{16}   Visions of Judgment Announced (Rev 14:1-20)


Part 6. Conflict between the church and the powers of evil (12:1—14:20)

6.6.      The redeemed and the Lamb on Mt. Zion (14:1-5)

6.7.      INTERLUDE 3: visions of final judgment (14:6-20)

            6.7.1.   Impending judgment announced (14:6-13)

            6.7.2.   Harvest of the earth (14:14-20)

        PICTURE: John has a brief glimpse of the dawn of eternity after the tribulation when Christ and the believers celebrate in heaven. Then quickly his vision returns to the tribulation on earth. Three angels announce in midair that God’s wrathful judgment is imminent. God’s judgment is executed by Christ and an angel in a harvest showing a scene of the annihilation of defeated enemies.


14:1     It is the bright morning of eternity when the Lamb and His followers celebrate on the heavenly Mount Zion. The names of the Lamb and God on their foreheads: ownership of God, loyalty to God, security given by God, dependence on God, and safety in God. This 144,000 represent all the redeemed throughout history.

14:2     John heard a very loud new song sung by the redeemed. It sounds like: [1] the roar of rushing waters, [2] a loud peal of thunder, [3] the swelling refrain of an ensemble of harpists.

14:3     The sound is a chorus of many voices singing a new song of deliverance. That they have been redeemed from the earth means that they were separated from the evil ways of the world.

14:4     The group is described with 3 figures which emphasize fidelity, discipleship, dedication.

[1] Fidelity: They are virgins who have not defiled themselves with women. This description represents a difficulty because of its apparent negative connotation about sexual relationship. The solutions: [a] This group attained the utmost in spirituality by renouncing marriage with its detracting sexual relationships, just as Paul says in 1Co 7:1,32. [b] This group are virgins in the sense of having never entered into immoral sexual relations. [c] The Bible often describes Israel or the church as a virgin (2Ki 19:21; Lam 2:13; Jer 18:13; Am 5:2; 2Co 11:2). These people have kept themselves pure from all defiling relationships with the pagan world system. They have resisted the seductions of the great harlot (17:2).

[2] Discipleship: They do not physically follow the historical person Jesus but they follow His life and instructions (Mk 8:34). Many may have in fact followed Him to death.

[3] Dedication: “Firstfruits” signify an offering to God.

14:5     These people hold fast to God’s truth and make no compromise with the heretical claims of the antichrist and are thus described as speaking no lies (Zep 3:13). They are also ethically blameless and so make themselves as an acceptable sacrifice to God (1Pe 1:19).

14:6     The first angel’s message is called “the eternal gospel”. It is a summons to fear, honour, and worship the Creator. It announces the eternal purpose of God for human beings.

14:7     It is the last call for civilization to repent and give God glory. To fear God is to reverence Him; to give Him glory is to pay Him the respect and honour which He deserves. God has revealed Himself in nature so that people are without excuse (Ro 1:19-20).

14:8     A second angel announces the fall of the Great Babylon, famous for its luxury and moral corruption. It is a symbol of the spirit of godlessness, refusing to worship the Creator. It is the final manifestation of secular humanism. Its fall will be described in ch.17 and ch.18.

The wine is described as “maddening”. It could mean: [1] “the wine of her passionate immorality” or [2] the wrath in the judgment of God. Possibly, it contains both meanings.

14:9     A third angel now announces to the whole world the aweful punishment waiting for those who worship the beast and bear his mark.

14:10   They are to drink the wine of God’s fury and endure eternal torment in burning sulphur. This fierce warning is directed both to the pagan world and weak Christians who may deny their faith in persecution. It is to remind everyone that their decision will have eternal consequences. God’s fury will be in full strength, untempered by the mercy and grace of God.

14:11   The punishment is not a temporary measure but for eternity. There is no hope of acquittal.

14:12   The price of apostasy is eternal torment. The saints are characterized by their obedience to divine revelation and their continuing reliance on Jesus.

14:13   The faithful may suffer martyrdom but their death brings them victoriously into their final rest. The voice from heaven carries divine authority. The command to write emphasizes it is an important message. This blessing is the 2nd of 7 (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14).

14:14   The execution of divine judgment is described in the figures of a grain harvest (vv.14-16) and of the treading of a winepress (vv.17-20). Christ uses the sharp sickle as the instrument of harvest in an act of righteous retribution.

14:15   Some understand the harvest as the gathering of the righteous at the return of Christ. In the OT, the harvest was a regular symbol of divine judgment (Jer 51:33; Hos 6:11). Here, it is more likely about divine judgment.

14:16   The earth was harvested by Christ. The fact of his sitting (not a normal posture for harvesting) may indicate the act as one of judgment.

14:17   An angel now appears also with a sharp sickle. In ancient times, the sickle is with a curved blade used both for cutting grain and for pruning and cutting clusters from the vine.

14:18   Another angel from the altar may imply that the prayers of the faithful bring about God’s judgment. The “fire” probably refers to the censer with fire which the angels held in 8:3-5.

14:19   The angel now gathers the vintage. It is then thrown into the great winepress of the wrath of God. The treading of grapes was a figure for the execution of divine wrath upon the enemies of God in Isa 63:3. They are the ones who persecuted the saints during this period of tribulation.

14:20   The city is probably Jerusalem. The judgment of the nations in Joel 3:12-14 and Zec 14:1-4 also places the final battle on the outskirts of Jerusalem. As a winepress yields the red juice of the grape, so the judgment of God issues in a blood bath that flows as high as the bridles of the horses (a height of 1.5 metres) and extends the approximate length of Palestine (1600 stadia are equivalent of almost 300 km).


        While the statement in Rev 14:13 refers to the persecuted saints, it can be applied in a general sense to all faithful Christians who died. For the pagan world, death (the end of this earthly life) is a curse. But for those who die in the Lord, death is indeed a blessing because it is a rest from countless difficulties in this world, such as the deteriorating health, daily worries about family and work, heartache from broken relationships, etc. Moreover, it is an eternal rest and the starting point of a better new life. Yet the verse is also a reminder that their deeds in this world will be remembered by God. While all we possess in this life (money, power, fame) will in a moment disappear, the deeds of service to God will remain and wil follow us to eternity.