SIX ANGELIC MESSAGES
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
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
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."
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
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