Bible Study with Jairus

Revelation 14 (part 2)

Two High-speed Trains and the Harvest of Two Kinds of Angels

 

Two opposing storylines run through the entire Biblical narrative. I like to visualize them as two high-speed trains that reach their ultimate destinations in the Book of Revelation. One train originated with God and is filled with all the righteous people from all ages (from Adam, Seth, and Noah to Moses, David, and the New Testament saints). The other train originated with Satan and carries the sinners from all ages (Cain, Lamech, and all who refuse to repent). The former represents the tree of life, and the latter represents the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

These two trains will intersect at the Battle of Armageddon, when the people on the two trains will engage in a final battle. After the battle, those belonging to God will achieve victory; their train will continue its journey and arrive at its destination, eternal life. However, the other train, filled with sinners, will arrive at the lake of fire, where its passengers will face eternal judgment.

These two trains have been continuously loading new passengers since the beginning of humanity. The former continuously loads repentant people to become the army of the new bride, while the latter continuously loads unrepentant people to become the army of the “kings from the east” (Revelation 16:12, see also Revelation 19:19). The ultimate fate of these unrepentant people is grim. The beast and the false prophet will be thrown “alive into the lake of fire” (19:20). The remaining warriors will be “slain by the sword that came out from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse” (19:21). Remember, the apocalyptic final battle involves not only the people on Earth but also sinners and saints from all ages.

In the Old Testament, Jacob saw two camps of soldiers in a vision (Genesis 32:2). The angels and the heavenly hosts are involved in this battle against the powers of evil. The antagonists, the beast, and the false prophet, are either evil spirits or people possessed by evil spirits, indicating that evil spirits are also involved in this final battle. Both armies are continuously recruiting soldiers and preparing for the final confrontation. God’s army continually transforms sinners into God’s children through the Gospel, forming the army of the new bride. The enemy’s army continually ensnares sinners, making them captives of the enemy, and finally engages in a war against God and God’s servants.

Jesus compares the kingdom of God to sowing seeds. As God sows the seeds of the Gospel, the enemy also sows weeds. Jesus tells us that we should not pull up the weeds, lest the wheat be pulled up too. When they both mature, the angels will come to harvest, burning the weeds and gathering the wheat into the barn (Matthew 13:24-30). In this parable, Jesus clearly states, “The enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels” (13:39). So the scene in Revelation 14 is the reality that Jesus’ parable was pointing to (Matthew 13). In Revelation 14, angels are harvesting the good wheat into the barn (the 144,000 standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion, see Revelation 14:1-5) and gathering the weeds into the winepress of God’s fierce wrath (14:19). The harvest of these two angels prepares the world for the final battle between the two armies, as well as for the fall of Babylon (14:8).

Who are the 144,000 on Mount Zion?

Since Revelation 13:15 says that “those who would not worship the image of the beast” were “slain,” some speculate that the 144,000 are the ones who were killed for not worshiping the beast. However, this understanding is incorrect. Firstly, those killed for not worshiping the beast would likely have exceeded this number. Secondly, the events described in Revelation 13, such as the beast having the authority to kill those who do not worship him, have not yet happened at this point. When we enter Chapter 14, we find an angel proclaiming the eternal gospel to all nations on earth (14:6), announcing the fall of Babylon (14:7), warning of the eternal damnation of those who worship the beast, and applauding the perseverance of the saints (14:8). From this proclamation, it appears that there is a process taking place, and this process takes time. Verse 13 says, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.’” At this point, many people are unwilling to worship the beast and therefore are killed. Since not worshiping the beast leads to death, there are only two options for those who live on earth. The first option is not worshiping the beast and being gathered by God into his barn (14-16); the second option is worshiping the beast, leading to being gathered by the angels and thrown into the winepress of God’s wrath (17-20).

Then who are the 144,000 people whom John sees on Mount Zion at the beginning of chapter 14? We can relate this passage to Revelation 7:4, which says, “And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel.”

Let’s dive deeper and uncover the process that is slowly unfolding in these chapters. In Chapter 7, the angels sealed these 144,000 people, but their actual salvation came after Chapter 14. The seven trumpets played a crucial role in this process. While these seven trumpets brought calamity, they also served to summon God’s elect. Jesus refers to the end times in Matthew 24: “And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31). Calamity and God’s call were one and the same.

Calamity and God’s call are often two aspects of the same event. For example, during World War II, Jews faced the Holocaust under Hitler; yet after the war, the modern state of Israel was established. Due to the suffering they had endured, many Jews who may not have been willing to leave their homeland became more willing to return to Israel. This illustrates the paradox of suffering and calling.

Certainly, there are various interpretations regarding who the 144,000 people are. Still, based on Revelation 7, when the angels sealed them and the trumpet call gathered them, I believe the reference to the 144,000 alludes to the process of calling the people of Israel back home. Perhaps they will gather on Mount Zion on earth, or maybe some will be martyred and gathered on Mount Zion in heaven.

Near my home in Maryland, not far from a hotel, an annual gathering of Jewish Christians takes place. In 2023, I attended their meeting and heard about the severity of the persecution that Jewish Christians face when preaching the gospel to Jews. An American Jewish Christian sister told us about how she was kind to a Jewish neighbor, but when the neighbor discovered that they were Jesus’ followers, she reported them to the authorities, leading to significant persecution. Recent news reports confirm that some Jewish extremists have been persecuting Jewish Christians during prayer meetings. As the end times arrive, the spiritual opposition to the gospel among the religious Jews in Israel will only increase. As a result, preaching the gospel in Israel or turning to Christ may lead to martyrdom. The 144,000 martyrs may refer to the small number of firstfruits that result from a revival in Israel during the end times.

After the angels seal these servants in Chapter 7, the passage continues, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (7:9). This clearly refers to the salvation of the Gentiles. If we consider Paul’s teaching that all Israel will be saved once the full number of the Gentiles has been saved (Romans 11:25), it’s not hard to see what is happening here. This may be the turning point when the full number of Gentiles has come in and God is now saving all of Israel in a great revival. However, this event will undoubtedly provoke fierce opposition from Satan. As a result, the subsequent battles will be centered around Israel.

What is the Eternal Gospel?

Building on the concepts we have explored above, it will be easier to understand the eternal gospel mentioned in Revelation 14:6. First, let’s look at the history of the past few thousand years. Even though Romans teaches that God temporarily turned away from Israel to work among the Gentiles, many Gentiles have still had a burden for the Jews and have shared the gospel with them. There have also been movements of Messianic Jewish Christians in the United States, and some Jews have come to faith. Still, the overall number of Jewish believers remains small. At the Jewish conference I attended, I heard that the number of believing Jews is less than 1% in the US and much less in Israel. I’ve interacted with many ministries focused on sharing the gospel with Jewish people, and I’ve observed that the impact is limited.

Perhaps this is why in the end times, God will specifically raise up angels to proclaim the eternal gospel. Although this gospel shows God’s compassion for the Jews, it is not exclusive to them. In this chapter, it states, “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth—to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and the earth, the sea and the springs of water'” (14:6-7). While this eternal gospel is proclaimed to all nations, it seems connected to the promise of the salvation of all Israel during the end times. Perhaps because God’s appointed time has come, and the hardening of Israel’s heart has run its course, God will raise up angels to proclaim the gospel, enabling God’s chosen people to believe in their Messiah.

Considering the current challenges in sharing the gospel with the Jewish people, it seems necessary for angels to directly proclaim the gospel to them. It’s possible that the entire house of Israel can be saved through this angelic proclamation alone.

Announcing the Fall of Babylon

The fall of Babylon is discussed in more detail in subsequent chapters, but in this chapter the second angel announces the fall of Babylon and calls on the Jews and Christians in Babylon to leave the city. Babylon represents various snares created by evil spirits and evildoers, including religious, political, economic, and other snares. Many unrighteous Jews control the world’s wealth, and it’s logical to conclude that these people are part of the snare. Many Christians also participate in these snares, so God calls His people (perhaps including Jews and Gentile Christians) to abandon this snare, lest they face the same punishment (18:4). God’s judgment on Babylon is a gradual process, beginning with this announcement. Subsequently, Babylon will be judged step by step.

The Separation of Babylon and the Warning of Worshiping the Beast

Since God’s people are still present in Babylon, God’s judgment on Babylon involves a power struggle between God and Satan. They are fighting over the people of God who are still within the city. When God announces the fall of Babylon, some of His people will undoubtedly leave. But Satan and the beast will do their best to oppose this by intensifying their threats. No one will be able to do business without worshiping the beast. As God’s warning intensifies, the beast’s persecution also increases. God’s people are the epicenter of the conflict. God’s people have two choices: either leave Babylon, choosing martyrdom over worshiping the beast, or stay and face persecution. The beast wants God’s people, who are attempting to leave Babylon, to worship him instead. Facing such persecution, God gives a serious warning that worshipping the beast will lead to eternal suffering in the lake of fire.

A Watershed Moment

At this point, God’s train is moving forward, boarding all the remaining people who are chosen by God. To save these chosen ones, God has sent out three angels. They declare the eternal gospel, announce the fall of Babylon the Great, and warn of the outcome for those who worship the beast. God continues to call these people to break free from Babylon the Great and board God’s train that is headed for eternal life. However, those who refuse to repent and those who worship the beast will face severe punishment from God.

The appearance of the beast is a watershed moment. When the two angels arrive, the earth is harvested. Those who choose not to worship the beast are harvested by the angel and gathered into God’s barn like grain. In contrast, those who worship the beast are harvested by the angel and disposed of like weeds.

Are the Reapers Angels?

Revelation 14:14 says, “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.” Who is this harvester who looks like the Son of Man? Is he the Lord? Some may take this view, since the term “son of man” is used here. However, in Matthew 13:39, Jesus says, “And the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.” If this reaper in Revelation is the Lord, it makes it difficult to explain Revelation 14:15, where another angel gives a command to the one sitting on the cloud: “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour of reaping has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” If the man on the cloud were the Lord, it would seem strange for another angel to give him a command. Therefore, we can guess that this harvester is not the Lord, but another angel. It seems that a pair of angels was harvesting. One angel was specifically responsible for harvesting, while the other was responsible for receiving and relaying God’s command to begin the harvest.

We can observe the same pattern in the harvesting of the wicked. The first angel wields a sickle, and the second angel comes out from the altar, having authority over the fire. He instructs the first angel when to reap. Only then does the first angel cast down the sickle. From this perspective, it appears to be a corresponding pair of angels. From this similar pair of harvesters, we can conclude that the son of man was likely not the Lord, but an angel.

Conclusion

There are only two opposing forces in this world: God and Satan. People must choose either God or Satan; there is no middle ground. Two spiritual “trains” run in the world, one headed to eternal life and one headed toward eternal destruction. Human free will and choice determine which train we board. Daily life is filled with decisions that shape the direction of our lives. Trials test how we make choices. In Revelation 14, people were forced to choose when the beast appeared and persecution broke out for those who did not worship the beast. At this point, Babylon still contained some of God’s chosen people trapped within. However, the appearance of the beast completely separated God’s people from those marked by the beast. God’s people were harvested into the barn, symbolizing heaven, while those with the mark of the beast were gathered into the lake of fire to face eternal torment. May we all make the right choice and board the train to heaven.