Revealing Revelation – The Sickles of Reaping and Wrath

27Jan11

As we conclude our discussion here in Chapter 14 of the Book of Revelation we finish by looking at two different sickles used and the results of those two different actions. One is quite positive while the other is clearly negative. We will note the use of the reaping instrument for two different purposes and how the Gospel does the same when preached.

Rev. 14:14-16 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. [15] And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” [16] So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

There is not much disagreement to the idea that the one sitting on the cloud with the crown of gold is, in fact, Jesus Christ. In this picture He is given a sickle, an instrument used used for reaping during the harvest season, most notably of wheat.

In the second harvesting we are shown grapes, but in this case the object of the reaping is not disclosed. Using similar Biblical imagery it may be beast to see this harvesting as related to wheat since this would coincide with the harvesting found in Matt 13 and the story of the wheat field. But whether that is in view is purely conjecture.

What is important to note is that it is Christ doing the reaping and should be seen in a positive light of an “ingathering” of those that are His. This is plainly contrasted by the bloody and wrathful results of the second sickle as we shall see.

But let’s also consider the image of the Son of Man as He is presented here. This image is actually quite familiar. Here is another case of Jesus sitting on a cloud in the heavens. This familiar image hearkens back to the Olivet discourse and Matt 24.

Matt 24:30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn…and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds,

As we saw in our discussion of the Olivet Discourse that what is seen is actually the “sign” or proof that the Son of Man is in Heaven. This proof is demonstrated by the destruction of the Temple as He declared and this event provides for the successful proclamation of Gospel.

This is very similar to what we see taking place in Revelation 14. After the destruction of Jerusalem as pictured in the previous Chapter and the proclamation of the fall of Babylon, we see a great harvest being successfully carried out. This takes place simultaneously with the destruction of Jerusalem and the judgement poured out in the following verses with the introduction of the second sickle.

Rev 14:17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia

This clear picture of judgment in greatly contrasted to the previous positive impact of the Gospel. This harvesting of the grapes of God’s wrath is prophesied by Jesus Himself in Matt 23 during His diatribe against the Jewish religious leaders. Note the imagery Jesus uses.

Matt 23:35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

The blood of God’s messengers, prophets and true priest that was spilled by the religious leaders throughout the years would be poured out upon that generation. That is a lot of blood! Jesus declared that their blood would be “upon them” as a way of pointing to their guilt and the horrific wrath that was set against them.

The image of ripeness of the grapes also points to the how all the blood throughout the generation was waiting to be avenged. There would be a perfect time in which of all that blood would be “fully ripe” to be held up against ap0state Israel and her religious leaders. In earlier times Israel was not quite ripe even though she was warned that her destruction was near. The Lord was awaiting that full ripeness or full measure of guilt (Matt 23:32) to be held against them.

So, in this harvest we see the grapes being delivered over to the wine press of God’s wrath and the pouring out of the blood (juice) would be so great as to cover some two hundred miles several feet deep. This obvious symbolic image does have some literal implications to consider as well.

John here is borrowing, again, imagery from the Old testament. this time we find it  Isaiah.

Isa 63:3 “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
.

Here in revelation we have the blood extending beyond just a splattering but a flow deep and wide. This final act of wrath against the apostate would be horrific and thorough. No area of Judea would be spared. The destruction would seen from border to border, a distance of about 200 miles. All of Judea would be affected and, as history played out, is exactly what happened.

The last point I would like the reader to consider is that the same instrument is used symbolically to perform the actions of two different kinds of harvesting. This may actually be a wonderful picture of the power of the Gospel to both save and damn. The destruction of the second harvest that damned the recipients was performed by the same instrument that saved those in the first harvest. The Gospel is that way. Like the Word of God that cuts and divides, even bone from marrow, the Gospel proclaimed will either save or condemn!

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