Comfort in the midst of conflict: Revelation 14
Timothy J. Westendorf
We’ve seen the first three of the seven “visions”—the dragon and his two beastly allies. Chapter 14 reveals the next three.
The 144,000 and the Lamb
Contemplating the frightening enemies of Christ and his church can fill human hearts with fear. The next vision, seen by John and revealed to us, helps us overcome the fear.
God shows us the church triumphant, symbolized by 144,000 people—12×12 (the representative of believers from Old and New Testament eras) multiplied by 1,000 (the number for completeness, 10 cubed). They are with Jesus, the Lamb, and have his name and that of his Father on their heads. They have been redeemed by the Lamb’s precious sacrifice, completely cleansed and purified through the waters of Baptism and the work of the Spirit in the gospel. Their song is a Spirit-taught song of praise and thanks to the Lamb, and their purity comes from the robes of his righteousness that they wear. They are safe from the fearful visions.
The three angels
Rather abruptly, the glimpse of heaven fades, and the scene shifts back to the earth in the fifth vision. After receiving reassurance of the church’s final victory, John is reminded of the Savior’s promise that his gospel will be preached until the end of time.
As long as this world endures, the church has work to do. There is good news to proclaim to the inhabitants of this world that they too might be brought from darkness to light, from unbelief to faith.
The urgency of the work is underscored by what John sees and hears next. The second and third angels clearly announce a warning about the result of rejecting the gospel. Those who oppose Christ and his church will ultimately be destroyed. The enemies of God’s people are Babylon. Those who stubbornly hold to the beastly, un-Christian message and philosophies multiplied by Satan and his allies will be left to face God in his holiness and justice on their own. The faithful believers are blessed and find rest from their labors.
Throughout the Bible the day of judgment is pictured as a harvest time. The sixth vision takes up the picture. One “like a son of man,” Jesus himself, comes on the clouds. As we regularly confess in the Apostles’ Creed, he “has risen from death and live and rules eternally.” He comes to judge the living and the dead.
The world as we know it and in which we now live won’t last forever. It will come to an end. Throughout the Bible and in Revelation too, we are encouraged to see in that end a new and glorious beginning, our final redemption carried out by the Savior who loves us. Until that day, the church, consisting of each believer in Christ, is encouraged to take up the announcement of the first flying angel, calling young and old, near and far, to find their comfort and rest, now and forever, in the good news of our triumphant Savior and King.
Reflect on Revelation chapter 14
1.Why do you think that Revelation 14:6,7 is sometimes read on Reformation Sunday in Lutheran churches?
The gospel is eternal, and the Holy Spirit has used it through history to bring sinners to faith in Jesus. At the time of the Reformation, however, the gospel was hidden in the traditions and structure of the visible church. The Holy Spirit led Martin Luther to find it. When he did, he said it felt as if “the doors of paradise were opened.” From that moment, he spent his energy to proclaim what he found to all who would listen. The eternal gospel was no longer hidden but preached to edify God’s people.
2. How might this chapter help sharpen our focus on the purpose of our lives and the mission of our churches?
When we consider the fate of all those who “worship the beast” and reject the gospel, we first find reason to treasure what has made us believers—the gospel. We want to preserve that message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus for ourselves and for the generations that come after us.
That means we come to hear the message of the gospel because it sustains us in this world of trouble and error. Then we want our children to know the gospel of Jesus so we train them at home, in our schools, and in confirmation instruction.
We do not forget that the gospel is for all “those who live on the earth.” We tell others of Jesus and the hope we have and we send missionaries to places where we cannot go so that others around the world might hear the message of salvation.
Author: Timothy Westendorf
Volume 106, Number 6
Issue: June 2019