More Observations from Rev. 14:12
By Jonathan Mitchell
In the previous study on this verse, we saw its connection to the preceding three verses, and I suggested that "the set-apart folks" of vs. 12 were the "agents (messengers; folks with the message)" of vs. 11. So here let us look for corroborating Scriptural evidence for the use of fire connected with God's people, the place of the metaphor of fire in God's interaction with people, and explore practical applications for these settings in our day-to-day lives.
It is a mistake to presume that the visions set forth in the book of Revelation describe situations that are set in situations following life here on earth. Like apocalyptic visions in the OT that spoke of things that either were happening in the days of the prophets, or would happen in the Middle East in their future, and most of which have already happened, in our past. So let us first of all look at the setting of this visionary picture in Rev. 14:9-12.
The immediate setting begins with 14:1, and involves
"The little Lamb [is; was] standing (or: having made a stand) upon Mount Zion (or: the mountain, Zion), and with Him [are] one hundred forty four thousand: folks continuously having His Name, and (or: even) His Father's Name, having been written upon their foreheads" (vs.1).
This is a symbolic picture of Christ and His called-out, covenant communities (aka, the "church"). We find this same setting, Mt. Zion, in Heb. 12:22-24,
22. But to the contrary, you folks have approached so that you are now at Mount Zion - even in a city of a continuously living God; in "Jerusalem upon heaven" (or: in a Jerusalem pertaining to and having the character and qualities of a superior, or added, heaven and atmosphere; or: in Jerusalem [situated] upon, and comparable to, the atmosphere) - also among ten-thousands (or: myriads) of agents and messengers (people with a/the message):
23. [that is] in (or: to) an assembly of an entire people (or: an assembly of all; a universal convocation) and in (or: to) a summoning forth (or: a called-out and gathered community) of firstborn folks having been copied (from-written, as from a pattern; or: enrolled; registered) within [the; or: various] atmospheres (or: heavens), and in (or: to; with) God, a Judge (an Evaluator and Decider) of all mankind, even among (or: to; with) spirits of just folks (or: breath-effects from those who are fair and equitable and in right relationship within the Way pointed out) having been brought to the destined goal (perfected; finished; matured; made complete),
24. and in (or: to) Jesus, a Medium (or: an agency; an intervening substance; a middle state; one in a middle position; a go-between; an Umpire; a Mediator) of a new and fresh (young; recently-born) arrangement (covenant; settlement; a deposit which moves throughout in every direction; a placing through the midst; a will and testament), and to and in blood of sprinkling, and to One continuously speaking something superior to (or: stronger and better than) Abel.
Notice that this is where the writer says that WE ARE. This is from the perfect tense of the Greek verb. We have already arrived. This is an apocalyptic picture of the present "heavenly," or, spiritual situation and location (in the new creation) of the body of Christ - right now, just as were the Hebrew Christians to whom this letter was written, in the first century. This description was set in stark contrast to Heb. 12:18-21 which described the situation of Moses receiving the Law that initiated the old covenant. The writer is saying we are not under the old covenant or the Law, but instead we have come into the new covenant that was initiated on a different mountain. Paul made a similar contrast in Gal. 4, speaking of Hagar (the slave girl) and Sara:
22. For it has been, and stands, written that, Abraham had two sons: one forth from out of the servant girl (the maid; the female slave), and one from out of the freewoman.
23. But, on the one hand, the one from out of the servant girl (the maid) had been born (generated and birthed) down from (in accord with; on the level of) flesh (= by human means); on the other hand, the one from out of the freewoman [was] through Promise (or: a promise)
24. - which things are habitually being allegorized (or: are normally being expressed in an allegory; are commonly spoken of as something other [than what the language means]) - for these women are (= represent) two settled arrangements (covenants; contracts; wills): one, on the one hand, from Mount Sinai, habitually (repeatedly; continuously) giving birth into slavery (or: bondage) - which is Hagar. [cf Ex. 19:17 (LXX)]
25. Now this Hagar is (= represents) Mount Sinai, within Arabia, and she continuously stands in the same line (or: keeps step in the same rank; marches in a column; walks or stands in a parallel row; or: is habitually rudimentary together; = corresponds to) with the present Jerusalem, for she continues in slavery (or: bondage) with her children.
26. Yet, on the other hand, the Jerusalem above is (continues being) free, who is (or: which particular one continues being) our mother.
Then in vs. 31 Paul makes this an application to us:
31. Wherefore, brothers (= fellow believers; family), we are not (we do not exist being) children of a slave-girl (a servant girl; a maid), but, to the contrary, of the freewoman.
So when Rev. 14:1 speaks of Mt. Zion, we understand that this is a code word for the new covenant. And here it is a "heavenly," or spiritual, situation because Paul elsewhere informed us that Christ,
"jointly roused and raised (or: suddenly awakens and raises) [us] up, and caused [us] to sit (or: seats [us]; = enthroned [us]) together within the things situated upon [thus, above] the heavens within and in union with Christ Jesus, to the end that within the continuously oncoming ages (the indefinite time periods continually and progressively coming upon and overtaking [us]) He may exhibit (display; point out; give proof of) the continuously transcending (being cast beyond; overshooting) riches and wealth of His grace and favor, in useful goodness (beneficial kindness) [flooding] upon us, within Christ Jesus (or: in union with [the] Anointed Jesus)" - Eph. 2:6-7.
We are in heaven now, and are seated with Christ, upon Mt. Zion (another name for Jerusalem, the place of the temple: us).
Now take note of the purpose of our being where WE ARE:
"to the end that, within the continuously oncoming ages HE may exhibit [to other people]... His grace and favor in useful goodness [flooding] upon US."
We are to be reflecting His grace to the world. This is why His "agents of exhibiting" (His image and His grace) in the presence of those who are presently undergoing His transforming Fire and His Divine qualities (Rev. 14:10). We are to live and demonstrate the Christ Life (symbolized here as His holy fire of purification and transformation) before others, and be "messengers" of His Good News: Jesus Christ is Lord, and the little Lamb (the slain, but living one - Rev. 5:6) upon the throne.
Observe again that the Lamb is in the presence of those who, having the mark of the little animal (the Adamic, fallen or untransformed nature) in their minds and upon their actions (figured by the forehead and the hand). We now have the mind of Christ, figured by our Father's name "written upon our foreheads" (Rev. 14:1b). I suggest that those of vs. 1 are the agents of vs. 10.
In Nu. 21 we read the story of God's judgment of Israel that was sending "fiery serpents" among them. Moses made a copper serpent, put it on the pole and all they had to do was "LOOK" at it and be healed. Now Jesus referred to this very incident in Jn. 3:14,
"And so, just as (or: correspondingly as) Moses lifted up (elevated; raised up high) the serpent, within the wilderness (desert; desolate place) [Num. 21:7ff], thus it is necessary and binding for the Son of Mankind (Humanity's Son) to be lifted up."
Then in Jn. 12:32, He said,
"And so then I, if I should be lifted up from out of the earth (or: when I can be exalted forth from the midst of this Land), I will progressively drag [note: drag as with, or in, a net; or: draw, as drawing water with a bucket, or a sword out of a sheath] all mankind (or: everyone) to Myself."
What we see happening in Rev. 14:10 is His agent-messengers (His body; His folks with the message) lifting up the little Lamb to those in the flames of His dealings. It is in this place that the viewing of the Lamb is drawing them unto Him. We see another application to the Nu. 21/Jn. 3:14 connection in 2 Cor. 3:18, as WE behold Him and are being transformed:
"But we all, ourselves - having a face that has been uncovered and remains unveiled [note: as with Moses, before the Lord, Ex. 34:34] - being folks who by a mirror are continuously observing, as ourselves, the Lord's [= Yahweh's or Christ's] glory (or: being those who progressively reflect - from ourselves as by a mirror - the glory of [our] Owner), are presently being continuously and progressively transformed into the very same image, from glory into glory - in accord with and exactly as - from [the] Lord's Breath-effect (or: from [the] Spirit and Attitude of [the] Lord [= Christ or Yahweh])."
[comment: considering the context of 2 Cor. 3, this may refer to the transformation from glory of Moses, into the glory of Christ; or, it may be speaking of a from time to time transfiguration from the glory of humanity into the glory of the Anointing, on an individual basis] In Heb. 1:7 we have a quote from the Psalms:
"He is the One making His agents (messengers; folks with the message) spirits (or: Breath-effects), and His public servants a flame of fire." [Ps. 104:4]
[comment: this is an example of Hebrew parallelism - the second line being a restatement of the first, but in a different figure; the figure is a reference both to the priests, as "public servants," and to the called-out community, figured as the lampstand in the Tabernacle in Rev. 1:20, and referencing Acts 2:3 - there being "tongues as if of fire" burning on the lamps in the one case, and upon the people in the second case; the agents speak a message of words that are "spirit," the effect of the Breath]
Then in vs. 14 of that same chapter,
"Are not all people public-serving Breath-effects (or: spirits; winds), being sent forth unto attending service because of those folks being about to progressively inherit deliverance (or: receive the allotment of salvation, health and wholeness)?"
So we, being one spirit with the Lord (1 Cor.6:17) we are His "public-serving Breath-effects" being sent forth to serve others with the life Christ, the fruit of love. We are characterized as His "flame of fire."
We saw in the last study that in Mal. 3:2-3 God sits as "a refiner's Fire" as a "purifier of gold and silver" with a view to their righteousness (their being rightwised: turned in the right direction of the Way, the Truth and the Life), and that the location was Judah and Jerusalem - the place of His temple (us).
Peter admonishes us, 1 Pet. 4:
12. Beloved ones, do not repeatedly feel like strangers to the burning (= the action of the Fire) within and among you folks, which is habitually happening to you with a view toward your being put to the test (or: which is repeatedly coming into being in the face of a proving trial for you; which is progressively birthing itself to an examination in you), as though a strange thing or a foreign occurrence is repeatedly walking with you folks.
13. But on the contrary, keep on rejoicing and being glad to the extent or degree that you folks are continually participating with a common share in the effects of the experiences and the results of the sufferings of the Christ, to the end that, while continuously exulting and celebrating exceedingly, you folks can (or: should; would) also rejoice within the unveiling of His glory (or: in union with the disclosure of His reputation; or: in the midst of the praise-inducing manifestation which is Him)!
And so, we return to Rev. 14:12,
"In this place is (or: Here exists) the persistent and patient endurance (the steadfast, humble remaining-under for support) of the set-set-apart folks (or: from the saints) - the people continually keeping watch upon (guarding, observing, having custody over) God's implanted goals (impartations of the finished product within; inward purposed directives and inner destiny) and the faith of Jesus (or: the trust pertaining to Jesus; the loyalty belonging to Jesus; the faith which belongs to and comes from Jesus; the conviction which is Jesus; the reliability of and from Jesus)."
Our calling is to offer "persistent and patient endurance" while giving "steadfast, humble remaining-under [the situation which, and the people whom, we encounter] for SUPPORT" of their needs. We are His agents (or, vessels) of mercy. It is in the very place of their experiencing the fire of His love. But they do not recognize it as an expression of His love. All they know is the pain, the sorrow, the regret, the loss, etc. But this is why our Father has brought them into our presence.
Heb. 12 ends with the reminder that "our God is a consuming Fire" (vs. 29). When we understand that He sends the burning into our field with the purpose of cleansing it of competing weeds (Heb. 6:7-8), we should also realize that a farmer does not then throw away a field that he has just burned off. No, he now plants a new crop of Good Seed into it.
All of the pictures and metaphors are given to us to teach us His ways for this life. It is here that we need His "course adjustments" and "dross removal." But of course, if it doesn't happen in this life, He is the same for the ages as He was yesterday and is today (Heb. 13:8). He will always be
"the Anointed Savior (Christ Jesus)," and in the ages to come we will be there for folks, exhibiting His grace and mercy to them and informing them to "just look at the little Lamb, and be healed."
If we can imagine the scene in Jerusalem on that historic Day of Pentecost that is described in Acts 2, we will see 120 people gathered together and it will look like a lake of fire. Verse 3 instructs us that,
"progressively dividing and self-distributing tongues - as if of fire - were seen by them, and He (or: it; or: [one]) sat down upon each one of them."
They had become human lampstands: the light of the world. Rev. 1:20 figuratively pictured the called-out, covenant communities as lampstands, and there 2:1 informs us that the resurrected Christ is
"continuously walking about within the midst of the seven golden lampstands,"
i.e., the within the communities of His body. That visionary scene in Revelation is an allusion to Dan. 3:25 where One like the Son of God was seen "walking in the midst of the fire" with the three Hebrew men. My wife, Lynda, just added this observation:
"When they were thrown into the fire, it didn't destroy them, it DELIVERED them! The fire burned off their bonds and set them free.... This is a manifestation of sons with THE SON. There was no smell of smoke or burning... the Word says that when we lose our life, we actually FIND IT. God would have us see the whole; His all-embracing beauty that leads us into a radiant Hope! His intent is not to destroy, but to save. This is the liberty that sets all of creation free. It is the Anointing (Christ) fire of His HOLY Spirit, burning away the dross of those things which have 'fallen short' of HIS GLORY!" (emphasis original)
She then recalled Ps. 12:6,
"The little thoughts and messages (logia) of and from [the] Lord [= Yahweh] are harmless, acceptable and pure thoughts (messages; ideas; little Words): [they are] silver having been purified and refined by fire, tested and put to the proof (and thus, approved) in the Land and for the earth - one having been, and being, cleansed and purified seven times" (LXX, JM).
Note that the perfect participle in the final clause of this verse is singular, and so it is referring to the Land and the earth.
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