Revelation Jewish New Testament, JNT, CJNT, David H. Stern

chapter 14
1. Then I looked, and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Tziyon; and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
The slain Lamb (5:6&N) is seen on Mount Tziyon (Mount Zion), the highest point in Jerusalem. In 4 Ezra the seer is told that he "whom the Most High is keeping many ages and through whom he will deliver his creation [i.e., the Messiah] will stand on the summit of Mount Zion. Yes, Zion shall come and be seen by everyone, prepared and built, just as you saw the mountain cut out without hands. But he, my Son, will reprove the nations who have come for their ungodliness." (4 Ezra 13:26,36-37).

Here "Zion" refers to the heavenly Jerusalem; see MJ 12:22&N.
The 144,000 are the Messianic Jews of 7:4&N. Their foreheads are "sealed" (7:2-3&N, 9:4) with both the Lamb's name and his Father's name (contrast 13:16-17). One of the two t''fillin is worn on the forehead and contains the Father's name, YHVH (see 13:16-17aN); it symbolizes complete devotion and open profession. These 144,000 will be equally open and devoted about proclaiming the name of the Lamb, Yeshua. 

2. I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of rushing waters and like the sound of pealing thunder; the sound I heard was also like that of harpists playing on their harps.
3. They were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living beings and the elders, and no one could learn the song except the 144,000 who have been ransomed from the world.
4. These are the ones who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; they follow the Lamb wherever he goes; they have been ransomed from among humanity as firstfruits for God and the Lamb;
The ones who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. These are not male celibates, despite the explicit mention of women. Rather, they are people of both sexes who are faithful to God and his Son. as the rest of vv. 4-5 makes clear. Fornication is a common biblical metaphor for idolatry — for several examples from the Tanakh see Ezekiel 16,23 and Hosea 1-5. Here in the book of Revelation, misdirected worship is explicitly called whoring at v. 8 below, as well as at 17:2,4; 18:3,9; 19:2.

On celibacy itself, R. H. Charles writes, "The superiority of the celibate life, though un-Jewish and un-Christian, was early adopted from the Gnostics and other Christian heretics," such as Marcion, the religions of Isis and Mithra and the Vestal Virgins in Rome (Revelation, Volume 2, p. 9). For more concerning this subject see 1C 7:1-9&NN. 

5. on their lips no lie was found — they are without defect.
On their lips no lie was found. This is prophesied of Yeshua at Isaiah 53:9 and of Israel's remnant at Zephaniah 3:13. 

6. Next I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven with everlasting Good News to proclaim to those living on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language and people.
7. In a loud voice he said,
“Fear God, give him glory,
for the hour has come when he will pass judgment!
Worship the One who made heaven and earth,
the sea and the springs of water!”
The Good News of v. 6 is what the angel says in v. 7. It is not the whole of the Gospel but the aspect relevant here. 

8. Another angel, a second one, followed, saying,
"She has fallen! She has fallen! Bavel the Great! (Isaiah 21:9)
She made all the nations drink the wine
of God’s fury caused by her whoring!”
She has fallen! She has fallen! Babylon the Great! This cry, combining Isaiah 21:9 with Daniel 4:21, is repeated at 18:2, when the destruction of Babylon is being detailed (Chapters 17-18). In the Tanakh Babylon epitomizes evil. Already in Genesis 11 it is the site of the Tower of Babel. In Isaiah 14 the king of Babylon is a thinly veiled stand-in for Satan (especially Isaiah 14:12-16). Following are discussions of four possible meanings for "Babylon" here and at 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10,21.

(1) Literal Babylon. Babylon was located on the Euphrates River (16:12) and was crisscrossed by canals ("sitting on many waters," 17:1, alluding to Jeremiah 51:13, "О you who dwell on many waters, abundant in treasures, your end has come, and the measure of your greed."). But against a literal interpretation is 17:15, which interprets the "waters" figuratively, and Jeremiah's prophecy that Babylon's "desolation" would be "everlasting" (Jeremiah 25:12; also Isaiah 13:19-22 and most extensively Jeremiah 50:1-51:64), along with the fact that Babylon in the first century C.E. was hardly worthy of the attention Yochanan gives it, since it was neither a center of Gospel activity (see 1 Ke 5:13N) nor the major world power center it had once been.

(2) Rome. The arguments in favor of Babylon as a codeword for Rome are weighty. Rome was widely known as the city set on seven hills (17:9). Caution militated against portraying the evils of Rome's oppressive rule too directly. "Babylon" was a common euphemism for "Rome" in the Pseudepigrapha (2 Baruch 11:1, 67:7; Sibylline Oracles 5:143, 159) and in rabbinic writings. Midrash Rabbah on Song of Songs 1:6.4 states directly, "One calls Rome 'Babylon.'"Yechiel Lichtenstein on 1 Ke 5:13 remarks that "Rome is called 'Babylon' since it is always described as the worst kingdom." Because Rome's political power has declined since the book of Revelation was written, making the literal understanding of Rome less relevant, there are Protestants who equate Babylon with Rome and Rome with Roman Catholicism, turning the passage into an anti-Catholic polemic.

(3) The wicked world-system, ruled in the spiritual realm by Satan and ultimately in the physical world by the anli-Messiah. Viewing Babylon allegorically as the evil world-system accords with the extensive description of the rule of the anti-Messiah in Chapters 12-13 and the return of this imagery in the immediate context (vv. 9-11).

(4) The ungodly in general. This less specific understanding of Babylon the Great as the ungodly in general as over against the godly would derive from a hermeneutic that interprets the whole book along such figurative lines (see 1:1N). The wine of God's fury, here and at v. 10: see vv. 14-20N below. 

9. Another angel, a third one, followed them and said in a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives the mark on his forehead or on his hand,
10. he will indeed drink the wine of God’s fury poured undiluted into the cup of his rage. He will be tormented by fire and sulfur before the holy angels and before the Lamb,
Fire and sulfur, which KJV renders "fire and brimstone." Because this expression is used to describe Christian preachers who vividly portray the tortures of hell, it is sometimes thought foreign to Judaism. Actually the destiny of evildoers is described in this way throughout the Tanakh. Four examples: Genesis 19:24 (God's destruction of Sodom), Isaiah 34:8-10 (the coming "day of vengeance" against Edom), Ezekiel 38:22 (prophecy against Gog) and Psalm 11:6 (the fate of the wicked). The phrase is found in Revelation also at 9:17-18, 19:20, 20:10,21:8. See 19:20N. 

11. and the smoke from their tormenting goes up forever and ever. They have no rest, day or night, those who worship the beast and its image and those who receive the mark of its name.”
Before the holy angels... forever. The idea that the judgment of the wicked is eternally on display before the righteous is found in a Pseudipegraphic Jewish work:

"This cursed valley [Gey-Hinnom (Gehenna, hell; see Mt 5:22N)] is for those who are cursed forever.... Here they will be gathered together and here will be their place of judgment. In the last days there will be upon them the spectacle of righteous judgment in the presence of the righteous forever." (1 Enoch 27:1-3) 

12. This is when perseverance is needed on the part of God’s people, those who observe his commands and exercise Yeshua’s faithfulness.
13. Next I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write: ‘How blessed are the dead who die united with the Lord, from now on!’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘now they may rest from their efforts, for the things they have accomplished follow along with them.’”
What they have accomplished follows along with them. The Mishna puts it this way:
"In the hour of a person's departure, neither silver nor gold nor precious stones nor pearls accompany him, only Torah and good works." (Avot 6:9)

The three angels exhort God's people to remain faithful (vv. 6-7,12; compare 13:9b, 10b), so as to avoid the judgment against Babylon the Great (vv. 8-11, v. 8N). They must persevere, observe God's mitzvot and exercise Yeshua's faithfulness (v.12), the same faithfulness Yeshua had (see Ro 3:22&N, Ga 2:16c&N). Note that works and faith go hand in hand (Ro 3:27-28&N, Ep 2:8-l0&N, Ya 2:14-26&NN), and that the works of the righteous go with them for reward (v. 13; compare Ro 2:6-16, 1С 3:8-15). Verse 13 is a reassurance when any believer dies. 

14. Then I looked, and there before me was a white cloud. Sitting on the cloud was someone like a Son of Man (Daniel 7:13) with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
On the cloud was someone like a Son of Man. The prophecy of Daniel 7:13 is made to refer to Yeshua; compare Mt 24:30-31&NN, Mk 14:61-62&N. 

15. Another angel came out of the Temple and shouted to the one sitting on the cloud, “Start using your sickle to reap, because the time to reap has come — the earth’s harvest is ripe!”
16. The one sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.
17. Another angel came out of the Temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle.
18. Then out from the altar went yet another angel, who was in charge of the fire; and he called in a loud voice to the one with the sharp sickle, “Use your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because they are ripe!”
19. The angel swung his sickle down onto the earth, gathered the earth’s grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s fury.
20. The winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress as high as the horses’ bridles for two hundred miles!
As a whole, the passage echoes Joel 4:9-13(3:9-13), in which grape harvesting and wine pressing are used as a metaphor for judgment in the context of the eschatological war, and Isaiah 63:1-6, in which God treads the winevat in his fury, pressing out {he lifeblood of the peoples. The same metaphor is found at Jeremiah 25:15, 28-31. Judgment is also symbolized by the harvest at Jeremiah 61:33 and Hosea 6:11. Also see Yeshua's own parable of the wheat and the weeds, especially Mk 4:29 and Mt 13:39-42; both there and here the Messiah is the reaper at the final judgment, using angels as his instruments. Moreover, here it is the Messiah who treads the winepress (see below, 19:15).

In this chapter God is shown working behind the scenes of history, preparing rewards for his people and punishments for those who disobey him. Believers are warned against falling away and encouraged to remain faithful.

Outside the city of Jerusalem, in the valley of Y'hoshafat (the name means "God judges"), mentioned in Joel 4:2,12(3:2,12). Jewish authorities understand this as Kidron Valley (Yn 18:1) or the Hinnom Valley (see 10b-11, Mt 5:22N).

Blood flowed... as high as the horses' bridles for two hundred miles. Compare the Midrash Rabbah: "They [the Romans under Hadrian] slew the inhabitants [of Betar, after Bar-Kosiba, its defender, had been killed] until the horses waded in blood up to the nostrils, and the blood rolled along stones of the size of forty se 'ah and flowed into the sea a distance of four miles." Lamentations Rabbah 2:2:4. 

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