Revelation 14 Devotional
Much of this fourth section of Revelation has been a description of the enemies of God and God’s people—who they are, what they are like, how they persecute, what they worship. Chapter 14 is a description of the end of those enemies. This is one of the most graphic and sobering chapters in Scripture, and, therefore, we need to be careful in what applications we draw from it.
Three different angels (vv. 6, 8, 9) fly throughout the earth warning of the eternal punishment of hell that will come to anyone who does not trust the gospel message. The first angel announces the need to believe the gospel. The second angel pronounces that the sinful world that tries to seduce us will come to an end. The third angel describes hell. The image is of the unsaved person drinking a cup filled with God’s wrath, and he is tormented forever in the presence of Christ. The fact that this happens in Christ’s presence may go against what many of us have thought about hell. A lot of people think of hell as being separated from God. Hell is not the removal of God’s presence; rather it is the removal of God’s gracious presence. After the final judgment, there will only be wrath left for those who have not trusted Christ. It’s not the fire and sulfur, per se, that people ought to fear; it’s God himself. The result of God’s punishment is that the smoke of the unbelievers’ torment rises up forever; in the second image of hell in verses 17–20, the result is that the blood of unbelievers flows from the winepress far, wide, and high. It is a total and complete destruction of the wicked, and, as verse 11 tells us, it goes on forever without end.
It is a terrifying picture and hard to read. My own immediate reaction is to want to put it out of my mind and forget it because it’s just so gruesome. Everything else in the world seems so trivial and unimportant after reading this chapter. But as hard as it is to believe in an eternal punishment, it goes against God’s nature to say that he would do anything else with those who spent their whole lives in rebellion against him. He’s not a sadistic tyrant who loves torturing people. He is just and holy, and his justice and holiness demand that he punish evil.
There are a lot of applications we can make from this chapter. One application is that this vision of hell is a call for believers everywhere to be strong in endurance knowing that evil will be punished (v. 12). Another application is for believers to keep themselves free from the sin that brings about this punishment (vv. 4–5). Another is a reminder of the rest and joys of heaven that come along with God ridding the universe of evil (v. 13).
One application, however, that I think we should focus on is evangelism. Revelation 14 shows us the necessity of evangelism and the motivation for evangelism. The eternal gospel must be proclaimed to all those who dwell on earth, every nation, tribe, language, and tongue. There is no other way to be saved from this eternal punishment than to accept and receive that Christ has already been punished for you. Unless you believe the gospel, your sin will condemn you. That is true of every person who has ever lived. Therefore, just as I wrote for Revelation 11 a few days ago, it is the number one responsibility of the church to spread the gospel message to all people. If we are not telling people the gospel, we’re not doing any good.
But Revelation 14 also gives us the proper motivation for evangelism. I came across another quote on Twitter recently, this time from Tim Keller: “Bad evangelism says: I’m right, you’re wrong, and I would love to tell you about it.” Do you understand what he means there? Bad evangelism has the mindset of, “You’re wrong, you need to be like me.” On the other hand, good evangelism says, “We’re all sinners, and we all need a Savior.” Do you see the difference? Good evangelism gently, lovingly, and adamantly tries to convince people that they are sinners who face punishment. Bad evangelism is prideful and more concerned about being right than about rescuing people. Do not fall prey to the subtle temptation of pride when you talk about Christianity or the Bible with unbelievers. Rather, plead with tears in your eyes for them to see their need for Jesus or else they will suffer for eternity. How can you read Revelation 14 and not be filled with heart-breaking compassion for all those who don’t yet believe the gospel?
Let’s take that compassion and use it to reach out to the lost. Let’s also pray that we would be more willing evangelists and that many people would come to know Christ through our witness before it’s too late.