- Rev. 14:1-19:5
Today's reading is full of symbolism and figurative language that can be quite difficult to understand. The text begins with the 144,000 redeemed souls—first mentioned in Rev. 7—praising Jesus with a new song that only they could learn. There was the sound of harpists playing harps which accompanied the song. GOD's name was written on their foreheads. These people are referred to as "firstfruits to God and the Lamb."
Three angels then fly, one after another, each with a different message. The first angel commanded those who live on earth to fear GOD and give Him glory and worship. The second angel proclaimed the fall of Babylon the Great, which I believe to be a reference to Jerusalem and the rebellious Jews who killed the apostles and prophets (see Rev. 17:5-6; 11:8). And the third angel warned everyone not to worship the beast and his image or receive his mark, because those who do would be tormented for eternity.
Next, John saw a vision of angels harvesting the wicked from the earth, like grapes that were thrown into a winepress of GOD's wrath and trampled. Then, John saw seven angels with seven last plagues to pour out the remainder of GOD's wrath. John saw a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, were those who had been victorious over the beast, his image and his followers. They held harps that GOD gave them and they sang the song of Moses and the Lamb, a most beautiful song.
Then the seven angels flew out of tabernacle in heaven with seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues. As the angel would pour out the bowl, a plague would be poured out on the earth. It seems clear that these plagues were sent upon those who were followers of the beast. With the seventh bowl, there was a great earthquake, unlike any that had ever occurred. The great city was split into three parts and the cities of the nations collapsed. GOD gave Babylon the Great her cup full of the wine of the fury of GOD's wrath.
Among other descriptions, this "Babylon" is described as "the mother of prostitutes" (Rev. 17:5). One of the seven angels who held the bowls told John to follow him and he would show John the punishment of this great prostitute. For numerous reasons, I understand the prostitute here to be referring to the city of Jerusalem, which Jesus said was responsible for killing all the prophets and would receive punishment in that generation (see Matt. 23:29-39). Returning to John's vision in Revelation, this woman was sitting upon a scarlet (red) beast. The beast had seven heads, which are the seven hills on which the woman sits and her seven kings, which I believe to be referring to the Roman emperors, who empowered and often carried out the Jews' killing and persecution of the first century Christians.
An angel came down from heaven and shouted that Babylon has fallen. Another voice from heaven instructed GOD's people to come out of her (Babylon) and not share in her sins so that they might not receive any of her plagues. Then the kings, merchants and sailors of the earth who had benefited from her all mourned her destruction.
Then John heard the sound of a great roar of people in heaven shouting, rejoicing over the fall of the great prostitute, Babylon. They rejoiced that GOD had avenged the blood of His servants on her. Then the 24 elders and four living creatures fell down and worshiped GOD, who was seated on the throne. A voice came from the throne, saying, "Praise our God, all you His servants, you who fear Him, both small and great!"