The Six Angels and the Son of Man.
The next vision which follows |on earth,| follows closely on the last, and is preliminary to the pouring out of the seven Vials. No angel has been seen or heard since the seventh angel sounded the seventh trumpet in xi.15. This shows us that the passage xii.1 -- 8 is parenthetical, and constitutes one series or episode.
This fifth vision on earth consists of the appearance of six angels consecutively, each having his separate mission, and all but one (the fifth) having his own proclamation. They are distinct from each other, and continue the Episode by giving us God's side of what is going to happen; and telling us of what He is doing during the time that the Beast and False Prophet are running their course in chap. xiii. They form also a compendium of all the remaining judgments contained in the rest of the Book.
The six angels with the Son of Man make seven heavenly appearances and utterances. These are divided, as shown in the Structure [below], into three and four. The first three stand out clearly by themselves. The last four form two pairs, in which the first of each has a sharp sickle, and the second of each gives the command to use it. The first of these pairs is the Harvest, and the second is the Vintage.
The following is the structure of this Vision as a whole: --
E^5 xiv.6-20. The Fifth Vision |on Earth.|
E^5 A i. a^1 6. The First Angel. b^1 7. His
ii. a^2 8-. The Second
b^2 -8. His
iii. a^3 9-. The Third Angel.
b^3 -9-13. His
Denunciation (-9-11). His Consolation. (12, 13).
A B iv. a^4 14-. The Son of Man.
b^4 -14. What he
had. A sharp sickle.
v. a^5 15-. The Fourth Angel.
b^5 -15, 16. His
Command to the Son of Man (-15). Its Execution. (16). B vi. a^6 17-. The Fifth Angel.
b^6 -17. What he
had. A sharp sickle.
vii. a^7 18-. The Sixth Angel.
b^7 -18-20. His
Command to the Fifth Angel (-18). Its Execution (19, 20).
The First Angel (xiv.6, 7).
xiv.6. And I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having the everlasting gospel to announce unto those that dwell on the earth, and unto every nation and tribe, and tongue, and people, (7) saying with a loud voice, |Fear God, and give glory to Him; because the hour of His judgment is come: and worship him that made the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and the fountains of water.|]
We have to remember that though the Gospel is often used in a technical sense, the word itself means glad tidings or good news. It is clear that this news may vary and yet be good. As a matter of fact there are several subjects connected with this good news. It will be sufficient to mention the |gospel of the kingdom,| and |the gospel of the grace of God.| All are preached, and are to be preached, according to the dispensations to which they belong. For example, in the present dispensation it is only |the gospel of the grace of God| which is to be preached (Acts xx.24), and he is accursed who now preaches a different gospel (Gal. i.8). |The gospel of the Kingdom| was preached by John the Baptist, by Christ, and by Peter, &c. (Matt. iv.23; ix.35). And it will yet be preached again in the Great Tribulation, after the Church of God has been taken away (Matt. xxiv.14), up to this point; and then it will be replaced by |The Eternal Gospel,| as it is rendered in the RV. It is so called because it takes us back to the beginning, and tells of the earliest good news, or gospel, preached from God as Creator, and consists of the one great truth which was preached from the beginning. It is manifest that it cannot be |everlasting| in the strict sense of the word, because when |the hour of his judgment is come,| and gone, it will not be possible to preach it any longer. This settles the matter for us. If it did not, it is equally clear that God's gospel of grace which is preached now consists of something more than the fact that men are to |fear God|! And who would dare to preach now that |the hour of His judgment (or crisis) has come.| No, this |everlasting gospel| cannot be preached now. The moment has not yet arrived when these words can be proclaimed. We can tell of |judgment to come| (Acts xxiv.25, (...) (mellontos), coming), but not of the |hour| having actually arrived. If |grace| and |judgment| are the same thing, then again we may say that words are useless for the purposes of revelation. |Now is the day of salvation| not of judgment (2 Cor. vi.2).
It is therefore eternal in the sense that it belongs to the first and the last of the dispensations in which God deals with men. It goes back to the beginning, before the Law. It tells of God's claim as Creator; and not of Christ's work as Saviour. |Now I know that thou fearest God| was God's word to Abraham (Gen. xxii.12). |This do and live, for I fear God,| said Joseph (Gen. xlii.18). So with Job (i.1); and the Egyptian midwives (Ex. i.17-21). The |fearers of God| was a title specially given to proselytes from the Gentiles (Acts xiii.16, 26).
The time will have then come to add the sentence in Isa. lxi.2, which the Lord omitted when He read Isa. lxi.1, 2-, in the Synagogue at Nazareth (Luke iv.18-20): |The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,| &c., down to and including the first sentence of verse 2, |to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.| Then it is significantly added that |he closed the book and sat down.| Why? Because that was not yet the time to preach what follows in Isa. lxi.2, viz., |the day of vengeance of our God.| But here, when this first angel preaches in mid-heaven to all on earth, the time will have come to preach this |day of vengeance,| as having then come. It was through falling into the mistake of not |rightly dividing the word of truth,| and distinguishing its times and seasons and Dispensations, that the church of the Thessalonians was so upset. A forged letter had been sent to them, in which Paul is represented as having taught that |the Day of the Lord had set in| (2 Thess. ii.2). Of course, if that had been the case, they saw they had not been |caught up to meet the Lord in the air| before that great and terrible Day, and they had every need to be |troubled|; for their faith and their hope were alike |in vain.| Indeed, though faith remained, |hope| seems to have gone, for while in 1 Thess. i.3 it was mentioned, in 2 Thess. i.3 it is omitted. So Paul proceeds to undeceive them and give them further revelations as to the Lord's Coming.
And, observe here, it is not the |day of his judgment is come,| but |the hour.| This refers of course to the last and final crisis of the judgment -- the seven Vials -- which closes everything up. |Fear God and give glory to him... worship him (not the Beast) who made the heaven and the earth,| &c. It is God as creator who is proclaimed, and that by an angel, not by men. The heavenly utterances proclaim the Father and the Son, but here it is the Creator. That is the basis on which worship is demanded. What a state the earth must then be in, when only this one part of the primeval gospel can be proclaimed. This takes place probably before Rev. xiii.
And yet, in spite of all this, Commentators take it as |the inauguration of Christian missions,| or |the operations of the Bible Society|! These words could never have been read with their context by those who thus misinterpret them! No! this is the first step in these angelic announcements. A solemn note of warning is loudly sounded.
The Second Angel (xiv.8).
xiv.8. And another, a second angel followed, saying,
|Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great, which hath given all the nations to drink of the exciting wine of her fornication.|]
This is the first mention of Babylon in the Apocalypse, and it gathers up in this brief preliminary announcement the whole of chapters xvii. and xviii. The words of this angel are prophetic, and look forward to the pouring out of the last Vial. The judgment on Babylon, therefore, closes up the whole series of God's judgments. Chap. xvii.1-3 and xviii.2, 3 are identified by the announcement of this second angel.
While the action of the first angel goes back to a time prior to chap. xiii., the words of the second angel take us on to beyond the end of that chapter. If we take the word (...) (thumos) as meaning inflammatory or exciting, as it does when used of wine, all difficulty is taken away. Her |fornications| refer us back to the prevailing religion of that time, as we have seen in xiv.4, 5, above; and this is the cause of her judgment. What this Babylon is we shall see when we come to consider chapter xvii.
The Third Angel (xiv.9-13).
Five verses are devoted to the third Angel and his announcement. The Structure shows that this member |b3| is two-fold; viz.:
b^3 His Denunciation: verses -9-11; and
His Consolation: verses 12, 13.
These two are of such importance that each has its own separate structure.
The Denunciation is twice announced: at the beginning, |c,| and at the end, |c.| From this we see the special nature of the sin which is to be punished: It is the worship of the Beast, and the receiving of his mark (charagma). Between these mentions of the sin, we have the punishment which is threatened. First positive; then negative. The Structure is designed to call our attention to the solemnity and importance of the mission of this Third Angel. We give the structure of His Denunciation first: --
b^3, xiv. -9-11. The Denunciation of the Third Angel.
b^3 c -9. The Crime denounced. x -9-. Worship of the Beast.
-9. Receiving his mark.
d 10-. The punishment (positive). Drink.
e f -10-. Torment.
g -10. Its nature. (fire)
e f 11-. Torment.
g -11-. Its duration (eternal).
d -11-. The punishment (negative). No rest.
c -11. The Crime denounced. x -11-. Worship of Beast.
-11. Receiving his mark.
This proclamation again takes us back to a time prior to chap. xiii. It is a solemn warning as though directed against an opposite proclamation which the Beast will then have made or be about to make.
This warning naturally follows the designation of the sins for which the judgment is announced.
xiv.9. And another, a third Angel followed them, saying with a loud voice:
|If anyone worshippeth the Beast and his image, and receiveth his mark on his forehead, or on his hand, (10) even he shall drink of the wine of God's fury, which is mingled undiluted in the cup of his wrath; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the 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 and night, who worship the Beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark (or brand) of his name.|]
Here we have one of the most solemn warnings given in the whole of the Bible. It must not be toned down in the slightest degree, but taken in all the fulness of its awful meaning. It ought to be sufficient to warn thousands from yielding to the temptations or submitting to the threats of the Beast and the False Prophet. Their threats and enticements will be serious enough. But God's threat here is intended to outweigh them, and enable many to |endure unto the end.| Here will be the |patient endurance of the saints.| Here they will be strengthened and encouraged to |keep the commandments of God,| and not the commandments of the Beast; to keep |the faith of Jesus,| and not believe the Religion of the False Prophet. If this warning will not keep them, nothing will.
The consolation given affirms that it will be better to die than to yield: better to have the blessing connected with death, even the martyr's death, than to live and come under God's curse and suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. If we take the first part of t his threat of the future and everlasting state, we may take the latter part as referring to their previous condition on the earth, as |day and night| can hardly be spoken of the eternal state. |And they have no rest who are worshipping,| etc. It is the present participle, and cannot mean who have worshipped or did worship; |receiveth| is also in the present tense, implying that on earth they will have no rest day and night while they are engaged in worshipping the Beast; and as to eternity, |the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.|
This prepares us for the consolation which follows, which is also intended as an encouragement.
Its structure is as follows:
b, xiv.12, 13. The Consolation of the Third Angel.
b h k 12-. The |Patience| of the saints. l -12. The |Obedience| of the saints.
j m 13-. The Voice from
n -13-. Benediction.
h k -13-. The |Rest| of the saints.
l -13. The |Works| of the saints.
12. Here is the patient endurance of the saints: who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. (13) And I heard a voice from heaven saying:
|Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth:|]
This is another voice: not that of the third angel. The connection is clear; |from henceforth| refers to death from that time. It is persecution, ending in certain death. Hence the special Benediction here pronounced upon all such as die rather than yield to the temptations and threats of the Beast and the False Prophet. |Worship, or be slain| is their cry. |Be slain, and be blessed| is God's encouraging reply to them. That blessing is seen in xiv.1-5, and xv.1-4, and the words refer to these Scriptures.
|Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their troubles, for their works follow them.|]
The word (...) (kopon), which we have rendered |troubles,| is from (...) (kopto) to beat; to beat the breast; hence, to lament. (See Matt. xi.17; xxi.8; xxiv.30. Luke viii.52; xxiii.27. Rev. i.7; xviii.9). The noun may well, therefore, denote troubles. See Matt. xxvi.10: |Why do ye give trouble to the woman?| So Mark xiv.6. Luke xi.7; xviii.5. Gal. vi.17.
It is violent death that is in question here; not the |falling asleep| of saints in this dispensation. The words have no reference to the present state of things. They cannot be interpreted of the Church of God; though, of course, by way of general application, it is always better to die than worship any idol, or have fellowship with idolators. Their |works| which follow them consist of their |testimony,| their |obedience,| and their |patient endurance,| so frequently mentioned in this book. These works do not go before them to procure their reward, but they follow after as the evidence of their obedience.
The Son of Man, and the Last Three Angels. A., xiv.14-20.
The Six Angelic Appearances of this fifth Vision on Earth are made into seven by the Vision of the Son of Man in the centre. These seven are divided in four and three, as usual.
We have considered the first three. The last four go together, and are closely connected; the first two with the HARVEST, and the last two with the VINTAGE.
The Son of Man stands out as the centre of the whole seven, thus dividing the six angels into two threes. This is seen from the Structure of the whole of this Vision [in the section The Six Angels and the Son of Man].
The last four form two pairs. The first of each pair is seen with a sharp sickle in his hand; while the second of each pair gives forth the command for it to be used. In the first pair the Harvest of the earth is reaped. In the second pair the Vintage of the earth is gathered.
We now have to present the last four together, and give the Structure, which is as follows: --
A. xiv.14-20. The Son of Man, and the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Angels.
A B iv. 14. The Son of Man and His sharp sickle. v. o 15-. The Fourth Angel, and whence
he comes (Temple).
p -15-. His cry to the Son
q -15. Command to
t -16. The Harvest reaped.
B vi.17. The Fifth Angel and his sharp sickle. vii. o 18-. The Sixth Angel, and whence
he comes (Altar).
p -18-. His cry to the
q -18-. Command to
t -19, 20. The Vintage gathered.
The Harvest and the Vintage are reaped and gathered respectively by the Son of Man, and the Fifth Angel, though they are recorded under the Fourth and Sixth Angels, as shown in the Structure.
xiv.14. And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud I saw one sitting like unto the Son of Man, having upon His head a golden crown (stephanos), and in His hand a sharp sickle.] The Son of Man was the sower (Matt. xiii.37); and the Son of Man is the reaper. This is the last time the title is used in the Bible. It connects the Lord Jesus with the earth, and is therefore used of this |harvest of the earth.|
When the title was first used in the day of His humiliation (Matt. viii.20), He had no where, on the earth, to lay His head. But now, in the day of His judgment, He has on that head a crown of gold. He is on the cloud, and invisible on earth; but though unseen, the effects of the sharp sickle in His hand will soon be manifest. This crown is associated with Ps. xxi.3: |Thou settest a crown of pure gold upon his head|; for it is a token of His incoming of Dominion; and |Thou settest| is put in strong contrast with the |crown of thorns| which others set upon His head at His first coming.
The Fourth Angel and the Harvest (xiv.15, 16).
xiv.15. And another Angel came out of the Temple (Naos), crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud,
|Put in Thy sickle, and reap: because the hour is come to reap; because the harvest of the earth is ripe.|]
There can be no doubt that this is a judgment scene. The title |Son of Man| betokens it; for God hath |committed all judgment unto the Son, because He is the Son of Man| (John v.27). The Old Testament connects this harvest with judgment; for a precisely similar command is given in Joel iii.13: |put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe,| and this is mentioned in close connection with the vintage: |come you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.| This is the scene in which |the sun and moon shall be darkened| (verse 15).
Most Commentators allow that the Vintage is judicial; then, why not the Harvest. The one is |the vine of the earth,| and the other is |the harvest of the earth.| It is the earth that is ripe, and what can this be ripe for, but for judgment? The Vine is |the Vine of the Earth|; the Harvest is |the Harvest of the Earth. We thus have the two great spheres in which judgment will be carried out, most clearly and explicitly put before us.
What is seen here is one of the six brief announcements connected with and filling up that which goes before; heralding and explaining in a few words certain judgments yet to follow.
xiv.16. And He that sat upon the cloud put forth His sickle upon the earth; and the earth was reaped.] The word |earth| is repeated so as to impress our minds with the fact that it is with the earth, as the earth, that we have to do here. It is |the hour of His judgment| which has come. How this can be interpreted of the |church,| or be taken in the good sense of reward, we are at a loss to understand. The first of these six angels used precisely the same words (verse 7). It is 2 Thess. i.6-8 that we have here. When the time has come for Him to |gather out of His kingdom all things that offend| (Matt. xiii.41), |immediately He putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come| (Mark iv.29). Matt. xxiv.37-42 must be read in connection with the scene here referred to. The good may be gathered into barns: these barns are seen in the next chapter; but the though connected with the harvest is judgment. And why a |sharp| sickle. The vintage is admittedly judicial (verses 18-20), and that is gathered with a sharp sickle. That the harvest is judicial also is confirmed by a reference to Jer. li.33: |Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing-floor, it is time to thresh her: yet a little while and the time of her harvest shall come.| Babylon is mentioned in the verses immediately preceding this harvest (chap. xiv.8); and chap. xvii. and xviii. identify it with Jer. li.33, for |the harvest is the end of the age.|
After the harvest comes the vintage, in the order of nature; so there it is the same in the order of judgment.
This brings us to
The Fifth Angel (xiv.17).
xiv.17. And another angel came out of the Temple (Naos) which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.] And it is to him that the Sixth Angel calls upon to gather the vintage.
The Sixth Angel and the Vintage (xiv.18-20).
xiv.18 And another angel came out of the altar who hath authority over its fire: and he cried with a loud voice to him that had the sharp sickle, saying,
|Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripened.|
(19) And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. (20) And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even up to the bits of the horses, to the distance of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.] This, too, takes in the final judgments of this book. Both of these angels are the servants of |the Lord of the earth| (xi.4). Three times are we reminded that the sickle was |sharp,| and therefore would do its business without difficulty. The vine is |the vine of the earth| (See Deut. xxxii.32, 33).
We have here a fore-announcement of the sixth Vial (xvi.12-16) and of the great battle of Armageddon. It is to this scene that Joel iii.12-15 refers, where we read |the press is full, the fats overflow.| And this is closely connected with the |harvest| in the same verse. (Compare Zeph. iii.8. Isa. xxxiv.1-8). Rev. xix.15 tells us of this treading of the Wine-press. And Isaiah records it in chap. lxiii.1-4. Nothing can equal the awful nature of those final judgments of the seven Vials, which are here epitomized in the few words describing this harvest and this vintage. |Threshing| is the end of the one, and |treading| is the end of the other; and it is Palestine and not Italy; Jerusalem and not Rome, which is in question here.