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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 14



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Verse 1

1. I looked, and lo—The words signalize the change of sight-direction, and the opening of a new scene of symbols. Great is the contrast between the sea of the beast and the mount of the one hundred forty and four thousand. The phrase, And I saw, or looked, opens a second movement of the panorama at Revelation 14:6, and a third at Revelation 14:14.

A Lamb—Rather, the Lamb; known from former mention. The glorious leader is here the Lamb, since it is in his atoning character that this glorious host expects to conquer. The mount Zion was of course easily seen by John from Moriah. The throne might seem to be in the most holy place, yet allowing all visional freedom. The Jerusalem they are in is not the material Jerusalem, but the mystic Christian capital, in antithesis with the mystic antichristic capital, Babylon.

And with him—Who are this hundred forty and four thousand? Dusterdieck denies them to be the same as those of chapter vii, and affirms them to be a choice body of eminently pure saints. For, 1. The article is omitted before the number, so that they are not the, but a hundred forty and four thousand, the number being merely a churchly designation; and, 2. They are the Jewish symbol, because the enemies they oppose are pagan, that is, Gentile. But Alford maintains the full identity with the glorious company of the former chapter. We think the truth lies between the two commentators. The two glorious companies are the same, but not in equal amount. Chapter vii purposes to symbolize the entire Church of glorified spirits; this simply represents a part of the same, including only the earlier Church—the Church of both the pagan and papal martyrdoms, hence they are called first-fruits. The hundred forty and four thousand are still from Israel, and the harpers are still the Gentiles. In fact, the whole are the souls under the altar of chapter vi, multiplied in number, and giving their own holy character to the whole Church of their period; they have risen from beneath the altar, have scaled mount Zion, and fill the very heaven above the mystic Jerusalem, pouring down their strains of song upon the ear of St. John.

Verses 1-5

a. Anticipative But Indefinite Joy—Song At Jerusalem On Mount Zion, Revelation 14:1-5.

From the distant sea whence the beast emerged, the spirit eye of the seer, standing on mount Moriah, (note Revelation 4:11,) now looks toward Jerusalem, to Zion, and to the temple, where (as in Revelation 6:1, where see note) are the throne and the twenty-four elders.

Verse 2

2. Heard a voice from heaven—From the ethereal or firmamental heaven, over the company on the mount, there comes a choral voice. The blessed air is full of heavenly music. It is from a very full celestial choir, for their voice is as the voice of many waters, as… a great thunder.

And I heard—Better reading, And… the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers, etc. There was but one aerial company, at first heard but not seen, whose voice was sweet as harp melody, yet full as the waters’ roar, and loud as a great thunder.

Verse 3

3. A new song—Different, quite, from the wail under the altar of Revelation 6:10.

Before the throne—The invisible harpers become visible; from the ether they have descended on Moriah; they are before the Theophanic throne and its permanent court.

No man could learn that song—None but the redeemed can truly learn and truly sing the song of the redeemed. Others may imitate it by rote, but the full depth of its music is not in their souls, and the imitation is spurious and counterfeit. Hence it is clear that the harpers were not angels, but redeemed saints. They were an abridged specimen of the multitude that no man could number of Revelation 7:9, and, like them, Gentile counterpart to the Israelite hundred forty and four thousand. The Israelite number, as being at home in the mystic Jerusalem, are on Zion; the Gentiles, as coming from all the nations, gather on Moriah, before the throne. It is a festal gathering. The new song indicates that an era auspicious of future triumph over the strongholds of Satan has opened.

Verse 4

4. These are theyRevelation 14:4-5 are strikingly parallel with Revelation 7:14-15. This fact indicates that Dusterdieck is mistaken in supposing that this company is a select class of eminent saints. The simple truth is, that the virtues specially ascribed to them are selected as contrast to the vices ascribed to their Babylonian persecutors. These are not defiled with women, in contrast with the whore and her partisans that did corrupt the earth with her fornication. Compare Revelation 18:3; Revelation 18:7; Revelation 18:9.

They are virgins—The Greek term is applicable to either sex, and in its full literal sense implies not only purity from fornication, but abstinence from all sexual indulgence. But it cannot be supposed to be affirmed that all the early Church were chaste celibates. Rather, are they all virgins in the sense in which the whole Church is the purely chaste bride of Christ, which takes sexual purity as the ideal type of all purity from sin. Such a view honours matrimony, and yet allows that there may be a chaste celibacy, not forced nor bound by changeless vows, which may enjoy the royal prerogative of pre-eminent consecration of itself to God. Note 1 Corinthians 7:1-9.

Follow… whithersoever he goeth—They are the special retinue and obedient body-guard of their Lord. The oath of the ancient soldiers bound them, in similar words, “to follow their generals wherever they may lead.”

Redeemed… men—Not redeemed as Dusterdieck, “in an eminent sense,” but in the same sense as the whole true Church.

First fruits—Early in time in comparison with the Christian and millennial ages that will follow; choice in character, as having fought the battles of persecution against the beast.

Verse 5

5. No guile—Greek, no lie. Contrast with the “great wonders” of the second beast, “the false prophet,” who “deceiveth them that dwell on the earth,” (Revelation 13:13-14,) “with all signs and lying wonders,” “with all deceivableness of unrighteousness,” “that they should believe a lie.” 2 Thessalonians 1:9-11. And the work of the reappearing dragon is to “deceive the nations,” Revelation 20:3; Revelation 20:8. The song of this holy throng bodes no good to the powers of darkness. And still clearer omens now appear in the mid-sky.

Verse 6

6. Another angel—In addition to the many angels who have appeared in former scenes.

The everlasting gospel—The truth of Jesus, everlasting in its endurance, unlike the falsehoods it contradicts. It is here strikingly intimated that the very beginning and source of the overthrow of antichrist’s citadel is the everlasting gospel. It is divine truth that is to overthrow this mighty stronghold of error and sin, which the “Lord shall consume with the breath of his mouth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

Nation… kindred… tongue… people—The cosmical four, implying the utmost universality, unlimited to any one land or continent. It is strictly a universal gospel, proclaimed to all mankind, and destined to universal diffusion.

Verse 6-7

b. Three Angels Hovering In Mid-Heaven Over Jerusalem, Revelation 14:6-13.

1. First angel proclaims the triumphal everlasting gospel, Revelation 14:6-7.

From mount Zion, where the martyr army is uttering its chant, the eye of the seer standing on Moriah is directed sky-wards, and beholds objects in next verse.

Verse 7

7. Fear God… glory to him—And not to saints, angels, Mary, the wafer, or to images. The absolute universality is again shadowed by the cosmical fourheaven… earth… sea… fountains. The clear proclamation of this gospel is destruction to Babylon. And this its aim is rendered more specific by the announcement of the next angel.

Verse 8

2. Second angel defines the object of these war manifestoes—Babylon, Revelation 14:8.

8. Babylon… fallen—Or, with the elegant inversion of the Greek: Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great. It is the prophetic future-preterite. Here first occurs in the apocalypse the name of “great BABYLON.” It carries our thought back to the Babel built by the survivors of the flood on the plains of the Euphrates, where was first developed in history, under Nimrod, the type of mighty but godless nationality. It next appears in sacred history under one of the greatest princes of antiquity, Nebuchadnezzar, as the conqueror and leader into captivity of beloved Jerusalem. Then commenced the antithetical typology which is unfolded in the apocalypse. Babylon was then the great profane empire city, hostile to the city of God, in which a false religion dominates the world and persecutes the followers of Jehovah. But Babylon is now transferred westward and impersonated in Rome. And this new Babylon first is dragon or pagan, and then, semi-Christianized, is bestial or papal. It was first anti-God, and so anti-Christ; it is now specifically anti-Christ. And under the victorious career of Christ it must finally fall; fall embracing in itself all the profane traits of its typical national predecessors; fall followed by the destruction of all Babylonianism, secular and ecclesiastical.

Wine of the wrath of her fornication—A very pregnant expression. Her fornication is at once a seductive wine and a destructive wrath; wine to the appetite, wrath upon the soul and body.

Verse 9

3. Third angel pours forth a volume of divine malediction against Babylon and her devotees for martyring the saints, Revelation 14:9-12.

9. The third angel—Most terrible and full of all, this angel crowns the climax of menace with denouncing judgments on all the Babylonic peoples, Revelation 14:9-13.

Beast… image… mark—Note Revelation 15:2.

Verse 10

10. Wine of the wrath of God—The double effect of wine—first to exhilarate, and then, when drunk in full quantity, to asphyxiate—is here alluded to. The former images the exciting power of sin, the latter its destructive effect. To sip the wine is a delight; to drink the cup to its dregs is destruction.

Poured out without mixture—The Greek has a play upon words: Which is mixed without mixture. The wine was so customarily mingled with water that the Greek word mixed came to signify prepared. Hence the phrase prepared without mixture could, as here, be verbally, mixed without mixture.

Cup of his indignation—As if divine justice had a regular retributive cup.

Fire and brimstone—Imagery borrowed from Genesis 19:24. “Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire.” The imagery of fire and brimstone for the wicked is used in Psalms 11:6, and brimstone in Job 18:15. This imagery is not used in the New Testament excepting in the Apocalypse, namely, here and Revelation 19:20; Revelation 21:8. “The addition of brimstone to the imagery,” says Stuart, “renders it exceedingly intense: for this not only makes the fire to rage with the greatest vehemence, but it is noisome to the smell and suffocating to the breath.” Of those who maintain that final punishment is in literal fire it may be asked, Is the brimstone literal?

Presence of angels… Lamb—Their sentence and execution take place by the judgment and solemn approbation of the holiest and most merciful of Kings. Holiness and love ratify the penalties of divine justice.

Verse 12

12. Here—In refusing this worship of the beast and avoiding this direful destiny.

Patience—Endurance of persecution from Babylon and her adherents.

Keep—Faithfully obey.

The commandments of God—Against all idolatry with its fornications, as noted on Revelation 14:7.

Faith of Jesus—The Lord of the holy capital.

Verse 13

13. Heard a voice from heaven—The above three menacing angel-voices were from the mid-heaven; but now peals down a voice from the highest heaven in beautiful contrast with the menacing voices. Amid the menaces upon the persecutors it interpolates a benediction upon the faithful dying sufferers.

Write—Let this blessed assurance be well recorded.

Blessed are the dead—They are under no malediction, in no torment, in no unconsciousness, for they are blessed, that is, happy and more than happy.

Die in the Lord—Said on occasion of their martyr-death, yet in such comprehensive terms as to include all the dying faithful in all ages.

From henceforth—This from henceforth, starts from the death of each individual dying saint. The meaning then is, those dying in the Lord are thenceforth and forever blessed. The end of a holy life is the commencement of an eternal bliss. This assures the unshrinking faithful who refuse the beast, his mark, and his number, and thereby meet death, that their destiny is not torment, but blessedness.

Yea, saith the Spirit— This appears to be a responding voice ratifying the affirmation of blessedness. John hears this response from the same highest heaven, and knows and tells us that so saith the Spirit. By inspired intuition he knows the voice of the Spirit, and allows us now to infer that the first voice was from the First Person of the Trinity, and the response from the Third.

That—In order that. Depends upon die. Those dying in the Lord do truly die, in order that they may rest from their labours.

And—Better reading, For, assigning a reason for their blessed rest, namely, that their works of keeping the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus, (Revelation 14:12,) do follow them, namely, from this world to the next, as witnesses for their justification with God.

Verse 14

14. And I looked, and behold—A fresh movement of the panorama reveals a new wonder in the sky.

White cloud—A nebulous image of “the great white throne” of Revelation 20:11.

Like unto the Son of man— The expression implies, not doubt of the identity, but the visionary aspect of the object to the eye.

A golden crown—The token of his lordship over the land.

Verses 14-20

c. Sky-Vision (Over Jerusalem) Of The Harvest And Bloody Vintage Of Babylon, Revelation 14:14-20.

So far the menaces against Babylon have been verbal; our seer now, standing on Moriah, beholds two visible tokens of coming doom hung out in the heavens over Jerusalem. First, a dim likeness of the Lord of the harvest is descried in the sky, visiting his ripening and drying field; and a servant angel reports to him that all is ready. The work is, in vision, summarily executed.

Verse 15

15. Another angel—Besides the three menacing-angels above described.

Out of the temple—Still at Jerusalem.

Crying—The angel superintendent of the Lord’s field pronounces the harvest to be ripe. The earth, or land, was reaped. It takes but a single thrust of that sickle!

Verse 17

17. And—The misty forms of the white cloud, its occupant, and the harvest field, have all instantly disappeared. But a second and more terrible, though equally transient, volume of the sky-picture appears in its place to complete the series of omens. To the harvest of wrath succeeds the vintage of blood. By the phrase temple in heaven Dusterdieck and Alford are somewhat nonplussed. The word heaven means, as often elsewhere, the firmamental heaven, (note Revelation 4:11,) or sky. And the simple meaning is, that a visional temple, with its altar, outlined itself in the sky-vision as part of the omen scenery.

Angel… sharp sickle—The Lord of the harvest has reaped the grain; but leaves to his servants the treading of the bloody winepress. The blood-red colour of the juice of the grape suggests the thought of carnage; and the pressure by which it is crushed out suggests the wrath that compels the carnage. The image is taken from Isaiah 63:3, where Jehovah’s treading the winepress and pouring forth the blood of the grape, is an image of the crushing of the wicked powers in behalf of his people.

Verse 18

18. Another angel—The two angels of Revelation 14:17-18, are the angels of the bloody vintage. The former has the sickle, and is the executioner; the latter reports the ripeness and readiness for the bloodshed.

Came out from the altar—As the previous came from the visional temple in the sky; where the divine wrath against Babylon is brewing. The altar is the basis on which the victim is placed with bloodshed; thence it is revealed that the moment is ripe for the sacrifice.

Power over fire—And was, therefore, the proper angel to guard the fires of the altar. The imagery presupposes the guardianship of the different elements by appointed angels. So in Revelation 7:1-2, we have the angels of the four winds, and in Revelation 16:5, the angel of the waters.

Are fully ripe—As the juice of the grape has fully matured for the press, so the sins of Babylon are full for divine punishment.

Verse 20

20. Without the city—As grapes and vintage are usually rural matters, so this symbolic picture, 14-20, reaches not to the complete downfall of the city, but to the adjacent slaughters. But what city? The bewildered Alford, with many others, replies Jerusalem! But throughout this whole chapter Jerusalem is the place of the menace, and Babylon is its object.

Even unto the horses’ bridles—The visional sky-horses waded in blood so deep that their bridles were visionally bathed in its crimson.

A thousand and six hundred—The root of this number is the creational four, intimating that this battle is no local event, but world-wide. This view is intensified by the squaring of the four and the multiplying of that square, sixteen, by the square of ten, one hundred. This brief menacing cloud-picture of the coming contest predicts that the destruction from the city will spread over the earth; or rather, perhaps, indicates that the real city is itself earthwide in locality.


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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 14:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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