It is one of the most powerful metaphors in the whole Bible. God chose a mountain for the Israelites to meet with Him. Moses went up the mountain to receive the Law in the presence of the Most High. When the Israelites were slaves they worked in the pits of Egypt making bricks for the Pharaoh’s ambitious architectural projects. In the desert of their journey to the promised land was Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.
Images of mountains on earth are mostly majestic and awe-inspiring. Mountains are measured and conquered with incredible passion and devotion. Two examples of mountain-scriptures have been spiritual pillars in my life for many years.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12, NIV)
It is the words of the singing prophet, Isaiah, painting a picture of mountains that burst into song. Praise God in harmony with the mountains!
I learnt about the verse in Habakkuk 3, in my early twenties when I read the spiritual classic, Hind’s Feet on High Places (Hannah Hunnard) the first time. Since then, it was a pillar of strength throughout my life.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:19, NIV)
Many years ago, my brother had a freak accident while horse riding one Sunday afternoon. He died in hospital six days later. Looking back, it was certainly one of the darkest, most heartbreaking times of my life. In spite of all the tears and questions, God “prepared” my mother for his death by “giving” her a Word from the Bible the Saturday night of his passing, just before she received that terrible telephone call. She “heard” about the mountain of heaven.
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)
If ever there is an image planted firmly into my mind’s eye, it is the mountain of the new Jerusalem, the joyful assembly of the righteous made perfect. How can death ever have a sting, when this city of the living God is in your mind? John elaborated on this wonderful vision of heaven.
It is the image of the church in glory!
The number, 144 000, is the symbol for all faithful saints (7:1-17). They are sealed and numbered and form the perfect cube (10x10x10=1000 and 12×12=144). The perfect cube is like the Holy of Holies in the Temple and the representation of the Presence of the Most High, accessed through the Cross of Jesus for all who would call on His name. It is once again a symbolic number and not to be interpreted literally.
Mount Zion is the symbol for communion of the saints with the Father and feasting in His presence while receiving His word. The name of the Father on their foreheads will identify them in contrast to the name of the beast of the previous chapter (13:16,17).
In the ancient world a mark was important. It depicted:
- Ownership: slaves and animals were branded. There was no dispute about ownership and no removal possible.
- Loyalty: soldiers willingly branded themselves with the name of a respected general.
- Security: a mark was stamped onto a person for safekeeping in time of death. We are marked in life and death.
- Dependence: the Arab chieftains used branding to mark the people they were responsible for and who were dependent on them. We are dependent on the love and grace of the Lamb.
- Safety: Syrians tattooed their god on their wrist or neck. The temple of Heracles possessed the right of asylum – any slave escaping in there received a sacred mark to secure him. None could touch him. In the Lamb we are safe and secure.
The voice of God with the sound of the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder, at the same time sounding like an orchestra of harps. Thunder and sweetness together, an exceptional and unique description of sound, bring peace and calm to the troubled heart.
The Lamb’s company can sing about experiences in life and redemption. No other creature like the angels and beings of heaven know what it is about. The redeemed can sing about suffering, strength while being attacked and spiritual growth with Jesus himself as teacher of the deeper things of life. They are virgins; free from spiritual adultery, made pure by the Blood and redeemed by the righteousness of Christ, the acceptable sacrifice.
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, (Ephesians 3:10)
The words of Jesus to His disciples when He called them were: “follow Me“. (John 1:43, Mark 2:14) He also requested that from the rich young man in Mark 10:21and to the unknown disciple in Luke 9:59.
We should not bother about the excuses mentioned in Luke 9. Our priority is to follow Jesus.
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:22)
These words are just as true today. We are His followers (Revelation 14:4); wherever He goes, sometimes into the wilderness. (Song of Solomon 3:6)
Jesus was the sacrifice of firstfruits, the first fruit of the church to be accepted by the Father after the crucifixion when He said to Mary not to touch Him. It is the best of the harvest, the symbol of that which is to come. It is the best for God. Jesus is God’s best for us.
There will be no falsehood in their mouth, no deceit (Psalm 32:2) to be found in the true church of Jesus. A deceitful tongue cannot be trusted; shocking betrayal hurts deeply. Deception twists the truth on all levels of life – family and friends, politics and business.
Jesus is without blemish and perfects His church. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice (Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 1:22). The church must be glorious and pure. (Ephesians 5:26,27).
Three angels are summoned to worship and proclaim the good news of the perfect Lamb. The second angel foretells the doom of Rome and the judgment and destruction for those who have denied their faith and worship the beast.
The gospel for everybody; no exclusion, all embracing.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
The everlasting, age old, unending and unchanging message is like God – no beginning and no end. According to Romans 16:25 it is the eternal purpose of God.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:35)
The Gospel is always double-edged – it saves and judges and spells doom for those who reject it. It is the call to all from the God who created all. Paul’s preaching in Lystra (Acts 14:15) confirms this call through all the ages, through the prophets, all of nature and the earth itself.
H.B. Swete called this “an appeal to the conscience of untaught heathenism, incapable as yet of apprehending any other.”
During the time Revelation was written, Babylon was seen as Rome. Rome would fall and made the nations to drink from its immorality and failure. The Romans conquered and ruled with the feet of iron – cruel and unrelenting (14:8).
Babylon is also the symbol of the occult, idolatry and immorality. The city is already judged and therefore the inhabitants drink the wine of the wrath of God. Worship to the beast, Babylon, is a corrupting force luring the nations into insane immorality. It is the image of a prostitute who fills a man with wine so that he will not resist the seduction. On the other hand the fallen will drink from the wrath of God.
In the hand of the Lord is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs. (Psalm 75:8)
Jeremiah (25:15,16) and Isaiah (51:17) talk about the cup of God’s wrath. God’s judgment is true and righteous. He is the perfect judge and His wrath is never to be feared. It will only come to pass when all the calls for repentance are rejected. Even the judgment and consequences of sin, are invoked to bring people to repentance. The core message of the Gospel never changes throughout all the ages. It is to save, redeem and restore.
The third angel announces that worship to the beast causes torture and no compromise in judgment. The consequences of sin in the presence of the angels and the Lamb present the opportunity for redemption. There is a choice to be made. There is no rest for beast-worshippers. The peace of God is absent in their lives. Only God can give peace. There is no peace and joy for the wicked. The source of life in its fullness is God and only God.
The doom of the apostate is the worst. The vengeance on betrayal of the Gospel, is described in Isaiah 34:8 – 10:
For the Lord has a day of vengeance,
a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause.
Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch,
her dust into burning sulfur;
her land will become blazing pitch!
It will not be quenched night or day;
its smoke will rise forever.
From generation to generation it will lie desolate;
no one will ever pass through it again.
God’s blessing, promised over generations will be lifted. Our choices are important for our offspring. The wonderful promise of Isaiah 44, 65:23 rings true in our lives, because of our submission to the Gospel of Jesus.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
like poplar trees by flowing streams. (Isaiah 44:3,4,NIV)
There is rest of the faithful soul in death (Revelation 14:13). The promise of rest in death is confirmed in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 15:18 and stands in dramatic contrast to Revelation 14:11: and the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever.
Let us sing with Paul that we have kept the faith. We run the race with all the problems in a world under the beast, BUT we keep the faith. Even in the face of church betrayal and disappointment in our limited vision of God’s work on earth, we take no offense with God. We trust our God, Who is abounding in goodness and truth.
The challenge is to accept His love as unconditionally as He gives it to us.
Our victory is guaranteed. (Jude 24) We are tried and tested like gold (Revelation 3:18) and purified like silver in fire (Psalm 66).
In the final vision of this chapter we see the Son of man as described in Daniel 7:13,14 and the angels come the temple and altar for the harvest.
“And I saw in the night visions, and, behold with the clouds of heaven, there came one like a son of man and he came to the ancient of days, and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him.”
More angels come with harvest instruments to the temple and altar for the harvest on the earth, written in the metaphor of wheat fields and vineyards (Isaiah 5).
It is two familiar metaphors: Joel 3 describes the harvest and many things Jesus said confirms this metaphor. (Mark 4:29, Matthew 13:24 – 30 and 13:37-43)
The winepress is often a symbol of God’s judgment. (Lamentations 1:15 and Isaiah 63:3)
The winepress was outside Jerusalem. It is symbolic of the gentiles to be brought to Jerusalem and judged there. Inside the city would be redemption in the Presence of God. Joel 3:2,12 talks about the nations gathered in the valley of Jehoshaphat to be judged.
On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. (Zechariah 14:1-4)
The angels and the Son of man will reap the harvest – not the church. Jesus confirms this in the parable of the tares in Matthew 13. The church is not to judge – wonderful liberty to preach the Gospel with no condemnation. God will judge and do it in His righteous perfection.
The description of the blood that runs deep and wide is qualitative and not quantitative. It confirms that the judgment is complete. The measurement, 1600 stadia (about 300 kilometers) was seen as the length of the land of Palestine, in other words the whole country will be full of blood. The judgment of sin is horrible and utterly gruesome.
[A Stadia is a Greek measurement and is about 192 meters long. So this makes 1,600 Stadia about 300km (180 miles) long and horses’ bridle is about 1.5m (4 ft 6 in) high.]
Let the church rejoice in the perfection of the Plan of God on this earth.
Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)