Rich Realities from Revelation: There Will be a Harvest (Rev. 14)
Rich Realities of Revelation: There will be a Harvest
In 1995, Rachel and I took a trip to northern New York, to Potsdam, NY to conduct a Bible seminar (Gospel meeting) with some other college students. On the way, we stopped off and visited Niagara Falls. A few years ago, when we visited NYC, we also went north and swung through Niagara Falls so Jewell and Ana could see it.
Perhaps you have heard of Charles Blondin who became famous for crossing the Niagara Falls several times. One time, he camped out on the tightrope! Another time, he crossed with a wheelbarrow. Once, he used stilts. Another occasion, he made an omelet. He was a “daredevil,” for sure! Yet, think about the courage of his manager, Harry Colcord. Colcord was not a tightrope walker, but on one occasion, he went across on Blondin’s back! That type of courage can only be visible when we place complete confidence in someone else’s capabilities…
Jesus teaches us that judgment day is coming (John 5:28-29): “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”
Paul taught us that the wrath of God is coming against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men: 1 Thessalonians 1:10. He also warns us that “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Life is a tightrope. Jesus has already crossed and He’s the only who has done it. Jesus tells us how to walk the tightrope - that is, how to live a life that glorifies God the Father. Because underneath the tightrope is the wrath of God against sin. We absolutely must follow Jesus’ directions - the gospel of Christ - in order to make it across successfully.
There is a judgment day coming, which Revelation 14 pictures as a harvest.
In our last study from Revelation, we saw from chapter 12 that Satan is behind all the evil and wickedness and disobedience that happens in the world and we looked at chapter 13 and were introduced to the two minions of Satan: the beast and the false prophet, which was also symbolized as a beast. These images pick up the message of Daniel the prophet, specifically chapters 7 & 8. The beast is a metaphor for the secular government that pretends to be everything one needs from God; the “false prophet” obviously is false religion in all of its disguises including false imitations of Christianity. Remember that the apostle Paul warns Christians in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 that false teachers disguise themselves as angels of light.
We have, then, an “axis of evil:” Satan, secular government which is antagonistic to Christ, and false religion.
But this “axis of evil” will not get away with their evil and wickedness. God is just and He will punish sin wherever it is found. It is a spiritual law that God’s holiness repels sin from God (Hab. 1:13; Isa. 59:1-2). God knew man would sin when He created man with the freedom to choose. That’s why God had to sacrifice His Son - for our salvation. That’s also why God is so angry at people who don’t respect His love and don’t respect His offer of salvation!
CHRIST’S PEOPLE ARE PURE - 14:1-5:
14:1-5 - “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.”
There is a strong warning against Christians compromising the gospel of Christ. Those who are victorious are those who won by dying. Christ crushed Satan’s head by allowing Satan to strike His heel (Gen. 3:15) and Christians will win when we submit to what the world throws at us, but we stay faithful to Christ through it all.
Remember in 13:17 that the beast would not allow Christians to “buy and sell.” Here, John sees that Christians have been “purchased.” They (we) belong to Christ. You should write down Acts 20:28 where the apostle Paul reminds elders of the church: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” While Christ shed His blood for everyone, it is only those who have obeyed the gospel who are cleansed by that blood.
Those who have compromised with the world are pictured in Revelation as a prostitute, spiritual prostitutes (Rev. 17:1-5) while those who are faithful to Christ are pure and without sin (19:7; see also Eph. 5:25-27). These “144,000” have refused to compromise with the world, with “Babylon,” whether in the embodiment of the state or the embodiment of false religion, including false presentations of Christianity. We saw in our study of Revelation 7 that the “144,000” is a metaphor for the complete people of God, both from the OT times and the NT times.
Christians have to persevere in their faithfulness to the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Remember in James 4:4 that James writes that “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
FOUR HEAVENLY ANNOUNCEMENTS - 14:6-13:
14:6-8 - “And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” 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.”
The first angel reminds John to remind Christians, both in the first century and in the 21st century to “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” Notice that the “gospel” is more than just the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this context, the “gospel” also includes the judgment, condemnation, and punishment of those who do not obey the gospel’s message.
The second angel points out that the great threat of Christians’ health and well-being and safety in the first century, Babylon - which is a metaphor for Rome - is fallen. And, since she has “made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality,” there will be a lot of nations who will suffer from her fall, even as they will also rejoice when she does fall. The fall of Babylon is pictured especially in the OT prophet Isaiah (21:7) and John uses that imagery as a metaphor for Rome. There is no doubt that “Babylon” in Revelation applies to the Roman empire.
14:9-13 - “Then 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 on his hand, 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. “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. 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, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
The third announcement is that God’s judgment will fall on those who worship the beast and his image, those who have not stayed faithful to God’s message. They have the “mark of his name” in contrast to the 144,000 who have the mark of God the Father as well as God the Son.
The “cup” is a metaphor taken from the prophets which they used frequently (Isa. 51:17, 22; Ezekiel 23:31-33; Psa. 75:8; Jer. 25:15-17, 28; 49:12; 51:7; Lam. 4:21; Had. 2:16; Zech. 12:2). A few weeks ago, I had a lesson on the use of alcoholic beverages and pointed out that scholars say that the alcohol content of naturally-fermented wine which was drank in the Bible times was about 12% alcohol (about the alcohol content of NyQuil), which they then diluted typically 3 times. So, to drink from the wine of God’s wrath undiluted is to experience the full wrath of Jehovah God! Nobody has ever experienced in this life the full wrath of God! When God destroyed the world with the flood, His mercy was mixed into that wrath. When God opened the earth to swallow those who criticized Moses’ leadership, His mercy was mixed into that wrath. But when God’s anger is poured out on those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, there will be no grace mixed in, no mercy mixed in. It will be the wrath of God undiluted! What a horrifying thought!
The fourth announcement is in a little different form: those who die in the Lord are blessed by Jehovah God. They will rest from their labors and their good works will live on even after they are gone.
THE HARVEST HAS COME - 14:14-20:
14:14-20 - “Then 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. 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, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Then 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.” So 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. 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.”
The “harvest” is actually a metaphor for God’s judgment taken from the prophet Joel (3:13). There will be one harvest and the good, those who have been washed clean by the blood of Christ and been faithful to Jesus, will be separated from the evil, those who do not trust God and who do not obey the gospel.
“Wine” here is a fitting metaphor for the image of human blood being crushed out of maimed flesh. God had promised back in the days of Isaiah (63:1-6) that He would do this very thing. In Revelation, it is the Lamb who implements the punishment (Rev. 19:13, 15).
It is unfortunate that some translations, like my NASV, converts the distance into miles - 200 miles. While it is true that this helps us picture the gruesomeness of God’s judgment. However, it also obscures the fact that is a figurative image. Literally, John says it is 1,600 “stadia.” The point is not really the distance; the point is the gruesomeness of the image. 1600 is the square of the familiar biblical number “40.” It denotes completeness to the nth degree or “more than complete.”
Out of the 12 times the Greek word “hell” is used in the NT, Jesus uses it 11 times! Jesus was not afraid of scaring people away from Him if their interest was one of academic pursuit. What Jesus wants us to do is make a sober decision to commit ourselves to Him with every fiber of our being.
To reiterate… those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel are going to experience the complete and eternal wrath of God. If we are wise, we will obey the gospel and do everything we can to honor Christ and His gospel in our lives!
For those of us who try to watch our health and our weight, it takes thinking about it constantly. Watching the food you eat, getting the right amount and type of exercise, etc. You all know that the little decisions we make every single day has a major impact on our long-term health.
Take home message: If we are wise, we will obey the gospel and do all we can to glorify Jesus according to His instructions.