The Earth Is Harvested (Rev 14:14-20)

July 3, 2017 — Leave a comment

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Past Lessons

B. Text of Revelation 14:14-20

“14Then I looked and behold! A white cloud. The one sitting on the cloud was like the Son of Man. He had a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15Then another angel come out of the temple calling out in a loud voice to the one sitting on the cloud. ‘Send your sickle and harvest because the hour to harvest has arrived with the harvest of the earth dry and ready.’ 16So the one sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth and the earth was harvested. 17Another angel went out from the temple in heaven holding a sharp sickle. 18Then another angel came out from the altar who had power over fire. He called out in a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle saying, ‘Send your sharp sickle and harvest the grapes of the earth because the grapes are ready.’ 19The angel swung his sickle on the earth and harvested the grapes of the earth and threw them into the wine press of God’s great wrath. 20The wine-press was trampled outside of the city and the blood went out from the wine press as high as a horse’s bridle for 184 miles.” (Rev 14:20) 1

The Earth Is Harvested (Rev 14.:14 -20)

Photo Credit: “The Harvest of the World” in the Phillip Medhurst Collection

You can get a PDF version of this blog post, a handout for small group study, & access my translation notes by becoming a patron of my blog.

C. General Remarks

“The whole passage is designed to convey a powerful message which we need today as much as ever. God’s time will come; God will bring his people safely home; God will take even the wickedness and rebellion of the world and make it turn to his praise and to the salvation of his people. In the meantime his people are to be encouraged in their suffering. Martyrdom itself will be part of God’s purpose to bring his wise, healing order – to bear upon the world.” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 135).

“The implications of the message for today are only too plain. Today is a day of grace; but what is true of the tribulation is also true today, that God will ultimately judge all people. Today, however, the invitation is still open to those who will receive the grace of God by trusting in Christ and being saved from entering this awful period that may be impending for this present generation.” (Walvoord, Revelation, 230)

“There should be no doubt that this passage, describing the harvest and the vintage, is meant to be an occasion of great, uninhibited joy. We need a huge amount of evidence to force us to say anything else.” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 133)

QUESTION: IF SOMEONE KNEW THAT YOU WERE STUDYING THE BOOK OF REVELATION AND ASKED, “WHERE IN REVELATION DOES JESUS RETURN?” WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

II. THE SON OF MAN (Rev 14:14)

Καὶ εἶδον, καὶ ἰδοὺ νεφέλη λευκή, καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν νεφέλην καθήμενον ὅμοιον υἱὸν ἀνθρώπου, ἔχων ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ στέφανον χρυσοῦν καὶ ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ δρέπανον ὀξύ.

“Then I looked and behold! A white cloud. The one sitting on the cloud was like the Son of Man. He had a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.” (Rev 14:14)

QUESTION: WHERE ELSE IN THE BIBLE IS THE PHRASE “SON OF MAN” USED?

QUESTION: WHAT IS A “SICKLE?”

A. The Son of Man

The phrase, “Son of Man” is first used in Dan 7:13 and then in the Gospels, most notably in the Gospel of Luke as Jesus’s favorite way to describe himself. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (called the Septuagint or LXX) the phrase is very similar to this passage here in Rev 14:14:

  • ἰδοὺ ἐπὶ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὡς υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου (Henry Barclay Swete, The Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint).
  • ἐπὶ τὴν νεφέλην καθήμενον ὅμοιον υἱὸν ἀνθρώπου (Nestle-Aland 28th edition)

An English translation of Dan 7:13-14 reads, “As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed” (NLT).

Some see this “son of man” as an angel, but in my opinion the “Son of Man” is Jesus. Here’s a brief survey of these two views.

1. “Son of Man” as Jesus Christ

I believe the Son of Man is Jesus Christ for several reasons.

  • First, Dan 7:13-14 matches what we know about Jesus Christ.
  • Second, the gospel of Luke quotes Jesus many times as saying that he is the “son of man” (cf. Matt 26:64; John 5:27).
  • Third, here at the end of Rev 14 this son of man is described in circumstances that suggest the seven years of Tribulation are nearly over and that Jesus will come soon.
  • Fourth, he has a gold crown on his head indicating his royal dignity.
  • Fifth, he rides a white cloud (also a match to Dan 7:13-14; Matt 24:30; 26:64; Acts 1:9) and that matches similar descriptions of God associated with a cloud (Exod 16:10; 40:34; Lev 16:2; 1 Kings 8:10; Pss 18:11; 68:4; 97:2; 104:3; Isa 19:1; Ezek 1:4; 10:4; Matt 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35).
  • Sixth, the man described in Rev 1:13-18 is without a doubt Jesus Christ and in Rev 1:13 that man is called “son of man.”
  • Seventh, in Jesus’s second coming he will judge the world (Matt 24:30; 26:64; John 5:27) just like he does in this passage.
  • Eighth, the phrase “Son of Man” is written as a nomen sacrum (sacred name) in two early manuscripts (P115vid א) suggesting that the scribes believed this to refer to Jesus Christ (Comfort, Commentary on the NT, 411).

Commentators who hold this view are Johnson, Bible Expositor’s Commentary, vol. 13, 725; Walvoord, Revelation, 227; Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 133; Mulholland, “Revelation” Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 537)

2. “Son of Man” as An Angel from Heaven

While the identity of the Son of Man seems to be Jesus Christ, some say that the Son of Man is an angel from heaven. I could not find a commentary that takes this view, but here are two reasons some people might hold this view.

  • First, Rev 14:15 and 14:17 reference “another angel” that seems to be similar in role to this son of man.
  • Second, it seems unlikely that an angel would give a command to Jesus as is done in Rev 14:15.

III. JUDGMENT, PART 1 (Rev 14:15-16)

A. Harvest Time (v. 15)

καὶ ἄλλος ἄγγελος ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ τοῦ ναοῦ κράζων ἐν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπὶ τῆς νεφέλης·
πέμψον τὸ δρέπανόν σου καὶ θέρισον, ὅτι ἦλθεν ἡ ὥρα θερίσαι, ὅτι ἐξηράνθη ὁ θερισμὸς τῆς γῆς.

“Then another angel come out of the temple calling out in a loud voice to the one sitting on the cloud. ‘Send your sickle and harvest because the hour to harvest has arrived with the harvest of the earth dry and ready.’” (Rev 14:15)

QUESTION: WHAT IS THE MAIN TONE OF THIS PASSAGE? JUDGEMENT OR SALVATION?

1. Harvest of Elect Believers or Judgment?

Harvest of the Elect. It is possible (but unlikely) that this harvest is a “harvest of the elect,” meaning the harvest is for the believers in Jesus and the judgment is for the unbelievers. Passages such as Isa 21:12; Matt 9:37-38; Luke 10:2; John 4:35-38; Matt 3:12 describe a harvest of the elect. This explains why there is a “harvest” and then a “treading out” of the wine. Well known Bible scholar N.T. Wright says that these are images of “salvation.” In this view, the harvest is describing salvation through suffering. These people on earth are “ripe for harvest” (John 4:35). “If persecution and martyrdom are to come, they are to be understood not simply as the random and vicious attacks of a brutal regime, but as Jesus himself using human wickedness as his means of bringing in the harvest” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 133).

Harvest of Judgment for Unbelievers. The Old Testament uses harvest imagery as a way to describe God’s judgment.

  • “O Judah, a harvest of punishment is also waiting for you, though I wanted to restore the fortunes of my people.” (Hosea 6:11, NLT, emphasis added)
  • “Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread the grapes, for the winepress is full. The storage vats are overflowing with the wickedness of these people.” (Joel 3:13, NLT, emphasis added)
  • “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Babylon is like wheat on a threshing floor, about to be trampled. In just a little while her harvest will begin.’” (Jer 51:33, NLT, emphasis added)

I believe the image is of the harvest of those condemned, as described in Rev 19:11-21.

2. An Angel Instructs Jesus?

The most common question about passage is why an angel gives a command to Jesus. Some translations might try to soften this imperative to a simple request or statement of information, but the Greek has the command in the imperative form.

In my view, the book of Revelation is primarily about life on earth during the seven years of Tribulation, and this angel is telling Jesus that the work of the angels is done and that Jesus’ time has arrived to bring home the last events. Walvoord explains, “If the reaper is Christ, it is remarkable that an angel would issue a command to the Savior. But this should be regarded as an entreaty of a holy angel to Christ as the Son of Man in His position as judge of mankind” (Walvoord, Revelation, 227).

As Thomas notes, Jesus “does not respond to angelic authority in thrusting His sickle, but receives divine notification through an angel that the proper time to do so has arrived” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 218).

This is kind of like the starting pitcher in a baseball game that pitches 8 solid innings, and then the closer comes in the end the game. The angels have gone eight innings administering judgments on the earth. Now it’s time for the all-star closer to enter the game in an active way and bring home the win for God the Father!

B. Sickle Harvest (v. 16)

καὶ ἔβαλεν ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῆς νεφέλης τὸ δρέπανον αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν καὶ ἐθερίσθη ἡ γῆ.

“So the one sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth and the earth was harvested.” (Rev 15:16)

Translations differ on the way they translate “έπι την γην / over the earth.” Some translations choose “on the earth” (LEB, KJV 1900, NKJV, RSV, AV 1873), others choose “over the earth” (NLT, NASB, NIV, NRSV, HCSB), as well as “across the earth” (ESV). Whatever translation each of these superb translations choose, it appears that Jesus is the one who comes and swings this sickle in order to judge the earth. The sickle in some sense judges the people on the earth.

IV. JUDGMENT, PART 2 (Rev 14:17-20)

A. An Angel from the Temple (v. 17)

Καὶ ἄλλος ἄγγελος ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ τοῦ ναοῦ τοῦ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ἔχων καὶ αὐτὸς δρέπανον ὀξύ.

“Another angel went out from the temple in heaven holding a sharp sickle.” (Rev 14:17)

B. Grapes Ripe for Judgment (v. 18)

καὶ ἄλλος ἄγγελος [ἐξῆλθεν] ἐκ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου [ὁ] ἔχων ἐξουσίαν ἐπὶ τοῦ πυρός, καὶ ἐφώνησεν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ τῷ ἔχοντι τὸ δρέπανον τὸ ὀξὺ λέγων· πέμψον σου τὸ δρέπανον τὸ ὀξὺ καὶ τρύγησον τοὺς βότρυας τῆς ἀμπέλου τῆς γῆς, ὅτι ἤκμασαν αἱ σταφυλαὶ αὐτῆς.

“Then another angel came out from the altar who had power over fire. He called out in a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle saying, ‘Send your sharp sickle and harvest the grapes of the earth because the grapes are ready.’” (Rev 14:18)

1. Altar of Incense

The altar which this angel comes from must be the only altar in heaven: the golden altar of incense (Rev 8:3). This same altar is the one which God’s judgments against the earth have come from (Rev 6:9; 8:3; 16:17).

2. Figurative Use of Vine in the Bible

The Bible often used the figure of vine and grapes in relation to Israel (Pss 80:8, 14-15; Isa 5:2-7; 63:3; Jer 2:21; Ezek 17:5-8; Hosea 10:1). The use of vine is also seen in relation to the church (John 5:1-6).

C. Grapes Loaded into the Wine Press (v. 19)

καὶ ἔβαλεν ὁ ἄγγελος τὸ δρέπανον αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν γῆν καὶ ἐτρύγησεν τὴν ἄμπελον τῆς γῆς καὶ ἔβαλεν εἰς τὴν ληνὸν τοῦ θυμοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τὸν μέγαν.

“The angel swung his sickle on the earth and harvested the grapes of the earth and threw them into the wine press of God’s great wrath.” (Rev 14:19)

1. Two Judgments or One?

Some say that there are two distinct harvests, one harvest for believers and the other for unbelievers.
However, the better view is that the first harvest is judgment in general that characterizes the period and the second harvest is the final, climatic harvest (Walvoord, Revelation, 228). See my notes above.

2. Into the Wine Press

Rev 19:15 uses the same figure of speech about a wine-press: “From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress” (NLT). This is a picture of the ultimate judgment of unbelievers at the second coming of Christ which was described in Old Testament:

  • “Who is this who comes from Edom, from the city of Bozrah, with his clothing stained red? Who is this in royal robes, marching in his great strength? ‘It is I, the LORD, announcing your salvation! It is I, the LORD, who has the power to save!’ Why are your clothes so red, as if you have been treading out grapes? ‘I have been treading the winepress alone; no one was there to help me. In my anger I have trampled my enemies as if they were grapes. In my fury I have trampled my foes. Their blood has stained my clothes. For the time has come for me to avenge my people, to ransom them from their oppressors. I was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So I myself stepped in to save them with my strong arm, and my wrath sustained me. I crushed the nations in my anger and made them stagger and fall to the ground, spilling their blood upon the earth.’” (Isa 63:1–6, NLT)
  • “The Lord has treated my mighty men with contempt. At his command a great army has come to crush my young warriors. The Lord has trampled his beloved city like grapes are trampled in a winepress.” (Lam 1:15, NLT)
  • “Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread the grapes, for the winepress is full. The storage vats are overflowing with the wickedness of these people.” (Joel 3:13, NLT)

D. Grapes Trampled Causing a Stream of Blood (v. 20)

καὶ ἐπατήθη ἡ ληνὸς ἔξωθεν τῆς πόλεως καὶ ἐξῆλθεν αἷμα ἐκ τῆς ληνοῦ ἄχρι τῶν χαλινῶν τῶν ἵππων ἀπὸ σταδίων χιλίων ἑξακοσίων.

“The wine-press was trampled outside of the city and the blood went out from the wine press as high as a horses’ bridle for 184 miles.” (Rev 14:20)

1. Which City

This city is likely Jerusalem (Walvoord, Revelation, 229). “Jerusalem is the obvious answer to which city this is” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 223).

2. Fulfillment of the Blood

This verse seems to fulfill the carnage of Jesus on unbelievers described in Rev 19:17-21:

“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, shouting to the vultures flying high in the sky: ‘Come! Gather together for the great banquet God has prepared. Come and eat the flesh of kings, generals, and strong warriors; of horses and their riders; and of all humanity, both free and slave, small and great.’ Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army. And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. And the vultures all gorged themselves on the dead bodies” (NLT, emphasis added).

3. High as a Horse’s Bridle

Blood flowing as “high as a horse’s bridle” is difficult to picture. It in fact seems impossible for blood to flow that high. Walvoord sees this as a “heavy shedding of blood” (Walvoord, Revelation, 229). Wright comments, “We must once remind ourselves that we are reading a symbolic prophecy, not a literal one” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 135).

4. Length of Palestine

The length—184 miles—is the length of Palestine (Tyre to El Arish).

V. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

A. Jesus’s coming removes ungodliness.

The primary message of the book of Revelation is that the world is judged and punished and the world is given one last chance.

B. Jesus is coming back!

Among the assurance of Rev 14:14-20 is Rev 19:11 which describes Jesus coming back! He will return!

You can get a PDF version of this blog post, a handout for small group study, & access my translation notes by becoming a patron of my blog.

Notes:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own based on the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek text

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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