Session 15

Revelation Study – Session 15

 

 

Overview of the seven signs in 12:1 – 15:4...these signs continue the theme which has dominated Revelation, the theme of conflict between good/evil...God/Satan...God’s people/enemies of God’s people...and they serve the purpose of moving us toward the final resolution of this great conflict which is the climax of Revelation...in this section reminded that while God’s people have formidable enemy in Satan and his allies, have much greater ally in the Redeeming Lamb of God...quickly overview the seven signs an then look at 3rd and 4th signs in chapter 13 in this session…

 

1.      A woman and her son (12:1-2, 56) – Saw woman represents the true people of God or the spiritual/true Israel through whom the Messiah, God incarnate, came to our world...the son represents Jesus...

 

2.      A great red dragon (12:3-4) – Represents Satan...v.9 interprets this sign for us....the chapter overviews the great battle between the Lamb of God and His people and Satan...

·         Attacked Christ during earthly ministry (vv.1-6)

·         Stormed gates of heaven after resurrection in vain attempt to destroy Christ there (vv. 7-12)

·         Attacked God’s people—the church ( vv.13-17)

 

3.      A beast from the sea (13:1-10)  - Represents the dragon’s chief ally, the Roman Empire led by the evil emperor Domitian...he was insisting that Christians say “Caesar is Lord” rather than the church’s most basic confession which is “Jesus is Lord”...

 

4.      A beast from the earth (13:11-18) – Represents the Concilia, the council set up to enforce emperor worship...the “mark of the beast” probably represents the certificates given to those who completed their emperor worship duty...this certificate allowed those who had paid homage to the emperor the privilege of buying and selling in the market place...the infamous number “666” may be a veiled reference to Nero, the Roman emperor who first began persecuting Christians...many thought Domitian was Nero re-incarnated...

 

5.      The Lamb with 144,000 people with His name on their foreheads (14:1-5)

 

6.      A vision of angels (14:6-20)

 

7.      Seven angels with seven plagues (15:1-4) – Transition to the next series of seven, the 7 bowls of wrath

 

Having introduced in chapter 13 the allies of the great dragon (Satan) who is waging war on God’s people, in chapter 14 John introduces the allies of the people of God.  This  chapter contains the 5th and 6th signs in this series of 7 significant signs.

 

THE FIFTH SIGN -  THE LAMB AND THE 144,000 (14:1-5)

“the Lamb” – Obviously reference to the triumphant Christ...introduced in this form in ch.5 when steps forward as only one worthy to open the sealed book in the hand of God...that scene backdrop to entire drama...as book opened the scenes revealed in this book unfold...

 

“Mt. Zion” - Mount Zion is one of the hills upon which Jerusalem is built, and it is a term that is associated with King David and the triumph of his kingdom:  “Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King./Within her citadels God has shown himself a sure defense” (Ps. 48:2-3).  The phrase came to represent a place of refuge, protection for God’s people.  Some say John referring to the literal mountain in Jerusalem.  Not the case.  Used as writer of Hebrews used phrase in Hebrews 12::22ff...

 

“144,000” - First heard in 7:4.  Some interpret this as a literal number.  Runs contrary to how numbers are used in apocalyptic literature.  Numbers are not designed to be taken literally…they symbolize something.  Most interpreters, regardless of their approach to Revelation, take 144,000 in symbolic sense.  It is the number of organized religion (12 ... tribes of Israel ... apostles) square multiplied by the number for fullness or completeness (10) to the third power...in that sense represents a fully

completed religious group...

 

The number is symbolic of the vast and complete number of God’s people.  It refers to all of the redeemed of God-those who have been faithful to Christ through their trial and testing.

 

“...His name and name of His Father written on their foreheads” – As opposed to Caesar’s seal (13:16-17) had been marked by Christ’s name (cf. Rev. 3:12)...

 

“...a new song...” – This is a scene calculated to bring joy to God’s suffering people on earth...Ray Summers puts it this way:  “Their Redeemer-Lamb as their champion is marshalling a complete army of righteousness about the crest of Mount Zion.  Those with the Lamb sing a song, a new victory song, the meaning of which can be known only by the redeemed with the Lamb.”...the word “learn” in v.3 carries the idea of “hearing deeply” or “hearing with understanding.”

 

“...not defiled with women...” - This does not refer to celibates, as some maintain. But probably to moral purity and fidelity to Christ (compare 2 Cor. 11:2) In prophetic literature, apostasy and rebellion are often expressed by the figure of adultery or unfaithfulness (compare Jer. 5:7; Hos. 2:1 ff.)...

 

“...purchased from among men as the first fruits to God and to the Lamb...” – Purchased by the blood of the Lamb...the first fruits are seen as the best of the crop and so John uses this term to symbolize the holiness and dedication which characterizes the redeemed. 

 

“...no lie was found in their mouth...” – Did not say “Caesar is Lord” and thus deny Christ...

 

“...they are blameless...” – Sometimes word used to describe state of redeemed  before God...cf. Colossians 1:22...could be idea here...when used that way refers to what God does for us, not what we have done...in this case it is more likely continuing thought of “...no lie was found in their mouth...” and saying blameless in that they didn’t succumb to the pressure to deny Christ...

 

One point of application:  Not alone in the battle with evil.  Have great throng with us.  Christians in Asia Minor seemed far outnumbered and greatly overwhelmed by those in culture who did worship Caesars...was norm for their day...reminded them that while may not have been readily apparent, they are part of great throng as well...

 

THE SIXTH SIGN - THE VISION OF ANGELS (14:6-20) – This sign, which is really a composite of several things, is tied together by the theme of angels being allies of the people of God...a number of angels are shown delivering messages which are designed to provide comfort to God’s people and terror to the enemies of God...

 

Verses 6-7 – An angel “having an eternal gospel” – Only place word “gospel” used in Revelation...good tidings or good news...normally use word to describe good news of the Christ event – birth, life, death, and resurrection...in this case good news seems to be that judgment upon the enemies of God is at hand...announcing victory before the battle begins...

 

Verse 8 – An angel announces fall of “Babylon” - It is unlikely that John intends his readers to think the remote and distant territory of Babylon on the Euphrates River.  The word “Babylon” is obviously used to refer to a more immediate danger that confronts the first-century Christians.   John is not the only New Testament writer to make use of Babylon with a symbolic intention.  The first letter of Peter contains a very interesting sentence in this regard. “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings...” (1Peter 5:12).  It is clear that Peter intended a symbolic reference.  Babylon is used as a cryptic reference to Rome.

 

Verses 9-12 – An angel announces the eternal destruction of those who have chosen to worship Caesar over Christ – While Christians may be burned at the stake, as many were, that fire was only temporary...the fire that awaits those who have denied Christ is eternal (“...forever and ever...”)...

 

Quote from John Newport, The Lion and the Lamb - The reference to “torment” (v.10; compare 9:5, 11:10; 12:2; 20:10) has troubled some commentators since the torment takes place “in the presence of the Lamb.”  While the view that some unrepentant individuals will suffer eternal hell seem repugnant to Christian sensitivity, it is clear that it is not only John’s understanding but that of Jesus and of other New Testament writers as well (Matt. 25:46; Rom. 2:3-9; Thess. 1:6-9).

      The worshipers of the beast will be unable to rest day or night (v.11).  Notice the contrast with the saints who will “rest” from their labor (v.13).  The beast worshipers have their time to rest while the saints are persecuted and martyred.  However, in the final time of judgment God will reverse their roles (7:15 ff.; compare 2 Thess. 1:6-7).

      C.S. Lewis (see Problem of Pain) acknowledges that hell is a detestable doctrine that he would be willing to remove from Christianity if it were in his power.  But Lewis states that the question is not whether it is detestable but whether it is true.  We must recognize that the reality of hell had the full support of Scripture and of Christ’s teaching.  Indeed, it has the full support of Scripture and of Christians and has the support of reason.

 

Verse 13 – Brief interlude designed to comfort Christians and contrast death of believer with non-believer...

·         “rest from their labors” – Rest means shall be refreshed...labors means toil under great adversity...”Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

·         “for their deeds follow them...” - In two ways: (1) their witness leaves a positive example for the saints on earth, and (2) their deeds will be a witness to their faithfulness to Christ at the last judgment (1 Cor. 15:58; 3:14; Rev. 20:13).

 

Verses 14-16 – An angel crying out to “son of man” to use his sickle – Sickle is instrument of divine judgment.  Used elsewhere in Scripture in that way (cf. Joel 3:13) There can be no question as to the identity of the divine figure seated on the cloud.  It refers to Jesus.  Appears a king (crown) and judge (sickle)Christ is pictured as executing the judgment of God. 

 

Verses 17-20 – An angel crying out to another angel to use a sickle - Another angel, a fifth, comes out of the temple of heaven with a sharp sickle (v. 17).  Then a sixth angel comes forth “from the altar” to aid the Son of man in the harvest (v. 18; compare 6:9-11; 8:1-5; 9:13; 16:7).  This angel had power over fire.  He is perhaps Gabriel, whom Jewish tradition assigned this task.  The symbol used in verses 18-20 to convey the wrath of God is the familiar figure of the treading of the winepress of God’s wrath found in Isaiah 63:3 and Joel 3:13.

      Revelation 14:20 is gruesome in its description of blood flowing up to the horses’ bridles for a distance of about two hundred miles.  This length may suggest the length of Palestine.  The source of the imagery is Isaiah 63:1-6, heightened by John’s hyperbole.

   The judgment is not the task of human vengeance but belongs exclusively to the Son of man and His angelic reapers (compare Rom. 12:19-21).  The symbolism is that of a head-on-battle, a great defeat of the enemy and a sea of spilled blood.  To go beyond this and attempt to link the scene to some geographic location (compare 16: 4-6) is pure speculation.  The city mentioned in verse 20 probably refers to the community of the saints.

 

Chapter 14 summary:  Two great allies for God’s people—

·         A multitude of believers accompanied by the Lamb...

·         Many angels being directed by God...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments