I have some pretty solid evidence that the 144,000 of Revelation 14:1-5 is the same 144,000 which was previously seen by the Apostle John in Revelation 7:1-8. I also have defended the idea on many occasions that the rapture is witnessed by John in both Revelation 7:9-17 and Revelation 14:14-16. If you notice, in the Revelation 7 account, the events of sealing and rapture seem to happen back to back. However, in Revelation 14, we have a significant interlude in between these two events. The three angelic announcements come just after the description of the 144,000, but before the rapture of the church. What is the significance of these three announcements?
I believe there is one common denominator that ties them all together. They all seem to address events that are occurring during the great tribulation, but they all focus on God’s wrath in response to that great tribulation. God’s wrath will occur at the coming of Christ. When Christ comes, there will be many events that take place, but the first will be the rapture of the church. So these announcements are designed to show us what is in the mind of God as He is preparing to send His Son to pour out His wrath. They also show that the chronological progression of Revelation 12-16 is moving forward from the description of the great tribulation into describing the wrath. In other words, the angelic announcements are anticipatory of God’s response to the events of the great tribulation.
The first angelic announcement concerns the preaching of the gospel throughout the entire earth. I believe that the angel represents the spiritual forces at work through the church. The church is the vehicle through which God proclaims the gospel message until the end of the age. Mark 13:9-13 is worth reading out loud. In that passage, the message of the gospel goes forth while the disciples suffer persecution. The end of the age will not come and can not come until the gospel is proclaimed throughout the entire earth in the midst of this persecution. When we hear the first angelic announcement, this should be a time marker to us that the gospel has been preached in the midst of persecution (culminating in the great tribulation) and now the stipulation of Mark 13:10 has been achieved. The end of the age can now come.
The actual announcement shows that the hour of judgment is now come. The time of God beginning to judge the earth is at hand. In response to that, the angel bids us to worship Him who created heaven, earth, sea, and springs of water. This is God extending to the earth one final chance to repent before He cuts loose with His wrath and anger. The martyr witness of the church has gone forth, but now the time for choice is almost over. So the preaching of the gospel shows that the great tribulation can now draw to a close and lead into the time of vengeance against those that have been persecuting the church.
The second angelic announcement concerns Babylon the Great. We don’t know anything about Babylon at this point in the vision. However, we can turn to Revelation 17-19:5 and find out exactly what is meant here in this brief mention of her name. In that section, we see that Babylon will be a city which will be linked to the reign of the antichrist. This city has an identity apart from the antichrist, but they will both have the same Satanic agenda. There will come a point in time when the kings that are united with the antichrist will burn the city as merchants from afar watch the smoke rising. This must occur after the antichrist has reigned with the kings for some measure of time. This reign begins in conjunction with the 42 months of power given to the antichrist at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week, Revelation 13:5. Then after some measure of time, Babylon is burned by the ten kings. This shows that we are most of the way through the great tribulation and Christ’s coming is at hand.
There will be another destruction of Babylon at the end of God’s wrath when the seventh bowl is poured out. So even though this city is burned with fire by the ten kings, God has one more thing to accomplish against her. I believe this is found in Revelation 18:21. Here the destruction is not just with fire, but the entire city is cast into the sea never to be found again. So during the great tribulation, just before Christ is to return, the city of Babylon (whichever city that may be) will be burned with fire through human means, namely the ten kings, but by divine direction (Rev. 17:17). Then Christ comes and begins to administer the wrath of God. Then just as God’s wrath is being completed, the great city is split into three parts, Messiah slaughters the armies at Armageddon, and God dumps the remains of Babylon the Great into the sea never to be heard from again. The burning of Babylon by the ten kings will be anticipatory of God’s wrath to be shortly poured out when Christ returns.
The third angelic announcement concerns those who take the mark of the beast. The mark of the beast will be instituted as the antichrist begins his reign of 42 months. This will begin the great tribulation against those who refuse the mark, which will be the saints according to Revelation 13:5-10. Here it is spelled out in no uncertain terms the grave consequences for taking the mark of this beast, and for even worshiping the beast before you take the mark. When we read the description of the beast in Revelation 13:1-4, we notice that the world is worshiping the dragon (Satan) and the beast. It is this worship (which precedes the mark of the beast) which will bring the condemnation spoken of by the third angel. This worship is accelerated by the rise of a second beast. This beast is a false prophet who will perform Satanic miracles to convince people to continue in their worship of the antichrist and Satan. The false prophet will supernaturally bring an image of the beast to life and cause the world to worship this image as well. Then the false prophet issues a mark for those who wish to continue to buy and sell within the kingdom of the antichrist. This will cause those worshipers of the beast to outwardly show what they had inwardly done. They will mark their bodies as being dedicated to the beast (the antichrist).
The angelic announcement makes it quite clear that all who worship the beast will suffer eternal damnation from God to be meted out in the presence of holy angels. The warning spells out doom for those who worship the beast, then it mentions worshiping the image of the beast, and finally warns against taking the mark of the beast. This is the same progression that was described in Revelation 13 when describing the reign of the beast. The angel also informs his hearers that those worshipers of the beast will drink of the full strength of God’s wrath through torment by fire and sulfur. As if to drive the point home, the angel concludes by stating that there will never be any respite for those who decide to worship the beast, worship the image of the beast, or receive the mark of the beast (again in the same order).
Taking all three angelic announcements together, they stand as reminders of the impending doom upon the beast followers as the great tribulation is drawing to a close. This time of great tribulation will be cut short and lead into the Day of the LORD which contains God’s wrath. In all three announcements, God’s wrath is at the forefront. Each of the announcements concerns events that are occurring during the great tribulation, but they project beyond the great tribulation into the time of God’s judgment which will come quite quickly once the events line up. When the cosmic signs occur at the sixth seal, they are a physical sign to the nations as to what will shortly take place. These three angelic announcements are similar in that they portray the “why” and “how come” of God’s wrath which will overtake the great tribulation as Christ comes in power and glory. They are all connected to the coming of Christ in some way.
Remember that the first event to occur before God’s wrath is poured out is the rapture of the church. Believers are exempt from God’s wrath because of His grace showed to us through the blood of Jesus Christ. We have no righteous works which will spare us from God’s wrath, only the work of Christ on the cross can do that.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman