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This chapter contains three visions; one of the Lamb on Mount Zion, another of the three angels preaching against Babylon, and the third of the harvest and vintage. The vision of the Lamb is in ( Revelation 14:1), which is no other than Christ, described by his similitude, as a Lamb; by the place where he was, Mount Zion; by his position there, standing, and by the company that were with him, whose number were 144,000, and their character, his Father's name written on their foreheads; at the same time a voice was heard from heaven, comparable to the sound of many waters, of thunders, and of harps: and a song sung which none learn but the above number with the Lamb, ( Revelation 14:2,3), who are described by their purity, chastity, and strict adherence to Christ; by their redemption through him; by their being the firstfruits of God and of the Lamb, and by their integrity and unblemished character, ( Revelation 14:4,5); next follows the account of the three angels; the first comes with the everlasting Gospel, to preach it to all men, loudly calling upon all to fear and worship God, and give glory to him, since he is the Creator of all, and the hour of his judgment is come, ( Revelation 14:6,7); the second proclaims the fall of Babylon, with the reason of it, ( Revelation 14:8); and the third denounces the wrath of God upon the worshippers of the beast in the most public manner, and that for ever, ( Revelation 14:9-11); and this vision is closed with some expressions, showing that, till this was done, the patience of the saints would be tried, and the true worshippers of the Lamb be discovered, and comforting them with an assurance of that rest that remains after death for the faithful followers of Christ, ( Revelation 14:12,13); after this is the vision of the harvest and vintage of the earth.
The reaper is described by his form, like the son of man; by his seat, a white cloud; by a golden crown on his head, and by a sharp sickle in his hand, ( Revelation 14:14); who is called upon by an angel out of the temple to make use of his sickle, and reap, because the time of reaping was come, the harvest being ripe, ( Revelation 14:15), upon which he thrusts in his sickle, and reaps the earth, ( Revelation 14:16); after this, another angel appears out of the temple, with a sharp sickle, to whom another angel from the altar, that had power over fire, calls to make use of his sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine, since the grapes were fully ripe, ( Revelation 14:17,18); upon which he thrusts in his sickle, and gathers them, and casts them into the winepress of divine wrath, which being trodden, blood comes out of it to the horses' bridles for the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs, ( Revelation 14:19,20).
Ver. 1. And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb , etc.] The Alexandrian copy, and some others, read “the Lamb”; the same that had been seen before in, the midst of the throne, ( Revelation 5:6); and all the Oriental versions have the same article also; the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for mention is made of his Father in a following clause; the King of Zion, where he is seen standing, and the Redeemer of his people, who are at large described; it is the same Lamb who is so often spoken of in this book before: in the two preceding chapters an account is given of the state of the church, as oppressed under Rome Pagan, and Rome Papal, and here of its more glorious and victorious condition, with Christ at the head of it; in the last chapter antichrist is described, with his followers and worshippers, and as exercising tyranny and cruelty upon the saints, and here Christ and his followers are represented in vision, and some hints given of the fall of Babylon, and of the wrath of God upon the worshippers of the beast, and of the happiness of those who belong to the Lamb: and of him it is here said, that he stood on the Mount Zion ; by which is meant not heaven, but the church on earth; why that is called Mount Zion, (see Gill on “ Hebrews 12:22”); here Christ the Lamb stood, as presiding over it, being King of Zion, or the church; where he stood and fed, or ruled, in the name of the Lord, and in the majesty of his God; and where he appeared in the defence of his church and people, oppressed by antichrist; for he is Michael that standeth for the children of his people, and who stands with courage, and in the greatness of his strength, and is invincible; nor does he stand here alone: and with him an hundred forty [and] four thousand ; the same with those in ( Revelation 7:3,4), though all the world wondered after the beast, and all that dwelt upon the earth worshipped him, yet there was a number preserved that did not bow the knee to him; a remnant according to the election of grace, who were called out of the world, and brought to Zion, and were on the side of the Lamb, and abode by him, and cleaved unto him: having his Father's name written in their foreheads ; not baptism, administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, as some think; nor eternal election, as others, though as their names were written in the Lamb's book of life, so this was manifest to themselves and others, as if his name and his Father's had been written in their foreheads; but rather adoption, the new name of a child of God, they having the spirit of adoption, whereby they cried, “Abba”, Father, and being openly and manifestly the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus; unless it should be thought there is an allusion to the inscription in the mitre on the forehead of the high priest, “holiness to the Lord”, and so be expressive of that visible holiness which will be on the saints in the spiritual reign of Christ, which this vision respects; (see Zechariah 14:20); or to the frontlets between the eyes of the people of Israel, to put them in mind of the law, and their obedience to it, ( Deuteronomy 6:8); and so may here denote the engagements of those saints in the service of God; though perhaps no more is intended than their open and hearty profession of their faith, and that they were not ashamed of appearing in the cause of God and truth; nor of Christ and his words, his Gospel and ordinances: the Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, read, “having his name, (the Lamb's,) and his Father's name written in their foreheads”; and the Ethiopic version adds, “and of his Holy Spirit”. Mr. Daubuz thinks this vision refers to the times of Constantine, and to the Christians then, and particularly the council of Nice, and as contemporary with that in ( Revelation 7:9-17).
Ver. 2. And I heard a voice from heaven , etc.] The same with the voices heard in heaven upon the sounding of the seventh trumpet, ( Revelation 11:15); as the voice of many waters ; very loud, and uttered by a great multitude of people, signified by waters in this book, ( Revelation 17:15); the same with those that praise the Lord for the destruction of antichrist, and for the marriage of the Lamb, ( Revelation 19:1-7); and as the voice of a great thunder ; to which the Gospel may be compared for its open, loud publication, being heard far and near, as thunder is: and I heard the voice of harpers, harping with their harps ; that is, singing the praises of God, for the fall of Babylon, the happy state and condition of the church, and the blessings of grace; the harp being a musical instrument, used under the Old Testament in singing praise: Brightman thinks that these different sounds represent the course of Gospel doctrine, and the church's voice throughout the reign of antichrist; that when the church first went into the wilderness, her voice was like the murmuring of waters, confused and indistinct; when she began to revive under the Waldenses and Albigenses, Wickliff, Huss, etc. her voice was like thunder, loud and terrible; and at the Reformation, it was as the voice of harpers, when confessions of faith were published with sweet harmony and consent.
Others have thought that the different properties and efficacy of the Gospel are designed; as its rapidity and irresistible force, by the many waters; its striking and shaking the consciences of men, by the thunder, Christ's ministers being sometimes “Boanergeses”, sons of thunder; and its harmonious music, pleasant sound, peace, joy, and comfort it brings, by the voice of harpers. The Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, read, “the voice which I heard was as harpers”, etc.
Ver. 3. And they sung as it were a new song , etc.] The song of redeeming grace; the same with that in ( Revelation 5:9); see the note there: this is to be understood of the 144,000, who sung it before the throne, and before the four beasts and the elders ; that is, publicly in the church, the ministers and members being present; of these; (see Gill on “ Revelation 4:4”); (see Gill on “ Revelation 4:6”); and no man could learn that song but the hundred [and] forty [and] four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth ; out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation; from among the men of the earth, and out of the apostate church, called the earth, in opposition to the pure church, which so often goes by the name of heaven in this book; and these, in consequence of being redeemed by the blood of Christ, were called by grace out of the world; and such only can sing the song of redemption with application to themselves; and say he has redeemed us, and loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood; to none but these is it given to know spiritually and experimentally the mysteries of electing and redeeming grace; the natural and carnal man neither knows nor receives the things of the Spirit of God; nor can he learn them by hearing, reading, study, and conversation, unless it be only in a notional and speculative way. The Jews speak of a new song, which the angels have never used f349 ; “it is said, ( Psalm 98:1); “sing unto the Lord a new song”; a new song, for there is an old song; but this song is what the angels never praised him with, and therefore it is new;” and indeed the song of redeeming love is peculiar to men.
Ver. 4. These are they which were not defiled with women , etc.] With the whore of Rome, and her harlots, she is the mother of; while the kings and inhabitants of the earth were drunk with the wine of their fornication, or committed idolatry with them, which is spiritual fornication, and is here meant by being defiled with them, these were free from such pollutions, or idolatrous practices: for they are virgins ; for their beauty and comeliness in Christ, chastity, sincerity of their love, uncorruptness in doctrine and worship, and for the uprightness of conversation; (see Gill on “ Matthew 25:1”); these are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth ; as the sheep follow the shepherd of the flock, and which is a character of Christ's sheep, ( John 10:4,5,27). These follow Christ in the exercise of the graces of humility, patience, and love; and in the performance of the several duties of religion, and subjection to ordinances, and in the path of sufferings; and in every way in which Christ the Lamb has gone before them, or in his word and providence leads and directs them to, whether it be grateful to the flesh or not; particularly they follow where he is preached, and his Word and ordinances are faithfully administered; and they follow him to heaven, where he is: it was part of the oath taken by the Roman soldiers, toiv strathgoiv akolouyein opoi pot' ai agwsi , “to follow the generals wherever they should lead” f350 , to which it is thought there is an allusion here; (see 2 Samuel 15:21); these were redeemed from among men ; “by Jesus”, as the Syriac and Arabic versions add, and so the Complutensian edition; by the blood of Christ, for all men are not redeemed by it; and in consequence of this they were called, and delivered from this present evil world, and the men of it, and from a vain, wicked, and idolatrous conversation with it: [being] the firstfruits unto God, and to the Lamb ; in allusion to the firstfruits under the law, which represented and sanctified the lump, and showed that harvest was coming; so these persons are called the firstfruits to God, and to the Lamb, being called by grace, and consecrated to their worship and service, with reference to the harvest of souls, or that large number of them which will be gathered in during the spiritual reign of Christ, which these persons will be at the beginning of; and as those who are first called and converted in a country or nation are said to be the firstfruits of it, ( Romans 16:5 1 Corinthians 16:15); so these being the first, in the period of time to which respect is had, bear this name; and as the converted Jews received the firstfruits of the Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, and at other times, so these will receive the firstfruits of the far greater pouring forth of the Spirit in the latter day, which will begin, and usher in the kingdom of Christ; (see Romans 8:23).
Ver. 5. And in their mouth was found no guile , etc.] Or “a lie”, as the Complutensian edition, the Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions read; by which may be meant idolatry, for idols and idolatrous practices are often called lies, and lying vanities; (see Jeremiah 16:19 Amos 1:4 Jon 1:8 Romans 1:25); and the sense is, that the superstition and idolatry of the church of Rome were not among them: or it may design false doctrine, and the meaning be, that they did not speak lies in hypocrisy, as the followers of antichrist do; nor were they given up to believe a lie, as they are: the generality of copies read, “no guile”; which is expressive of the sincerity of their words; there was no deceit nor hypocrisy in them; they did not speak with flattering lips to men, nor did they draw nigh to God with their mouths, when their hearts were far from him; they were Israelites indeed, like Nathanael, in whom was no guile; though not in so strict a sense, in which this phrase is used of Christ, ( 1 Peter 1:22); for they are without fault before the throne of God ; not as considered in themselves, as if they were entirely free from sin, and never committed any; though it might be true of them, that in general they were of unblemished lives and conversations, that is, not guilty of any notorious and scandalous crimes; but rather the sense is, that they were without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, as being washed in the blood of Christ, and so cleansed from all sin, and as being justified by his righteousness from all iniquity; and so were before the throne of God, and in the sight of divine justice, unblamable and unreproveable; (see Jude 24 Colossians 1:22); the phrase, “before the throne of God”, is left out in the Alexandrian copy, and in the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, and in the Complutensian edition.
Ver. 6. And I saw another angel , etc.] This is to be understood not of one of the ministering spirits so called; for though wings are sometimes ascribed to angels, and Gabriel is said to fly swiftly; and though they desire to look into the mysteries of the everlasting Gospel, yet the preaching of that is not committed to any of them; but a minister of the Gospel is intended, who is the angel of the church, for in this book pastors of churches are so called, ( Revelation 1:20); and not a single minister of the Gospel is meant, but a set of Gospel ministers; and some think that those are designed who appeared in the eighth and ninth centuries, both in the eastern and western empire, against the worshipping of images; since this angel calls upon the inhabitants of the earth to fear God, give glory to him, and worship him, and not images; but there was little of the everlasting Gospel preached in those times. Others are of opinion that those who preceded, and led on to the Reformation, are pointed at by this angel, such as Wickliff in England, Franciscus Petrarcha in Italy, John Huss and Jerom of Prague in Bohemia, with others; but these also had not the everlasting Gospel in its clearness and purity, nor did they preach it to all the inhabitants of the earth; rather I think a set of Gospel preachers are intended, who will appear at the beginning of the spiritual reign of Christ, and will be a means of ushering it in; and these are the watchmen of Zion, who will give the Lord no rest till he has made Jerusalem the praise of the whole earth; and who will then see eye to eye in Gospel mysteries, and will publish good tidings of peace and salvation, and proclaim Zion's King reigning, ( Isaiah 62:6,7 52:7,8); this angel is called “another”, being distinct from the voice heard ( Revelation 14:2), though he is the first with respect to the following angels, as appears from ( Revelation 14:9); the place where John saw this angel, and the position he was in, follow: fly in the midst of heaven : the church, the great congregation, the several congregations of the saints; in the midst of which these ministers will preach righteousness, salvation, loving kindness, and truth, as Christ has done before them; and from hence the word of the Lord will go forth to all parts of the world: they will preach the Gospel openly and publicly, with great freedom, boldness, and intrepidity, in the view of all men, not fearing the faces of any; and the Gospel ministered by them will have a swift, sudden, and universal spread; they themselves will run to and fro, and the Gospel will run and be glorified, and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and multitudes will flock to Christ, who in that day will be alone exalted; for these ministers will come forth publicly: having the everlasting Gospel ; the Gospel in its fulness and purity; the Gospel of the grace of God, of free justification by the righteousness of Christ, of peace and pardon by his blood, and of complete salvation by him; called everlasting, because the substance of it was settled from all eternity, in the council and covenant of peace; it was ordained before the world was, and was hid in God from the beginning; and the revelation of it was of old; it was made to our first parents immediately after the fall, and was spoken of by all God's holy prophets which have been since the world began; it was preached before unto Abraham, and in the times of Isaiah, and by other prophets, and so is no new upstart doctrine: besides, the matter of it is everlasting; it treats of everlasting things; of the eternal election of persons to salvation; of God's everlasting love to them; of an everlasting covenant he made with Christ on their account; of blessings, promises, and grace given to them in him, before the world began; and of his being set up so early as a Mediator, and of his going forth in a way of grace from everlasting; as well as it reveals an everlasting righteousness, and brings life and immortality, or eternal life to light, or shows the way to everlasting life and happiness; to which may be added, that it will abide for ever, it will always remain, and that inexpugnable, maugre all the opposition of hell and earth; it will continue till all the elect of God are gathered in, notwithstanding the violence of persecutors, or the craft of seducers; nor will it be antiquated and made void by another Gospel succeeding it, for there will be no other: now this the ministers of those times will “have”; not in their heads only, by knowledge, but in their hearts, by experience, and will have it in their mouths, and speak it out freely and openly, and will have a commission from Christ to preach it, and gifts qualifying them for it: to preach to them that dwell on the earth ; that are in the apostate church, carnal, unregenerate, and earthly persons. The Complutensian edition reads, “that sit on the earth”; as persons abject, mean, and distressed, to whom the Gospel is acceptable: and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people ; whether Jews, Turks, or Pagans; for the Gospel, as before observed, will now have an universal spread all the world over.
Ver. 7. Saying with a loud voice , etc.] These ministers shall lift up their voice like a trumpet, and cry aloud, and deliver out the Gospel fully and faithfully, with great authority and power, and with much vehemence, zeal, and fervency: fear God ; or “the Lord”, as some copies, the Vulgate Latin and Arabic versions, read: not the antichristian beast and his followers, as men formerly had done; but God the Lord, and him not with a servile fear, or a fear of punishment, of wrath, hell, and damnation; nor with a distrust of his grace, love, power, and providence, much less with an hypocritical fear; but with a godly fear, which has the goodness of God for its object, and springs from a sense of the love of God, and is a reverential affection for him, and is attended with faith and spiritual joy, and includes all worship of him, both internal and external; hence the Syriac version renders it, “serve God”: and this shows that the duties of religion are to be inculcated by Gospel ministers; and that they will be urged by them when the everlasting Gospel is preached in its greatest purity: and give glory to him ; and not to graven images, which he will not allow; and glory is to be given to him, on account of the perfections of his nature, and, the works of his hands; and is given when men ascribe greatness to him, praise his works of creation, and acquiesce in those of Providence, acknowledging the power, goodness, and wisdom of God in all; and when they give thanks for all his mercies, temporal and spiritual, and especially for Jesus Christ; and when they exercise faith on him as their God in Christ, and ascribe their salvation to him and to the Lamb, and not to the works of their hands; and when they attend his worship, and the duties of religion, and so glorify him with their bodies and spirits, which are his: for the hour of his judgement is come ; not of the great and last judgment, but of the government of the Lord Christ, committed to him by God the Father; in which sense the word is used in ( John 5:22) for now will the time be come, when the kingdoms of this world will be his; and he will take to himself his great power, and reign, in a spiritual manner, in the world; and now also will be his time of judging the dead, or of avenging his people, whose blood has been shed for him, and of his judging the great whore, or of inflicting his judgments upon antichrist and his followers; all which will be under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, to which this vision is contemporary; (see Revelation 11:15,17,18 17:1 19:2) and worship him that made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters ; God, the Creator of all things; and not the beasts, nor idols, the works of men's hands.
Ver. 8. And there followed another angel , etc.] A “second”, as the Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, and the Syriac version add; and the Arabic version reads, “and the second angel followed”; another set of Gospel ministers, who will immediately follow upon the former, proclaiming the fall of Babylon, which will be brought about through the preaching of the everlasting Gospel. Some think the Waldenses and Albigenses are here designed, who gave a great blow to Babylon, and laid a foundation for her ruin. Others have thought that Luther, and the reformers of his times, are intended, who gave a deadly blow to Babylon, and she has been falling ever since: but to me it appears, that a set of ministers in the spiritual reign of Christ are meant, who will not only signify the fall of Babylon to be certain, and near at hand, but will live to see and declare her actual fall, as follows: saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city ; which is to be understood not of the world in general, which will not now be come to an end, for all nations of the world are distinguished from this Babylon in the next clause, and is only represented as a city, though a great one; nor of Babylon in Chaldea, which was fallen many hundreds of years before this vision; nor is there any likelihood of its being restored, nor any reason to believe that it will ever more be the seat of empire over all the nations and kings of the earth, as the Babylon mentioned in this book is, ( Revelation 17:5,18) though undoubtedly the allusion is to that Babylon, and the very words are used which express the fall of it, and are taken from it; (see Isaiah 21:9) but this is to be understood of Rome, which all along in this book is called the great city; (see Revelation 11:8 16:19 17:18) and not of Rome Pagan, for that is fallen already; and the account of the fall of that is given before, at the opening of the sixth seal, and the casting the dragon out of heaven, upon the war there, between Michael and him, though Mr.
Daubuz is of opinion that this is here meant; but of Rome Papal, called Babylon the great, ( Revelation 16:5) ( Revelation 18:2) and so the Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac and Arabic versions, read here; and the Romish antichrist is so called, because that city was famous for its pride and haughtiness, for its tyranny and cruelty, and for its idolatry; and indeed its name, which signifies “confusion”, well agrees with the Papacy, which is a confused mixture of Judaism, Paganism, and Christianity: so Rome is called Babel in some ancient writings of the Jews f351 , where some copies read “Babel”, others read “Rome”; and Tertullian, who wrote long before the appearance of the Romish antichrist, says f352 , with our John, Babylon is a figure of the Roman city: and of this it is said, that it “is fallen, is fallen”; which words are repeated for the certain confirmation of it, as matter of fact; for the fall of antichrist will certainly be in the spiritual reign of Christ, in the Philadelphian church state; (see Gill on “ Revelation 3:9”) now will Babylon come in remembrance before God, and he will pour out the vials of his wrath upon her, and will give men an aversion to her; and through the preaching of the Gospel she will fall, just as the walls of Jericho fell at the sounding of the rams' horns: the reason of which fall will be, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication : by her “fornication” is meant the idolatry of the church of Rome; so the idolatry of Israel and Judah is often expressed in the Old Testament by fornication and whoredoms; (see Jeremiah 3:6 Ezekiel 23:2,3) and the wine of it designs the alluring methods used to draw into it; such as the riches and honours, and pleasures of this world, promised to men, and the great appearances of holiness and religion, the deceivableness of unrighteousness, the miracles, signs, and lying wonders done by them, by which men are made sottish and stupid, and induced to believe a lie; just as wine intoxicates, and inclines and excites to lust: and by “the wrath” of it is meant either the heat of lust unto it, or the wrath of God against them which is stirred up by it; and now the aggravation of her sin is, that she not only drinks of this wine herself, or commits idolatry, being instigated to it by the allurements of it, though she hereby incurs the displeasure and wrath of God, but she draws all nations into the same idolatrous practices.
Ver. 9. And the third angel followed them , etc.] The two preceding ones, and that very quickly; by whom is meant not Luther, and his associates in the Reformation, as some think; nor his successors, or the ministers of the Gospel in general from his time till Christ's second coming, as others have thought; but a set of Gospel ministers in the spiritual reign of Christ: the first set of them publish the everlasting Gospel, which leads on to the ruin of antichrist; the second set proclaim the downfall of Rome, and this third set denounce the wrath of God upon all that have professed the Popish religion: saying with a loud voice ; as the first angel did, with like authority and vehemence, in order to strike terror, and express indignation: if any man worship the beast and his image ; give in to the idolatries of the church of Rome, and embrace, maintain, and defend the Popish religion, which bears a resemblance to the worship of the Heathens, and is the very image of Rome Pagan; (see Revelation 13:4,12,15) and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand ; openly profess Popery, and swear allegiance to the man of sin, and do all they can to support his interest; (see Revelation 13:16,17).
Ver. 10. The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God , etc.] Which is a just punishment for their sin; that as such have drank of the wine of the wrath of Rome's fornication, ( Revelation 14:8) so they shall now drink of the wine of God's wrath; it is usual in Scripture to express the punishment God inflicts upon wicked men by his wrath, and by the wine cup of his fury; and their suffering such punishment, by their drinking of it; (see Jeremiah 25:15 Job 21:20) so azgwrd ˆyy , “the wine of wrath”, is a phrase used by the Jews f353 : which is poured out without mixture, into the cup of his indignation ; sometimes called a cup of fury and of trembling, ( Isaiah 51:17,22) and is sometimes said to be full of mixture, ( Psalm 75:8) of various ingredients of wrath and fury; and the words may be rendered here, “which is mixed without mixture”: and though it seems to carry in it a contradiction, yet is true in different senses; it may be said to be mixed as wine with various sorts, which is the stronger, and sooner inebriates and intoxicates; or in allusion to the cup the Jews gave to malefactors, to stupefy them, when going to execution, which had various things put in it for that purpose; (see Gill on “ Mark 15:23”) and so designs the several ingredients in the cup of divine indignation, or the several ways in which God expresses his wrath; and yet it is without mixture; it is judgment without mercy, pure wrath, without the least allay; not so much as a drop of cold water granted, or the least your shown, or any mitigation of fury for a moment: and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone : in allusion to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which are now a burning and a sulphurous lake, called Asphaltites, and is an example, pattern, and similitude of the vengeance of eternal fire, (Jude 7) and hence the beast and false prophet are said to be cast into such a lake, ( Revelation 19:20) and here their followers will be punished; which is expressive of the horrible torments of hell, and the dreadful punishment of the antichristian party there; (see Psalm 11:6) and what will aggravate their misery is, that it will be in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb ; the latter will be their Judge, and will condemn them to everlasting burnings, and pronounce the sentence on them; and the former will be the executioners of it; they will gather them out, and sever them from the righteous, and cast them into the furnace of fire, and will be spectators of their punishment, and rejoice at it; and the sight of their power and glory will increase the torment of the sufferers.
Ver. 11. And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever , etc.] That is, the smoke of that fire which torments them will for ever arise; or, in other words, there will be no end of their torment; hence their misery is called everlasting fire, everlasting punishment, and everlasting destruction, ( Matthew 25:41,46 2 Thessalonians 1:9) and smoke being very troublesome and distressing, is mentioned to set forth the very uncomfortable state of the wicked; and so it is used by Jewish writers: hence we read of µnhg ˆnt , “the smoke of hell” f354 , with which the eyes of the wicked will be filled in the world to come: and they have no rest, day nor night ; the fire of divine wrath which tortures them is never quenched, and the worm of conscience which gnaws them never dies: this is directly contrary to a notion of the Jews, that the wicked in hell have rest sometimes; they talk of angels blowing away the smoke from them, so that they have rest an hour and a half; and which they say they have three times a day, and whenever Israel says Amen, let his great name be blessed f355 ; and particularly that hell fire never burns on the sabbath day, nor does the smoke of it ascend then, and that the wicked have always rest on that days f356 ; though sometimes they contradict themselves, and say they never have any rest f357 , which is the truth: who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name ; that is, whoever are the followers of antichrist, or the professors of the Popish religion; so far is salvation from being in the church of Rome, and only there, that there is none in it; and whoever live and die in the profession of Popery, shall surely be damned as this passage is true.
Ver. 12. Here is the patience of the saints , etc.] That which has required their patience, and about which it has been exercised, what they have been patiently waiting for, namely, the destruction of antichrist; and now it will be come, and patience will have its perfect work; (see Revelation 13:10) here are they that keep the commandments of God ; and not the inventions of men, and the traditions of antichrist, but the ordinances of the Gospel, as they were at first delivered, without any adulteration and corruption; and who kept them because they were enjoined by God, and from a principle of love to him, and with a view to his glory: these are distinguished from the worshippers of the beast, and were preserved throughout the apostasy; these are the witnesses who will now be risen, and the remnant of the woman's seed, with whom the dragon made war by the beast: and these are the hundred and forty and four thousand who are before described; these will be in a very glorious and comfortable church state; the word will be purely preached, and the ordinances truly administered, and the doctrines of the Gospel will be heartily embraced and professed: it follows, and the faith of Jesus ; meaning either the grace of faith, of which Jesus is the object, author, and finisher; and which these saints will have from him, and exercise upon him in a very strong and comfortable manner; and which, and the profession of it, they will hold fast to the end; or else the doctrine of faith, concerning the person, office, and grace of Jesus Christ, the faith once delivered to the saints, which they will have contended for, stood fast in, and now will hold in a pure conscience: these seem to be the words of John, declaring the faith, patience, and obedience of the saints of these times.
Ver. 13. And I heard a voice from heaven , etc.] Like that which was heard at Christ's baptism and transfiguration, certifying the truth of what follows, so that that may be depended upon as an undoubted verity: saying unto me, write ; which is a further confirmation of the following sayings being true and faithful; (see Revelation 1:9 19:9 21:5) blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth ; merely to die is not an happiness, for death is common to all, good and bad; it is a disunion of soul and body, and cannot be in itself desirable; it is the fruit of sin, and has something in it awful and terrible; and though it is the privilege of believers, as its sting is removed by Christ, yet not as simply and absolutely considered; but to die in the Lord is a blessedness: some render the words, “which die for the Lord”; so the Arabic version, “which die for the faith of the Lord”; and the Ethiopic version, “which die for God”; and so restrain them to the martyrs of Jesus: to suffer death for the sake of Christ and his Gospel is a gift and an honour, and what glorifies Christ; and there is a glory consequent upon it, which such shall enjoy; but then in the spiritual reign of Christ, to which this passage refers, and after the destruction of antichrist, there will be no more suffering for Christ, no more martyrdoms; wherefore this cannot be the sense of the words: nor do they mean dying in the lively exercise of faith and hope in the Lord; for though it is a happiness so to die, both to persons themselves, and to their friends and relations, yet these are not the only persons that are blessed; there are some who all their lifetime are subject to bondage, and go off in the dark, and yet are happy; but to die in the Lord is to die interested in him, in union to him; which union is not dissolved by death, and which preserves from all condemnation, at death or at judgment, and secures the soul's immediate entrance into happiness, and the resurrection of the body at the last day, and therefore such must be blessed: the phrase, “from henceforth”, is differently placed; the Ethiopic version connects it with the word “write”, rendering it, “write now”; and the Vulgate Latin version reads it with the next clause, “hereafter, yea, saith the Spirit”; and so the Latin interpreter of the Syriac version, though that itself seems rather to place it as ours does, and which is most correct; and is to be understood not of the time of John's writing, thenceforward to the resurrection; for those that died before his time were as happy as those who died after; nor of the time of death, though it is a truth, that from the time of the saints' death, and from the very moment of their separation, they are blessed, and are in a state of happiness until the resurrection; but of that period of time which the declarations made by the three preceding angels refer to, from thenceforward, and after the destruction of antichrist, and during the spiritual reign of Christ: and the sense is, that happy will those persons be that die in Christ within that time, and before the Laodicean church state takes place; when coldness, lukewarmness, and carnal security will seize upon men, and Christ will come upon them at an unawares; and those sharp and severe times will commence, signified by the harvest and vintage of the earth in the following verses, and which seem to be no other than the end of the world, and the destruction of it; wherefore happy will they be that are going to heaven before that time comes; (see Ecclesiastes 4:1,2 Isaiah 57:1,2) yea, saith the Spirit ; the third witness in heaven, who sets his seal to the truth of what the voice declares, and shows wherein this blessedness will consist: that they may rest from their labours ; both of body and soul; from all toil of body, and laborious work, from all diseases and distempers of body, and all outward sorrows and calamities men labour under, and are fatigued with in this life; and from all inward troubles, from a body of sin, from the temptations of Satan, and from all doubts and fears, from their present warfare state, and all conflicts with their spiritual enemies: and their works do follow them ; they do not go before them, to prepare heaven and happiness for them; nor do they take them along with them, and use them as pleas for their admission into the heavenly glory; but they will follow them, and will be found to praise, and honour, and glory, and will be taken notice of by Christ, and graciously rewarded by him, at his appearing and kingdom. This is directly opposite to the notions of the Jews, who say, that when a man departs this life, his works “go before him”, and say unto him, thou hast done so and so, in such a place, and on such a day f358 ; and that whoever does a good work in this world, it shall “go before him” in the world to come f359 ; and so they represent good works as saying to a man when he is about to die, “go in peace; before thou gettest thither, Ætwa µymydqm wna , we will go before thee, as it is said, ( Isaiah 48:8) “thy righteousness shall go before thee”.”
Sometimes they say f361 , they go along with him at the time of a man's departure: neither gold, nor silver, nor precious stones and pearls accompany him, but the law and good works, as it is said, ( Proverbs 6:22) “when thou goest it shall lead thee”, etc.
Ver. 14. And I looked, and behold a white cloud , etc.] In this verse is a description of the person principally concerned in the harvest of the earth, hereafter mentioned; by whom is designed not some great potentate or prince, an encourager of the Reformation among his subjects; nor an angel in an human shape; nor Martin Luther, as others; but the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who is described by his form, and by his seat, and by what he had on his head, and in his hand: and upon the cloud one sat like unto the son of man ; so Christ is said to be, ( Revelation 1:13) and in ( Daniel 7:13) where there is a like vision of him as here, and which refers to the same time; it is a name by which the Messiah is often called, and is expressive of the truth of his human nature, who was found in fashion as a man, and was really one; for his being like to the son of man designs reality and truth, and not mere appearance; (see Matthew 14:5 John 1:14) and besides, as this was in vision, it is very properly expressed, for Christ appeared to John in vision like to that human nature in which he is at the right hand of God: and here he is seen “sitting” upon the “white cloud”; which shows that he was come to judgment in the clouds of heaven, and was set on one of them, as on a throne; and a white cloud represents the purity, uprightness, and justness of his proceedings in judgment; for which reason he is said to be on a white throne, ( Revelation 20:11) having on his head a golden crown ; as an ensign of royal majesty, showing that his kingdom was now come, the time for him to reign personally with his saints on earth a thousand years; and that it was a very glorious one; and that he should now reign before his ancients gloriously; and that it was pure, solid, and durable; (see Psalm 21:4) and in his hand a sharp sickle : to reap the earth with, as hereafter, and is expressive of his power as King of saints and Judge of the world, to gather all nations before him; for the sickle is used to gather with, as well as to cut down.
Ver. 15. And another angel came out of the temple , etc.] Not the Holy Spirit, who, being God omniscient, knows the day and hour of judgment, which is a secret to men and angels, as Napier thinks; since though he dwells in the church as his temple, yet is never called an angel; nor does this angel represent the souls under the altar, who come out from thence, and importunately desire vengeance on the inhabitants of the earth, the worshippers of the beast, who had shed their blood; but rather the mighty angels who shall descend from heaven with Christ, and who shall be employed by him as reapers, to gather in his elect from the four winds, as well as to bind up the tares in bundles, and burn them; unless a set of Gospel ministers, as before, should be intended, who either by divine revelation, or by the signs of the time being come, and observed by them, will know that the harvest, or end of the world, is come; since this angel is said to come out of the temple, the church, which had been measured, and was now opened in heaven, and from whence angels are said to come, ( Revelation 11:1,19 15:5,6) crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud : as the first and third angels did, ( Revelation 14:7,9) denoting great vehemence and importunity: thrust in thy sickle, and reap: which being spoken by an inferior angel, whether this designs the ministering spirits, or preachers of the word, must be understood not as commanding, nor even directing what should be done, but as beseeching and entreating: (see <19D208> Psalm 132:8).
Dr. Lightfoot thinks, and not without reason, that there is here some allusion to the putting in of the sickle, and reaping the first corn in Judea, at the feast of the passover, by the order of the sanhedrim, which sat in the temple; nor did any reap till they had the word given them, “reap”, by the messengers of the court, called ˆyd tyb yjwlç , “the angels”, or messengers “of the sanhedrim”: to whom the reaper said, shall I reap? and they say to him, rwxq f362 , “reap”: the reasons follow: for the time is come for thee to reap ; the time of the end of the world, and of the judgment of it, which is fixed by God; and of Christ's coming to judge both quick and dead, and of the first resurrection, or the resurrection of the saints: for the harvest of the earth is ripe : the measure of the sins of wicked men will now be filled up, and the afflictions of the saints will be accomplished in them, and the number of God's elect will be completed in the effectual calling; they will be all called, and so things will be ripe for the second coming of Christ. There seems to be some reference to ( Joel 3:13) “put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe”: the Jewish doctors ask f363 , to whom is this said? R. Phineas, in the name of R. Hilkiah, says, µykalml , “to the angels”; so the mighty ones, in ( Revelation 14:11) are by Kimchi interpreted of the angels.
Ver. 16. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth , etc.] He put forth, and made use of that power which he had in his hand, in answer to the entreaty of the angel, the time being fully come which was fixed for this great event: and the earth was reaped ; and the harvest of it was got in; reaping and harvest sometimes are used in an ill sense, and design the wrath of God, and his judgments inflicted upon men; (see Isaiah 17:5) ( Jeremiah 51:33 Joel 3:13). Hence some think, that both this and the vintage following intend the judgments of God upon antichrist, and that they are contemporary with the pouring out of the fifth and sixth vials upon the beast and his followers; and the rather, since the destruction of Babylon, literally taken, is expressed in such language, ( Jeremiah 51:33) though these seem to have respect to times after the fall of the Romish Babylon, before declared in ( Revelation 14:8) and most interpreters refer the harvest to the last judgment at the end of the world; and which sense is greatly countenanced, and to be illustrated by the parable of the tares and wheat, in ( Matthew 13:30,39) ( Matthew 13:41,42) sometimes these phrases are used in a good sense, and intend the gathering in of souls by the preaching of the Gospel; as there are the appointed weeks of the harvest, so there is a time fixed for the calling and conversion of God's elect; and when this time is come, and especially to any number of them in any particular place, it is an harvest, as in Galilee and Samaria in the times of Christ, ( Matthew 9:37,38 John 4:35) the reapers are the ministers of the Gospel; such were the apostles of Christ, ( John 4:36-38) and the sickle is the Gospel, by which not only men are cut to the heart, and cut down, and removed from their old bottom, and principles and practices, but are gathered to Christ, and into his churches; and when large numbers are brought in, it is an harvest time, as in the times of Christ and his apostles; (see Isaiah 9:1-3 Acts 2:41 2 Corinthians 2:14) hence some interpreters think that the harvest here has respect to the Reformation, which followed upon the preaching of Luther, Calvin, and others, when a large harvest of souls were gathered in, in Germany, France, England, and elsewhere; but rather it may be thought to refer to the conversion of the Jews, and the bringing in the fulness of the Gentiles in the latter day, in the spiritual reign of Christ, to which the preceding visions belong, as we have seen; the earth will be reaped indeed, and a great harvest it will be, when a nation shall be born at once, and the vast multitudes of the Gentiles shall be brought in, as in ( Isaiah 66:8 49:20 60:3-11) and the rather this may be judged to be the meaning of it, since the passage from whence these phrases are borrowed respects the bringing again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, ( Joel 3:1,13) though it seems best to understand it of the Lord's wheat harvest at the end of the world, when the wheat of the earth shall be reaped, and gathered into Christ's barn, or garner, or into his and his Father's kingdom; this reaping of the earth is the removing of the saints out of it, not by death, but by the resurrection of them from the dead; for when Christ shall come in the clouds of heaven, and sit on the white cloud, or throne, the dead in him will rise first, and the living saints will be changed, and both will be caught up together, to meet the Lord in the air; so that the earth will be reaped, and be clear of them, and there will be none left in it but the wicked of the world; and what will become of them is declared in the following verses, under the representation of a vintage.
Ver. 17. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven , etc.] It is a strange conceit of Mr. Brightman's, that this angel is Thomas Lord Cromwell, in the days of King Henry the Eighth, a sincere favourer of pure religion; and that the following angel is Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, a martyr, that had power over fire; and that the vintage, here spoken of, refers to the destroying of religious houses, and disposing of abbey lands to other uses; which was done under the king's authority, by the former of these, at the instigation of the latter, when those who were set over that business made such havoc of the goods of the Papists, that their houses seemed to swim in their spoils, as in a river of pressed grapes.
Dr. Goodwin much better interprets it of God's vengeance upon the carnal Protestants and professors of religion; since it is an angel out of the temple that will execute it, and another from the altar, zealous of God's worship, that will provoke to it; and since the winepress will be trodden without the city, the church; and which began in the wars in Germany, in the last age, and will have its full accomplishment when the whole outward court is given to the Gentiles; but how these, who are but a few, when compared with the wicked of the world, should be called the vine of the earth, I see not. Mr. Daubuz thinks this vision of the vintage has had, at least in part, its fulfilment in the late wars in the times of Queen Anne, the Popish countries being then made the seat of war, in which they suffered much; rather they come nearest to the truth of the matter, who take this to be the battle of the great God Almighty, under the sixth vial, ( Revelation 16:14,16) fought by the word of God, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who will tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, ( Revelation 19:15) when the beast and false prophet will both be destroyed: but inasmuch as Babylon is before declared to be fallen, ( Revelation 14:8) and since the gathering in of the Lord's wheat at the first resurrection is designed by the harvest, it is best to understand this vintage of the perdition of ungodly men by fire, at the conflagration of the world, which will be at the beginning of the thousand years' reign, and of the gathering of them in at the second resurrection, at the end of it, for the destruction of them in hell, soul and body. And by this “angel” is meant, not the saints of the most High; for though they may be said to come out of the temple, the church, and shall judge the world, yet they will not be employed in gathering together the wicked, and casting them into the lake of fire, or winepress of God's wrath: rather the ministering spirits are intended, who are the reapers at the end of the world, and who will gather the wicked, and bind them like tares in bundles, and cast them into the furnace of fire; though it is best to interpret this of Christ himself, who is often called an Angel in Scripture, as the Angel of God's presence; and the Angel of the covenant; and frequently in this book, as in ( Revelation 7:2 8:3 10:1) because, as Mediator, he is God's messenger; and he may be said to do that, which he does by others, as instruments, as to gather the vine of the earth, and cast it into the winepress; and he may be said to “come out of the temple which is in heaven”: whether this be understood of heaven itself, which the temple, and especially the most holy place in it, was a figure of; here Christ is, and from hence he is expected to come, and will come at the last day, as Judge of all the earth; or of the church of God, for here Christ dwells, and grants his gracious and spiritual presence until his second and personal coming, with all his saints: and now he will have them all with him, both quick and dead, and will be personally in his temple, the church, in the great congregation of the righteous, and out from among them will he display his power in the destruction of the wicked; and the rather he may be thought to be intended, since none but a divine person ever trod the winepress of God's wrath; (see Isaiah 63:1-3 Revelation 19:13,15,16) to which may be added what follows, he also having a sharp sickle ; the same who is described as like to the son of man, on a white cloud, with a golden crown on his head, and such a sickle in his hand, ( Revelation 14:14) which is expressive of the same judiciary power and authority.
Ver. 18. And another angel came out from the altar , etc.] Where are the souls of the martyrs of Jesus, ( Revelation 6:9) and whom this angel is thought by some to represent, in his address to him that had the sharp sickle, crying for vengeance on the wicked of the earth, who had shed their blood: the allusion seems to be to the altar of burnt offerings, where the sacrifices were slain, and on which they were burnt with fire; and which was an emblem of the strict justice of God, showing, that those persons, for whom these sacrifices were offered, deserved to be treated in like manner; and here the angel coming from thence signifies, that he came on the behalf of the justice of God, treating that he, to whom vengeance belonged, would execute it upon all the ungodly, who were ripe for judgment: and hence it is further said of him, which had power over fire ; whether the angels, as they have presided over particular kingdoms and states, ( Daniel 10:20,21) preside over the elements, since this angel had power over fire, and another angel is called the angel of the waters, ( Revelation 16:5) may be considered.
According to the Jews there are ça ykalm , “angels of fire”, and µym ykalm , “angels of the waters”; particularly it is said f365 , that Gabriel is ça lç rç , “the prince of fire”, or “that has power over fire”, and Jurkemo is drbh rç , “prince of hail”, or has power over it: however, fire is to be taken here, not for the Spirit, and his gifts, which not a created angel, but Christ only, has a power over, to baptize with; nor the Gospel, nor martyrdom, but rather the wrath of God, which in Scripture is often compared to fire, of which this angel was an executioner: and indeed here it may be referred, both literally to the burning of the world, and the wicked in it, in which the angels may be concerned, who will descend with Christ in flames of fire, taking vengeance on the wicked; and figuratively to hell fire, and the destruction of the wicked in it, who will be cast into it by the angels of God. And cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle , as in ( Revelation 14:15) expressing like vehemence and importunity, saying, thrust in thy sharp sickle : not commanding or directing, but entreating as before: and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth ; not the vine of God's planting, the vineyard of the Lord of hosts, the church of Christ; but the vine of the earth, of wicked and earthly men, whose vine is the vine of Sodom, etc. ( Deuteronomy 32:32,33) and which is spread over the whole earth; a wild vine, whose grapes are gall, clusters bitter, and their wine the poison of dragons; and to such a vine the wicked are compared, for their emptiness and unfruitfulness, their uselessness and unprofitableness, and for their being fit fuel for everlasting burnings; (see Ezekiel 15:2-5). And the clusters of it may denote the great multitude of the wicked now to be cut down, gathered in, and destroyed, the reason given, for her grapes are fully ripe ; their wickedness very great, their iniquity full, the measure of their sins filled up, and they fitted for destruction, and ripe for ruin; (see Joel 3:13). Some understand this of the degenerate church of Rome, and the destruction of it; (see Revelation 19:15).
Ver. 19. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth , etc.] Before “upon the earth”, when the harvest was gathered in, the wheat being on the earth, but not belonging to it; but here “into the earth”, the vine being the vine of the earth, rooted in it, and natural to it: and gathered the vine of the earth ; the Arabic version reads, “of the whole earth”; in like manner as the tares in the parable are said to be gathered, and bound in bundles, and cast into the fire, which, as here, intends the destruction of the wicked, at the end of the world: this vine may be said to be cut down at the burning of the world, and to be gathered at the second resurrection, as the wheat harvest of the saints will be at the first resurrection: and cast it into the great winepress the wrath of God ; the same with the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, so often mentioned in this book: the torments of the wicked will lie in the wrath of God being poured forth upon them, and into them, which will be that fire that cannot be quenched, and that worm that never dies; and this is signified by the squeezing of grapes in a winepress, as God's judgments in this world sometimes are, ( Isaiah 63:3,6) and which will be very heavy and intolerable, since this winepress will be trod by the Lord God Almighty: and it is said to be a great one, as it must needs be, to hold the vine of the whole earth, or all the wicked of the world, who will be like the sand of the sea, innumerable; and this will be big enough for them all, and they will all be cast into it at once. Tophet is deep and large, ( Isaiah 30:33).
Ver. 20. And the winepress was trodden without the city , etc.] The beloved city, the new Jerusalem, into which none of the wicked will enter, and without which are dogs, etc. ( Revelation 20:9 21:27 22:15). The allusion may be, as Dr. Lightfoot thinks, to the olive presses, which were without the city of Jerusalem, from whence Gethsemane had its name, whither our Lord went, and where his sorrows began the night he was betrayed: hell is sometimes expressed by outer darkness, and said to be far off from heaven, and between the one and the other a great gulf is fixed, the distance is considerable; hence men are said to go forth to behold the miseries of the wicked; (see Matthew 22:13 Luke 16:23,26 Isaiah 66:24). and blood came out of the winepress ; alluding to the juice squeezed out of grapes, called the blood of grapes, ( Genesis 49:11). Even unto the horses' bridles, for the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs ; which is only an hyperbolical expression, setting forth the largeness and universality of the destruction of the wicked, and the impossibility of their escaping it. In like manner the Jews express a great slaughter of men; so of the slaughter at Bither, by Adrian, they say f366 , they went on slaying wmjwj-d[ µdb swsh [qçç d[ , “until a horse plunged in blood up to his nostrils”, and the blood ran four miles into the sea; which is not to be understood literally, but as expressing a prodigious effusion of blood: and as to the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs , perhaps there may be an allusion to the measure of the land of Israel, and the common notion of it among the Jews, who make it to be the square of four hundred parsoe f367 : hence they often speak of the land of Israel shaking and moving four hundred “parsoe”, upon some extraordinary occasions f368 ; and a “parsa” contained four miles f369 , so that four hundred “parsoe” made a thousand and six hundred miles; and if miles and furlongs are the same, in which sense only the land of Israel could be so large, here is the exact space; for Jerom f370 , who was an inhabitant of it, says, it was scarce 160 miles in length, to which agrees R. Menachem f371 ; and it may be observed, that the Arabic version renders the words, “by the space of a thousand and six hundred miles”. The Ethiopic version, very wrongly, reads, “sixteen furlongs”.