While the angel in verse 6 announces the gospel, this third angel announces the terrible judgment of God on those who follow the beast. In Revelation 13:12-18 we dealt with those who allowed the second beast to deceive them. These worshipers of the lie and practitioners of deceit are not victims or innocent bystanders, they hear the gospel, they see the worshipers going up to church, suffer affliction with joy, and yet, they do not acknowledge their misery.
God’s fury is likened to wine in a cup. They will drink of the wine of God’s fury and the wine is said to be ‘full strength’ which some translations render as undiluted. That means not one iota of God’s judgment will be left out; it will be poured full strength into the cup of God’s wrath.
Psalm 75:8 In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs.
Isaiah 51:17 Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger.
While believers were previously objects of God’s wrath, just like those who refuse to believe the truth, the full fury of God’s wrath was aimed at us too. Because Jesus Christ has paid in full for us and made complete satisfaction to God for our sins, there is no wrath or judgment aimed at us. We will not be required to drink from this terrible cup again. It will be taken away from us and given to those who tried to deceive us, those who persecuted us for remaining faithful to that which they refused to comprehend.
Isaiah 51:22, 23 This is what your Sovereign LORD says, your God, who defends his people: "See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. 23I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, 'Fall prostrate that we may walk over you.' And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked over."
The cup of God’s wrath will stand before them and they will tremble; they will stagger and be maddened by the terrible judgment that they face. They will try to flee but they will be forced to completely empty it.
Jeremiah 25:15, 16 This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them."
We are reminded of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah when we read that their judgment will be by burning sulfur. The angels and the Lamb, who have worked the salvation of the elect, will witness the destruction of the reprobate to complete God’s judgment on them.
Revelation 6:10 They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"
This passage confirms that their torment will continue ‘for ever end ever’ and the smoke of their torment will be a testimony that God’s judgment was complete, just as it was complete against the elect’s Messiah when Christ called out from the cross, ‘it is finished.’
John speaks in the present tense admonishing us to be patient and endure the afflictions we suffer on behalf of Christ. This word of comfort and encouragement to Christ’s assembly is to strengthen us in the days of trial and temptation. We ought to remain in prayer and constant observance of the gospel to be able to remain faithful to Jesus.
Revelation 3:10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.
I John 3:23, 24 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Acts 16:31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."
I Peter 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.
Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied:" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
We are not told to whom the voice belongs, but we can reasonably infer that it is from God directing what John should write, especially when we see the words that are spoken, “Blessed are the dead…”
Those who die in Christ are assured of their salvation.
I Corinthians 15:16-22 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
The words, ‘… from now on’ do not indicate that those saints who died before Christ’s resurrection are lost. They have enjoyed the benefit from Christ’s sacrifice, which was to come, living and dying in the hope of the promised Messiah. That is why the promise of the Messiah to Israel is running like a golden thread throughout the Jewish Scriptures. The elect recognized that their hope is in the Messiah who will redeem them in time to come. It is not uncommon for Scripture to bestow blessings and threats based on events still in the future.
When the voice from heaven speaks about those who die in the ‘Lord from now on’ it assures us that death’s horror has been removed and the grave has been changed into a mere passageway to Christ, or as Jesus put in the parable, to the ‘bosom of Abraham.’ Death is a profit for the believers ‘from now on’ where it used to be something to be feared and dreaded.
Philippians 1:23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far…
I Corinthians 15:55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
Psalm 49:13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. 14Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. 15But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.
Psalm 89:48 What man can live and not see death, or save himself from the power of the grave?
Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten.
Hosea 13:14 "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?
These words form the essence of the comfort of the gospel, ‘they will rest from their labor.’ If we consider the circumstances of the end times, like we experience today not knowing how the onslaught of the wicked will increase, then it is profitable for the faithful to be with Christ rather than to be in this world. By sheer obedience to Christ and love for God do the faithful endure patiently the trials and afflictions of this life as warriors in Christ’s army, eagerly reaching out to find all of the elect, wherever they might be.
Matthew 25:35-40 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. 37Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? 40The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
II Thessalonians 1:4 Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. 5All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8e will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10On the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
It appears as if the believers are rewarded for their faithfulness, but what Jesus told his disciples in the parable in II Thessalonians is proof that they have saving faith, for what they did were the fruits of their faith, not the cause of it. It is impossible for the wicked to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
God’s judgment, announced in chapters 6 – 13, is now being fulfilled, in which three angels feature. The judgment is represented as a harvest of what appears to be grain in verses 14 – 16 and grapes in verses 17 – 20.
The white cloud is a sign of purity and majesty as we saw in Revelation 1:13 and 14. Scripture is fulfilled by this vision of John,
Daniel 7:13 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence."
The One who came down to mankind to red redeem the elect now sits on the cloud wearing a crown of gold, with a sharp sickle in his hand. Jesus is the Judge and he is ready to harvest the earth.
Mark 4:26-29 He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28All by itself the soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."
This angel comes out of the temple, which means it came from the throne of God, or the inner sanctum where God’s throne is. This is the first of three angels announcing God’s judgment. This announcement occurs at the exact time that God predestined it should. The words ‘the harvest of the earth is ripe’ should be understood as ‘more than ripe’ or withering away. The Greek xeraino means the ripening of crops, but as its root, it means the withering away of fruit during the ripening process due to the depravation of their natural juices. We ought to understand that the meaning of ‘ripe’ here means that the harvest is more than ready indicating God’s patience to preserve the saints and allow all of the elect to come in. However, the harvesting cannot be delayed any longer.
Revelation 10:6 And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, "There will be no more delay."
We may also see the use of xeriano as a reference to the promise that the time will be shortened at the end to prevent the elect from perishing, and the withered state of the harvest is a sign of the elect’s affliction and suffering under the weight of the testing in the furnace of affliction.
Regarding the wicked, xeriano refers to the readiness of the wicked to be harvested also, and that the maturity of their wickedness is complete.
The angel says, ‘take your sickle and reap,’ emphasizing that the harvest must begin; the good and the bad seeds must be harvested. Jesus will harvest the good seed.
Matthew 13:38-40 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age."
John 4:35, 36 Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.
God’s command is fulfilled; Jesus gathers at his Second Coming his elect with him.
Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
The second angel harvests the wicked seed, while the Son harvests the elect. In Matthew 13:39 Jesus says that the harvesters are angels, while here in Revelation 14:15 the angel announces to the ‘son of man’ who sits on a white cloud, to do the harvesting. When Jesus sends out his angels to do his work, they act on his behalf and with his authority, which is the same as if He himself went and performed the work. There is no contradiction in these passages.
The third angel comes from the altar calling to the second angel to commence the harvesting of the wicked, which he called the ‘clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine.’
This angel comes from where the martyrs are under the altar calling out for the revenge of their blood. The third angel is about to fulfill their prayers and petitions because he is the one who had charge of the fire. He is the one who has the power to pour out fire on the earth.
The second angel will now proceed to harvest all the wicked seeds from the earth because that harvest, too, is ripe or more than ripe, indicating their wickedness has reached maturity and they are ripe for God’s judgment.
It would be more correct to read ‘gathered its vines’ than ‘grapes.’ The Greek ampelos is used here, which is the same word Christ used describing his relationship with the believers, which is the vine that imparts to its branches sap and productiveness. The angel who harvests the wicked cuts not only the fruit (grapes) but the vine itself is cut and so, the vine’s ability to impart sap and nutrients to the branches is severed. This harvest is final and there is no possibility for the vines to ever produce its wicked fruit again. This harvest finally ends their wickedness.
God’s judgment is illustrated as a great winepress in which the grapes are thrown.
Joel 3:13 Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow--so great is their wickedness!
Isaiah 63:3-6 "I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing 4for the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. 5I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me. 6I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground."
The winepress was located outside the city as was customary to execute the death penalty outside the city. This last execution of God’s justice is outside the New Jerusalem as there would be no death inside it. The reference to the blood rising to the horses’ bridles indicates the enormity of the execution of God’s justice; it will be that high for a distance of about 200 miles (1,600 stadia.)
Once again, we should not try to visualize these measurements as physical distances as all numbers used in Revelation are symbolic. The measurement in stadia is used here to indicate the symbolic value as 40 x 40. The number 40 is symbolic in God’s judgment, as we see the flood that raged for 40 days and 40 nights. When Jonah eventually arrived in Nineveh to announce God’s judgment, he said, ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.’ (Jonah 3:4.) The number 40 is made up of 4, which is the number of man, multiplied by 10, which is the number of completeness. This indicates that the entire population of wicked people will be subjected to the winepress of God’s wrath and it is their blood that will flow. The symbolic values of these numbers illustrate the all encompassing and final judgment of God.
These seven plagues are called the last because it means literally it was ‘finished’ or consummated. John relates to us that the seven angels have the vials with the seven last plagues, but it is written with the prophetical past for the future, the future being to God as though it were past, so sure of accomplishment is His word. This verse is the summary of the vision that follows: the angels do not actually receive the vials until verse 7, but here, in verse 1, by anticipation they are spoken of as having them. There are no more plagues after these until the Lord's coming in judgment. The destruction of Babylon ( Revelation 18) is the last: then He appears.
The elect standing at the shore of the sea of glass reminds us of Israel’s trek through the Red Sea and their witnessing Pharaoh’s destruction, as if they stood at the shore as the waters closed in over their enemies.
Exodus 14:26 - 30 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." 27Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. 28The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen--the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. 29But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.
Different than the Red Sea, this sea of glass is before the elect as the fulfilled judgment of God. Now they are able to see the judgment of God in its entirety as through glass.
The sea of glass was mixed in with fire referring to the baptism on earth with fire, that is, the fiery trial of believers, as well as with the Holy Spirit, which Christ's people undergo to purify them, just as gold is purified of its dross in the furnace. The same fire that tested the elect, consumes the reprobate in God’s fiery judgment. The elect were protected by the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of faith causing the fire to pass over them, just as the angel of death passed over the Israelites, while they were in captivity, who had the blood of a lamb sprinkled on their doorposts.
The Greek word for standing is preceded by the preposition epi indicating that there is motion involved in the standing, which means that they have come to the sea to stand on its shore.
Moses and the Israelites' song of triumph ( Exd 15:1 ) has its antitype in the saints' "song of Moses and the Lamb" in our next verse of Chapter 15.
Exodus 15:1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: "I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.
As the sea typifies the troubled state out of which the beast arose, and which is to be no more in the blessed world to come ( Rev 21:1 ), so the victorious saints stand on it, having it under their feet (as the woman had the moon, Re 12:1); but it is now no longer treacherous wherein the feet sink, but solid like glass, as it was under the feet of Christ, when he walked on the water, whose triumph and power the saints now share.
Matthew 14:26, 27 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. 27But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.”
Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
Revelation 12:1 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
Firmness of footing amidst apparent instability is thus represented. They can stand, not merely as victorious Israel at the Red Sea, and as John upon the sand of the shore, but upon the sea itself, now firm, and reflecting their glory as glass, their past conflict shedding the brighter luster on their present triumph. Their happiness is heightened by the retrospect of the dangers through which they have passed. Thus, this corresponds with,
Revelation 7:14, 15 I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Before we proceed with the seven angels with the seven plagues, it would be profitable for us to look at the doctrine of the Last Judgment, the court of Christ.
Believers derive great comfort from Christ's return ‘to judge the living and the dead’ because in all my distress and persecution I turn my eyes to the heavens and confidently await as judge the very One who has already stood trial in my place before God and so has removed the whole curse from me. He will condemn all his enemies and mine to everlasting punishment: but he will take me and all his chosen ones with him into the joy and the glory of heaven.
Luke 21:28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
Romans 8:22 - 25 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Titus 2:13, 14 While we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Matthew 25:31, 32 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
The second coming of Christ, the end of the world and the last judgment, although they differ somewhat from each other, are all included in the concept of ‘returning to judge the living and the dead.’ We will, therefore, answer the following 13 questions over the next two or three lessons.
1. Will there be a future judgment?
The Scriptures have foretold that there shall come, in the last days, scoffers, who will regard this doctrine as nothing more than a fable.
II Peter 3:4 They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation."
The certainty of this doctrine depends solely upon the teachings of Scripture as embodied in the promises of God. Since man has lost the ability to know the righteousness, goodness and truth of God, it cannot be left to man to conclude whether there will be any future judgment, or when it will be, much less the circumstances in which it will be conducted.
We are therefore, compelled to accept the truth of this doctrine entirely upon the testimony of Scripture, which is no problem for those who know and believe that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God.
Scripture provides us with the following six proofs in this regard:
a) The declarations of Scripture.
The Old and New Testaments, clearly and explicitly teach the doctrine of a future judgment. The testimony of Daniel:
Daniel 7:9 - 14 As I looked, "thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. 11Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire." 12(The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) 13"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
The prophecy of Enoch, quoted by the Apostle Jude, bears similar testimony:
Jude 1:14, 15 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy one 15to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
Jesus was very open about this point, especially in Matthew 24 and 25. The Apostles also wrote about a judgment:
Acts 17:31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.
I Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Hebrews 9:27, 28 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so, Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Revelation 20:11, 12 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”
1. The decree of God, by which he ordained, and determined with himself, from everlasting to raise the dead. Enoch, Elijah and Christ are examples of it.
2. The omnipotence of God by which He is able to accomplish things which are impossible for us to comprehend. Christ uses this argument in refuting the Sadducees. “Jesus replied, You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
3. The justice of God, which demands that it be well with the good, and ill with the wicked, and that perfectly. But this does not come to pass in this life. There must be another life in which God will render full justice to everyone.
It is in this way that Paul comforts himself, and all the godly under the trials to which we are exposed. “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you And give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”
“But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.”
4. The end for which God created the human race. The purpose of God is never thwarted, He always obtains his end. He created man for this purpose, that he might be the temple in which He would dwell, and that He might communicate joy and blessedness to man.
But this does not take place here in this life, neither can it take place here. Since God would not create so excellent a creature as man for perpetual misery, we may infer with certainty that there will be a change. God is never disappointed in His purpose, nor will He permit the temple of the Holy Ghost to be given over to perpetual corruption.
This happiness, too, is a part of the image of God in which man was created, and as it was destroyed by the devil, God, who is greater than the evil, will restore it. Therefore, it is not only probable, but it is most certain that man was not created to suffer these evils but for a better end, which will be attained when Christ comes again.
The resurrection and happiness of our bodies is also confirmed by this passage: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
5. The glory of God. God created man that he might forever praise and glorify Him, which cannot take place without the resurrection and the judgment.