In this morning’s message from Revelation 14, we talked about the question, “Who marks your life?” We saw how there are two primary things that can mark our lives: this beastly world, or our Creator God. Against the backdrop of the end times (and the “666” mark of the beast from Revelation 13 vs. the sealing of the 144,000 with the name of the Lord), we were encouraged to have JESUS be the One who most marks our lives.
Due to a lack of time, we were not able to finish our study of Revelation 14, so I wanted to supplement this morning’s sermon with a quick look at Revelation 14:14-20. These verses add an emphatic modifier to the question “Who marks your life?”:
Who marks your life makes a remarkable difference.
This truth comes clear as we reflect further on the last section of chapter 14. In these verses, a variety of angels (and Jesus Himself!) show up to further drive home the importance of our decision.
First up is Jesus, who is seen sitting on the clouds in 14:14-16 with a large sickle in His hand. The sickle is a farm instrument used at the time of harvest to cut down the crops. With this sickle, Jesus is going to bring this current era of history to a close, as He “harvests” His people out of the earth. This is a dramatic picture of what will happen at the end of this age when Jesus will call ALL PEOPLE to His altar and have them give an account for their lives. This time before the throne will be experienced by both Christians and non-Christians alike. What we do matters, and one day we will give an account for our lives to God. In 14:14-16, Jesus swings His sickle and brings one group of people to account.
After Jesus swings His sickle, an angel emerges, holding an additional sickle (14:17-20). This angel is encouraged by a THIRD angel to swing that sickle and continue the harvest of the earth. The third angel (who encourages the second) is identified as the angel “in charge of the fire.” What does that mean? Well, the fire referenced here is most likely the fire burning the incense in heaven containing the prayers of the saints … specifically the prayers begging God to bring justice to the earth and avenge the death and persecution of the martyrs (see Revelation 8:1-5). This angel also obliges and swings His sickle, bringing about the wrath of God upon the earth.
So what is happening in these two swings of the sickle (one by Jesus and the other by the angel)?
It seems that these two actions represent something that will take place at the end of this age. The event of Revelation 14:14-16 seems to be referring to Jesus bringing His church before Him at the end of this age, and rewarding us for any faithful service we have rendered to Him (something we will talk about later in our study of Revelation.)
The event of Revelation 14:17-20 seems to be referring to the judgment of the people of the world who have not trusted in Christ (and who have persecuted the followers of Christ in the last days). They will receive the wrath of God in the end, and will see their life crushed like a grape on a winepress. This graphic description seems to line up with what will happen when Jesus really returns to the earth. The armies of the earth will be gathered in opposition to God and His people, and will be marching on the city of Jerusalem, hell-bent on killing all Christ-followers found there. However, Jesus intervenes by returning to the earth and slaughtering the enemy armies in the battle of Armageddon (we will see more of this when we look at Revelation 16:15-19 and 19:11-21 later this summer). This final battle will occur in Israel in the Jezreel Valley that runs from Meggido in the North (Armageddon means – Mt. Meggido), and Edom in the south. This stretch of land is about 200 miles long … or in ancient measuring standards, about 1,600 stadia long … and apparently, the enemy armies will be slaughtered there in great numbers with their blood splattering as high as a horse’s bridle throughout that region (Revelation 14:20). (NOTE: we will talk more about this battle when we get to Revelation 19 later this summer).
These swings of the sickle by the “grim reapers” of Revelation 14 are reminders of the importance of having our lives marked by Jesus. Real consequences are at stake. If we find our lives only marked by this beastly world, there will be hell to pay (literally). And, if Jesus is really the One who has marked our lives, then we should follow Him wherever He goes (in obedience) … knowing that we will one day provide to Him an accounting for our lives. The graphic descriptions of 14:14-20 are left to further impress us that Who marks our lives is of remarkable importance!
So … who marks your life? I implore you to trust in Jesus Christ while you have time!
Now, in closing … two more thoughts:
- The wrath of God is pictured here as wine (14:17-20). This bitter wine of judgment is prepared by God and will be poured out on all who reject Jesus. Thinking of wine as a picture of judgment adds greater meaning to the prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 22:42. There Jesus prays, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” Jesus is praying just hours before He goes to the cross, and He asks God to remove the cup from Him. What cup? The wine cup of God’s wrath! Yet Jesus says, “Not My will, but Yours be done.” On the cross, Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath. All of it. All who trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins see the wine of God’s wrath, earned by our sin, poured out on Jesus who died in our place! Oh what grace! The sinless Jesus drinking the wrath intended for sinful us according to God’s plan to redeem us and make us His! Thank you Jesus for not passing on the Cup, but drinking it for me!
- Notice where Jesus is standing in 14:1 (on the rock of Mt. Zion) vs. where Satan is standing in 12:17 (on the sands of the sea). This picture further drives home the massive differences between being marked by “the beast” and being marked by God. One is flimsy … as if on shifting sand … while the other is resolute upon the solid rock! The system of this world is passing away (14:8), and hell awaits those who are only marked by it (14:9-11). Meanwhile, the Gospel is eternal and universally necessary (14:6-7) and heaven awaits those who are marked by Him (14:13).
Who marks us is of remarkable importance. Who marks you?
P.S. One last thing. Biblical scholars debate which “Mount Zion” is referenced in Revelation 14 … the Mount Zion of earth (around Jerusalem), or the heavenly Mount Zion, talked about in Hebrews 12:22-24. As I mentioned this morning, I believe this is a reference to the earthly Mount Zion upon the earth. That is where the 144,000 are located during the time of the tribulation according to Revelation 7, and God’s preservation of them upon the earth (as seen in 12:17, 6, 15-16) is a major contextual clue as to their whereabouts. That said, a question ensues. If this is earthly Mount Zion, why is Jesus said to be “with them” there? After all, Revelation 14:1 PRECEDES Revelation 19:11 when Jesus actually returns to the earth. If Mount Zion is on earth (in 14:1) how do we understand the reference to Jesus being there? Well, I think two possibilities exist as explanations here … which I think are actually BOTH true. First of all, the 144,000 are said to have “followed Jesus wherever He went (14:4).” This speaks to their Spirit’s following Jesus in obedience in every way. By saying that Jesus was with them on Mount Zion, it is simply saying that Jesus was WITH THEM IN SPIRIT, protecting them amidst the Satanic attacks of the last days. Further, the picture of Jesus with the 144,000 on Mount Zion is foreshadowing what will happen when Christ returns in Revelation 19 … He will stand upon Mount Zion … on this Earth (the Earth He is Lord over) … and reign with His people.
Hope these extra notes are helpful for you in our study of this great Revelation!