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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

October 15, 2014

Revelations 14:1-13

  1. Recap from Chapter 13. It was showed Satan raising two beasts to make war with the Christians. The first beast is the beast of the greatest concern. The first beast, as identified from Daniel 7, is the Roman Empire which ruled from approximately 2-7 BC to 476 AD. The emperors of the Roman Empire blasphemed the name of God, by calling themselves divine and demanding worship from the inhabitants of the empire. The second beast describes the local and provincial enforcement of the emperor worship and the ensuring persecution for those who did not participate in emperor worship. Those worshiped the first beast were marked so that they can buy and sell. Those who did not participate in emperor worship were unable to buy and sell in the marketplaces.

  2. Verses 1-3. The contrast is set in chapter 14. John looks and sees the Lamb standing on Mount Zion and the 144,000 are with him. Remember that the 144,000 represents the servants of God who were killed for the name of Christ. We know that they are physically dead because they were pictured in heaven. Revelation 6 told us that the servants of God would be killed. Chapter 7 called them the 144,000 signifying that the complete number of God’s people are sealed and spiritually secure though they are persecuted and killed. The inhabitants of the earth are worshiping the beast. They have the mark of the beast which means they have sided with the Roman Empire and its emperors. These people belong to the beast. However, we see the 144,000. They do not have the mark of the beast. Rather than having the name of the beast or the number of his name on their foreheads or hands (13:16-17), the 144,000 have the name of the Lamb and the name of God on their foreheads. This shows their loyalty to the Lamb and pictures them as the Lamb‘s possession. The loyalty and faithfulness of the 144,000 is further pictured in these verses. These pictures cannot be literal. In Revelation 7 we were the told that the 144,000 came from the twelve tribes of Israel. The people of God are pictured on Mount Zion, the place of Christ’s enthronement and rule. Mount Zion is the place of God’s dwelling and the people are God are protected spiritually as they abide with him. They are pictured as singing a new song (14:3). We noticed the new song in Revelation 5:9. This is a song praising God for his victory over the enemy and thanksgiving for God’s work. The 144,000 are victorious and they are singing a song of victory.

  3. Verses 4-5. Now we are given more details about the 144,000. They “have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins” (14:4). They are also blameless (14:5). Now there are religious groups that want to take the 144,000 as a literal number of those who are in heaven. The problem with this interpretation is that the only ones is heaven are going to be perfect Jewish virgins who are men. Instead, we need to see this imagery as picturing the spiritual condition of the 144,000. As we noted in Revelation 7, the 144,000 number symbolizes the complete group of God’s people. God often speaks of the purity of his people in terms of sexual immorality. The apostle Paul used such language about the people of God in 2 Corinthians 11:2. Similarly, the book of Revelation will culminate with the image of the marriage of the people of God to the Lamb (see Revelation 19:7-8). The 144,000 are those who have not been compromised by the world but remain loyal as a virgin bride to the future groom. They are not defiled by the world but remain pure toward Christ. Revelation 14:3 and 14:4 declares, the 144,000 are the redeemed. The 144,000 is all the redeemed of the earth. These are all of God’s people who have withstood the attack of Satan and the persecution of the Roman Empire. Satan tries, but fails to defeat the church.

  4. Verse 6-13. We are presented with three angels who have three announcements to make. They are carrying three important declarations from God.

    1. Verses 6-7. The first angel is proclaiming the eternal gospel to the whole earth. Everyone has been given the opportunity to hear the gospel and to respond to its message. In the proclamation of the gospel the angel says with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come.” The gospel is good news to those who receive it and obey it. However, the gospel is bad news to those who reject it. Fear God because God is ready to judge. Worship God, not the beast.

    2. Verse 8. The second angel proclaims, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great.” As we noted in our study of Revelation 13, Babylon is the first of four great beasts depicted in Daniel 7. Babylon was the world power in the days of the prophet Daniel. The name Babylon came to represent the wicked world power of the day. Peter used the name Babylon this way as he closed his first letter. “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son (1 Peter 5:13 ESV).” Peter is giving his greetings from Rome since there was not a literal Babylon for Christians to be living in. Rome was the new Babylon because it was the world power of the day. This fits the context of Revelation. Chapter 13 has been all about this terrifying beast that is persecuting God’s people. This predicted the Roman Empire’s persecution of the Christians. Chapter 14 is not describing the fall of some other nation. It would not fit the context. Babylon is Rome and the Roman Empire is declared to be fallen. However, when the angel makes this proclamation and when the book of Revelation is written, the Roman Empire had not yet fallen. So what is happening in this proclamation? This is something that is called “prophetic certainty.” An event is prophesied as having already occurred, not because it had happened yet, but because God had decreed it. Therefore the event must happen. Isaiah did the same things in his prophecy. “And behold, here come riders, horsemen in pairs!” And he answered, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the carved images of her gods he has shattered to the ground.” (Isaiah 21:9 ESV). When Isaiah said these words Babylon had not fallen yet. God had decreed that the world power would fall and so Isaiah could confidently describe its end, even though its fall was still in the future. The second angel is doing the same thing. The fall of the Roman Empire is pictured as a certainty even though it had not occurred yet.

    3. Verse 9-12. The third angel makes his proclamation. Anyone who worships the beast will drink the wine of God’s wrath. This is a vivid picture that God used at many times through his prophets (Psa 60:3; 75:8; lsa 51:17; 63:6; Jer 25:15-16; 51:7). As many know, the people typically drank their wine mixed with water. Drinking water was a problem then because the water was not clean and would cause illnesses. So the people would drink wine and the wine would be diluted with water, typically two or three parts water to one part wine. Notice that this angel says that they are going to drink the wine “full strength.” The wine is pictured as the Wrath of God. They will drink of God’s wrath undiluted. God’s judgment is not going to be watered down. They will receive the full brunt of God’s anger for their sins. The judgment will be so grave that it is paralleled to the judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah. They are tormented with fire and sulfur, the same tools God used to wipe out the wicked cities of the plains for their sins. However, the picture is not a picture of a physical destruction." Notice that the angel pictures eternal punishment for those who worship the beast. Those who are giving their allegiance to the emperors and worshiping them as divine will be tormented forever and ever and have no rest day or night. This is the same kind of language that Jesus used to describe the eternal punishment on those who reject him. Therefore, another call for endurance is made. Keep the commandments of God and keep your faith in Jesus. The worshipers of the emperors will be judgment. Their condemnation is already set. Do not give in to the temptation to worship. Remain faithful to Jesus. Remain faithful even to death.

    4. Verse 13 reminds the readers again that they are going to die for this strong faith in Jesus. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. They are blessed for their faithfulness while the beast makes war on the people of God. The Roman Empire could kill their bodies, but it could not kill their souls. The Romans might achieve a worldly victory, but would receive an etemal punishment.

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