Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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APOCALYPSE - Chapter 14

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Apocalypse 14

Supplemental Commentary:

IV.  THE SEVEN SIGNS  12, 1 -- 15, 4 (continued)

14, 1-5:  The Lamb and the Virgins.  This vision is in contrast to the foregoing.  The beast, followed by those who bear its mark, is opposed here by the image of the Lamb, Christ, with His countless faithful, who are marked with His name and that of His Father.    2 f.  The new song is one of sweetness and majesty.    4 f.  The reason only the faithful can understand the song is that they are virgins.  Some would understand this term of spiritual virginity, i.e., as opposed to "fornication" which is so often used of apostasy.  Others accept the term in its strict sense.  This is the common Catholic opinion, and the one best supported in tradition.  They follow the Lamb here on earth by the practice of the counsels [i.e., chastity, poverty and obedience], being faithful even to martyrdom, if that be necessary.

14, 6-11:  The Three Angels.  This vision corresponds closely to that of the seven seals and serves as a prelude to the judgments which God will pronounce over the beast.  There are three phases: (1) preliminary proclamations of the angels (14, 6-11), corresponding to the four horsemen (6, 1 ff); (2) prediction of the happiness of the saints (14, 12 f), corresponding to the consolation of the martyrs (6, 11); (3) anticipated vision of the divine judgment, corresponding to the sixth seal (6, 12 ff).

The first angel promulgates the gospel and warns of impending judgment.  His judgment: to be taken in a wide sense, especially of the judgment to be passed on the beast and the world-city Babylon.  This judgment begins with the victory of the gospel.

The second angels follows the first, as the doom of the world-city follows the proclamation of the gospel.  Pagan Rome was Babylon to St. John.  Cf. 16-18.  Rome had not fallen when John wrote, but he uses the prophetic past, indicative of the certainty of accomplishment.  The fall is more fully described in 16-18.

The third angel foretells the certain punishment that will be imposed on all who worship the beast, i.e., the world power, and its image, i.e., the statues of the rulers.  This punishment is described as eternal damnation, the eternity of hell is clearly taught in this verse.

14, 12-13:  Blessedness of the Saints.  This happiness is opposed to the condemnation pronounced on the followers of the beast.  Who die in the Lord: i.e., not only martyrs, but all who die in union and fellowship with Him.  This happiness begins at the moment of death, since henceforth refers to present time.

14, 14-20:  Vision of the Judgment.  This divine judgment is presented under two symbols: that of the harvest, and that of the vintage.  The harvest is restricted to the good, while the vintage refers only to the evil.  The symbols may be borrowed from Joel 3, 13.

The harvest (14-16).  Christ is the reaper, as is clear from the white cloud (Matt. 24, 30), the son of man (John 5, 27; Dan. 7, 13), and the crown.  In his hand a sharp sickle: a sign that the harvest is ready for the reaper.  Out of the temple: the inner shrine measured off in 11, 1.  It is the angel who, on the part of God the Father, calls to Christ to begin the reaping.

The vintage (17-20).  From the altar: cf. 6, 9 f; 8, 5.  Clusters of the vine: i.e., sinners.  John sees them cast into the wine press of God's wrath.  The treading of the wine press is a figure of divine vengeance.  The red juice of the grapes suggests the shedding of blood.  As the wine press usually stood outside the city, it is here a symbol of those outside the City of God.  A thousand and six hundred stadia: the square of four multiplied by a hundred, a symbol of completeness, reaching to the four corners of the earth.  The horses, perhaps, belong to the army of heaven (19, 14).


Confraternity Bible:

The Lamb and the Virgins  1* And I saw, and behold, the Lamb was standing upon Mount Sion, and with him a 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 a voice of many waters, and like a voice of loud thunder; and the voice that I heard was as of harpers playing their harps.  3 And they were singing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except those hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been purchased from the earth.  4 These are they who were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.  These follow the Lamb wherever he goes.  These were purchased from among men, first-fruits unto God and unto the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth there was found no lie; they are without blemish.

The Three Angels  6 And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell upon the earth and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people, 7 saying with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give him honor, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and the fountains of waters."  8* And another angel followed, saying, "She has fallen, Babylon the great, who of the wine of the wrath of her immorality has given all the nations to drink."

9 And another, a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark upon his forehead or upon his right hand, 10 he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured unmixed into the cup of his wrath; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb.  11 And the smoke of their torments goes up forever and ever; and they rest neither day nor night, they who have worshipped the beast and its image, and anyone who receives the mark of its name."

Blessedness of the Saints  12 Here is the patience 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 henceforth.  Yes, says the Spirit, let them rest from their labors, for their works follow them."

Vision of the Judgment  14* And I saw, and behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sitting like to a son of man, having upon his head a crown of gold and in his hand a sharp sickle.  15 And another angel came forth out of the temple crying with a loud voice to him who sat upon the cloud, "Put forth thy sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe."  16 And he who sat on the cloud cast his sickle upon the earth, and the earth was reaped.

17 And another angel came forth out of the temple that is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.  18 And another angel came forth from the altar, he who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Put forth thy sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for its grapes are fully ripe."  19 And the angel cast his sickle to the earth, and gathered the vintage of the earth, and cast it into the great wine press of the wrath of God.  20* And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and there came forth blood out of the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a thousand and six hundred stadia.
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*

1: A hundred and forty-four thousand: these are the faithful followers of the Lamb, for they have his name and that of the Father written on their foreheads.  One of their characteristics is purity; they are virgins.  Cf. 14, 4.

8: Babylon: in Jewish and Christian circles, Babylon was a synonym for Rome.

14: The figure of the wheat harvest seems to refer to the good; the figure of the vintage in v. 19 refers to the bad.

20: A thousand and six hundred stadia: a considerable distance, but the number is symbolical and signifies a judgment that is complete and final, and reaching to all corners of the earth.