Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. 3 And they *sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. 4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. 5 And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.
Mount Zion is a name for Jerusalem (Psalm 2:6) where Jesus will return and save a remnant of Israel (Isaiah 37:32) and set up His earthly reign (Isaiah 24:23, Isaiah 31:4). In the vision, John saw Jesus on Mount Zion with the 144,000 Jews which He had sealed as His own in Revelation 7:4-8. His name and that of the Father, not that of the antichrist, was on their foreheads. There was a voice from heaven that at once sounded like many waters, loud thunder, and the music of a harp. The 144,000 sang a new song before the throne of God and in the presence of the twenty-four elders and living creatures. It was a song distinct to them that only they were permitted to learn and sing. They belonged to Jesus, and they were pure because they were washed in His blood. It is not that they lived perfect lives on the earth, but it is that they will be the firstfruits of those the Jews who come to faith during the tribulation period. In contrast to the rampant prostitution that will go on during the tribulation period (Joel 3:3), these who belong to God will be sexually pure in God’s sight. They will follow Jesus wherever He goes and speak only the truth. That they are viewed as blameless in Christ’s eyes is related not to their human perfection but to His perfection. Their righteousness is His righteousness. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” In heaven, believers will no longer have to deal with sin (Romans 8:30, 2 Thessalonians 1:10, Revelation 22:14), and that the 144,000 are pictured with Christ on Mount Zion shows that they are already enjoying the benefits of being in the presence of God forever. Having been redeemed and glorified, it is only natural to sing praises to God on account of being purchased with His blood and set free from the lusts of the human flesh that wages war against the spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).
6 And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7 and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”
John saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven with a gospel to preach to those on the earth. God sent this angel to give man yet another opportunity to repent before the final decimation of the peoples and the coming judgment. Every tongue, tribe, nation, and people would have the opportunity to hear and understand if only they would have ears to hear. The admonition from the angel was that people would fear God and give Him glory. The hour of judgment had come, and the true God is jealous for worship. God made all things, not the antichrist. God is eternal, whereas the antichrist had a beginning and will have an end. Perhaps there were some waiting their turn to bow before the beast, and the angel’s clear declaration of the gospel could change their mind. God always makes sure that people have the opportunity to hear the truth and to choose for themselves their destiny.
8 And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.”
Another angel warned that the evil world system was about to come to its end. There always has been sin which is at work in the world, for Satan is at work in the world. Babylon, the evil empire of ancient times, is symbolic of the evil world system that exists even today and which will be formalized into a political and economic union under the antichrist. Revelation describes this new world empire as a new Babylon because of its iniquity, brutality, and immorality (Revelation 17, 18). The new Babylon will be short-lived and quickly come to an end. Many have gotten drunk on the sin which the world cheers and pushes, and it will be the same in the last days, except more severe. The world system is temporary because Satan’s work on the earth will be brought to a sudden end with Christ’s return and His conquering of the armies of the earth (Revelation 19).
9 Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” 12 Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
Yet another angel, a third one, gave another warning to the people on the earth at the time of the antichrist not to take the mark of the beast. Falling in line with Satan and worshipping him is not compatible with belonging to Jesus. No one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13), and taking the mark implies devotion and allegiance to the antichrist. Those who do so will have a stiff eternal penalty to pay, for they will store up God’s wrath for themselves. They will be cast into the lake of fire along with the antichrist and the false prophet whom they worshipped (Revelation 19:20). God is Lord over hell, for judgment is given to Him. This is why Jesus told people to fear Him Who has authority to cast into hell (Luke 12:5). Satan doesn’t rule hell and torment people with a pitchfork; rather, those whose names are not in the Lamb’s book of life will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and of Jesus Himself. The dead who rejected Christ do not just die and get annihilated, but they are tormented for ever and ever. This is why even after the thousand year reign of Christ, the devil is cast into the lake of fire along with the beast and false prophet who have been suffering there already for a thousand years (Revelation 19:20, 20:10). Hell is not just permanent death, but it is permanent torment. This is why Jesus warns that in hell there is great weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 13:50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30; Luke 13:28). This judgment is just, for God paid a way of escape through the shed blood of Christ. Even to the very end, God sends a gospel declaration to the world, but still people reject Him. Hell is a just answer to wicked people, and it is a vindication and avenging for the righteous who suffered at the hands of the wicked. God has a cup of anger mixed full strength, and His wrath will be poured out against the wicked and unbelieving. The smoke of their torment goes up day and night forever and ever with no end, and they have no rest. The righteous inherit life and joy forever, but the wicked will suffer forever. This is horrific and terrifying, and it should be. This is why Jesus keeps saying that those with ears to hear need to hear. He doesn’t want this to come upon any person, but He will not force them to believe. Hell is for the wicked from all times, not just those who take the mark of the beast. Not worshipping God is worshipping the devil, and God’s wrath will be poured out on those who serve Satan rather than God.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
It is likely that there would be some who would believe the gospel declared by the angel because some would die in the Lord from this point forward. John was told to write about how they would be blessed, for in death on earth they would find life in heaven and rest from all of their strife and striving against sin and the devil’s minions. God would remember their faith and their faithful deeds and reward them accordingly. Heavenly rewards and the joy of Jesus will make any earthly suffering for the sake of Christ more than worth it.
14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
John then saw Jesus sitting on a white cloud with a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. An angel came out from the temple of the Lord in heaven announcing that it was time for Jesus to use His sickle to reap. The angel’s words reflected the prayers of the tribulation saints who had been calling for Christ to come soon and avenge their blood (Revelation 6:9-11). Christ always hears the prayers of those who abide in Him, and He swung His sickle over the earth and reaped a harvest of wicked souls. It is important to understand that this is not the rapture of the righteous or the resurrection of those dead in Christ. This harvesting of the wicked is foretold by Christ in the gospels. Matthew 13:40-43 says, “So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” And Matthew 13:49-50 says, “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Luke 17:28-37 also describes how, as in the days just before the destruction of the world in Noah’s day and of Sodom and Gomorrah in Lot’s day, people will be doing everyday activities like grinding at a mill. But then one will be taken and the other left. The disciples asked where they are taken to, and Jesus told them that it is to a place where the vultures gather, a place of death. Just as the plagues have been sequential and some have died in each one, some of the wicked will be harvested for the coming judgment by the reaping angels in this time. The rest who remain who are also wicked will encounter the remaining horrific bowl judgments (Revelation 15-16).
17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18 Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.
More harvesting was needed still. Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Another angel who has power over fire came out from the altar in heaven and told the one with the sickle to gather from the earth because it was time. The wicked were put into the wine press of God’s wrath. So many were killed on earth in this heavenly action that there was blood up to the height of a horse’s bridle for a distance of two hundred miles. That this happened outside of Jerusalem and in a place where blood could pool points to it likely being the same time when Jesus will destroy the armies of the earth on the plain of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16). A similar event will happen at the end of the millennial age when Satan is released to deceive the world one final time. Armies of the world will march on Jesus’ Jerusalem, and they will be destroyed with fire from heaven (Ezekiel 38-39). But given the timeline of the Book of Revelation, it is more likely that this particular event is the second coming of Christ to battle outside of Jerusalem as explained in Revelation 19. Revelation 19:15 is particularly telling when it says, “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” The winepress of 14:20 is carried out in 19:15, a massive bloodbath of the wicked armies of the world.