Summary: This passage provides a clear contrast between the citizens of Mount Zion and the citizens of Babylon in their citizenship requirements, lifestyle and final destiny.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…
So begins Charles Dickens well known novel, A Tale of Two Cities. And both the title of his novel and its opening words convey quite accurately the picture that we’ll see this morning as we continue our journey through the book of Revelation. So go ahead and open your Bibles to Revelation 14 and follow along as I read, beginning in verse 6:
6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”
9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur 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, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
In this passage we’re introduced to two cities – one characterized by wisdom, belief, light and hope, and the other by foolishness, incredulity, darkness and despair. And it is these two cities that represent the destiny of every single human being who has ever lived on this earth. But before we examine these two cities in more detail, let’s take a moment to review where we are in our journey.
After the sounding of the seventh trumpet at the end of chapter 11, we enter into an interlude which covers chapters 12-15. That interlude focuses on seven major characters and contains seven sub-scenes. In the first three sub-scenes in chapters 12 and 13, we see Satan in action, with much of his work being carried out by his agents, the two beasts who represent the Antichrist and the false prophet.
In chapters 14 and 15, we see four more sub-scenes in which God is at work, also through His agents. Last week, in the first of those four sub-scenes, God’s work was carried out by the 144,000 men from all the tribes of Israel. Our passage this morning covers the second sub-scene, in which God’s work is carried out by three angels who also serve as God’s agents. And as these three angels carry out the tasks that God has given to them, we are given a clear picture of the marked contrast between two cities – Babylon and Mount Zion.
Although the events that we saw in the first part of the chapter that we looked at last week most likely occurred on the earthly Mount Zion, it is clear that Mt. Zion also represents something far greater than just a physical location, as we see in Hebrews 12:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12:22-24 (ESV)
In a sense, Mount Zion represents the entire kingdom of God and those who dwell permanently in the presence of Jesus and the Father.
Babylon also has a similar symbolic meaning. We’ll get into this in much more detail later in the book of Revelation, but for now, it is sufficient to understand that while Babylon is also a physical place, it, too, represents something more than just a location.