“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).
“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:9–12).
A third angel arrives and delivers his warning in a loud voice. This warning concerns anyone who worships the beast and/or the image of the beast. This would be done by receiving the mark of the beast on the forehead or on the hand. Taking such a mark is an indication of total dedication, total allegiance. That being the case, God’s response to this impudence is total judgment.
We saw earlier that those who refused this mark were denied the privilege of buying and selling (Rev. 13:17). But those who take the mark are given the wine of the wrath of God to drink. It is the wine of wrath (thymos), and it is poured into the cup of wrath (orge), and it is poured in an unmixed form into the cup they must drink from. In this life, the wrath of God is revealed against the ungodliness of men (Rom. 1:18), but in this life it is always mixed with common grace. The ancients used to dilute wine with water in order to “cut” it, and they also used to add spices to their wine in order to increase the kick. The two words used here refer to both practices, one in reverse. This wine is mingled with spices and unmixed with water. It is a hard drink.
What is the drink? It is to be tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. They suffer their torments with Jesus watching—which should be enough to make us reject the saccharine portraits of Jesus that some love to paint. This is a terrifying picture—it is the wrath of the Lamb. It is better to have mountains fall on you and crush you than to have to deal with the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16). Fire and brimstone destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24). God promises to do this to the wicked generally. “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup” (Ps. 11:6). And this is the composition of the final lake of fire—it is a lake of fire and brimstone (Rev. 20:10). Brimstone is an archaic word for sulfur.
They have no rest, day or night. The smoke of their torment ascends forever. In this they are like their forerunner in judgment. “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them . . . are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). These cities, totally wrecked and gone, are still described as suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. The destruction of Edom is described by Isaiah in a very similar way.
“It shall not be quenched night nor day; The smoke thereof shall go up for ever: From generation to generation it shall lie waste; None shall pass through it for ever and ever” (Is. 34:10).
This description of ultimate judgment is either literal or symbolic. If it is literal, then it is really bad. If it is symbolic (as the echoes of Edom and Sodom seem to indicate), then the reality is worse. Symbols are always less than the reality they represent.
Considering their final destination, those who keep the commandments of God, and those who keep the faith of Jesus, are exhibiting the peculiar patience of the saints. They can withstand the torments that men deliver because they have no intention of risking the torments that will happen in the presence of the Lamb.