There is no question Revelation 13 is one of the darkest chapters in the entire Bible. Not only do we see the rise of both the Antichrist (this final global leader) and his sidekick the False Prophet (who institutes a worldwide religion centered on the deification of this man), but John describes for us a 42-month period (also defined as 1,260 days or “time, times, and half a time”) in which Satan uses these two men to wreak havoc on the earth.
During these closing 3½ years that will culminate with the return of Christ Jesus, humanity will be forced into making a definitive decision… You will pledge your allegiance to this Satanic-cult by taking the “Mark of the Beast” or you can refuse and be swiftly executed.
Obviously, for the followers of Jesus, this particular season of human history will be brutal. In Revelation 13:7-8, we read how Satan “granted to the Antichrist to make war (to engage in an aggressive conflict) with the saints and overcome them.” Tragically, “all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life.”
Frankly, I think the Church has grown naïve when it comes to the capacity within people to not only commit crimes against their fellow man but to provide intellectual justifications for those actions. We look at the horrors committed by Islamist fanatics in Northern Africa and rationalize their actions as being the result of barbarism, third-world living, and desperation. Geopolitical strategies even suggest modernization and education will fix the issue.
And yet, the problem with this perspective is that the West has failed to realize the progressive, intellectual upper-class is equally capable of similar brutality. For example… We look back at Germany of old and wonder how an entire modern, highly-educated, western society could accept the premise that the Jew needed to be exterminated and then proceed to practically slaughter 6 million people — but they did! In the same vein, revolutionaries like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara rose from the upper-middle class and hailed from academia.
If you don’t think Americans share the same capacities for depravity you’re ignoring history, human psychology, and basic theology. Just the other day President Biden excused the current human rights atrocities being committed by the Chinese government against the Uighurs as being a difference in our cultural norms. He added that forcing 3 million Muslims into concentration camps was being done by President Xi to unify his country.
Can you imagine if in the ‘40s FDR publicly spoke about Hitler’s holocaust using the same terminology? It would be like knowing one of your Allies was systematically murdering 10’s of millions of their own citizens and not having the backbone to stand up to such evil!
Understand, a country that justified slavery for 89 years, Jim Crow and segregation, the soft bigotry of low expectations, and today idly sits back and re-elects leaders who support the systematic racism of Planned Parenthood that has eradicated several generations of blacks from ever entering our society by specifically placing abortion clinics in low-income communities isn’t capable of committing grave evil… I don’t know what to say to you.
Granted, what we see happening in Revelation 13 is unique to this Tribulational Period. And yet, the fact the world will accept the premise that anyone who fails to worship the Antichrist deserves to be beheaded is not outlandish. Never forget, every human has been born with a sin-nature which gives them a natural tendency to do what is wrong as opposed to what is right. And since the human conscious is incredibly pliable, history testifies that all kinds of evil can be morally justified — especially when that society has rejected Jesus.
As we move into Revelation 14 the difficult scene presented in chapter 13 is important to keep in mind for it establishes the necessity for the things John will now record.
Chronologically, following the blast of the seventh trumpet and the temple in heaven being opened at the end of Revelation 11, John pushes pause on the heavenly action in order to fill us in on some of the other events happening on earth during this Great Tribulation. To accomplish this, in Revelation 12 and 13, he introduces seven significant characters.
And yet, before John jumps back into the flow of what’s happening in heaven in Revelation 15 because chapter 13 was so dark and depressing, the wise Apostle senses the need to give his audience a brief glimpse into how this story ultimately ends. While it may seem as though evil and darkness were winning, John wants you to know a reckoning was coming.
Revelation 14:1, “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” With regard to the timing of what John is recording, it’s important to nail down the location of this future scene and identify the people he sees in this particular vision.
Central to this moment, John sees the “Lamb” (which we know to be Jesus) and “with Him” the 144,000. First introduced back in Revelation 7 the 144,000 had been sealed “having the name of God written on their foreheads.” As a result, during the Great Tribulation, these 12,000 men selected from the 12 Tribes of Israel were granted supernatural protection so that they could act as Jesus’ witnesses on earth during these seven years.
Because we know these men will survive the Great Tribulation, seeing them standing with Jesus “upon Mount Zion” is fascinating. Because Mount Zion is almost always a Biblical reference to the collection of hills upon which Jerusalem was constructed by David, the location of this scene cannot be heaven and must be earth — specifically in the Holy City. As such, it seems John is giving us a quick peek into the post-tribulational period.
Building upon this idea, it’s also significant John sees Jesus standing on Mount Zion and not on the Mount of Olives! Following Jesus’ ascension from the Olivet, in Acts 1:11, we read how two angels appeared to those who were watching and said to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go.”
In fact, Jesus’ physical return to earth occurring on the Mount of Olives is also confirmed in Zechariah 14, “Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south... And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth.”
Not to get ahead of ourselves but, in Revelation 19, John records watching the Second Coming of Jesus. Beginning, in verse 11, he writes, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” No mention of a landing site!
It would appear when Jesus returns to the earth there is a particular order to what happens. Obviously, the most pressing matter will be destroying the armies of the Antichrist and initiating the process of “judging the nations.” (We will be given more insight into what this actually looks like towards the end of this chapter.) Once this matter has been resolved, Jesus will then land on the Mount of Olives and enter Mount Zion through the East Gate in order to officially begin the process of establishing His Kingdom on the earth.
In Daniel 12:11, we’re actually provided a timeline for two additional events that will take place during this time period. After His return to Jerusalem, it will take 30 days for Jesus to restore order, heal the earth, and gather the survivors to Jerusalem — specifically Daniel references 1290 days from the Abomination of Desolation. From our text, it’s likely the 144,000 will act in some type of official capacity as Jesus’ officers in Jerusalem.
According to Matthew 25:31-32, Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes and all the holy angels, He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.”
After this and with everyone now assembled in Jerusalem and the earth fully restored, the next 45 days will see Jesus’ reordering the nations and forming His government. In the end, 1335 days from the Abomination and just 75 days after His Second Coming, the Kingdom will be established, and the 1000-year Reign of Christ will finally begin.
John continues… Revelation 14:2-3, “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder (this seems to be the voice of God the Father). And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They (these unnamed harpists) sang as it were a new song before the throne (in heaven), before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one (seemingly on the earth) could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.”
Now concerning these 144,000, John adds… Revelation 14:4-5, “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.” (We’ve already addressed these things in Revelation 7.)
The big take-away from these verses within the context of the previous chapter is the visual of these fearsome “beasts rising out of the sea and land” in contrast to “a Lamb standing on Mount Zion” in victory! While the Antichrist and False Prophet will prove to be vicious and the people of God will suffer greatly under their wrath, John peels back the veil of time to remind us that Jesus wins in the end so there really is nothing to fear!
In the verses that now follow, John records the process that ultimately leads up to Jesus’ final victory… Revelation 14:6-7, “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth — to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people — saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’”
Even with everything going on with the Antichrist and the False Prophet deceiving the nations, God would not allow the truth to be hidden from man! In addition to the testimony of the 144,000 and for a time the Two Witnesses, John says God commissioned an “angel” to fly around “preaching the everlasting gospel to those who dwell on the earth.”
While we don’t know if this angel served this function the entirety of the seven years, the last 3½, or some smaller period of time right before the end, through his ministry, John says “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” had not only been warned “the hour of God’s judgment had come,” but had been invited to “worship Him who made heaven and earth.”
It’s amazing to consider, but the “everlasting Gospel” of what Jesus has done so that man might be saved was proclaimed “with a loud voice” by this angel to all the world. In His mercy, God was giving man a final chance to repent and accept His Son. In an act of grace, God was extending one last invitation for man to accept salvation in place of judgment.
In His teaching on this Great Tribulation, in Matthew 24:14, Jesus prophesied by saying, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Though it’s important Christians during the Church Age take our commission to make disciples of the nations seriously, Revelation 14 presents a scenario by which this specific prophecy will be fulfilled by this angel and not you and I.
Revelation 14:8, “And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’” In chapters 17 and 18 we will be given a detailed account of not only what Babylon represented, but John will document her ultimate destruction. In Greek, the duplicate “is fallen, is fallen” is in the active tense and should read “is falling, is falling.” The better way to seeing this proclamation would be as predictive instead of informative.
During this Tribulation Period not only will there be an angel flying around the earth presenting the Good News of the Gospel, but this second angel will be pointing out the obvious. Since this worldly system antithetical to God represented by the “great city of Babylon” was in the process of coming crashing, why remain loyal to her any longer?
Revelation 14:9-11, “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation.
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 ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’
While the False Prophet had been clear what would happen if a person refused to take the mark, God sends this third angel to testify to the world as to the eternal consequences if you relented, received the brand of the beast, and in doing so pledged your allegiance and worship to Satan — you would be automatically destined for eternal damnation.
The angel warns that such a person “shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation.” Practically, this would include being “tormented with fire and brimstone” so that “the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever.” If matters couldn’t get any worse, the angels adds that “they have no rest day or night.”
Pertaining to hell, this passage tells us several things. (1) Hell is a place where unrepentant man will experience the wrath of God for his sins. (2) Hell a place of incredible restlessness and continual torment. (3) Hell is an eternal experience with no end. Please understand, we only have one other example of the “wrath of God” being “poured out” in “full strength” and it’s the Cross of Calvary. Lastly, when considering the existence of such a place, never forget not one soul who ends up in hell hadn’t been provided a way out.
Revelation 14:12-13, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’”
Back in verse 10 of chapter 13, we noted how John worked in a brief proverb of sorts. He says, “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” During this period of persecution, the followers of Jesus will be encouraged by the Law of Divine Retribution.
In much the same way, these two verses of chapter 14 contain another insight into where the saints derive their strength during these final days. John tells us that by the end of these seven years things will have gotten so bad death will no longer be feared by the saints, but seen as an act of mercy and escape. Rest and reward verse the brutality of the enemy.
This statement issued by the Holy Spirit is so important. He says of these martyred saints, “Their works follow them.” Regarding our Christian “work” or our service to God, the Apostle Paul would write in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
What’s interesting about our “work” for the Lord is that Jesus, who “created us for good works,” also accepts the responsibility to place before us the things He wants us to be doing. “God prepared” them “beforehand” and it’s now our job to “walk in them.” You see this is why our heavenly rewards will not be base upon accomplishments, but faithfulness. Furthermore, this explains why one service to Jesus is no more important than another!
I’m not sure if he fully understood how theologically accurate the statement really was, but Rush Limbaugh would famously refer to himself as being “talent on loan from God.” Ironically, this is really how we should all view ourselves and whatever our giftings and abilities. God equips us and He provides the opportunities to use these gifts to glorify Him.
Revelation 14:14, “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.” Regarding this title “One like the Son of Man,” there is no doubt John is receiving another vision of Jesus. Not only does the prophet Daniel utilize this title frequently, but as a result “Son of Man” became Jesus’ favorite to use of Himself during His earthly ministry.
In the vision, John sees the glorified Jesus have “in His hand a sharp sickle.” A “sickle” is a short-handed farming tool that had a semicircular blade that was used for harvesting grain or clearing out underbrush. The question is what was Jesus planning to do with the sickle?
Revelation 14:15-16, “And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud (this would be the temple in heaven so the angel has a message from God for Jesus), ‘Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe (literally it’s past due).’ So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.”
In Matthew 9:37, Jesus used the imagery of “reaping” and a “harvest” with regards to evangelistic outreach. He famously said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Tragically, by the time we get to Revelation 14, the seasons have changed. One harvest was now over and a much different one was about to commence.
Revelation 14:17-18, “Then 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, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe (in Greek the word “fully ripe” described a grape starting to rot).’”
Revelation 14:19-20, “So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses' bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.”
Again, the context by which this chapter is best understood is that it’s a counter to the previous chapter and the successes of the Antichrist and False Prophet. Yes, they will have their day, but Jesus wins in the end! He will reign from Zion after destroying the wicked.
In these closing verses of chapter 14, John records the Battle of Armageddon and the final harvesting of the wicked from the spiritual, heavenly vantage-point. To illustrate the scene, he refers to the wicked as being “fully ripe grapes.” In judgment, they are cut down and cast “into the great winepress of the wrath of God” where they are crushed.
What results from this divine judgment was that the “blood” of those killed rose “up to the horses’ bridle” specifically “outside the city” of Jerusalem “for 1600 furlongs” or 200 miles. While John is being incredibly literal, it’s difficult to imagine how this will happen.
In his account of this final conflict recorded at the end of Daniel 11, we know the Antichrist will end up leaving Israel with his armies to put down a rebellion stemming from Egypt and a confederation of North African countries. While his conquest proved successful, Daniel notes how “news from the east and the north troubled him; therefore he went out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. And he planted the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him.” In Revelation 16:16, John will tell us the armies of all the nations will end up being “gathered together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.”
The reason I bring all of this to your attention is to emphasize the full scope of what John is describing. The distance of “1600 furlongs” indicates a battlefield and kill zone being much larger than the Valley of Megiddo. Case in point, the entire nation of ancient Israel extending from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south is only 173 miles. It’s likely the geological changes that take place during the Tribulation enable this scene to be possible.
In closing, one of the great difficulties to being born and raised in Georgia is that you’re forced into Atlanta Hawks and Falcons fandom. It’s brutal. Rooting for the home team has led to years of heartache and disappointment. Jessica often asks, “Why do you watch the Hawks?” My answer, “I have too much joy in my life!” The truth is being predestined from the foundation of the world to root for losers is an incredible burden, but I have no choice.
Even the Braves who had a ten year stretch with a Hall of Fame coach, three in their starting rotation, another on third, and a centerfielder who should get the nod and we were only able to win one World Series back when I was 12 — the entire town needs therapy! In fact, I take great solace knowing these are the closest experiences I will ever have to hell.
If I may… I’m envious of those people who are transplants to the greater Atlanta area or those who moved around a lot growing up. For those sports fans, they have no real sense of loyalty to the home town and are generally free to cheer on whatever team they’d like.
I mean it’s amazing how many Atlanta natives traded in their #12 Patriots jerseys for the Bucs equivalent overnight. Again, for the life of me, if you’ve been born in Georgia how in the world can you be an Alabama fan? I’m not hating. I can only imagine how incredibly nice it must be to have the moral flexibility to cheer for a winner every-single-year.
Here’s my appeal this morning and the grand lesson we can all take away from Revelation 14… When the story is completed and the season comes to an end — Jesus wins! That’s the truth! And while with sports there may be something noble to being a homer, with regards to eternity, don’t be a fool nor be a loser when you are finally free to pick a winner!
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