The Lamb the Poisoned Cup and the Harvest
"But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church of first-born sons, enrolled as citizens of heaven. You have come to God Himself, the supreme Judge, and to the spirits of the upright who have been made perfect; and to Jesus, the mediator of a New Covenant, and to purifying blood which pleads more insistently than Abel's.". ...(28 ) "We have been given possession of an unshakeable kingdom. Let us therefore be grateful and use our gratitude to worship God in the way that pleases Him, in reverence and fear."
–Hebrews 12: 22-24 & 28 (written between 50-70AD)
The daughter of Zion is left like a shanty in a vineyard, like a shed in a cucumber field, like a city besieged. Had Yahweh Sabaoth not left us a few survivors, we should be like Sodom, we should be the same as Gomorrah." –Isaiah 1:8-9 (8th cent BC: Zion is Jerusalem).
"Even now the axe is being laid to the root of the trees, so that nay tree failing to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire." John the Baptist's warning to the Old Covenant people of God in Matthew 3:10
In chapters 12-13 Christ has given John the terrible vision of Satan's evil trinity (the Dragon (Satan)- the Sea Beast (the Roman Empire)- the Land Beast (the False Prophet Judea/Israel who denies the Messiah to the world). These are the enemies assaulting the early Church and Christ has made it clear (in chapter 13) that this Satan inspired attack will require the New Covenant Church's absolute obedience and faithfulness unto death. The question that would naturally come to 1st century believers after receiving this revelation is "Can we survive such an immense and organized attack?" In this last section of the Sanctions portion of the Covenant Treaty, Jesus addresses these fears by giving John a message of comfort. He also provides the reasons why the Church can have confidence in the midst of suffering as well as the promise that she will overcome her enemies and will take her place (as the prophet Daniel's prophesized in ch. 2) as the unshakable 5th Kingdom who will rule all nations of the earth. His message is that the holy ones of the New Israel are stronger than those who make war against her. Jesus does this by following the revelation of the 3 Satanic enemies by immediately revealing a 7 fold disclosure of victory and judgment in the heavens. Chapter 14 is the last of the Sanctions of the Covenant Treaty. It is a prelude to the victory to be completed by the King on the white horse in Revelation chapter 19 and a prelude to the total destruction of the enemies' forces in chapters 19-20.
Please read chapter 14:1-5 The Lamb and His companions on Mt. Zion
Revelation 14: 1 "Next in my vision I saw Mount Zion, and standing on it the Lamb who had with him a 144,000 people, all with his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads."
This is the third reference to Psalms 2. The other 2 references were to Ps.2:8 "With an iron scepter you will break them, shatter them like so many pots.." which is found in Rev. 2:26-27 and 12:5 and refer to Jesus as Messiah. In this verse, from Ps. 2:4-6, Yahweh comforts His Church and reminds them: " He who is enthroned in the heavens laughs, Yahweh makes a mockery of them, then in his anger rebukes them, in his rage he strikes them with terror. 'I myself have anointed my king on Zion my holy mountain.'"
Question: Where is the King-Lamb "standing" and who stands with Him? Where have you heard of these holy ones before, in what chapter? Answer: on Mt. Zion with the 144,000 sealed Israelites from the 12 tribes who accepted the Jesus as the Messiah and had been sealed on the foreheads by the Angel of the Living God in Rev. chapter 7.
Question: Where was the Lamb last "standing" in chapter 5 verse 6 and what is the significance of Mt. Zion? Hint: Mt. Zion is mentioned 7 times in the New Testament: Mat. 21:5; John 12:15; Romans 9:33; 11:26; Hebrews 12:22; and 1Peter 2:6 and Rev. 14:1. And according to my count 152 times in the Old Testament! Answer: In chapter 5 the Lamb (Christ) is "standing" in sacrifice before the throne of God. Remember we discussion in Chapter 5 the meaning of the "Standing or Perpetual Sacrifice" in the Old Covenant Sacrificial system the 2 lambs that were sacrificed daily for the sins of the people which were a foreshadow of Christ's passion on the Cross. Now Christ is "standing" in the Heavenly Jerusalem in company with His people who are redeemed and restored to Eden/ Mt Zion in perfect communion with God the Father. Zion was the city of Jerusalem/ the earthly throne of God (the Temple) but this verse refers to the heavenly Zion.
You will remember we discussed the significance of the term "mountain" in relation to God's Covenant people and the Temple in Jerusalem where God's people, through the sacrificial system, were restored to communion and fellowship with Yahweh. In Ex. 15:17 Israel is referred to as the mountain of God's inheritance: "You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain which is your heritage, the place which you, Yahweh, have made your dwelling, the sanctuary, Yahweh, prepared by your own hands." The Temple in Jerusalem located on Mt. Moriah was God's mountain: "Send out your light and your truth; they shall be my guide, to lead me to your holy mountain to the place where you dwell." Psalms 43:3.
Question: Can you think of other examples in Scripture where a mountain played an important role in Salvation History? Answer: Mt. Moriah where Abraham offered up Isaac to God (Genesis chapter 22); Mt Ararat where Norah's Ark settled after the great Flood (Gen ch. 8); Mt. Sinai where Moses encountered God (Ex. 3:1) and where God gave the 10 Commandments and the first Pentecost occurred; Mt. Moriah (also called Mt. Zion) and the building of Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 7-8 and 2 Chron. 3:1); the Mt. of Beatitudes where Jesus gave the "Law of the New Covenant"(Matt. 5); the Mt. of Transfiguration in each of the Gospels where Jesus was revealed in his glory as the Messiah (Mat. 17:1-8, Mk 9:2-8 & Lk 9:28-36); and the Mt. of Olives where Jesus ascended to the Father (Acts chapter 1). For a more complete list see the Chart of God's Holy Mountains in the Charts section.
But Mt. Zion is more than just a national symbol of Israel. Zion is a symbol of Israel as a redeemed Covenant people in communion with God. Zion is united symbolically with the Garden of Eden, which according to the sacred Oral Tradition of the Jews, was located on a mountain. As a redeemed people God had created the Old Covenant Church to bring them back to Eden and restored communion with Him. But now that Israel/Judah had rejected the Messiah, it had become "a mountain of destruction" against whom God's wrath had turned just as He had in 586BC (Jer. 51:25 "I am setting myself against you, mountain of destruction, Yahweh declares, destroyer of the whole world! I shall reach out my hand for you and send you tumbling from the crags and make you a burnt-out-mountain." Now Mt. Zion is the New Covenant Israel. This is what John sees in chapter 14 and it is what the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews wrote about in Hebrews 12:22-28 (quoted on page one of this lesson) "But what you have come to is Mt. Zion and to the City of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church of first-born sons, enrolled as citizens of heaven.." (v. 22-23). And by the way, this concept of the dwelling place of God or gods being on a mountain and man's expulsion from that paradise is contained in every creation legend of every ancient culture (like Mt. Olympus of the Greeks). It wasn't that the Jews copied the legends of other cultures, instead there was a collective memory of Eden that was expressed in the telling of the origin tales of these peoples!
Question: In Rev. 14 verse 1 why do the 144,000 have the Lamb's and the Father's names written on their foreheads? Answer: there are several symbolic connections:
1) This mark is in contrast to those who carry the mark of the Beast. In our baptism we are forgiven the original sin passed down by out original parents, Adam and Eve, and receive divine son (and daughter) -ship. We carry the "name" of our true Father and live in the image of the Son.
2) Then too, there may be a connection to the High Priest who wore a ban on his forehead that read: 'Consecrated to Yahweh" (Ex. 28:36). We have, through our divine son-ship been consecrated as priest-kings of the New Covenant.
3) Religious Jews also wore the Shema, the Old Covenant profession of faith, tied on the their right hands and on their foreheads as stipulated in Deut.6:8. These are called tefilin (tephillim)or phylacteries. The Beast's stamp on the hand and forehead is a parody of this practice. In the New Covenant we no longer do this because God has written His law on our hearts as He promised in Jeremiah 31:31-33.
Revelation 14: 2-3 "I heard a sound coming out of heaven like the sound of the ocean or the roar of thunder; it was like the sound of harpists playing their harps. There before the throne they were singing a new hymn in the presence of the four living creatures and the elders, a hymn that could be learnt only by the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the world (land)."
Question: Where have you heard of this new hymn or new song before in Revelation? Answer: in chapter 5:7-13 when John first witnesses heavenly liturgy and the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders singing the new hymn to the Lamb. The new hymn or song is prophesized 7 times in the Old Testament (Ps 33:13; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Is, 42:10 and mentioned twice in the New Testament (Rev. 5:9 and 14:3).
Question: Why is a "new" song necessary? Answer: this is the new liturgy brought about by the new epoch in the history of redemption. This song belongs exclusively to the Church (see Jesus' promise in 2:17).
Revelation 4-5 "These are the ones who have kept their virginity and not been defiled with women; they follow the Lamb wherever he goes; they, out of all people, have been redeemed to be the first-fruits for God and for the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths and no fault can be found in them."
There are two major different interpretations of verse 4 by Catholic commentators. The first group take the expression "defiled themselves with women" literally suggesting that that John is speaking of literal celibacy and they reference Jesus' statement concerning the unique gift of celebrity in Matthew 19:11-12 "But he [Jesus] replied, 'It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.'" Jesus is talking about 3 classifications of men. The first group includes men born with a condition that prevents them from normal sexual activity. The second group includes men who have been mutilated to destroy their ability to procreate. It was the custom to castrate those men who protected and served in the King's harem. It was the duty of these men to care for the bride (brides) of the ruler. The third group Jesus speaks of is composed of men who have chosen celibacy over normal sexuality in order to serve the King of Kings and His Bride, the Church. This passage is why the Roman Catholic Church limits the priesthood (in the majority of cases) to those men who have been given the "gift" of celibacy. It is important that the Greek word for virgin in this passage is masculine (the demonstrative pronoun outoi is masculine).
Did you notice that to make His point about the gift of celibacy Jesus uses the word "eunuch" in a symbolic sense to stress His point. He does not mean that men called to the priesthood should be physically mutilated in order to serve the Bride. The second group of commentators use this example of the symbolic use of the word "eunuch" in their interpretation of the Rev. 14:4 passage. Their point is that the word "virginity" is being used in the same symbolic way for a pure and holy state. The New Jerusalem commentators suggest that the term "virgin" is being used metaphorically just as in the Old Testament marital infidelity is a metaphor for idolatry and in this case is being contrasted with the worship of the beast. These 144,000 men have remained faithful and true and have rejected worship of false gods and therefore are sealed to serve the Lamb.
The key phrase for me in this passage is "they have not been defiled with women." Question: Would God consider normal relations between a man and a woman in a covenental marriage as defilement? Answer: Marriage has always been considered a holy union. It is a sacrament of our faith so how can there be defilement? It is true that a man is defiled if he had fornicated, but this passage makes no distinction between a lawful or unlawful union. I think we need to look at Scripture for our answer. In the Old Testament chastity (sexual abstinence) was a requirement for a soldier-priest during periods of consecration or when waging holy war. Ex. 19:14-15 "So Moses came down from the mountain [Sinai] to the people; he made the people sanctify themselves and they washed their clothes. He then said to the people, 'Be ready for the day after tomorrow; do not touch a woman.'" Sex between a man and a woman in a covenant relationship is good but virginity (chastity) is holy. Also see: Lev. 15:16; Deut 20:7; 23:10-11; 1Sam 21:4-5; 2Sam 11:8-11). Throughout the Bible religious fidelity is called chastity (2cor 11:2) while fornication and harlotry are used as metaphors for apostasy and idolatry (Isa 1:21; Jer 2:20-3:11; Ez 16:15-43; Rev. 2:14, 20-22). Those who worship the Beast are fornicators; those sealed by the Lamb are chaste.
John also tells us that these "are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes." The word "follow" is a typical Biblical metaphor for the obedience of a disciple (Matt. 9:9; 10:38; 16:24/ Mark 9:38; 10:21, 28; Luke 9:23; John 8:12; 10:4-5, 27; 21:22). They also "have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb." Question: What does the expression "Firstfruits" remind you? Hint: see the chart of the 7 Sacred Holy Days of the Old Testament. Answer: this refers to a sacrifice: the offering up of the first harvest of the land to Yahweh, claimed by Him as His exclusive property (Ex. 22:29; 23:16, 19; Lev 23:9-21; Deut 18:405; Neh 10:35-27; Prov 3:9-10). These holy men have offered themselves up to God's service for Christ's sake and are the "first fruits" of the Church: the first generation of the priesthood from the Old Covenant Jews and Israelites who serve Christ and His Bride. (Some Catholic commentators do not see them as the first priesthood but only as the nucleus of Old Covenant believers, men and women, who became the New Israel).
"no lie was found in their mouths and no fault can be found in them."
Question: Why are they characterized this way? Answer: they have been cleansed from sin in the blood of the Lamb. God's holy people are characterized by truthfulness (Eph. 4:24-27). This is in contrast to the Beast in the image of the Dragon, the father of Lies (Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9) and his followers who practice worship of the Beast: idolatry is the basic Lie.
Question: According the verses 4-5 there are five characteristics that identify the people who can learn the New Song. What are they? Answer: 1) they are not defiled: they are virgin; 2) they follow the Lamb; 3) they are as first fruits; 4) no lie is found in their mouth, they are blameless; 5) they are male.
In order to understand these verses it is important to keep them in the context of Zion: the throne of God/the city of the servants of God. The inhabitants of Zion in the Old Testament are variously called: "daughters" (Song of Songs); "daughter" (2Kings 19:21; Micha 4:8, etc), "sons" (Joel 1:12; "prophets" (Jer 23:14-15); "virgins" (Lam 2:10) or "virgin" which is the most frequent term for Zion herself in the OT (2Kings 91:21; Isa 23:12; 37:22; Jer 14:17; 18:13: 31:4,21; Lam. 1:15; 2:13; Amos 5:2).
Notice the repetition of Revelation 5:6-11 found in Revelation 14:1-5:
v. 1 "..I saw Mt. Zion, and standing on it the Lamb
v. 6 "..then I saw...a Lamb standing"
v. 2 "it was like the sound of harpists playing their harps."
v. 8 "each one of them was holding a harp."
v. 3 "before the throne they were singing a new hymn"
v. 8 & 9 "..the One sitting on the throne...
They sang a new hymn:"
v. 3 "in the presence of the 4 living creatures and the elders.."
v. 8 "the 4 living creatures prostrated themselves....and with them the 24 elders.."
v. 4 "they follow the Lamb...redeemed to be the first fruits for God and the Lamb."
v. 9 "You bought people for God of every race, language, people, and nation.."
There is also what some scholars call the Law of Anticipation Theory in the book of Revelation. In this second half of Revelation you will notice that some of the action (visions) are anticipated in one chapter and revealed or paralleled in the next. As we continue please notice the links between these passages:
Rev. chapter 13 (the 2 Beasts) is anticipated in:
Chapter 11: 1-13 (the 2 witnesses)
Rev. chapters 17-19 (Babylon the great prostitute) is anticipated in:
Chapter 14:8 (fallen Babylon)
Rev. chapter 16 (the 7 cups of wrath) is anticipated in:
Chapter 14:10 (the cup of retribution)
Rev. chapter 19: 17-21 (defeat of the Beast) is anticipated in:
Chapter 16: 12-14 (Beast's forces preparing for war)
Rev. chapters 21-22 (the New Jerusalem) is anticipated in:
Chapter 19:7-9 (the reign of the Christ)
The rest of chapter 14 is divided into 7 sections, which is a vision of the glorified Christ who is flanked on each side by 3 angels. This is the transition between the Trumpet-visions, which were the proclamations of judgment, and the Chalice-visions, which are the applications of God's judgment. Just before this transition each of the first 3 angels make a special proclamation concerning the Lamb's victory. The last 3 angels will perform special actions to assist Christ in implementing His conquest. Please notice how these angelic proclamations and actions parallel the duties of the New Covenant Universal Church, especially the actions and duties of the hierarchy of the Church.
v.6 Angel #1: announces the Gospel
v. 8 Angel #2: announces "Babylon has fallen"
v. 9 Angel #3: announces judgment against those who follow the Beast
v. 14 CHRIST: as seen in Daniel 7:13 but with a sharp sickle in His hand
v. 15 Angel #1: shouts to Christ that the harvest of the earth is ripe
v. 17 Angel #2: comes out of the Temple in heaven and carries a sharp sickle
in his hand
v. 18 Angel #3: in charge of the fire of God's altar shouts to the angel with the sharp sickle to begin the harvest of the grapes of the earth.
Please read Revelation 14:6-13: The Gospel and the Poisoned Cup
Revelation 14: 6-7 "Then I saw another angel, flying high overhead, sent to announce the gospel of eternity to all who live on the earth, every nation, race, language and tribe. He was calling, 'Fear God and glorify him, because the time has come for him to sit in judgment; worship the maker of heaven and earth and sea and the springs of water."
Question: This is the second time John has seen an angel flying high overhead. Where in Rev. did he first see an angel flying in mid-heaven and how is the message different? Answer: In Rev 8:13 the angel-cherubim flew above crying woe to the Land but this angel is announcing the gospel.
Question: What people of the earth receive this message from angel #1 and what is the symbolic number associated with the classification of these people? Answer: every 1) nation, 2) race, 3) language 4) tribe. The number 4 is symbolic of the entire earth. The Gospel message is for all mankind.
Question: Do you recall other passages in Revelation where this formula has been used and what is the symbolism behind that number? It is used 5 times (with variation but always the same 4 classifications in Rev. 5:9; 7:9; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6. Five is the number of grace.
Question: Does the spread of the Gospel message over the entire earth remind you of any particular New Testament passage? Answer: I am reminded or several verses; for example: Matthew 24:14 "This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed to the whole world as evidence to the nations. And then the end will come." Matthew 28:19-20a "Go therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you."
St. Paul tells us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was indeed preached to the known world before the end of Old Covenant worship in 70AD: Romans 1:8; 10:18; Col 1:5-6, 23. Jews of the Old Covenant were living all across the Roman world and God had an obligation to the people of the Old Covenant that the Gospel be preached to them before He sat in judgment on the Jews of the Old Covenant who rejected the Messiah and before he withdrew Old Covenant worship (the Temple) and established the New Covenant Church as the New Israel.
Revelation 14: 8 "A second angel followed him, calling, Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, Babylon which gave the whole world the wine of retribution to drink."
This is the first time Babylon is directly mentioned in Revelation.
Question: Do you want to make an educated guess how many times John will mention the destruction of Babylon in Revelation? Answer: John will mention the destruction of Babylon 7 times: 14:8; 16:17-21; 17: 16; 18:1-3, 4-8, 9-20, and 21-24.
This is the first direct prophetic reference to Babylon that will anticipate the full exposition to come in chapters 17-19. You may remember that there were symbolic references to Babylon in the Trumpet judgments of chapter 9. Babylon in the Old Testament was a nation in opposition to God who seduced people into fornication: worshiping false gods. In Isaiah chapter 21, Isaiah prophesizes Babylon's destruction before her rise as a world power. Isaiah 21:9 is almost a direct quote of Revelation 14:8 "He shouted again and said 'Babylon has fallen, has fallen, and all the images of her gods he has shattered to the ground!'" Later Babylon became the symbol for apostate Israel whoring after false gods.
Let's think in 1st century terms. The 7 churches of Revelation, who understood Old Testament symbolism and who were already familiar with letters of St Peter, must have understood his meaning immediately. In his first epistle, Peter described the local church from which he wrote as "Your sister in Babylon, who is with you among the chosen, sends you greetings; so does my son, Mark." (1Peter 5:13). Many commentators, including The New Jerusalem scholars, interpret Peter's reference as being Rome. We know he established the Universal Church there and was martyred there. But Peter lived and had his headquarters in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1; 12:3; Gal 1:18; 2:1-9) before he went to Antioch (7 yrs) and later to Rome. He also traveled frequently back and forth from Rome to Jerusalem. He was in Jerusalem for the great council of AD49/50=Acts 15 and it was on a trip to Judea that the Roman nobleman Clement (the 4th Pope) was introduced to St. Peter by Joseph Barnabas and was converted to Christianity (Recollections of Clement). And a chapter earlier in 1Peter 4:17 Peter wrote that the time had come "for the judgment to begin at the household of God"= Jerusalem.
The strongest evidence for this city being Jerusalem is the "unfaithful harlot (prostitute)" imagery in Revelation. Rome could not be an unfaithful harlot to God. She never entered into a covenant relationship with God. It is Israel who became the unfaithful wife and the Old Testament is full of imagery of unfaithful Israel as Babylon, which we will see in chapters 17 and 18. In addition, John has only dealt with Rome insofar as Rome was related to Israel as her pagan overlord. The main thrust of the book of Revelation has always been apostate Judea/Israel so why should the focus change? Then too we must come back to Revelation 11:8 which describes "the Great City" as "where the Lord was crucified" which has to be Jerusalem. This same expression will be used "the Great City" in 16:19. And finally, in Matthew 24:14 Jesus said that the end of Jerusalem would follow the preaching of the Gospel among the nations and this is the action that has just taken place in Revelation 14:6-7.
The next verse will refer to this "wine of retribution" as God's "cup of retribution." The cup or wine of God's wrath is a familiar Old Testament symbol (see Isaiah 51:17 and Jeremiah 25:15 for example). It indicates the fearful judgments and punishments which God will visit upon covenant breakers and evildoers (Revelation 18:6 and Psalm 75:9). The cup itself is probably the wide bowl-like cup used to pour out the blood of sacrifice on the altar in Jerusalem. Wine and the cup of God's wrath are part of the four prominent symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets of Yahweh [for more information of the symbolic imagery of wine and the cup of wrath in Scripture please refer to How to Study the Old Testament Books of the Prophets in the Bible Study Section and the Chart on The Symbolic Imagery of the Prophets in the Charts section]. In our Revelation passage the cup of retribution or wrath is a reference to Isaiah 51:17 and another link to Jerusalem: Awake, awake! To your feet, Jerusalem! You who from Yahweh's hand have drunk the cup of his wrath." It is also another link to Ezekiel. Chapter 23 of Ezekiel is full of Egypt/Exodus imagery, connections to Babylon, and idolatry exposed in rather erotic fornication/ adultery imagery. This allegorical history of Jerusalem and Samaria is followed by the vision of the siege of Jerusalem which the prophet received, as he tells us, in December /January 589/588BC time period just before the destruction of Jerusalem (July 587/6BC).
Please read Ezekiel chapter 23. The cup of destruction is mentioned 5 times between 23:31-33. The sister is Samaria, which was once the Northern Kingdom of Israel destroyed by the Assyrians in 722BC. A key passage is 23:31-34:
"'Since you have copied your sister's behavior, I shall put her cup in your hand.'
The Lord Yahweh says this: 'You will drink you sister's cup, a cup both deep and wide, leading to laughter and mockery, so ample the draught it hold.
You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow.
Cup of affliction and devastation, the cup of your sister Samaria,
You will drink it, you will drain it;
Then you will break it in pieces and lacerate your own breasts.
For I have spoken''declared the Lord Yahweh."
Question: What is the cup that Judah will drink? The drinking of this cup was symbolic imagery that prophesized an event in Salvation history. What was that event that took place 6 months (to 1 ½ yrs.) after this prophecy? Answer: 1) the cup of affliction and devastation. 2) Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed by Babylon in 587(6)BC on the 9th of Ab [circa our July].
Question: Is there a parallel between the prophecy of this passage in Ezekiel and an event in Salvation history that took place on the 9th of Ab in 70AD? Answer: Yes, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple
Question: What is the parallel between the wine of retribution in Revelation 14 and the cup of affliction and devastation in Ezekiel? Answer: they both spell judgment and disaster.
Question: If Babylon is Jerusalem (Judea) is there a contrast we should notice here between the "cup of wrath" and the cup had Judea been offered by the Messiah? Answer: Jesus the Messiah offered them the gift of the cup of Salvation: the most holy Eucharist.
Revelation 14: 9-10 "A third angel followed, shouting aloud, 'All those who worship the beast and his statue, or have had themselves branded on the hand or forehead, will be made to drink the wine of God's fury which is ready, undiluted, in his cup of retribution; in fire and brimstone they will be tortured in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb and the smoke of their torture rise for ever and ever."
These verses refer us back to Rev. 13:15-18. The great sin of the Land Beast, Judea's apostate religious leadership, was the promotion and enforcement of the worship of the Roman Beast (13:11-17). Jesus spoke about his rejection by the Jewish leadership in the first prophecy of His passion in Luke 9:22 "He said, 'The Son of man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.'" To reject God is to choose Satan. The reference to fire and brimstone recalls the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24-28). You may remember we have already seen the connection between Jerusalem and Sodom and Gomorrah in Rev. 9 and the first Trumpet judgment.
The contents of this horrible cup may be associated with poison. One Hebrew equivalent for "poison" is hemah, meaning also heat or wrath. The Greek verb that is used implies mixing the wine with elements that will make it more poisonous. The passage states that it is undiluted which indicates that the punishment is in full measure. In the Old Testament God is often said to give the "cup of inflammation" to nations whom He is about to destroy (Isa 51:17; Lam 4:21; Jer 25:15-16; 49:12; 51:7; Ezek 23:31-34; etc.) They become "drunk" on their own wickedness. The message is: those who drink of "Babylon's" heretical cup of state-worship also will drink the wine of the wrath of God–full strength! (Literally in the Greek "unmixed"). You cannot drink one cup without the other.
Revelation 14: 11-13 "There will be no respire night or day, for those who worship the beast or its statue or accept branding with its name. This is why there must be perseverance in the saints who keep the commandments of God and faith in Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say to me, 'Write down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord! Blessed indeed, the Spirit says; now they can rest for ever after their work, since their good deeds go with them.'"
Revelation 14: 12-13 contains the second of the 7 beatitudes or blessings that occur in Revelation and here, for the first time, the faithful of God are called "blessed." (The 7 blessings are: Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; & 22:14).
The assurance is that the Church must persevere in faithfulness; wicked persecutors of the Church will be destroyed. The first century Church understood that their perseverance and faithfulness could result in suffering and death and for their sakes God calls out from heaven with words of assurance that John is commanded to write down. "Blessed are those who die in the Lord!" because "now they can rest for ever after their work, since their good deeds go with them." Because of the work of our Savior and Redeemer, heaven has been opened to God's covenant people. In the Old Testament the righteous had no hope of heaven. No animal sacrifice was pure enough to remove the stain of sin and the original sin we had inherited from our original parents, Adam and Eve. It was only through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God that the veil was torn and the way made open. The limbus patrum, the "Abraham's Bosom" of the Old Testament (Luke 16:22) has been unlocked and its inhabitants set free by Christ (1Peter 3:18-19 & 4:6). "Blessed are those who die in the Lord!" because we now longer need to fear death; death has no power over us because it has been conquered by the resurrection of Christ! And "their good deeds go with them." 1Cor. 3:13 "The Day which dawns in fire will make it clear and the fire itself will test the quality of each person's work. The one whose work stands up to it will be given his wages..." And look at Rev. 19:7-8 " The reign of the Lord our God Almighty has begun; let us be glad and joyful and give glory to God, because this is the time for the marriage of the Lamb. His bride is ready, and she has been able to dress herself in dazzling white linen, because her linen is made of the good deeds of the saints." Don't miss the texture of the fabric of the Bride's bridal gown.
Question: What is it that makes the Bride's linen gown glowing white? Answer: The good deeds of the Saints that gives glory to Christ and to the Church! For more on faith and works see James 2: 14-26 . In 2:14 James says "How dies it help, my brothers, when someone who has never done a single good act claims to have faith? Will that faith bring salvation? He answers his own question when he writes in v. 17 "In the same way faith: if good deeds do not go with it, it is quite dead." And in v. 26 "As a body without a spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds." The faith of the Church cannot be separated from her works/deeds! See the Catechism of the Catholic Church #s 162, 2447, 1814, & 1815 which states: "The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it. But "faith apart from works is dead": when it is deprived of hope and love, faith does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of his Body."
Please read 14:14-20 The Harvest and the Vintage of the Land ( Christ and angels 4-6)
John the Baptist: "But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, 'Brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming retribution? [...]. Even now the axe is being laid to the root of the trees, so that any tree failing to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire." Matthew 3:7-10
Revelation 14:14 Now in my vision I saw a white cloud and, sitting on it, one like a son of man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand."
We have seen 3 angels proclaiming the sovereignty of God, prediction the fall of "Babylon" = making proclamations to the land of Israel (v. 6-13), and describing the future torment of idolaters. Now 3 more angels appear performing symbolic actions over the Land of Israel (v. 15, 17-20). In the center between these 2 groups of angels is the Son of man as John saw him clothed with the Glory-Cloud in Rev. 10:1 and as Daniel saw Him coming in the Glory-Cloud in Dan. 7:13:
"I was gazing into the visions of the night,
when I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven,
as it were a son of man.
He came to the One most venerable
And was led into his presence.
On him was conferred rule,
Honor and kingship,
And all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.
His rule is an everlasting rule
Which will never pass away.
And his kingship will never come to an end."
The message of encouragement to the Church is let the Beasts do their worst, they cannot win because Christ has ascended and has received everlasting dominion over all peoples and nations. His kingdom will never be overthrown. It is the promise of Daniel's 5th Kingdom.
Question: There are some subtle differences between Daniel's vision of Christ looking forward in time from the 6th century BC to John's vision in the 1st century. Can you discern the differences and what they mean? Hint: you should fine 3 points of difference. Answer: 1). In Daniel's vision Christ is "coming" but in John's vision He is already seated in Kingship on the Glory-Cloud as His throne. This is Rev. 14:1 and Psalms 2:4-6 = "He who is enthroned in the heavens laughs, Yahweh makes a mockery of them [those who oppose Him] then in his anger rebukes them, in his rage he strikes them with terror. 'I myself have anointed my king on Zion my holy mountain.'" 2) Christ is crowned in John's vision and 3) He carries a sickle.
Question: Would you care to make an guess how many times the word "sickle" is used in this passage? Answer: Yes, 7 times.
NOTE: You may wonder why I have listed these angels in two sets of 3 angels instead of numbering them 1-6. It seemed inappropriate to me, considering the negative symbolic significance of the number 6, to number these messengers of God as 6 [see the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture in the Resources section. Besides, with Christ as the centerpiece I think it is obvious that John meant us to see these messengers as 2 sets of 3. Three is the number of Trinity as well as fullness or completion. You may want to remember this as you study Scripture on your own. A list or set may not be meant to be thought of as one series but a broken or divided series. As I have come to understand the very important emphasis on numbers in Scripture I have even come to think of Creation in terms to 2 sets of 3 days each instead of 6 days followed by the holy 7 th day = the Sabbath. Re-read Genesis chapter 1 and notice how God creates time, space, and life on the first 3 days and then fills creation on the next 3 days with the sun, moon and stars filling time; the birds of the air and the sea creatures filling earth's space; and life (vegetation of the earth) being filled with the beasts and man.
Revelation 14:15-16 "Then another angel came out of the sanctuary and shouted at the top of his voice to the one sitting on the cloud, 'Ply your sickle and reap: harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe.' Then the one sitting on the cloud set his sickle to work on the earth and the harvest of earth was reaped."
Question: In this second set of angels the first angel repeats what the first angel of the triad had said in v. 7. What does he repeat and what does this angel mean in contrast to the 1st angel of the first triad? Answer: "the time has come." Angel 1-A announced judgment but angel #1-B announces blessings and the gathering of the elect. Jesus described the Kingdom of God as a great harvest in Mark 4:26-29 and He told His disciples: "Look, I say to you, life up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are ripe for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages [Rev. 14:13], and is gathering fruit [Rev. 14:4] for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together." (John 4:35-36). "
So the angel calls out to Christ to put in His sickle and reap. Please note that there is no mention of destruction in Christ's harvest. This verse reminds me of Jesus' statement in Matthew 9:37-38 "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.."
The image of the sickle in Scripture is connected with the Feast of Weeks, called the Feast Pentecost in the 1st century. It was the fourth Holy Day in the Old Covenant religious calendar and was celebrated in commemoration for the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai and the creation of the Old Covenant Church. It was celebrated 50 days after the grain had been harvested at the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23 &Deut. 16:9). This was the same Feast Day when the Apostles and disciples in the upper room were praying and the Holy Spirit was poured out in salvation and blessing (Acts 2) on the New Covenant Church (see the chart of the 7 Sacred Feasts).
Revelation 14:17-18: "Another angel who also carried a sharp sickle, came out of the Temple in heaven, and the angel in charge of the fire left the altar and shouted at the top of his voice to the one with the sharp sickle, 'Put your sickle in and harvest the bunches from the vine of the earth; all its grapes are ripe.'"
We now return to the theme of judgment. The gathering of the New Covenant Church will mean the excommunication of Old Covenant Israel. St. Paul understood this and used the story of how the recognition of Isaac as the "son of promise" required the casting out of Ishmael in Genesis 21 as an allegory to explain the rejection of old Israel and the recognition of the Church as the New Israel and the "heir of the promise' in his letter to the Galatians. In the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament the work ekballo is used in the casting out of Ishmael in Genesis 21. You will remember our discussion of the meaning of this word as "excommunication".
Please read St Paul's contrast of Ishmael and Isaac in Galatians 4:22-31 and the link Paul makes between Isaac as the "son of promise" and the New Covenant believes baptized in Christ as the "new Israel" and the "sons of promise" who have replaced the "elder sons" as the heirs of salvation. Old Covenant Israel, God's firstborn son, in rejecting the Messiah lost her place as the reshith, instead that title and honor passed to the "younger son", New Covenant Israel. We have become the "adopted" heirs.
Returning to Revelation 14:17-18:
Question: From where does the #2 angel of the second triad emerge and what does he carry? Answer: from the Temple in heaven carrying a sharp sickle.
Question: From where does the #3 angel come? Answer: from the altar
Question: What is the message of angel #3 to angel #2? Answer: to use the sickle to work the harvest of the vine of the earth or land.
Question: This angel's harvest is a harvest of destruction. Is he going to assist in the first harvest begun by Christ? Think carefully before you answer and re-read these verses carefully. Where was the last time we visited the altar of God? See Revelation 6:9-11. Answer: No, this is not just the harvest of the righteous
At first it may seem to be the same harvest but John uses imagery that goes all the way back to the beginning of this section of Revelation when Christ instructed his Saints to pray, not just for Israel's conversion but for Israel's destruction as well. Remember in 6:9-11 we saw the Saints gathered around the golden altar of incense and offering up their prayers for justice and vengeance, "How Long O Lord" they cried out! Then shortly after that scene the angel took the golden censer of the Saint's prayers filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it onto the Land (this was the beginning of the Trumpets section). Now at the close of the Trumpets section John sees the same angel "the one who has the power over the fire" (meaning the fire burning on God's altar), and he comes specifically from God altar where the Saints' prayers cry out in order to give judgment (this may be the archangel Uriel "fire of God"). He prays for a harvest but this time it is a harvest of the wicked, the "grapes of wrath" that the prophet Joel spoke of in 3:13. Christ's harvest is of the righteous who now have access to the kingdom of heaven but the Angel of the fire of God's altar is harvesting those called to judgment. This is the first harvest of the "wheat and the weeds" found in Jesus' parable of Matthew 13:24-30 and explained in 13:36-43: "The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of falling and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth." There will also be a final harvest in the Final Judgment when Christ returns to judge the nations of the world, but this judgment in Revelation 14 is the judgment of Old Covenant Israel.
Question: Who are those called to judgment? What does verse 18 refer to; what symbolism is used and what does it mean? Answer: God's Vineyard.
In the Old Testament and in the New Testament "the Vineyard" is symbolic imagery for Israel [see the study: How to Study the Books of the Old Testament Prophets and the chart on symbolic imagery of the Prophets in the Chart section]. In this passage the announcement is that Israel is ripe for judgment! This is what the prophet Isaiah wrote about in Isaiah 5:1-7. V. 7 "Now the vineyard of Yahweh Sabaoth is the House of Israel, and the people of Judah the plant he cherished. He expected fair judgment, but found injustice, uprightness, but found cries of distress" and in the Gospel of John Jesus warned His disciples: "I am the true vine, and my father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away..." John 15:1. This is the fulfillment of the warning the last Old Testament prophet of Yahweh, John the Baptizer, made to the leaders of the Old Covenant people in Matthew 3:7-10 "But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, 'Brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming retribution? [...]. Even now the axe is being laid to the root of the trees, so that any tree failing to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire." Matthew 3:7-10
Here is also another link to the prophet Ezekiel. See Ezekiel 15:1-8 and "The Parable of the Vine". The reference in verse 4 to the fire that burns off both ends refers to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom in 722BC by Assyria and then a 136/5 years later the destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians in 587/6BC which left Jerusalem in the middle: the last to be destroyed–by an all consuming fire.
"So, the Lord Yahweh says this: As the wood of the vine among the forest trees, which I have thrown on the fire for fuel, so shall I treat the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
I shall set my face against them. They have escaped one fire, but fire will devour them yet. And you will know that I am Yahweh, when I set my face against them.
I shall reduce the country to a desert, because of their infidelity, declares the Lord Yahweh." Ezekiel 15:6-8
Question: Was this prophecy repeated in 70AD? Answer: YES. This fearful theme of judgment and destruction was repeated from 66-69AD in the Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire when Judea ran with blood from the devastation of the Roman armies and the infighting between the Jews. The Romans did not besieged Jerusalem until the majority of Judea, Samaria (& the Galilee) and Idumea had been subdued. The strategy of the Babylonians was repeated by the Roman legions as Jerusalem had been left in the middle to be besieged and destroyed by fire. The symbolism is clear: Jerusalem is the vine harvested in blood and thrown on the fire of destruction! Jesus prophesized this destruction in Matthew 23:13-39 and 24:15-22 when delivering the first part of His last homily from the Temple in Jerusalem He cursed the Old Covenant authority in the 7 woes or curses of Matthew 23:13-32 and warned the people in Matthew 23:33-36: "You serpents, brood of vipers, how can you escape being condemned to hell [Gehenna]? This is why, look, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some you will slaughter and crucify, some you will scourge in your synagogues and hunt from town to town; and so you will draw down on yourselves the blood of every upright person that has been shed on earth, from the blood of Abel the holy to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. In truth I tell you, it will all recoil on this generation." Exactly 40 years after Jesus' Ascension the city of Jerusalem fell to the Romans and the Temple was destroyed, never to be rebuilt, the Old Covenant came to an end because without the Temple no sacrifices could be offered in atonement for sin and the perpetual [daily] sacrifice of the Tamid lambs could not be offered on Yahweh's altar [see Exodus 29:38-42]. After 70AD only one sacrifice remained, the perpetual sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth.
Revelation 14: 19-20 "So the angel set his sickle to work on the earth and harvested the whole vintage of the earth and put it into a huge winepress, the winepress of God's anger, outside the city, where it was trodden until the blood that came out of the winepress was up to the horses bridles as far away as sixteen hundred furlongs."
The Vineyard – Israel (the Land) is judged. It is pressed in the winepress of God's anger and will produce the substance that will be poured from the Chalices in chapter 16. The 6 references to "the land" (or earth as it is translated in the New Jerusalem) in verses 15-19 combined with the symbolic imagery of "the vine of the Land," emphasizes that this is a judgment on the Land of Israel. As one commentator wrote: "It does not seem possible to suppose that St. John could have intended to apply these words to any other country than Israel, or to any other city than Jerusalem. They echo the words of St. John the Baptist, which began the whole Christian prophetic movement, 'Even now is the axe laid to the root of the tree.' What is contingent in the Baptist is absolute in Revelation. Israel is rejected." [Carrington, p. 257. The Meaning of Revelation]. Quoting Mat 3:10, Lk 3:9
The literal translation is 1600 stradia. The number 1600 is a symbolic number which again emphasizes the Land: 4 squared (the Land), times 10 squared (largeness or perfection of order). But it is interesting that this measurement translated into miles is slightly more than the length of present day Israel and the West Bank (what was Samaria in the 1st century and the Northern Kingdom in the 10-8 centuries BC). The whole land of Israel is represented as a winepress overflowing in blood. The blood up to the horse's bridles recalls the Red Sea's destruction of Pharaoh's horses (Ex. 14:23, 28; 15:19). But the bloodshed covers the Land outside the City. There was a literal fulfillment of this in 67-69AD. In Josephus' account of the Jewish War he writes the "Galilee was all over filled with fire and blood," when the Roman legions of Vespasian and Titus overran the country. Josephus says during this time, with the exception of the city of Jerusalem, all the land was covered with death and devastation (Book iii). The Romans cut off the rest of the country from Jerusalem and than destroyed the holy city Jerusalem and the Temple of Yahweh where Josephus writes that 6,000 perished in fire.
As mentioned previously, the fearful theme of judgment and destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was repeated from 66-69AD in the Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire when Judea ran with blood from the devastation of the Roman armies and the infighting between the Jews. Like the Assyrians and the Babylonians who came as harbingers of divine judgment centuries before them, Romans did not besieged Jerusalem until the majority of Judea, Samaria (& the Galilee) and Idumea had been subdued, and history was repeated as Jerusalem was left in the middle to be destroyed by fire.
Question: In addition to those who perished in the devastation the Romans inflicted from the Galilee in the north to the southern limits of Judah, is there another Biblical link to the blood flowing outside the city? Hint: See John 19:20 and Hebrews 13:11-1. Answer: the location outside the city gates is important. It was the precious blood of Jesus of Nazareth that blood flowed outside the city gates in order that salvation might come to the world. Jesus was crucified outside the city walls. It was a practice of the Old Covenant sacrificial system for "the bodies of the animals whose blood is taken into the sanctuary by the high priest for the rite of expiation are burnt outside the camp, and so Jesus too suffered outside the gate to sanctify the people with his own blood. Let us go to him, then, outside the camp and bear his humiliation." (Heb. 13: 9-13). Outside the city was the place of judgment where the body parts of sacrificed animals that were not eaten were disposed of and it was the place of judgment where Christ's blood was shed by an Israel who had rejected Him: "Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted. He released the man they asked for [Barabas] , who had been imprisoned because of rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.".(Luke 23:24-25). There are multiple layers of imagery here: The blood flowing outside the city was Christ's blood, sacrificed for the sins of the world but it is also the blood of apostate Israel who is cast out and excommunicated from the heavenly Jerusalem and disinherited by the Father. "And the people, every one of them, shouted back, 'Let his blood be on us and on our children!'" (Matt. 27:25). Christ offered His blood for the sins of the world in 30AD and 40 years later, in 70AD, the Vine of Israel is cut down and trampled in the Winepress. The destruction of Israel was the culmination of a process that had lasted 40 years. As the Biblical scholar Philip Carrington so eloquently wrote: "It began outside the city when the One they despised and rejected trod the Winepress alone, and of the people there none was with Him. It was in that moment that Jerusalem fell."
The next chapter of Revelation will resume with the theme of the wrath of God as anticipated in Revelation 14:10 and will begin the Succession Arrangements section of the Covenant Treaty. The total destruction is coming but more fuel must be thrown on the fire! Chapter 15 brings the frightening climax of the Wrath of God!
Note: Tertullian, the 2nd century Roman lawyer who became the first great Catholic apologist, recorded that the Roman Emperor Tiberius inquired into the miracle of Jesus' resurrection:"...Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ's divinity, brought the matter before the Senate, with his own decision in favor of Christ. The Senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Caesar [Tiberius] held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christians. Consult your histories..." Tertullian: Apology, chapter 5 (The Ante-Nicene Fathers). Tertullian was a Roman lawyer before his conversion circa 185AD. As a Roman juriconsult he was familiar with the Roman archives and was influenced by them in his own acceptance of Christ as the Son of God and in his defense of the faith as one of the first Catholic apologists. Jesus' Resurrection and Ascension was c.30AD and Tiberius died 37AD. For more information on the earliest historical accounts of Jesus by non-Christians see the Resource section document Historical Evidence of Jesus by Non-Christian Sources.
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