Rev. 20:12 – I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne … (HCSB)
I also saw the dead
Evidently these are unbelievers of all time summoned to final judgment. They are “dead” in three ways. First, they are spiritually dead, separated from God by their unbelief. Second, they are physically dead, having died and now having been physically resurrected to stand in judgment. Third, they are everlastingly and irreversibly dead; once their judgment is complete, they are cast into the lake of fire where they experience unending separation from their Creator and are shackled with the reality that God has given them what they desire: the freedom to live independently of Him for eternity.
John describes them as “the great and the small.” They are the famous and the obscure; the mighty and the frail; the elderly and the young; the educated and the unschooled; the peerless and the impoverished; the gifted and the ordinary; the blunt and the arcane; the religious and the atheistic; the moral and the decadent; the violent and the gentle; the arrogant and the fearful.
God is no respecter of persons. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:45). Christ’s offer of salvation is open to Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free. The kingdom of heaven is populated with people every tongue, people, kindred, and nation, and there is equal representation before the great white throne.
Rev. 18:6 – Pay her back the way she also paid, and double it according to her works. In the cup in which she mixed, mix a double portion for her. 7 As much as she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, give her that much torment and grief, for she says in her heart, “I sit as a queen; I am not a widow, and I will never see grief.” 8 For this reason her plagues will come in one day – death and grief and famine. She will be burned up with fire, because the Lord God who judges her is mighty. (HCSB)
Pay her back
The voice from heaven calls, “Pay her back the way she also paid, and double it according to her works. In the cup in which she mixed, mix a double portion for her” (v. 6). To whom is the Lord speaking? Perhaps His angels, who execute judgment, or perhaps the earth’s wicked who unwittingly carry out God’s justice, thinking they are conquering a vanquished foe.
Twice there is a reference to double payback. We have seen this before in scripture. The Lord speaks through Isaiah that Judah will be comforted after she has received from the Lord’s hand “double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:2). This is a way of saying that Judah’s sentence is fully satisfied before God. In a similar manner, the Israelites are promised in Isa. 61:7, “Because your shame was double, and they cried out, ‘Disgrace is their portion,’ therefore, they will possess double in their land, and eternal joy will be theirs.”
Rev. 14:15 – Another angel came out of the sanctuary, crying out in a loud voice to the One who was seated on the cloud, “Use your sickle and reap, for the time to reap has come, since the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 So the One seated on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. (HCSB)
The earth was harvested
John picks up the narrative in verses 15-16: “Another angel came out of the sanctuary, crying out in a loud voice to the One who was seated on the cloud, ‘Use your sickle and reap, for the time to reap has come, since the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So the One seated on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.”
The harvest in these verses, though not stated explicitly, refers to wheat or barley. The word for ripe (Gr.: xeraino) describes dried heads of grain and is different than the word used of ripened grapes in verse 18.
The phrase “another angel” does not imply that the “One like the Son of Man” is an angel. John simply is continuing his observation from the point of the three angels in verses 6-13. This angel comes out of the sanctuary and heads straight for the One holding the sickle. He bears a message from God the Father, who is seated on His throne in the heavenly Holy of Holies (Rev. 6:9; 8:3; 11:19). The message is simple: The time to reap has come; the earth is ripe for harvest. The One seated on the cloud asks no questions, nor does He hesitate. He swings His sickle over the earth, and it is harvested.
No doubt this is a harvest of people on the earth. But who are they? Commentators differ in their understanding of this passage. Some believe this is the harvest of the just, coming before the harvest of the unbelievers (vv. 17-20); it is distinct just as the wheat harvest is distinct from the harvest of grapes. Others, however, argue that scripture normally speaks only of unbelievers being cut down. Therefore, both the One like the Son of Man and the angel with the sickle are engaged in destroying the wicked; one harvest, two perspectives.
Rev. 14:12 – This demands the perseverance of the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus. (HCSB)
This demands the perseverance of the saints
Verse 12 reads, “This demands the perseverance of the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.” This is similar to the message of Rev. 13:10: “This demands the perseverance and faith of the saints.” In both passages, the Lord reminds the persecuted saints – and perhaps even their persecutors – that He will judge the wicked. Yes, the beast will wield great power, ascend to a worldly throne, and command people of every nationality to bend the knee to him. Yes, he will harangue, imprison, torment and slaughter those who refuse to worship him. At times it will seem that faithfulness to Jesus is unbearable and unrewarded. But those who “keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus” one day will be vindicated. Those who take Christians captive will be imprisoned themselves. Those who harass God’s people will find there is no rest for them in this life or the life to come. Those who take the sword and extinguish the lives of the faithful will long for death themselves but find it illusive as they suffer God’s wrath.
“In the fiery ordeal of persecution which awaits all who will not worship the beast, the faith and patience of the followers of God and Jesus shall be put to the test, and proved” (R. Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, D. Brown, A Commentary, Critical an Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Rev. 14:12).
The saints who persevere will be rewarded for their godly works at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Jesus urges His followers to lay up treasure in heaven, where it is kept safe and will endure (Matt. 6:20). The apostle Paul informs us that our works of faithfulness, like gold, silver and precious stones, will be refined in the fires of judgment and emerge purified (1 Cor. 3:11-15). And in Revelation Jesus reminds us that our faithfulness will be rewarded (Rev. 2:23; 22:12).
Popular television shows like “Ghost Adventures” use the latest technologies to “prove” that spirits of the dead are all around us – and want to make their presence known.
But is this true? The short answer is no. As Christians, we must gauge all truth claims by the Bible, the ultimate and unchanging measure of reality.