Unless otherwise marked, all Scripture quotations are taken from the World English Bible (WEB), which is in the public domain. "World English Bible" is a trademark of Rainbow Missions, Inc.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publisher. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
The "NIV" and "New International Version" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by the International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.
Scripture quotations marked HCSB®, are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. HCSB® is a federally registered trademark of Holman Bible Publishers.
Scripture quotations marked (YLT) are taken from Young’s Literal Translation (1862 / 1898), which is in the public domain.
Daniel and Revelation
Revelation 14 - A Summary
of the Tribulation
Revelation chapter 14 is a brief summary of the seven-year period. It's given in seven parts. The seven parts are: (1) the sealing of the 144,000, (2) the time of the trumpets when the message to overcome sin is preached to the Church, (3) the start of the fall of Babylon, (4) the warning not to worship the beast or take the mark of the beast, (5) the "night," when no more work can be done, (6) the harvest of Christians (rapture), (7) and the harvest of sinners (Armageddon.)
Revelation 14:1-5 I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a number, one hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads. (2) I heard a sound from heaven, like the sound of many waters, and like the sound of a great thunder. The sound which I heard was like that of harpists playing on their harps. (3) They sing a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the one hundred forty-four thousand, those who had been redeemed out of the earth . (4) These are those who were not defiled with women, for they are [male] virgins. These are those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed by Jesus from among men, the first fruits to God and to the Lamb. (5) In their mouth was found no lie, for they are blameless.
Part 1 of this summary is the sealing of the 144,000. These five verses give us all the details about the 144,000. Understanding of these details is important in understanding of how the seven years of tribulation begins. Basically, the 144,000 are people of the Church who are given immortal bodies around the start of the seven years of tribulation for the Church. They will be important in teaching the Church about holiness.
The 144,000 are firstfruits to God and to Christ (verse 4).
Christ’s resurrection was on the feast of firstfruits. This feast was always on the first day after the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:4-11) during the Passover week. (The Passover week is the feast of unleavened bread.) There is always a Sabbath on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, which is the day after Passover. Christ was crucified on Passover. Then he arose on the first day after the Sabbath. The point here is that Christ’s resurrection was on the feast of firstfruits.
In 1 Corinthians 15, the chapter where Paul talks about the resurrection and immortal bodies, Paul says that the resurrection of Christ is the firstfruits.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23 But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruits of those who are asleep. (21) For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. (22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (23) But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ's, at his coming .
At the feast of firstfruits, they would harvest the first of the barley crop and offer it as a wave offering to the Lord. After that, comes the rest of the harvest.
Christ is the firstfruits of the harvest. The harvest is the work of bringing people into the knowledge of salvation, through Christ (Matthew 9:37-38, John 4:35). It's also the angels who harvest the wheat and the tares at the end of the age (Matthew 13:24-30, 21:34, 21:41). So, the harvest is the resurrection of the righteous in Christ and the rapture. It's the gathering of the elect.
If Christ is the firstfruits, then who are the 144,000? The Scripture tells us that the 144,000 are firstfruits to God and to Christ! They get their immortal bodies first, before the rest of the Bride!
The 144,000 are first because they have overcome sin. No lie is found on their mouth. They are blameless. They will be here during the trumpets as a witness to the rest of the Church that you must overcome sin in order to be saved. (As stated by each of the seven letters to the seven churches.)
The 144,000 are firstfruits. Then the next harvest is the rapture at the time of Armageddon, after the seven-year period. It's the harvest given in Part 6 of this summary, below.
The 144,000 receive their immortal bodies at the start of the seven-year period. This is probably about six months after the New Jerusalem appears in orbit around the earth. Christ appears, at the appointed time of the end, but the Church is not ready. Most of the Church still believes that it's impossible to completely overcome all your sinful habits. Thus, Christ confirms a "covenant with many" for seven more years (Daniel 9:27). The 144,000, who are the few, will have overcome sin before Christ appears. They will meet with Christ face-to-face "standing on Mount Zion." This means they all meet in Jerusalem, probably in the City of David. Thus, these elect are gathered to Jerusalem. After that, I believe they will be active in telling the rest of the Church about their meeting with Christ, and about the need to overcome sin so that the rest of the Church can also be harvested.
The 144,000 are "those who were not defiled with women, for they are [male] virgins" (verse 4). This is the only place in the New Testament where the male form of the Greek word for "virgins" is used. And it explicitly says they were not defiled with women. Are women excluded from the 144,000? As stated in my commentary on the sealing of the 144,000 in Revelation 7, I believe that perhaps144,000 women are redeemed from the earth as well as the 144,000 men.
Revelation 14:6-7 I saw an angel flying in mid heaven, having an eternal Good News to proclaim to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation, tribe, language, and people. (7) He said with a loud voice, "Fear the Lord, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and the springs of waters !"
Part 2 of this summary is about the time of the trumpets, when the message to overcome sin is preached to the Church. The trumpets are a wake-up call for the Church to overcome sin. The trumpets are patterned primarily after the Creation. This message to overcome sin is the everlasting gospel. This gospel is preached to every nation, tribe, language, and people.
I don't believe that every nation, tribe, language, and people will all hear the gospel before the New Jerusalem appears. In Matthew 24:14, the gospel is preached to every nation, and then the end comes. But that's not to say it's preached to every nation, tribe, language, and people before the end. The appearance of the New Jerusalem, the preaching of the two witnesses, and the ministry of the 144,000 will be very effective in preaching to every nation, tribe, language, and people. And the massive number of people who put their trust in Christ to overcome sin as a result of God's wake-up call will also be preaching to every nation, tribe, language, and people. After the 144,000 are sealed in Revelation 7:4-8, we read about the countless number, before the throne of the Lamb, from every nation, tribe, people, and language. This will be the result of the preaching that takes place during this time.
The trumpets are patterned primarily after the Creation. They are a wake-up call to obey the Creator. In these verses, the angel says to worship Him who "made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water." The earth is the target of the first trumpet. The sea is the target of the second trumpet. The “springs of water” is the target of the third trumpet. And the heavens, which are the sun, moon, and stars, are a target of the fourth trumpet.
The two witnesses and the 144,000 will certainly be preaching the Gospel to the nations. But the verse seems to indicate that an angel will be preaching. Will angels literally be flying around in the air and in a loud voice proclaiming the Gospel? It’s more likely that the New Jerusalem and the angels will be helping the two witnesses proclaim the Gospel to every nation, tribe, language, and people. We know they will prophesy for 1260 days. What will they be saying? They will be preaching the Gospel, of course. They will be telling the world that if we worship Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit can be a Helper who will help us to overcome all our sinful habits, and thus be saved from sin and death. They will be saying you can and must completely stop sinning in order to inherit eternal life.
Perhaps they will be on TV. But CNN and the other networks are not going to be willing to broadcast the two witnesses every day for 1260 days. But how can they preach the Gospel to every nation, tribe, people, and language without the use of world-wide Television? Could it be the angels will help by broadcasting a world-wide radio and television signal of the two witnesses preaching and teaching? And with the presence of the New Jerusalem, everyone who has ears to hear will want to tune in and hear what the two witnesses will have to say.
Revelation 14:8 Another, a second angel, followed, saying, "Babylon the great has fallen, which has made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her sexual immorality."
Part 3 of this summary is about the fall of Babylon. I don't think Babylon is actually destroyed until Armageddon, which is after the sixth bowl of wrath. Chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation are about the complete and final destruction of Babylon. This is more of the warning that will come to all nations about the coming fall of Islam.
Scripture often refers to events that are still to come in the past tense. We were saved. We are being saved. And we will be saved. The journey or path we are on has a foregone conclusion of salvation. Likewise, Babylon has fallen. This means the fall of Babylon is a foregone conclusion. In Hebrew future events that are sure to come about can be spoken of in the past tense. “By his stripes we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5). This was written about 900 years before Christ was born, well before he received his “stripes.” Likewise, Babylon has fallen (past tense).
The best way to view the fall of Babylon is from the teaching of the statue in Daniel 2. The head of the statue is gold, so the whole statue is prophetic Babylon. The feet of the statue symbolize the end-time kingdom of the antichrist. A stone, which is Christ, destroys the whole statue by crushing the feet (Daniel 2:34-35).
The kingdom of the antichrist is not destroyed until Armageddon at the end of the great tribulation. The antichrist will bring the world to ruin. And the bowls of wrath will bring about the fall of the religious kingdom of the antichrist, which is Babylon. Chapters 17 and 18 contain the details about the fall of Babylon. And its complete destruction is when Christ (the Stone) strikes the kingdom of the antichrist. But I think the destruction of Babylon becomes a foregone conclusion when the world turns control over to the antichrist. World War III is probably one of the major instigators of the world saying, "peace and safety." Read 1st Thessalonians 5:3-5. After the world says, "peace and safety," sudden destruction comes on them. They are in the "night." The primary meaning of these verses in 1 Thessalonians 5:3-5 is that the night is darkness and wickedness. But I think the night is also the time when the antichrist rules over every nation, tribe, people, and language for 42 months. The "night" is a time when no one can work (John 9:4). But Christ will come as a "thief in the night," to gather the elect.
The sixth trumpet is about a war where one third of mankind is killed. (See my comments on the sixth trumpet.) It would seem to be World War III, before the antichrist rules every nation, tribe, people, and language. So, this is the start of the fall of Babylon, but not its complete destruction.
In Isaiah 21, we read these words about the fall of Babylon. Right before this verse in Isaiah 21, the Lord asks Isaiah to post a lookout (symbolically). Compare what the lookout says in Isaiah with the second angel in Revelation.
Isaiah 21:8-9 NIV And the lookout shouted, "Day after day, my lord, I stand on the watchtower; every night I stay at my post. (9) Look, here comes a man in a chariot with a team of horses. And he gives back the answer: "Babylon has fallen, has fallen! All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!'"
Revelation 14:8 NIV A second angel followed and said, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries."
Revelation 14:9-12 Another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead, or on his hand, (10) he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. (11) The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. They have no rest day and night , those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. (12) Here is the patience of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
Part 4 of this summary is the warning not to worship the beast or take the mark of the beast. This mark, and this world-wide law to worship the statue, are probably given right at the beginning of the "night," when the antichrist rules over every nation, tribe, people, and language for 42 months.
As a side note, these four verses are, in my opinion, the biggest argument against one of the doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Chapter 9 of their widely printed and studied book, titled "You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth," is on this issue. Chapter 9 says that God will not torment the unsaved. They use Jeremiah 7:31 to say that God never had the "idea of roasting people in fire." Of course the verse in Jeremiah is about the people of Israel who were literally sacrificing their children in fire. God is saying that He did not command them to do so. They go on to say that "God is Love," and that such a God would not torment people in fire.
They do a word study of Sheol (Hebrew) and Hades (Greek). This word study is actually quite good. Also the Greek word Gehenna is studied. This is the place outside of Jerusalem where the people of Israel sacrificed their children in fire. These are all very reasonable arguments that the dead are not conscious in Heaven or Hell. Also, Jesus, Paul, and Old Testament writers speak of the dead being asleep, meaning unaware of anything. (Job 3:13, Psalm 13:3, Jeremiah 51:39,57, Matthew 9:24, John 11:11-14, Acts 7:60, 13:36, 1st Corinthians 11:30, 15:6, 15:18, 15:20, 1st Thessalonians 4:13-15, 5:10)
All these verses and word studies make a valid argument that the dead are unaware of anything for the time up till the great white throne and the resurrection of the dead in Revelation 20:11-15. The lake of fire is the second death (verse 20:14). Do all the arguments for the dead being unaware apply after they come back to life, are judged, and then go to the second death? This is something that most Jehovah’s Witnesses have not considered.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses say that, "When Jesus was on earth jailers were at times called 'tormentors.'" They quote Matthew 18:34 for this. The idea is that the dead are "locked up" out of existence, so they are jailed but not really tormented. But the wicked man who was delivered to his the jailer in Matthew 18:34 was not tormented with fire and brimstone. He was locked up until he could pay for all that he owed. He was still in existence, and therefore was tormented by the fact that he was in jail and not free. The Jehovah’s Witnesses say:
Since those who are thrown into the "lake of fire" go into "second death" from which there is no resurrection, they are, so to speak, jailed forever in death. They remain in death as though in the custody of jailers for all eternity. The wicked, of course, are not literally tormented because, as we have seen, when a person is dead he is completely out of existence. He is not conscious of anything. (Second half of paragraph 18, chapter 9, "You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth")
The Jehovah’s Witnesses simply apply all the arguments of Scripture about the first death to the second death. But these verses in Revelation 14:9-12 would seem to completely defy this teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. (These verses are not mentioned in their chapter 9, titled "What Kind of Place is Hell.")
If the wicked are out of existence after the second death, how can they be in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb? The wicked man who was delivered to his jailer in Matthew 18:34 was not tormented with fire and brimstone. Why are the wicked tormented with burning sulfur (or fire and brimstone)? If they are not tormented, why does smoke rise from their torment? If they are asleep, why does this verse say they have "no rest day or night?" How can they have "no rest day or night" if they are out of existence?
The major meaning of Revelation 14:9-12 is a warning that if you receive the mark of the beast, or worship the image, that you will be tortured with fire and brimstone. These verses cannot be interpreted in any other way. But does this mean they will be tortured forever and ever? The verse says, "The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever." I take this to mean two things. First, they will not be resurrected. Secondly, the evidence of their eternal deaths will continue forever. The smoke is evidence of the fact that they were tormented, and that they will not be resurrected. Compare Revelation 14:9-12 with Isaiah 34:8-10:
Isaiah 34:8-10 ESV For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion. (9) And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into sulfur; her land shall become burning pitch . (10) Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it forever and ever.
Revelation 14:10-12 He also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. (11) The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. They have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. (12) Here is the patience of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
The verses in Revelation speak of torment, whereas the verses in Isaiah only speak about the evidence of death and destruction. But we should not interpret the verses in Revelation without considering these original verses in Isaiah. When we consider this Old Testament context, it would seem that the smoke of the torment is talking about the evidence of their torment and destruction.
In other words, I don't believe they are literally tormented forever. But they are tormented for some amount of time, probably depending upon judgments received at the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-12). In Matthew 10:28, Jesus tells us, "Don't be afraid of those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." I believe that Gehenna is the lake of fire after the great white throne judgment. So the soul can be destroyed in Gehenna. It may take a long while, and during the destruction of the soul there will be great torment. But I don't think the torment lasts forever. Perhaps, as the soul is being slowly destroyed, the torment decreases over time as the soul becomes less and less self-aware.
Another point that needs to be made is that this torment is not for everyone who dies having never heard about Christ. It's not even for those who die without making a profession of faith in Christ. The torment is for those who take the mark of the beast and worship the beast and his image. It’s for those who deliberately and knowingly become enemies of Christ. Think about it. The New Jerusalem will be in orbit around the earth. The antichrist will blaspheme Christ and those who live in heaven, which is the New Jerusalem. The two witnesses will be preaching to the world. The 144,000 will also be preaching to the churches. The choice becomes clear.
Are you going to side with the antichrist, or are you going to side with Christ? Those who take the mark of the beast are deliberately taking an oath of allegiance for the antichrist and against Christ. In the past, some saw Christ's miracles but said, they were the work of "Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons" (Matthew 12:24). Jesus warned them that this sin was unpardonable (Matthew 12:32). If you deliberately and knowingly become Christ's enemy, you forfeit the work of salvation that Christ paid on the cross. If you become an enemy of Christ, you will not be resurrected. Instead, your soul will be destroyed over a period of time through torment in the lake of fire.
Revelation 14:13 I heard the voice from heaven saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' ""Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them."
Part 5 of this summary is the "night," when no more work can be done. This will be a time of great persecution for the saints who have overcome sin. This is the great tribulation for the true Church. Many will be killed. But their work is over. In the "night," no work can be done. All who have turned to Christ will have done so by this time. The saints who are killed will not have to go through more persecution. And they will be resurrected on the last day. So, they are blessed to be allowed to rest until the resurrection.
Revelation 14:14-16 I looked, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud one sitting like a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. (15) Another angel came out from the temple, crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, "Send forth your sickle, and reap; for the hour to reap has come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe!" (16) He who sat on the cloud thrust his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.
Part 6 of this summary is the harvest of those who are in Christ Jesus. The one sitting on the cloud is "like a son of man." He has a crown of gold on his head. This one must be Jesus Christ. Jesus is sitting on a cloud as he harvests the earth. At the resurrection, on the last day, the dead in Christ are raised. Those in Christ receive immortal bodies on that last day. Then 45 days later, at the rapture, Jesus comes in a cloud (Matthew 24:30, 26:64, 1st Thessalonians 4:17, Revelation 1:7).
Notice that verses 14-16 are about the harvest of those in Christ. No mention is made of grapes or the winepress. Verses 17-20 are from "another angel." Verses 17-20 are about the winepress of God's wrath. These two parts should not be confused, and are not the same.
To some degree, there is a little overlap in the timing between the harvest of those in Christ, and the harvest of wrath (below). The resurrection is on the “last day.” Those in Christ, who are alive at the time, will be changed to have immortal bodies. During the 45 days that follow, we have the first six bowls of wrath. After the 45 days, we have the rapture. The rapture, of course, relates to the harvest of those in Christ. After the rapture comes Armageddon. This is the seventh bowl of wrath.
But the event which most directly equates to the harvest of those in Christ is the resurrection on the last day. Those in the heart of the earth are harvested from the earth. And those who are alive also receive immortal bodies. Jesus Christ and the 144,000 are the firstfruits of the harvest. The resurrection is the harvest of the Bride of Christ. But the Church is also the firstfruits (2 Thess. 2:13, James 1:18). Later, during the millennial reign, many in the nations will be harvested to receive immortal bodies.
The event that most directly equates to the harvest of wrath (below) is the seventh bowl of wrath and Armageddon. Those who take the mark of the beast are killed.
Revelation 14:17-20 Another angel came out from the temple which is in heaven. He also had a sharp sickle. (18) Another angel came out from the altar, he who has power over fire, and he called with a great voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Send forth your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for the earth's grapes are fully ripe!" (19) The angel thrust his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vintage of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. (20) The winepress was trodden outside of the city, and blood came out from the winepress, even to the bridles of the horses, as far as one thousand six hundred stadia.
Part 7 of this summary is the harvest of sinners (Armageddon). After the rapture is the wrath of God during Armageddon. A great multitude of people is killed. Armageddon is when the nations of the world surround Jerusalem. Armageddon is in the valley of Megiddo, outside the city. This is where we get 180 miles of blood, parts of which are as deep as the horses’ bridles. See Zechariah 12-14 for an account of Armageddon.
The winepress of God's wrath comes from Joel 3:9-16. Here we have a clear description of Armageddon. Joel 2:31 says it's during the Day of the Lord. The sun is darkened, and the moon turns to blood. This is the same sign as given in the sixth seal. It's the sign given in Matthew 24:29, after the Great Tribulation and just before the return of Christ in Matthew 24:30-31.
I believe this sign happens twice. The New Jerusalem appears. But the Bride is not ready. The Bride has not yet overcome sin. Only a few, the 144,000, are ready for Christ to appear. So Christ confirms a "covenant with many," for seven more years. After the seven years, the New Jerusalem appears again. So the signs in the heavens happen twice. The second occurrence is at the time of Armageddon, at the end of the seven years. Christ returns and pours out his wrath on all his enemies who have taken the mark of the beast and worshiped the beast and his image.
The winepress of God's wrath can also be found in Isaiah 63:2-6.