The Harvest of the Earth

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.

The Three Angels

THE FIRST ANGEL ANNOUNCES THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL (14:6-7). An angel announced Christ’s First Advent (Luke 2:8-12) and here an angel announces His Second Advent. This angel is flying in mid-air in the sight and hearing of all. Some view this angel as a type or figure of the good and faithful servants of God who proclaim the Gospel. Any agency that does God’s work or carries his message may be an angel (messenger). However, this appears to be the first and the last time God commissions a heavenly angel to preach the Gospel to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people.

There is the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14); the Good News of Great Joy (Luke 2:10); the Good News of Peace (Acts 10:36); and the Good News of God (Book of Romans); the latter three are specifically about Christ. Notice that the Eternal Gospel the angel announces does not mention the vicarious death and resurrection of Christ but focuses on God the Creator:

He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

This Gospel is not localized in certain periods of history, but one for all ages—it is eternal. Hence, the Everlasting Gospel is an announcement of Divine judgment upon the wicked. Those who refuse to worship God in any age as well as in the coming Great Tribulation can expect His judgment to come. From the very beginning of creation, worship of anything other than the Creator merited Divine judgment. Yet, there is a measure of mercy in this announcement for those who fear God and worship Him. There are seven great occasions of the Bible where God’s wrath and mercy are manifested:

1. The Garden of Eden
2. The Flood of Noah’s Day
3. The Tower of Babel
4. The Exodus of Israel from Egypt
5. The Cross of Christ
6. The Fall of Babylon the Great
7. The Battle of Gog and Magog

From the beginning, all intelligent creatures were to fear God and worship Him. Fear and love are the two greatest motivations in the universe. Observe how Yahweh employs fear and love in Deuteronomy 10:12-13:

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

What does the expressions “fear God” or to “fear the LORD” imply?

1. Fear is faith and trust expressed in childlike humility (Deuteronomy 9:23-24; Matthew 18:24; James 3:13; Isaiah 57:15; 66:2).
2. Fear is awe in the sense of respect, honor and greatness that we cultivate toward the superior and almighty God (Exodus 19).
3. Fear is being afraid and terrified of the LORD (cf. Ezekiel 30:13; Jonah 1:10, 16).
4. Fear is reverence, consecrating oneself to the LORD for living in harmony with God and with other people. The best expression is imitation of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). God’s Law teaches us in detail to imitate God in being compassionate, gracious, forbearing, loving faithful, forgiving and just.
5. Fear is ethical integrity, a progressive sanctification, whereby the believer aligns himself or herself more and more with God’s will. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Job are OT examples of a blameless and righteous walk with and before God.
6. Fear is the foundation of wisdom, knowledge and understanding. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). Consequently, we are not to fear man, the Antichrist nor Satan; we are to fear God.

THE HOUR OF HIS JUDGMENT HAS COME. This angel sounds the warning that the last moment has arrived to repent and believe before God’s wrath is poured out.

ALL CREATION. The heavens signify the three heavens, earth is the physical earth, the sea is the world system, and the springs of water signify Paradise.

Historicists hold this angel represents the missionary era and the Great Awakening in the time of the Wesleys, Whitefield, Edwards and Finney in England and America, while the bowls of wrath were poured out on the papal system on the Continent through the French Revolution.

Preterists believe the angel is the Church preaching the Gospel of salvation as the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Idealists hold this angel is not literal but a general concept based on Galatians 1:8 and Jude 3. The Gospel is a warning for earth’s inhabitants to awake to God’s rule before it is too late.

Futurists distinguish the Eternal Gospel from the “Church-age” Gospel; others hold it is the latter Gospel; and still others a Gospel including the various messages of the Bible, where men of all nations and times are summoned to repent.

THE SECOND ANGEL ANNOUNCES THE FALL OF BABYLON THE GREAT (14:8). Chapters seventeen and eighteen record the details of this fall under the seventh bowl. The warning is over and God’s judgment has come. Babylon, mentioned for the first time in Revelation, refers to the entire worldwide political, economic, and religious kingdom of the Antichrist (cf. Revelation 16:17-19). There are three additional views held: Babylon refers to (1) the city of Jerusalem, (2) the city of Rome, and (3) the rebuilt city of Babylon.

Babylon signifies the revival of its namesake, which was the birthplace of idolatry and rebellion against God under Nimrod after the Flood (Genesis 10:8-10; 11:1-9).

THE MADDENING WINE OF HER ADULTERIES pictures Babylon causing the world to become intoxicated with her pleasures and idolatry.

Babylon was a gold cup in the LORD’s hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad (Jeremiah 51:7).

This cup of madness becomes a cup of wrath poured out on the rebellious who worship the Beast instead of God.

In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs (Psalms 75:8).

This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it (Jeremiah 25:15).

Historicists tend to identify Babylon with Ancient Rome, especially the papacy.

Preterists identify Babylon with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, immediately after the preaching of the Gospel.

Idealists see Babylon as a symbol for human society organized against God throughout the centuries.

Futurists refer to Babylon in Revelation as a literal city, a religious system, and a political system, all stemming from ancient Babylon. The city of Rome of the Tribulation is often identified as Babylon.

THE THIRD ANGEL ANNOUNCES THE DOOM OF THE BEAST WORSHIPERS (14:9-12). The third angel will fly in mid-air warning all people in the kingdom of Antichrist. If they do take the mark, the name, or the number of the name of the Beast and worship him they will seal their own doom and be punished in eternal Hell. “Anyone” and the personal pronoun “he” indicates that judgment comes upon the individual, who is personally responsible for his own rejection of the Eternal Gospel.

THE WINE OF GOD’S FURY (14:10) is poured out full strength; this wine of God’s wrath is undiluted; there is no drop of water to cool its heat.

“Fury” (yumov thumos) denotes wrath, fierceness, and indignation. This is a passionate anger that turns to red-hot heat and boils up. Is it any wonder that God will be so indignant when people will reject His written Word? When they refuse to repent after judgments from heaven are sent upon them? When they reject the preaching of real angels flying in mid-air? When they ignore the preaching and miracles done by the two witnesses, the 144,000 sealed Israelites, and the testimony of multitudes of martyred Tribulation saints?

TORMENT FOR THE WICKED (14:10-11). No passage is clearer than this one on the eternal punishment of the wicked. Today, it is popular to deny the existence of Hell and teach annihilation of the wicked. But the Bible teaches that Hell is a real place where the wicked are tormented forever! The imagery is taken from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Burning sulfur (puri kai yeiw equals fire and brimstone, a fiery sulfur) signifies God’s judgment on the wicked (Genesis 19:24-25: Isaiah 34:8-10; cf. Revelation 14:10-11; 20:10-15; 21:8; 22:15; Isaiah 66:22-24; Matthew 8:12; 13:39-50; 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43-49; Luke 12:5).

“In the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb” most likely indicates the angels will be employed to carry out the sentence of the wicked, while the Lamb—the Lord Jesus Christ—will act as their Judge.

ASSURANCE FOR THE BLESSED (14:12-13). “Blessed” reminds the reader of the blessings Jesus outlined in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12). Three characteristics of the blessed are: (1) patient endurance [in suffering]; (2) obeying the commandments; and (3) remaining faithful to Jesus Christ. Those who persevere in the faith until they die in the Lord have the assurance of rest and reward. This is the second beatitude in Revelation.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them (Hebrews 6:10).

Historicists view fire and brimstone as eternal pangs of remorse and conscience, while Christian death is a blessed event.

Preterists are divided with some viewing the symbolic language depicting either Ancient Rome or Jerusalem as already judged by God. The language does not indicate personal damnation of the inhabitants but rather a visible destruction of the cities as a historical witness to God’s wrath.

Idealists see the system in every age that opposes God already judged. Some speculate if the fire of Hell is literal, or simply a figure. The punishment of the wicked should provide incentive for the patience of the saints.

Futurists hold that eternal judgment is described in graphic detail, showing the horrors of a literal Hell. This is a warning to both the pagan and the believer of what happens when one denies faith in Christ and worships the Beast.

The contrasts in this chapter are: (1) fear God and worship Him with the assurance of rest and rewards; or (2) fear the Beast and worship him with the assurance of everlasting torment in burning sulfur. It is a matter of personal choice!

The Lamb and the 144,000

CHAPTER FOURTEEN contains three parentheses: (1) The Lamb and 144,000; (2) The Three Angels; and (3) The Harvest of the Earth. The previous chapters are all gloom and doom, but this one offers a ray of hope. This chapter is an interlude before a new outpouring of God’s wrath, like chapter seven, which revealed the sealed 144,000 Israelites and the countless multitudes of Gentiles saved in the Tribulation.

The words “I looked” or “I saw” signal important visions John was given in the Apocalypse. These are employed with all the seven visions of this chapter.

This chapter brings to conclusion the material found in chapters twelve through fourteen. The material in this chapter is arranged thematically instead of chronologically, preparing the way for the climax, which begins in chapter fifteen. This chapter is like looking into to the many facets of a diamond as it pictures the Triumphant Christ in diverse rays of light. It is a panoramic picture of the Tribulation Period, illustrating the Lamb’s victory.

The Lamb and the 144,000

STANDING ON MOUNT ZION (14:1-5). John saw the sealed evangelists from the twelve tribes of Israel standing on Mount Zion, a metaphor for the earthly as well as the heavenly Jerusalem.

Remember the people you purchased of old, the tribe of your inheritance, whom you redeemed—Mount Zion, where you dwelt (Psalm 74:2).

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly (Hebrews 12:22).

Here is the scene that takes place around the Throne in Heaven with harpists, the four living creatures and the elders. The 144,000 appear to be raptured; they “had been redeemed from the earth” (verse 3). Does this signify the rapture or partial rapture of the Church?

On the other hand, John appears to be back on the earth since he heard a sound from or out of heaven. Since the Lamb and 144,000 are standing before him, Mount Zion might be the earthly Jerusalem. If so, the 144,000 have gone through the entire Tribulation and have entered the Millennial Kingdom with Christ in their temporal bodies. If raptured, they have entered with a spiritual body. They would be the only redeemed Jews that will be suddenly delivered from the Great Tribulation. In either case, not one has been lost!

This scene is thrilling because it reminds the believer that Christ is coming and He will stand triumphant on Mount Zion with His people. God’s plans and purposes will be fulfilled!

The 144,000 sealed Israelites are most likely portrayed by the five wise virgins in Christ’s Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) and by the invited guests, dressed in wedding clothes, in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14). These go into the marriage banquet of the Groom (Christ) and His bride (the Church) and then the door is closed to the unprepared. Others hold the five wise virgins represent all believers during the Tribulation Period.

THE NAMES ON THE FOREHEADS is a reminder the 144,000 belong to God; it stands in contrast to the mark of the Beast on the unsaved. There are two names written on their foreheads: The Lamb’s name and His Father’s name. The Lamb has many names in Scripture; but “Jesus” is His name! “Yahweh” is the most likely name for the Father’s name.

SOUND OF RUSHING WATER, THUNDER, HARPS AND A NEW SONG (14:2-3) adds excitement. It is a song of redemption as God accomplishes His heightened anticipation of the final redemptive acts of Christ’s return. It is one no man can learn but the 144,000, implying they have an experience that no other man of any other company has ever had. This new song is similar to the one sung in Revelation 5:9-10, indicating the reign of Christ and His saints has arrived (Psalm 96). This parenthesis is a flash-forward to Revelation 19 and 20.

CHARACTER OF THE 144,000 (14:4-5). The 144,000 did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. Obviously, the idea is to picture their purity of character. This does not refer to virginity. This passage cannot be advanced in favor of celibacy, whether among the clergy or laity, or in favor of monastic principles in any form; for the thing that is specified is that they were not “defiled with women,” and a lawful connection of the sexes, such as marriage, is not defilement. These are saved Israelites who have not polluted themselves with the idolatrous and immoral religious system of the great prostitute of Revelation 17.

FOLLOWERS OF THE LAMB who go wherever He goes denotes their faithful obedience to Christ. May God help us to do likewise!

PURCHASED AND OFFERED FIRSTFRUITS to God and the Lamb is like the firstfruits offerings of the OT (cf. Deuteronomy 26:1-11). The 144,000 represent not the whole of Israel, but only a portion of the great harvest to come (a first installment); they are marked for a unique service to God and the Lamb.

NO DECEIT AND BLAMELESS. No lie was found in their mouths signifies that they speak God’s Truth accurately, with no exaggeration or understatement. What a contrast to the Antichrist’s lies and deceitfulness! Blameless is not perfection or sinless but sanctification (Ephesians 1:4; 5:27; Colossians 1:22).

Historicists hold that Mount Zion is the heavenly place of the departed saints or a symbol of the true Christian Church. The new song is the doctrine of the Reformation and the undefiled are not necessarily virgins or unmarried (Matthew 24:19; 1 Corinthians 7:25-35) but those who are celibate in marriage. The 144,000 are representative of the redeemed.

Preterists find this vision as reminiscent of the second Psalm. Despite all the efforts of the Dragon and the Beast to eliminate the Church, the Judean believers stand secure with the Lamb in victory. Dating Revelation before the fall of Jerusalem, they believe the writer of Hebrews had this scene in mind when he wrote of the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22). The 144,000 are those who refuse to associate with the harlot (Jerusalem or Rome).

Idealists see the 144,000 standing with the Lamb in heaven, but are uncertain of their identification. The new song is a song of redemption like Moses’ song in Exodus 15. Some think the 144,000 comprise all the saints of the entire dispensation with none to follow.

Futurists identify the 144,000 with those sealed in chapter seven. They are the firstfruits of a larger number to be harvested from the earth. Mount Zion is either the literal mountain in Israel or the one in Heaven.