1. And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on the mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.
Just as those who worship the emperor are marked; so those who belong to Jesus are “marked”. They are his.
The number, 144,000 is another numerical symbol. 12 x 12 is 144. The 12 (Israel) and the 12 (apostles, or the Church) make up the whole people of God. Multiply the people of God 1000 times (which is 100 x 100) and you have the whole people of God. This is not an exact number, but, once again, a symbolic number which simply describes all God’s people.
2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
3 and they sing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders: and no man could learn the song save the hundred and forty and fad been purchased out of the earth.
4 These are they that were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, to be the firstfruits unto God and unto the Lamb.
5 And in their mouth was found no lie: they are without blemish.
The people of God are distinct from other people. They act differently and are different. They sing a song no other person can sing- for they alone belong to God.
6. And I saw another angel flying in mid heaven, having eternal good tidings to proclaim unto them that dwell on the earth, and unto every nation and tribe and tongue and people;
7 and he saith with a great voice, Fear God, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.
8 And another, a second angel, followed, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, that hath made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice, If any man worshippeth the beast and his image, and receiveth a mark on his forehead, or upon his hand,
The message for those who are not the people of God is that they are doomed. Pure and simple. They belong to Babylon (or Rome). The writings of 1st century Judaism are ripe with descriptions of Rome as the new Babylon. The city symbolizes those who have nothing to do with God and are the oppressors of God’s people.
10 he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
Those who worship anyone or anything but God are going to suffer the punishment of their idolatry.
11 And the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name.
12 Here is the patience of the saints, they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
In contrast to the unceasing punishment of the disobedient is the patience and blessedness of the saints who keep faith in Jesus. Its night and day.
13. And I heard the voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them.
Rabbi Yohannan ben Zacchai said "why are the dead more blessed than the living? Because as long as we live we struggle -- but those who have died have ceased struggling".
Their works follow them means that what the Christian does in this life is not forgotten by God -- but it has eternal value.
14 And I saw, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud I saw one sitting like unto a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand sharp sickle.
15 And another angel came out from the temple, crying with a great voice to him that sat on the cloud, Send forth thy sickle, and reap: for the hour to reap is come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
16 And he that sat on the cloud cast his sickle upon the earth; and the earth was reaped.
17 Another angel came out from the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
18 And another angel came out from the altar, he that hath power over fire; and he called with a great voice to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Send forth thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
19 And the angel cast his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vintage of the earth, and cast it into the winepress, the great winepress, of the wrath of God. odden without the city, and there came out blood from the winepress, even unto the bridles of the horses, as far as a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
When the day of harvest arrives, also known as the day of judgement, then everyone will give account of their life. No one is exempt and no one will escape.
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