Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 14:14-20
Chapter 25

We have come to the final installment in John's great parenthetic narrative that has for its primary subjects, Satan and his persecution of Israel.

John began this parenthetic passage in Revelation 12, with a description of a woman about to give birth. We identified this woman as Israel and her child as the Lord Jesus Christ.

John next described rebellion in heaven and the casting down of Satan and his followers who persecuted the woman or Israel and tried to destroy her child, the Christ. We know this effort to destroy our Lord failed in that although He was crucified, He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. He is now calling out His Church from among the people of the earth.

John also described in Revelation 12, a future rebellion against God led by Satan and as a result he will be confined to the earth. Satan will be angry according to the account and will lash out against humanity on the earth, particularly Israel. This will be the beginning of the Great Tribulation.

Then, in Revelation 13, John first describes a vision of a beast out of the sea. From his description and from parallel descriptions in the prophecies of Daniel, we know this beast is the revived Roman Empire that will once again rule the world.

John also describes a beast out of the land in Revelation 13. This beast is "the prince that shall come" mentioned by Daniel. He is the Antichrist. This Antichrist will rule the world through the power of Satan and will proclaim himself, God. He will institute a system of trade restrictions that prevent anyone who does not worship him from buying or selling. His persecution of Israel during this time will be relentless.

Revelation 14, is a glimpse of the situation when our Lord returns to establish His Kingdom on earth. The 144,000 believing Jews will be saved from destruction to welcome their King and they will sing a new song, in His presence, before His throne, in His Kingdom.

Babylon, which represents the city or location of the throne of the Antichrist, the wicked religious system, and the corrupt political system will fall. Those who worship the Antichrist and take his mark will be cast into the Lake of Fire, while those who refuse to worship the beast and look to Jesus as their Messiah will rest in His presence.

Now, after describing Satan's rebellion, his persecution of the earth and God's people, John tells us,

I. There is a Time for Reaping

"Reaping" is often used figuratively in the Scriptures to denote receiving one's just reward. This reward can and will be a pleasant experience for those who do the right thing, while for the transgressors it will be a bad experience. So it is with the uses of the word in our text.

Careful examination of the study text discloses there are two separate reapers. Because there are two separate reapers, it follows there are two separate times for reaping. If there are two separate times for reaping, they must be for different reasons and they are. The first reaping is to gather in the righteous and the second to round up the unrighteous.

Both events will occur at the close of the Great Tribulation when our Lord returns in Glory to establish His Kingdom. But again, as throughout the rest of this parenthetical narrative, John does not pay attention to chronological sequence. Therefore, our references to a first and a second reaping are to distinguish one from the other, not to necessarily define order of occurrence.

II. The First Reaping

"And I looked and, behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat, like the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap; for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe" (Revelation 14:14-15).
There is some disagreement concerning the identity of the "Reaper" in this passage. The Authorized text does not say directly that the Reaper is the "Son of Man" it says, "One sat, like the Son of man." Therefore, some say this is not our Lord but an angel.

Another textual proof for those who do not believe the Reaper is our Lord is that an angel commands the Reaper to reap. The thought is that angels cannot command our sovereign Lord to do anything.

But there is also strong Biblical evidence this Reaper is our Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to the prophetic words of our Lord in Matthew 24:29-31:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give its light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
Let us compare this description of our Lord's coming in Glory to establish His Kingdom with the scenario in our Revelation text:
(1) This event occurs at the end of the Tribulation. This is plainly stated in Matthew and known from the context in Revelation.

(2) Our Lord is called, "The Son of Man," which describes his appearance in a human body or form. As the "Son of Man," our Lord is human. The phrase, "One sat, like the Son of man" in our Revelation text, simply means the one in question has the appearance of a human.

Our Lord Jesus Christ will appear in human form to establish His Kingdom on earth. He will sit in the throne of his father, David, ruling over His own people. His throne will be the throne of a human king, His subjects will be humans, and His kingdom will be on earth, the domain of humans. Therefore, it is logical for Revelation 14:14, to describe our Lord as human.

(3) There is reference to our Lord coming in clouds in both texts.

(4) Jesus said in the Matthew text, He would come with power and great glory. The crown in Revelation is not a "diadema" or crown of authority. It is a "stephanos" or victor's crown. It is a crown of glory. The "sharp sickle" in Revelation indicates our Lord's power to do the reaping. Truly, this "Reaper" in Revelation will come with power and glory just as He said He would in Matthew.

(5) The passage in Matthew also discloses what will happen when the "Reaper," our Lord, thrusts His sickle on the earth. The whole earth will be reaped, that is, the elect will be gathered in from where they are scattered around the world. As the four winds from heaven blow in all directions so will the elect be scattered, but even so, they will be reaped or harvested from all the places where they are hiding.

So far, the evidence is strong for identifying the first Reaper as our Lord Jesus Christ. But what about the angel giving Him orders? Again, the answer is found in our Lord's own prophetic words.

In Mark 13:32, we find, "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels who are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." This does not mean Jesus is unaware of when His return will take place, for if this or any other thing is unknown to Him, then He is not omniscient. If He is not omniscient, He cannot be God for omniscience is one of the primary attributes of God. This text means the exact day and hour of our Lord's return is to be determined by the Father in Heaven, not by the Son of Man.

So we see, the angel in Revelation 14:15, is not giving our Lord an order. Rather, he is delivering a message from the Father in Heaven. This is what angels or "messengers" do, here and throughout the Scriptures.

The angel "Came out of the temple," indicating his leaving the presence of God, to deliver the message that it is time for Christ to reap. "And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped" (Revelation 14:16).

III. The Second Reaping

"And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs" (Revelation 14:17-20).
This "Reaper" is another angel out of the temple or presence of God. He is given a "Sharp sickle" or the authority to do his job of reaping. However, he is put on "hold" or made to wait until an angel from the altar who has power over fire instructs him to begin his work. That this instructing angel is from the altar and has power over fire indicates he is sent in response to the prayers of the saints, for righteous judgment on the earth (Revelation 6:9-11, 8:3-4).

The judgment wrought by the angel with the sickle is spoken of metaphorically as the gathering and pressing of grapes in a winepress. This is a continuation of the figure used in Revelation 14:9b-10a, which says,

"If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation."
The "grapes" gathered by this reaping angel are those who worship the beast and his image and receive his mark. The "winepress" into which they will be cast is the final, fanatical, aggression against Israel, led by the Antichrist that will occur just before the return of the Lord. This event is commonly known as the battle of Armageddon.

Zechariah 14:2-3, says Jerusalem (symbolic of Israel) is the objective of this battle:

"For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle."
Zechariah 14:12, the fate of the armies that will attack Jerusalem or Israel:
"And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will smite all the peoples that have fought against Jerusalem: their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth."
John expresses the fate of these armies in Revelation 14:20:
"And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs."
This is the final earthly judgment of those who worship the Antichrist. They will be gathered by their own attempts to destroy Israel. But they will not prevail because the Lord will come and fight for Israel. The carnage of this great "winepress" or battle will be so great that blood will reach unto the horses bridles for nearly two hundred miles.

Revelation 14:20 has been met with skepticism for centuries. One well-known commentator says this: "It seems quite impossible that the blood will flow in depth as high as the horses' bridles, and it is better to understand this simply as a liberal spattering of blood." But there is more demonstrated in this verse than "a liberal spattering of blood."

The quantity of blood serves to confirm the numbers of people and animals that will be killed in the battle of Armageddon. We know from Revelation 14:9-10 that all those who worship the Antichrist and receive his mark will "drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture."

Therefore, we can conclude that all the Antichrist worshipers will be included in this final earthly judgment and these could possibly number in the billions. A destruction of this magnitude is not without precedent. Revelation 9:15, 18, reveal a third of mankind will be killed by the four angels who are bound in the Euphrates River.

Another clue to the magnitude of death in this final battle is found in Ezekiel 39:12-13:

"And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying them, that they may cleanse the land. Yea, all the people of the land shall bury them; and it shall be to their renown on the day that I shall be glorified, saith the Lord God."
This burying will surely take place in mass graves as it does historically when there are large numbers of deaths. Therefore, it is not unrealistic to envision large earth moving machines digging cavernous pits and bulldozers pushing the dead bodies into them as quickly as possible. According to Ezekiel, all the people in Israel will be involved in burying the dead and still it will take seven months. Clearly the dead will be innumerable.

So, the blood coming out of the winepress unto the horses bridles for two hundred miles could mean the dead bodies will be stacked five feet high for two hundred miles in every direction from Jerusalem. Or, it could mean the blood will run five feet deep for a distance of two hundred miles. This is also possible.

The amount of blood required to make a river 200 miles long, five feet deep and twenty-five feet wide is, approximately 987,360,000 gallons. According to the American Medical Association, Home Medical Encyclopedia, the average sized adult has about 10 pints or 1 1/4 gallons of blood in his body. The blood from 1 billion bodies would be more than enough to create a river 200 miles long, five feet deep and twenty-five feet wide. This does not take into account the blood from the horses.

Given the earth's population that continues to grow exponentially, it is not inconceivable that one billion people or more, could be killed in the winepress of Armageddon.

One thing is certain: The judgment of Armageddon will produce a scene of death unlike any ever seen on the face of the earth. This will be the time when all the followers of Satan will be purged from the earth, quelling any resistance to the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom.

Revelation 14:14-20, is an account of the gathering of Israel, the Elect of God and the destruction of the followers of Satan. It is truly a time for reaping. Then as now, those who place their trust in Christ will be redeemed, while those who worship Satan will be destroyed

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999