A commentary on Revelation 14:6-13
A commentary is set a of explanatory or critical notes on a text.
The point is to better understand the text passage.
Synonyms of commentary:
explanation, explication, elucidation, exegesis, examination,interpretation, analysis;
criticism, critical analysis, critique, assessment, appraisal, opinion;
notes, footnotes, comments
The Everlasting Gospel
6 “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,”
7 “Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”
How could an angel preach unto those that dwell on the earth while in heaven? The expression in the “midst of heaven” comes from the Greek (mesouranēma) and denotes the idea of a place in the middle between earth’s sky and heaven.
Why the middle? Being in the midst of heaven, the angel has a “bird’s eye” view of humankind, being neither distant in heaven, nor limited by the near horizon as are land dwellers. This angel is in charge of making sure that the people of earth hear the everlasting good news of the gospel. His message is broadcast to the peoples of earth, but it is Christians who hear it and can relay it to the nations, tribes, and tongues.
His message of good tidings (euaggelion) is everlasting (aiōnios), which means forever, eternal, and denotes both past and future. Therefore, it is not a new or patched up message of joy and hope, but an everlasting one! So what is different about his message this time round that he should make an appearance now?
In verse 7, he speaks with a mighty, exceedingly loud (megas) voice (phóné) that there is something at hand: the hour of God’s judgment! Analyzing his warning message, the angel urges the people of earth to fear God and give him glory and to worship only the one who created all things. Why?
Here we find a strong message condemning idolatry. Notice that Revelation chapter 13 has just described two beasts. What does it say about the people of the earth? About the first beast, we learn:
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)
About the second beast, we learn:
“And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” (Revelation 13:12)
Therefore “Fear God!” shouts the first angel! “Worship HIM!” The hour of judgment is at hand.
Babylon is fallen!
The second angel’s message is brief but powerful:
8 “And there followed another angel, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’”
What is “the wine of the wrath of her fornication”? It relates to her sins. (Revelation 18:3) Like the first angel’s message warns against sharing in idolatry, we read a similar warning about Babylon in Revelation chapter 18:
“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4)
Revelation chapter 17 describes the destruction of Babylon:
“And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.” (Revelation 17:16)
She will meet destruction in a sudden, unexpected turn of events. “In one hour” her judgment will come. (Revelation 18: 10, 17) It is the ten horns of the beast, who attack Babylon, when God puts his will into their hearts. (Revelation 17:17)
Who is Babylon the Great? This whore is an adulterous person who sells her body to the kings of the earth in exchange for benefits. The word fornication in Revelation 14:8, translated from the Greek word porneia, refers to her idolatry. (See Colossians 3:5) In stark contrast with Babylon, the 144,000 are undefiled and virgin-like. (Revelation 14:4) Take notice of Jesus’ words:
“But he said, ‘Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13: 29, 30)
Babylon is also guilty because of spilling the blood of the saints. The fruits of false religion, especially imitation Christians, are well established throughout history, and her crimes continue until this very day.
Babylon faces permanent destruction, just like the tares, and before the ingathering of the wheat, the angels will throw her in the fire.
The Wine of the Wrath of God
9 “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive [his] mark in his forehead, or in his hand,”
10 “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:”
11 “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.”
Destruction is to the idolaters. Anyone who worships the beast and his image will face God’s wrath. Verse 10 says his wrath is poured out “without mixture”, that is: (akratos) which means “undiluted, pure”, and the prefix coming from the Greek “alpha” which is a clear indicator of just what type of wrath they will receive. It will not be a tempered punishment; it will be the “alpha” judgment, although it will not be a sudden outburst of rage.
The word wrath (orgé) denotes a controlled, settled anger. Hence, God is merely rising up against the injustice and evil. He patiently endures while warning every one of what is to come, and even the message of the third angel is a reflection of this: “if” you do this, “then” you will face sure consequences.
The tormenting with fire (pur) in verse 10 denotes the “fire of God” which according to the word studies transforms all it touches into light and likeness with itself. As for burning brimstone (heion), it was regarded as having power to purify and to ward off contagion. Although this expression was used for the destruction Sodom and Gomorrah, we know there still awaits them a day of judgment. (Matthew 10:15)
So in what sense will God torment the idolaters? Verse 10 says they will be tormented, (basanizó) in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. This reminds us of the demons who cried out to Christ: “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29)
Those demons had no doubt such a torment was in store for them. In fact, the very presence of Christ, the Lamb, caused them a very high degree of discomfort. Leave us be! They shouted. Upon this, Christ casts them out – though allowing them to enter a herd of swine – not tormenting them before their due time.
The picture arising from these words is not one where God physically tortures to inflict pain, but more like the torment of the heroin addict placed into a forced and sudden withdrawal. Severe physical pain, shaking, depression, fever and insomnia are just a few symptoms of such patients. One addict described such detox as a feeling of “bugs crawling in and out of his skin”, “whole body horror”.
The effect of this withdrawal, in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb, is burning like fire and brimstone. It is not pain inflicted by God. Allowing the destructive addiction to continue would be far worse. Nevertheless, they must face the torturous consequences of their actions.
The stronger the dependency, the more severe the symptoms and longer the withdrawal. In verse 11, we observe how their withdrawal will continue for ages (aión) and ages; a very, very long time, but not endlessly.
If the people of this earth are like addicts, then is God’s warning by this final angelic messenger in vain? After all, we just saw how hard the detox process is. Should humankind face such torment alone in order to please God? Not at all. There is a medicine freely available today. The name of this medicine is grace; it works instantly and miraculously. (Compare Psalm 53:6)
The everlasting good news from the first angel means that we do not have to drink from the cup of wrath, if instead we drink from the cup of mercy.
“Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”
(Matthew 20:22 NASB)
The Patience of the Saints
12 “Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
13 “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed [are] the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”
The saints – true Christians – are patient, which means they endure and are steadfast despite the greatest trials and sufferings. They keep God’s commandments and Jesus’ faith. (Téreó) means to keep intact, to maintain, to guard.
“Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast (tērei), and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” (Revelation 3:3)
“all, then, as much as they may say to you to observe, observe and do (tēreite), but according to their works do not, for they say, and do not;” (Matthew 23:3 Young’s Literal)
“And he continued, ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe (tērēsēte) your own traditions!’” (Mark 7:9 NIV)
According to verse 12, there are two things we must keep: the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. We find a parallel expression in Revelation 12:17:
“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring — those who keep God’s commands and hold fast (echó, to keep) their testimony about Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17)
Most readers do not doubt what the testimony about Jesus is. We have written previously about the need to be in union with him, and to proclaim the good news that he paid the ransom price for our sin. As for what the commandments of God are, Jesus said:
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)
We must keep the Law; but by keeping those two commandments, we are keeping all the law and prophets. To what extent we go beyond the two commandments, it is a matter of conscience. Take, for example:
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” (Colossians 2:16 NIV)
This verse can easily be misread to state that we should not keep any religious festival, New Moon celebration, or Sabbath day. It does not say that. It says do not be judged in regards to those things, which means it is matter of conscience.
When Jesus said the entire law hangs on those two commands, he meant it. You could illustrate this with a laundry line on which each of the Ten Commandments hangs as a clothes clip. (See Figure 4)
- I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me,
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
- Honor thy father and thy mother
- Thou shalt not kill
- Thou shalt not commit adultery
- Thou shalt not steal
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
- Thou shalt not covet
(Compare Revelation 11:19 on the steadfastness of God and his covenants)
We strive to obey all of the law by keeping all of Jesus’ law. Loving our Father in heaven means that we will not have another god before him, and we will not take his name up in vain. Loving our neighbor likewise means we will not steal from him or commit adultery, as Paul said:
“Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8)
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
The expression “patience of the saints” here signifies something very important. As the whole world bows down to the beast and its image in an act of idolatry, true Christians abstain. The context here shows that it especially deals with the topic of idolatry.
Consequently, we can say that all Christians who died resisting creature worship and firmly obeyed God’s commandments are in this sense “undefiled” and “virgin-like” (Revelation 14:4) and will find the rest they have cried out for:
They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (Revelation 6:10 ESV)
End of Commentary
Idolatry and Jehovah’s Witnesses
As you read this article, you might reflect on your own personal experience. In my case, I was raised to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but have in recent years evaluated to whom I truly belong.
Consider the following quote:
“[A mature Christian] does not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding. Rather, he has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Watchtower 2001 Aug 1 p.14)
How would you answer? Question 1
TRUTH IS REVEALED BY JEHOVAH
For this scheme above to work, we must believe that “The Faithful and Discrete Slave” does not speak of its own originality, but is the mouthpiece of Jehovah.
“What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him who sent me. If anyone desires to do His will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or I speak of my own originality. Whoever speaks of his own originality is seeking his own glory; but whoever seeks the glory of the one who sent him, this one is true and there is no unrighteousness in him. (John 7:16b-18)
Consider another claim:
“Since Jehovah God and Jesus Christ completely trust the faithful and discreet slave, should we not do the same?” (Watchtower 2009 Feb 15 p.27)
And this claim:
That faithful slave is the channel through which Jesus is feeding his true followers in this time of the end. It is vital that we recognize the faithful slave. Our spiritual health and our relationship with God depend on this channel. (from es15 pp. 88-97 – Examining the Scriptures—2015)
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
IT IS VITAL
Or this one:
When “the Assyrian” attacks, the elders must be absolutely convinced that Jehovah will deliver us. At that time, the life-saving direction that we receive from Jehovah’s organization may not appear practical from a human standpoint. All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not. (es15 pp. 88-97 – Examining the Scriptures—2015)
WILL BE LIFE-SAVING
Anthony Morris of the “Faithful and Discrete Slave” of Jehovah’s Witnesses said in his September 2015 morning worship broadcast that Jehovah “blesses obedience” to the “Faithful and Discrete Slave”, because what comes out of headquarters are not ‘man-made decisions’. These decisions come straight from Jehovah.
If he spoke the truth, then we should not be able to find these men contradicting God’s own word on so many counts. Can you truly be “absolutely convinced” that such men are who they say they are? Are they setting themselves up as an image of Christ? Can they help deliver you from danger?
“Consider, for example, the use of images or symbols in worship. To those trusting in them or praying through them, idols appear to be saviors possessing superhuman powers that can reward people or deliver them from danger. But can they really save?” (WT Jan 15, 2002, p3. “Gods Who ‘Cannot Save’”)
All Scriptures, unless noted, taken from KJV
Figure 2: The Destruction of Babylon the Great by Phillip Medhurst, CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported, from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Apocalypse_28._The_destruction_of_Babylon._Revelation_cap_18._Mortier%27s_Bible._Phillip_Medhurst_Collection.jpg
Figure 3: Modified forehead picture by Frank Vincentz, CC BY-SA 3.0, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forehead#/media/File:Male_forehead-01_ies.jpg