Rev. 14:2 – I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of cascading waters and like the rumbling of loud thunder. The sound I heard was also like harpists playing on their harps. (HCSB)
I heard a sound from heaven
John sees the Lamb and the 144,000 together on Mount Zion. Then, he writes, “I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of cascading waters and like the rumbling of loud thunder. The sound I heard was also like harpists playing on their harps” (v. 2).
Several times in Revelation we are confronted with either the sound of waterfalls or of thunders. When these sounds are heard in heaven they result in worship and praise, but when they are directed to activities on earth these sounds seem to herald God’s judgment. Observe:
Rev. 1:15 – “His voice [was] like the sound of cascading waters.” This is the voice of Jesus, which, along with His appearance, causes John to fall at His feet as a dead man.
Rev. 4:5 – “Flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder came from the throne …” This is accompanied by the worship of four living creatures who never stop saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming” (v. 8).
Rev. 6:1 – “Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’” This is followed by the first seal judgment on earth: the white horse.
Rev. 8:5 – “The angel took the incense burner, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it to the earth; there were rumblings of thunder, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” This is the seventh seal, preparing the way for the first trumpet judgment.
Rev. 11:19 – “God’s sanctuary in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant appeared in His sanctuary. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings of thunder, an earthquake, and severe hail.” This is the seventh trumpet judgment.
Rev. 16:18 – “There were flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder. And a severe earthquake occurred like no other since man has been on the earth – so great was the quake.” This is the seventh bowl judgment.
Rev. 19:6 – “Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder …” This announces the marriage of the Lamb as the multitude shouts, “Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, has begun to reign …”
The glory of God
Roaring waters, lightning and thunder can be awesome spectacles that declare the glory of God, depict His presence, and strike fear in the heart of people. Perspective is everything, and it appears that creatures in heaven see and hear these elements as causes for worship, while those who rebel against God on earth understand that the One who creates these magnificent natural wonders may also use them to announce His divine displeasure.
But what of the harps? The harp is a well-known musical instrument used in the service of God. The Jewish historian Josephus describes it as having 10 strings, although other sources say the triangular-shaped instrument has either seven or 11 strings, which are strummed with a piece of ivory. In any case, the harp accompanies songs of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. We have seen and heard harps before in Revelation. In chapter 5, the sound of harps blends with the song that the 24 elders raise before the throne of God.
According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the harp is the national instrument of the Hebrews. It was invented, we’re told in Gen. 4:21, by Jubal. Some think the Hebrew word for harp, kinnor, denotes the whole class of stringed instruments. Harps are used to accompany songs of cheerfulness and praise (Gen. 31:27; 2 Chron. 20:28; Ps. 33:2; 137:2). David plays the harp to soothe King Saul’s troubled soul (1 Sam. 16:23). And in our current passage of study, the 144,000 standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion are praising their Redeemer with a sound “like harpists playing on their harps” (Rev. 14:2). No doubt this stringed instrument is associated with peace, joy, and praise – fitting reasons for those in heaven to employ them in worship.
Next: They sang a new song – Revelation 14:3