In the last verses of this chapter we see two scenes that both deal with judgment. Both scenes represent the judgment in the picture of a harvest. The first scene (verses 14-1614Then 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.15And 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.”16Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.) shows the judgment in the metaphor of a wheat harvest. The second scene (verses 17-2017And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.18Then 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.”19So 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.20And 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.) shows the judgment in the metaphor of a wine harvest. That two metaphors are used here therefore means that the judgment has different aspects. Both scenes are in connection with the coming of the Lord Jesus.
V1414Then 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.. Together with John we look at the first metaphor. He sees “a white cloud”. ‘White’ speaks of cleanness, purity. There is also mention of a white horse (Rev 19:1111And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it [is] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.) and a great white throne (Rev 20:1111Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.). The cloud makes us think of the glory in which God was in the midst of His people Israel. That cloud led the people through the wilderness and dwelled in the tabernacle and later in the temple (Exo 40:3535Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.; 1Kgs 8:10-1110It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD,11so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.; Mt 17:55While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”).
Then John notices a person, One like “a son of man” (Rev 1:1313and in the middle of the lampstands [I saw] one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.; Dan 7:1313“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
). That is the Lord Jesus. He sits on the white cloud like He sits on the white horse and on the great white throne. Absolute purity is one of His features in exercising the judgment. He appears in Divine, royal glory, presented in the “golden crown” that He wears “on His head”. What a contrast to the crown of thorns that He once wore on His head on earth. “In His hand” He has “a sharp sickle”. The instrument for the harvest has been sharpened, ready to cut the harvest in one smooth movement.
V1515And 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.”. The picture of the Lord Jesus on the cloud radiates rest. He waits for the time to come into action. The judgment is given to Him because He is the Son of Man (Jn 5:2727and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is [the] Son of Man.). Then another angel comes out from God’s holy presence to announce that the hour of the judgment has come. This is the hour which the Lord Jesus did not know of as Man, an hour that was only known by the Father (Mk 13:3232But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father [alone].).
The reason for the judgment is also given and is clear. An end has come to all patience. Actually “the harvest of the earth is ripe”. ‘Ripe’ possibly has the meaning of ‘rot’, which therefore indicates the incorrigible corrupt moral condition of the earth, so that the judgment that will be executed will be fully justified. ‘Ripe’ also indicates that God has shown an excess of patience before He makes that judgment to be executed.
V1616Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.. When it has been announced that the hour has come, the Lord Jesus comes into action. He swings His sickle over the earth and reaps the earth. Now what’s going on here? In order to get a better picture of it you should take a look at the parable of the weeds (or tares) among the wheat in the gospel according to Matthew (Mt 13:24-30,36-4324Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.25But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away.26But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.27The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’28And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’29But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.30Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest 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 barn.”‘“36Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”37And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,38and the field is the world; and [as for] the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil [one];39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.40So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.41The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,42and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.43Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.). There you see that with the wheat harvest a distinction is made between tares (a weed that looks very much like wheat) and wheat. When the harvest time has come – which is the moment that the Lord Jesus swings His sickle over the earth – the Son of Man says to His angels that they must gather all things that offend and all who practice lawlessness and cast them into the furnace of fire.
In the parable you see some things that clarify the scene of the reaping of the earth. The Lord Jesus accomplishes the judgment, but He does that through the means of His angels. The wheat harvest is a picture of the separation between good and evil (cf. Mt 3:1212His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”), but here the emphasis lies on the judgment over the evil. In the end time the judgments are not accomplished at the same time, but they take place in the total period of the great tribulation of three and a half year. During all those different judgments the angels go out to reap away the unbelievers through the judgment. They gather the weeds (the unbelievers who are judged) in bundles. The great Director, He Who directs everything, is the Man Jesus Christ.
V1717And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.. After these actions you become a witness of another scene that deals with the execution of the judgment. You can derive that from the “sharp sickle” that, just like in the previous scene, also plays a major role here. As the harbinger of this judgment another angel came out “of the temple which is in heaven”, which means from the holy presence of God. Here it is not the Lord Jesus Who has the sharp sickle, but the angel. Just like the Son of Man he waits for a command to come into action. That command comes from another angel that comes after him.
V1818Then 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.”. The second angel that appears in this scene does not come out from the temple, but “from the altar”. That makes the altar to be the starting point of this judgment. The thought of judgment is empowered because it is said of this angel that he “has power over fire”. Fire has to do with the exercise of judgment. You have come across the altar already. In chapter 6 you have seen under the altar the souls of martyrs and you have heard them calling for vengeance (Rev 6:9-109When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained;10and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”). Their cry for vengeance is answered now. Also in chapter 8 you have seen the altar in relation with the judgment (Rev 8:55Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.).
The altar in the Old Testament is the place where the sacrifices were brought as a picture of the true sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. The fire consumed the sacrifice. In this way the Lord Jesus has been in the fire of God’s judgment for each who believes in Him. However, he who rejects His sacrifice will have to undergo the fire of God’s judgment himself (Jn 3:3636He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”).
The angel from the altar with the power over the fire commands the angel with the sharp sickle to come into action for the harvest of “the clusters from the vine of the earth”. God presents His people Israel in the Old Testament amongst others as a vine (Psa 80:9,15-169You cleared [the ground] before it,
And it took deep root and filled the land.
15Even the shoot which Your right hand has planted,
And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself.
16It is burned with fire, it is cut down;
They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.
; Isa 5:2-72He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it
And also hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected [it] to produce [good] grapes,
But it produced [only] worthless ones.
3“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge between Me and My vineyard.
4“What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why, when I expected [it] to produce [good] grapes did it produce worthless ones?
5“So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:
I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;
I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.
6“I will lay it waste;
It will not be pruned or hoed,
But briars and thorns will come up.
I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”
7For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel
And the men of Judah His delightful plant.
Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.; Jer 2:2121“Yet I planted you a choice vine,
A completely faithful seed.
How then have you turned yourself before Me
Into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine?
). In this picture He shows that He expected of His people that they would testify of Him in a way that He was going to receive fruit from it. That fruit would consist of the joy (of which the wine is a picture) that He would find in His people. He did everything that could cause the people to deliver that fruit. But His people have used the fruit for themselves. They have thought only of their own joy and not of what God expected of them. They even rejected and killed the Owner (Mt 21:33-3933“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey.34When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce.35The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third.36Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them.37But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’38But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’39They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.).
When the Lord Jesus came to earth, He as the true vine (Jn 15:11“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.) took the place of this depraved vine. He was rejected by His people. After He was rejected a new testimony was established, Christianity. The purpose of this new testimony was also that it was to deliver fruit for God, that God would find His joy in it. All who are related with the true vine, the Lord Jesus and have life from Him, bear fruit for God.
There are also some who are related with Him, but do not bear fruit, because they have no life from Him (Jn 15:2a,62Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every [branch] that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.6If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.). Their connection with Him is an apparent connection. They confess to be God’s witness on earth and confess to give Him fruit, but it is an illusion, untrue, false. They bring forth stinking fruit, just like Israel did in the past.
When the church will be raptured, only a false Christian testimony will be left on earth. This false Christian testimony will be cut off from the earth by the sharp sickle together with the apostate Jewish testimony. The Lord Jesus will judge every false confession when the false confessor has fully shown his apostasy.
V1919So 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.. This judgment is different from the judgment that is represented by the picture of the wheat harvest. Actually there is no distinction here. The whole harvest is thrown into the great wine press. The seriousness of this judgment is even more underlined by the addition “the wrath of God”. Especially what is put in relation to Him, but in reality denies Him (2Tim 3:55holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.), arouses His wrath. There is nothing else that God hates so much as hypocrisy. Therefore He doesn’t wait until the grapes are overripe as with the wheat harvest. If the harvest is ripe, judgment comes.
The wickedness of the apostate testimony is great (Joel 3:1313Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
Come, tread, for the wine press is full;
The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.
). Therefore the place of the judgment, where God will have His fierce wrath to be broken loose (Isa 63:1-61Who is this who comes from Edom,
With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah,
This One who is majestic in His apparel,
Marching in the greatness of His strength?
“It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”
2Why is Your apparel red,
And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press?
3“I have trodden the wine trough alone,
And from the peoples there was no man with Me.
I also trod them in My anger
And trampled them in My wrath;
And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments,
And I stained all My raiment.
4“For the day of vengeance was in My heart,
And My year of redemption has come.
5“I looked, and there was no one to help,
And I was astonished and there was no one to uphold;
So My own arm brought salvation to Me,
And My wrath upheld Me.
6“I trod down the peoples in My anger
And made them drunk in My wrath,
And I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”), will be great (“the great wine press”). The great wine press is the valley of Armageddon (Rev 16:1616And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.), where the nations are gathered to fight against God and His Anointed (Psa 2:22The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
V2020And 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.. The wine press lies “outside the city”. That means that the judgment takes place outside Jerusalem. To give you an impression of how horrible that judgment is, it is said how high the blood reaches and to how far it reaches. The blood of those who are killed will splash up to the bridles of the horses. The blood of those who are killed fills the whole land. The “distance of two hundred miles”, which is approximately three hundred kilometers, is the length of the land Israel from Dan in the North to Beersheba in the South.
This judgment is also the fulfillment of the cry: “His blood shall be on us and on our children” (Mt 27:2525And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”). At the same time this judgment means the purification of the land of the blood of the Lord Jesus Who was killed by them (Num 35:3333So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.). God fulfills His Word, both where it concerns His promises and where it concerns the foretelling of judgment.
Now read Revelation 14:14-20 again.
Reflection: What are the differences between both harvests?