Notes on Revelation 14:6 - 15:1
Cecil N. Wright

            Introduction: In Chapters 6:1 - 8:6, we have had the opening of the Seven Seals; in Chapters 8:7 - 11:18, the sounding of the Seven Trumpets; in Chapters 11:19 - 14:5, the introduction to the Seven Mystic Figures, followed by an Interlude of Six Angelic Messages in 14:6-20; and in Chapters 15:1 - 16:21, we have the pouring out of Seven Bowls of plagues – "which are the last, for in them is finished the wrath of God" (15:1) -- associated with the sounding of the Seventh Trumpet (10:5-7) and "the kingdom of the world" (seemingly the Roman empire) becoming "the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ" (11:15) – that is, the triumph of Christianity over paganism in the Roman empire.

            It bears repeating that Chapter 11:19 seems to have marked a new beginning – that up to that point the secular history of the Roman empire as it affected the church seems mostly to have symbolized, and that from that point onward much the same ground is covered again but with significant aspects of religious history receiving the emphasis. Also, that the seven Seals seem to incorporate the Seven Trumpets, and the Seven Trumpets to incorporate the Seven Bowls, so that the events of the Seven Seals are not complete prior to the completion of those of the Seventh Bowl. Likewise, that the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls are not necessarily consecutive, but may in part be simultaneous and represent simply differently aspects of the same general events, and that there may even be an overlapping of the Seals with other Seals, of Trumpets with other Trumpets, and Bowls with other Bowls. A remarkable similarity will be found between the descriptions of the Seven Bowls (Chapter 16, "Seven Bowls of Wrath" Notes to Revelation (15:1 - 16:21) and the Seven Trumpets (Chapter 8 and 9, "The Last Four Trumpets" Notes to Revelation 8:6 - 11:19), yet with a difference. But before that, we have an Interlude of Six Angelic Messages that serve as a significant prelude to the pouring out of the Seven Bowls and "finishing the wrath of God" upon the Roman Empire.

            I. SIX ANGELIC MESSAGES (14:6-20).

            1. First Message (vs.6-7). "and I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having eternal good tidings to proclaim unto them that dwell on the earth, and unto every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he saith with a great voice, Fear God, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters."

            This message is by "another angel" than the one of Chapter 10:1. It is a warning of judgment about to fall upon the Roman empire, but the eternal good tidings is being proclaimed empire-wide with the implication of salvation for all who will heed it and worship the God of heaven (instead of the emperor or any other god), It is possible that it corresponds with prophecy of the Two Witnesses of 11:3. It is reiterated in 18:4 in connection with announcement of the fall of Babylon. saying, "come forth, my people, out of her, that ye have no fellowship with her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" – this being addressed to potential converts to Christ.

            2. Second Message (v.8). "and another, a second angel, followed, saying Fallen fallen is Babylon the great, that hath made all nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."

            That fall is so certain that it is spoken of as already accomplished, but is not described in detail till chapters 17 and 18 as a city and a great harlot, where it is pretty evident that it is pagan Rome. "The wine of the wrath of her fornication" may be do called because (a) of her wrath manifested in the persecution of those who refused to engage in her fornication (namely, idolatry and, here, emperor worship particularly), or because (b) the wine of God’s wrath is to be poured out upon her on account of her fornication.

            3. Third Message (vs.9-12). " And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice, If any man worshippeth the beast and his image, and receiveth a mark on his forehead, or upon his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, they that worship the beast and his image, and who so receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints, they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."

            The "beast" here mentioned is the Beast from the Sea of 13:1-10, namely, Imperial Rome, particularly in the person of Domitian, or Nero-revivified, and supported by the Beast from the Earth of 13:11-18, namely Emperor cult of the pagan priesthood, whose chief function was to promote emperor worship. The angelic message spells out the doom of anyone who yields to such promotion, and is designed to promote patience or faithful endurance of the saints in their loyalty to God and Jesus under persecution for not worshipping the emperor.

            4. Fourth Message (v.13). "And I heard a voice from heaven saying Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them."

            The voice is not identified except as being from heaven, but was one of authority and may have been that of an angel. The "blessedness" it describes is the opposite of the doom announced for those who worship the beast. To "die in the Lord" is to die in the fellowship with him, which can be only if we are faithful to him when we die, even if we have to die because of our faith. The Lord had enjoined and promised, Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give the crown of life" (2:10). He had also warned, "And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). "For whosoever would save his life (by disloyalty to the Lord in this world) shall lose it (in the world to come): and whosoever shall loose his life for my sake (in this world) shall find it (in the world to come)" (Matthew 16:25). Those who die in the Lord or for the Lord, as many would be doing from the time John was told to write the above assurance, would not be deprived of any blessedness by death. Rather, they would enjoy rest from their labors and their works on earth would not be forgotten, but would go with them as it were and be rewarded in the world to come. The word here for "labor"(kopos) means labor to the point of weariness, and sometimes to the point of trouble and pain.

            The next two messages are associated with activity. The descriptions are in language that could be eschatological (pertaining to last things). But more likely intended to represent judgments on Babylon, whose fall has already been announced but not yet described. For, after these messages, the pouring out of the seven plagues that result in Babylon’s fall is depicted in chapters 15 and 16 and described still further in chapters 17-19.

            5. Fifth Message (vs.14-16). "And I saw, and behold, a white cloud: and on the cloud I saw one sitting like unto a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the temple, crying with a great voice to him that sat upon the cloud, Send forth thy sickle, and reap: for the hour to reap has come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud cast his sickle upon the earth; and the earth was reaped."

            In 1:13, "one like the unto a son of man" represented the risen and eternal Christ. And so it may here. If so, God is represented as telling him through an angle that the time is come to reap the harvest of the earth. Though this may be eschatological. As in the Parable of the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30,36-43), it is more likely intended to apply to the end or near the end of the Roman empire and the destruction of "Babylon." In the Parable, the wicked are separated from the righteous by the reapers at harvest, and burned. In this instance, however, nothing is said of the disposition of that which is harvested.

            But harvest and reaping may be understood in still another sense. When Jesus had discoursed with the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well near Sychar, she went back to the city and told the inhabitants, "Come, see a man, who told me all things that I ever did: can this be the Christ?" When they left the town and were coming to him, Jesus addressed his disciples, saying: "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white already unto harvest. He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal." (John 4:27-38.) In this case, He was speaking of evangelism and conversions of people unto himself and unto eternal life. And the fields being white unto harvest refers to great numbers being ready for conversion. So it might likewise be in the text above, in which it is said: "Send forth thy sickle, and reap: for the hour to reap is come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe." For there came a time in the Roman empire, notwithstanding the most intense and widespread and prolonged persecution thus far, that conversions likewise increased and the fortunes of Christians and pagans became reversed in the empire, with the heavy judgments coming to fall upon the latter, which could well be the subject of the next angelic message.

            6. Sixth Message (vs.17-29). "And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the alter, he that hath power over fire; and he called with a great voice to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Send forth thy sharp sickle, and gather clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel cast his sickle unto the earth, and gathered the vintage of the earth, and cast it into the winepress, the great winepress, of the wrath of God. and the winepress was trodden without the city, and there came out blood from the winepress, even unto the bridles of the horses, as far as a thousand and six hundred furlongs."

            This is definitely symbolic of terrible judgments upon the grapes of God’s wrath – his enemies and the enemies of his people. It is similar to what will be said with reference to Christ in the last great and decisive battle against the Beast and his supporters in 19:15, where it is stated that "he treadeth the winepresses of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty." And it is most probable that these are two descriptions of the same event – the latter being the more elaborately descriptive of finality in regard to the Roman empire, but is not eschatological – there being more than a thousand years afterward prior to the time of the end, according to Chapter 20.

            The winepress imagery may be taken from 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." Ripeness for the harvest both here and in Revelation refers to having become deserving of the vengeance because of persistent and exceeding iniquity. And the terribleness of the vengeance in Revelation is symbolically described as blood coming out of the winepress "unto the bridles of the horses, as far as a thousand and six hundred furlongs" – or 200 miles, counting eight furlongs to the mile. However, in the Greek it is 1600 stadion, or more nearly 184 miles. That, however, is immaterial – the purpose being to empress enormity.