The Harvest of the Earth

Revelation 14:14-20
The End Times

In my last post, we examined a Revelation 14:13 to consider Blessed Are the Dead. In this post, we move on the Revelation 14:14-20 to explore The Harvest of the Earth.

“Then I looked, and there before me was a white cloud. Sitting on the cloud was someone like a Son of Man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 Another angel came out of the Temple and shouted to the one sitting on the cloud, ‘Start using your sickle to reap, because the time to reap has come — the earth’s harvest is ripe!’ 16 The one sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. 17 Another angel came out of the Temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Then out from the altar went yet another angel, who was in charge of the fire; and he called in a loud voice to the one with the sharp sickle, ‘Use your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because they are ripe!’ 19 The angel swung his sickle down onto the earth, gathered the earth’s grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s fury. 20 The winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress as high as the horses’ bridles for two hundred miles!” ~ Revelation 14:14-20 (CJB)

The Harvest of the Earth

As a whole, the passage echoes Joel 3:9-13, in which grape harvesting and wine pressing are a metaphor for judgment in the context of the eschatological war. It also echoes Isaiah 63:1-6, in which God treads the winepress in His fury, pressing out the lifeblood of the peoples. The same metaphor is in Jeremiah 25:15, 28-31.

The harvest also symbolizes judgment at Jeremiah 51:33 and Hosea 6:11. Yeshua’s parable of the wheat and the weeds, especially Mark 4:29 and Matthew 13:39-42 depict the Father’s judgment. Both there and here the Messiah is the reaper at the final judgment, using angels as his instruments. Moreover, here it is the Messiah who treads the winepress (see Revelation 19:15).

This chapter began with a vision of the firstfruits (v. 4) and closes with images of the final harvest, with an era of preaching the Besorah in between. The seals and shofars had carried the panorama to the end of chapter 11. Chapters 12-14, returning to the start, contain another series that runs to the end: the development of the beast, ending in his defeat at the hands of the Lamb.

Then I looked, and there before me was a white cloud. Sitting on the cloud was someone like a Son of Man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 Another angel came out of the Temple and shouted to the one sitting on the cloud, ‘Start using your sickle to reap, because the time to reap has come — the earth’s harvest is ripe!’ 16 The one sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

On the cloud was someone like a Son of Man. The identity of the one described in verse 14 is unquestionably the Lord Yeshua HaMashiach. We are told in Acts 1:9-11 that He will return, in the clouds, as we have seen Him go. In Luke 21:27 it states, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with tremendous power and glory.”  Do not confuse this with the rapture, which has already occurred (Revelation 4:1-3). What is depicted is the second phase of His Second Coming. Don’t forget, the Second Coming of Yeshua is in two stages: in the first stage He comes for His saints (the rapture), and in the second stage He comes with His saints (the revelation). These two phases are separated by seven years, which is Daniel’s seventieth week. The prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14 is made to refer to Yeshua.

The angels in this chapter are working in concert with one another, to give an overview of the Battle of Armageddon. Do not confuse this battle with the battle of Gog and Magog described in Revelation 20:8-9. The Battle of Armageddon will come at the close of the tribulation period, whereas the battle of God and Magog will come at the end of the millennial reign of Yeshua. The campaign described here is a battle of blood, whereas the battle of Revelation 20:8-9 is a battle of fire. Fire will come down from God out of heaven and consume the armies of Gog.

Yochanan has given a fore view of the Battle of Armageddon that will take place in Revelation 19:11-21. However, the Lord wants to show a little more descriptive view of the battle, so Yochanan continues to write. Have you ever had someone say, “Tell me what happened, but spare me the bloody details?” God has chosen not to spare the gory details but wants to portray the full impact of what’s going to happen.

The earth’s harvest is ripe (v. 15) has a bearing on the reason the Lord delays His coming: He is waiting for the crop to ripen. The harvest of the human race had been spoken of long before in the Old Testament, in Joel 3:13-14: “Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe; come, and tread, for the winepress is full. The vats are overflowing, for their wickedness is great…For the Day of Adonai is upon us  in the Valley of Decision!”

The Grapes from the Earth’s Vine

 This vision refers to the wicked, for the winepress is the great winepress of God’s fury. It is another representation of the doom of the wicked, as Jesus said: “They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where people will wail and grind their teeth.” ~  Matthew 13:42 (CJB) and “they will go off to eternal punishment, but those who have done what God wants will go to eternal life.” ~ Matthew 25:46 (CJB)

Another angel came out of the Temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Then out from the altar went yet another angel, who was in charge of the fire; and he called in a loud voice to the one with the sharp sickle, ‘Use your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because they are ripe!’  Warren Wiersbe writes concerning the earth’s vine: [1]

The grape harvest is often a picture of judgment (see Joel 3:13, which anticipates the Day of the Lord). In actuality, Scripture portrays three different “vines.Israel was God’s vine, planted in the land to bear fruit for God’s glory; but the nation failed God and had to be cut down (Ps. 80:8-16; Isa. 5:1-7; see also Matt. 21:33-46). Today, Christ is the Vine and believers are branches in Him (John 15). But the world system is also a vine, “the vine of the earth” in contrast to Christ, the heavenly Vine; and it is ripening for judgment. The wicked system—Babylon—that intoxicates people and controls them will one day be cut down and destroyed in “the winepress of the wrath of God. (Emphasis added.)

The angel swung his sickle down onto the earth, gathered the earth’s grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s fury. 20 The winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress as high as the horses’ bridles for two hundred miles!” Gary Cohen and Salem Kirban write: [2]

Here the portrait is essentially the same as that found in those two remarkable prophecies, Isaiah 63:1-6 and Joel 3. Zechariah 12 and 14:1-7 also speak of this. The wicked armies of the end-time are depicted as ripe grapes. The winepress of God—the place where He will smash the armies—is the great Armageddon Pass (which is the great Plain of Esdraelon and the Jezreel ~Jordan Valleys). This is the 10 by 40 mile northwest-to-southeast gateway to Jerusalem through the mountains, and it will be the latter-day wine press of God. The red juice of the ancient Palestinian grape well represents visually the blood of the wicked which will here be shed.

The devastation of Armageddon is so extensive that it is probably best viewed as a war which destroys most of the earth, so great, that most of the earth’s population will be annihilated. As this is understood, it is easier to understand the development of events in Revelation fifteen through nineteen.

Outside the city of Jerusalem, in the valley of Y’hoshafat (the name means “God judges”), mentioned in Joel 4:2, 12(3:2, 12). Jewish authorities understand this as Kidron Valley (Yochanan 18:1) or the Hinnom Valley.

Two hundred milesSeveral translations use 1,600 stadia is about 180 miles, which is approximately the length of Israel from north to south. The blood of those fallen covered this area and reached as high as the bridles on the horses. It is thought to mean the complete destruction of the Holy Land or perhaps of the whole world. Joel prophesies about this war (Joel 3:2, 10-14), and the comparison is striking. It is likely a description of the Battle of Armageddon (16:16). Also see Zechariah 14:2, which refers to the gathering of all the nations to fight against Jerusalem.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 14:14-20 [3]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists again see these verses as describing the destruction of Rome.  Yet, in Israel, the wheat is harvested in the spring and the fruit in late summer.  Here at the end of the world, the picture shows the destruction of the wicked on the last day.  Some take the two hundred miles as the breadth of Italy; others as symbolic of the universality of the judgment.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists again see these verses as describing the fall of Jerusalem.  There is some question whether the harvests symbolize different events or are two ways of describing the same event.  Many see the first harvest as the salvation of Believers and the second as a judgment on the wicked.

Futurist Approach:

Futurists all agree that the second harvest is a terrible judgment upon the wicked.  They are divided on the meaning of the first harvest.  Some believe that it is an ingathering of the Tribulation saints, while others see it as a judgment of the wicked.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists seem to agree with the Preterists as to the two harvests and the Historicists as to the meaning of the two hundred miles.

In my next post, we will explore a Revelation 15:1-4 to examine The Song of Moshe and The Lamb.

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[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

The Parables of the Wheat and the Weeds

To Be Like Yeshua Means – To Understand the Parables of the Kingdom

In my last post, we learned that the sower was Yeshua and the seed was the Word of God.  In this post, we will continue by looking at another parable dealing with wheat and weeds.

While the kingdom message is being sown, it faces a variety of different receptions (Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23).  Some may have thought that the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom would be accompanied by cataclysmic events.  That did not seem to be happening with Yeshua.  In the Jewish mind, the coming of the Messiah signaled the coming of the kingdom.  Yeshua stated that the Messiah had arrived with His kingdom, but the fulfillment of the Messianic Kingdom would be delayed until He comes a second time.  What, then, is the Kingdom of Heaven like?  The parables in Matthew 13 answer this question.  They show what the Kingdom is really like as opposed to people’s expectations of it.  The Kingdom of Heaven is not a geographic location but a spiritual realm where God rules and where believers share in His eternal life.  We join that kingdom when we trust in Yeshua as Savior.

The Parable of the Wheat and Weeds

“Yeshua put before them another parable. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while people were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, then went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads of grain, the weeds also appeared.  The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where have the weeds come from?’  He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’  The servants asked him, ‘Then do you want us to go and pull them up?’ But he said, ‘No, because if you pull up the weeds, you might uproot some of the wheat at the same time. Let them both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest-time I will tell the reapers to collect the weeds first and tie them in bundles to be burned, but to gather the wheat into my barn.’” ~ Matthew 13:24-30

Remember that in parables, not every item needs to be interpreted; some details are added to give color.  That the enemy came while people were sleeping does not indicate neglect on anyone’s part; that he went away does not indicate his absence.  Instead, these details merely highlight the stealth and malicious intent of Satan (the enemy, the evil one).  This was a known practice in ancient warfare and feuds – destroy a nation’s (or person’s) agricultural base and his military might would also be destroyed.

The presence of Satan’s minions among God’s people would also serve to weaken them.  Because no one recognized the weeds, both grew at the same time.  The weed Yeshua referred to may have been darnel, a poisonous plant that looks very much like wheat in the early stages of growth, but becomes distinguishable when the heads of the wheat appear.  Yeshua’s hearers would have understood how no one would have noticed the weeds until the wheat sprouted and formed heads of grain.  Only then would the weeds appear.  A heavy infestation of darnel (indicated by it being sown among the wheat) would cause the roots of both plants to become entangled.  To sow darnel in a person’s wheat field was actually punishable by Roman law.

It’s almost similar to our modern problem of having people dump their garbage in local farmer’s fields.  This real-life situation gave Yeshua’s hearers a picture of God’s kingdom growing and thriving alongside evil in this world.  Yeshua’s reference is to the Kingdom of Heaven and is not limited to the Messianic community.  However, the Messianic community is in the world as well as in the Kingdom of Heaven, so this truth also applies.  There are good seeds and bad seeds, children of God and children of Satan, in the Messianic community.  At first glance, the works of each may be difficult to distinguish.  Yeshua appeals to us to be appropriately inclusive.  We should avoid exclusiveness and arrogant separatism.  We should strive for unity with others even when it may present the risk of weeds. The work of judgment is God’s.  However, we must not be naïve.  Satan has a strategy and his children are at work.

Yeshua explained that the kingdom grows quietly and abundantly, yet evil still exists in the world.

After the plants have grown, the owner’s servants report the surprising appearance of the weeds.  Yeshua did not identify the servants in his explanation of this parable.  The servants knew the master had sown good seed.  While the servants would expect a few weeds, this heavy infestation was suspect.  How could there be so many weeds? “Where have the weeds come from?” the servants ask.  Who are these weeds?  Yeshua will explain that “the weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One” (Matthew 13:38).  They may be people in the Messianic community who appear to be Believers but who never truly believe.  The emissaries later battled the problem of false teachers who came from within the ranks of the Believers.  To interpret the meaning more broadly – the Kingdom of God is present and growing in a world full of sin and unbelief.  Unfortunately for us, God will not eliminate all opposition until the end of the age.

The enemy, Satan (see Matthew 13:39), is always working to obstruct the growth of God’s Kingdom.  The enemy caused a problem, but the weeds could not stop the growth of the wheat.  The wheat just grew alongside the weeds.  So the servants dutifully asked if they should go and pull up the weeds.

Tough Question:  The servants in this parable raise one of the toughest questions ever posed:  If God is good and all-powerful, where does evil come from, and why is evil permitted?  The answer provided is a simple one.  It does not address all the logical difficulties of good and evil coexisting, but it tells us what we need to know: “An enemy has done this.”

  • God does not generate evil.  God is good indeed and ought not to be identified with evil at all.
  • Let God be concerned about understanding evil deeply and thoroughly.  When we seek in-depth understanding of evil (through viewing films or reading novels), we risk real damage to the heart, soul, and mind.
  • Spiritual “warfare” is normal, not odd or surprising.  Enemies actively oppose one another.  When sin and unbelief seem so strong, don’t try to figure out where they originated.  We know Satan is our enemy.  Instead, trust God and determine to follow him.

In answer to the servants’ question, the owner replied that no, they should not weed the fields.  Instead, the wheat and weeds should grow together until the harvest.  At the time of harvest, the workers would reap the field – gathering the wheat into the barn and collecting the weeds to be burned.

The harvest was a common metaphor for the final judgment (Jeremiah 51:33; Hosea 6:11; see also Revelation 14:14-16).  Yeshua will explain in verse 39 that “the harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels” (Matthew 13:39).  Again, Yeshua was making the point that while His coming signaled the arrival of the Kingdom, its consummation would be delayed.  The children of God and children of Satan would grow together until the harvest; then, God would judge and separate His children from Satan’s children (“the people who belong to the Evil One” Matthew 13:38).

God Does the Weeding:  The young weeds and the young blades of wheat look the same and can’t be distinguished until they are grown and ready for harvest.  Weeds (unbelievers) and wheat (Believers) must live side by side in this world.  God allows unbelievers to remain for a while, just as a farmer allows weeds to remain in his field so that the surrounding wheat won’t be uprooted with them.  At the harvest, however, the weeds will be uprooted and thrown away.  God’s harvest – judgment – of all people is coming.  Make yourself ready by remaining faithful to Yeshua and obeying him.

In my next post, we will explore the parable of the mustard seed and the leaven.

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