After an account of the great trials and sufferings which the servants
of God had endured, we have now a more pleasant scene opening; the day
begins now to dawn, and here we have represented,
I. The Lord Jesus at the head of his faithful followers,
II. Three angels sent successively to proclaim the fall of Babylon and
the things antecedent and consequent to so great an event,
III. The vision of the harvest,
|The Lamb and His Attendants.
||A. D. 95.|
1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and
with him a hundred forty and four thousand, having his
Father's name written in their foreheads.
2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters,
and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of
harpers harping with their harps:
3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and
before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn
that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which
were redeemed from the earth.
4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they
are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever
he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the
firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without
fault before the throne of God.
Here we have one of the most pleasing sights that can be viewed in this
world--the Lord Jesus Christ at the head of his faithful adherents and
attendants. Here observe,
1. How Christ appears: as a Lamb standing upon mount Zion. Mount
Zion is the gospel church. Christ is with his church and in the midst
of her in all her troubles, and therefore she is not consumed. It is
his presence that secures her perseverance; he appears as a Lamb, a
true Lamb, the Lamb of God. A counterfeit lamb is mentioned as
rising out of the earth in the last chapter, which was really a dragon;
here Christ appears as the true paschal Lamb, to show that his
mediatorial government is the fruit of his sufferings, and the cause of
his people's safety and fidelity.
2. How his people appear: very honourably.
(1.) As to the numbers, they are many, even all who are sealed; not one
of them lost in all the tribulations through which they have gone.
(2.) Their distinguishing badge: they had the name of God written in
their foreheads; they made a bold and open profession of their
faith in God and Christ, and, this being followed by suitable actings,
they are known and approved.
(3.) Their congratulations and songs of praise, which were peculiar to
their praises were loud as thunder, or as the voice of many
waters; they were melodious, as of harpers; they were
heavenly, before the throne of God. The song was new,
suited to the new covenant, and unto that new and gracious dispensation
of Providence under which they now were; and their song was a secret to
others, strangers intermeddled not with their joy; others might
repeat the words of the song, but they were strangers to the true sense
and spirit of it.
(4.) Their character and description.
[1.] They are described by their chastity and purity: They are
virgins. They had not defiled themselves either with corporal or
spiritual adultery; they had kept themselves clean from the
abominations of the antichristian generation.
[2.] By their loyalty and stedfast adherence to Christ: They follow
the Lamb withersoever he goes; they follow the conduct of his word,
Spirit, and providence, leaving it to him to lead them into what duties
and difficulties he pleases.
[3.] By their former designation to this honour: These were redeemed
from among men, being the first-fruits to God, and to the Lamb,
Here is plain evidence of a special redemption: They were redeemed
from among men. Some of the children of men are, by redeeming
mercy, distinguished from others: They were the first-fruits to God,
and to the Lamb, his choice ones, eminent in every grace, and the
earnest of many more who should be followers of them, as they were
[4.] By their universal integrity and conscientiousness: There was
no guile found in them, and they were without fault before the
throne of God. They were without any prevailing guile, any allowed
fault; their hearts were right with God, and, as for their human
infirmities, they were freely pardoned in Christ. This is the happy
remnant who attend upon the Lord Jesus as their head and Lord; he is
glorified in them, and they are glorified in him.
|The Three Angels.
||A. D. 95.|
6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having
the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the
earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him;
for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made
heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
8 And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen,
is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of
the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
9 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice,
If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his
mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which
is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation;
and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence
of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and
ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast
and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that
keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
In this part of the chapter we have three angels or messengers sent
from heaven to give notice of the fall of Babylon, and of those things
that were antecedent and consequent to that great event.
I. The first angel was sent on an errand antecedent to it, and that was
to preach the everlasting gospel,
1. The gospel is an everlasting gospel; it is so in its nature, and it
will be so in its consequences. Though all flesh be grass, the word of
the Lord endureth for ever.
2. It is a work fit for an angel to preach this everlasting gospel;
such is the dignity, and such is the difficulty of that work! And yet
we have this treasure in earthen vessels.
3. The everlasting gospel is of great concern to all the world; and, as
it is the concern of all, it is very much to be desired that it should
be made known to all, even to every nation, and kindred, and tongue,
4. The gospel is the great means whereby men are brought to fear God,
and to give glory to him. Natural religion is not sufficient to keep up
the fear of God, nor to secure to him glory from men; it is the gospel
that revives the fear of God, and retrieves his glory in the world.
5. When idolatry creeps into the churches of God, it is by the
preaching of the gospel, attended by the power of the Holy Spirit, that
men are turned from idols to serve the living God, as the
Creator of the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and the fountains
To worship any God besides him who created the world is idolatry.
II. The second angel follows the other, and proclaims the actual fall
of Babylon. The preaching of the everlasting gospel had shaken the
foundations of antichristianism in the world, and hastened its
downfall. By Babylon is generally understood Rome, which was before
called Sodom and Egypt, for wickedness and cruelty, and
is now first called Babylon, for pride and idolatry. Observe,
1. What God has fore-ordained and foretold shall be done as certainly
as if it were done already.
2. The greatness of the papal Babylon will not be able to prevent her
fall, but will make it more dreadful and remarkable.
3. The wickedness of Babylon, in corrupting, debauching, and
intoxicating the nations round about her, will make her fall just and
will declare the righteousness of God in her utter ruin,
Her crimes are recited as the just cause of her destruction.
III. A third angel follows the other two, and gives warning to all of
that divine vengeance which would overtake all those that obstinately
adhered to the antichristian interest after God had thus proclaimed its
If after this (this threatening denounced against Babylon, and in part
already executed) any should persist in their idolatry, professing
subjection to the beast and promoting his cause, they must expect to
drink deep of the wind of the wrath of God; they shall be forever
miserable in soul and body; Jesus Christ will inflict this punishment
upon them, and the holy angels will behold it and approve of it.
Idolatry, both pagan and papal, is a damning sin in its own nature, and
will prove fatal to those who persist in it, after fair warning given
by the word of Providence; those who refuse to come out of Babylon,
when thus called, and resolve to partake of her sins, must receive of
her plagues; and the guilt and ruin of such incorrigible idolaters will
serve to set forth the excellency of the patience and obedience of the
saints. These graces shall be rewarded with salvation and glory. When
the treachery and rebellion of others shall be punished with
everlasting destruction, then it will be said, to the honour of the
Here is the patience of the saints; you have before seen their
patience exercised, now you see it rewarded.
|The Harvest and the Vintage.
||A. D. 95.|
13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write,
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth:
Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and
their works do follow them.
14 And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud
one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden
crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud
voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and
reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of
the earth is ripe.
16 And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the
earth; and the earth was reaped.
17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven,
he also having a sharp sickle.
18 And another angel came out from the altar, which had power
over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp
sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the
clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and
gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great
winepress of the wrath of God.
20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood
came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the
space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
Here we have the vision of the harvest and vintage, introduced with a
solemn preface. Observe,
I. The preface,
1. Whence this prophecy about the harvest came: it came down from
heaven, and not from men, and therefore it is of certain truth and
2. How it was to be preserved and published--by writing; it was to be a
matter of record, that the people of God might have recourse to it for
their support and comfort upon all occasions.
3. What it principally intended, and that is, to show the blessedness
of all the faithful saints and servants of God, both in death and after
death: Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from
henceforth, &c. Here observe,
(1.) The description of those that are and shall be blessed--such as
die in the Lord, either die in the cause of Christ, or rather die in a
state of vital union with Christ, such as are found in Christ when
(2.) The demonstration of this blessedness: They rest from their
labours, and their works do follow them.
[1.] They are blessed in their rest; they rest from all sin,
temptation, sorrow, and persecution. There the wicked cease from
troubling, there the weary are at rest.
[2.] They are blessed in their recompence: Their works follow
them; they do not go before them as their title, or price of
purchase, but follow them as their evidence of having lived and died in
the Lord; and the memory of them will be pleasant, and the reward
glorious, far above the merit of all their services and sufferings.
[3.] They are happy in the time of their dying, when they have lived to
see the cause of God reviving, the peace of the church returning, and
the wrath of God falling upon their idolatrous cruel enemies. Such
times are good times to die in; they have Simeon's desire: Now,
Lord, let thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy
salvation. And all this is ratified and confirmed by the testimony
of the Spirit witnessing with their spirits and with the written
II. We have the vision itself, represented by a harvest and a
1. By a harvest
an emblem that sometimes signifies the cutting down of the wicked, when
ripe for ruin, by the judgments of God, and sometimes the gathering in
of the righteous, when ripe for heaven, by the mercy of God. This seems
rather to represent God's judgments against the wicked: and here
(1.) The Lord of the harvest--one so like unto the Son of man
that he was the same, even the Lord Jesus, who is described,
[1.] By the chariot in which he sat--a white cloud, a cloud that
had a bright side turned to the church, how dark soever it might be to
[2.] By the ensign of his power: On his head was a golden crown,
authority to do all that he did and whatsoever he would do.
[3.] By the instrument of his providences: In his hand a sharp
[4.] By the solicitations he had from the temple to perform this great
work. What he did, he was desired to do by his people; and, though he
was resolved to do it, he would for this thing be sought unto by them,
and so it should be in return to their prayers.
(2.) The harvest-work, which is, to thrust the sickle into the corn,
and reap the field. The sickle is the sword of God's justice; the field
is the world; reaping is cutting the inhabitants of the earth down and
carrying them off.
(3.) The harvest-time; and this is when the corn is ripe, when the
measure of the sin of men is filled up, and they are ripe for
destruction. The most inveterate enemies of Christ and his church are
not destroyed till by their sin they are ripe for ruin, and then he
will spare them no longer; he will thrust in his sickle, and the earth
shall be reaped.
2. By a vintage,
Some think that these two are only different emblems of the same
judgment; others that they refer to distinct events of providence
before the end of all things. Observe,
(1.) To whom this vintage-work was committed--to an angel, another
angel that came out from the altar, that is, from the holiest of
all in heaven.
(2.) At whose request this vintage-work was undertaken: it was, as
before, at the cry of an angel out of the temple, the ministers
and churches of God on earth.
(3.) The work of the vintage, which consists of two parts:--
[1.] The cutting off, and gathering, the clusters of the vine,
which were now ripe and ready, fully ripe,
[2.] Casting these grapes into the wine-press
here we are told, First, What was the wine-press: it was the
wrath of God, the fire of his indignation, some terrible calamity,
very probably the sword, shedding the blood of the wicked.
Secondly, Where was the place of the wine-press--without the
city, where the army lay that came against Babylon. Thirdly,
The quantity of the wine, that is, of the blood that was drawn forth by
this judgment: it was, for depth, up to the horses' bridles,
and, for breadth and length, a thousand and six hundred furlongs
that is, say some, 200 Italian miles, which is thought to be the
measure of the holy land, and may be meant of the patrimony of the holy
see, encompassing the city of Rome. But here we are left of doubtful
conjectures. Perhaps this great event has not yet had its
accomplishment, but the vision is for an appointed time; and
therefore, though it may seem to tarry, we are to wait for it. But
who shall live when the Lord does this?