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THE ROOTS AND THE FIRST FRUITS,
and in CONTRAST
THE TIME AND THE PLACE
In LIGHTS and PERFECTIONS in the Lord Ch. 7, among other things, there was an opportunity to look at Revelation 14. The topic is treated in different ways by dispensationalists and sects, and in general, only some of the features tend to be recognised. As it is well to have a good understanding of the meaning of the Bible, so this much misused text deserves attention in detail, to find where we are prodded or pushed, led or moved, leaving out nothing, in finding symbol seen in its significance. As to their being symbols, Revelation is full of them, whether in beasts, composite beasts, times and diverse applications of times; and one has to realise that there are in all works, opportunities for symbol, parable, allegory, direct signification, with occasional or variable impact.
As the Lord makes HIS work clear (Proverbs 8:8), we must expect a clear result on inspection with assiduity. Let us then seek this, longing to possess our possessions, even all that the Lord has told us.
Again, what shall be said of the 144,000 of Revelation 14 ? There is only one resurrection, as outlined in I Corinthians 15 with the utmost clarity. As Christ became man ONCE, so in bodily resurrection, man will be made alive in Christ ONCE, when the trumpet sounds. There are no false starts.
Thus we find in I Cor. 15:22:
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order, Christ the first-fruits and afterwards those who are His at His coming. "
Even this has its own intrinsic order from the Lord: for as I Thessalonians 4 tells us, the 'dead in Christ' arise first, and then those who are alive at His coming, these are reclothed (cf. II Corinthians 5:1ff.). This is the last trump, here is that sound of the trumpet after which the dead are raised in this two-fold way. There is no other, Christ the first-fruits and the rest at His coming, those that are His, the dead in Christ first, and afterwards those who are His when He calls in Majesty (I Corinthians 15:50ff.). Indeed, in this last site, Paul tells us that we shall ALL be changed, specifying the small time frame - for it is to be in an instant (cf. also I Thessalonians 4).
Thus the 144,000 are not seen as a resurrection contingent, but are simply a grouping, brought to heaven from the tempestuous times that come near the end (Revelation 7:1-4), the 12 times 12,000 being an increment for Jew and Gentile as partners in salvation, an amplitude of symbolism with which Revelation is rife. These were not spiritually seduced (cf. Proverbs 7-9). There is no scatter. Viewed as before the resurrection, in line with the highly parallel Revelation 7:13-17, and the continued preaching of the Gospel on earth (14:6), then this shows them joyfully singing, as in 7:9-10 praising God. There is one Lamb, one salvation, one washing, one blood, one body, and here is a tableau of the prize in heaven, for a third time, exultant in His glory.
They are not in some species of spiritual hibernation. That earlier vision of Revelation 7, far from the resurrection, which being general is not liable to partition, similarly occurs in the very midst of the woes on this earth, far from their completion. From these they are shown to be dramatically rescued, and described as having come out of the great tribulation, having washed their clothes in the blood of the Lamb amidst the thunderous developments. So do they sing, so are they led, are they never left, no, not at all, but are with Christ, which as Paul said of the option of staying longer on this earth or leaving it for Christ in his own day, IS FAR BETTER (Philippians 3:21-23). Accordingly so do those of Revelation 14, sing a new song. Like the white stone given to those overcoming in the Church of Pergamos, noted in Revelation 2:17, each with a name on it which none knows but the one to whom it is given, so here is a song which none knows except this grouping, saved from seduction, for service and joy before the Lord, perhaps their plight having something in common to make this time a group song, like that of intimates in some war scene, who have shared together in an episode of some note.
Immediately after this tableau, activated tableau, vision of the 144,000 in their primacy of love and devotion to the Lamb, the everlasting gospel is seen preached in the earth through an angel, inviting to worship and in terms of the Gospel, as authorised by Jesus Christ, preaching it to every tongue and people. This simply confirms that as to Revelation 14:5, this is no resurrection tableau, but an excerpt, like a TV spectacular, a travelogue here not of land but of people, grabbed from the disgrace of this earth by grace, and focussed to show the beauty of holiness by contrast, the extent of the Lord's great rescue operation in the human race. As the battle progresses and the intensity proceeds as in Revelation 15, here is an excerpt in the holy procedure, pain to glory, battle to beauty, overcoming to kindly communion with Christ, and rejoicing to the uttermost.
Just as there is no particular superiority in not marrying so these have no eminence for that reason (I Corinthians 7), that such as these, being made white and purified (Daniel 11:35-36), were never married, but the thing is spiritual. These were not seduced, fought their battles without being corrupted by the gross adulterous patterns of false theology, false worship, a false spirit, indeed another spirit, and did not act as did Aholah and Aholibah, rich in spiritual adultery, seen in Ezekiel 23. These, amid the tempestuous pollutions of this earth, whirling as if spewed out by some spiritual and radioactive cyclotron, but BY the Lord, have stood, and so in heaven still stand, having withstood and kept their spirits clean, diligent in washing, careful in walking.
First-fruits signify, like the First of the Few in Great Britain's struggle in 1940, a swath of harvest cut, an example of the vast loss of life in this spiritual contest which plots evil and exhibits for all that, the sword of carnality, the widespread use of murder for its false faith. Here as in the motion pictures which would show us, during WORLD WAR II, Spitfires flying into the clouds, after their great victories, the First of the Few so symbolised, there are the spiritual stalwarts shown, in their glorious new life in heaven, escaped but with honour, fallen but into the arms of the Lord, in heavenly places in accord with Him whom they served on the earth.
After the 'virgins' are seen in their tableau in heaven, emphatically from races both Jew and Gentile, who are of the innumerable seeming multitudes of those who die in the Lord, whose works follow them and who rest from their labours (14:13), we find that there is some exposure to the TYPE of thing from which they have escaped, that they might enjoy this rest from such labours. This is found in 14:8ff..
Moreover, we find it utterly assured that this of 14:1-5 is no post-resurrection vignette, but before it, since the everlasting Gospel is about to be preached by the instrument of an angel (Revelation 14:6), and the parallel to the words of Christ in Matthew 24:14 is very plain. It is AFTER this as Christ indicated there, that the end comes.
We then hear in 14:8, that Babylon is fallen. In view of Revelation 17, there is no question about its locale, its religious notoriety or its depth of background in the past (cf. SMR pp. 946ff.). This is exhibited in full in Revelation 18, where it is burnt, in one hour. This removes, the last face of 'mystery Babylon' the heartland of religion to be found in Rome, a quasi-Christian facade, that of a religion for burning (cf. SMR pp. 911ff., 946ff., 1032-1088H). .
Of this, then, in Revelation 14:8, we receive preliminary notification. The ends yaws before us, like a plane out of control; but it merely appears so, for its flight has been very uneven, and this is merely its approach to a landing which is smashing in character and burning in kind.
She experiences wrath for her fornication, which of course in a national entity full of wickedness, and in its mystic form an accomplice in the whole realm of murder for an age, refers to her dilettante religious embrace of so much from so many, so foul an act, for so long. Accordingly, we find ourselves shown in Revelation 14:9, a third angel, exposing the format succeeding that of mystery Babylon, whose demise is unregretted by her victims, and this one announces the next phase. It is the beast as in Revelation 17:16, now self-liberated from the religious party which for so long had influenced the decisions of the beast. It is this which comes in view and its penalties are final and fatal.
Now we find the need to escape this new and most blatant folly, its mark. This signifies submission, like stamped timber, belonging, and woe to those who submit to this spiritual tyro!! Such is the message of Revelation 14:9-10. This refers back to the virulence of Revelation 13 and the massive terrestrial control, not least financial, which is vested in this abominable beast. While we see something of the loathsomeness revealed in Revelation 14:11, the inward awareness of the needless defilement, and the scorching fires of guilt while time endures, we are reminded of "the patience of the saints", who adhere to the God of all truth and mercy and comfort. These indeed by no means divorce from His commandments, this not as the source of their salvation (unless in this, repent and be born again), by any means, but as the expression of their new natures and the longing of their hearts, though on this earth, perfect they are certainly not! (I John 1:7ff.).
Indeed, the matter overflows the cup, and in Revelation 14:13, we learn that in this testing milieu, blessed are the dead in the Lord. It is no small test, and no small trophy.
Now the view changes to a broader scope of action.
It does so from a specifically celestial perspective. Now we see an angel ? no, first we see someone like the Son of Man with the golden crown of glory on His head, but a sharp sickle in hand, and an angel cries for the sickle to cut, and the crop so gained to come. Reason ? the earth is ripe.
Next, this time an angel indeed, has a sickle which cuts ripe grapes, and rightly entered into our language is the result. Grapes of wrath are these, trampled!
What then do these two reapings signify ? Notice that the former reaping is by the Son of Man, and the latter by an angel. Yet it is not actually stated what is the area for each to reap. It is just that the former reaping is BY one like the Son of Man, that the language of reaping grain and wheat is known from Matthew 3:12, the wheat to the barn, the chaff to unquenchable fire. Matthew 24:24-30 has the same division, this time of wheat and weeds, as last time of wheat and chaff.
Do we know whether it is a parallel in this case ? whether it is concordant with the two kind in view, in the parables of John and Jesus ? Is it sure that the reaping by the One like the Son of man, is that of the elect and that by the angel that of the non-elect ? Is this then the general resurrection from the dead which is being signified in Revelation 14:14-20 ?
First let us be careful to observe that of which we must be sure. From this we look for a platform to consider the things less clear.
Thus this cannot be the general resurrection, because in Revelation 16:15, in a following development, we find the exhortation about keeping one's garments clean, indeed we learn that BLESSED are those who so do. If there were none to bless, how could the exhortation apply! If they were gone already in the general resurrection of the just, how could they yet remain ?
We conclude therefore that something else is intended in Revelation than the general resurrection. What then is it that occurs in these two reapings ?
Some might suggest: This is not sequential. Here is the general resurrection foreseen out of contextual flow, in one of those sudden elevations you can find in Revelation, seeing the end of the matter in a sort of expository consummation.
This indeed may occur, but is it so here ? In Revelation 15, we find this, that "Your judgments have been manifested." This certainly fits with precision and flow with the judgments of Revelation 14. To make it refer back to things other than what went just before, as its major referent would seem forced, to say no more. Next in Revelation 16, out go the sequential bowls of wrath, the vials. It is however in this field that we find the reference to the blessedness of those who keep their garments clean. Armageddon immediately follows in Revelation 16:16. Rome, divided, then falls. Its disjunction from the beast follows in 17:16, and its burning in Revelation 18. This is all sequential. Revelation 19 has the Lamb coming forth as the Word of God to judge.
It therefore does not seem possible to make Revelation 14's reapings, into the resurrection to acclamation in the Lamb and to damnation without Him. Moreover, in Revelation 14:17ff., we find the winepress in the case of the grapes of wrath is on earth, yet Revelation by no means stops at speaking of heaven in its own right (cf. Revelation 21-22), or of what is of the earth and of heaven in very different language. Indeed, the earth is dismissed as seen in Revelation 20:11, 21:1, by a categorical, terminal act.
Hence the result of the reaping for the grapes of wrath seen in terms of this earth and blood, and the language being indeed of this earth, it appears a case for this reflection: that if such things appear on the earth, what is the nature of things in the judgment to come!
Surely the spiritual virgins at no small cost retained their spiritual virginity (as in Revelation 2:25-29, 3:9-13, 3:16ff.). It is no tiny thing to resist the beast and the second religious version of the same in their joint blandishments and ferocities. These virgins on the one hand, and the spiritual viragos on the other have very different destinies. Reapings are similar in the cut, different in kind.
If these things then be admitted, what is the meaning of the first reaping and why is it so differentiated from the second ? It seems impossible to have the Son of Man reap in one case, an angel in the other, in view the more of the parables of John the Baptist and of Christ, to dismiss the difference, and to avoid the concept of mere duplication otherwise. What then is the meaning of both of these events, more particularly the former ? the one by the Son of Man being primary, both in sequence and in this, that the Saviour Himself being is
It seems that enormous bloody conflict is raging on earth, inveterate, ghoulish, illimitable in the wrath of man as he proceeds to experience in his repayment, the wrath of God (cf. Revelation 6). A vast assemblage is lost, many being the saints killed, to make up their number, for which the saints in heaven were told to wait (Revelation 6:9ff.). With these, there are to be other killings, even of the haters of God. They do not love each other, and the maestro, devil's messiah has his own lie, while others prefer others that do not fit his regime!
The cursedness of the earth becomes critical, as in the last raspings and gaspings of a heart patient. It cannot go on much longer. Vast is the depletion, vast the fury of the conflict, gross is the outrageous action of the Beast, who has not teeth in vain. Many die, some for the cause of truth and mercy, God and glory, the faith and the Lamb, and are ready and ripe for it in the final contest, while many others die in their mutual lusts and the sovereign lusts of the devil's messiah, the man of sin (II Thessalonians 2), this vulgar effort to imitate the inimitable, and to take on God.
It is indeed Revelation 11 as noted in Ch. 2 of Volume One of this work, Possess your Possessions, which signifies the resurrection of the saints, and the portent of Revelation 14 is that which must come to all, though here it is merely provided in a prelude, suggestive, impactive, a reservoir of reminder. It is in Revelation 20 that we see the reference to the resurrection of the elect, but only in specification, not action, in designation, not in dynamic. As the FIRST resurrection, before the millenium, it implies the second after it, for judgment.
The only sure reference, sustainable and designable, in Revelation to the action of resurrection comes in Revelation 11, and there the two witnesses are those who come in the first resurrection, and blessed are they (cf. News 87, End-note 1; Acme ... Ch. 5 The Kingdoms of This World and the Kingdom of Christ Ch. 6, Ch. 2 above)
That then appears to be the meaning and the portent, with perhaps the overtone that this is the TYPE of what is soon to come in the general resurrection, the prelude to which is seen in Revelation 19:9 and the incoming from that heaven to which the elect have gone and been received in the wedding of the Lamb. These with the Lamb come as it were, as witnesses, with Him.