THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN (14:14-16). The sixth vision of this interlude pictures the events that fulfill Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man coming as Judge to establish His kingdom:
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).
The imagery turns from Christ as the Lamb to the Son of Man:
I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown [stephanos] of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
A SHARP SICKLE signifies the time of reaping, the harvesting of the earth, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Hebrews 9:28).
The sharp sickle is the same as that mentioned in Joel 3:9-16 in picturing the destruction of the nations at Armageddon. This battle will remove many of the wicked from the earth through death. After this, the surviving nations left on the earth will be judged:
All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:32-34).
ANGEL HARVESTERS. Jesus taught in the Parable of the Net that angels would do the harvesting.
This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace [Hell], where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:49-50).
Jesus also talked about harvesters at the end of the age in the Parable of Weeds.
Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned [Hell]; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn [kingdom] (Matthew 13:30).
THE GREAT WINE PRESS OF GOD’S WRATH (14:17-20) is the seventh vision of this interlude. Here two angels appear; one comes forth from the Temple also having a sharp sickle, and another comes out from the altar having charge of the fire.
RIPE CLUSTERS OF GRAPES denotes the nations who are ready to be reaped for judgment. It would seem that God’s judgment is long overdue; only the longsuffering and patience of God can account for the delay. There is a harvest of the righteous, but here John witnesses the harvest of the wicked. The cup of iniquity is full, the harvest is ripe, and the time of God’s judgment has come!
In the OT, Israel is symbolized by a vine—a fruitless, disappointing vine (Deuteronomy 32:32-33; Isaiah 5:17). Hence, some perceive the clusters of grapes to be unsaved Israel at the end of the age. Zechariah 12:10-13:1 and Romans 11:23-27 strongly speak against this view.
The angel threw the ripe clusters of grapes (nations) into the great winepress of God’s wrath, signifying either the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16) or the fall of Babylon (Revelation 16:17-21). Isaiah 63:3-6 records the LORD’S impressions at this time:
I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me. I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground (Isaiah 63:3-6).
Some interpret each of these angels as another manifestation of Christ in judgment. Christ returns at the end of the age with the armies of Heaven following Him (Revelation 19:14).
John records that “they were trampled in the winepress outside the city [Jerusalem}, and blood flowed out of the press [Armageddon], rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia [about 180 miles, about the distance of Palestine].” It appears that the blood from the slaughtered is dammed up until the battle is over. Then suddenly the dam breaks as a flood of blood gushes from this valley rising as high as horses’ bridles into the Great Rift and flows a distance of about 180 miles. This is the end of man’s glory and Satan’s rule on the earth. The exact site of this bloody end of the nations is the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:10-14; Zechariah 14:1-4). The Lamb is triumphant!
Historicists picture the harvest as the consummation of all things, when the enemies of the Church will be cut off. The first sickle is the ingathering of the wheat into the kingdom and the second sickle leads to the crushing of the wicked. Some take the blood flow to be the length of Italy. Others make it symbolic of the universality of judgment as it 40 x 40 x 40 with 40 being the number of judgment.
Preterists hold that the vision of Christ on the cloud is not the second coming but depicts the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The reaping of verses 14-16 is the Judean Christians escaping to Pella in A.D. 66-70 and verses 17-20 describes the ensuing judgment of Jerusalem. The blood flow is an allusion of the great sea of carnage in this destruction.
Idealists discern the final judgment at Christ’s coming as the Church is first raptured in verses 14-16 and the wicked gathered to judgment in verses 17-20. The trampling outside the city stands for the exclusion of the wicked from the society of the redeemed. Numerous symbolic interpretations of the blood flow are presented by those who do not take the text literally.