By William R. Newell
Part One: Judgment
This is a gospel, not an announcement of doom, as is verse 8; although there is no record that it is believed or heeded. It may not be. Noah was a “preacher of righteousness,” in view of the coming flood; but no one believed him except his own family. This gospel is called (and here alone in the whole Bible) an eternal gospel; one adapted for all ages (the adjective is aionion, that is, “constantly befitting,” “everlastingly applicable”). But it is peculiarly so at the hour when the whole earth, except God’s elect, are madly and blindly worshipping the Beast and his image (Revelation 13:8). And it must be constantly remembered that the days of the Antichrist are on, from chapter 13 through 18—despite prophetic visions of both the coming victory and kingdom of Christ, and of the Great Day of Wrath which shall bring that kingdom in. Universal idolatry, hideous, unreasonable, absurd, God-provoking, as it is, will fill the earth during the time of our present chapter. Slavish, abject prostration before an image of the most wicked man of the human race, with its consequent obliteration of the glory of the Creator, will prevail, even among the majority of Israel (Daniel 9:27; Isaiah 28:15).
God created man in “his own image”; but six times in Revelation the worship of the Beast is described as directed to “his image.”
Now this hateful thing idolatry is called in Romans 1:23, changing “the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man.” And the fact is that this departure was wilful, as seen in Romans 1:20, “The invisible things of him since the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity.”
We see then at once a most cogent reason for calling this message an eternal gospel; for it is the recalling of men to the fear of the living God as Creator, and giving Him worship; inasmuch as He is the One who hath “made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.”
In the midst of the multitude of utterances by the Old Testament prophets as to God’s anger at idolatry, one stands out like a flash of lightning in a blackening sky. It is the single Aramaic verse in the great Hebrew prophecy of Jeremiah—(Aramaic or Syrian being the language of the nations, over and against God’s language, the Hebrew)—Jeremiah 10:11, “Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, these shall perish from the earth, and from under the heavens.”
Now we find an angel flying in mid heaven proclaiming this eternal gospel. This should not astonish us. It is then no longer the Church age, when the gospel of reconciliation through the blood of the Cross is being proclaimed for simple faith. (How astonishing that any Christian should dream that the true Church is on earth at the time we are considering!) Angels warned Lot in Sodom and rescued him there from doom. The Law on Sinai was ministered by angels (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19) and especially by one—possibly Michael (Exodus 23:20-23; 33:2). Jehovah distinctly declares of this angel “my name is in him,” although Moses was not permitted to know him (Exodus 33:12).
The very name “angel,” both in Hebrew and Greek, means “messenger,” and an angel from God is one with a message or commission from Him. Therefore we do not wonder that when universal idolatry prevails, man having refused to harken to the preachers of the gospel of grace, and God having withdrawn them by the rapture of the Church, he will declare this eternal gospel by the mouth of a mighty angel, who, flying “in mid heaven” all over the earth, will proclaim to every creature, in words understandable, and unmistakable, that the hour of God’s judgment has come; bidding men turn quickly to the Creator of them, and of all things!
The Prophetic Announcement of Great Babylon’s Fall And another, a second angel, followed, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, that hath made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Babylon occupies much notice in Scripture but chapters 17 and 18 are devoted to it. Here, however, let us note:
1. Babylon has been the center of Satan’s operations from the flood onward; idolatry as far as we have any knowledge began there; and the Babylonian system was extended to all the nations, being Satan’s plan to destroy the knowledge and worship of Jehovah; substituting therefore himself.
2. We find here the pregnant expression concerning Babylon the great, “The wine of the wrath of her fornication.” These are three distinct subjects. First, in Jeremiah 51:7 we read, “Babylon hath been a golden cup in Jehovah’s hand that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunk of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.” It is the madness of Babylon’s idolatry that is described in Jeremiah 50:38: “It is a land of graven images, and they are mad over idols.” This was Babylon’s wine. Next, we have in Jeremiah 25:15, the wine of wrath, “Take this cup of the wine of wrath at my hand, and cause all the nations to whom I send thee, to drink it.” Loving the creature rather than the Creator, and idolatry rather than God, God gave them over to the system of Babylonian Satanism that brought God’s wrath upon them.93
Thirdly, the last subject is “fornication.” Remember this, when we study Revelation 17:1-5 and 18:3.
3. “Fallen, fallen” indicates coming double destruction, as Revelation 17 and 18 will show: of a system, then of a city.
The idolatry which originated at Babylon will yet bring wrath on all the nations, and lastly cast Babylon down to the doom of Sodom. See Jeremiah 50:40—yet future, we believe.
The Angelic Warning of the Eternal Doom of the Beast-worshippers
God’s faithful warning comes again by the mouth of an angel, and that “with a great voice.” Not only that the Beast’s rebuilt capital city Babylon is to “fall”—is fallen, in God’s vision, but that unending torment awaits the Beast’s worshippers.
What a fearful “hour of trial” is coming on the earth! (Revelation 3:10). Note that to involve the torment of verses 10 and 11, one will not only have “worshipped” the Beast or his image, but have deliberately taken his mark —shut out all God’s warnings, and chosen Satan’s Christ.
Now see what God at last justly does:
1. He withdraws all mercy forever—the wine of His wrath that these shall drink will be “unmixed,” unmingled with any compassion whatsoever.
2. It will be in “the cup of his anger” that His wrath will be served out to them. The impenitent daily and hourly “treasure up for themselves wrath in the day of wrath”: but God withholds His anger. He waits. He suffers long and is kind. But—“who may stand in Thy sight when once thou art angry?” (Psalm 76:7); Consider an Infinite Being “willing” (at last) “to show His wrath and make His power known.” Consider His words, “Vengeance is mine: I will repay.” The same verse that says “love is strong as death” declares “jealousy is cruel as Sheol.” The creature of this human race for whom His Son died who turns his back on the God whose name is Love, and chooses His enemy, the old serpent and murderer—God plainly tells us what He will do with him! He shall have “indignation forever”!
3. Consider the carefully described means of visitation upon such: “tormented with fire and brimstone.” Brimstone is the most terrible substance known in its action upon human flesh—in its torment when it touches the body. Combined with fire it is absolute agony, unutterable anguish! And it is meant to be so: for it will be the infliction of divine vengeance unlimited.
4. Consider the onlookers: “In the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb”! Vast, “innumerable hosts,” of those holy servants of God who watched the fearful choice of these now doomed humans, for whom, to the angelic astonishment, the Son of God once tasted death,—men that hated love and despised holiness: all the countless millions of angels are there, in deep, awful and holy approval of the divine sentence,— for their God hath done this! And in the presence of the Lamb! Oh, where in the universe is such a sight? Mercy is gone forever if the Lamb stands there: and He will!94
5. Consider the duration: “The smoke of their torment (compare Genesis 19:24, 28) goeth up for ever and ever.”95 And its unceasingness: “They have no rest day and night.” Let God speak. Let us be still, and believe, and fear. The wickedness of those who even think rebellion against the eternal retribution described thus plainly by God, will become so great as to ruin all faith in God’s Word. It is not your right to question. “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! a potsherd among the potsherds of the earth!” (Isaiah 45:9).
6. Finally, behold the marks of God’s patient elect, “the saints,” in contrast with these self-doomed and damned rebels. God will have His witnesses, in every scene of man’s sin. These, of course, are not the Church. They are God’s “elect” of Luke 18:1-8, who will cry for avenging from the adversary, in that awful time of trouble,—the remnant of Israel and those who help them. They are marked by “keeping the commandments of God,” for they are on Old Testament ground yet, as to law. And they have also “the faith of Jesus,” which is the earthly, Jewish confession of Him, according to Matthew’s gospel. What they show, preeminently, is “patience.” They must wait, and suffer, and still wait; as the Lord saith in Luke 21:19: “In your patience ye shall win your souls.”
Saints’ Death Best!
Never before could such a word be spoken! Always it had been better, heretofore, to live out the full time of a saint’s pilgrimage on earth: both for the sake of others, and for the learning of obedience by daily divine discipline. Now, however, the fearful days of Antichrist are on! Death is better than life, and for two reasons here announced by the Spirit:
1. Rest will be entered upon from their labors. The word here is hina—in order that they may rest. Rest is; at last obtainable in no other way but by death. When our Lord said to the mob led by Judas in Gethsemane, “This is your hour, and the authority of darkness” (Luke 22:53—Greek), He contrasted that hour with “when I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched not forth
Neither will it be, as now with us, that they can expect the Lord at any moment. Prophetic times will be known then, and just how much of the 42 months is left!
2. The second reason that those will be “blessed” who die “in the Lord” at that time, is—that their works accompany them. Four times in this very chapter the Greek work ranslated “follow” (aboloutheo) is used: in verse 4, “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth”; in verse 8, “a second angel followed”; in verse 9, “a third, followed them.” It is the word used of the disciples and multitudes “following,” in accompanying our Lord (Matthew 4:25; 8:1, etc.). So that we see that these are the last martyrs, in Revelation 14:13. They are seen as the third company of the reigners with Christ, in Revelation 20:6.96 They get a higher place than those, even of Israel, who merely “inherit the kingdom” as in Matthew 25:31-46.
Notice that John is called to write, here. It is of especial importance, therefore,—to be laid to heart in particular. And while verse 13 of our chapter has always a precious application to the death of any saint, it is only these last martyrs to whom the Word is directly addressed. “From henceforth” is a definite time-mark. (It is aparti, as in Matthew 23:39, and 26:29, 64.) It denotes a change of circumstances and conditions; and literally is: “from now.”
The Vision of the Harvest of the Earth
And he that sat on the cloud cast his sickle upon the earth; and the earth was reaped.
It is, we have no doubt, the Lord Jesus who is set forth here; but we must attend, in interpreting a passage, to what that passage sets forth. Then we compare it with other Scriptures. And thus we see here:
1. The “white cloud.” This is the first object brought before the Seer’s eyes.
2. One is sitting upon the cloud. Although He “mak- eth the clouds his chariot” and will come thereon, it is His position, not His movement, here noticed.
3. This Sitter appears as a son of man. There is no note here of the marvellous display of glory which our Lord always emphasized as attending His return as Son of man (Matthew 24:30; Mark 8:38, etc.). The fact that this One who is to reap the earth is a son of man, is alone set forth. But compare the words of our Lord in John 5:22, 27: the Father “hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father: … and he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man.” (Do not read “the son of man,” here, or you will miss the meaning.)
4. On the head of Him sitting on the cloud is a golden crown. The mere fact that He is sitting as a God-appointed King, is indicated—His royal right, for He will come as Son of man, and inherit all dominion as such. Psalm 8:6 will be fulfilled.
5. “In his hand a sharp sickle.” Not the glory of His person, or the process of His coming, but the fact that He is ready with a reaping instrument, is here emphasized. Rights over the harvest, (whatever the harvest is to be) are manifest. “Thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbor’s standing grain,” said the law. Therefore, He is to reap a field over which He has authority. Now, it is striking to discover that the “sickle” is mentioned just twelve times in the Bible, and seven of these are in our verses here! Also that the Greek word translated “sharp” (oxus) occurs seven times in The Revelation: four times describing the sickle here, and three times, that two-edged sword which proceeds from the Lord’s mouth for searching judgment. Inasmuch, therefore, as all after Revelation 4:1, as regards Church matters is meta tauta, or “after these things”; and inasmuch as the preserved remnant of 144,000 is seen before this (in 7 and 14:1-5); and inasmuch as the martyrs under the Beast are addressed in verse 13, as the blessed who shall die: are there any left for this sharp sickle, but the wicked of the earth?
6. “Another angel … from the temple”; this is evidently the temple in heaven, as in verse 17. From the presence of the Father, who hath set within His own authority—time and seasons (Acts 1:7; Matthew 24:36) the message is sent by this angelic mouth to the Lord to “send forth his sickle.” We need not wonder at this. Angels have the present world in their administration; they know and report to God continually as to its matters; especially, as in Sodom’s case (Genesis 18 and 19); and that of Ahab (1 Kings 22), concerning times when iniquity is full, and judgment is due. So the “crying with a great voice” is really God’s message to Christ, who has been, all along “expecting” such a message (Hebrew 10:12, 13; Psalm 2:7-9).
7. “Send forth thy sickle, and reap.” Many say this reaping is of both saints and sinners. But we feel that this ‘Revelation scene is purely one of judgment.
From the parable of the tares (Matthew 13) we learn that “the harvest is the consummation of the age.” But, while in the parable, the householder says: “In the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather up first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn”; in the interpretation of the parable, the Lord says: “The harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. As therefore the tares are gathered up and burned with fire; so shall it be in the end of the age. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Now note most carefully here, that while the angels gather out the wicked for the fire, they leave the righteous where they are, on earth, where the kingdom is set up. “My barn,” then, of the parable, becomes, necessarily, this earth as ruled by the Lord, when His Father’s kingdom has at last come. Therefore the “sickle” of Revelation 14 is seen to be one primarily of judgment on the wicked.97
8. “The hour to reap is come.”
This is an ominous announcement! Through the Old Testament prophets again and again we have the warning of a harvest time for the wicked, at this very end-time. We shall note this especially in the next vision—of the vintage. But both harvest and vintage are set forth in Joel 3:13: “Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe: Come, tread ye; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great.” This verse in itself is a complete answer to those who claim that the harvest in Revelation 14 means the saved, and the winepress the wicked. Both passages in Joel refer to the wicked; and that both refer to the wicked in Revelation 14, is shown by the place in The Revelation where it is found and by its conformity to all other Scripture. Note also the sickle, in Joel 3! It is there used, as here, for cutting down the over-ripe workers of iniquity!
9. “For the harvest of the earth is dry.” The Greek word here is the same as is used of the fig-tree in Mark 11:20; and in Luke 23:31 the adjective form is used: “What shall be done in the dry?”—meaning the dreadful
Next we have the Actor, the act, and the result—all that God desires us to see: all in one brief sentence! It involves, of course, the second coming of the King of kings, of chapter 19, with all the heavenly hosts in the Great Day of Wrath. But God wants us to behold, in the majestic simplicity of Deity, what will be done, ere the details come before us. Ah, and alas! how little men dream of the end of all their pride and their ambitions! “The earth was reaped”: that is the end of all things of which man boasts!
The Vine of the Earth and the Winepress of Blood
Here is before us—not the harvest, but the vine of the earth. Christ is the true Vine. But we now have before us those in active living league with Antichrist! The true Church is gone; false Christianity swallowed up by the Beast and his ten kings (Revelation 17:16, 17, 18), and all the earth (but “the elect” of those days) of “one mind, to give their kingdom unto the beast”—Satan’s Christ.
Thus comes “the vine of the earth.” Moses spake long ago of this day, in his great song in Deuteronomy 32:31-35:
“For their rock is not as our Rock,
Even our enemies themselves being judges.
For their vine is of the vine of Sodom,
And of the fields of Gomorrah:
Their grapes are grapes of gall,
Their clusters are bitter:
Their wine is the poison of serpents,
And the cruel venom of asps.
Is not this laid up in store with me,
Sealed up among my treasures?
Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
At the time when their foot shall slide:
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things that are to come upon them shall make haste.”
When we come to the gathering of the nations, in Revelation 16, to Armageddon, we can look more fully at the great movement under Antichrist to “cut off Israel from being a nation.” But we must quote Joel’s words here:
“Proclaim ye this among the nations: Prepare war; stir up the mighty men; let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears.” (Just the reverse of what Christ the Prince of Peace will do when He comes!—Isaiah 2:4.) “Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat (just east of Jerusalem); for there will I sit to judge all the nations round about. Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe: come, tread ye; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! for the day of Jehovah is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:12-14).
It needs to be known and remembered by us all that this earth is at war with God Almighty! And, although today is a time of salvation, and of restraining grace, when that salvation ceases, and restraint is removed, the whole earth will rush to cut off the name of Israel from the earth (Psalm 83).
Then God will meet them! “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.” The Lamb of God will come forth. As the Deliverer of Israel He will fulfill Isaiah 63. He will trample the embattled nations of this whole earth, millions upon millions of them, from Bozrah, in Edom, (where He will begin—Isaiah 63:1) to Megiddo at the foot of Mt. Carmel—the Harmagedon, or Armageddon of Scripture.
What movements of God’s “mighty ones” are in verse 19. For now we quote the verse in Joel 3 which we omitted above: “Haste ye, and come, all ye nations round about, and gather yourselves together: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down O Jehovah.” We know, from Revelation 16:13, 14, that the movement of the nations to Armageddon will be of Satanic energy (though commanded, prophetically, of God) but the disposition of those forces of all the earth into such a place and order that they may be trampled as one mass by the Son of Man Himself (Isaiah 63; Revelation 19:15) will be by angelic power.
Ah, such a fearful sight! Rivers of human blood “unto the bridles of the horses”! Yet it will be. If Josephus could say that when Jerusalem was taken by Titus, the Roman soldiers “obstructed the very lanes with dead bodies; and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fires of many of the houses was quenched with these men’s blood” (Wars: 6, 8)— what folly to doubt this word of God that a river of blood will run when the Son of God tramples the nations of all the earth in the Almighty’s anger! Yea, a river from Edom to Carmel, 1600 furlongs! We dare not read the verse that tells this, except as God’s literal foreview of fact!
Here in verse 20 is the Great Day of Wrath of all the prophets. Isaiah 34 tells us that Edom (where the slaughter begins) shall be “made drunken with blood,” and its very dust “fat with fatness” at that slaughter. “Without the city” means Jerusalem. Blood to “the bridles of the horses”—four feet of human blood for two hundred miles!
It is a literal trampling of the enemies of the Lord, in His fury: for He so declares, in Isaiah 63.
Reader, no honest soul can read Revelation 14, and ever hear again Satan’s preachers of “a world growing better and better.”
“O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of Jehovah.”
93 Jeremiah 25:15-26 is an astounding passage, revealing as it does the judicial operations of Jehovah through His prophets outlined in God’s commission to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:10: “I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Next is recorded the awful power for evil committed to Babylon, destroying with its idolatrous influence one nation after another,—Judah, Egypt, Uz, Philistia, and so on, 21 or 22 peoples being enumerated in the series, ending with the king of Sheshach—“he shall drink after them!” That is, the city of Babylon, the source of destruction, was to be the last destroyed, which we find fulfilled in The Revelation—Sheshach is the ancient name of Babylon (Revelation 16:19).
94 Let the daringly foolish that deny eternal punishment, and who profess to believe in a God incapable of wrath stay away from this spot!
95 The definite article is not used here. It is eis aionas aionon; for the abstract thought of “age-abidingness” is before us. In Revelation 20:10 the definite article is used, referring to this passage, and emphasizing the fact that the torment (which the wicked share with the Devil—Matthew 25:41) will endure through all the endless ages.
96 The first are those who are already seen sitting on the thrones, to whom “judgment” was given—the Church, according to 1 Corinthians 6:2; the second company are, we believe, those martyrs seen under the fifth seal, in Revelation 6—now at last raised (they lived) and those also up to the days of the Beast; and the third—the martyrs under the Beast, as in Revelation 14:13. They are the last; when their company is made up, the Lord arrives to avenge them all. See Revelation 6:11.
97 That the angels will also “gather together” the earthly elect at the Son of man’s coming is seen in Matthew 24:31. But that these are not “reaped” as are the others, is seen from the preceding verse, where “all the tribes of the earth mourn” at His appearing.