Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Analysis Of The Chapter
In the previous chapters Rev. 12-13 there is a description of the woes and sorrows which, for a long period, would come upon the church, and which would threaten to destroy it. It was proper that this gloomy picture should be relieved, and accordingly this chapter, having much of the aspect of an episode, is thrown in to comfort the hearts of those who should see those troublous times. There were bright scenes beyond, and it was important to direct the eye to them, that the hearts of the sad might be consoled. This chapter, therefore, contains a succession of symbolical representations designed to show the ultimate result of all these things - "to hold out the symbols of ultimate and certain victory" (Prof. Stuart). Those symbols are the following:
(1) The vision of the hundred and forty-four thousand on Mount Zion, as emblematical of the final triumph of the redeemed, Rev 14:1-5. They have the Father's name in their foreheads Rev 14:1; they sing a song of victory Rev 14:2-3; they are found without fault before God - representatives, in this respect, of all that will be saved, Rev 14:4-5.
(2) the vision of the final triumph of the gospel, Rev 14:6-7. An angel is seen flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to all that dwell upon the earth, and announcing that the end is near - a representation designed to show that the gospel will be thus preached among all nations; and when that is done, the time will draw on when the affairs of the world will be wound up.
(3) the fall of Babylon, the mighty anti-Christian power, Rev 14:8. An angel is seen going forth announcing the glad tidings that this mighty power is overthrown, and that, therefore, its oppressions are come to an end. This, to the church in trouble and persecution, is one of the most comforting of all the assurances that God makes in regard to the future.
(4) the certain and final destruction of all the upholders of that anti-Christian power, Rev 14:9-12. Another angel is seen making proclamation that all the supporters and abettors of this formidable power would drink of the wine of the wrath of God; that they would be tormented with fire and brimstone; and that the smoke of their torment would ascend up forever and ever.
(5) the blessedness of all those who die in the Lord; who, amidst the persecutions and trials that were to come upon the church, would be found faithful unto death, Rev 14:13. They would rest from their labors; the works of mercy which they had done on the earth would follow them to the future world, securing rich and eternal blessings there.
(6) the final overthrow of all the enemies of the church, Rev 14:14-20. This is the grand completion; to this all things are tending; this will be certainly accomplished in due time. This is represented under various emblems:
(a) The Son of man appears seated on a cloud, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle - emblem of gathering in the great harvest of the earth, and of his own glorious reign in heaven, Rev 14:14.
(b) An angel is seen coming out of the temple, announcing that the time had come, and calling on the great Reaper to thrust in his sickle, for the harvest of the world was ripe, Rev 14:15.
(c) He that has the sickle thrusts in his sickle to reap the great harvest, Rev 14:16.
(d) Another angel is seen representing the final judgment of God on the wicked, Rev 14:17-20. He also has a sharp sickle; he is commanded by an angel that has power over fire to thrust in his sickle into the earth; he goes forth and gathers the clusters of the vine of the earth, and casts them into the great wine-press of the wrath of God.
This whole chapter, therefore, is designed to relieve the gloom of the former representations. The action of the grand moving panorama is stayed that the mind may not be overwhelmed with gloomy thoughts, but that it may be cheered with the assurance of the final triumph of truth and righteousness. The chapter, viewed in this light, is introduced with great artistic skill, as well as great beauty of poetic illustration; and, in its place, it is adapted to set forth this great truth, that, to the righteous, and to the church at large, in the darkest times, and with the most threatening prospect of calamity and sorrow, there is the certainty of final victory, and that this should be allowed to cheer and sustain the soul.
And I looked - My attention was drawn to a new vision. The eye was turned away from the beast and his image to the heavenly world - the Mount Zion above.
And, lo, a Lamb - See the notes on Rev 5:6.
Stood on the mount Zion - That is, in heaven. See the notes on Heb 12:22. Zion, literally the southern hill in the city of Jerusalem, was a name also given to the whole city; and, as that was the seat of the divine worship on earth, it became an emblem of heaven - the dwelling-place of God. The scene of the vision here is laid in heaven, for it is a vision of the ultimate triumph of the redeemed, designed to sustain the church in view of the trials that had already come upon it, and of those which were yet to come.
And with him an hundred forty and four thousand - These are evidently the same persons that were seen in the vision recorded in Rev 7:3-8, and the representation is made for the same purpose - to sustain the church in trial, with the certainty of its future glory. See the notes on Rev 7:4.
Having his Father's name written in their foreheads - Showing that they were his. See the notes on Rev 7:3; Rev 13:16. In Rev 7:3, it is merely said that they were "sealed in their foreheads"; the passage here shows how they were sealed. They had the name of God so stamped or marked on their foreheads as to show that they belonged to him. Compare the notes on Rev 7:3-8.
And I heard a voice from heaven - Showing that the scene is laid in heaven, but that John in the vision was on the earth.
As the voice of many waters - As the sound of the ocean, or of a mighty cataract. That is, it was so loud that it could be heard from heaven to earth. No comparison could express this more sublimely than to say that it was like the roar of the ocean.
As the voice of a great thunder - As the loud sound of thunder.
And I heard the voice of harpers - In heaven: the song of redemption accompanied with strains of sweet instrumental music. For a description of the harp, see the notes on Isa 5:12.
Harping with their harps - Playing on their harps. This image gives new beauty to the description. Though the sound was loud and swelling, so loud that it could be heard on the earth, yet it was not mere shouting, or merely a tumultuous cry. "It was like the sweetness of symphonious harps." The music of heaven, though elevated and joyous, is sweet and harmonious; and perhaps one of the best representations of heaven on earth, is the effect produced on the soul by strains of sweet and solemn music.
And they sung as it were a new song - See the notes on Rev 5:9. It was proper to call this "new," because it was on a new occasion, or pertained to a new object. The song here was in celebration of the complete redemption of the church, and was the song to be sung in view of its final triumph over all its foes. Compare notes on Rev 7:9-10.
Before the throne - The throne of God in heaven. See the notes on Rev 4:2.
And before the four beasts - See the notes on Rev 4:6-8.
And the elders - See the notes on Rev 4:4.
And no man could learn that song, ... - None could understand it but the redeemed. That is, none who had not been redeemed could enter fully into the feelings and sympathies of those who were. A great truth is taught here. To appreciate fully the songs of Zion; to understand the language of praise; to enter into the spirit of the truths which pertain to redemption; one must himself have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. He must have known what it is to be a sinner under the condemnation of a holy law; he must have known what it is to be in danger of eternal death; he must have experienced the joys of pardon, or he can never understand, in its true import, the language used by the redeemed. And this is only saying what we are familiar with in other things. He who is saved from peril; he who is rescued from long captivity; he who is pardoned at the foot of the scaffold; he who is recovered from dangerous illness; he who presses to his bosom a beloved child just rescued from a watery grave, will have an appreciation of the language of joy and triumph which he can never understand who has not been placed in such circumstances: but of all the joy ever experienced in the universe, so far as we can see, that must be the most sublime and transporting, which will be experienced when the redeemed shall stand on Mount Zion above, and shall realize that they are saved.
These are they - In this verse, and in the following verse, the writer states the leading characteristics of those who are saved. The general idea is, that they are chaste; that they are the followers of the Lamb; that they are redeemed from among people; and that they are without guile.
Which were not defiled with women - Who were chaste. The word "defiled" here determines the meaning of the passage, as denoting that they were not guilty of illicit sexual intercourse with women. It is unnecessary to show that this is a virtue everywhere required in the Bible, and everywhere stated as among the characteristics of the redeemed. On no point are there more frequent exhortations in the Scriptures than on this; on no point is there more solicitude manifested that the professed friends of the Saviour should be without blame. Compare the Act 15:20 note; Rom 1:24-32 notes; Co1 6:18 note; Heb 13:4 note. See also Co1 5:1; Co1 6:13; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; Th1 4:3. This passage cannot be adduced in favor of celibacy, whether among the clergy or laity, or in favor of monastic principles in any form; for the thing that is specified is, that they were not "defiled with women," and a lawful connection of the sexes, such as marriage, is not defilement. See the notes on Heb 13:4. The word rendered here "defiled" - ἐμολύνθησαν emolunthēsan, from μολύνω molunō - is a word that cannot be applied to the marriage relation. It means properly to "soil, to stain, to defile." Co1 8:7; "their conscience being weak, is defiled." Rev 3:4; "which have not defiled their garments." The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament, except in the passage before us, and it will be seen at once that it cannot be applied to that which is lawful and proper, and consequently that it cannot be construed as an expression against marriage and in favor of celibacy. It is a word that is properly expressive of illicit sexual intercourse - of impurity and unchastity of life - and the statement is, that they who are saved are not impure and unchaste.
For they are virgins - παρθένοι parthenoi. This is the masculine form, but this form is found in the later Greek and in the Christian fathers. See Suidas and Suicer, Thes. The meaning of the word, when found in the feminine form, is well understood. It denotes a virgin, a maiden, and thence it is used to denote what is chaste and pure: virgin modesty; virgin gold; virgin soil; virgin blush; virgin shame. The word in the masculine form must have a similar meaning as applied to men, and may denote:
(a) those who are unmarried;
(b) those who are chaste and pure in general.
The word is applied by Suidas to Abel and Melchizedek. "The sense," says DeWette, in loco, "cannot be that all these 144,000 had lived an unmarried life; for how could the apostle Peter, and others who were married, have been excluded? But the reference must be to those who held themselves from all impurity - "unkeuschheit und hurerei" - which, in the view of the apostles, was closely connected with idolatry." Compare Bleek, Beitr. i. 185. Prof. Stuart supposes that the main reference here is to those who had kept themselves from idolatry, and who were thus pure. It seems to me, however, that the most obvious meaning is the correct one, that it refers to the redeemed as chaste, and thus brings into view one of the prominent things in which Christians are distinguished from the devotees of nearly every other form of religion, and, indeed, exclusively from the world at large. This passage, also, cannot be adduced in favor of the monastic system, because:
(a) whatever may be said anywhere of the purity of virgins, there is no such commendation of it as to imply that the married life is impure;
(b) it cannot be supposed that God meant in any way to reflect on the married life as in itself impure or dishonorable;
(c) the language does not demand such an interpretation; and,
(d) the facts in regard to the monastic life have shown that it has had very little pretensions to a claim of virgin purity.
These are they which follow the Lamb - This is another characteristic of those who are redeemed - that they are followers of the Lamb of God. That is, they are his disciples; they imitate his example; they obey his instructions; they yield to his laws; they receive him as their counselor and their guide. See the notes on Joh 10:3, Joh 10:27.
Whithersoever he goeth - As sheep follow the shepherd. Compare Psa 23:1-2. It is one characteristic of true Christians that they follow the Saviour wherever he leads them. Be it into trouble, into danger, into difficult duty; be it in Christian or pagan lands; be it in pleasant paths, or in roads rough and difficult, they commit themselves wholly to his guidance, and submit themselves wholly to his will.
These were redeemed from among men - This is another characteristic of those who are seen on Mount Zion. They are there because they are redeemed, and they have the character of the redeemed. They are not there in virtue of rank or blood Joh 1:13; not on the ground of their own works Tit 3:5; but because they are redeemed unto God by the blood of his Son. See the notes on Rev 5:9-10. None will be there of whom it cannot be said that they are "redeemed"; none will be absent who have been truly redeemed from sin.
Being the first-fruits unto God - On the meaning of the word "first-fruits," see the notes on Co1 15:20. The meaning here would seem to be, that the hundred and forty-four thousand were not to be regarded as the whole of the number that was saved, but that they were representatives of the redeemed. They had the same characteristics which all the redeemed must have; they were a pledge that all the redeemed would be there. Prof. Stuart supposes that the sense is, that they were, as it were, "an offering especially acceptable to God." The former explanation, however, meets all the circumstances of the case, and is more in accordance with the usual meaning of the word.
And to the Lamb - They stood there as redeemed by him, thus honoring him as their Redeemer, and showing forth his glory.
And in their mouth was found no guile - No deceit, fraud, hypocrisy. They were sincerely and truly what they professed to be - the children of God. This is the last characteristic which is given of them as redeemed, and it is not necessary to say that this is always represented as one of the characteristics of the true children of God. See the notes on Joh 1:47.
For they are without fault before the throne of God - The word here rendered "without fault" - ἄμωμοι amōmoi - means, properly, "spotless, without blemish," Pe1 1:19. See the notes on Col 1:22. This cannot be construed as meaning that they were by nature pure and holy, but only that they were pure as they stood before the throne of God in heaven - "having washed their robes, and made them pure in the blood of the Lamb." See the notes on Rev 7:14. It will be certainly true that all who stand there will be, in fact, pure, for nothing impure or unholy shall enter there, Rev 21:27.
The "design" of this portion of the chapter was evidently to comfort those to whom the book was addressed, and, in the same way, to comfort all the children of God in times of persecution and trial. Those living in the time of John were suffering persecution, and, in the previous chapters, he had described more fearful trials yet to come on the church. In these trials, therefore, present and prospective, there was a propriety in fixing the thoughts on the final triumph of the redeemed - that glorious state in heaven where all persecution shall cease, and where all the ransomed of the Lord shall stand before his throne. What could be better suited than this view to sustain the souls of the persecuted and the sorrowful? And how often since in the history of the church in the dark times of religious declension and of persecution - has there been occasion to seek consolation in this bright view of heaven? How often in the life of each believer, when sorrows come upon him like a flood, and earthly consolation is gone, is there occasion to look to that blessed world where all the redeemed shall stand before God; where all tears shall be wiped away from every face; and where there shall be the assurance that the last pang has been endured, and that the soul is to be happy forever?
And I saw another angel - This must, of course, mean a different one from someone mentioned before; but no such angel is referred to in the previous chapters, unless we go back to Rev 12:7. It is not necessary, however, to suppose that John refers to a particular angel immediately preceding this. In the course of these visions he had seen many angels; and now, accustomed to these visions, he says that he saw "another" one employed in a remarkable embassy, whose message was suited to cheer the hearts of the desponding, and to support the souls of the persecuted and the sad - for his appearing was the pledge that the gospel would be ultimately preached to all that dwell upon the earth. The design of this vision is, therefore, substantially the same as the former - to cheer the heart, and to sustain the courage and the faith of the church, in the persecutions and trials which were yet to come, by the assurance that the gospel would be ultimately triumphant.
Fly in the midst of heaven - In the air; so as to appear to be moving along the face of the sky. The scene cannot be in heaven, as the gospel is not to be preached there; but the word must denote "heaven" as it appears to us - the sky. Prof. Stuart renders it correctly "mid-air." He is represented as flying, to denote the rapidity with which the gospel would spread through the world in that future period referred to. Compare the notes on Isa 6:2.
Having the everlasting gospel - The gospel is here called everlasting or eternal:
(a) because its great truths have always existed, or it is conformed to eternal truth;
(b) because it will forever remain unchanged - not being liable to fluctuation like the opinions held by people;
(c) because its effects will be everlasting - in the redemption of the soul and the joys of heaven. In all the glorious eternity before the redeemed, they will be but developing the effects of that gospel on their own hearts, and enjoying the results of it in the presence of God.
To preach unto them that dwell on the earth - To all people - as is immediately specified. Compare Mat 28:19; Mar 16:15.
And to every nation, and kindred, ... - To all classes and conditions of people; to all human beings, without any distinction or exception. See the notes on Rev 7:9. The truth here taught is, that the gospel is to be preached to all people as on an equality, without any reference to their rank, their character, or their complexion; and it is implied also, that at the time referred to this will be done. When that time will be the writer does not intimate further, than that it would be after the beast and his adherents had attempted to stay its progress; and for the fulfillment of this, therefore, we are to look to a period subsequent to the rise and fall of that great anti-Christian power symbolized by the beast and his image. This is in entire accordance with the prediction in Daniel. See the notes on Dan 7:19-22.
Saying with a loud voice - As if all the nations were summoned to hear.
Fear God - That is, reverence, honor, obey God. Render homage not to the beast, to his image, or to any idol, but to the only true God. This is the substance of the gospel - its end and design - to turn people from all forms of idol worship and superstition, to the worship of the only true God.
And give glory to him - To give glory to him is to acknowledge him as the only true God; to set up his pure worship in the heart; and to praise him as the great Ruler of heaven and earth.
For the hour of his judgment is come - His judgment on the beast and on those who worship him. The imagery here is substantially the same as in Dan 7:9-10, Dan 7:14, Dan 7:26-27; and there can be no doubt that there is reference to the same subject. See the notes on those verses. The main idea is, that when God shall be about to cause his gospel to spread through the world, there will be, as it were, a solemn judgment on that anti-Christian power which had so long resisted his truth and persecuted his saints, and that on the fall of that power his own kingdom will be set up on the earth; that is, in the language of Daniel, "the kingdom, and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High."
And worship him that made heaven, and earth, ... - The true God, the Creator of all things. As already remarked, this is the ultimate design of the gospel, and, when this is accomplished, the great end for which it was revealed will be reached.
The design of this portion of the chapter Rev 14:6-7, also, was to comfort those to whom the book was addressed, and in the same way to comfort the church in all the persecution and opposition which the truth would encounter. The ground of consolation then was, that a time was predicted when the "everlasting gospel" would be made to fly speedily through the earth, and when it would be announced that a final judgment had come upon the anti-Christian power which had prevented its being before diffused over the face of the world. The same ground of encouragement and consolation exists now, and the more so as we see the day approaching; and in all times of despondency we should allow our hearts to be cheered as we see that great anti-Christian power waning, and as we see evidence that the way is thus preparing for the rapid and universal diffusion of the pure gospel of Christ.
And there followed another angel - That is, in the vision. It is not necessary to suppose that this would, in the fulfillment, succeed the other in time. The chapter is made up of a number of representations, all designed to illustrate the same general thing, and to produce the same general effect on the mind - that the gospel would be finally triumphant, and that, therefore, the hearts of the troubled and the afflicted should be comforted. The representation in this verse, bearing on this point, is, that Babylon, the great enemy, would fall to rise no more.
Babylon - This is the first time that the word "Babylon" occurs in this book, though it is repeatedly mentioned afterward, Rev 16:19; Rev 17:5; Rev 18:2, Rev 18:10, Rev 18:21. In reference to the literal Babylon, the word is used, in the New Testament, in Mat 1:11-13; Act 7:43; Pe1 5:13. See Intro. to 1 Peter, section 2. Babylon was a well-known city on the Euphrates (for a full description of which see the notes on Isaiah, analysis of chapters 13 and 14), and was, in the days of its pride and glory, the head of the pagan world. In reference to the meaning of the word in this place, it may be remarked:
(1) That the general characteristics of Babylon were, that it was proud, haughty, insolent, oppressive. It was chiefly known and remembered by the Hebrew people as a power that had invaded the Holy Land; that had reduced its capital and temple to ruins; that had destroyed the independence of their country, subjecting it to the condition of a province, and that had carried away the inhabitants into a long and painful captivity. It became, therefore, the emblem of all that was haughty and oppressive, and especially of all that persecuted the church of God.
(2) the word must be used here to denote some power that resembled the ancient and literal Babylon in these characteristics. The literal Babylon was no more; but the name might be properly used to denote a similar power. We are to seek, therefore, in the application of this, for some power that had the same general characteristics which the literal Babylon had.
(3) in inquiring, then, what is referred to here by the word "Babylon," we may remark:
(a) that it could not be the literal Babylon on the Euphrates, for the whole representation here is of something future, and the literal Babylon had long since disappeared, never, according to the prophecies, to be rebuilt. See the notes on Isa 13:20-22.
(b) All the circumstances require us to understand this of Rome, at some period of its history: for Rome, like Babylon, was the seat of empire, and the head of the pagan world; Rome was characterized by many of the same attributes as Babylon, being arrogant, proud, oppressive; Rome, like Babylon, was distinguished for its conquests, and for the fact that it made all other nations subject to its control; Rome had been, like Babylon, a desolating power, having destroyed the capital of the Holy Land, and burnt its beautiful temple, and reduced the country to a province. Rome, like Babylon of old, was the most formidable power with which the church had to contend. Yet.
(c) it is not, I suppose, Rome considered as pagan that is here meant, but Rome considered as the prolongation of the ancient power in the papal form. Alike in this book and in Daniel, Rome, pagan and papal, is regarded as one power, standing in direct opposition to the gospel of Christ, resisting its progress in the world, and preventing its final prevalence. See the notes on Dan. 7. When that falls, the last enemy of the church will be destroyed, and the final triumph of the true religion will be speedy and complete. See Dan 7:26-27.
(d) So it was understood among the early Christians. Mr. Gibbon, speaking of the expectations of the early Christians about the end of the world, and the glory of the literal reign of the Messiah, says, "While the happiness and glory of a temporal reign were promised to the disciples of Christ, the most dreadful calamities were denounced against an unbelieving world. The edification of the New Jerusalem was to advance by equal steps with the destruction of the mystic Babylon; and as long as the emperors who reigned before Constantine persisted in the profession of idolatry, the epithet of Babylon was applied to the city and to the empire of Rome," vol. i. p. 263.
Is fallen - That is, an event appeared in vision as if a mighty city fell to rise no more.
Is fallen - This is repeated to give emphasis to the declaration, and to express the joyousness of that event.
That great city - Babylon in its glory was the largest city of the world. Rome, in its turn, also became the largest; and the expression used here denotes that the power here referred to would be properly represented by cities of their magnitude.
Because she made all nations drink of the wine - This language is probably taken from Jer 51:7; "Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord's hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunk of the wine, therefore the nations are mad." Babylon here, in accordance with the usual custom of the sacred writers when speaking of cities (see the notes on Isa 1:8), is represented as a female - here a female of abandoned character, holding in her hand a cup of wine to attract her lovers; that is, she allures and intoxicates them. This is a beautiful image to denote the influence of a great and corrupt city, and especially a city corrupt in its religion and devoted to idolatry and superstition, and may well be applied either to Babylon or Rome, literal or mystical.
Of the wrath - There seems an incongruity in the use of this word here, and Prof. Stuart proposes to render it "the inflammatory wine of her fornication"; that is, inebriating wine - wine that excited the passions and that led to uncleanness. He supposes that the word here used - θυμός thumos - means "heat, inflammation," corresponding to the Hebrew חמה chēmaah There are no instances, however, in the New Testament in which the word is used in this sense. The common and proper meaning is mind, soul, then mind agitated with passion or under the influence of desire - a violent commotion of mind, as wrath, anger, indignation (Robinson, Lexicon). The ground of the representation here seems to be that Yahweh is often described as giving to the nations in his wrath an intoxicating cup so that they should reel and stagger to their destruction. Compare Jer 25:15; Jer 51:7. The meaning here is, that the nations had drunk of that cup which brought on the wrath of God on account of her "fornication." Babylon is represented as a harlot, with a cup of wine in her hand, and the effect of drinking that cup was to expose them to the wrath of God, hence, called "the wine of the wrath of her fornication" - the alluring cup that was followed by wrath on account of her fornication.
Of her fornication - Due to her fornication. The word "fornication" here is used to denote spiritual uncleanness; that is, pagan and superstitious rites and observances. The term is often used in the Scriptures as applicable to idolatry and superstition. The general meaning here is, that Rome - papal Rome - would employ all forms of voluptuous allurements to bring the nations to the worship of the beast and his image, and that the "wrath" of God would be poured out on account of these abominations. The design of this verse also is to impart consolation by the assurance that this great enemy - this mighty, formidable, persecuting power - would be entirely overthrown. This is everywhere held up as the brightest hope of the church, for with this will fall its last great enemy, and the grand obstruction to the final triumph of the gospel on earth will be removed.
And the third angel followed them - This was a new vision designed to represent the removal of all the obstructions to the final prevalence of the gospel. We are not necessarily to suppose that this event would succeed those mentioned before in the order of time, though this would be the natural construction. The design of this is to show that the worshippers of the beast and his image would be certainly and finally destroyed.
Saying with a loud voice - Making a loud proclamation. Rev 14:7.
If any man worship the beast and his image - See the notes on Rev 13:4, Rev 13:8, Rev 13:12, Rev 13:15. This declaration is universal, affirming of all who thus render idolatrous reverence to the power represented by the beast and his image that they should drink of the wine of the wrath of God. The general meaning is, that they were guilty of idolatry of a gross form; and wherever this existed they who were guilty of it would come under the denunciations in the Scriptures against idolaters. And why should not such denunciations fall on idolaters under the papacy as well as on others? Is it not true that there is as real idolatry there as in the pagan world? Is not the idolatry as gross and debasing? Is it not attended with as real corruption in the heart and the life? Is it not encompassed with as many things to inflame the passions, corrupt the morals, and alienate the soul from God? And is it not all the worse for being a perversion of Christianity, and practiced under the forms of the religion of the Saviour? On what principle should idolatry be denounced and condemned anywhere if it is not in papal Rome? Compare the notes on Th2 2:4.
And receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand - See the notes on Rev 13:16. The word "receive" here implies that there was, on their part, some degree of voluntariness: it was not a mark impressed by force, but a mark received. This is true in respect to all idolatry; and this lays the ground for condemnation. Whatever art is used to induce people to worship the beast and his image, it is still true that the worshippers are voluntary, and that, being voluntary, it is right that they should be treated as such. It is on this ground only that any idolaters, or any sinners of any kind, can be, in the proper sense of that term, published.
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God - See notes on Rev 14:8. The "wine of the wrath of God" is the cup in the hand of the Lord, which, when drunk, makes them reel and fall. The image would seem to have been taken from the act of holding out a cup of poison to a condemned man that he might drink and die. See the sentiment here expressed illustrated in the notes on Isa 51:17.
Which is poured out without mixture - Without being diluted with water - that is, in its full strength. In other words, there would be no mitigation of the punishment.
Into the cup of his indignation - The cup held in his hand, and given them to drink. This is expressive of his indignation, as it causes them to reel and fall. The sentiment here is substantially the same, though in another form, as what is expressed in Th2 2:12. See the notes on that verse.
And he shall be tormented - Shall be punished in a manner that would be well represented by being burned with fire and brimstone. On the meaning of this word see the notes on Rev 9:5; Rev 11:10. Compare also Rev 18:7, Rev 18:10, Rev 18:15; Rev 20:10; Mat 8:29; Mar 5:7; Luk 8:28. The word commonly denotes "severe torture."
With fire and brimstone - As if with burning sulphur. See the notes on Luk 17:28-30. Compare Psa 11:6; Job 18:15; Isa 30:33; Eze 38:22. The imagery is taken from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Gen 19:24. The common representation of the punishment of the wicked is, that it will be in the manner here represented, Mat 5:22; Mat 13:42; Mat 18:9; Mat 25:41; Mar 9:44-48; Pe2 3:7; Jde 1:7; Rev 20:14. Compare the Mat 5:22 note; Mar 9:44 note.
In the presence of the holy angels - This may mean either:
(a) that the angels will be present at their condemnation Mat 25:31, or.
(b) that the punishment will be actually witnessed by the angels, as it is most probable it will be. Compare Isa 66:24; Luk 16:23-26.
And in the presence of the Lamb - The Lamb of God - the final Judge. This also may mean either that the condemnation will occur in his presence, or that the punishment will be under his eye. Both of these things will be true in regard to him; and it will be no small aggravation of the punishment of the wicked, that it will occur in the very presence of their slighted and rejected Saviour.
And the smoke of their torment - The smoke proceeding from their place of torment. This language is probably derived from the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Gen 19:28; "And he (Abraham) looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace." The destruction of these cities is regarded as an emblem of the destruction of the wicked, and the smoke that ascended from them as a representation of what ascends from the place where the wicked suffer forever. See the notes on Jde 1:7.
Ascendeth up - Continually rises from that world of woe.
For ever and ever - See the notes on Jde 1:7. This does not indeed affirm that their individual sufferings would be eternal, since it is only a declaration that "the smoke of their torment ascends," but it is such language as would be used on the supposition that they would suffer forever, and as can be explained only on that supposition. It implies that their torments continued, and were the cause of that ascending smoke; that is, that they were tormented while it ascended; and, as this is declared to be "forever and ever," it implies that the sufferings of the wicked will be eternal: and this is such language as would not, and could not have been used in a revelation from God, unless the punishment of the wicked is eternal. Compare the notes on Mat 25:46.
And they have no rest day nor night - "Day and night" include all time; and hence, the phrase is used to denote perpetuity - "always." The meaning here is, that they never have any rest - any interval of pain. This is stated as a circumstance strongly expressive of the severity of their torment. Here, rest comes to the sufferer. The prisoner in his cell lies down on his bed, though hard, and sleeps; the overworked slave has also intervals of sleep; the eyes of the mourner are locked in repose, and for moments, if not hours, he forgets his sorrows; no pain that we endure on earth can be so certain and prolonged that nature will not, sooner or later, find the luxury of sleep, or will find rest in the grave. But it will be one of the bitterest ingredients in the cup of woe, in the world of despair, that this luxury will be denied forever, and that they who enter that gloomy prison sleep no more, never know the respite of a moment, never even lose the consciousness of their heavy doom. Oh how different from the condition of sufferers here! And oh how sad and strange that any of our race will persevere in sin, and go down to those unmitigated and unending sorrows!
Who worship the beast and his image - See the notes on Rev 13:4, Rev 13:15.
And whosoever receiveth the mark of his name - See the notes on Rev 13:17. The meaning here is, that such worshippers will receive the punishment which other idolaters and sinners do. No exception will be made in favor of an idolater, though he worships idols under the forms of an abused Christianity; none will be made in favor of a sinner because he practiced iniquity under the garb of religion.
Here is the patience of the saints - See the notes on Rev 13:10.
Here are they that keep the commandments of God - That is, in exercising such patience. Those who exercise that "patience" in these long-continued persecutions and trials, will show that they belong to those who keep the commandments of God, and are his true children. Or perhaps the meaning may be, "Here is a disclosure respecting the final destiny of these persecutors, which is adapted to comfort and sustain the saints in the trials which they will endure; an encouragement to constancy in obeying the commands of God, and in evincing the meek faith of the gospel."
And the faith of Jesus - To encourage persevering faith in the Saviour. In these times of trial it will be shown who are the friends of the Saviour; and in the prospect of the certain overthrow of all the enemies of God and his cause, there is a ground of encouragement for continued attachment to him.
The design of this portion of the chapter Rev 14:9-12 is to encourage Christians in their trials by the assurance, that this formidable anti-Christian power would be overthrown, and that all the enemies of God would receive their just doom in the world of despair. Fearful as that doctrine is, and terrible as is the idea of the everlasting suffering of any of the creatures of God, yet the final overthrow of the wicked is necessary to the triumph of truth and holiness, and there is consolation in the belief that religion will ultimately triumph. The desire for its triumph necessarily supposes that the wicked will be overthrown and punished; and indeed it is the aim of all governments, and of all administrations of law, that the wicked shall be overthrown, and that truth and justice shall prevail. What would be more consolatory in a human government than the idea that all the wicked would be arrested and punished as they deserve? For what else is government instituted? For what else do magistrates and police-officers discharge the functions of their office?
And I heard a voice from heaven - A voice that seemed to speak from heaven.
Saying unto me, Write - Make a record of this truth. We may suppose that John was engaged in making a record of what he saw in vision; he was now instructed to make a record of what he heard. This passage may be referred to as a proof that he wrote this book while in Patmos, or as the heavenly disclosures were made to him, and not afterward from memory.
Blessed are the dead - That is, the condition of those who die in the manner which is immediately specified, is to be regarded as a blessed or happy one. It is much to be able to say of the dead that they are "blessed." There is much in death that is sad; we so much dread it by nature; it cuts us off from so much that is dear to us; it blasts so many hopes; and the grave is so cold and cheerless a resting place, that we owe much to a system of religion which will enable us to say and to feel, that it is a blessed thing to die. Assuredly we should be grateful for any system of religion which will enable us thus to speak of those who are dead; which will enable us, with corresponding feeling, to look forward to our own departure from this world.
Which die in the Lord - Not all the dead; for God never pronounces the condition of the wicked who die, blessed or happy. Religion guards this point, and confines the declaration to those who furnish evidence that they are prepared for heaven. The phrase "to die in the Lord" implies the following things:
(1) That they who thus die are the friends of the Lord Jesus. The language "to be in the Lord" is often used to denote true attachment to him, or close union with him. Compare Joh 15:4-7; Rom 16:13, Rom 16:22; Co1 4:17; Co1 7:39; Phi 1:14; Col 4:7. The assurance, then, is limited to those who are sincere Christians; for this the language properly implies, and we are authorized to apply it only as there is evidence of true religion.
(2) to "die in the Lord" would seem also to imply that there should be, at the time, the evidence of his favor and friendship. This would apply:
(a) to those who die as martyrs, giving their lives as a testimony to the truth of religion, and as an evidence of their love for it; and,
(b) to those who have the comforting evidence of his presence and favor on the bed of death.
From henceforth - ἀπάρτι aparti. This word has given no little perplexity to expositors, and it has been variously rendered. Some have connected it with the word "blessed" - "Blessed henceforth are the dead who die in the Lord"; that is, they will be ever-onward blessed: some with the word "die," referring to the time when the apostle was writing - "Blessed are they who, after this time, die in the Lord"; designing to comfort those who were exposed to death, and who would die as martyrs: some as referring to the times contemplated in these visions - "Blessed will they be who shall die in those future times." Witsius understands this as meaning that, from the time of their death, they would be blessed, as if it had been said, immediately after their dissolution they would be blessed. Doddridge renders it, "Henceforth blessed are the dead." The language is evidently not to be construed as implying that they who had died in the faith before were not happy, but that in the times of trial and persecution that were to come, they were to be regarded as especially blessed who should escape from these sorrows by a Christian death. Scenes of woe were indeed to occur, in which many believers would die. But their condition was not to be regarded as one of misfortune, but of blessedness and joy, for:
(a) they would die in an honorable cause;
(b) they would emerge from a world of sorrow; and,
(c) they would rise to eternal life and peace.
The design, therefore, of the verse is to impart consolation and support to those who would be exposed to a martyr's death, and to those who, in times of persecution, would see their friends exposed to such a death. It may be added that the declaration here made is true still, and ever will be. It is a blessed thing to die in the Lord.
Yea, saith the Spirit - The Holy Spirit; "the Spirit by whose inspiration and command I record this" (Doddridge).
That they may rest from their labours - The word rendered here "labor" - κόπος kopos - means properly "wailing, grief," from κόπτω KOPTOO, "to beat," and hence, a beating of the breast as in grief. Then the word denotes "toil, labor, effort," Joh 4:38; Co1 3:8; Co1 15:58; Co2 6:5; Co2 10:15; Co2 11:23, Co2 11:27. It is used here in the sense of wearisome toil in doing good, in promoting religion, in saving souls, in defending the truth. From such toils the redeemed in heaven will be released; for although there will be employment there, it will be without the sense of fatigue or weariness. And in view of such eternal rest from toil, we may well endure the labors and toils incident to the short period of the present life, for, however arduous or difficult, it will soon be ended.
And their works do follow them - That is, the rewards or the consequences of their works will follow them to the eternal world, the word works here being used for the rewards or results of their works. In regard to this, considered as an encouragement to labor, and as a support in the trials of life, it may be remarked:
(a) that all that the righteous do and suffer here will be appropriately recompensed there.
(b) This is all that can follow a man to eternity. He can take with him none of his gold, his lands, his raiment; none of the honors of this life; none of the means of sensual gratification. All that will go with him will be his character, and the results of his conduct here, and, in this respect, eternity will be but a prolongation of the present life.
(c) It is one of the highest honors of our nature that we can make the present affect the future for good; that by our conduct on the earth we can lay the foundation for happiness million of ages hence.
In no other respect does man appear so dignified as in this; nowhere do we so clearly see the grandeur of the soul as in the fact, that what we do today may determine our happiness in that future period, when all the affairs of this world shall which cannot now be numbered shall have rolled by. It is then a glorious thing to live, and will be a glorious thing to die. Compare the notes on Co1 15:58.
And I looked - See the notes on Rev 14:1. His attention is arrested by a new vision. The Son of man himself comes forth to close the scene, and to wind up the affairs of the world. This, too, is of the nature of an episode, and the design is the same as the previous visions - to support the mind in the prospect of the trials that the church was to experience, by the assurance that it would be finally triumphant, and that every enemy would be destroyed.
And behold a white cloud - Bright, splendid, dazzling - appropriate to be the seat of the Son of God. Compare the Mat 17:5 note; Rev 1:7 note. See also Mat 24:30; Mat 26:64; Luk 20:27; Act 1:9; Th1 4:17; Rev 10:1.
And upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man - Compare the Rev 1:13 note; Dan 7:13 note. It is probable that there is here a designed reference to the passage in Daniel. The meaning is, that one appeared on the cloud in a human form, whom John at once recognized as he to whom the appellation of "the Son of man" especially belonged - the Lord Jesus. The meaning of that term had not been fixed in the time of Dan 7:13; subsequently it was appropriated by the Saviour, and was the favorite term by which he chose to speak of himself, Mat 8:20; Mat 9:6; Mat 10:23; Mat 11:19; Mat 12:8, Mat 12:32, Mat 12:40, et al.
Having on his head a golden crown - Appropriate to him as king. It was mainly in virtue of his kingly power and office that the work was to be done which John is now about to describe.
And in his hand a sharp sickle - The word "sickle" here - δρέπανον drepanon - means a crooked knife or scythe for gathering the harvest, or vintage, by cutting off the clusters of grapes. See Rev 14:17. The image of a harvest is often employed in the New Testament to describe moral subjects, Mat 9:37-38; Mat 13:30, Mat 13:39; Mar 4:29; Luk 10:2; Joh 4:35. Here the reference is to the consummation of all things, when the great harvest of the world will be reaped, and when all the enemies of the church will be cut off - for that is the grand idea which is kept before the mind in this chapter. In various forms, and by various images, that idea had already been presented to the mind, but here it is introduced in a grand closing image; as if the grain of the harvest-field were gathered in - illustrating the reception of the righteous into the kingdom - and the fruit of the vineyard were thrown into the wine-press, representing the manner in which the wicked would be crushed, Rev 14:19-20.
And another angel - The fourth in order, Rev 14:6, Rev 14:8-9.
Came out of the temple - See the notes on Rev 11:19. Came, as it were, from the immediate presence of God; for the temple was regarded as his unique dwelling-place.
Crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud - To the Messiah, Rev 14:14. That is, the command was borne directly from God by the angel to the Messiah, to go forth and reap the great harvest of the world. It is not a command of the angel, but a command from God the Father to the Son. This is in accordance with all the representations in the New Testament, that the Son, as Messiah or Redeemer, is subordinate to the Father, and performs the work which has been given him to do. See Joh 3:16-17; Joh 5:19; Joh 10:18; Joh 12:49; Joh 14:31. Compare the notes on Rev 1:1.
Thrust in thy sickle, and reap - Into the great harvest of the world.
For the time is come for thee to reap - That is, "the harvest which thou art to reap is ripe; the seed which thou hast sown has grown up; the earth which thou hast cultivated has produced this golden grain, and it is fit that thou shouldst now gather it in." This language is appropriately addressed to the Son of God, for all the fruits of righteousness on the earth may be regarded as the result of his culture.
For the harvest of the earth is ripe - The "harvest" in reference to the righteous - fruit of the good seed sown by the Saviour and his apostles and ministers. The time alluded to here is the end of the world, when the affairs of earth shall be about to he wound up. The design is to state that the Redeemer will then gather in a great and glorious harvest, and by this assurance to sustain the hearts of his people in times of trial and persecution.
And he that sat on the cloud - The Saviour, Rev 14:14.
Thrust in his sickle on the earth - To cut down the harvest - that is, to gather his people to himself.
And the earth was reaped - So far as the righteous were concerned. The end had come; the church was redeemed; the work contemplated was accomplished; and the results of the work of the Saviour were like a glorious harvest.
And another angel - The fifth in order. This angel came for a different purpose - with reference to the cutting off of the enemies of God, represented by the gathering of a vintage. Compare Mat 13:41; Mat 24:31.
Came out of the temple which is in heaven - Sent or commissioned by God. See the notes on Rev 14:15.
He also having a sharp sickle - On the word "sickle," see the notes on Rev 14:14.
And another angel - The sixth in order. He came, like the angel in Rev 14:15, with a command to him who had the sickle to go forth and execute his commission.
Came out from the altar - This stood in the front of the temple (see the notes on Mat 21:12; compare the notes on Mat 5:23-24), and was the place where burnt-sacrifices were made. As the work now to be done was a work of destruction, this was an appropriate place in the representation.
Which had power over fire - As if he kept the fire on the altar. Fire is the usual emblem of destruction; and as the work now to be done was such, it was proper to represent this angel as engaged in it.
And cried with a loud cry, ... - See Rev 14:15. That is, he came forth, as with a command from God, to call on him who was appointed to do the work of destruction, now to engage in performing it. The time had fully come.
Thrust in thy sharp sickle - Rev 14:15.
And gather the clusters of the vine of the earth - That portion of the earth which might be represented by a vineyard in which the grapes were to be gathered and crushed. The image here employed occurs elsewhere to denote the destruction of the wicked. See the very beautiful description in Isa 63:1-6, respecting the destruction of Edom, and the notes on that passage.
For her grapes are fully ripe - That is, the time has come for the ingathering; or, to apply the image, for the winding up of human affairs by the destruction of the wicked. The time here, as in the previous representation, is the end of the world; and the design is, to comfort the church in its trials and persecutions, by the assurance that all its enemies will be cut off.
And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth - That is, into that part of the earth which might be represented by a vineyard; or the earth considered as having been the abode of wicked men.
And cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God - See Isa 63:1-6. That is, the wine-press where the grapes are crushed, and where the juice, resembling blood, flows out, may be used as a symbol to denote the destruction of the wicked in the last day; and as the numbers will be immensely great, it is called the "great wine-press of divine wrath." The symbol appears to be used here alike with reference to the color of the wine resembling blood, and the pressure necessary to force it out; and thus employed it is one of the most striking emblems conceivable to denote the final destruction of the wicked.
And the wine-press was trodden without the city - The representation was made as if it were outside of the city - that is, the city of Jerusalem, for that is represented as the abode of the holy. The word "trodden" refers to the manner in which wine was usually prepared, by being trodden by the feet of people. See the notes on Isa 63:2. The wine-press was usually in the vineyard - not in the city - and this is the representation here. As appearing to the eye of John, it was not within the walls of any city, but standing without.
And blood came out of the wine-press - The representation is, that there would be a great destruction which would be well represented by the juice flowing from a wine-press.
Even unto the horse bridles - Deep, as blood would be in a field of slaughter where it would come up to the very bridles of the horses. The idea is, that there would be a great slaughter.
By the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs - That is, two hundred miles; covering a space of two hundred miles square - a lake of blood. This is designed to represent a great slaughter; but why the space here employed to describe it was chosen is unknown. Some have supposed it was in allusion to the length of Palestine. Prof. Stuart supposes that it refers to the breadth of Italy, and that the allusion is to the attack made on the city of the beast. But it is impossible to determine why this space was chosen, and it is unnecessary. The idea is, that there would be a slaughter so great, as it were, as to produce a lake or sea of blood; that the enemies of the church would be completely and finally overthrown, and that the church, therefore, delivered from all its enemies, would be triumphant.
The "design" of this, as of the previous representations in this chapter, is to show that all the enemies of God will be destroyed, and that, therefore, the hearts of the friends of religion should be cheered and consoled in the trials and persecutions which were to come upon it. What could be better suited to sustain the church in the time of trial, than the assurance that every foe will be ultimately cut off? What is better suited to sustain the heart of the individual believer, than the assurance that all his foes will be quelled, and that he will ere long be safe in heaven?