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The Harvest of the Earth

Revelation

Aug 20, 2023


by: Jack Lash Series: Revelation | Category: God's Wrath | Scripture: Revelation 14:14–20

I. Introduction
A. This is the sixth vision of seven, though they’re not explicitly numbered in the text.
1. The vision of the great red dragon and the woman in Rev.12
2. The vision of the first beast in Rev.13:1-10
3. The vision of the second beast in Rev.13:11-18
4. The vision of the Lamb of God and the 144,000 in Rev.14:1-5
5. The vision of the three angels and their messages in Rev.14:6-13
6. Today: the vision of the harvest of the earth in Rev.14:14-20
7. Next week: the seventh and final vision of the seven angels and the seven plagues in Rev.15
B. Rev.14:14-20 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped. 17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.
C. All through the Bible, the language of harvest is used to describe what happens on the judgment day as God harvests mankind and deals with each person according to His justice. Jesus says it clearly in the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matt.13:24-30; 36-42.
1. The kingdom of heaven is compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while sleeping, his enemy sowed weeds among the wheat. When the good plants came up, the weeds also appeared. The servants said, ‘Master, where did all these weeds come from?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants asked, ‘Do you want us to remove them?’ But he said, ‘No, at harvest time the reapers will gather the weeds first and burn them, and then gather the wheat into my barn.’ Then He explained the parable, “I am the one who sows the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather all law-breakers and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
2. As you can see, this harvest image is used to describe both the gathering of the elect to the presence of Christ and the gathering of the wicked to be punished. (Cf. Joel 3:13.)
II. Interpretation
A. There are two pictures here in Rev.14:14-20. Everyone agrees on that.
B. The first picture only describes One riding on a cloud being told to reap a harvest.
C. The second picture describes an angel telling another angel to harvest the grapes, which he throws into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
D. The first picture focuses not on the harvest, but on the harvester, who is clearly the Son of God.
E. The second picture focuses on the harvest, which is a harvest of the wicked and judgment on them.
F. Dozens of times in the Bible, it depicts a dual harvest of the saved and the lost (e.g. Matt.3:12). But sometimes only one of the two is mentioned.
G. The question is: Does this passage mention both or just the harvest of the wicked?
H. Some take it as one harvest scene depicted twice. I agree with those who see the dual harvest here.
I. But whether this vision is about both aspects of the final harvest, or just about the judgment part of it, both are clearly taught in Scripture – and elsewhere in the book of Revelation.
J. So, though I am going to approach this as referring to both the positive and the negative sides of the final harvest, my conclusions will apply even if I’ve misunderstood this aspect of the passage, because even if this vision doesn’t refer to the harvest of the saved, there are plenty of other passages which do (Is.27:12-13; Hos. 6:11; Matt. 9:37-38; Mark 4:26-29; John 4:35-38).
K. And one thing is clear, the emphasis in this passage is on Jesus the great harvester, and upon His righteous harvest of judgment which He one day will perform upon those who are ripe for judgment.
III. The two harvest scenes
A. 14-16 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
1. Verse 14 describes one like a son of man, seated on a cloud, with a golden crown on his head. This is clearly Jesus, as in the vision of Daniel 7:13-14 “with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and...to him was given dominion and a kingdom,” which contains all three of the descriptions here.
2. 15 “And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud...”
a. It may sound strange to see an angel telling the Son of God what to do. But remember two things:
(1) The Greek word for angel means messenger. So, the message comes not from the angel but from God through the angel. That’s why the angel comes from the temple, where God is.
(2) Even the Son of God doesn’t know the day/hour of the end (Matt.24:36, Mk.13:32, Ac.1:7). So, here the message from God says, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” (15b)
3. 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
4. And that ends the description of the first harvest in this vision. Then comes the second...
B. 17-20 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.
1. 17 “another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire”
a. It is significant that this angel comes out from the altar and has authority over the fire.
b. First of all, this connects this judgment with the prayers of the saints before the altar in 6:9-10.
c. It also connects it with what the altar was for. The altar, it seems, represented the earth.
(1) The four corners of the altar represented the four corners of the earth.
(2) And the fire of the altar represented the fire of God’s judgment coming down on the earth.
(3) However, animals were sacrificed and burned with fire on the altar in place of and as a substitute for the sinner. The Lamb was sacrificed in place of the sinner, pointing forward to Christ’s death upon the four-cornered cross in place of the ones who deserved it.
d. 18-19 Then the angel “called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, ‘Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.’ 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth.”
2. And then in 19b-20 the grape harvest was thrown “into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.”
a. In order to get the juice, a grape has to be squeezed. And this was traditionally done by putting the grapes into large vat & stomping on them. This is what is meant by “the winepress was trodden.”
b. But these grapes represent people, and so the trampling yields not wine but blood.
c. And there’s so much blood! Blood flowed from the winepress, as deep as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia, almost two hundred miles away.
d. This gory picture of slaughter is God’s terrible judgment of the wicked, one aspect of the last judgment inaugurated by the return of Christ. We’ll see it again Rev.19:17-18.
e. And this sea of blood is the real red sea out of which God's people have been delivered.
f. ??? “the winepress was trodden outside the city”
(1) The city referred to here seems to be the new Jerusalem. The righteous are taken into the city, but the rest are thrown into the winepress of the wrath of God outside the city.
(2) This is consistent with Rev.20:8-9, where unbelievers are judged outside the “beloved city.” See also Rev.21:8 with 21:27 and 22:15, as well as Zech.14:2-5, 12-16.
IV. So, today’s vision is, in my opinion, difficult to digest but relatively easy to understand.
A. The Bible talks a lot about the wrath of God and His judgment on the wicked on the last day.
B. It’s perhaps the most hated theme in all of Scripture. “It’s bad enough that the Bible dares to tell us how to live and what to believe, but it’s even worse that it has the audacity to tell us that we will be eternally punished if we don’t.”
C. But the book of Revelation is not ashamed of the horror of the coming judgment. It is chock-full of vivid imagery pointing to the day of God’s vengeance.
D. None of it makes much sense to the modern mind. It seems vindictive and cruel.
E. But can sinners be trusted to accurately measure the weight of their sin? Doesn’t the criminal always think that the punishment is too great?
F. When Cain killed Abel, it wasn’t Cain who heard Abel’s blood crying out for justice, it was God.
G. If the criminal is trusted to determine his own penalty, very little punishment will be meted out.
H. I can understand those who can’t accept what the Bible says about some people going to hell. But let me ask a question: If there is a supreme, all-powerful, all-knowing God, what are the chances that that God would agree with me on all my opinions? Isn’t it obvious that any God who agrees with all my opinions cannot be the true God?
1. We don’t need a god who is the product of our own wishes and imaginations!
2. We need the true God, who can correct us and set us straight where we’re wrong.
3. After all, we’re so finite, so limited, we’ve lived just as few years in a few places, but He is the ancient of days who cannot be contained by the whole universe!
I. Here this vision in Rev.14 tells us that the grapes of wrath have become ripe for judgment and are cut down and thrown into “the great winepress of the wrath of God,” and the winepress was trodden, so that the blood flowed from the winepress.
1. Are we scared to ask the question of who tramples the grapes such that they turn to blood?
2. This is the very question asked in Isaiah 63:1-3 Who is this who comes...in crimsoned garments...marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” 2 Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? 3 “I have trodden the winepress alone... I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.” 4 For the day of vengeance was in My heart... 6 I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.” Cf. Isaiah 34:2-8.
3. The question of who tramples the grapes is answered even more clearly in another vision, in Revelation 19:11-16, “Then I saw heaven opened, and One called Faithful and True, in righteousness he judges and makes war...He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God... From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations...He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God. On his robe and thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
4. Yes, it is the living God! Yes, it is Jesus Himself!
5. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
6. No wonder we read in Rev.6:16-17 that on that day the wicked will call to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
J. BUT — if it is true that the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, will one day tread the wine press His wrath and pour out the lifeblood of rebellious earthlings, as we read here, we must always remember that before pouring out their blood, He was the very One who poured out His own blood upon the cross (Is.53:12) as the savior of mankind. The death of the wicked is only the result of refusing His death as their only hope of salvation.
K. The Bible mentions the wrath of God more than 600 times. And no one talked about the reality of hell more than the Lord Jesus Himself.
L. But He’s also the One who gave up His very life to rescue people from hell.
M. Only a fool gets offended at God’s justice instead of accepting His mercy!
N. The very first step of faith is accepting the enormity of our sin and the justice it deserves.
O. And that is followed by accepting the even greater enormity of the grace of Jesus Christ to cover our sin and cleanse us from our guilt.
P. And all those who do that sing a new song to the Lamb, “Worthy are you, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Rev.5:9-10