Revelation Devotion #21
– Pastor Timothy
Chapter 13 ends with the unholy trinity waging war against believers and the church. Chapter 14 begins with the Lamb standing victorious with His faithful followers on Mount Zion. The certainty of Jesus’s glorious return provides encouragement for the church to persevere.
In fact, John uses the term “endurance” (hypomone) consistently to reflect a crucial call for believers to obey God’s commands and remain faithful to Jesus (14:12; cf. Revelation 1:9; 2:2-3; 2:19; 3:10; 13:10). Obedience and faithfulness communicate fundamental principles of biblical discipleship, which translates into a willingness to follow Christ however and wherever He leads (cf. Mark 8:34-35). John depicts it as dying in the Lord, which is not necessarily martyrdom but a death to worldly ways in exchange for kingdom values (14:13; cf. Galatians 2:20).
This requires trust and courage.
Consider the famous French tightrope walker Charles Blondin, who gained notoriety crossing Niagara Falls on several different occasions in the 1800s. Once he crossed along the tightrope on stilts. Another time he crossed while pushing a wheelbarrow. Even more amazingly, on one occasion he camped out on the tightrope halfway across the Falls and made an omelet!
Blondin’s feats were amazing, and his manager Harry Colcord had the utmost confidence in his client’s capabilities. Colcord evidenced such confidence when he let the tightrope walker carry him on his back across Niagara Falls.
That provides something of a picture of what Christians choose to do. We cannot cross the great chasm that exists between our sin and the holiness of God on our own. We must set our trust in Christ to carry us, a trust that we evidence through our confidence and courage in following Him.
Figuratively, John describes disciples of Jesus as virgins (14:4): a metaphor for all genuine believers who avoid compromising with the world (cf. Revelation 3:4; 19:7-9; 21:2). This means guarding ourselves against what we read, watch, talk about, and laugh at. This means giving ourselves to spending our money, our time, and our talents in selfless service rather than for selfish pursuits.
Such a figurative reading finds additional support from the Old Testament image of God’s people as a virgin betrothed to the Lord (cf. Jeremiah 31:3-4). John intends to clearly contrast the bride of Christ with the great prostitute of Babylon/Rome.
J. Scott Duvall explains, “The ancient Near Eastern city of Babylon was the capital of an empire that destroyed Jerusalem in 587/586 BC and became a symbol of the enemies of God’s people. ‘Babylon the Great’ is mentioned six times in Revelation (14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21; cf. Daniel 4:30) and represents any great center of pagan power. The early Christians referred to Rome as Babylon (1 Peter 5:13).”
Essentially, to drink from the cup of Babylon means to partake of the “maddening wine of her adulteries” (14:8; cf. Jeremiah 51:7) and to become intoxicated with her idolatry and immorality (cf. Revelation 17:2, 4; 18:3, 9). Conversely, to drink from the cup that Jesus drinks refers to sharing in His sacrificial, selfless suffering (cf. Mark 10:38-39).
This stark contrast leads to a holy war, another reason why John specifically speaks of male virgins in 14:4. Hebrew soldiers going into battle in the Old Testament were required to maintain ceremonial purity (cf. Deuteronomy 23:9-11; 2 Samuel 11:8-11), and John relates that to the number 144,000 (14:1, 3; cf. Revelation 7:4). The number, in part, is a symbolic reference to a military census that depicts God’s people as an apocalyptic army organized in battle formation (cf. Revelation 7:5-8; Numbers 1:3; 26:2; 31:4-6).
Revelation 14:6-20 conveys how the war ends. John depicts the outcome of history in two contrasting images — the positive “harvest” and the negative “vintage.”
Those who embrace the Gospel and give glory to God (14:6-7) shall be harvested like grain (14:14-16). The specific action of reaping in the Old Testament never serves as a negative image of judgment. Furthermore, Jesus uses reaping as a positive image of bringing people into the kingdom at the eschatological consummation (cf. Mark 4:29; John 4:35-38). The grain is only harvested, not winnowed, threshed, or burned.
Conversely, those who follow in the ways of Babylon rather than in the way of Christ are like grapes that are harvested and then trampled (14:17-20). Later, in Revelation 19:15, John shows Jesus as treading the winepress in the “fury of the wrath of God Almighty,” an image in stark distinction from His reaping the grain harvest of those “purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb” (14:4).
Now is the time to prepare ourselves. Now is the time to place our trust in the gospel message of Jesus Christ and courageously and confidently follow Him.
Paul writes in Galatians 6:7-9: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction [the grapes of Babylon]; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life [the firstfruits of the grain harvest]. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
C. S. Lewis, in his classic book Mere Christianity, paints the essential nature of the matter in the following words: “God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks onto the stage the play is over. God is going to invade all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else — something it never entered your head to conceive — comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side.”
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Choose today to follow Christ however and wherever He leads.