[Note: This chapter is quite long and the discussion is geared toward the seasoned student–one that has an advanced exposure to the Word of God. Nothing major in our study of the Olivet Discourse hangs in the balance of what is covered in this segment of our journey. I include it because I believe it represents the fulfillment of Matt. 24:14, and since I spent a fair amount of time developing this material while engaged in my personal research, I desire to have my discovery exposed for peer review.]
It is necessary to provide a brief background leading up to Revelation 14:6-13 so that we have the proper context. There has been a lot of looking at the ground and shuffling of the feet by several authors of books and commentaries holding a differing theological persuasion than the one I ascribe to regarding the verses we shall examine. When it comes to Revelation it is not uncommon to hear of sentiments like, “The book of Revelation isn’t that hard to understand once you get familiar with it. In fact it is one of the easiest since it oft-times explains itself!” Then some poor student of the Word takes a big gulp and sheepishly expresses, “Gee, its been pretty tough for me to get a handle on.” Whereupon the scholarly response seems to be, “Relax kid, you’ve got ME to help walk you through it.” Friends, the Revelation to the Apostle John is one of the easiest books to manipulate, contort, distort, connive and butcher! There is much symbolism, there are prophetic revelations involving sequential events where the “flow” gets interrupted by revelations involving explanations, or past history illustrated spiritually, or supplemental information for visions already revealed–all of which lends this book to be unintentionally abused to promote one’s theological bias. I can’t stress firmly enough that in order to properly understand the book of Revelation you first absolutely must have an accurate understanding of the Olivet Discourse. All subsequent writings in the epistles and here in the Revelation that deal with the end times will complement, supplement and augment what the Lord establishes in the outline presented in the Olivet Discourse. For example, the four horsemen of Revelation 6 closely follow the beginning birth pangs in Matthew 24.
But you already know the irony of all this before I mention it–we haven’t completed even a third of the Discourse and here we are looking at a major passage of the Revelation! How are we supposed to understand this portion of Revelation if we haven’t covered the crucial passages of the Discourse yet? Well, you’ll understand these things better the 2nd and 3rd time you take this long journey! Yep, I’m suggesting some may need to read all of this through another time or two if you desire to get an accurate handle on the end times. The popularity and interest in the subject of the End Times does not diminish the fact that in academic terms it is comparable to a college graduate course requiring an extensive exposure to the scriptures for providing a firm foundation to build upon. Anyone who claims differently is likely promoting a competing theological position, using a different approach to discover the truth of God’s Word.
Okay, where does this place us regarding our study? In Matthew 24:14 Jesus mentions an event that either must occur before the consummation of the age is achieved or, before the period of Great Persecution/Tribulation will end. The timing of this event may be associated with the Great Persecution/Tribulation or it could occur in close proximity to the end of Daniel’s 70th week of years. My dilemma over which is the correct choice concerns the “time line” placement of the passages we will be looking at. By the time John records Revelation 14:6-13, the chronology of the visions he has already encountered indicate the “beginning birth pangs” are over, the Great Persecution/Tribulation is past, the PAROUSIA has occurred, the elect have been rescued, the saints of all the ages have received resurrection bodies, the Day of the Lord has already begun–with the seven trumpet judgments already completed. John sees a vision of Christ the Lamb, on earth, standing on Mt. Zion with 144,000 “first fruits” of the nation of Israel. “Whew! Are you kidding me?” And that’s just the thumbnail sketch of the context leading up to the verses we will look at! The chapters following our verses include visions regarding God’s final wrath depicted in the 7 bowl judgments, the destruction of the Babylonian harlot and the battle of Armageddon. Yet these chapters are not a seamless flow of sequential events. Visions are interrupted by other visions helping to explain and illuminate what is happening or what has happened, or what will be happening in the future!
I am acutely aware that some will find this brief summary controversial, but for serious students it is necessary for me to blurt out my contextual opinion while asking you to wait for proper documentation/verification to be provided later. The issue to pay attention to is, at this point in the Revelation the Great Persecution/Tribulation has been covered and events that will follow have been revealed to John, such as the seven trumpet judgments, for example. These issues make it potentially difficult placing Revelation 14:6-13 as occurring during the Great Persecution/Tribulation, even though the passage seems to apply perfectly to that period when reading it removed from surrounding content. It also seems this would be the logical timing given the extraordinary circumstances thwarting personal evangelism during that period. Contrary to the teaching of several popular writers and preachers there will not be multitudes of people suddenly becoming born again Christians due to 144,000 Jews having a spiritual awakening, who boldly evangelize the world during the Great Persecution/Tribulation. There is more evidence these people will be protected but in hiding for most of this period than evidence they will be proclaiming the gospel to anyone.
Could this passage be something along the lines of an explanatory flashback–similar to other passages in Revelation that interrupt the flow and sequence to provide supplemental information regarding previous periods or events? It would not be the first such occurrence if this is accurate. Weak as that argument may seem to some, I present it for consideration as a possibility. Ready to dig in and get dirty?
vs. 6 And I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;
vs. 7 and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” (NASB)
After reading these two verses, as we contemplate Matthew 24:14, who seems to be responsible for declaring this gospel of the kingdom? Personally, I feel “three messenger angels” is the right answer, as their messages seem related, with verses 6 and 7 recording the first of the three angels involved. In verse 7, “the hour of His judgment” is in direct reference to the final, intense and severe judgments of the Day of the Lord’s Wrath. Reading “has come” seems to indicate that the “hour” has already started; however, in the Greek it is a technical grammatical structure indicating the “hour” is ready to start–right on the verge, awaiting God’s command. Soon, final judgment will commence against the wicked and ungodly and this is an “official” warning to those remaining on the earth. It seems ludicrous to me for warnings to be issued if there is no hope of avoiding negative consequences by heeding said warnings. I am of the opinion there will be no acceptable chance of “switching sides” after the Lord’s PAROUSIA and is a major reason I place the timing of this warning somewhere within the Great Persecution/Tribulation.
This first messenger angel is preaching, proclaiming, he is admonishing and exhorting “every nation and tribe and tongue and people”, to fear God, give Him glory and honor, and to worship God. This word “worship” is the big snag for the wicked and ungodly. The Greek word, according to Vine’s Dictionary, literally means to “fall on the face”. We might say, “to prostrate oneself”. It requires a willingness to humble oneself, to forsake and abandon sinful pride and arrogance. We all need to humble ourselves before the One Who made the heavens, earth and seas. We must humble ourselves before the Sovereign of creation, before the God of the universe. As Dr. Kent Hovand was fond of saying, since God created everything, He owns it. Since He owns everything, He gets to set the rules. This first angel points to the true God of heaven and earth, the Sovereign over all creation, while warning that time will be up soon. Then it will be too late to escape eternal consequences. The angel’s message is in direct contrast to the assertions of Antichrist who will claim he is rightful ruler over earth and will demand worship, with immediate consequences for those who refuse. The consequence? In most cases, death…by beheading.
I have an interesting question. Since eternal salvation depends on faith in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, why doesn’t this messenger angel’s eternal gospel mention Jesus Christ specifically? Could it be because the Bible’s False Prophet in Revelation is the Islamic Jesus who will be on the scene performing incredible signs and wonders in attempting to mislead the world to worship the Islamic Mahdi (the Antichrist) and could therefore cause confusion which Jesus people are to turn to? Perhaps, unless the PAROUSIA really has occurred by this point and the true Lord Jesus Christ is engaged in the various activities associated with the day of the Lord’s wrath and the consummation of the age. That seems like a mighty awkward position to hold to in my eyes. And know this, the Islamic Jesus never created anything. He is just a man, though a prophet. The Lord Jesus Christ of Christianity is the one who created everything!
Rev. 14: 8 And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.” (NASB)
A second messenger angel follows after, having an interesting message of his own. Who or What is this “Babylon the grea referred to in verse 8? Personally, I cautiously side with Charles Cooper and those scholars maintaining future Jerusalem or the yet future religious system to be established in the city of Jerusalem as being the correct answer, as having proper scriptural support. (Note: Mr Cooper, who has a Master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and has taught at Moody Bible Institute, is the main contributor for the website revelationcomentary.org which I highly recommend.) Neither Rome nor the Vatican (popular alternatives) meet the scriptural qualifications when thoroughly examined, but such a study is beyond the scope of our journey at the moment. During much of Daniel’s 70th week especially, Jerusalem will be aggressively compelling all the nations to commit spiritual immorality such as she did, by following after and worshiping the one who will proclaim to be God–the one often referred to as the Antichrist or the Beast (the Islamic Mahdi). Later in our journey we will study this character in more detail. In my opinion, the grammatical construction of the Greek text of the angel’s proclamation that, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great…” indicates this state of “fallenness” is a condemnation which has been judicially cited, as indicated by the angel’s proclamation. However, the execution of the sentence or the consequences of the condemnation (i.e. the physical destruction) is yet future. I believe it is designed to parallel the first angel’s proclamation that the “hour of His judgment has come”, which is also yet future. Details of why the Beast will turn against Babylon/Jerusalem sometime during the second half of the 70th week of years, and the description of the physical judgment for being condemned or “fallen”, are presented later in Revelation 18. This supports the position that the completion of the process of Babylon being “fallen” has not taken place at the time of this angel’s proclamation. It is meant as an emphatic declaration that “it’s as good as done”, it is an assured conclusion. Those who participate with her are participating with a loser. Why the Beast violently turns against this one who had been such a willing and effective accomplice is unclear to me. Neither is it revealed why the Beast no longer desires the seeming alliance of the religious system and organization afforded by Babylon the Great. We are told only that God puts the desire to destroy her into the heart of the beast. It is enough.
vs. 9 And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand,
vs. 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
vs. 11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” (NASB)
Another, a third messenger angel, follows the previous two. I believe this third proclamation is an extension of the second. Surely, worshiping and/or taking the mark of the Beast are to be considered acts of spiritual immorality. But while the second message pronounces judgment against the immoral religious system within Jerusalem, the third message is an admonishment and exhortation directed toward individuals. Rejection of this entreaty results in two distinct consequences, the first being the temporal judgment of experiencing the wrath of God. The second, an eternal judgment against the followers of the beast and his religious system. At first blush the proclamation of this third angel seems particularly suited for the period of Great Persecution/Tribulation and since he follows the first two angels, it would then naturally be assumed they would proclaim their messages within that period as well. Additionally, IF this proclamation occurs near the very end of Daniel’s 70th week of years, then the period of God’s wrath would have already been in effect for at least six months, making for a somewhat awkward prediction that the followers of the Beast will, in the future, experience the wrath of God. As noted however, this interpretation is not shared by all commentators and I myself feel somewhat sheepish of being dogmatic about my opinion. But wait a minute. Are there any more clues to discover that might help decide which position may have more merit? The next two verses convincingly demonstrate there are going to be Christ followers, saints (holy ones), believers, on the scene during the proclamations of the three angelic messengers. If true, it means the ministry of these messenger angels takes place somewhere during the Great Tribulation/Persecution, but before the PAROUSIA, before the Day of the Lord’s Wrath begins!
vs. 12 Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. (NASB)
This verse provides us with a nice, simplistic definition of “saints” or “holy ones”. They are the ones who guard, who preserve the commandments of God in their hearts. The word “perseverance” in this verse is the noun form of the Greek word HUPOMENO–the word used in Matthew 24:13. John is saying in effect, take courage believer, here is your motivation. This is encouragement to inspire the saint, the believer, to continue “to bear up courageously” during incredibly adverse conditions. It is very motivating to know those who don’t “qualify” are going to suffer the wrath of God (physical suffering), then spend eternity in the Lake of Fire (soul suffering). I don’t want to go that route, so I had better “persevere”. Saints should have some idea of what damnation is all about so there should be plenty of motivation to remain faithful to the Lord. Yet we are aware it takes more than motivation to remain faithful. One must have character of soul. One must posses biblical principles in the soul which are guarded, preserved and applied to life’s contingencies. It includes the Lord providing the strength to “do all things”. It includes the filling of the Holy Spirit. So, what if I’m faithful to the Lord but I am martyred or somehow die? John records additional encouragement received from the Holy Spirit.
vs. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
Having proved themselves faithful these saints will receive their rewards, of which rest from their labors is included. This verse reminds me of James chapter 2 where the believer is admonished to demonstrate faith by producing good works. Verses 12 and 13 seem to contain admonishment perfectly suited for saints experiencing the Great Persecution/Tribulation period. Yet because verse 13 starts a new paragraph, and is a paragraph unto itself, one could perhaps make a claim this blessing is generically applicable to any historical period in which martyrdom occurs, hence, a commentator’s particular selection for the timing or historical placement of this verse does not significantly taint the resultant interpretation/application. Just in case any reader is saying “Huh?”, what I mean is, whether these angelic proclamations occur during the period of Great Persecution/Tribulation or at the end of Daniel’s 70th week of years, the Spirit’s exhortation presented here for martyred saints seems equally applicable.
So, after taking this journey a few times myself, here is where I stand at present regarding where within Daniel’s 70th week of years this fulfillment falls. When looking at Matthew 24:14 and documenting its fulfillment in Revelation 14, I am unable to be dogmatic either way as both positions have merit. As we consider the context of Matthew 24:14, not only do the previous verses deal with conditions within the Great Persecution/Tribulation, the following paragraph (Matt. 24 15-28) deals with events associated with that period, as we shall see. Stated succinctly, verse 14 is completely enveloped within the context of the Great Persecution/Tribulation. When isolating the fulfillment passage (Revelation 14: 6-13) from it’s context it also seems to fit nicely within the Great Persecution/Tribulation period. Now, when we consider the context within which the fulfillment passage is contained we must take into consideration an unusually large view. Revelation chapters 6 and 7 portray conditions and events associated with the “beginning birth pangs” and the Great Persecution/Tribulation period, followed by chapters 8 and 9 depicting six of the seven trumpet judgments which occur during the Day of the Lord period, which of course follows the Great Persecution/Tribulation. Chapter 10 introduces a bit of an interlude where in verse 11 John is told that he must prophesy against many peoples and nations and tongues and kings. The interlude continues through the first half of chapter 11, dealing with the “two witnesses” whose ministry begins at the mid-point of Daniel’s 70th week of years–which of course is when the Great Persecution/Tribulation begins, and continues on past the conclusion of the Great Persecution/Tribulation, ending as it were, at the completion of Daniel’s the 70th week. The second half of chapter 11 portrays the sounding of the seventh trumpet judgment which also occurs right after the end of the seven year period but also restores the continuity of the Revelation to where it was prior to being interrupted in chapter 9. It is short lived however as chapter 12 provides a history lesson and chapter 13 a bit of a character sketch of the Antichrist and False Prophet, including details associated with the Great Persecution/Tribulation period. “Whew! Are you kidding me?” (Did I already say that?)
Alas, we are not yet done. Coming back to chapter 14 there are five verses to account for which precede our fulfillment passage. The depiction of the Lamb standing on Mount Zion with the 144,000 first fruits of Israel is a scene that will not occur until shortly AFTER the completion of Daniel’s 70th week of years. Did God provide this vision and place it at this strategic place to demonstrate that in spite of the schemes of the devil and his minions God is still able to protect the Jewish remnant? Then what do we make of the fulfillment passage–verses 6 through 13? Is it to be considered as a continuation of verses 1 through 5, or do they represent another parenthesis as do chapters 12 and 13? Are they retrospective in nature? Allow me to state again, this is MY dilemma; other interpreters of the Word don’t have difficulty with all of this–or don’t admit it if they do. I have noticed some works that seem to gloss over what could be considered as “problem passages” for their theological position. But because yet today there are contrary interpretations presented in the literary market I am confident of this- some interpretations are wrong. I am still trying to discover the truth.
Are there any additional clues to help resolve this dilemma? Chapter 15 seems very firmly attached sequentially to chapters 9 and 10, and deals with the final, intense portion of God’s wrath upon the wicked, culminating in the mention of Armageddon, all of which takes place during the 30 day period immediately following the completion of Daniel’s 70th week of years. Ah, but what about the remaining verses in chapter 14, verses 14 through 20? Do those verses contribute any clues or answers? In my opinion the verses contribute more to the dilemma! The reason I say this is because I know of two distinct interpretations–both having merit! Please believe me when I say I have spent many hours “reverently wrestling” over this chapter, yet I am not fully convinced which interpretation is the correct one. Let’s say we have a look into it, shall we? You may want to fix another cup of tea first. I’ll be glad to wait.
First let me briefly express the two different interpretive conclusions. One is developed by Charles Cooper in his monumental work available at www.revelationcommentary.org. “Coop”, as he likes to be called, is someone I hold in very high theological regard. However, he is the scholar that has fueled my dilemma. It seems he ascribes the whole of Revelation 14 as pertaining to and taking place at the end of Daniel’s 70th week of years (verses 1-5), continuing through the 30 day Reclamation period (verses 6-13), then culminating with the battle of Armageddon (verses 14-20).
A second interpretation is one that I submit for consideration as a POSSIBILITY. I am not willing to die for my interpretation of this chapter; you decide if it has any merit. I have no doubt that verses 1-5 of Revelation 14 describe an event that occurs at the end of Daniel’s 70th week of years and appears to me to be the resumption of the flow of events of chapter 11, which were interrupted by the large parenthesis of chapters 12 and 13. I have already discussed verses 6-10 and made my opinions known. However, as I study verses 14-20 of chapter 14 I am not convinced they are a spiritual or metaphorical description of the judgment associated with the battle of Armageddon. I readily agree they represent the New Testament kin to Joel 3:9-13 (more probable, verses 9-17), but while some see the passage in Joel as a reference to Armageddon, which takes place near the plain of Esdraelon, the reading in Joel 3:12 is “the valley of Jehoshaphat”. Critics will be quick to note during Joel’s time there was no specific location known by that name, and since Jehoshaphat means “Jehovah judges”, and since Armageddon is the final and severe judgment of God against the armies of all the nations, it seems neat and tidy to conclude that indeed, it must be a reference to Armageddon. But when I take a broader look at the context I notice that verses 14 and 15 make an unmistakable reference to the signs in the sun, moon and stars as announcing the beginning of the Day of the Lord. This period begins more than six months before the Battle of Armageddon! Additionally, God’s judgment against the nations starts with the beginning of the extensive Day of the Lord period and culminates at Armageddon.
Verse 16 says the Lord roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem. In Revelation 19 John recorded he saw heaven open and Christ coming on a horse with the armies of heaven following on horses. Joel also mentions in verse 16 in reference to this period that “the LORD is a refuge for His people and a stronghold…of Israel.” This would be an odd thing to say if all this is a reference to the battle of Armageddon since all enemies become the Lord’s footstool at that time and soon after He rules over the world with a rod of iron. He will be far more than a source of refuge and a stronghold for Israel after Armageddon! My point is, there are enough differences to at least make me suspect this reference in Joel could be a separate military campaign initiated by the Antichrist against Jerusalem and the Jews that begins to take shape just prior to the Day of the Lord and the PAROUSIA. If there is any merit in this argument there must be support provided in Revelation 14:16-20. Is there any? Let’s take a walk through it and see!
Before I provide the text, what do we have here in this next passage? We have two accounts that on the surface appear to be very similar. I am guessing that is a reason some interpreters get thrown off track. Many books and commentaries and messages on this passage hurry through it and quickly conclude “It deals with Armageddon. Now let’s move on…” I was able to find several unique features I felt helped to unfold the meaning. Remember, even though symbolism abounds in Revelation, much of it compliments information from previous inspired sources. The two accounts involve a unique entity and three angelic beings engaged in symbolic activity. We’ll look at each account separately.
vs. 14 And 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.
vs. 15 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, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.”
vs. 16 And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth; and the earth was reaped. (NASB)
So, what can we make of all the symbolism in this first account? As I present a possible theory on all this, we both have to remember we haven’t made it through even a third of the Olivet Discourse yet and I am tying this vision of John to material yet to be discovered and explored–which makes it extraordinarily difficult for you, the reader, to put together! But since I’ve made the journey before, I know what is going to be discovered! The entire journey plays out the discovery and the documentation of the “Pre-Wrath” theological viewpoint of the scriptures. According to the Pre-Wrath position, the period of Great Persecution/Tribulation is interrupted and terminated by the PAROUSIA and the initiation of the Day of the Lord. This is brought out in Matthew 24:29-31, verses we haven’t studied yet but will in great detail soon after the completion of this lengthy side journey!
Who is this key figure in verse 14? While some quickly answer it is Christ, others suppose it is a high ranking angel. Perhaps in an effort to influence perception the translators of the NASB take liberty by capitalizing “Him” and “His”, but they are not capitalized in the Greek manuscripts. Whether this one upon the cloud represents Christ or some angel does not have to greatly affect the interpretation of the account. However, if this one depicted like “a son of man, having a golden crown” and sitting on a cloud does represent Christ, it would be very awkward to claim this passage is a representation of Armageddon, since Revelation 19:11, 12 portrays Him coming on a horse and having many diadems. It is important to give proper recognition that the one on the cloud has a golden crown–a stephanos, denoting victory, triumph, glory and life; qualities rightly ascribed to the glorified Son of man but not ordinarily associated with any angel.
As we go through this account I want to point out some striking similarities from Matthew 24 in particular, along with some other passages that I believe help to reveal the intended meaning of this account in Revelation. First, notice that Matt. 24:30 depicts “the Son of man coming in the clouds” at His PAROUSIA. The cloud sitter in Rev. 14 receives a message from an angel. Would an angel tell the glorified Christ what to do? Since he comes out of the temple perhaps he was only relaying the command given by the Almighty, God the Father? In Matt. 24:36 Jesus reveals no one knows the hour of the PAROUSIA save the Father alone.
The cloud sitter is in position to respond immediately, awaiting the command to be issued. At the precise time the angel relays the message to…”Put in your sickle”, but a better translation of the Greek would read, “Send forth your sickle…” The sickle (or “pruning hook” as it is also translated) was an ancient harvest instrument used for cutting fruit or grain in an act of reaping. John mentions it was sharp, indicating advance preparation for its intended purpose. And what is the purpose of sending forth the sickle? The purpose given is to reap. But why reap–why now? Because, “the hour to reap has come”. How does the reaper know when to reap; how does he know that it is the right time or the right hour? The reason given by the messenger angel is because the harvest…of the earth…is ripe. The week before or even the day before the right hour had not yet arrived. But now, as we read in verse 15 the hour has come because the harvest is ripe! We must make special note of the word translated “ripe”. It is a form of the Greek word XERAINO (pronounced: It’s best for me to leave this one alone as I’m no Greek scholar. I try to help ordinary folks who may be interested with what I hope is a “close enough” pronunciation. This word is hard enough to say out loud, but even tougher to type how it might be said! You scholars feel free to correct me. With good intentions at heart, here’s my feeble attempt: x,are-eye’-no).
XERAINO literally means “overripe”; “dry”; its akin to “withered”. I was shocked when I first discovered this! As I reverently wrestled with this passage I complained to God. I asked, “What are You doing here? Why would You reveal the “hour to reap has (just now) come”, indicating the week or even the day before it was too early, it wasn’t the right time–and then tell us that the harvest is overripe, dry, past its prime?” My conclusion is the Holy Spirit of Truth is emphasizing the timing of reaping this particular harvest–as opposed to emphasizing the quality of the harvest itself.
Verse 16 tells us that the cloud sitter cast his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. We are not told what the harvest consisted of, nor are we told of the disposition of the crop (what was done with it). It is quite apparent this harvest is different from the next account, which provides details of clusters of grapes that are gathered from the vine of the earth. Perhaps we can find some clues to what the “harvest” in this first account represents. Lets see how the Apostle John used the words “harvest” and “reaps” in recounting an earlier episode of Jesus’s ministry.
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” (John 4:34-36 NASB)
In keeping with the context of John chapter 4, what is the harvest or crop that needs to be reaped? The answer is “mankind”; it is parallel to “I will make you fishers of men.” But not all mankind–only “those who were being saved”, as only the genuine, the elect, are considered “fruit for eternal life”. Additional parallelism can be found when comparing this text in Revelation 14 with Matt. 24:31. At His PAROUSIA Jesus will “send forth” (as the cloud sitter was instructed), “His angels” (as harvest instruments), and they “will gather together” (as in the action of reaping) “His elect” (the harvest or crop or fruit–that which is reaped), “from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (the whole earth). The harvest is the valuable reward of those who labor; this harvest is priceless.
We can now appreciate the importance of “the hour to reap has (just now) come” and the issue of the “harvest” being overripe, dry and withered. If the “harvest” of Rev. 14:15 does indeed represent believers, saints, the elect, Christians, they have just endured the most horrific period of persecution in the history of mankind. The people experiencing this period will fervently desire the PAROUSIA of Christ which will bring to an end the Great Persecution/Tribulation and secure their deliverance. Jesus himself admonishes, “The day shall come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you will not see it.” (Luke 17:22). A sobering message indeed.
This parallelism makes for a very strong case in my opinion. But according to the Pre-Wrath theological position, which I uphold, what occurs after the angels gather the elect at the PAROUSIA? The Day of the Lord commences, unleashing God’s various judgments against the wicked and ungodly. We know what to expect, but what will we discover? It is time to look at the new paragraph that begins the second account.
vs. 17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.
vs. 18 And 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.”
vs. 19 And 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.
vs. 20 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. (NASB)
There is a major point I would like to make about this second account. Unlike the first account, I find no scripture passages that this account seems to parallel. When comparing the two accounts there are several unique differences with few and only minor similarities. In verse 17 John says he saw “another angel”, a different one than in the first account, and this angel has a sharp sickle. It’s as if this angel has been in the wings of the temple awaiting the completion of the mission of the cloud sitter. He wasn’t due on stage until the cloud sitter was finished. Its his time now, so out he comes–front and center. Holding his sharp sickle he gets in position and waits. This is notably different than the cloud sitter who was already in position to respond immediately upon receiving instruction.
Then, “another angel”, a third one–different from the previous two angels, steps forth on the scene. This angel comes out from the altar and John says he is THE one who has power over fire. In scripture, fire is frequently used in reference to judgment, and no place more obvious than in the book of Revelation! Having power over fire seems to be a distinguishing trait of this angel. Interestingly, in Rev. 8:3-5 John mentions an angel displaying a similar quality.
vs. 3 And another angel came and stood at the alter, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
vs. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.
vs. 5 And the angel took the censer; and he 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.
We would be quite remiss if we did not take special notice that the context of this passage takes place after the breaking of the seventh seal of the large scroll, which introduces the first of the Day of the Lord judgments against the wicked and ungodly. Could this angel of chapter 8 be one and the same with the angel of chapter 14? The argument is not a weak one.
As the angel of Rev. 14:18 comes from the altar, he relays the message that the sickle bearing angel is to put in his sickle and gather clusters from the vine of the earth. Noticeably absent from this account is any mention of the words “harvest” or “reap”, with “harvest” being the more important one as a potential reference to those being positive to the message of salvation. This sickle bearing angel is told to “gather (a different Greek word than used in Matt. 24:31) the clusters (bunches of grapes) from the vine of the earth…” I interpret this vine as representing the method of provision and supply…the life-line so to speak for the clusters. Grapes have an affinity to a vine. This vine is rooted in the earth. This source of provision and supply is earthy and carnal, it is Satan’s world system–that which is diametrically competitive against the kingdom of heaven. This vine is for those who consider their citizenship as being on earth. Jesus says HE is the vine for all His followers. He is rooted in the heavenly realm where the Father’s vast resources can be tapped into. Christians have an affinity to Christ, the Vine, as their method of provision and supply. He is our life-line to the Father. Citizenship for the saint is in heaven.
The reason given to the sickle bearing angel for putting in the sickle and gathering the clusters from the vine of the earth is “because her grapes are ripe.” The Greek word used here in verse 18 is a form of the word, AKMAZO (pronounced: ak-maud’-zo) and according Vine’s Expository Dictionary means,”to be at the prime”, “to be ripe”. The emphasis at this point in this account is the condition of the fruit, the grapes. These grapes are fully ripe and because of that condition, are ready to be gathered. This is distinctively different from the first account.
In verse 19 John records that the angel gathered the clusters and “threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God.” Its apparent the angel is showing contempt for the clusters by “chucking” them into the wine press. Then we read in verse 20, the wine press was trodden, with blood coming out up to the horses’ bridles, for two hundred miles. To be honest, I don’t have any brilliant insight to this part of the text. Commentators differ on the interpretation of this verse and I am not sure there is any crucial doctrinal foundation in jeopardy, dependent upon an extensive and precise interpretation. I offer a couple of my opinions that have satisfied me, while I await a man of God to school me as to the proper meaning.
Have you ever “trodden” grapes? Neither have I. Have you ever stomped your foot in a puddle? Yeah, now we’re talking, right? I did that a few times when I was young. With the right depth of (muddy) water, enough force and a perfectly positioned foot you can send water sailing for several yards! As I recall, obtaining a good distance was easier than obtaining a high vertical mark. A horse bridle represents about five feet off the ground. I fancy those who trod the grapes in the old days as goading the young bucks to stomp with such gusto as to splatter the juice as “high as a horse’s bridle” thus providing a bench mark of sorts. But any way you look at this account it is very sobering. There is no escaping the fact there is a blood bath associated with it, yet I am not at all compelled that this account has to pertain to Armageddon. A general and accurate enough conclusion is this account illustrates there will be such a fierceness, an intensity, a severity of judgment, that one should desire to be on the Lord’s side. It is best to be part of the harvest and reaped with those in the first account.
This concludes our very lengthy side journey to look at the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14. I hope I haven’t scared anyone away from the study! We will now turn our attention back to Matthew 24 and the new paragraph starting in verse 15.