Revelation 14 Commentary

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vv.1-5 Who are the 144,000? “That the 144,000 are those ‘redeemed’ (14:3) and ‘purchased’ (14:4; both forms of the same Greek word, agorazo) from the earth and from among humanity reminds us that they stand for all believers (5:9). That the Lamb bought them more than makes up for the fact that, a few verses earlier, they could neither buy nor sell (13:17). That they are the ones who ‘follow the Lamb’ (14:4) supports the position that they represent all believers’ (7:17); in this life they are the people led by the Spirit (John 16:13; Rom. 8:14). John’s audience will also understand that following the Lamb may mean following him to his sacrificial death (John 13:36-37; 21:19-22; Rev. 6:9).”[1]

v.1 “There is an obvious contrast with the previous vision, where those who worship the beast are marked (13:16).  But a name is written on the foreheads of the 144,000 – not just a mark.  What is written is important, even sacred, not only because it is the means of signifying that which is of God, but also because it is the name of God (cf. 22:4).”[2]

v.3 “Why do the 144,000 sing this ‘new song’? They are probably portrayed as God’s end-time army and have just overcome the world. It was customary for victors to celebrate after holy war (2 Chron. 20:27-28). Here, however, the saints praise God for the victory of the Lamb (as in Rev. 5:6-14; 7:9-12), just as the Israelites praised God when he overthrew their enemies in the Red Sea (Ex. 15:1-21; cf. comment on Rev. 15:2-4). This new song is their unique experience shared by no one else in creation (14:3), just as believers have a new name known to no one else (2:17; 3:12).”[3]

vv.4-5 “Just as biblical prophets often portrayed Israel as either an unfaithful prostitute or as a pure virgin or bride for God, so Revelation portrays unrepentant humanity as a prostitute (Rev. 17:1-5) and those faithful to Christ as his pure spouse (19:7; 21:2, 9). These 144,000 have refused to commit immorality with Babylon, the prostitute (cf. 18:3). The symbolism thus makes a strong point: Christians must be pure and faithful to Christ if they wish to be prepared for and engage in the Lamb’s holy war. Unlike the world (13:17), believers cannot indulge in divided interests.”[4]

vv.6-13 “First, a warning of judgment to the unbelieving world is announced (vv 6-7). The warning will not be heeded by the world system and its followers, resulting in their final judgment at the end of history (v 8).  This final historical judgment is the precursor to the final, eternal judgment (vv 9-11).  But the warning is intended to influence true believers to remain faithful to Christ so that they might receive an eternal reward (vv 12-13).”[5]

v.6 “The focus now shifts from the redeemed to the unredeemed (vv 6-11) in order to contrast the destiny of the two. […] The angel announces not a different gospel, but one that carries dire consequences if it is rejected […] The dual nature of the gospel […] was also symbolized by the sweetness and bitterness of the book that John consumed.”[6]

v.7 “The theme of the verse is judgment […] This is ‘good news’ to the saints because it means the downfall of the ungodly system headed by the beast and ultimately Satan and hence is an effect of the doom of Satan set in motion by Christ’s resurrection and announced in 12:7-10.  The coming consummate establishment of God’s sovereignty over evil is good news.  […] Christians can be encouraged because God will defend his reputation after all.  The appropriate response to the gospel is to ‘fear God and give him glory.’ The response is stated in a command.”[7]

“The angel utters a demand to worship the Creator rather than the creature (cf. Acts 17:24; 1 Thess 1:9-10) in the light of the imminence of the hour of judgment (cf. 3:3; 18:10). The message of this gospel is not far removed from the summary in Mark 1:15: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news’ (NRSV). In Revelation, the command is to fear God; in Mark, the command is to repent. In both passages, the presence of a time of crisis is stressed, and in both that crisis is set in the context of a struggle with the powers of the cosmos as the coming of the gospel provokes the possibility of rejection and judgment (cf. Matt 10:7, 15).”[8]

v.8 “Babylon’s offense was having caused all the nations to ‘drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication’ (cf. Jer 51:7).  This awkward phrase can be interpreted as Babylon’s having intoxicated the people and caused wrath as the result of the forgetfulness of the true vocation to worship God and keep God’s commandments (cf. 16:19, 17:2, 18:3, 19:15).”[9]

v.9 “Worshipers of the beast who have received his mark will face judgment (14:9-10).  […] Receiving that mark is, however, a symbolic act that does not make one incapable of repentance.  The world (9:20-21; 16:9-11) and even false prophets (2:16, 21-22) are invited to repent, and many of those who ridiculed the witnesses will repent (11:13).”[10]

“The present tenses ‘worship’ and ‘receives’ connote continued worship of the beast and allegiance to him despite the warning of judgment in vv 6-8 and warrant the penalty stated in vv 10-11 […] Those who express greater devotion to the beast than to Christ in order to maintain economic security will be punished.  […] Therefore, since the nations have willingly drunk ’from the wine of passion’ for Babylon, so God will make them ‘drink from the wine of [his] wrath’”[11]

v.10 “Those tormented will be able to look on the Lamb and the holy angels they despised (14:10), now unable to evade the reality they once ignored […] The emphasis here is ‘the inescapability and finality of judgment, not the satisfaction it could afford to those who witness it.’”[12]

v.12 “[..] we are offered in detail the inventory of preparations necessary for the fight between the sons of light and the sons of darkness.  This is conventional battle in that weapons of war are used.  But like Revelation, it is apparent that this battle is not between humans alone but between angelic forces who fight alongside humans (cf. Josh 5:13-14).  But in the war that takes place in heaven in Rev 12:7, the elect do not fight. That does not mean, however, that their endurance and witness contribute nothing to the eschatological process.  As in Eph 6:10, we are offered a picture of a battle conducted without weapons and rooted in the triumph of the Lamb (14:1), who (like Messiah in the contemporary apocalypse 4 Ezra 13:10, 27) stands as a conqueror without indulging in any military action.  The warfare of the elect is conducted with other weapons: endurance, witness, prophecy, obedience to God, and remaining loyal to Jesus (14:12).”[13]

v.13 “The rest from toil echoes 6:9, where the agony of waiting and nakedness is resolved by the granting of white robes.  The deeds of the dead are not forgotten, however, for ‘their deeds follow them’.   The deeds of all persons have been written down, to be opened up to public gaze when the books are opened (20:12). […] The prerequisite for humanity is to repent of their evil deeds (9:20; 16:11).”[14]

vv.14-16 “This is an image of judgment: Christ is separating the faithful from the unfaithful like a farmer harvesting his crops. This is a time of joy for the Christians who have been persecuted and martyred – they will receive their long-awaited reward. Christians should not fear the Last Judgment. Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life’ (John 5:24).”[15]

vv.18-20 “A winepress was a large vat or trough where grapes were collected and then smashed. The juice flowed out of a duct that led into a large holding vat. The winepress is often used in the Bible as a symbol of God’s wrath and judgment against sin (Isaiah 63:3-6; Lamentations 1:15; Joel 3:12, 13).”[16]

“It portrays the wicked as gathered grapes now crushed into wine in God’s winepress, responding to the cup of the wine of God’s anger poured out on them.  […] God had already promised that he would go out and trample the blood of the wicked like wine in a winepress until his garments were stained with their blood (Isa. 63:1-6); in Revelation Jesus assumes this divine role (Rev. 19:13,15).”[17]


[1] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1960) 370.

[2] Leander E. Keck, “Revelations” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1999) 664.

[3] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1960) 370-371.

[4] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1960) 371.

[5] G. K. Beale , The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1999) 747.

[6] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1999) 747-748.

[7] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1999) 750-751.

[8] Leander E. Keck, “Revelations” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1999) 666.

[9] Leander E. Keck, “Revelations” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1999) 666.

[10] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1960) 373-374.

[11] G. K. Beale., The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1999) 758-759.

[12] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1960) 374.

[13]Leander E. Keck, “Revelations” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1999) 665.

[14] Leander E. Keck, “Revelations” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1999) 667.

[15] Life Application Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1991) 2322.

[16] Life Application Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1991) 2322.

[17] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1960) 377.

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