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Subject: THE FINAL REAPING OF GOD'S HARVEST (14:14–20)
The book of Revelation is written to give us a clear understanding about the coming of Christ that yet awaits human history. The great day of the harvest of the earth is coming, when the ungodly and evil of this world will be harvest by our Lord. He will appear in sovereign glory, the very same Jesus the world crucified and rejects. He will not come like the first time, but this time he come to judge the ungodly.
This will be the final harvest of the earth, when the Lord Jesus Christ reaps the earth in the judgment. The first time Jesus came to earth, He came as a servant. This time He will come as the sovereign King. The first time Jesus came obeying. This time He come as one commanding. The first time Jesus came, He came alone to live with a Jewish couple in a small obscure town. This time He will come with all His holy angels to take over the whole earth. The first time Jesus came in humility. This time He will come in glorious majesty and splendor. The first time Jesus came, He came to seek and to save the lost. This time He will come to judge and sentence the lost. Or, to put the contrast in the terms of our text, the first time Jesus came He came as the sower. Next time He will come as the reaper. He came in grace, He comes in wrath.
In our last study we saw in 14:6–13 the announcement of the coming climactic judgment as a warning to professing Christians. At the close of 14:13, the Lord gives a positive incentive to those who are left to remain faithful John hears a voice from heaven say, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” The voice told John to record that it would be a blessing for the believers who live during the great tribulation to die as martyrs. There are two reasons given in this verse for the blessedness of dying in Christ. The first is that by dying they will “rest from their labors.” The term “labors” stresses the pain and the persecution of living as witnesses in a wicked world which seeks to overcome them ( 2 Cor 6:1-10). The second reason for the blessedness of the saints who die in the last days is that their “deeds follow with them.” If there are consequences for wickedness and unbelief, so there are consequences for righteousness and perseverance. What is a cause for fear on the part of sinners is a cause for faith on the part of the believer (1 Cor 15:58). J. Vernon McGee once said, “God does not save anyone for his works, but He does reward us for our works. Our works (good or bad) are like tin cans tied to a dog’s tail; we cannot get away from them. They will follow us to the judgement seat of Christ.” Always remember the words of Hebrews 6:10: “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work.” He will reward you one day!
After the brief pause to comfort the saints, John returns to the subject of God’s divine wrath poured out upon the earth. This is done by way of the picture of a harvest by which God reaps the earth (14:14-20) and by way of the seven last plagues, the seven bowl judgments which are poured out on the earth (chapters 15 and 16). The vision of chapter 14 symbolically portrays the final acts of God’s judgments in the last days of the Tribulation consisting of the seven last plagues which conclude with the final phase of Armageddon when all the nations are gathered together in the Valley of Megiddo. Joel 13:9-17 Verses 14–20 describes the judgment at the end of history. That judgment is depicted as now actually taking place. The judge is “one like a son of man sitting on the cloud,” which is an allusion to Dan. 7:13 and stands in the interpretative tradition of Matt. 24:30. This tradition usually associates the Son of man’s coming with both redemption and judgment. In Matthew 24 Jesus prophesies that he as the Son of man is to come on the clouds both to judge and redeem (Matt. 24:27–51; so likewise Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27 though possibly all these texts and, Matt. 26:64 and Mark 14:62, highlight judgment of Israel).
This heavenly figure “has a golden crown on his head”. The crown identifies him as king over his people, who rule with him and also wear “golden crowns” (4:4, 10; 2:10; 3:11; 12:1). His crown also evokes kingship over his enemies (19:12). The following verses show that his “sharp sickle” is a metaphor of judgment.
The seven seals have been opened. The seven trumpets have blown. The abomination of desolations by the Antichrist in the temple of Jerusalem has taken place. The persecution of Israel has escalated to a fever pitch. The execution and martyrdom of Christians all over the earth is going on. The whole earth and sky is devastated by divine judgment, divine vengeance. Satan is ruling the earth with the iron fist of Antichrist, aided by the false prophet, the whole remaining world is deceived into worshiping the Antichrist as if he were God and blaspheming the true God and Jesus Christ. It is the worst time in the world's history. We have been talking about the details of that period to come known as the Tribulation in the latter half of that seven-year period known as the Great Tribulation. We are now toward the end of the Great Tribulation and people all across the earth are hoping things are going to get better. It seems as if they couldn't get worse, but they will. Times will become worse, rapidly so and finally so. The judgment that ultimately sweeps away Satan and sweeps away Antichrist and sweeps away the false prophet and sweeps away the demons and sweeps away all ungodly people is about to start. It is portray under the final reaping of the earth. Here is the recorded final holocaust that gives the world its greatest bloodbath ever, the fury of Christ released in final and devastating judgment. This section presents two scenes, both depicting the judgment of God upon the earth in imagery drawn from Joel 3:13 , which reads,
(Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.)
A. The Judge (14:14-16): Jesus himself is the reaper, accompanied by three angels.
God will harvest the earth (14:14-20). In these remaining seven verses John sees an end-time harvest. “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.” Verse 14 describes one sitting on “a white cloud.” “The cloud” probably represents the glory of God. The whole description is very similar to Daniel’s prophecy of Messiah’s second coming (Dan 7:13-1414 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.). “Son of Man” is a messianic title of Jesus Christ in Scripture (1:13; Dan 7:13-14; Matt 8:20; 24:30; 26:64; John 5:27).
The “son of man” is Jesus Christ. He is wearing a victor’s crown and holding a sharp sickle with which He does the work of judging ( Mark 4:29). Since the sickle is sharp, the reaper can do His work swiftly and completely. “The harvest” is an Old Testament figure used for divine judgment (Hos 6:11; Joel 3:13). This judgment will occur at the end of the tribulation (19:17-21). 14:14 Son of Man. Is an imagery of the Lord on a cloud as seen in Dan. 7:13,14 and emphasizes magnificent majesty (1:7; Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Acts 1:9–11). golden crown. The victor’s crown, a laurel wreath, worn by those who celebrated victory in war or athletic competition. Christ now wears this particular crown, in this case made of gold, as a triumphant conqueror coming out of heaven to prevail over His enemies with a sickle. A harvesting tool with a razor-sharp, curved steel or iron blade and a wooden handle, commonly used by ancient farmers to cut grain. It represents swift and devastating judgment
1. The Second Reaper verse 15 “Another angel”
This does not suggest that the person of verse 15 is an angel. “Another” simply relates this agent to the other angels mentioned earlier in the chapter. Angels are messengers whom God uses to carry out His purposes, even with the Son of Man.
“Came out of the temple” calls our attention to the fact this angel comes from the heavenly temple, from the very presence of the Father.
“Crying out with a loud voice” Here an angelic being gives orders to the Son of Man, but Christ Himself said that the Father had set within His own limits the times for the end (Matt. 24:36; Acts 1:7). This is therefore, the Father giving directions to the Son of Man to execute the final judgments through this angelic messenger. He said “because the hour to reap has come” ( Heb. 10:12-13; Psalm 2:7-9).
Reaping is symbolic of death and destruction that will be produced upon the earth. Does this reaping include both saints and sinners? The parable of Matthew 13 thee wheat and the tare we learn that “the harvest is the end of the age and the reapers are the angels” and that “the Son of Man will send forth His angels and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness and will cast them into the lake of fire” (Matt. 13:39-41a). But in the parable as Christ told it before giving the meaning, he said of the tares (the enemy or unbelievers) and of the wheat (the people of God, believers), “allow both to grow together until the harvest; and I will say to the reapers, ‘first gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up, but gather the wheat into My barns’” (13:30).
Note that while the angels gather the tares for judgment, the righteous are left on earth where the kingdom will be established. It seems evident from this and the context of Revelation 14 that the sickle of Revelation 14 is for the judgment of unbelievers only. Believers are not in view here.
“Because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” The phrase “is ripe” is the Greek verb which means “to dry” or “be dry, be parched, withered”. It refers to a dry or withered harvest. Ryrie says, “The inhabitants of the earth are withered, lifeless and fully ready for judgment.” Mankind was to be a productive vine for God’s glory but the nations turned from God. Then God chose and called out the nation Israel who was to be a choice vine, but she too turned away (Isa. 5). So God brought forth the True Vine, the Lord Jesus Christ who alone brings fruit and glory to God and only those who believe in Him and abide in Him can be productive. Everyone else must wither and be gathered for judgment.
2. The Reaping verse 16 “ and the earth was reaped”
The final judgments of the Tribulation which culminate in Christ’s return are referred to in one quick and sweeping statement. Here we have the ultimate source of reaping, the Lord, the act, and the result. The verb “was reaped” is a looking at the final victory of Jesus Christ. This promises and states the fact of victory before the details are given later in Revelation. The details of this victory will come in the following chapters.
God judges because He sees all the evil in the world and it angers Him. He must judge because He is loving and just. If He did not judge, He would be immoral. This is an easy concept to understand if you are a parent. There are times when you don’t want to discipline one of your children. You may be weary or frustrated or you may not have the heart to discipline. There have been times when we must discipline our children for disobedience. We can’t make exceptions nighter can God, He is just and righteous, therefore He must discipline His children and punish His enemies.
B. The judged (14:17-18): The unsaved and unrepentant of the earth.
In 14:17-20, John continues to reveal God’s harvest judgment: “And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.’ So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred and eighty miles.” In 14:18, another angel, the sixth in this chapter, came out from the This is probably an allusion to his responding to the tribulation saints’ prayers for vengeance from under the altar and the golden altar of incense in heaven (6:9-10;8:3). His “power over fire” may indicate his authority to execute punishment.
C. The judgment (14:19–20)
1. Sinners will be crushed as overripe grapes in a winepress (14:19)
In 14:19, the earth had yielded a crop of unbelievers that now, at the end of the tribulation, would come into judgment. The angel took them from the earth to undergo judgment in God’s great grape press ( Isa 63:1-6; Lam 1:15; Joel 3:13). The picture here is drawn from the imagery of the winepress. When grapes were put into the winepress, people inside it would stomp around on the grapes so that the juice would flow down into a collection vat. The treading of grapes was a familiar figure for the execution of divine wrath upon the enemies of God.
2. Their blood will flow out in a stream 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle (14:20)
Verse 20, is a gruesome verse: “And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.” Since the city in view escapes this judgment, Babylon is evidently not the city in view. It is instead Jerusalem. The Old Testament predicted that a final battle would take place near Jerusalem, in the valley of Jehoshaphat, the Kidron Valley just to the east of Jerusalem; (Joel 3:12-14; Zech 14:4; Rev 11:2). It seems probable that blood will literally flow up to the height of horses’ bridles (about four and a half feet) in some places in that valley. Obviously many people will have to die for this amount of blood to flow.
Blood will come out from the wine press of God’s wrath for a distance of 200 miles, the length of Palestine. Evidently, this figure describes the judgment that will take place all over Palestine, not just in the valley of Jehoshaphat. Much of this action will take place in the valley of Jezreel in northern Israel the battle of Armageddon; 19:17,19. In that place God will put vast numbers of people to death ( Isa 63:1-6). The blood will evidently drain out of the Jezreel Valley for a distance of 200 miles, probably eastward down the Harod Valley, to the Jordan Valley, and south into the Dead Sea. This will be a gruesome sight! The central message of this is, God is not to be messed with! He will judge His enemies. He will be victorious over the Beast, the False Prophet, and all of Satan’s henchmen.
Battle Hymn of the Republic
1 Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
2. I have seen Him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
3 He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never sound retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
O be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
4 In beauty of the lilies, Christ born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on
5 He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave;
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave.
Our God is marching on.
Chorus: Glory! glory, hallelujah!
Glory! glory, hallelujah!
Glory! glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.
MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
Osborne, Grant R. Baker Exegetical Commentary on Revelation. Published by Baker Academic a division of Baker Book House Company Grand Rapids, MI
Beale, G. K. T N I G T C Book of Revelation. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co
The Preacher Outline and Sermon Bible. Leadership Ministries Worldwide Chattanooga, TN.
Reddish, Mitchell G. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary: Revelation. Smyth & Helwys Publishing , Inc. Macon, Georgia
Jeremiah, David, Escape The Coming Night, Published by Tyndale House Publishers
New King James Study Bible
King James Prophecy Study Bible
Logos Bible Software