Revelation 14 is a fantastic chapter. It has a great deal of action that fascinates the mind. The chapter is not, however, beyond our ability to understand and from which to draw lessons.
The Lamb & The Redeemed
This chapter opens with the Lamb standing with the 144,000 (Rev. 14:1-5). There is not a literal Lamb here. Rather, this is symbolic language to describe the Son of God; the One offered in sacrifice for the sins of men (Jn. 1:29). He is on Mount Zion. Again, there is not a literal mass of material rock in heaven. Instead, the Lamb is standing on a solid, secure place (cf. Psa. 2:6).
The 144,000 represent the saved. They are the ones who were marked in Revelation 7. They were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (1 Pet. 1:18, 19). They are virgins, that is, they are morally pure (2 Cor. 11:2). These follow the Lamb, by listening to Him, and are the firstfruits; they are dedicated and belong to God [similar to the firstfruits of Old Testament harvests] (Jn. 10:27; Jas. 1:18). Too, they told the truth and did not deceive or lie (1 Pet. 1:22).
If we were to take all of this as literal language, we would be forced to conclude there will only by 144,000 male virgins who never lied in heaven. This is simply not so and totally incompatible with the rest of the Bible. Thus, we are confident this is symbolic language.
The Angels & Judgment
The angels now declare judgment (Rev. 14:6-13). One angel brings the “everlasting gospel.” This is none other than the gospel of Christ, that which will not fade away (1 Pet. 1:23-25). It is intended for all people over all the earth. None are excluded from accountability or access to the gospel.
The hour of judgment is announced. In this there is the pronouncement against “Babylon.” Babylon in Revelation is identified with Rome. At the time of the writing of this book, Rome still stood. Hence, we understand this is a use of the “prophetic perfect,” that is, declaring a thing yet to come as though it was already done (Isa. 46:10; 48:3). The surety of the fall of Rome was so certain, the angel could declare it as done.
The fall of Babylon was due to her sins. Sin brings nations down (Prov. 14:34). God’s wrath abides over any and all that are in sin.
The ones that receive the mark of the beast will suffer punishment. God will not allow them to escape. Rather, they will “have no rest.” This is a comfort to the Christians who received this letter in the first century. They were weary and anxious about the survival of the cause of Christ. God is here reassuring them He and His sons will win and Satan and his slaves will lose.
Another comforting thought is that the saints will rest (Rev. 14:13). They will rest from their dedicated labors to the Lord. Their influence, however, will continue to linger in the lives of those they left behind. They have kept God’s commands and will receive a reward for it. Hence, we know if we do not keep His commands we will not receive a reward of rest.
Harvest Of The Earth
In the last section of Revelation 14, we learn about the harvest of the earth (Rev. 14:14-20). The Son of Man is on a cloud. The idea here is again symbolic. It is not that Jesus is sitting on a cloud in heaven. At the beginning of the chapter He was on Mount Zion. These are word pictures that convey a deeper meaning. Being on a cloud is the idea of Judgment, just as in Isaiah’s day (Isa. 19:1). Jesus was judging the earth.
The righteous are harvested (Rev. 14:15, 16). When on earth Jesus said the fields were white for harvest (Lk. 10:2). We see the gospel has gone out (14:6) and now a harvest taking place. At the same time the unrighteous are being “harvested” as well (Rev. 14:17-20). Their fate is to suffer the wrath of God.
Steven F. Deaton