KEY TEXT: Revelation 14:14-20 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. 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." So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped. Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. And 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." So 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. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse's bridle, for 1,600 stadia.
KEY THOT: The sickle is a picture of judgment. And in this passage, two kinds of judgment will be executed--one by the Lord Jesus Himself (v.14 "seated on the cloud one like the son of man, with a crown on his head") and the other by an angel (v.17 "another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle". The harvest of the Son of Man is for the gathering of the saints, for He is the Lord of the harvest (Mt. 9:38). The saints will be harvested first and removed from the earth before the second sickle is swung to gather the grapes into the winepress for divine judgment: "So 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" (v.19).
The judgment of God would be so terrible that it is described in terms of blood-letting that reaches the height of the horse' bridle: "And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse's bridle, for 1,600 stadia" (v.20). The "city" probably refers to Jerusalem, and the blood-letting may be from the fallen soldiers of the coalition armies participating in the war against Jerusalem.
This double judgment of God--one for salvation and one for retribution--is also described in Isaiah 63:4-6,
- "For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me. I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth."
While most of us would be more comfortable with the idea of God as the God of love, we cannot let our own sentimental idea to reject the biblical portrayal of God as God of wrath. Without wrath, there would have been no necessity for the Cross. The Cross is a picture of God's wrath poured upon his own Son. Even the Apostle of Grace, St. Paul writes in Romans 5:9-10, "Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." So, through the blood of Jesus, we have been saved not only from sin, Satan and hell but more importantly from the wrath of God.
The first harvest by the Son of Man demonstrates God's mercy for those who put their trust in Christ to avert God's wrath. The second harvest by the angel reveals God's wrath against unredeemed humanity who rebel and reject God's mercy offered in Christ: "But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed" (Romans 2:5). God's righteousness demands God's wrath to be revealed against sinful humanity.
Even Jesus himself has prophesied of this terrible outpouring of God's wrath against the armies surrounding Jerusalem:
- Luke 21:20-24 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."
While we are living comfortably under the mercy of God, let's not forget there will be coming a day of wrath. The only reason we are spared is because of the Blood of Christ shed for us. Perhaps knowing that God's wrath remains against sinful humanity will help us appreciate the preciousness of our salvation more. And it ought to cause us to take more seriously God's call for personal holiness.
Abba-Father, You have always revealed Yourself as the God of mercy towards the penitent and also God of wrath against the impenitent. May we not forget that You are holy and You are seeking for a people who is holy as You are holy. Amen.