Unveiling the Symbolism in Revelation

Chapter 14

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

By now we know that we need spiritual understanding to grasp what the Spirit is teaching us in these visions. John and Paul both saw things in the spirit, for Paul prayed that the eyes of our heart might be enlightened, so that we may know or understand the hope of God's calling, as well as the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. (Eph. 1:18). Whatever they saw in the spirit, we also have to see in the spirit. When we understand the symbolism in this chapter, we receive a greater understanding of the importance of being overcomers.

"And 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." (v. 1)

After John received illumination about the religious bestial system that rules the mind of natural man, he received illumination in regard to the spiritual man. He now saw the Lamb standing on Mt. Zion together with the 144,000! Of the three mountains in Jerusalem, namely Ophel, Moriah and Zion, Mt. Zion is the highest.

Mt. Zion came out of obscurity when David brought the ark to Jerusalem, and placed it in a tent on Mount Zion. As David followed the ark to its destination, he danced and leaped before the Lord, thereby bringing great joy into worship. After the ark had been placed in a tent specially prepared for that purpose, the glory of God filled the tent. Continual worship and praise were inaugurated, and from that time on the Psalms speak of the clapping of hands, the raising of hands, of dancing, and of prostrating oneself before the Lord.

Our worship of God involves our spirit, soul and body. Mount Zion represented this exultation of God and His glory. It had become more than a geographical location; it had become a sign word to describe a people and a way of life. It was a shorthand description of people living in God's presence, rejoicing with a joy that cannot be contained  "Joy unspeakable and full of glory," as Peter said. The church, in its perfection, is seen exulting in God on Mount Zion.

In the Hebrew language, the word "Zion" means a dry place. In this vision the 144,000 are standing with the Lamb on Mt. Zion  a dry place. The 144,000 were introduced to us in chapter 7. There we learned that these are people who are under God's government, and whose nature was described by the meaning of the names of the various tribes. They are people who have been sealed on their foreheads with the Holy Spirit of God! The 144,000 represent the church of the Old Testament and the church of the New Testament; they represent the redeemed of all ages!

Why are they standing in a dry place? These victorious people have overcome the craving and the lusting of the flesh that resides in natural man by starving these cravings to death! As long as we feed and water them, they remain strong and healthy. In a dry place there is nothing to keep them alive! They are starved to death. The lust of the flesh has been dealt with! This great company of overcomers stands with the Lamb, and He more than fulfills all their desires! The fact that they are standing with the Lamb indicates that this is the corporate Christ! This is Christ with His body of overcomers!

In the previous chapter we saw that the beast worshipers had the number 666 on their foreheads. But the people that form this great company are not known by a number, but by their nature; they have the name of the Lamb and the name of the Lamb's Father written on their foreheads. In other words, they have the mind and the nature of Christ! In chapter 7 we learned that they carried the seal of God on their foreheads. A seal indicates ownership, and because they carried the seal of God, they couldn't be touched.

By now we understand that this mark is not a visible mark, but an indication of what is in their thought life. Their own philosophies about God, their own assessment of who they are, and their own ambitions have been surrendered to God. They have recognized that their own ideas are worthless. Their thought life now centers on God and His desires. They know who their Father is! They know that they are sons of God, and that they are being kept by the power of God! They have been baptized into Christ's body of truth, and are building on a firm foundation!

In Romans 8:14 it says, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." This is the mark that is on their foreheads! They have the nature and life of God, and His Spirit leads them and fills their minds with truth! The name of the Father is planted in their heads.

"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." (v.2)

John heard a voice from heaven. Where is heaven? Is it a far-away place  a place where Christians go after they die? Jesus said that heaven is God's throne (Matt. 5:34), and a throne symbolizes the authority of government. Jesus also said that the kingdom of heaven is within us. (Luke 17:21) So heaven is a spiritual place where God rules. Those who are governed by God have heaven in their hearts. Therefore, when John heard this voice, he heard it in his spirit.

It was "like the sound of many waters." Now where did we hear that before? Back in Rev. 1:5 it says that Christ's voice was like the sound of many waters. This pictorial language beautifully portrays our union with Christ! Christ has brought all His redeemed into a perfect oneness with Himself, so they speak as one with Christ! Just as in a close marriage relationship, husband and wife often respond with the same words because they have become one in their thinking, and we have become so united with Christ in His thinking, that we speak His words together with Him!

"And like the sound of loud thunder." What a miracle has taken place! This is the corporate Christ speaking the message God is giving them. These are people who hear the voice of the Holy Spirit! If they couldn't hear the Spirit, they would be divided in the message they were declaring. A message brought forth in the unity of the Spirit is very forceful, and commands our attention. It comes as the sound of thunder!

"And like the sound of harpists playing on their harps." What a strange combination of sounds  rushing waters as musical thunder! Imagine the superb sound of a large group of professional harpists playing in beautiful harmony. Harps symbolize praise and worship! This is the spiritual sound of the 144,000 praising and worshiping God in wondrous harmony!

"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." (v.3)

Only those who have been freed from the earth can sing this new song. To be freed from the earth means to be released from our carnal thinking  for the earth symbolizes our natural understanding of spiritual realities. This song cannot be found in a hymnal. It is new in kind because it has not been birthed out of the carnal mind - out of religion or a philosophy of life.

This song flows out of the heart of those who have experienced the freedom and joy that is theirs in their union with Christ! They have been released from the bondage of their natural carnal thinking, and from within them a new song wells up. It is a song that only those who are united with Christ can sing, because it is a song of experience - not a song learned by rote, and composed of musical chords. The whole of life has become a song unto God! It is sung before the four living creatures who represent the complete life of Christ - just as the four gospels express His completeness. Those who are in Christ will also express that completeness.

They have been "purchased from the earth". The word purchased comes from the Greek AGORAZO, and does not mean "to redeem," as translated in the King James Version. This word was used in the business world, and implied buying and selling at the market place. To buy something indicates ownership. Belonging to Christ releases us from our bondage to self. Christ takes us out of our old humanity and puts us into a new humanity. We now demonstrate the nature of this new humanity. We have been brought into a higher realm; we now reside with Christ in heavenly places even while we are living on planet earth. The 144,000 belong to God!

To whom was the purchase price paid? Many teach that it was paid to the devil. They say that the devil had humanity in his hands, and for humanity to be freed, he demanded the blood of Jesus. This teaching is against the teaching of the scriptures, for if Jesus had obeyed the devil, He would have sinned. They do not realize that the devil never received the legal deed for the ownership of humanity. God kept that! The devil only received his power over humanity by deception. The title deed did not belong to him. God gave His beloved Son for our redemption because He loved us. The devil wanted to foil God's plan by inciting people to kill Jesus; he didn't know that he was playing right into God's plan.

The purchase price was definitely not paid to Adam or to the devil. The price consisted of His sufferings. Jesus Christ had to leave His heavenly home and the glory He had with the Father. He had to take on the form of a servant, suffer rejection, loneliness, persecution, and the cruelest, humiliating and demeaning death that humanity could imagine or dream up, in order to take us out of our old humanity and place us into a new humanity. He had to undergo all this suffering, heartache and anguish to prove that He was dead to sin. Jesus humbled Himself and submitted Himself to this death because He knew it was His Father's will! His total obedience demonstrated true and pure worship of God! This was the purchase price He paid for our redemption.

Another false, yet prevalent idea states that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, so we do not have to suffer eternally in hell. In other words, He suffered instead of us. What a false notion that is! What a limited salvation that would be! If Jesus only paid the penalty for our sins, heaven would be full of forgiven sinners. They would be forgiven, but they would still be sinners filled with an evil and vile heart. When an evil and corrupt man is forgiven and released from prison, he remains a sinner and a threat to humanity's welfare. His heart has not seen change and so his sinful life will continue. If heaven is filled with forgiven sinners, it will be as corrupt as the world in which we now live. If we are only forgiven sinners, Paul got it all wrong, for in his epistles to the various churches he always wrote to the saints.

The scriptures declare that Jesus died for us, but nowhere do they say that He died instead of us. And there is a big difference between these two statements! It says that we were crucified with Him! He died for us and as us so that we could be put into Christ, the new man! Not only are we forgiven, but we are also made alive by being born again of His Spirit! In Christ we are new creatures; old things have passed away; behold all things are made new! (2 Cor. 5:17)

The book of Revelation reveals that the Old Testament shadow of the tabernacle has become a reality. Here we see the fulfillment of the symbolism it contained. The throne of God is represented by the ark of the covenant that contained the ten commandments (symbolizing the Law), a container with manna (symbolizing the true bread from heaven or the bread of life) and the rod of Aaron that budded (the power to bring life out of death). The ark was covered with the mercy seat of pure gold (divine mercy and grace) and the cherubim (witnesses of God's presence). Together these represent the throne of God - the government and authority of God. The golden altar of incense standing in front of the ark, but on the other side of the veil, was the place where the priests would offer their daily prayers, praise and worship. And in the smoke of the burning incense they would arise to God as a sweet-smelling offering.

In the praise and worship of the complete body of Christ, represented by the 144,000, we see the fulfillment of the Old Testament shadow. Their praise is rising to God in the power of the Holy Spirit! They are singing a new song that only the redeemed can sing, for they have been purchased from the earth, and this means that they have been freed from their carnal thinking! They are united with Christ, and He is their life! As they worship and praise, they have become a living golden altar - gold symbolizing their new humanity and divine nature. The incense used in Old Testament worship is no longer needed, for the praise and prayers of His people are the incense! The shadow has become the reality!

The Lord can safely entrust these people to reign with Him in righteousness because they live in submission to the Spirit! Their thought processes are in line with God's thoughts! What a wonderful revelation of who we are in Christ, and how beautiful a life submitted to Him is!

Does this mean that we walk in luxury and comfort all the time? No, we still have our trials and temptations, but now we know who is in charge! We know the sovereignty of God! We know that the problems we face are given for a purpose, and that we do not face them alone! Christ takes us through these problems! Sons of God will be tested and they will be persecuted! It's part of our growth process!

Though Job was the most righteous man of his day, he was tested beyond all of his contemporaries in order to bring him into a greater knowledge of God! Knowledge of God is more precious than any other knowledge, and worth more than all the suffering, trials and testing needed to acquire it! As we walk through these trials we need to keep a worshipful attitude. Hearing the Spirit and walking in obedience delivers us from all evil, and brings us into an experiential knowledge of the power of God!

"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. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless." (vv.4-5)

These 144,000 are identified by their chastity; they have not defiled themselves with women. Does this mean that a celibate is more spiritual than a married man? Many believe that this is the case. But this statement does not refer to those who have never had sex. The idea that an unmarried person is more spiritual and more liable to be blessed by God is founded on man's idea - not God's. We need to remember that this is a symbolic book, and again we go to the Old Testament to receive illumination. There we see Israel's relationship with God compared to that of a marriage relationship. Whenever Israel went after other gods, God accused them of playing the harlot. They had committed spiritual adultery.

This concept is carried into the New Testament. The husband is to love his wife even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. A union has taken place! In the Old Testament, Israel was female; in the New Testament, the church is female, and she is called the bride of Christ. Whenever the church goes after other gods, it commits adultery. This has nothing to do with a sex act as defined by Webster's dictionary. However, the natural is used to give us a picture of a spiritual concept.

In Romans 7 Paul used the illustration of a married woman. If she joins herself to another man while her first husband is alive, she commits adultery. She is only free to remarry after her husband has died. After he is dead, she dare not go back to him, for then she would be having a sexual affair with a dead man. This act is called necromancy.

Our first husband was the Adam man. He was very demanding, and was constantly condemning us for every infraction or violation of the law. In Christ the Adam man died, thus releasing us from him and his tyranny, and therefore we are now free to marry Christ. If we go back to the Law for righteousness, we are having an affair with a dead man.

God is looking for people who are faithful to Him! He is faithful to us and we are to be faithful to Him. The overcomers have kept themselves chaste, that is, they have not committed spiritual adultery. They have not had an affair with other gods. They have realized their inability to perform works to obtain righteousness, and that they need Christ to be their righteousness and their sanctification!. There can be no mixture of flesh and Spirit, for the two don't mix.

"These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes." They have committed themselves to follow the Lord unconditionally - no strings, no addenda, no ifs and no buts are attached. The distinguishing feature of this company is that they follow the Lamb wherever He goes. The Lamb leads this company, and they follow Him, for they are His bondslaves, and they realize that the Lamb is their source and sustenance for every need and situation in life. .

In chapter 7 we learned that they are sealed, and a seal indicates ownership. We are not our own because we have been bought with a price - with Christ's death to sin and His resurrection into life. In the light of God's mercy and finished work of salvation, we belong to Him. In submission to Him, we present our body as a living sacrifice. We no longer fulfill our natural desires, for they are contrary to His will. This is central to the Christian faith!

Overcomers know the voice of their Master, and are obedient to His directives. Before Jesus died, His disciples were called followers. After the Holy Spirit was poured out, they were no longer called followers, but believers. They did not make their own choices but lived by the obedience of faith. Our choices have their source in the natural mind; submission to God's choosing has its source in the mind of Christ! Jesus always submitted His will to the Father's will!

"These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb." They were purchased from among men as the first fruits, thereby indicating that the rest of humanity would be harvested later. In Israel, no man would harvest a crop until the first sheaf had been taken to the temple and offered to God. All who are united with Christ in the Holy Spirit are the first fruit together with Him. They are offered as a praise offering to God. They belong to Him! First fruits demonstrate what the harvest will be like, and also provide the evidence and assurance that a harvest will follow. The harvest is not ripe yet, but we wait expectantly for it because we have seen the first fruit.

"And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless." Where do lies originate? The first lie came from the serpent's mouth when he contradicted God by saying that disobedience would not bring death. Instead, Eve would become like God, knowing good and evil. The serpent intimated that she lacked knowledge, and that she needed to know good and evil to become like God. But in order to become like God we have to know truth, and only by knowing truth can we discern good and evil. The answer to her need lay in learning to know God.

Adam and Eve had everything they needed in the garden; they were not aware of any need until the serpent presented the lie to them. The serpent always gives us the idea that he provides whatever we lack, and that his provision for us is better than God's provision. He tells us that in order to become like God, we must follow his (the serpent's) instructions, and then we will be like God. This is the big lie!

We want to be like God! Isn't that a good desire? That depends upon whether our desire is rooted in obedience and submission to God or in selfhood and disobedience. In disobedience our union with God is broken, and we create another god - a god that is opposed to the true God.

Our desire for selfhood is very evident in many ways. We want to be unique and have God serve us. Have you ever noticed how much information and advice we give God when we pray? We often try to manipulate God by fasting and praying, and telling Him of this great opportunity to show His power. If His answer is not to our liking, we get angry with Him. We don't want to serve a God who doesn't serve us. Why? Because we want to be in the driver's seat so we can live a life of ease, comfort and prosperity. We think we know what is best for us, but we don't recognize our limitations. If we are in charge we are placing ourselves on the throne as God! This desire for selfhood has come to us through Adam and Eve.

If there are no lies in our mouth, we are speaking truth. Without desiring truth and being persuaded that truth is the only way to life and peace and joy, it is impossible for us to be freed from the lie. Our basic problem then is ignorance or non-acceptance of truth. If we don't accept truth, we are listening to the lie. Adam and Eve had the truth, for God had told them not to eat of that tree, but they did not believe God; instead they believed a different voice. Rather than worshiping God, they had communion with the serpent. This gave the serpent an opportunity to advertise his wares and receive credibility. So they believed him instead of God, and thus inadvertently worshiped the serpent. This shows us the importance of remaining in constant communion with God. Giving mental assent to the truth and eyeing the lie will get us into trouble. Our eyes need to be fixed on Jesus Christ at all times.

What are some of the lies that are commonly believed among Christians? Many think that Satan is a winner (after all, they think that most of humanity is destined for hell), and act as though he is almost as powerful as God, if not more so, and that man's choices can overrule God's sovereignty. They believe that God only loves them when they do good deeds, and that God is always spying on them and is ready to pounce on them with brutal punishment whenever they sin. The lie tells them that God does not have the ability to make all things work together for good in their lives, so they believe that. They believe that His justice demands punishment for every wrong committed, for they don't understand that His justice has provided a way that will free humanity from its sin and guilt. To think that Christ's obedience is powerful enough to undo all the bad effects of Adam's disobedience is utter nonsense to them.

Their confidence in traditional teaching causes them to believe that they are still sinners even after they have been born again. They think they are still in the old Adam man, and don't recognize that our new birth brings us into a new and higher realm. When asked to examine themselves, they examine the natural man instead of the new spiritual man that they actually are in Christ. They do not realize that the Greek word, DOKIMAZO, that is used in 1 Cor. 11:28, means to examine with a view to approval. Even though the scriptures very plainly tell us that we are new creations in Christ, and that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, many continue to believe the lie instead of rejoicing in God's great salvation and the faith He has given them! That is why they are fraught with worries and self-condemnation! Unbelief accepts the serpent's lies as truth.

Believing what God says about Himself, and what He says about who we are in Christ, delivers us from these lies. We are to realize that Christ is now our life, and that God is our Father and our provision! Whenever we put our thoughts over and above God's declarations, we put ourselves in the place of God. This is idolatry! When we believe God, we will live as He intends us to live. Believing what God says will release us from our worries and bring us into a new freedom!

In order to grow in faith we have to repent of having believed the lie - the source of our sins. If we only repent of our sins instead of the source of our sins, we will keep on sinning, for our sins are the result of having believed the lie! Jealousy, bitterness, pride, lying, murdering, etc., are merely the consequences of having believed the lie! We also have to repent of wanting to use God to accomplish our own desires for our own advantage and enhancement, for that is an attempt at usurping God's throne. The purpose of our requests should be to bring glory to God - not to self. Once we have implanted in our mind the idea that we can be like God in selfhood, we are capable of all kinds of sins. We need to recognize that Christ is the truth! Believing the truth does away with the lie and all its ugly consequences!

The overcomers are blameless because they believe God! They have repented from believing the great lie! The Spirit of truth has united them with truth! They have been put into the new man, Christ! All the sins they committed when they were in the Adam man no longer belong to them, because they are now in the new man! Accusations, rejection and persecution by those who are part of the religious system, do not change their standing with God. He declares them blameless, and blameless they are!

"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; 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.'" (vv. 6-7)

The eternal gospel of God's love and redemption is revealed to us by the many messengers God sends to call us to worship the only true and living God! The angel or messenger mentioned here is a corporate messenger, and he symbolizes the overcomers. It takes more than one messenger to preach to every nation and tribe. It would be impossible for one person to learn the many languages spoken by the various nations and tribes, and to preach the gospel to everyone! An age-abiding (from the Greek AION) gospel is preached to those who dwell on earth  to those who only understand the scriptures in their natural mind, and to those who have never before heard the good news we have in Christ!

This messenger is calling on people to recognize their Creator, and to worship and glorify Him because the hour of His judgment has come. O yes, we are all standing before the judgment seat of Christ! Does that make you cringe? Why? Is it because you fear His judgment? What does judgment actually mean? Many think that judgment means punishment. But does it mean punishment?

A judgment is a legal statement that declares what is right and what is wrong. It's like a plumb line. A plumb line reveals what is vertical or straight, and what needs correction. God's judgments are always correct because His plumb line is truth! His plumb line reveals the lie! God's judgment goes forth whenever truth is preached, because truth reveals the lie and judges the lie. Jesus said, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil." When we recognize that our so-called truth is actually the lie, we need to repent of having believed the lie. This requires a change in our thinking. Those who love the darkness do not want to change, so they will fear this judgment; those who love the truth will welcome it and rejoice!

Judgment takes place continually: it is not reserved for the end times. Many think that at a given point in time, all people who have ever lived, will be assembled before the judgment seat of Christ, and all their sins will be made manifest. Can you imagine the length of that lineup, and the time it would take to reveal all the sins? That is a natural understanding, not a spiritual one. Do you think God will reveal the sins He has forgiven and forgotten? Jesus Christ, the truth and the light, has come, and everything that does not have its source in Him, is continually being exposed and judged as being wrong. Jesus said, "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (Jn. 3:18)

Contrary to what many believe, God is not in the business of punishing people. Often, when people reap the result of their evil ways, they think God is punishing them, but He is not. They are merely reaping what they have sown. But He does discipline us! His discipline is always redemptive in purpose! He loves us too much to let us go on in our false concepts, so He trains and disciplines us! His chosen ones cannot get away with doing the same things others do. His love for righteousness is so great that He gave His Son to die for us and as us, that we too can receive His life of righteousness!

We are to worship our Creator  not His creation. The trend to worship creation is growing. Worship of creation includes worship of self, for we are God's creation. Worship of God cannot take place without giving up our will in favor of God's higher and better will. Worship of creation fosters our own desires and ideas. Eventually it may even lead to a control by demonic forces. Humanity wants oneness with creation instead of oneness with the Creator.

Singing praises to God, raising hands, clapping hands and prostrating oneself before the Lord, may be an outward manifestation of an inner attitude of worship, but not necessarily  it may only be form. True worship consists of the acknowledgement that God is sovereign and that he has the right to lead and govern us! We cannot be angry with God, rebel against Him and worship Him at the same time. Our obedience to His will is true worship!

"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.'" (v.8) Babylon is the Greek form of Babel, and throughout the Old Testament it was the symbol of confusion caused by ungodliness. Babylon represents the religious system. Babylon is fallen. This has already happened in the revelation of Jesus Christ! We don't need to be in confusion any longer because we have received the truth in Christ! Those who reject the truth will remain in confusion.

Babylon has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality. The nations are intoxicated with the passion for immorality. An intoxicated person does not think logically nor does he see correctly; he does not have wisdom. The immorality of the religious system consists of an adulterous relationship with many gods. It has cast aside the true God, and in so doing, it has cast out truth. It has made its own gods  gods it can control; gods that cater to fleshly desires! Religion leaves people without truth and with their lies and confusion!

"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, 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. 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.'" (vv.9-11)

All those who worship the beast and his image already have the mark of the beast. This is not a mark made by man; it is the selfishness that is characteristic of the beast. The beast symbolizes the religiosity that resides in natural man. Religiosity is based on faith in the lie. Those who carry the mark of the beast on the forehead have not repented from believing the lie. The mark on the forehead is their religious thinking and their obsession with self; the mark on the hand is the works that issue out of that thinking. This mark can only be removed by repenting of their wrong thinking and receiving the truth that Christ is!

Wrong thinking needs to be corrected. Those who worship the beast will drink of the undiluted wine of the wrath of God. The Greek THUMOS translated wrath, actually means passion, and it expresses more the inward feeling. (Vine's Expository Dictionary) The Greek ORGE translated anger, expresses the more active emotion. It expresses desire (as a "reaching forth or "excitement" of the mind) i.e. violent passion. The wrath or passion of God is poured out in full strength in the cup of His indignation. God's passion is for the correction of all wrong thinking!

The beast worshipers will be tormented. The word tormented comes from the Greek BASANIZO, the verb form of BASANOS, which means touchstone. A touchstone was used for testing the purity of metals. The beast worshipers will be tested for purity of truth, so that correction can take place. This picture symbolizes the testing that takes place for the correction of all wrong thinking, so that purity may result. The word torment is a mistranslation and gives us a wrong idea. Torment is unproductive, for nothing can be gained from it. Testing is fruitful, and is necessary to show us the weaknesses and strengths in our lives so that correction and building can take place.

The beast worshipers "will be tormented (tested) with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels (messengers) and in the presence of the Lamb." Those who see this statement without understanding the truth that is being conveyed will get a very wrong picture of Christ and His messengers. They will see Christ and His messengers as cruel monsters who enjoy seeing all unbelievers writhing in anguish and pain. This is far from the truth!

Let's look at the spiritual meaning of the symbolism contained in these verses. The word fire produces an image of flames, heat and destruction. In the light of the scriptures we see that fire is the very essence of God, for He is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:29) Furthermore, John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. This is a spiritual fire that consumes all that is not eternal. All the rubbish has to go! If we continue to hold onto the things that need to be destroyed, the fire will become hotter. We need to let go of our selfhood  of the lie that authors sin.

The word brimstone comes from the Greek THEION. The places where lightning struck were called THEIA, and since lightning was thought to have a sulphurous smell, brimstone received the name THEION. Brimstone is another name for sulfur, and it was used in pagan purification rites. This helps us to understand that brimstone is a cleansing agent. Those who remain in their carnal thinking need cleansing, and this cleansing will take place.

This testing and cleansing takes place in the presence of the holy messengers and in the presence of the Lamb. Therefore we know that the Lamb is in charge of this process. He knows exactly what is needed to change us. Our pretense does not fool Him; He sees us as we truly are. As long as we stubbornly resist the change that God wants to bring into our lives, this spiritual fire will rage, and the cleansing process will continue. This takes place while we are living on planet earth.

The smoke of their torment (testing) rises up for the ages of the ages  "forever and ever" is a wrong translation. This does not take place in eternity, for in eternity there is no "day and night". An age contains time; it has a beginning and an ending. Eternity is timelessness. Smoke indicates that something is being consumed by fire. It tells us that something perishable is gradually being consumed by a burning process. Smoke clouds our vision, and keeps us from seeing things as they truly are. Once this process is complete, there will not be any smoke, and we will see clearly.

Fire brings cleansing. The Bubonic plague was terminated by the fire that swept over London. We need the fire of the Holy Spirit to purify us. This cleansing process is present in the life of every Christian in each generation, as long as there are ages.

Those who worship the beast and his image have no rest day and night. Imbedded in them is the ravenous nature of a beast. A beast is ruled by its desire for self-preservation. This rule is also present in those who worship the beast and his image. As long as self rules us, we will be striving to fulfill the dictates of self, and that is a bottomless pit! There is no end to its cravings, for it always wants more and more. Rest is only present in the Lord. In Christ we can rest from our self-works. Our works flow out of Christ, and the peace of God fills our whole being!

"Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus." (v.12). The saints are not forgiven sinners; they are forgiven, but they are no longer sinners. Jesus made a distinction between the disciples and sinners. He said, "And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." (Lu. 6:32) And in Romans 5:8 we read, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "While we were yet sinners," tells us that we no longer belong in that classification. Our new birth has brought us into a higher dimension  into a spiritual one! We are new creatures in Christ! We have His righteousness! Our natural mind tells us that as long as we commit wrong acts or think wrong thoughts, we are still sinners. Our spiritual mind knows that in order to get out of the sinner classification, we have to be taken out of the Adam man and placed into Christ, and receive His righteousness. Our righteousness does not depend on our works but on Christ's work. Notice also that the Epistles are written to saints!

It takes patient endurance to trust God in every situation! Saints keep the commandments of Jesus. Jesus said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love." Christ has given us a new commandment, and that is to love even as He loved us! He died and gave Himself for us! To continue in His love means that we continue to love even when we are rejected and persecuted and tortured! We give ourselves for others! This requires faith in Jesus Christ! What a high calling is ours in Him!

"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.'" (v.13) We already know that heaven is the place where God rules, and if He rules in us, heaven is in our hearts. So John heard a voice from within his spirit, giving him a message.

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!" Our natural understanding says that these are the Christians who die and leave planet earth. But our spiritual understanding says that there is a deeper meaning involved. Jesus Christ is the life, so how can there be any death in Him? In Romans 6 Paul gives us the explanation. There we read that we have been united or planted in the likeness of Christ's death, and that the death Christ died, was a death to sin. Even so we are to consider ourselves dead to sin!

The old covenant did not contain any provision for this death because it can only be ours in Christ! So those who die to sin, have died in the Lord. Those who are dead to sin will bring forth works that flow out of life instead of out of self. Works that originate in self are dead works. As a grain of wheat has to die in order to become fruitful, so our selfhood has to die in Christ so we can become fruitful.

"So that they may rest from their labors." This is a complete rest from the labors that have their origin in self and are there to enhance self. This rest flows out of our death to sin. Out of that death springs new life, and out of that life spring, "the works that accompany them." These works have their source in Christ, and will therefore remain.

"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." (v.14) What does the white cloud symbolize? We know that white symbolizes righteousness. We also know that the cloud which led the children of Israel in the wilderness, symbolized the presence of God. So here is the presence of God in all His righteousness.

Sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man. Jesus Christ is the second man, and He is a corporate man. God sees humanity as two men. Those who have not been made alive in Christ are still dead in Adam. (1 Cor. 15:22) Therefore we are either dead in the corporate Adam or alive in the corporate Christ. The one sitting on the cloud is identified as being the Christ with His body of believers. These have overcome their carnal thinking, for the golden crown on His head symbolizes divine thinking.

A sharp sickle was used for harvesting whatever grain was ripe and ready for harvesting. This sickle was in His hand. The hand symbolizes His works or ministry. This work is achieved through the use of its five fingers  the five-fold ministry of the church, namely, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ." (Eph. 4:11-12) These ministries are a gift to the church. Gifts are not earned - they are given. Gifts are to be appreciated and valued. God equips each one of us to be a blessing to others. Our life does not belong to us  it belongs to God. If it belonged to us it would be separated from God, and everything that is separated from Him is in death. God wants each of us to be the person He has equipped us to be, and to do the works He has ordained for us! When we are content to do His will there will not be any jealousy or desire to do the works God has ordained for others.

"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.' Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth; and the earth was reaped." (v.15-16)

This messenger came out of the temple  not a physical temple (HIERON), but the spiritual temple (NAOS) - the temple of the Lord that our body is. We are the temple (NAOS) of the living God. This messenger came out of the spiritual realm that is within us.

He "swung his sickle over the earth". In verse 4 of this chapter the first fruit had already been presented or offered to the Lord, so this is not the harvest of the first fruit. This is the harvest of the earth. In Matt. 13:30 Jesus said, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn." All the earthiness that is within us has to be burned up. This reaping is presently taking place. Our carnal understanding of spiritual realities is the earth that has to be reaped. It is time for it to be removed!

"And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 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." (vv.17-18)

The vision now shifts to another aspect of the harvest of the earth, namely, to the harvest of grapes from the vine of the earth. Here we have a messenger who has power over fire. The fire from the altar had been kindled by God, as we read in Lev. 9:24. This fire was to be kept burning continually. (Lev. 6:13) It was to be used for the burning of every sacrifice and offering. Fire symbolizes the judgment of everything that is unprofitable for the kingdom of God, and thus represents purification. This messenger knows exactly how much fire is needed for each desired result.

"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. 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." (vv.19-20) Two hundred miles should actually read sixteen hundred furlongs. Changing the distance into a modern measurement destroys the symbolism.

The sickle is used to gather the clusters from the vine of the earth. Life can only come from Christ; He is the vine in which we are to abide. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches." These grapes were not fruit that came out of the life of Christ. These works came from Christians who relied on their own effort and performance for their sanctification and righteousness. Their natural thinking determined their understanding of truth. Thus their works were the product of their own ideas. The fruit looked like good fruit, but it did not come from the right source. The source of these works was self, for they came from the earth. These works come from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and are rooted in choice. These "so-called good ideas" that bring forth "good works," were cast into the wine press of the wrath or passion of God.

The word wrath gives us the idea of great anger. However, the Greek word THUMOS, as we have already mentioned, means passion. God has a passion for seeing everyone operate in truth. So everything that is not truth is cast into the wine press where it is stomped on, pressured, etc., until the blood of the grapes pours out in great measure.

Blood symbolizes the soul. People often make the mistake of thinking that it symbolizes life because of the wrong translations of the word NEPHESH in the Hebrew, and PSUCHE in the Greek. Both of these words mean SOUL. And the soul is our sense of being. This vision tells us that our earthy sense of being has to change. Our sense of being is not to be dependent on our emotions, situations and natural ideas. It has to come from God, and then it will line up with His word!

The wine press was trodden outside the city. Outside of which city? Outside of the heavenly Jerusalem. The heavenly Jerusalem is in the spiritual realm, and it is described in chapter 21. It has nothing to do with present-day Jerusalem. These verses are giving us a spiritual message, and telling us that everything that has its source in soulish, fleshly thinking has to be eradicated.

In the wine press the flesh and the juice are separated. Grapes are trodden on, squeezed, pressured and pushed around until the juice flows out. The flesh of the grapes remains in the wine trough. Since we are often unaware of the areas in which we still function according to the flesh, we need all kinds of trials and experiences to help us recognize them. These trials are not punishments; they provide opportunities for growth, maturation and discernment. They help us get rid of our wrong thinking. The flesh operates in the death realm, so it has to be separated from the spiritual.

It says that the blood came out from the wine press up to the horses' bridles. A horse's bridle is about 4-5 feet from the ground. And the blood covered a distance of 200 miles in modern measurement. This is impossible in the natural sense, for all the blood of all the people in the whole world could not fill this vast area. So we know God is revealing a truth to us in picture form. He is telling us something spiritual!

A bridle pictures control. By means of the bridle the rider tells the horse where it is to go. "Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well." (James 3:3) Here is a picture of the end result of our trials and testing. Our mouth comes under the control of our Lord Jesus Christ! James tells us that the tongue is the hardest thing to bring under control. "It is a restless evil and full of deadly poison." (James 3:8) "If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well." (v.2) The purpose of God's dealings with us is to bring us into maturity  into the perfect man whose mouth is under Christ's authority! His power and authority are able to accomplish this, for every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

The blood came out for a distance of two hundred miles. This western measurement misses the whole point. The Greek says "1600 furlongs". We get 1600 by multiplying 4x4x10x10. Four symbolizes completeness, as in "the four corners of the earth." The second four emphasizes this completeness. Ten symbolizes trials as well as completion. We count to ten and then begin again with one (eleven). The second ten emphasizes this completion. So 1600 furlongs, in the symbolic language of Revelation, tells us that our carnal thinking will be completely eradicated!

What a wonderful hope is ours in Christ! This vision encourages us to trust God to do His work in us! He is able to accomplish His purpose!

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