Revelation 14 is an
abrupt change and contrast from chapter 13. Revelation 14 describes God’s
activity, while chapter 13 describes Satan’s. Can good and evil co-exist
in the same time period? Herein lies the mystery of God’s kingdom. Along
with the advancement of God’s Kingdom there has also been an escalation
of evil. This escalation of evil has resulted in the whole world
being engulfed by the power of the beast, his image, and his mark. However
that has not prevented God’s kingdom from growing. This growth is the result
of the work of the Lamb. As the Church continues to follow the Lamb she
will help bring about “that which is to come”.
John sees the Lamb with 144,000 standing on “the Mount Zion”. We know that the Lamb represents Jesus as our redeemer. We were introduced to the 144,000 in Revelation 7. By what is said of them they represent the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. They are the original Jewish converts to Christianity - the first century Church. So John sees the Lamb and His people standing on the Mount Zion.
In the Greek text the definite article is used in reference to Zion. “The” designates this Mount Zion as the true, the real, and separates it and sets it apart from all other mount Zions. This Mount Zion is the fulfillment of all the predictions about Zion. She is the stone that shattered the golden image spoken of by Daniel. A stone that became a great mountain. (Daniel 2:35) Mount Zion is the mountain created by the gospel. Mount Zion is the Everest of mountains. It is the mountain that supports the Lamb and His followers – the Church.
Once again we see the Lamb. Without the Lamb there would be no appearance of the 144,000. Neither would it be possible for these 144,000 to have the Father’s name written in their foreheads. It is only the Lamb that allows us to see, think of, and address God as Father. If your vision and knowledge of the Father is distorted by condemnation, guilt, rejection, or retaliation you need another look at the Lamb.
Revelation 14 is about redemption, not retaliation! (v 3&4) It is a chapter that reveals God’s will and plan for the Church to the Church. She was part of God’s plan before He created the world. She became a manifested reality on earth on the day of Pentecost. Her future is graunteed to be beyond what we could ask or think. Therefore in God’s mind she is designated as “that which is” but she is also part of that “which is to come”. In Revelation 14 we are shown both of these aspects of the Church.
Accordingly this chapter begins with introducing us to the Lamb and the Churches first 144,000 members. As the fulfillment of the Old Covenant they form the nucleus of the New Covenant Church. They experienced that new covenant in its virginity. Of them it is said: they were not “defiled by women”. They are the “first fruits” to the Lamb and they follow the Lamb, without guile or fault. What a testimony of the early Church. They are seen as standing with the Lamb on The Mount Zion. Is the church of today standing with the Lamb on the gospel mountain? For the Church to be standing with anyone else, or anywhere else is to compromise her designated position.
After this introduction John sees three angels in succession. Each has an important proclamation for the Church. The first two angels admonish the Church. With the third angel comes a warning. A warning as compelling as that given to Adam.
First angel: He stresses the importance of the proclamation of the gospel. The Church has been called to proclaim with whom she stands and where she stands. Her standing is referenced as “the everlasting gospel”. It is God’s good news to every nation, family, and language group. It is not intended to bring all people into one religion. The Gospel is intended to enhance cultures, not conform them. First and foremost the gospel informs us that all the people groups of this world are “at-one-ment” with the Father.
To this end the proclamation of the gospel becomes the hour of God’s judgment. Jesus said: “now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” (John 12:31) The proclamation of the gospel draws the line in the sand. It calls the hearer to either accept or reject the claims of God’s Kingdom. To accept those claims is to stand in agreement with the Lamb. To ignore or reject those claims is to cast ones lot with the beast and his system.
Second angel: He proclaims the fall of Babylon. The Church is called to live the gospel, then the fall of Babylon is assured. Compromise the gospel and Babylon thrives. Therefore the only way to combat Babylon is to live the gospel in purity and potency.
Third angel: A warning! "If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand. The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation." (Rev.14:9,10)
It was noted in study eleven, that the giving of the mark is unavoidable. Trade today is dependant on the mark, which is money. In Revelation 13 there is no warning about receiving the mark. Because Revelation 13:6 specifically speaks to and deals with the giving of a mark. However with the three angelic messengers comes a specific warning about receiving the mark. In that warning the receiving of the mark, as well as the worship of the beast and his image, are presented as parallel actions. Anyone who worships money has received the mark, and/or anyone who receives the mark worships money. Doing one precludes having done the other.
John’s phrase: "if any man" calls our attention to two things. First it spells out individual responsibility. Secondly it establishes that there will be no exception to the rule. Since Revelation 14 is to the Church about the Church the warning is first and foremost for the Church. If any of her members receive the mark they will experience the accompanying torment.
There will be no respect of persons. This is further clarified by what is said about where the torment takes place. We are told it takes place "in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb."(verse 10) Who but a Christian can be considered to be in the presence of the Lamb, and the holy angels. (See Eph.2:6) To assume that a Christian could never receive the mark, or worship the beast, is to assume that a Christian is infallible. Have you met such a Christian? The answer is obvious; because we know Christians who have fallen short: ourselves included. However falling short is not the issue here. At issue here are one’s priorities.
God isn’t angry with the individual. God’s cup of indignation is poured out against the system. God is angry at the beast and his system that has engulfed the whole world. It is an economic system that is unjust, unrighteous, and unworthy of the honor and esteem we give it. For it is a system that draws us away from Christ-likeness. God never intended for humanity to be valued on the basis of how much money one has or can earn. Let us be clear on this point: God's vengeance is poured out against the beast. That indignation is irrevocable and unavoidable.
John states that God’s wrath will be “poured out without mixture”. God will not dilute the potency of His indignation. By this phrase John declares that God has predestinated the system to failure. It is not God's intention to make life difficult for you. However He knows the sorrows, pain, and imprisonment that humanity has suffered because of this beastly system. Since God wants His people free His anger is turned against that which is not of Him. Because God loves you, He comes against the system that has harmed you, and held humanity hostage.
Anyone who worships the beast and receives his mark will experience that anger in proportion to your worship of money. This does not preclude that those who are rich will suffer the most. Receiving or not receiving the mark is not determined by how much or how little money a person has. Receiving the mark is about ‘how much money has you’. Ananias and Sapphira are a case in point.(Acts 5:1f) They didn't die because of the amount they withheld. In fact scripture doesn't mention any amount in respect to their story. Peter made it clear - they could have kept it all - the money was in their power to do with as they saw fit. But the money had them in its power. It dictated to them to lie! They obviously considered having it more important than being honest.
You have probably heard preachers come to various conclusions about the story of Ananias and Sapphira, so let me suggest another: God designed the Church to be a fellowship of believers. The Greek word “koinania”, from which we get the word fellowship designates a deeply committed bond. In the Church of Acts this bond included having a common purse. Ananias and Sapphira wanted the benefits of this bond without any cost or commitment on their part. So they lied about their commitment. Their action was deadly to this fellowship. God agreed, He saw it healthier for Ananias and Sapphira to be removed rather than allowing them to live a lie.
Why was the sentence on Ananias and Sapphira so swift and final? Does the story show us how God feels about our attachment to money? Is it in fact a foreshadowing of the warning of Revelation 14? God's position is very clear: Anyone that worships the beast, and receives the mark will drink from the cup of God's wrath, which is paralleled with being tormented by fire and brimstone.
We associate fire and brimstone with final and everlasting judgment. However let us keep in mind what is being judged. It is not the person that is being judged. It is the beastly system that is being judged. The fire and brimstone indicate that the beastly system will go the way of Sodom. Fire is also a cleansing agent, it refines gold. Paul said: "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire: and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.” (1 Cor. 3:13) So if you receive the mark, the trial by fire will bring it to light. Those who have built on the security of money will suffer loss. That loss is stated to be a torment. (Rev.14:10) What would you call the agony that people go through who have just heard of their hoarded investments taking a nose dive. I say it again: take heed, don't put your confidence in money. I think the words of Jesus concerning the unjust steward are fitting and timely: Make friends with mammon of unrighteousness, invest in people.
The torment is stated to take place in the presence of the angels as well as the Lamb. If it wasn't stated by John it would be unbelievable. Angels are assigned to minister to us. (Heb.1:14) The Lamb pictures our forgiveness, our right standing with God, our redemption, our not experiencing what we deserve. Yet here, neither the angels nor our redemption can do anything to alleviate the torment. Is God that hard hearted? No: God is Love! Therefore we must conclude that the torment is directly related to how much the individual has bought into the system. God is not against the person, but He will destroy the beastly system. If you insist on giving your loyalties and allegiance to the beast and his system you will suffer the vengeance directed against the beast and his system. Take note: Tormented in the very presents of the one who came to set you free. Isn't it ironic that when we hold to the wrong beliefs, one can be tormented in the presence of the deliverer; just like the Pharisees, Sadusees, and Scribes of Jesus day.
Verse 11 has a gripping observation: "the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name."
What could describe the torment of inflation more accurately. Is there ever any rest for those who put their trust in the dollar? The hope that tomorrow the economy will have an up turn, becomes a torment with the first stock market report. There is no rest day or night from the constant fluctuation of monies assumed value. You see the problem with the dollar is not epidemic, it is pandemic. There isn't a politician, banker, broker, or even an anti-Christ that can solve the problem. God has set His face against the beast, the image and the mark. God will bring them into final and complete judgment. In God’s kingdom the person is of primary value not money. Revelation comes back to this subject in Chapter 16, so will we.
The Church and Her Future
After giving us the warning not to receive the mark John speaks words of encouragement to the Church. It is in the throws of inflation that the saints will realize the value of their faithfulness. Integrity has its rewards! The systems of the beast, both the religious and economic, have brought a time of testing for the saints. In fact for some it has meant death, but they won't be forgotten. And the works that follow these saints is what leads us into the events of verses 14-20.
Like the rest of the chapter this section also involves the Church. However we are now given the positive side of God’s wrath Verses 14 - 16 gives us the task of the Church. Verses 16-20 focus on God's passion for His Church.
Verse 14 pictures one like the son of man, seated on a white cloud, crowned, and holding a sickle. In Revelation 1:13 John also refers to one like the son of man. However the details given here fall far short of the one like the Son of Man in Revelation 1:13. Here unlike 1:17 John is not overcome by this one’s presents. Like the rider on the white horse this one is crowned. He is given a sickle. This would indicate that this one is not the glorified Jesus, but a personification of the Church. A Church that has come into the position granted her by her LORD. In Hebrews she is spoken of as surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, here she is seated - her struggles are behind her.
With verse 15 the Church is given her commission. The time to fulfill that commission has come. There have been revivals over the centuries, and those revivals have also been a time of great kingdom advances. However all past revivals will fade in comparison to the time of reaping that looms on the horizon. Are you ready for that reaping?
Some think and teach that God has given up on the peoples of this earth. I have heard it repeated often: "If God doesn't punish the world for their sinfulness, He'll have to apologizes to Sodom and Gomorah."
"WRONG!" The truth is: if God does to humanity what tribulation theologians predict He is going to do, He will have to apologize to Jesus. For the heart of the gospel is that Jesus as The Lamb of God took away the sins of the world. So if God punishes the world for their sin He will owe Jesus an apology.
Where did the church get the idea that God will destroy sinfulness by destroying the sinner? (God destroied the power of sin in Christ Jesus. Now it's our turn to get the victory over sin by living in what God provided.) We think that the escalation of sin is an indication that people don't want deliverance. Do you think sin satisfies and brings fulfillment? Definitely not! It is because sin doesn't satisfy that people go deeper and deeper into sin.
The term used for ripe in verse 15 speaks of this very condition. The word speaks of the world’s methods of trying to find fulfillment. There is no fulfillment or satisfaction in what the world offers. The worlds arts, sciences, humanities and religions have no living water, they are dry. (John 4:10) Yet there is a frantic search for spiritual experience and meaning. Church, the fields are white, ready for harvest.(John 4:35)
Unfortunately, much of what the church offers is rooted in the methods of this world. Therefore the church also finds itself in dry places. So the church also needs to get a new perspective on life. She needs to join the Lamb on Mount Zion! So she to needs a deeper understanding of what the gospel is all about!
The Churches Destiny: God’s Winepress
Where it not for what follows
in Revelation there would be no hope for the church or the world. Revival
movements have contributed significantly to the life of the church. However
not a single revival movement has maintained its original momentum. Therefore
God Himself will initiate a program that will seal the Church against all
John states he saw another angel come out of the temple with a sickle. An angel from the altar, who has power over fire, cries to the angel from the temple to gather the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe. The word used here for ripe carriers the idea of "vintage stock" Grapes that are perfect and ready for the winepress.
The angel does as he is commanded, and casts the vintage stock into the
winepress of the wrath of God. This is God's program to take the church to a level of being she has not as yet attained. She is destined to be the Church!
This is the positive side of God's wrath. The negative side of God’s wrath was spelled out in verses 9-11. We now discover God’s wrath in its positive polarity. God is for the Church and His intention for her will come to fruition. She is the vintage stock. She is gathered and cast into the winepress of God's passion. Bear in mind that a winepress is the most natural and logical place for vintage grapes. In God’s winepress the Church will become what she was ordained to be. The winepress of God's passion is an event that will do for the Church what no other revival in history has done.
In our study of the sixth seal, I said God was sending us repeated revivals. In that study I admonished you to expose yourself to the revivals of the sixth seal period; for in those revivals God is ripening the grapes. If you want to be part of the vintage stock you must expose yourself to these revival movements. God knows His vintage stock which He will process in the winepress.
In light of what I've said and what we will be studying allow me to give you one word of practical importance: Don't confine God to your denominational structure. See, appreciate, and understand what God is doing outside your denominational structure. Here’s why:
The winepress is stated to be trodden outside the city. What city is being talked about here? The immediate context would suggest Babylon. But what significance is there in saying the winepress is trodden outside Babylon? For the answer to that question we must answer another question: What does Babylon represent? The term derives from Babel, and according to Genesis 11:9 that is where humanity endeavored to construct their own means of access to God. All denominations carry with them this Babylonian air of self aggrandizement. God’s winepress of passion will take us outside and beyond all these systems that we as human beings have constructed.
This is not saying that the believers of denominational structures won’t be included in the winepress experience. God accepts us on the basis of faith, not according to the denomination we belong to. Therefore the structures we adhere to have very little to do with whether we are vintage stock. However be forewarned – wineskins aren’t sacred! Jesus declared: "New wine must be put into new bottles." (Luke 5:37) Accordingly the winepress process will take place outside the old structures.
Allow me to address another structural flaw of all denominations that will be rendered obsolete by the winepress. Most every revival movement of history has pointed out this flaw. Revivals of the past have often been carried by what we refer to as the laity. This is not accidental, but God ordained. God’s intention is for all believers to be ministers. However the best revival movements tend to take on the characteristics of the Babylonian system. Perhaps the first of these characteristics is the distinction between the clergy and laity.
In the letters to the Churches Jesus addresses this matter twice. The Church at Ephesus was against the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, as was Jesus. Within the second Church addressed, which is Pergamos, these deeds had become “the doctrine” of the Nicolaitanes. A literal rendering of the term Nicolaitanes would be: "to be triumphant over the people." It refers to our practice of holding the clergy to be the ministers, while the laity is not. Since God is not in favor of this distinction, the winepress will not support this distinction. God wants all His people to "do the work of the ministry.” (Eph.4:12)
Now don't go and fire your pastor! The Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher, are gifts that God has given to the Church. However they are not the ministry gifts. They are “perfecting” gifts. They are to perfect the saints, in order that those saints can do the work of the ministry, so that the body of Christ will be edified. You as a believer should lay hands on the sick and see them recover. You as a believer can lay hands on those who seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit and see them speak in tongues. As a believer you have the right and authority to do the work of ministry.
If the world is going to be reaped we will have to follow scriptures directive: the saints must do the work of the ministry. For to long we have made a distinction between the clergy and the laity, and have left the work of ministry to the clergy. God is going to change that: The winepress of God's wrath will accomplish it. It will wipe out all clergy/laity divisions, it will obliterate all barriers of distinction. It will be the Church presented to the world in all of her glory and power.
The second phrase in Revelation 14:20 states: "and blood came out of the winepress." Now we all know that when you trample grapes you don't get blood, you get grape juice. So this is parabolic language, and it portrays an unparalleled truth. It is vintage stock that is thrown into the winepress. Stock that has been reaped from the entire earth. That stock is then made up of people from many cultures, tongues, and nations. In the winepress all of that becomes pulp. All distinctions are no longer recognizable in that which flows out of the winepress. The grapes juices flow from the winepress as one unit. That flow is called blood: and it speaks of life. Life like the world has never experienced before. We go into the winepress with individual concerns, desires, goals and identity. We go in representing different denominations, with unique doctrinal concerns. We go into the winepress and each individual is identifiable. But the winepress changes all that: For out of the winepress flows life! The individually identifiable features remain in the winepress as pulp. But out of the winepress flows what the world has been looking for and the Church can't do without: Life! Life so potent and powerful that it is verifiable and identified by scientific methods: It is measurable by depth and length.
Tribulation theology has done an injustice to "the Revelation of Jesus Christ" by seeing this passage as the proclamation of death. Let us get it clear in our heart and mind. God doesn’t bring about good by doing evil. He vanquishes death by giving life. He creates peace by bringing us into unity with Himself. And in the winepress God brings His people into a unity that flows forth from that winepress as unprecedented in history.
Revivals of the past have clarified our theology. They have given us a better understanding of our relationship with God. The winepress revival will do that like no other revival has done. Jesus has chosen a winepress to bring His Church into the place He provided for her. A winepress signifies an instrument that brings pressure to bear on that which is placed in it, to change it, so it becomes that which is desired. God’s will for His Church will come into reality in the winepress of His wrath.
Here’s one thing that I see as the life that flows from that winepress! Paul said: "Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." (1 Cor. 13:2) Have we as the church shown the world Love? The person that really knows God; loves, for God is Love!(1 John 4:8)
It is because John so explicitly states: God is Love; that I have difficulty with theological doctrine which insists that we must balance that love with God's justice. By this theologians are really suggesting that for God to only love the sinner is to be unbalanced. ‘God's justice must be satisfied, sin can't go unpunished.’ So I ask: what did Jesus do on the cross? Did He not meet the requirements of God's justice? (And if he didn't, will seven years of tribulation do so?) Scripture says: "For He (God) hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor. 5:21) Jesus was the only one that could meet the requirements of God’s justice! If Jesus didn't take care of the problem of my sin, than what is the point of God loving me? God can love me all He wants, but if He still holds me punishable for my sin, what good does loving me do?
Yes, I know, the Evangelical theologian assures me that I am not held accountable for my sin, because I have acknowledged and accepted Jesus as my substitute. Thereby we put words in God's mouth and claim that He holds all who have not done so accountable for their sin. So in spite of His love for them, He will punish them for their sin. Then what is the point of scriptures like: 2 Corinthians 5:19 which states: " that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." or 1 John 2:2 which states: "He (Jesus) is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
Tell me; when scripture states that Jesus reconciled the whole world to God and because of that God does not impute their trespasses unto them, what is that saying? What does it mean to say Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world? I suggest that you do some study and discussion on the words reconcile; impute; and propitiation. Here are some suggestions to get you started: Reconciliation focuses on the fact that God's displeasure toward us has been removed. Because of this we are no longer alienated from God, but we have been brought near to Him. Impute is to put to ones account. Propitiation is a word that speaks of turning aside anger, and therefore scripture states that Jesus draws to himself God's anger against sin. I want you to pay particular attention to the meaning of the word propitiation, for it deals with God's anger against sin.
One final question for your consideration: In Romans 2:5 Paul tells us it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance. That being true, why do we try to scare people into repentance?