jesus Christ and God the Father all the days of his life. If anyone is
permitted into that group, certainly the Apostle Paul would be qualified.
The differences between the two groups limit any assuming that they are the
same, particularly when one bears in mind that the scene in chapter 14 is in
heaven and that these are taken "from among men", (v.4) indicating they come
from all nations rather than just from among the Jews. Dr. Newell identifies
the two as Israel, but he also makes the following statement:
For, although we have thus spoken of them, we cannot but leave the question open for further light. Because in all other Scripture we can recall Israel's victors are always named as belonging to that elect nation, and the favor of God is seen as arising from that national election. Whereas, these of Revelation 14 do not have that mark, but rather seem to be from a larger circle than Israel, even "from among men"; and their peculiar distinction appears to be a reward for their utter self abnegation. As Dean Alford says, "We are perhaps more like that which the Lord intended us to be; but they are more like the Lord Himself."
Considering the above statements carefully, I present the following possibility, not dogmatically, but with a sincere conviction that this is a more accurate interpretation than those I have come upon so far. The 144,000 found in chapter 14 are probably the most outstanding 144,000 saints of the Church from the early days of the spread of the gospel to the Rapture of the Church. For this consecrated and devoted service to our Master they will enjoy a special position before the throne of God from death until the Glorious Appearing of Christ, at which time all saints will come with Him. This position doubtless signifies that they will have great responsibility while reining with Him during the Millennial Kingdom.
14:2-3 "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" "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."
They will sing a new song which no one can learn save the 144,000. (14 v.3) These two rewards suggest that they will enjoy a special relationship with God the Son and God the Father from the time of their death after a life of faithful, holy service until they come with Christ to the earth.
Let's begin by looking at the qualifications of this elite group.
They are redeemed from the earth by faith in Christ, "who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads"; (14 v.14b) "they had been redeemed from the earth" (14 v.3b) and "were purchased from among men". (14 v.4c) Obviously these men were first born again by receiving Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.
They are morally pure. "These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure". (14 v.4) Much as been written about this qualification, suggesting that only unmarried men would qualify. There is no scriptural certainty to indicate that Paul was ever married, so he easily fits the pattern here, and to my knowledge we have no record of John's having been married, though it is possible it is just not mentioned. In any case, there may well have been 144,000 in the last 1900 plus years of the Christian Church who have remained single for the Lord's sake; having met the other qualifications, they will share in that elite position with Paul, possibly John and others.
They are obedient and available, for "they follow the Lamb wherever he goes". (14 v.4b) It is obvious that all of God's children, in fact, all of His servants, are not completely yielded to His will. Some have known years of yieldedness and faithful service, only to go back and "walk no more with him", whereas others have had on again off again periods of obedience. This elite group of 144,000 is unusually marked by obedience. Their attitude is epitomized by the statement of the Apostle Paul immediately after recognizing Jesus, when he said, "What shall I do, Lord?" (Acts 22 v.10)
They tell the truth, for "no lie was found in their mouths". (14 v.5) These men are characterized by a contrast to Satan. They are faithful witnesses, always telling the truth. Lying is a part of a person's nature when one follows Satan, "the father of all lies." One prime characteristic of obedient Christians, by contrast, is that they tell the truth.
They live "blameless" lives. (14 v.5b) This does not indicate that they are perfect, for these people too had to be redeemed "from among men"; they were lost sinners and had to be born again. Nor does it mean that they live in sinless perfection since their salvation, but reasserts what the Apostle Paul meant in 1 Thess. 2 v.10 when he said, "You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed." These are men who, in their desire to serve Jesus Christ and walk with Him, leaned on His power to live holy, consecrated lives. They are men who can say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2 v.20)"
14:4 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.
I do not, however, insist on a literal interpretation of this expression because nowhere does the Bible teach that sexual intercourse in marriage is defiling. On the contrary, Hebrews 13 v.4 clearly announces, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral".
Even the Apostle Paul, when encouraging consecrated young men to abide "as I am," was doing so not for moral reasons, but that they might give themselves more completely to serving the Lord and not be encumbered with concerns for the desires and tastes of a wife. (1 Cor. 7 v.7, 25-35)
On the contrary, the Revelation text probably does not mean unmarried men, but men who are undefiled by women; that is, they have either kept the marriage contract or have never known a woman and thus in the eyes of God are considered "virgins" (in v.4 the Greek word for "pure" is parthenos, lit., "virgin"; cf. KJV). It is interesting that this passage of Scripture is the only one in the Bible referring to men as virgins. The Bible does not teach celibacy; in fact, no hint of it is found in Scripture.
The Bible everywhere advocates that Christians be holy and virtuous, undefiled by the world. Misuse of sex has always been one of humanity's greatest problems, infidelity and immorality one of their greatest temptations. Therefore the elite group of 144,000 who qualify to stand before the throne of God in heaven are those who have kept themselves undefiled. That is, they kept their marriage vows or remained unmarried.
Verse 4 states, "They follow the Lamb wherever he goes", perhaps indicating that in addition to being in a privileged position before the resurrection, they will always be in a special position of service for Christ after the resurrection.
"They are offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb". (14 v.4b) This suggests that these 144,000 are the outstanding believers of the Lamb and have been given a special position, as indicated in verse 1, in standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion, before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders. Among that throng of recipients in heaven of special rewards or commendations for a lifetime of faithful service or even martyrdom, there will, of course, be many familiar names. I often think of men like John Wycliffe, "the morning star of the Reformation," Jon Huss, William Tyndale, and many others who were burned at the stake for translating the Bible into the language of the people.
It will also include those who gave or spent their lives in taking the Word of God to forgotten or lost tribes. Because our God is a just God, we can expect to see many heroes of the faith who were totally unknown during their lifetime. They may have missed rewards of this earth, but his and other passages of the Word indicate they will receive just reward in the next life, and that will last for eternity.
Admittedly states Tim LaHaye, this interpretation places me in the minority among commentators of the book of Revelation. With due respect to faithful interpreters of God who have sought the Holy Spirit for their interpretation, the above is not presently dogmatically, but prayerfully, with the desire that it be given consideration. A comparison of this interpretation with the popular view that chapters 7 and 14 refer to the same group will reveal that my view created fewer problems than the others.
14:5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
This verse says it plainly.
They spoke truth, not watered down. They did not waver in their decision
to follow Jesus. Their face was set toward heaven and they did not look back.
14:6-7 "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," "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."
Verse 6 introduces the first of five angels who convey a special message concerning the middle of the end time, that is, the middle of the Tribulation period. It is astounding that an angel is commissioned to go forth preaching the everlasting gospel, for the preaching of the gospel has not been committed to angels but to human beings. This astounding state of affairs can only be an indication of the severity of the circumstances. If we keep in view the setting of this passage, we will be able to understand readily why this will be necessary. Prior to the Tribulation, the Church will have been Raptured.
The 144,000 Israelite witnesses from all over the world will be converted through the printed page left behind by the departing church. These witnesses will harvest a multitude that no one can number. (Rev. 7 v.9) This indicates that the early days of the Tribulation will experience the greatest revival in world history.
Remember when we first discussed the 144,000 in chapter seven; they first had to be sealed. Why and how did they get sealed? The same way we are sealed, by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
The Everlasting Gospel - Is this a
different gospel from that preached today? On the basis of the Word of God,
absolutely not! This is the same gospel as we preach, the same message that
was "once for all entrusted to the saints." (Jude 3)
The First Angel - This angel will warn the people to fear God instead of Antichrist, to give glory to God instead of Antichrist, and he will instruct them how to do it.
Otherwise, he would be proclaiming a message of doom instead of good news. The Greek word translated "gospel" (euangelion) literally means "good news," and the only way we can offer people eternal good news is to show them how to receive the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. A message concerning the judgment of God is only a partial presentation of the gospel of Christ. The complete story of the gospel not only clarifies that all human beings are sinners, but also includes God's remedy for sin through Christ, who "died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried and was raised on the third day."
The extent of this gospel should be noted, for it will be preached "to those who live on the earth, to every nation, tribe, language and people".
One of the signs of the last days is quoted that the gospel is to be preached to everyone. Here is what is said about that in Matthew 24 verse 14: "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."
This is why I don't believe that this must be done before the rapture, but definitely before the second coming.
This seems to be God's last offer to humankind to flee the wrath to come before they accept Antichrist. We have already seen that Antichrist and the False Prophet will mount a great campaign, after having killed the prostitute, the ecumenical Babylonian church and will seek to get everyone to worship Antichrist. This blasphemous idolatry will forfeit anyone's claim to eternal life; thus all will be eternally lost. But as a prelude to that decision, the angel of Rev. 14 v.6 will make known the gospel to all the world so that no one can stand before God at the judgment and maintain that he or she accepted the Antichrist without due warning from God.
Again, Revelation is not written in consecutive order. I do believe there will be a voice going throughout the land proclaiming the second coming of Christ, just as there was a voice (John the Baptist) proclaiming His first arrival as Christ. The people will be warned. They will be without excuse. God will have a herald going forth proclaiming truth. Everyone will have their opportunity to accept Jesus as Lord.
14:8 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 Second Angel - The Fall of Religious Babylon
Bible students are well aware of the fact that Revelation refers to 2 Babylons, both termed "Babylon the Great". Babylon the Great - Harlot Destruction is predicted for both because they will cause people to drink of the wine of the wrath of their fornication. We may understand that this fore glimpse refers to religious Babylon because it takes place in the middle of the Tribulation. The destruction of the literal city of Babylon is found in Rev. 16 v.18-19.
That the city of Babylon will be rebuilt and become the commercial center of the world is seen from such passages as Isaiah 13 and 14 and Jeremiah 50 - 51. As the city of Babylon has never been destroyed according to the Old Testament predictions; thus, we can only conclude that it will be rebuilt and become the commercial center of Antichrist's kingdom; then it will be destroyed at the end of the Tribulation. This again points to the fact that Babylon will become the center of the world.
This "Babylon" that "is fallen" here is not a literal city. This is the world system that opposed the church and the Christians. This evil world system did all in her power to stop Christianity. This power and the one causing small and great to receive the mark could be one and the same. At any rate, it has fallen here. "Babylon" is symbolic of the world and its evil system.
This message that is brought will be final in its nature. It will be good news (gospel), but it will also be a last warning. This is a final warning to turn from the world to the Creator of it all. "The Lord is coming", will be the cry. This message will be worldwide. Remember an angel is a ministering spirit. These will be evangelists. One more time I say this is the final warning that judgment is about to fall.
14:9-11 "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," "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:" "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."
The Third Angel - will pronounce doom on the worshipers of Antichrist during the Tribulation period. It may be, since he follows them, that this angel will come to the earth and, like the angel who preached the eternal gospel, warn human beings of the consequences of accepting the mark of the Antichrist and becoming his worshiper. Antichrist
We studied before about the mark of the beast. The number put in your forehead or right hand seals the person receiving it as belonging to the beast. Just as God the Father's name is on the 144,000 and Jesus Christ's name is on the Christians, these who take the mark of the beast are sealed with the devil's number which is 666. The Mark of the Beast The antichrist system is a counterfeit of the trinity of God. It consists of the beast, antichrist, and false prophet. All are a personification of Satan himself.
The "fire and brimstone" here is the very same as that which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Just as the angels saw Sodom burn, they are a witness to this as well. The Lamb (Jesus) is the Judge who speaks judgment. It not only will be in His presence, but He will order this punishment as well.
This "smoke" that comes up rises from the bottomless pit. You see this "torment" is not just for a short time and is over. This is FOREVER just as heaven is forever for the believers. This "torment" is forever. "ascendeth" means continually ascends.
This lack of "rest day nor night" is in total contrast to the peace forever the Christians possess. This is very explicit again about who will spend this time in hell. Those who receive the mark of the beast have sealed their doom.
14:12-13 "Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." "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."
Patience here is perseverance or endurance. The assurance of the judgment of God's enemies is a basis for the perseverance of the Tribulation believers to continue following Christ. The perseverance of genuine believers in the faith and commandments of God is assumed and guaranteed.
The dead which die in the Lord from henceforth are Tribulation martyrs; they will be blessed through rest, resurrection, and reigning with Christ during the Millennium (Rev. 20:4-6). They will receive a reward for their works of obedience.
These dead in Christ rest in peace until they receive their reward. These are blessed in that they have run the race successfully and are now just waiting peacefully to receive the rewards of their labor. Rewards
14:14-16 "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 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." "And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped."
This is Christ, the Messiah. The cloud relates to Christ's second coming. Remember when he ascended, the angels told those watching that he would return the same way as he left? He disappeared into a white cloud.
The crown pictures Him as the ruler of the earth, and the sickle symbolizes judgment as an instrument of the harvest. The time is come to finish the judgment of the earth. The second coming of Christ includes more judgment.
To reap and harvest the earth is to judge and punish its people. And so the earth was reaped.
The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses' bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia or about 184 miles.
The last 3 verses above show that the time is right and the Judge of all the earth is to harvest the both good and the bad. This will be the judgment of the Goats and Sheep.
14:17-20 "And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle." "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." "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." "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"
Where verses 14 to16 picture Christ's judgment as a grain harvest, verses 17 to 20 symbolize the wrath of God as a grape harvest with the treading of the grape clusters in an immense winepress.
Again the sickle depicts judgment. The clusters of the vine of the earth represent the unbelievers of the earth, those who have followed and worshipped the Beast
"Her grapes are fully ripe" or "at the prime", in that the time for God's judgment of the earth is now! The great winepress of the wrath of God pictures the violence and intensity of God's coming judgment on the earth. The city is probably Jerusalem, and if so, the greatest intensity of the judgment may be centered in Palestine. Perhaps the reference is to the coming Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16: verses 14 -16). Armageddon
The blood may be either the red juice of the grapes or literal human blood resulting from the final battle. The amount of "blood" that results from the winepress emphasizes the severity of the judgment. A thousand and six hundred furlong are approximately 184 miles, the full length of Palestine. The average height of a horse's bridle is about four to five feet. The winepress may be an anticipation of the vial or bowl judgments of chapter 16.
There is only one valley in Israel that fits the mile description. It is the Jordan Valley, which extends from just north of the Sea of Galilee to Eilat at the Red Sea.
This just shows the terribleness of the punishment of the still living unsaved. This could be by a tremendous war or just like Sodom and Gomorrah. It was directly from God. At any rate, it is terrible.
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