My Eyes Have Seen the Coming of the Glory of the Lord
Main Idea: At the return of the Lamb, the enemies of Christ will be eternally punished while eternal rest and reward are promised for those who have their faith in Jesus.
- Faithful Followers of Jesus Have a Glorious Future (14:1-5).
- The redeemed will stand with Him securely (14:1).
- The redeemed will sing to Him loudly (14:2-3).
- The redeemed will be sanctified through Him completely (14:4-5).
- God Will Be Just in His Treatment of All Persons (14:6-13).
- All peoples are called to fear, glorify, and worship their Creator God (14:6-7).
- Unbelievers can anticipate defeat, wrath, and eternal torment (14:8-11).
- Believers will endure, obey, find rest, and be rewarded (14:12-13).
- Jesus Will Pour Out His Wrath on the Earth in Righteous Judgment (14:14-20).
- The judgment will be in glory and on time (14:14-16).
- The judgment will be universal and horrific (14:17-20).
There is an old song called “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which begins with words that reflect the text before us: “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” The idea of God trampling out sinners in wrath is not a popular idea in our culture. One denomination recently refused to include the popular hymn “In Christ Alone” because it found offensive the line “When on the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” They preferred to change the latter phrase to “the love of God was magnified.” The idea of wrath offends modern sensibilities. However, the wrath of God is a thoroughly biblical concept we neglect or deny at our peril.
In Psalm 94:1-2 we read, “Lord, God of vengeance—God of vengeance, appear. Rise up, Judge of the earth; repay the proud what they deserve.” The prayer of the psalmist is answered in Revelation 14, a text that stands in amazing contrast to chapter 13. There the beast, the antichrist, rises to power. He wars against the saints and overcomes them (13:7), takes authority over the whole earth (13:7), and puts to death those who will not worship him or bear his mark (13:15-18). Now in three separate visions (see “I looked” or “I saw” in 14:1,6,14) we see the warrior Lamb standing on Mount Zion with his army of saints (14:1). They sing the song of redemption (14:2-3) and follow after the Lamb in holiness and purity (14:4-5). They have the promise of heaven and glory whereas the followers of the beast have the certainty of judgment and hell (14:6-20). This chapter is a preview of coming attractions. The one you follow is crucial. The one you worship is decisive.
Faithful Followers of Jesus Have a Glorious Future
Warren Wiersbe is certainly correct: “Better to reign with Christ forever, than to reign with Antichrist for a few years” (Be Victorious, 112). To this I would add, “Better to worship the Lamb who redeems and rewards than the beast who deceives and destroys.” John begins this chapter with his attention turned to the Lamb, the Lord Jesus, and His followers. Three glorious promises are ours to enjoy forever and ever.
The Redeemed Will Stand with Him Securely (14:1)
The Lamb is now standing on Mount Zion and with Him 144,000. This is the same 144,000 of Revelation 7:1-8. As there, I believe these are Jewish believers who belong to God and are protected by God. Both His name and the Father’s name are written, permanently inscribed, on their foreheads. These followers of Christ are dependent on God, loyal to God, owned by God, safe and secure in God.
They stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion. Some believe this is heavenly Zion, based on Hebrews 12:22-24. That is certainly possible. However, I believe it is better to see this as earthly Jerusalem and a reflection of the beautiful messianic hymn of Psalm 2. There in verse 6 we read, “I have consecrated My King on Zion, My holy mountain.” Psalm 48:2 says that God’s holy mountain, “rising splendidly, is the joy of the whole earth. Mount Zion on the slopes of the north is the city of the great King.” Isaiah 24:33 adds,
The moon will be put to shame and the sun disgraced, because the Lord of Hosts will reign as king on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and He will display His glory in the presence of His elders.
This is the mountain of the great King, and there He stands in triumphant victory. By glorious grace those who follow Him stand with Him.
The reign of terror of the dragon, antichrist, and false prophet is already passing away. Their doom is certain. There is a new King on the scene! The beast is going down as the Lamb stands up (see 5:6-7; see also Ps 76).
The Redeemed Will Sing to Him Loudly (14:2-3)
In verse 1, John sees the glory of God. Now he hears singing to the glory of God. Once more he hears “a sound from heaven” (see 4:1; 10:4,8; 11:12; 12:10,13; 18:14; 19:1). This recalls the vision of 1:15 (see Ezek 43:2). Here the voice is not one but many. Duvall says John hears “a resounding heavenly anthem. The sound is both booming and beautiful” (Revelation, 191). Indeed, the sound of the waters and thunders are impressive and powerful. The song, John says, is “like harpists harping with their harps” (my translation).
To these instruments is added “a new song,” the song of the redeemed (see 5:9). They sing before the throne, angels (“the four living creatures”), and the representatives of the redeemed (“the elders”). Only the redeemed (the 144,000) can learn and sing this song. If I am correct that the 144,000 represent Jewish believers, it may also be correct that here they represent all believers as they sing the song of redemption and salvation. Such joy and celebration is the natural response of all who have been purchased for God by the blood of the Lamb. Saved by a salvation we do not deserve or could ever earn, we rejoice in the Lamb who was slaughtered but is now standing (5:6). Christianity has always been a singing faith. It will remain so for all eternity!
The Redeemed Will Be Sanctified Through Him Completely (14:4-5)
Verse 4 can be a bit tricky if we forget Revelation is apocalyptic, symbolic language. We are introduced to virgins who have not defiled themselves with women. This, without question, is symbolic of their fidelity and allegiance to the Lamb whom they follow wherever He goes. In other words, they are spiritually faithful to their God in a world awash in idolatry and immorality (see 9:20-21; see also Jas 4:5). They have remained morally and spiritually pure in their devotion of and love for the Lamb. No other God would they consider. No other lover would they entertain. They follow Christ and only Christ, for He redeemed them. He set them free from slavery to sin. He purchased them from the enslavement and bondage to sin. They continually follow the Lamb as “firstfruits.” This could indicate they are the beginning of a greater harvest to follow. Based on Revelation 7:9-14, we know that many will come to Christ during the great tribulation even as God pours out His judgment and wrath on unrepentant humanity.
Verse 5 informs us that as they follow the Lamb, there is no lie in their mouth, and they are blameless. “They are ambassadors of truth and enemies of falsehood in what they say and how they live” (Duvall, Revelation, 192). Believers hold fast to Christ (14:4-5) because He holds fast to them (14:1). He is truly glorified in us because we are fully and totally satisfied in Him. He is all we could ever want!
God Will Be Just in His Treatment of All Persons
Beginning with verse 6, we are introduced to six angelic messengers who appear in the remainder of the chapter (14:6,8,9,15,17,18). Their messages contain both blessing and cursing. There are words of gospel (14:6). There are also words of judgment. What is made crystal clear is there is no place in a biblical, orthodox theology for universalism (i.e., the belief that eventually all persons will be saved). A biblical portrait of hell and eternal torment is painted for us in verses 10-11 that are simply too plain to be denied. Revelation 14:6-20 could not be more politically incorrect for an age that tolerates anything and everything. However, one thing is certain: the God of all the earth will do right (Gen 18:25). A day of reckoning is coming for all of us. We will not all be treated the same though we will all be treated justly and righteously. No one will stand before God at judgment and say, “You did me wrong. You were unfair.” Such a day will never come.
All Peoples Are Called to Fear, Glorify, and Worship Their Creator God (14:6-7)
Flying “high overhead” (ESV, “directly overhead”) is actually mid-heaven. It refers to that point in the sky where the sun reaches its apex or highest point. This angel will be at the highest point, and verse 7 informs us that he will speak with the loudest voice. All will see him and all will hear him.
He preaches the everlasting gospel. This is the only time an angel is said to preach the gospel! Generally this is our assignment. The “eternal” gospel is the same gospel proclaimed throughout all of history. It is the good news of forgiveness and eternal life made possible through the death of Jesus Christ for sinners. Old Testament saints looked forward to this day. All New Testament believers look back to what Christ accomplished.
The gospel is identified in various ways in the Bible:
- “the good news of the kingdom” (Matt 4:23)
- “the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1)
- “the good news of God” (Mark 1:14)
- “the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24)
- “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor 4:4)
- “the gospel of salvation” (Eph 1:13)
- “the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15)
- “the glorious gospel” (1 Tim 1:11) (MacArthur, Revelation 12–22, 86)
The gospel truly is great and multifaceted!
Jesus promised that this gospel would be preached throughout the whole world before the end (Matt 24:14). The preaching of this angel will in some sense assure that this promise is indeed fulfilled (MacArthur, Revelation 12–22, 86).
The audience of this message is said again to be “the inhabitants of the earth.” This is the phrase used throughout Revelation to refer to unbelievers. Furthermore, they are described as “every nation, tribe, language, and people.” The nature of this angel’s ministry is comprehensive and worldwide in the truest sense. He will indeed preach the gospel to all creation. To preach the gospel to all creation was the last command our Lord gave to His disciples (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). We are never more faithful to the heart and will of our Lord than when we, like this faithful angel, preach the gospel to all creation. There is still time, but it will not last forever.
Verse 7 contains the rightful response of every person to the God who made them and the gospel that can redeem them. This particular verse is steeped both in imperatives and in natural revelation. The words fear, give, and worship are all imperatives of command.
God is the sovereign Lord; therefore, we should fear Him. Complete awe and reverence are His rightful due.
God is the awesome Judge; therefore, we should give Him glory. The text says, “The hour of His judgment has come.” The time for salvation is almost gone. The opportunity to receive Christ is fading quickly. The bowl judgments of chapter 16 are fast approaching. Armageddon is just around the corner. The Second Coming (19:11-21) could happen at any moment.
God is the marvelous Creator; therefore, we should worship Him. Our text emphasizes the magnitude of God’s creative work. He is the One who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water. God has therefore revealed Himself both in Scripture (special revelation) and in nature (general revelation). Romans 1 and 2 remind us that because of this general revelation, no one has an excuse. In nature God has made Himself known to all persons both in creation and in conscience.
When Paul evangelized Jews, he almost always started with the Old Testament Scriptures, since he shared with them the belief that the Scriptures are God’s Word. However, when he evangelized Greeks and pagan Gentiles, his starting point was almost always creation (see Acts 14 and 17) (MacArthur, Revelation 12–22, 89). In secular America today, creation is often the best, even a necessary, starting point when it comes to evangelizing those who need to know Jesus. Before you introduce someone to the Redeemer, you must first help them understand there is a Creator. As Creator, God made everything and everyone. Knowing such a truth is a starting point for my understanding that I have a responsibility to rightly relate to that One who made me. This is the heart of Paul’s theology in Romans 1. This is the heart of John’s argument here in Revelation 14:7.
Unbelievers Can Anticipate Defeat, Wrath, and Eternal Torment (14:8-11)
Verses 8-13 reveal a tremendous contrast between those who follow the Lamb and those who follow the beast, between the saved and the lost. We see first the destiny of the unsaved. Their end can only be described as heartbreaking, sorrowful, and tragic. Their future is unimaginably dark and hopeless.
“A second angel” appears announcing the fall of “Babylon the Great.” Babylon is introduced here for the first time in Revelation, though a more full description will be provided in chapters 17 and 18. Babylon the Great is referenced six times (14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2,10,21; see also Dan 4:30). Ancient Babylon in Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq, had been a political, commercial, and religious powerhouse. It was once a great empire and known for its decadence, gross immorality, and idolatry.
In Revelation, Babylon stands for that system that stands religiously, politically, and economically in opposition to all that is of God. It is the antichrist’s worldwide political, economic, and religious empire. Founded by Nimrod (Gen 10:9), Babylon was the site of the first organized system of idolatrous and false worship (Gen 11:1-4). The tower of Babel was its most pronounced expression. So certain is its demise that the word fallen is repeated. It is certain to be destroyed (MacArthur, Revelation 12–22, 90).
All nations have been intoxicated, deceived, and seduced by this false system headed by the antichrist. Like a seductive prostitute, the Babylonian system leads men into passionate maddening adultery with a god who is no god at all.
Those who drink Babylon’s wine and experience her passion will also drink another wine and experience another passion. Tragically, it will be the wine of the wrath of God. As the 144,000 follow the Lamb, so those on the earth follow Babylon and the beast (14:9). The result is that they will now drink the wine of the wrath of God in full strength and in full measure.
In the Old Testament, God’s wrath is often pictured as a cup of wine to be drunk (Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17; Jer 25:15). Such wrath is the personal and proper response of a holy and righteous God to rebellious sinners who have said no to His love and grace revealed in Jesus Christ.
Verses 10 and 11 provide a terrifying picture of hell and eternal damnation. It is impossible to read these verses and come up with any kind of doctrine of universalism, annihilationism, or conditional immortality. The picture is one of conscious, eternal, and everlasting torment before the angels and the Lamb. Those in hell will have a constant awareness and knowledge of the God they rejected. This will only enhance the horror and torment they will experience. Fire and brimstone are often used in Scripture with respect to divine judgment. God used it to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24-25; Luke 17:29) (MacArthur, Revelation 12–22, 91). Our Lord spoke of hell as a place of “eternal fire” (Matt 18:8; 25:41), “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), and where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). In Matthew 25:41 Jesus taught that the everlasting fire or hell was “prepared for the Devil and his angels.” God does not desire that anyone would go to hell, but that all would come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). Those who go to hell choose their destiny, saying no to the grace of God made available to all through His Son, the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
Believers Will Endure, Obey, Find Rest, and Be Rewarded (14:12-13)
The destiny of those who know Christ is radically different from those who die without Him. In verse 12 we are called to endurance, patience, steadfastness, or perseverance. Duvall notes, “The term ‘endurance’ (hypomone¯), perhaps ‘the key ethical term in the Apocalypse,’ appears seven times in Revelation (1:9; 2:2,3,19; 3:10; 13:10; 14:12)” (Revelation, 198). While our salvation is a signed, sealed, and settled issue rooted in the keeping power of God (Jude 24-25), we are indeed challenged to persevere, and the means of our perseverance is noted here in verse 12: those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. Jesus reminded us in John 8:31, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples.” John also wrote in his first epistle, “For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands” (1 John 5:3). Those who follow the Lamb have faith in Jesus, and those who have faith in Jesus follow the Lamb. The two concepts cannot be separated from each other. In the midst of horrible tribulation and great wickedness, we cannot help but wonder, Is our devotion to the Lamb truly worth it? Verse 13 provides a resounding “Yes!” to that question.
John again hears a voice from heaven telling him to write—to write words that will be permanent and lasting. Here we encounter the second of seven beatitudes in the book of Revelation (1:3; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14). “The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed” is a remarkable statement. It can only be understood when taken as a whole. If we were to say, “Blessed are the dead,” that would certainly make no sense and seem blatantly absurd. However, when you add the phrase “who die in the Lord,” everything takes on a new perspective. Paul taught us that “to be out of the body” is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). He also said in Philippians 1:21, “For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.” Psalm 116:15 teaches us that “the death of His faithful ones is valuable in the Lord’s sight.” So certain is this truth that the Holy Spirit gives His hearty affirmation, “Yes.” This is the only time the Holy Spirit is quoted in the whole Revelation except in 22:17. His emphatic “yes” reveals His absolute agreement with the voice from heaven that states that those who die in the Lord are indeed blessed.
Those who die in the Lord have their final rest. Sorrow and suffering are at an end. Those who die in the Lord find their works following them. In other words, rest and reward is the promise of eternity for those who have followed the Lamb and have kept their faith in Jesus.
Jesus Will Pour Out His Wrath on the Earth in Righteous Judgment
I once heard a Jewish evangelist named Hyman Appleman say, “If I could scare you out of hell, I would.” I have to agree with him, knowing how terrible and eternal hell will be. Revelation 14:9-11 makes this clear. Now verses 14-20 demonstrate its future horror by the images of two harvests: grain in 14-16 and grapes in 17-20. While some students of Scripture believe the first depicts the harvest of the righteous and the second the unrighteous, it is best to see both as harvests of judgment on the wicked. The Old Testament background is Joel 3:12-13, where the Bible says,
Let the nations be roused and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit down to judge all the surrounding nations. Swing the sickle because the harvest is ripe. Come and trample the grapes because the winepress is full; the wine vats overflow because the wickedness of the nations is great.
The Judgment Will Be in Glory and on Time (14:14-16)
John looks (see vv. 1,6) and sees the Son of Man on a white cloud with a golden victor’s crown on His head. This is the Lord Jesus (see 1:13-16; Dan 7:13-14). Here is our Lord in dazzling brilliance and majesty, awesome authority and power. Revelation 1:7 is coming to fruition.
He has a sharp sickle in his hand (14:14) and an angel coming out of the temple in heaven says the time to harvest the earth has come because “the earth is ripe” (14:15). Jesus Himself “likens the final judgment to the harvest of the earth (Matt. 13:30, 39)” (Johnson, Revelation, 1983,143).
Verse 16 is brief and simple: “So the One seated on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.” The divine, heavenly “terminator” has come. Judgment day has arrived and it cannot be delayed. God’s wrath comes via the Lamb. God’s wrath comes on time. The ministry of mercy is over. Sowing the seed of the gospel is at an end. Tomorrow or “someday” is now today.
The Judgment Will Be Universal and Horrific (14:17-20)
The vision shifts from the “grain harvest” to the “grape harvest.” I believe this is also our first glimpse of the battle or campaign of Armageddon (see 16:12-16; 19:17-21). The fifth and sixth angels of chapter 14 appear in verses 17-18. The fifth, like the fourth, comes from the sanctuary. Like our Lord, he has a sharp sickle for reaping. The sixth angel comes from the altar, the altar of incense (6:9-11; 8:3-5). There is once more a connection between the prayers of the saints and judgment on earth. God hears and answers our prayers. The fifth angel commands the sixth to harvest the grapes “from earth’s vineyard, because its grapes have ripened.” Fully ripened is the idea. The time is now.
The angel responds immediately and decisively (14:19). There is no delay, no hesitation. In the ancient Near East in John’s time, grapes were trampled or stomped by foot in a trough that had a duct leading to a lower trough or basin where the juice was collected. “The splattering of the juice as the grapes are stomped vividly pictures the splattered blood of those who will be destroyed” (MacArthur, Revelation 12–22, 117).Treading grapes in a winepress was a familiar figure of divine wrath and judgment.
I trampled the winepress alone, and no one from the nations was with Me. I trampled them in My anger and ground them underfoot in My fury; their blood spattered My garments, and all My clothes were stained. For I planned the day of vengeance, and the year of My redemption came. (Isa 63:3-4)
The Lord has rejected all the mighty men within me. He has summoned an army against me to crush my young warriors. The Lord has trampled Virgin Daughter Judah like grapes in a winepress. (Lam 1:15)
Swing the sickle because the harvest is ripe. Come and trample the grapes because the winepress is full; the wine vats overflow because the wickedness of the nations is great. (Joel 3:13)
A sharp sword came from His mouth, so that He might strike the nations with it. He will shepherd them with an iron scepter. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. (Rev 19:15)
Jerusalem will be spared the terrible judgment at the second coming of Christ according to God’s Word. She will be damaged but not destroyed. This is in keeping with God’s prediction and promise in Zechariah 14:1-5:
A day of the Lordis coming when your plunder will be divided in your presence. I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle. The city will be captured, the houses looted, and the women raped. Half the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be removed from the city.
Then the Lordwill go out to fight against those nations as He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. The Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, forming a huge valley, so that half the mountain will move to the north and half to the south. You will flee by My mountain valley, for the valley of the mountains will extend to Azal. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come and all the holy ones with Him.
The war that will truly end all wars will no doubt be worldwide, yet its focal point will be on the Plain of Esdraelon near Mount Megiddo (about 60 miles north of Jerusalem). This is what we know as Armageddon. Here will take place the most horrific and destructive battle the world will ever know.
Armageddon is also noted in 16:12-16 and 19:17-21. It is more a slaughter than a battle. Blood will flow or be splattered up to a horse’s bridle, or about four feet high. It will run for 1,600 furlongs or stadia—184 miles. This is hyperbole suggesting massive, unimaginable slaughter and destruction (MacArthur, Revelation 12–22, 117). Josephus tells us that when Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 by the Roman general Titus, he killed so many Jews that the whole city ran with blood so much that the fires of many houses were quenched with their blood (Wars of the Jews, 6.8.5). In the coming battle, the blood will fill the troughs and streambeds throughout the valley of Megiddo and beyond. It will truly be a just and terrible day of vengeance and judgment.
The faithful Baptist preacher of London, Charles Spurgeon, understood the gravity of what it means to stand either with Jesus or against Jesus. He understood, as many do not, what was at stake. Bringing his own sermon from this chapter to a conclusion, he pled with conviction and passion in words I simply cannot ignore. I urge you to heed his warning and his counsel lest you are thrown into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
I beseech you, do not risk that doom for yourselves. Escape for your lives; look not behind you but fly to the only refuge which God has provided. Whoever will entrust his soul to Jesus Christ shall be eternally saved. Look unto him who wore the thorn-crown, and repose your soul’s entire confidence in Him, and then, in that last great day, you shall see Him seated on the white cloud, wearing the golden crown, and you shall be gathered. . . . But if you reject Him, do not think it wrong that you should be cast with the grapes into the winepress of the wrath of God, and be trodden with the rest of “the clusters of the vine of the earth.” I beg you to take Christ as your Saviour, this very hour lest this night you should die unsaved. Lay hold of Jesus, lest you never hear another gospel invitation or warning. If I have seemed to speak terribly, God knoweth that I have done it out of love to your souls; and, believe me, that I do not speak as strongly as the truth might well permit me to do, for there is something far more terrible about the doom of the lost than language can ever express or thought conceive. God save all of you from ever suffering that doom, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen. (“Harvest”)
Reflect and Discuss
- Why do you think the concept of divine wrath has fallen out of favor with many who consider themselves to be Christians?
- What is significant about the 144,000 having God’s name written permanently on their heads?
- Why has Christianity always been (and always will be, based on this passage) a faith that sings?
- Read the passages listed in this chapter that describe the gospel being preached by the angel. Discuss what aspect of the gospel each of these descriptions emphasizes. How do they all fit together?
- Discuss the difference between special and natural revelation. How are they similar? How are they different?
- Why is creation often the best starting point in sharing the gospel with unbelievers today?
- What would you say to someone who believes that, in the end, everyone goes to heaven? How does this passage correct that belief?
- Why are those who die “in the Lord” blessed? How does this differ from many prevailing notions of death by Christians and non-Christians alike?
- Read Matthew 26:39 and Revelation 14:9-10. How does Jesus’ work relate to the wrath of God?
- Whom has God placed in your life with whom you need to plead, as Spurgeon did, to flee the wrath and judgment of God?