Lange Commentary - Revelation 15:1 - 15:8

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Lange Commentary - Revelation 15:1 - 15:8

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

4. Preparation, in Heaven, for the Judgment


a. The Ideal Preparation

1And I saw another sign in [ins. the] heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the [om. the] seven last [om. last] plagues [ins, the last]; [,] for in them is filled up [finished] the wrath [anger] of God. 2And I saw as it were a [ins. glassy] sea of glass [om. of glass] mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory [those conquering] over [from] the beast [wild-beast], and over [from] his image, and over his mark [om. and over his mark,] and [and] over [from] the number of his name, stand [standing] on [or by] the [ins. glassy] sea of glass [om. of glass], having the [om. the] harps of God. 3And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, [ins. O] Lord [,] God Almighty [,the All-Ruler]; just and true are 4thy ways, thou King of Saints [om. saints—ins. the nations]. Who shall [or should] not fear thee [om. thee] O Lord, and glorify34 thy name? for thou only art holy ( ὅóéïò ) 8 : for all [ins. the] nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest [were manifested].

b. The Real Preparation. Equipment of the Angels of Judgment, or the Seven Angels with the Vials of Anger

5And after that [these things] I looked [saw], and, behold, [om., beholdins. opened was] the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony [witness] in [ins. the] heaven was opened [om. was opened]: 6And the seven angels came out of [from] the temple, having [or that had] the seven plagues, clothed in [ins. linen] pure and [and] white [glistening] linen [om. linen], and having their breasts girded [girt around the breasts] with golden girdles. 7And one of the four beasts [living-beings] gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath [anger] of God, who liveth for ever and ever [into the ages of the ages]. 8And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man [one] was able to enter into the temple, till [until] the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled [should be finished].



The fundamental idea of the whole section, Revelation 14-15, is the End-Judgment in its general form—the same Judgment which subsequently branches into the three special Judgments upon Babylon, the Beast, and Satan himself in conjunction with Gog and Magog. The fundamental idea of this first division [chs. 14, 15] of our section is the preparation of the End-Judgment, or the judgment of the Vials of Anger, in Heaven. Because this great judgment brings about the final decision, it is preceded by a very great and solemn preparation in Heaven, the description of which runs through two chapters, the judgments then being executed upon the earth itself, in swift succession, by the outpouring of the Vials of Anger (Revelation 16). Thus, this heavenly proleptical celebration of the End-judgment is analogous to the great proleptical celebration of the Seven Seals of world-history in chs. 4 and 5.

The anger of God is the manifestation of His love in the forth-going and predominancy of His righteousness unto judgment. God’s anger ordains death as a punishment for sin—as a reaction against the spiritual death of man, continuous disobedience or germinant apostasy (comp. the art. Zorn [anger, wrath] in Herzog’s Real-Encyklopädie). And inasmuch as anger impels apostasy, or hardening, which is but another form of apostasy, to a crisis, it conducts to eternal death through spiritual death—i. e., it manifests itself in judgment.

But as the very first manifestation of anger was but the climax of a rhythmical succession of chastisements under the reign of long-suffering (Rom_2:4-5), so also the true anger- [or wrath-] period, the great day of anger [or wrath], appears in a succession of constant augmentations.

Great, however, though the anger-judgments may be, so that they wear the aspect of endless and nameless darknesses—as, e. g., in the destruction of Jerusalem, in the fall of Constantinople,—before God they are weighed and measured, and their measure and operation are appointed them by God’s faithfulness. Thus, anger is contained in golden vials; it is so scrupulously prepared in Heaven, so pondered over, so permeated by the Divine Intelligence, that, as a heroic act of Divine reason, it embodies in itself precisely the opposite to what is described in the heathen pictures of the envy of the gods, and the might of destiny. Our remarks hold good especially in regard to the moderation and limitation of the anger-judgments for the righteous, who are oftentimes externally exposed to the same tempests as the godless—in regard to the cutting short of the troublous days, as the Lord expresses it (see Comm. on Mat_24:22); they are, however, also applicable to the operation of judgment in general.

As these Anger-Vials are, on the one hand, akin to the Trumpets, and unmistakably parallel with them (see
Int., p, 86), they form, on the other hand, an antithesis to them, in that the Trumpets are predominantly exhibited in the light of judgments in order to awakening (see Rev_11:13), whilst the Vials of anger generally operate as judgments of hardening (see Rev_16:9; Rev_16:11).

The first great vision in the Heaven-picture of the end of the world is the throng of the elect centre of the Church Triumphant, representative of the Church Triumphant itself. The scene is on Mount Zion. That Mount Zion can neither be situate in Heaven, nor be geographically understood of the eminence on which the Temple stood in Jerusalem; is evident from the symbolical import of the expression. Accordingly, Mount Zion is the real State of God, in its consummation. The heavenly appearance, Rev_1:12, becomes, Rev_4:2, the sphere of the heavenly Throne. In Rev_7:9, the Church Triumphant is depicted in the process of its growth. Here we have the picture of its preliminary spiritual consummation. It is still, however, to be conceived of as in the sphere of the beyond, for only in Revelation 21. is the union between the Christian further and hither shores consummated in the descent of the heavenly Jerusalem, as the City of God, upon the earth. Then, and not till then, the complete pneumatico-corporeal transfiguration of the world, and the real resurrection, are declared. The spiritual consummation of the Church, however, is declared in this earlier passage—its blessed, secure position above the anger judgments now about to break upon the earth. The centre of the picture is formed by the Lamb. He is surrounded by 144,000 elect souls. To the query as to whether these are the same souls that appear as sealed ones in Revelation 7, we would answer: First, that the crisis of trial lies before those sealed ones, whilst these who surround the Lamb have passed it, and are, to the triumphant prophetic gaze, perfected ones, the centre, therefore, of the innumerable throng of Rev_7:9. Secondly, the symbolical import of the number 144,000 must be carefully regarded in this passage also. We need not, therefore, press the inquiry as to the identity of the two bands as individuals, but may regard as established their identity as a whole; inasmuch as the sealed elect of this world must also appear in the other world as perfected elect ones. The companions of the Lamb, therefore, are the complete number of the centre of the blessed, representing the entire Church Triumphant. They have the Name of Christ and the Name of the Father written on their foreheads, i. e., they are perfected confessors, and hence not such as think they must obscure the Name of the Father by the Name of the Lamb; nor are they such as act in a converse manner. That the Seer intended to represent this throng as composed exclusively of Jews is an utterly ridiculous assumption, from beginning to end. It is, however, particularly ridiculous when the designation of them as virgins is literally understood of celibacy, and the climax of absurdity is reached with the explanatory citation of the Old Testament provision, in accordance with which sexual intercourse rendered unclean for a time. For marriage itself was so far from being represented in the Old Testament as defiling, that, on the contrary, the greatest promises were attached to it. Even Mary, the Mother of our Lord, was obliged to pass through a legal purification, and the Apostle Peter was married. To attribute such a view as the above to the writer of the Apocalypse is to regard him as a dualistic ascetic. Even the Patriarchs and Prophets would, on this ground, be excluded from the number of the elect by this supposed Judaist or Judaizing non-Judaist—for the historical interpretation advances even to the latter conception of the Apocalyptist.

This great optical wonder is followed by a great auricular wonder. The new song of the consummation of the Church Triumphant bursts, in a grand harmony, from Heaven. It sounds like the roar of many waters, for it is the united praise offered to God by the redeemed peoples. It sounds like a great thunder, for it is the completed, world-refreshing revelation of God. It sounds like the harping of harpers, for all true art has entered into the service of the holy. And they sing a new song. These words seem to relate primarily to the harpers, for it is declared that they sing it before the Throne, before the four Life-shapes and before the Elders. The song, however, is not their property; it is given to them as the perfect blossom of revelation; hence it is also new—a marvel of song, which has never before been. We must not overlook the fact that the new song, like the State of God, passes through different stages of development before attaining to perfection; see chs. Rev_5:9; Rev_14:3; Rev_15:3; Rev_19:6 (comp. Exodus 15; Psa_96:1). Even the 144,000 elect must learn the song, and they alone can learn it, because it presupposes the entire depth and circuit of their experience and the whole state of their being “bought from the earth.”

They have not defiled themselves with women. It is manifest that this can be understood only symbolically, for virgins are spoken of. The symbol, however, does not consist of women themselves, but of defilement with women, by which defilement the women themselves are more particularly characterized (Pro_9:13). That illicit intercourse is here referred to, and not marriage, may be understood as a matter of course, in a Book which closes with the Bridal of the Lamb. The Biblical representation of idolatry and apostasy under the figure of harlotry is familiar to all readers of the Sacred Writings, and the idea referred to is the more obvious here, since immediately before the great apostasy has been depicted. The doing of these virgin souls was, however, founded upon their being. As virgins, they have also kept themselves pure from all fanaticism and party-spirit in their piety, for both these forms of the defilement of piety are also, in particular, very fatal forms of subtile idolatry. Their virginity is expressed in the fact that they follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth—follow Him, therefore, in all His historical and heavenly movements and advances, and follow only Him. Absolute, pure obedience in absolute, pure trust, is the sign that they are bought from among men as first-fruits (see Comm. on Jam_1:18) unto God and the Lamb. As, however, the consummation of their electness was based upon redemptive grace, evidence of that electness was given, above all, in the characteristics of uprightness (Pro_2:7; Ecc_7:8) and veracity. Grotius rightly makes mention of the fact that all idolatry is infected with falsehood (Joh_3:21). The fact that they should not be represented as sinless and having no need of redemption, is manifest from the declaration concerning them, that they stand before the Lamb, that they are bought, and that no falsehood was found in their mouth—no species of untruthfulness—and that they stand as, in every respect, wholly perfected, blameless—as is expressly affirmed—before the Throne of God.

After this exhibition of the security of the whole blessed Kingdom of God, the announcement of the Judgment may be made. This Judgment has three sides:

First, it is, for the righteous, final redemption; hence, its proclamation as an everlasting gospel, the eschatological gospel of the final óùôçñßá , through the judgment, to eternal blessedness and well-being ([Heil] Matthew 25.; Luk_21:28). This gospel is proclaimed to all who sit on the earth, all who are most firmly attached to earth (Rev_15:6), before the coming of the Judgment itself; and the proclamation is conjoined with an admonition to voluntary self-humiliation before God, Who is here pertinently designated as the Creator, the Cause and Lord of all things, and particularly also, as the Author of the fountains of waters, i. e., all original geniuses.

The Judgment is, secondly, for the world ripe unto perdition, an actual fall into perdition. Hence the proclamation: Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! Be it here observed that in this passage it is not Babylon in the narrower sense of the word, to which reference is had, as in Revelation 17. As in Genesis, Revelation 1, water is at first spoken of in the most general sense, then in a special sense, and finally in the most special sense, so here by Babylon the whole ungodly Anti-christianized world is intended. At the outpouring of the seventh Vial of anger, this ungodly and Antichristian world, represented by Babylon, is divided into three parts (Rev_16:19), when the general Judgment branches into the three special judgments: upon the Harlot, or Babylon in the narrower sense; upon the Beast; and upon Gog and Magog under the leadership of Satan. Concerning the more general Babylon which has, undoubtedly, for a considerable time had its culmination-point in the more special Babylon, it is declared: She gave all the nations [heathen, Gentiles] to drink of the wine of the anger [or rage] of her fornication. Antichristianity is a unitous evil mock-growth, which has twined its stifling tendrils throughout humanity, as, on the other hand, the tree of the Kingdom of God has pushed its holy roots throughout the same. The wine of the anger of fornication is only materially identical with the anger of God (see Rev_11:18); in a formal point of view it forms an antithesis thereto. The wine of the anger of fornication is, as sin, passionate, riotous intoxication in apostasy; as a judgment, it is also the wine of the wrath of God, the mind-deranging operation of the death-judgments of God.

Finally, the judgment consists, in the third place, of the sentence which interprets the facts. Thus the actual separation of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25) precedes the sentence passed upon them. The sentence of the Angel is conditioned as follows: If any one worshippeth the Wild-beast and his image, and receiveth his mark on his forehead or on his hand. The one implies the other: recognition of the power of the Beast, and appropriation of the false idea of the system, theocratic or practical testimony. The sentence is as follows: he incurs the internal judgment of having to drink of the wine of the anger [or wrath] of God—deadly derangement of the mind; this is a wine mingled, i. e., here poured out (presented, credenzt) unmixed [ ïἵíïò êåêåñÜóìåíïò ἄêñáôïò ], as the strongest and most intoxicating beverage, in the cup, the self-limiting decree, of His wrath [ ὀñãÞ ]. The external local result is as follows: he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. The outward and apparent form of the Judgment is fiery self-consumption in the ever affluent new elements of fiery irritation. For as, to the righteous, every affluent experience is transformed into the gentle oil of the Spirit, so, to the wicked, every experience becomes brimstone—fuel for his passion. The temporal result of the Judgment is as follows: the smoke of their torment ascendeth into ages of ages. Smoke rises from fire; not, however, from a clear fire, but from that which is hemmed in and dim. Here, doubtless, the fire of hate is particularly referred to—fanatical passionateness in apostasy. Hence it is further declared: they have not rest by day and by night; this they have not, not in a good sense (Rev_4:8), but in a bad sense, as demonic beings, and the true causality thereof lies in their very apostasy;—the context is: who worship the wild-beast and his image, and if any one receiveth the mark of his name. The fact that the condition of damnation can continue into the ages denotes, indubitably, the temporal immensity of that condition, but is also, at the same time, expressive of æonic figurations and alterations of it.

At the close of this sentence, we again encounter the saying of Rev_13:10, amplified by the declaration that the patience [endurance] of the saints is also evidenced in keeping the commandments of God; their faith, meanwhile, appearing as a faith in Jesus. Only through this patience or endurance can a man escape that sentence of æonic fiery death. Here also, as in Rev_13:10, this spirit of blessed calm forms a contrast to the fire-smoke of the restless (Isa_48:22). Here again the Seer significantly insists upon the fact that a vital veneration of God and faith in Jesus necessarily accompany each other.

The sentence unto damnation is now contrasted with the sentence unto blessedness. But why does not the Angel give utterance to the latter, and not a voice from Heaven? We might reply, because the experience of the celestial blessedness of proven Christians passes the experience of Angels. According to the context, this beatitude is pronounced by the Spirit, i. e., the Spirit of the Church Triumphant; He, therefore, gives utterance to a testimony of direct experience. The beatitude of the blessed dead is, however, specially signalized, and commended, as it were, as an inscription for gravestones, with the command: Write. Although this precious sentence (Isa_48:13) holds good for all times—blessed are the dead, etc.—it is of particular moment when regarded in its bearing upon the last times. Then are the dying, who die in the Lord as they have lived in Him, to be accounted particularly blessed, because they are taken away from the storm of the last days (see Isa_57:1).

We, therefore, interpret ἀðÜñôé in the following sense: Such are henceforth peculiarly blessed, because they attain unto rest from their sore conflicts, whilst the blessing of their works, and also their perfected vocation to ideal activity, accompany them into the Church Triumphant.

Before passing to a consideration of the three Angels of the beginning execution of the End-Judgment, we must examine the relation of these three Angels to the preceding three Angels of the announcement of Judgment. It is natural to suppose that the first three Angels form an organic totality ( ἄëëïò Isa_48:15, ἄëëïò Isa_48:17, ἄëëïò Isa_48:18, akin to ἄëëïò , ἕôåñïò , ἄëëïò , 1Co_12:10), and not that an abstract series of other and still other Angels is cited. The second angelic triad, then, corresponds to the first, and the following scheme is formed:

A. The Announcement of the end. The Lamb standing on Mount Zion (Rev_14:1).

1. The ἄëëïò ἄããåëïò , the proclaimer of the everlasting Gospel, or the Gospel of eternity (Rev_14:6).

2. The ἄëëïò äåýôåñïò ἄããåëïò , as the proclaimer of the decided fall of Babylon the Great (Rev_14:8).

3. The ἄëëïò ἄããåëïò ôñßôïò , the proclaimer of the judgment upon the worshippers of the Beast (Rev_14:9).

4. The voice from Heaven: Proclamation of the blessedness of the dead who die in the Lord.

B. The Accomplishment op the End. Appearance of the form of the son of man on the White Cloud (Rev_14:14).

1. The ἄëëïò ἄããåëïò , issuing out of the Temple, proclaiming the hour of the Judgment (the beginning of the entire Judgment) as a judgment upon Babylon (Rev_14:15).

2. The ἄëëïò ἄããåëïò , issuing out of the Temple in Heaven, with the sharp sickle for the consummation of the harvest (Rev_14:17).

3. The ἄëëïò ἄããåëïò , Rev_14:18, issuing from the Altar, having power over the fire of sacrifice—who challenges the preceding Angel to the completion of the End-Judgment, as that Angel (Rev_14:15) had in his turn challenged the form of the Son of Man (Rev_14:14).

We, therefore, distinguish the group of the proclamation of Judgment (A) and that of the execution of Judgment (B). The former is under the dominion of the Lamb, Who stands fast forever on Mount Zion as the Head of the Church Triumphant; the latter group is under the dominion of the form of the Son of Man on the white cloud, with the crown upon His head, and in His hand the sharp harvest-sickle—under the Christ, therefore, as He comes for Judgment upon the world (Mat_26:64; comp. Daniel 7).

With the first Angel, who has proclaimed the eternal Gospel, i. e., the Gospel of a blessed eternity, the final óùôçñßá (Rev_14:6), corresponds the first Angel of execution, in that he notifies the Son of Man of the hour or time of harvest, and summons Him to the harvest; whereupon, He Who sits upon the cloud, casts His sickle upon the earth and reaps the earth. This harvest (Rev_14:16) is, without doubt, the harvest of the wheat (Mat_3:12; Mat_13:39), with which the Parousia begins (Mat_24:31), corresponding to the Gospel of the final redemption, and to be distinguished from the harvest of judgment (Rev_14:19-20). Distinctive marks: The Angel of Rev_14:15 goes forth from the Temple, i. e., the ideal Temple of the ripened Church of God, for the ripeness of God’s Church for redemption is the sign of the ripeness of the world for judgment; this Angel is, the symbol of the decree of the Father (Act_1:7). Again, this first harvest is called simply the harvest of the earth; it begins with Christ, as the Judge of the world, casting His sickle from the cloud to the earth—that is, with the commencement of His Parousia itself. Here, therefore, the earth which is reaped, is to be understood in the more special sense of the term.

With the second Angel of proclamation, who cries out: Fallen is Babylon (Rev_14:8), corresponds the second Angel of execution (Rev_14:17). This latter Angel issues forth from the Temple of Heaven, for the judgment unto judgment is based entirely upon the objective sentence of Divine Righteousness, which decides when the internal corruptness [Verderben] of the world must find its judgment in external ruin [Verderben]. Even this Angel of judgment, however (who bears a similarity to the import of Michael, the judging Christ), receives the summons to the execution of judgment from another Angel, the third Angel of execution. This Angel issues from the Altar; he has authority over the fire. This is what qualifies him to call for the fire of judgment. For every little flame, every fire of sacrifice, has been a pre-exhibition of the great sacrificial burning at the end of the world. Thus with the third Angel of proclamation (Rev_14:9), who announced that law of the Kingdom in accordance with which the sentence of damnation (Rev_14:9-11) and the Judgment, as a judgment of fire, ensue, corresponds the Angel of the actual fiery Judgment, whose world-historic prefiguration is sacrifice.

We scarcely need mention that this double angelic triad forms a group of symbolical figures; in which the first triad belongs more to the economy of Christ, and the second more to the economy of the Father.

It may appear particularly remarkable that the harvest of judgment is represented as a gathering of the vine—the vine thus, apparently, having an entirely different import here from that assigned it Joh_15:1. It might here be suggested that all Antichristianity will be a corrupt and apostate Christianity. There is, however, another motive which lies at the door, viz., that of conforming the entire picture to the central idea of the wine-press, Isaiah 63. The wine-press of wrath or deadly judgment brings with it the retribution for the great blood-guiltiness of the world’s history—especially as manifested in the history of the martyrs;—this retribution is exhibited in the mighty river of blood in which, at the end of the world, the life of the old humanity pours forth. The treading of the wine-press is accomplished without the city; an antithesis by which only the City simple, the City, of God, can be intended. The depth of the river of blood is indicated by the declaration that it reaches to the reins [Zägel] of the horses—not to the bits [Zaüme, German Version], for in that case the horses would necessarily sink. It is with difficulty, therefore, that the horses of world-development (Rev_6:2; Rev_19:14) can labor through this stream; it is only through a great crisis that the new world issues from the old. The bloody stream itself overspreads 1000 stadia, the symbol of an æon, by the space of 600 stadia, by which an immense extent of further suffering is indicated.

In Revelation 15 is represented the preparation of this Judgment which is about to be executed through the medium of the Vials of Anger. It might be conjectured that the Earth-picture of the Anger-Vials would begin here, but individual traits are against such a supposition—especially the festival-keeping on the crystal sea. First, then, the Seer beholds another sign in Heaven, the seven Angels with the last seven plagues, or judgment-strokes, with which the anger of God shall be filled up. Again, however, the vision must strengthen the courage of the faithful; the description of the terrible angelic forms is therefore preceded by a picture of the celebration of the Judgment in the congregation of the blessed. The glassy sea is here, as in an earlier passage [Rev_4:6], the completed history of the peoples as a history of salvation, sub specie æterni, translumined by the Spirit of God; Divinely still and transparent, and Divinely moved. Here, however, it is mingled with the appearance of fire (see p. 34); for this new world-form has passed through the sacrificial fire as well as through the fire of the universal judgment; moreover, the reflection of the Vials of anger falls upon the crystal splendor of this sea. Hence, the blessed are here designated as victors over the Beast. Their victory is detailed. They have vanquished not only the temptation of the Beast, but also the temptation of his Image, the temptation of his mark, the Antichristian symbol; aye, they have overcome even the temptation to a covert [Verblümt] recognition of him by the assumption of the number of his name in a restless pursuit of vanity. And now they all have harps; harps of God, as Divinely inspired singers and players. The new song which they sing is now called the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. Of the two songs, the song of the typical redemption (Exodus 15.) and the song of the real redemption, one unitous, grand anthem of redemption is born. Even the Law is, in the light of the consummation, glorified into a phase of the Gospel; and it is also, in spiritual forms, its very self glorified, elevated—and, by being elevated, in a sense abrogated [aufgehoben],—transmuted into celestial custom (Matthew 5). This song has reference to the imminent final Judgment from which they, through the redemption, have escaped, as Israel escaped from the pursuit of Pharaoh. Hence, mention is first made of the great wonders of God, particularly as manifest in His conduct of the Final Judgment. Hence, God is again magnified as the All-Ruler [ ÐáíôïêñÜôùñ ], and His ways, in particular,—His government and providences [Führungen und Fügungen=leadings and joinings]—are extolled as righteous and true; as righteous in His world-historic retribution—as true in His final fulfillment of all prophecies and threats. Thus He approves Himself the essential King of the nations (not simply of the saints, after the scantily attested reading). Thus the worship of the true fear of God appertains to Him at the end of days as much as, and still more than, in the days of the Old Covenant, for this fear is fundamentally diverse from the fear which is cast out by perfect love. The supreme reason for this worship is expressed in the words: He only is holy—words declaratory of the Absolute Personality, not merely as a negation of all impersonal conduct, but also as the Founder and Awakener of the Personal Kingdom of Love, in Whose almighty traction of love all nations [Heiden, heathen, Gentiles] shall come and worship before Him after they have beheld the grand manifestation of His judgments. These words point to a great conversion, to take place amidst the development of the world’s judgment.

After this pre-celebration of the Judgment of Anger, the Seer, with new amazement (Rev_15:5), beholds the equipment of the seven Angels for the execution of the Judgment. The scene opens with the opening of the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Witness, i. e., the Ark of the Covenant—the Holy of Holies, therefore. There the holy Law reposes, which has testified the will of God to the nations; thence, therefore, perfect retribution proceeds, as a punitory providence which itself bears the mark of the Holy of Holies, and hence is to be regarded entirely as a providence in order to the protection of personal life.

This providence issues from the Holy of Holies, under the guidance of the seven Angels who are to execute the seven last plagues. These Angels themselves appear as highly consecrate spirits, clothed with pure, glistening (or pearl-beset?) linen, for they accomplish the deliverances of supreme truth and righteousness solely, in executing the sentence of the anger of God; they are no mediums for the outflowings of dark and unfree passion, no ministers of blind and senseless fate-strokes. Hence they are also girded as for a festal celebration, about the breast—not as for labor, about the loins; they are girded with golden girdles, the signs of Divine strength, self-determination, and bound-abiding faithfulness.

The seven Vials of Anger are given to the Angels by one of the four Life-shapes. Here it is particularly manifest that these Life-shapes cannot be regarded as symbolical forms of creature life. They stand between God and these high Angels—who may not, indeed, be identified with the Archangels—and receive the Vials, which are full of the anger of God. One of them distributes the Vials; greater explicitness is not accorded to the vision—hence it would be mere guess-work were we to conjecture that the Lion was the recipient and distributer of the Vials.

Why do we here find the expression: Who liveth into the ages of the ages? The domination of God’s wrath in inflictions of death is conditioned by this life. The manifestation of absolute Life is a decree of death to obstinate sinners.

Furthermore, God withdraws Himself from human view as an angry God. Thenceforth the Temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, so that none could go into the Temple until the seven plagues were fulfilled. This phenomenon cannot be resolved into the more general fact that the glory of God veils itself in the pillar of cloud or in a pillar of smoke (Exo_40:34; 1Ki_8:10; Mat_17:5), although it is connected with that fact. For the Temple was not previously filled with smoke, to the eye of the Seer; he has even had a mysteriously expressed sight of God. But as God, as the Holy One, in general conceals Himself from the gaze of sinful man, so this is especially the case in His judgments. “He made the darkness about Him His covering—His pavilion round about Him dark waters [Wassernacht], clouds upon clouds,” Psa_18:11. Thus He covers Himself when He comes with terrors upon His enemies. For the Prophet Isaiah also (Isaiah 6), the Temple in which he has seen the glory of Jehovah, afterwards becomes filled with smoke; a sign that this Temple should be burnt, but also an expression of the fact that God is, for the human eye, hidden most in His judgments, most difficult of comprehension therein. That affectionate and familiar boldness which seeks an immediate access into the Temple, to God, shrinks back amid the thunders of majesty; nevertheless, the Mercy-seat is set up in front of the Temple in the person of Jesus Christ for all in the whole world who seek for refuge (Romans 3).


By the American Editor

[Elliott: Rev_14:1-5, is parallel with chs. 12, 13, and presents a view of the true Church gathered around the true Christ (the Lamb—standing, not yet enthroned)—in antithesis with the merely nominal Church gathered around the enthroned Antichrist, as set forth in those chapters; Rev_14:2-3, mark a progression in their condition—they refer to the Reformation;—the harpers are the rejoicing members of the churches of the Reformation; the voice of many waters and of a great thunder implies the uniting of both nations and princes in their rejoicing; the new song, the song of the Reformation, as set forth by Luther: “Learn to know Christ, Christ crucified, Christ come down from Heaven to dwell with sinners! Learn to sing the New Song, Thou Jesus art my righteousness; I am Thy sin; Thou hast taken on Thyself what was mine; Thou hast given me what is Thine.”

Rev_14:6-8 are parallel with chs. 15, Rev_16:1-14 (Rev_11:15-19), and set forth the missionary advance of the true Church throughout the Era predicted in those passages (see on p. 296 ).

Rev_14:9-20 are connected with Rev_16:15 to the end of the Apocalypse (see on p. 297 ).

Barnes: Ch. 14. contains a succession of symbolical representations, designed to comfort those exposed to the troublous events of chs. 12, 13, by showing the ultimate result of those events: There is represented by the vision of (1) Rev_14:1-5, the character and final triumph of all the redeemed; (2) Rev_14:6-7, that the gospel will be preached among all nations, and that as indicating the near approach of the consummation; (3) Rev_14:8, the destruction of Antichristian, Papal Rome; (4) Rev_14:9-12, the certain and final destruction of all the upholders of that power; (5) Rev_14:13, the blessedness of all who die in the Lord; (6) Rev_14:14-20, the final overthrow of all the enemies of the Church; the harvest representing the righteous to be gathered into the Kingdom; the vintage, the wicked to be destroyed.—Ch. 15 commences the statement of the manner in which the pledges of the preceding chapter would be accomplished, which statement is pursued through the subsequent chapters, giving in detail what is here promised in a general manner—it “is merely introductory to what follows, … and designed to introduce the account of those judgments with suitable circumstances of solemnity.”

Stuart: “The combination of three such powerful enemies against Christianity (the Dragon, Satan [p. 240]; the First Beast, Pagan Rome; the Second, the Pagan Priesthood [p. 261]), was in itself of fearful import. … To animate the courage, however, of this noble little band, (of Christians), the writer arrests the progress of action in the great drama, in order to hold out the symbols of ultimate and certain victory: Symbol First is of the Lamb (Christ) on the earthly Zion, surrounded by His 144,000 sealed ones—not forces to be employed against enemies, but trophies of victory already achieved; Second, consists of a triplex series of proclamations of (a) the ultimate and certain spread of the gospel throughout the whole world, Rev_14:6-7, (b) the absolute and certain fall of mystical Babylon (heathen Rome), Rev_14:8, (c) the awful punishment that awaits the followers of the Beast; Third, is constituted of a triplex series of actions—(a) the reaping, Rev_14:14-16 (the harvest which is ripe, i. e., the enemies of the Church whose wickedness is consummated), (b) the gathering, Rev_14:17-19 (also the wicked), (c) the treading of the wine-press, Rev_14:20.

Ch. 15. A Heaven-scene preceding the infliction of the seven last plagues: the martyrs around the Throne sing the song of anticipative triumph, and praise the justice of God as about to be displayed in the overthrow of the Beast, Rev_15:2-4; the smoke preventing the entrance of any one into the Temple, Rev_15:8, indicates that no one is permitted to intercede for those about to be punished, and consequently, that their punishment is certain and inevitable.

Wordsworth: Rev_14:1-5. This vision reveals that, although during the sway of the Beast many would fall from the faith, yet the true Catholic Apostolic Church of Christ (the 144,000—the number of completeness and union in the true doctrine and discipline of Christ, as preached by the twelve Apostles) would never fail, and would finally triumph over the power of the Beast, and would stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion (in antithesis to the rising of the Beast from the sea) in His Kingdom, which will never be destroyed (comp. Psa_125:1, etc.); the virginity of the 144,000 (Rev_14:3) indicates that they were not corrupted by the spiritual harlotries of Babylon (Rev_14:8; Rev_17:1-5); the song of triumph (Rev_14:2-3), is that of Angels chanting the victory of the Church.

Rev_14:6-7 predict the universal proclamation of the gospel (by literal Angels?), and that as a preparation for the End (compare Mat_24:4).

Rev_14:8 is anticipative of the fall of Babylon, i. e., Papal Rome.

Rev_14:9-11, a warning (by literal Angels?) against worshipping the Beast.

Rev_14:14-16, Vision of the Last Judgment, as (1) a Harvest, the ingathering of the good; (2) a Vintage, the crushing of the wicked.

Rev_15:1. “St. John, having been brought in the foregoing chapter to the eve of the Day of Judgment, now re-ascends, as usual, to an earlier point in the Prophecy; and enlarges on the judicial chastisements to be inflicted on the Empire of the Beast.”

Rev_15:2-4. “Anticipations, continued and expanded, of the future victory of the faithful over the power of the Beast.”

Rev_15:5-8. “Preparation for the pouring out of the Seven Vials on the Empire of the Beast.”

Alford: Ch. 14. This is not entirely another vision, but an introduction of a new element, one of comfort and joy, upon the scene of the last; it is anticipatory, having reference to two subjects to be treated of afterwards in detail—(1) the mystic Babylon, (2) the consummation of punishment and reward; it is general in its character, reaching forward close to the time of the end, and treating compendiously of the torment of the apostates and the blessedness of the righteous. It naturally divides itself into three sections: I. Rev_14:1-5. The 144,000 are identical with those of Rev_7:4, and represent the people of God; their introduction here serves to place before us the Church on the holy hill of Sion (“the site of the display of God’s chosen ones with Christ” [“the seat of God’s true Church and worship?”]), where God has placed His King, as an introduction to the description of her agency in preaching the gospel, and her faithfulness in persecutions. II. Rev_14:6-13. The four announcements of this section form the text and the compendium of the rest of the Book—these are of (1) the universal proclamation of the gospel as previous to the final judgments, Rev_14:6-7, (2) the fall of Babylon (Rome, Pagan and Papal—principally Papal; see on Revelation 17), as an encouragement for the patience of the saints, Rev_14:8; (3) the final defeat and torment of the Lord’s enemies, Rev_14:9-12; (4) the blessedness of all who die in the faith and obedience of Christ. III. Rev_14:14-16. The Harvest, i. e., the ingathering of the saints, answering to the proclamation of the gospel in Rev_14:6-7. IV. Rev_14:17-20. The Vintage of Wrath, fulfilling the denunciations of Rev_14:8; Rev_14:11.

Ch. 15. Prefatory to the Seven Vials: Rev_15:1, the description of the vision; Rev_15:2-4, the song of triumph of the saints victorious over the Beast; Rev_15:5-8, the coming forth of the seven Angels, and delivering to them of the seven Vials. (See also in Expl. in Detail in loc.)

Lord: Rev_14:1-4. The 144,000 are the same as those of Revelation 7; they are also the Witnesses of Revelation 11 raised from the dead; they have not belonged to the apostate Church, nor sanctioned the blasphemous usurpations of the Wild Beast, but are pure worshippers of God; they are the first-fruits unto God (distinguished from the complete harvest of Rev_14:15-16); the song of Rev_14:3 is their song.

Rev_14:6-7. The Angel represents a body and succession of men, who are to bear the everlasting gospel both to the nations of the ten kingdoms, and to all other tribes and languages of earth.

Rev_14:8. Great Babylon is the aggregate of the nationalized hierarchies of the ten kingdoms; she symbolizes the teachers and rulers of the churches, with whom the kings of the earth join in the institution, practice, and dissemination of a false religion; uniting with her in the usurpation of the rights of God as lawgiver, etc.; her fall is her severance from the civil governments, and dejection from her station and power as a combination of national establishments; the Angel is the representative of a body of men, his flight in mid-Heaven denotes their publicity and conspicuity, and his annunciation, that there is to be a public and exalting celebration of her overthrow.

Rev_14:9-13. The warning implies that notwithstanding great Babylon has fallen from her station as a national establishment, men are still worshipping the Wild-beast and its image, and receiving its mark—those Romish hierarchies are still to subsist after their fall, and acknowledge the Pope as their head; the symbol foreshows that after great Babylon has fallen from her station as a combination of nationalized hierarchies, numerous teachers shall arise who shall publicly and strenuously assert the exclusive right of God to enjoin the faith and institute the worship of the Church, etc.

Rev_14:14-16. The one like the Son of Man represents (not Christ but) a human being, raised from the dead in glory, like the human form of Christ in His exaltation—the period of this agency, therefore, is after the revivification of the Witnesses; those harvested by him are the saints, living and mortal.

Rev_14:17-20. The dejection of the vine into the wine-press signifies that those whom the vine symbolizes are to be crushed by the vengeance of the Almighty—the treading of the wine-press outside the city (the symbol of the nationalized hierarchies), denotes that the grapes are from their vineyards—the river of blood symbolizes the vastness and visibility of the destruction; the dejection of the vine into the press is a different work from the treading—the former is the work of the reapers, the latter of the Son of God.

Rev_15:1-4. A Heaven-scene wherein the entire mass of witnesses, who throughout the ages have held the testimony of Jesus, and refused submission to Antichristian powers, are represented as praising the wisdom and rectitude of the Almighty.

Rev_15:5-8. The introduction to the pouring out of the Vials, indicating that no intercession by the saints on earth for the salvation of Antichristian foes is to be offered during this period.

Glasgow: Revelation 14. The 144,000 are the same as those of chap. 7—they are the first-fruits (comp. Exo_13:15; Exo_34:20), representing all God’s ransomed people; the Angel of Rev_14:6 symbolizes the ministry of the gospel from the beginning (specially as missionaries to the heathen); the Angel of Rev_14:8 represents home missionaries, who are more controversial and Protestant than the preceding; the third Angel, Rev_14:9, symbolizes the Protestant ministry; the dead of Rev_14:13 are the martyred dead of all ages; the one sitting on the cloud, Rev_14:14, is Christ in His humanity throughout the gospel dispensation sitting on the cloud (the symbol taken from the cloudy pillar), which ever abides over the Church; the Angel of Rev_14:15, the whole body of Christ’s ministry—the time of their prayer to Christ coincides with the death of the Witnesses, the reaping-time of His compliance with that prayer is that of the resurrection of the witnesses (the Reformation); the Angel of Rev_14:17 is the Holy Ghost; that of Rev_14:18 represents persecuted saints; the vintage symbolizes the wasting wars that followed the Reformation.

Revelation 15. The resurrection of the witnesses symbolizes the Reformation, and also presents a general view of the glorious events and retributions that followed.—E. R.C.]


Rev_14:1. And I saw, and behold.— Lively introduction of the new, great vision of the heavenly pre-celebration and preparation of the final Judgment. The consummation of the Church, as appearing in the 144,000 virgins, is symptomatic of the consummation of the earth, of its ripeness for judgment.

The Lamb (Rev_7:17)—here in the radiance of His glorious spoils of victory.

On the Mount Zion.—Is the mountain to be conceived of as in Heaven (in accordance with Grotius, Hengstenberg, Ebrard, et al.)? Or is it, in accordance with De Wette and Düsterd., to be taken in its “proper” acceptation, i. e., literally? Düsterdieck applies the epithet allegoristic to the interpretation of Mount Zion as the Church (after Bede, Calov., et al.), in his chronic misapprehension of what allegorism is. The vision is, evidently, a picture of the Church Triumphant, resident in that spiritual Heaven which pervades Heaven and earth. Mount Zion, however, particularly symbolizes the lofty citadel, the eternal fortress of the people of God.

And with Him a hundred and forty-four thousand.—There is as little foundation for the belief that these 144,000 are composed exclusively of Gentiles (Düsterdieck) as for the assumption that the 144,000 of Revelation 7 are Jews exclusively. For a discussion of the question as to the identity (Grot., Vitringa, and many others) or diversity (Bleek, Neander, et al.) of the two assemblies, we refer our readers to the Synoptical View [also Add. Note, p. 193.—E. R. C.] The 144,000 of the present chapter are, as a whole, the same kernel of the Church of God—a kernel, however, which has developed, from a host of combatants warring on this side of the boundary which divides this life from the life to come, to a host of victors who have crossed the line; as, similarly, the seal on the foreheads of the first has become the open inscription of appertinency to God and Christ.

Rev_14:2. A voice from the Heaven.—The heavenly character of the voice is the main thing; the sounds are sounds of perfection. The voices are in part voices of Christian nations (the voice of great waters), in part the voices of great Prophets (the voice of a great thunder), both the former and the latter being perfected in holy art (the voice of harpers). In a certain degree, therefore, the voice from Heaven certainly does represent the 144,000 themselves (Bengel, Hengstenberg, et al.); more strictly speaking, however, it is the true fountain of song within the Church of God, whose outflowings pass but gradually to the entire Church;—the choir of the celestial Church.—Great waters (Rev_1:15).—The voice of a great thunder (Rev_6:1).—Harps (or citherns).—With all its sublimity, the song, in its spiritual beauty, is as exquisitely delicate as the music of the cithern. [Alford comments: “The harpers and the song are in Heaven, the 144,000 on earth; and no one was able to learn the song, i. e., to appreciate its melody and meaning, so as to accompany it and bear part in the chorus.” On the other hand Lord remarks: “The Mount Sion on which the 144,000 stood was that of the heavenly tabernacle… The song, accordingly, which he heard from Heaven was their song; not the song of the other redeemed or of angels. This is apparent from the representation that it was sung before the Living-creatures and Elders, and that no one was able to learn it but the 144,000. To suppose it to have been sung by others, is to suppose that they had already learned it.”—E. R. C.]

Rev_14:3. A new song.—As the Old Testament is new in comparison with the primeval time; as the New Testament is new in comparison with the Old Testament; as the eternal gospel is new in comparison with the gospel of principal óùôçñßá ; so the new song is new in comparison with Moses’ song of redemption;—a more developed form is the conjunction of the two songs (Rev_15:3).—And no one could learn the song, etc.—The condition whereon the learning of it is dependent is not artistic talent, but the depth of ethical experience, such as is possessed by the 144,000. The highest æsthetics, the most profound artistic intelligence, in the simplest words.

Rev_14:4-5. On different attempts to construe the following, see Düsterd.

Attributes of the 144,000: 1. They are virgins ( ðáñèÝíïé , virgin-like [Jungfräuliche]; the Greek term is applied to men as well as to women) in a religious sense; they have kept themselves pure from idolatry (Coccei., Grot., et al.), ideal iconoclasts, who, it may be, even as heathen, perceived the myths to be but symbols. The words [ ðáñèÝíïé ãÜñ åἰóéí ] have been infelicitously referred to monkish asceticism by Roman Catholic exegetes; to celibacy (Augustine, Bede, Rothe, Düsterdieck); to chastity (Hengstenberg; abstinence from all fornication, De Wette); to the Christians of the last days (Hofmann). And thus the symbolism of the entire Old Testament, bearing upon this point, has been unable to obtain a foothold in the minds of these commentators. And the flimsy deductions which Neander and others (also Düsterdieck especially, see his note, p. 466) have drawn from the misunderstanding, are a result of this ignoring of the Old Testament symbol, a recognition of which should the more assuredly have been induced by the fact that this virginity forms the extreme contrast to the extreme abomination of idolatry, viz.: the worship of the Beast.

2. These (with emphasis) are they who follow the Lamb, etc.—Düsterdieck and others lay stress upon the present, follow, in order to confute the interpretation of the term as a preterite, expressive of the following of Christ to tribulation and death (Grot., Bengel, Hengstenberg). They are the constant attendants of the Lamb, it is declared. The latter thought, however, is inclusive of the former one, even as it is also the result of it. [“If He goes to Gethsemane, they follow Him thither; if He goes to Calvary, they take up their cross and follow Him thither. He is gone to Heaven, and they will be with Him there also.” Wordsworth.—E. R. C.]

3. These were bought.—Emphasis is laid upon the personal worth of these souls by the repetition of ïὗôïé . They are redeemed [bought] in a special sense, agreeably to their destination of being an ἀðáñ÷Þ for God and the Lamb. [“Redeemed from among men—language derived from the Book of Exodus: ‘The first-born of my sons I redeem’ (Exo_13:15; Exo_34:20). This exhibits the 144,000 as representing all God’s ransomed people.”—E. R. C.]

Does ἀðáñ÷Þ constitute an antithesis to the entire world (in accordance with De Wette, et al., comp. Jam_1:18), or, which is more probable, to the general throng of believers (Ewald), or of the blessed (Bengel, Düsterd., et al.)? In accordance with the distinction made, Revelation 7, between the 144,000 and the innumerable multitude, a special selection is likewise intended here. In this view, the difference between the Augustine-Calvinistic and the Biblical doctrine of election is clearly apparent.

4. In their mouth was not found falsehood.—“The term øåῦäïò (comp. Rev_21:27) is to be apprehended in its general import, and not to be limited to the falsehood of idolatry (Grot.: non vocarunt deos, qui dii non sunt, Bengel), heresy, or a denial of Christ (Hengstenberg).” Düsterdieck. This deliverance is more than half recanted by the remark that a certain antithesis to the sphere of falsehood in which the seducing pseudo-prophet moves, is obvious, (after Ewald, Ebrard). Idolatry is the primary form of falsehood, see Romans 1.

Summation of attributes: For they are blameless.—Here, again, their æonic disposition is cited as the basis of their temporal conduct; as in Rev_14:4 : for they are virgins.

In discussing the design of this vision it must first of all be stated that, in accordance with the construction of the whole Book, the vision has not a backward reference to Revelation 13, but a forward reference to ch. xvi, as a life-picture of the final óùôçñßá contrasted with the final Judgment. Church-historical interpretations of particular details—some of which are of a remarkable character—see in Düsterdieck, p. 468, and De Wette, p. 143. Christiani’s reference of the 144,000 to the Church of the last time agrees better with the context than many another interpretation. A reference to the Israelitish Church of the end [Luthardt] belongs to a Judaizing chiliasm.

Rev_14:6-7. Another Angel.—The reference of the expression “another Angel” to Angels who have previously appeared upon the scene (De Wette, Düsterdieck), is untenable. The difficulty of ἄëëïò was, perhaps, the cause of its omission in Cod. B.; see above.—Flying;—Comp. Rev_8:13.—In mid-heaven.—A herald to the whole world.—An everlasting gospel.—Ebrard: “The older exegetes, together with Lücke, are probably right in understanding the import of the tidings to be salvation in Christ generally.” (Note by the same com.: “Of course this apprehension does not in the slightest degree justify the arbitrary allegoristic references of the three Angels to Wickliffe, Huss, and Luther, and the like. Calovius understood by the first two Angels Luther and Chemnitz, most coolly appropriating to himself the honor of being the third.”—In conjunction, that is, with the other opponents of syncretism; see De Wette on this passage; also Düsterd., p. 474.) Other interpretations of the three Angels, see collected in De Wette, p. 147 (Peter de Bruis, Wickliffe, Luther, etc.). Ebrard refers the Angel of the everlasting Gospel to the preaching of the Gospel amongst the heathen, which, according to Matthew 24, precedes the end. But though the old Gospel is, in respect of its purport, an eternal Gospel, it should, as the Gospel of principial salvation, be distinguished from the Gospel of the final redemption to eternal felicity; and the new proclamation, of which the present passage speaks, is not for the heathen alone, but for the whole earth. One-sided, but not incorrect, is the explanation of Corn. à-Lapide: A message promissory of the eternal good things in Heaven. According to Hengstenberg, the message of the Angel is a Gospel [even for the enemies of God], inasmuch as his exhortation to repentance is conjoined with the grant of a respite for repentance. But there is no intimation here of a respite for repentance in the strict sense of the words. The last-named commentator interprets the attribute eternal as having reference solely to the irrevocability or certainty of this Gospel. On the reference of this Angel to Luther, comp. Hengstenberg, II., p. 133.

To declare glad tidings unto them, etc.—The fact that this message is not addressed simply to the heathen who may still be left (Ebrard, p. 408), is clearly evident from the further explication of those for whom it is intended: to every nation, etc. Neither can it be said that the Angel’s exhortation to repentance is distinct from his message of joy:—the message in its totality is the everlasting Gospel, in the form of a parænesis [ ðáñáßíåóéò ].

The general character of the exhortation:—