Friday, August 29, 2014

REVELATION 14:14-20 “THE HARVEST“

Chapter 14  brings us to the end of the vision  which  was begun in chapter 13. It  began with the  vision of the Anti-Christ  pictured as a beast  with  seven heads and ten horns  (13:1-10).  He causes  the whole earth to worship the dragon (Satan – see ch. 12) who  conducts a fierce war  against Christians and the  church  from the earth (11: 1- 10) which survives only by God’s grace.  This is indeed the history of the last 2000 years of the Christian church. She has never had prolonged times of peace. Sooner or later  Satan makes sure that  she is attacked and destroyed. There are so many evidences  in our history  of  churches that once have flourished in this world, but which are now either museums  or  businesses or mosques, or they have been eliminated  altogether.  Who has done this? Well, Revelation 11: 4-10 and 12: 12b-13  tells the story . Satan has done this , and he has done   this  through  the first beast , the   anti-christ,  who is given  authority for 42 months (13:5)  to hold the earth  in  his brutal ransom, causing  the whole earth to  marvel  and worship  the beast, and the dragon (13:4) and to speak  haughty and blasphemous  words against God (13:6)
The  companion of the  first beast (the antichrist)  is the second  beast arising  out of the earth , 
with his two horns like a lamb's and with speech like the dragon. He is the false prophet,  who  deceives  those who dwell on earth (13:14)  with the help of great signs and  wonders.   He made them make an image of  the anti- christ  causing   the people of this earth to  worship it, killing those that refused to submit.  And then he  gave them a mark, and  only the worshippers of the beast and his image, who had the mark  could  buy or sell.

The third vision was that of the Lamb on Mount Zion and with him  the 144 000 (14: 1-5) who have been redeemed  among mankind . Until this point  it seemed as if the kingdom of  the anti-christ was  supreme  and invincible, but now  this vision tells us a different story.
Our God reigns !
The Almighty never  intended the unholy trinity to  exercise  authority on  this earth – only for 42 months.  God  has  installed His own King  on Mt.  Zion (Psalm2) , the symbolic place  from where He exercises His rule  and everlasting authority.  Psalm 2 tells us  that  God in the heavens sits and laughs at all the futile raging  and plotting of the nations  under their rulers and kings  who are  pawns in the hands  of  Satan , the anti-christ, the false prophet – the members  of the unholy trinity.  
God's people are perfectly safe. The one hundred forty-four thousand are all there, and not one is missing .
The fourth vision was that of angels (14:6- 11)  delivering  their  messages  of judgment upon  Babylon , the  city that  symbolizes Satan’s kingdom.
In conclusion, there is  a call for endurance  to Christians (14:12-13)   and a promise  of rest for those who had  endured  the  tribulation and persecution in this  time  because they refused to worship the beast.

THE HARVEST OF THE EARTH  (14: 14-20)

We are  now coming to the   end  of this vision which relates to the 2nd coming of our Lord and to the end of time as we know it.  Just as  the opening of the 6th seal in Rev 6 took us to the close of all human history, this passage takes us to the end - although the end  is viewed here from a different angle.
We shall also see that what is spoken of here will be dealt with again in future chapters. The fall of Babylon (14:8)   symbolically  described  in scripture  as “the great prostitute” (17:1,5,15,16)  is accompanied  by the grim reaper  and by  the terrible wrath of  God.   This  theme will be developed in future chapters with greater vividness and detail.

Two images strike us as we  look at this vision of the great harvest –   pictured here for us in the imagery of a harvest of wheat (14:15-16)  and  of grapes (14: 17-20) :
1.     There is a harvester
2.     There is a harvest

1.THE HARVESTER:
There should  be no doubt as to who this is. The language employed makes it very clear that this is Jesus … " one like a son of man with a crown of gold on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand…"  The term "son of man"  is familiar to us.
(i)               It is His favourite self – designation in the gospels. [1] Jesus testified  before the High priest in Mt 26:64 as he stood before the Sanhedrin: "But I say to all of you: In future  you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."[2]  There is no doubt that this is the Lord Jesus Christ.
(ii)             We have seen this same description in Rev.  1:13 - " In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven…"
(iii)            The same picture is portrayed in Dan. 7:13 - "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a s on of man , coming with the clouds of heaven…"

This then is a picture of  Jesus ,  the Son of Man , the Son of God  in His exalted  glory.  He is seated  on  a white cloud . This imagery is familiar , and we see  it also on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:5) as well as at His ascension (Acts 1:9). It is this same cloud that features in His second coming ( 1 Thess. 4:17) and in  Rev 1:7  we read:  “ Behold , He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him…” . To come with the clouds in the Scriptures  always denotes that this Son of man is coming for judgement.

In what capacity does He appear?
He is coming as God’s anointed  King. Just when we thought that all was lost, and  when the hour of darkness has reigned on the face of the earth  He  comes back  with dramatic suddenness and unexpectedly (Matt 24: 44; 25:1-13; 1 Thess. 5:2) to  claim   His own , but the picture here is mainly that of a terrible judgement  upon the earth . He has a sharp sickle in His hand , and He is coming for the purpose of harvest .
At the second coming He will not come as Saviour , but  He is coming as the King -Judge.
But He is not alone in this work.

His helpers:
Whilst He supervises and oversees  the harvest the actual work  to be done is left to the angels, His servants. This agrees  with other parts of the Scripture. E.g
Ø  Matt 13:39 :  Speaking about the  harvest of the unrighteous : Parable of the Weeds à Jesus explains in this context: "The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows then is the devil .The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels."
Ø  Matt 24:31Speaking about the harvest of the righteous : "And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other."

Here then  the angels proclaim that the time  has come for the great harvest.  It is time to reap. It is time to put the sickle to  gather in the harvest . This announcement reminds us of Joel's prophecy of the judgement  upon the nations: (Joel 3:13) "   Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread,for the winepress is full.           The vats overflow, for their evil is great.
The hour for the harvest of the earth has come. The time of deliverance   of God's people and the judgment for Satan's people  has come. That is all fairly clear.

2.  THE  HARVEST :
As we take a closer look at this passage we see that 2 harvests are taking place. There is reference made  to a wheat harvest  (14:15,16)  and also  to  a grape harvest (14:18-20)

The wheat harvest generally is a symbol which refers to the harvest of God's people.
Ø  Lk 3:17 records the words of John the Baptist about Jesus: "His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn , but He will burn the chaff with fire." The purpose of the harvest is the gathering of the wheat, and not the chaff or the tares.
Ø  In Lk 10:2,  Mt 9:37 , Jn. 4:35-38 , ( The  harvest is plentiful , but the labourers are few…) ; Christ  describes His people as a field to be harvested. In Mk 4:26- 29 , He declares …   “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.  He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.  The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
The grape harvest represents the  harvest  of the ungodly, who are like grapes ready to be trampled upon in the  winepress of God's judgement . Grapes  in ancient  times  were  put  into a big  bucket  and   they were trodden out with feet .   This  picture forms the background to the  following  OT pictures :
Ø  Joel 3:13: Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great.
Ø  Isaiah  63: 1 – 6 : Who is this who comes from Edom,   in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, 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, and from the peoples no one was with me; 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, and my year of redemption had come. 5] I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me. [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.”

The order to perform this  reaping is again given from the temple in heaven. An angel comes with fire from the altar and proceeds from there with the judgment.  Fire always is a symbol of judgment and of cleansing . This may be the same angel alluded to in Rev 8:5. There the angel takes a censer, fills it with fire from the altar, and hurls it upon the earth.
Notice that this winepress of God's wrath is located outside of the city. It was outside the city gate that Jesus was unjustly condemned, treated as unclean and abominable, and it was here that He was put to death - the Innocent for the guilty. It was there that He  was publically  trodden upon in  the winepress of God's wrath , bearing our sins and absorbing our punishment so that we might be clothed with his  pure and holy righteousness.

And now  when the  final hour of judgement  comes, it will be also  be  outside of  the  symbolic city of God , that the rejectors of His grace ( all through their own choice ) will have to suffer God's righteous wrath.
The picture  which  follows is graphic and terrible. They were trampled in the winepress, …and blood flowed out of the press in great quantities. To illustrate  -  1600 stadia represents about 300 kilometres as high as a horses bridle  - 1.5 meters !
Do you remember that desperate question back in  Rev. 6:17 : "In the face of God's wrath , who can stand?"
Thankfully the answer remains the same while the day of Grace continues : "Those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb " (7:14)
You see , you can't get around the issue of 'blood'.  Either it is your or His blood that will be required in the day of judgment.
What will it be for you?




[1] The expression "the Son of man" occurs 81 times in the Greek text of the four Canonical gospels, and is used only in the sayings of Jesus.  The singular Hebrew expression "son of man" (בןאדם  i.e. ben-'adam) also appears in the Hebrew Bible over a hundred times. ( Wikipedia)
[2] See also Mk 14:62 ;Lk 22:69;Acts 2:33 ; see also Rev 1:7

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