In this chapter, seven angels proclaim extremely serious disasters. Therefore, this chapter could be called a chapter of great trials, describing the most severe ordeals ever experienced in the history of the whole earth.
The first three are trials that the co-workers of the kingdom of heaven will experience during the expansion of the Kingdom of Heaven. Then the disasters that the whole earth will face at the end of times will come. That is the message the angels were proclaiming. At that time, what John saw, heard and wrote down was a prophecy; but today, most of those events have already happened, they have become history. The disasters past and future have already been determined and when the last catastrophe happens, it will be the end of this world.
The message in this chapter is proclaimed by angels. Many angels appear here one after another, not just one angel. This means that each angel is in charge of a different phase or a different event. The events proclaimed by the angels do not come one right after the other; there is an order of events but they are separated by a time lapse.
The first three angels are one group, proclaiming the three different trial periods of the church. After John wrote the book of Revelation, the church suffered three periods of rigorous trials.
THE PERIOD OF TRIAL OF THE GOSPEL AS IT SPREAD
6 我又看見另有一位天使飛在空中，有永遠的福音要傳給住在地上的人，就是各國各族各方各民。7 他大聲說，應當敬畏神，將榮耀歸給祂，因祂施行審判的時候己經到了，應當敬拜那創造天、地、海和眾水泉源的。
6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
The “eternal gospel”; the gospel started to spread after Jesus Christ came to earth; John the Baptist said: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He did not mention the gospel. Only after Jesus started preaching did He say : “The kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus was the one who started to call it “gospel”. Therefore, the events mentioned here pertain to the first few centuries.
Some might say that it is not fair that the gospel started after Jesus came to earth. What about those who lived before Jesus’ time, who did not have the opportunity to hear the gospel? Let me clarify something, the fact that there was no gospel before Jesus’ time does not mean that the people did not have the opportunity to know God.
The Israelites in ancient times never heard of the gospel, Abraham, Jacob or David did not know about the gospel, but they all belonged to God, they honored God. We cannot criticize the way God does things, regardless of what standards He uses to accept His people.
Every ethnic group in this world will have to take responsibility for their own beliefs and their own lives. Before the flood, there was Enoch and Noah proclaiming God’s Word; but the people stubbornly followed their own way of life. At the end, God’s judgment was poured on them. After the flood, Noah’s three sons respectively developed into different races. All the nations of the world originated from Noah’s three sons.
從創世紀十章我們看見，閃族在西亞洲發展，含族遷移到南方的非洲，雅弗族向世界各地移民，從研究DNA 的科學家們推論出來的人種移民圖(STANFORD 大學發表) ，這族人北至歐洲，南至澳洲，東至東亞洲，甚麽地方都去。各種族裔原來全部都認識神，他們藉著口傳，可以一代一代傳下去，人人都應該敬畏神。
From Genesis chapter 10 we can see that Shem expanded towards west Asia, Ham’s descendants migrated south towards Africa and Japheth spread all over the world. According to migration charts made by scientists who study the DNA of different races (published by Stanford University), the clan members of this group went to Europe towards the north, to Australia towards the south and to East Asia towards the east, these clans spread all over the world. Originally, all these races knew God; they used word of mouth to pass on the message that everyone should worship God.
Later on in history, we see that the descendants of Shem revered God the most; besides the Israelites, the Arabs still worship one God. After the event of the Tower of Babel, the descendants of Japheth continued to worship one God, the Chinese are well-known for this. From early Chinese manuscripts until the times of Emperor Qin Shihuang , there is mention of the Chinese people worshiping the Almighty God.
中國稱為禮儀之邦，這些禮節是有必要的。就像以色列的律法，是一種生活指導，教人怎按照規矩行事。孔子解釋中國兩大禮節，第一是｢郊社之禮，所以事上帝也。｣郊社之禮，乃是敬拜神的禮節。另一個是｢宗廟之禮｣，是記念先人( 不是祭祖) 。他說：｢踐其位、行其禮、奏其樂、敬其所尊、愛其所親。｣就是要學先人的生活，繼承他們的心願，遵守他們所守的禮節，喜歡他們所喜歡的音樂，尊敬他們所尊敬的人，愛他們所親的人。今天中國人的祭祖，完全走歪了路，變了拜鬼，求這些鬼魂保佑的迷信行動。
China is called a nation of ceremonial rituals, these rituals are essential. Like the laws that the Israelites have, they serve as a guide for them to live the proper way. Confucius explains the two greatest Chinese ceremonial rituals. The first one, “ceremonies of sacrifices to heaven and earth” is the ceremony for worshiping God. The other one is “the ceremony of the ancestral temple” which is done to remember their ancestors, not to offer sacrifices to them. He said: “Honor your forefathers, practice their ceremonies, and perform their music. Reverence those whom you honor, and love those whom you regard with affection.” That is, to learn from the lives of our ancestors, to carry on their aspirations, to observe their ceremonies, to enjoy the music that they liked, respect the people our ancestors respected and love the people that they loved. Nowadays, Chinese people are remembering their ancestors the wrong way, they offer sacrifices to their ancestors, they have become demon worshipers; they are superstitious and ask the ghosts of their dead relatives to protect them.
Chinese people were originally a group whom God was pleased with. Before Buddhism came to China, the faith of the Chinese people were the best in the world; at that time the Jewish people left God to worship idols, therefore suffering severe punishment, their nation was shattered, and taken into captivity by other gentile nations. Back then, the Chinese people were still faithfully following the teachings of their ancestors.
Chinese people followed the superstitious way at a later time; it was after Buddhism entered China from India and Zhang Daoling , a native from China started spreading false teachings of Laozi that the entire Chinese nation began to believe in false gods and Buddhas. From then on , the faith in God of the Chinese people went on decline, this happened in the last thousand years.
Originally, the whole world had a fair opportunity to know God because everyone came from the same ancestor. If they respected the words of their ancestors, they would have persevered in worshiping the one true God.
Besides the descendants of Shem and some of the descendants of Japheth, most of the people of the world abandoned the God of their ancestors so God gave them a second chance. He gave them: “The eternal gospel.” Jesus came to this world personally to introduce this gospel. Afterwards, the Europeans (the descendants of Japheth) were greatly benefited from it, but the most pitiful ones were the people from India. Mark had personally brought the gospel to India but the people from India abandoned the true God and turned to the worship of idols and many different kinds of false gods. They believe in Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism but do not want to believe in Christianity. When the eternal gospel spread out, it was already their second chance.
Those who suffered severe persecutions were the earlier Christians. It was the first severe trial that the co-workers of the Kingdom of Heaven had to bear; there was a lot of blood shed before the gospel spread to other places. When this gospel spread, it did not discriminate against any person or ethnic group. Christians had already put their lives in danger as they spread the gospel to many nations which produced different outcomes. That is also a decision that people made for themselves.
THE TESTING PERIOD OF IMMORAL TEACHINGS
8 第二位天使接著說：叫萬民喝邪淫大怒( 失理性) 之酒的巴比倫大城，傾倒了。
8 And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.”
這巴比倫大城，在本書第一次出現。很多人以為，巴比倫就是末後的大帝國，是十叁章的那頭獸。其實啟示錄所說巴比倫，不是帝國，是稱為｢大城｣的。以後在十七到十八章還有機會精細地看巴比倫。This the first time that Babylon the great appears in this book; many people think that Babylon is the great empire that is about to come, which is the beast in chapter 13. Actually, the Babylon mentioned in Revelation is not an empire; it is called “the great city”. Later on in chapters 17 and 18, we will see Babylon in greater detail.
The second greatest test for Christians will be under Babylon. So, what is Babylon? Where is this place? From chapter 17 we can see that she is the great prostitute. She is an organization that is filled with spiritual immorality and worships idols (17 :5). Muslims don’t worship idols; even though they are violent they cannot be described as immoral. The beast from the sea mentioned in the chapter before is the political regime that persecuted Christians, the beast from the earth is the false prophet , the religious organization that apparently seems to teach the right things but their teachings are false. The Catholic Church is the only organization that has implemented the papal system; the Bible has already used the name “Jezebel” to describe it.
Jezebel, a queen, assumed the authority of a king and led the people of God to worship idols, to believe in superstitions, she is the adulterous woman. The prophecy about Babylon in Revelation is mostly mentioned in Jeremiah 51. The prophet Jeremiah saw a vision ; he spoke many prophecies concerning the Babylon of ancient times. Who would have known that many of those prophecies were about the future Babylon?
The Babylon mentioned in Revelation is not the Babylonian Empire but Babylon, “the great city”. She is like an adulterous woman, a prostitute, which seduces the nations to drink the wine of her immorality. Jeremiah 51:7 says, “Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the Lord, intoxicating all the earth. The nations have drunk of her wine; therefore the nations are going mad.”
In chapter 18 there is a voice that called out to the people of God saying: “Come out of there, my people.” Those words also came from Jeremiah’s prophecy. We will examine this later on in chapter 17. For now, we only need to know that the great prostitute is the immoral queen Jezebel, she seduced God’s people to worship idols and false gods, and she committed adultery. They also murdered many Christians for many hundreds of years. They had great authority and power, anyone who is against them will be charged with heresy and be killed.
At the beginning of the 11th century, there were a total of 8 expeditions made by the Crusades to kill not only Muslims and Jews but also Christians who did not agree with their beliefs. The Crusades are a major disgrace to the Christian Church. Nowadays, the Catholic Church admits that it had committed a great mistake, and it happened because the church at that time had too much authority; they had more power than the kings that ruled over the European nations. They killed those who believed in their same God. Anyone who was against their authority would be killed; that kind of imperial supremacy that lasted for a long went against all the teachings of Christ. The Church should not use violence or military force; it should not fight for political power. The phrase “Holy War” was started by them; it is the reason why Muslims and Jews detest Christians for.
THE PERIOD OF TRIAL OF THE BEAST ‘ S IMAGE AND THE BEAST ‘ S MARK
9 第叁位天使大聲說：若有人拜獸、獸像，在額上、在｢手上受了印記，10 這人也必喝神大怒的酒，此酒斟在神忿怒的杯中，純一不雜。他要在聖天使和羔羊面前，在火與硫磺之中受痛苦。｣
9 Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
This is the third time the Christian faith is severely tested. We have already studied the beast in chapter 13, which is a great empire made of an alliance of many nations that are enemies of God during the end times, we shall call it “New Persian Empire Alliance”; of course, as of today, this alliance does not exist yet but it will happen in the near future.
During the seven years of the great tribulation, the alliance of the 10 nations that are enemies of God will greatly impress many people. The whole world will be afraid of them; people will have to follow and obey whatever they say. Those who are not on their side will suffer great loss, will go through severe hardships and might have to give up their own life.
受印記的｢受｣，是自動主動的受，不是被強迫的。是人自己樂意受這印記。這印記是可見的mark ，不是屬靈的seal 。但七年風光的日子過後，這獸的跟從者就會受到有史以來最嚴厲的審判，他們都要面對神的忿怒。這裡用了兩個字來形容神的忿怒。
Those who receive the “mark” will be doing it willingly; they will not be forced to receive it. People themselves will be willing to accept the mark. It is a mark that will be visible; it is not a spiritual seal. But after those well-off seven years had passed, the followers of the beast will receive the most severe judgment ever, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. They will have to face God’s wrath. Here, two words are used to describe God’s wrath.
(1) ὀ ργ ῆ ς ( orgēs ) ｢怒氣｣。此酒斟在神忿怒杯中純一不雜。這是比較常用的忿怒，描寫怒氣一直堆積，而且是久久不散。人犯罪惹動神的忿怒，就會承受相應的懲罰。不過聖經特別說明神的忿怒是很短的。雖然這字是描寫長時間的怒氣，但神的怒氣只是轉眼之間，恩典乃是一生之久。所以神對祂子女的管教懲罰一直降低程度，一直用父母的心來管教。
( 1) ὀ ργ ῆ ς ( orgēs ) (wrath). The wrath of the wine of God mixed in full strength. Used often to describe anger that is accumulated for a long time that does not dissipate. People’s sin provokes the wrath of God which in turn will bring the corresponding punishment. But the Bible specifically states that God’s anger is just for a moment. Although this word describes an anger that lasts for a long time, God’s wrath lasts for a moment but His favor lasts a lifetime. That is why God disciplines and punishes His children at a lesser and lesser degree. He disciplines His children with the heart of a parent.
“Full strength”, what does that mean? In those times people used to dilute the wine with water so it would look like there was more wine, but that reduces the purity of the alcohol. Here it tells us that God will not decrease the standard of his judgment; at the end, He will absolutely not lighten the punishment of the wicked; there will be no more mercy, the cup of wrath will be full strength, highly concentrated. This alliance of the 10 nations, this beast, will cause major injuries on Christians. But Christians must know that those who follow the beast instead of following God will have a very dreadful ending because they will receive God’s merciless punishment.
( 2) θυμο ῦ ( thymou ) 是｢忽然的狂怒｣。是不能控制，像醉酒、失去理性的暴怒，這是很可怕的。很多人錯手殺人都是由於這種狂怒。這神的狂怒只在啟示錄出現，只在末世顯出來。現在神仍然是施恩的神，當人悔改回頭，祂馬上消去祂的忿怒，在最後的日子、施恩日子過去之後，那就是神報仇的日子，這種怒火永遠不會過去。(2) θυμο ῦ ( thymou ) (sudden fury). Uncontrollable fury as if intoxicate; that is very dreadful. Many people kill because of this kind of anger. This fury from God only appears in Revelation and only during the end times. Today , God is still the God who sheds mercy, when people repent and turn back to Him; right away God’s anger disappears. At the end of times, when the time of God’s favor has passed, God will avenge Himself; that fury will never pass away.
10 and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
They will be tormented in eternal regret in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. This means that they had the opportunity to receive a different ending, there is the gospel proclaimed by the angels, there is the Lamb who died in our place, but they rejected it all. The grace of God departed from them forever, their souls in eternal agony in the lake of fire. “The smoke of their torment goes up”, this phrase was also used to describe the dreadful ending of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
“They have no rest day and night”, having no rest at all is a very painful thing. The United States learned from the Korean War how Chinese people used special skills to deal with terrorists. The way to do it was by not letting the prisoners rest at all. The officers would take turns to interrogate the prisoners nonstop until they could not take it anymore and at that point they would be willing to give away any answers. Even prisoners and slaves need time to rest.
When John wrote about the three trial periods, all of them were future happenings for him. Today, when we read about it, only one trial period is in the future, the other two trial periods have already passed and the third trial period is about to come very soon.
When the alliance of the ten nations impacts the whole world, the believers who are still on the earth will experience severe trials. These verses are remarkable, not because they describe the pains of the persecuted Christians but because it shows the severe judgment of those who persecute God’s people.
All those who persecuted the believers the first time, the second time and the third time will be severely punished. That is God’s encouragement to comfort those who belong to Him so they persevere in hope as they face the hardships of the end times. Christians will suffer, but those who persecute them will suffer greater harm. This is to encourage mankind not to lose their eternal joy for temporary gain.
THE FAITHFUL ONES WHO PASS THE TEST
12 Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
The end of those who are faithful to the Lord will be different. They will have a very good ending because even though they had to go through severe hardships on the earth, they still held fast to God’s Word.
Maybe other people might not know how faithful these believers are, but God knows. God told John to write these things down. John kept writing down everything, but what he recorded was details of the vision. Now the voice told John to write down what he heard because this message was very important, more important than the vision he was seeing.
Nobody feels that dying is a blessing, but here it tells us that dying is a blessing. Not all the dead are blessed, only those who die in the lord. In the vision we cannot see the inner quality of the believers; they belong to the Lord, they are His friends, they live for the Lord and die for the Lord, the Lord is always with them, they are blessed in this world, and more blessed in the next.
The phrase “from now on” comes together with the blessing. That is to say, that blessing will be linked tightly with them from now on to eternity. The Savior will receive them, they will enjoy the fruit of the tree of life, and those who overcome will receive a reward in the presence of the angels and of God the Father.
Why is dying a blessing for them? Because they will not have to suffer any more, they will only have blessings, no more hardships, tears, pain, and sickness. They will be enjoying God’s abundant grace for ever and ever. Furthermore, the work of their labor will remain forever, no matter what their accomplishments are, great or small, no matter if someone pays attention to their work or not, their work will never fade away. What they have will only be sweet memories. There is indeed a very big difference between the physical death of a believer and that of an unbeliever. Maybe there is not much difference in the physical pain because everyone has to endure physical pain even those who do not follow the beast.
THE FIRST HARVEST – THE HARVEST OF THE WHEAT
14 我又觀看，見有一片白雲，雲上坐著一位好像人子，頭上戴金冠冕，手裡拿著快鐮刀。15 又有一位天使從殿中出來，向坐在雲上的大聲喊：伸出你的鐮刀來收割，因為收割的時候已經到了，地上的莊稼已經熟透了。16 坐在雲上的，就把鐮刀扔在地上，地上的莊稼就被收割了。
14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
Because this paragraph and the next one mentions “a sharp sickle” and “the harvest”, people might think that it refers to the same matter. Actually, there are two different kinds of harvest. This section talks about the harvest of the wheat which is done by the one sitting on the cloud who was one like a son of man.
The angel that came out of the sanctuary, from the throne of God cried with a loud voice that it was time for the harvest, which is the time of the rapture of those who belong to the Lord, it is a good harvest. The next section talks about the angel in charge of the altar and the fire from the altar. The altar is made out of bronze, it is also a place of judgment where the sacrificial animal is offered.
The last two angels are in charge of the great judgment during the last 7 years. The sickle is very sharp; the hour to reap will come swiftly and without delay.
The one sitting on a cloud was “one like a son of man”. Some say that the words “one like” means it is not Him. Originally, “son of man” did not necessarily refer to Jesus; Ezekiel and Daniel from the Old Testament called themselves “son of man”. But if we really understood the meaning of “son of man”, we would know that it is speaking about the Lord Jesus. “One like a son of man” means that it resembled the form of a man. The angels are the ones who do all the talking in this entire chapter, angels are not human beings; they do not have the form of a man. The only one who can sit on a cloud and has the form of a man is Jesus Christ because He was the only one who became flesh and took the form of a human being.
He had a golden crown on His head, a royal crown. Our Lord is truly forever victorious. The crown of a winner is made out of leaves and branches, is temporary, it can decay. But the crown of great victory is a golden crown which lasts forever.
粺子( 葡萄) 的收割
THE SECOND HARVEST – THE HARVEST OF THE GRAPES
17 又有一位天使從天上的殿中出來，他也拿著快鐮刀。18 又有一位天使從祭壇中出來，是有權柄管火的，向拿著快鐮刀的大聲喊：伸出快鐮刀來，收取地上葡萄樹的果子，因為葡｢萄熟透了。｣19 那天使就把鐮刀扔在地上，收取了地上的葡萄，丟在神忿怒大酒醡中。20 那酒醡踹在城外，有血從酒醡流出來，高到馬的嚼環，遠有六百里。
17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.18 Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.
The harvest of the grapes represents the judgment for the wicked at the end of times. The grapes will not be able to escape the great wine press of the wrath of God. The gathering of the grapes and the harvest of the crops have a different meaning . The harvested crop is stored in a barn but the grapes are placed in a wine press and are trodden outside the city, the juices of the grapes resemble blood, which is used to describe the judgment of the wicked.
在20 節有一個數字，中文譯作六百里，譯者想說出實際的範圍有多大。不單那時血流成河，血還會高到馬的嚼環，就是至少五、六英呎深，加上六百里大的範圍。其實啟示錄的數字大多數是有特別含意的，不能亂加修改。原文是1600 stadia 。1600 是40×40 的結果。四十是考驗數，像主耶穌在曠野受試探40 晝夜。40×40 就是最終極最大的考驗，是全地要面臨的大考驗。是歷史裡面從來沒有見過的大考驗。
Verse 20 mentions a number which is two hundred miles. The numbers that appear in the book of Revelation have a special meaning; therefore, they should not be changed. The original text says 1600 stadia. 40 x 40 equals 1600. 40 is a number that represents when someone is put to the test, like when Jesus was in the wilderness and was put to the test for 40 days and nights. 40 x 40 is the ultimate test, is the greatest test that the whole earth will have to face. It will be the greatest test ever seen in the history of the whole earth.