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Deep and Wide


Revelation 14:14-20
October 18, 2020
Lord’s Day Worship
Sean Higgins

The sermon starts around 17:50 in the audio file.



Or, The Great Winepress of Wrath

Series: Just Conquer Part 41

Introduction

Many believers hold the balance between current events and end times as well as our presidential candidates compliment one another on social media. In other words, we swing wildly back and forth, and the swinging is usually ugly. Balancing is hard, whether we’re trying to rejoice in the promises for the future or to navigate the problems of the present. Christians tend to shine all their eschatological light on the immanence or remain in the dark of eschatology’s irrelevance. Living by faith, even in John’s fantastic visions, is different than getting lost in distracting fantasies.

We confess that Jesus is Lord and that Jesus will return; these things are true and good and gladdening. Our confession, therefore, must be more than nominal, more than a token, more than two-dimensional. We believe, and so we speak (2 Corinthians 4:13). We believe, and so we sow. The fruit of believing in April that there will be a harvest in August is planting. The fruit of believing in June that there will be a harvest in August is patience, perhaps alongside other sorts of seed spreading. All of this is a way to remind us that the Now and the Then are connected in more ways than chronology.

The one who connects them is the King. Jesus is the Lamb who ransomed people for Himself, and He is the Anointed who will inherit the nations after breaking them with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:8-9; Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). Jesus Christ is “the ruler of the kings on earth,” and “he is coming with the clouds” (Revelation 1:5-6). The book of Revelation is the unveiling of the things that must take place, and they must take place because reaping follows sowing. Jesus is the Redeemer, and He is also the Reaper. He has finished His work of atonement, but He has not finished His work of accumulating evidence. All authority is His now, He sees what men sow, and He will repay.

> Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

So now does matter, and every “now” will matter until His return. The King is not mocked. The one who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption (Galatians 6:7-8), and all those on earth who get drunk on the depravity, indecency, idolatry, and degeneracy of the beast and his deceptions will be ripe for the great winepress of God’s wrath.

An angel blew the seventh trumpet at the end of Revelation 11, and chapters 12-14 are visions that explain the long war waged by the ancient serpent against God. In chapter 12 John told the story of the dragon’s hatred toward God’s people and especially God’s Son. In chapter 13 John saw the dragon rising like a beast out of the sea to blaspheme God and make war on the saints. John also saw another beast in chapter 13 rising out of the earth who served the first beast and led the earth-dwellers to worship and take the mark of the beast. In chapter 14 John saw a remnant redeemed from mankind by and for the Lamb (verses 1-5), but then he saw the consequences for those who sowed their lives for the beast: eternal unrest and torment (verses 6-13).

We are almost ready for the final series of judgments, the seven bowl judgments, to be poured out. Before that, John sees two similar visions in verses 14-20, a grain harvest and a grape harvest. The hour to reap has come, and the King’s sickle is sharp.

The Hour of Harvest (verses 14-16)

This is a vision of the final autumn of sin, of the world-field filled with those given over to their lusts and to serving the embodiment of their pride in the beast.

> 14 “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.

The “white cloud” is cosmic imagery, and the one “seated on the cloud” is seated as if on a throne. It’s a sky throne, a mobile throne, a throne of judgment. The “golden crown on his head” confirms the royalty of this seated one, and the “sharp sickle in his hand” prepares us not merely for judgment of assessment but of retribution.

This seated one is “like a son of man,” though this is the Son of Man, who is also the child of the woman who is to rule all the nations (Revelation 12:5). The language comes from Daniel 7:13-14, as Daniel saw “with the clouds…one like a son of man” coming to the ancient of days.

> 14 “And to him was given dominion > and glory and a kingdom, > that all peoples, nations, and languages > should serve him; > his dominion is an everlasting dominion, > which shall not pass away, > and his kingdom one > that shall not be destroyed.”

Before establishing this kingdom He will inflict penalty on those who have not received Him as King.

The “sickle” in his hand belongs with the harvest metaphor, a metaphor found in numerous Bible verses. Most notably is Joel 3:13 (see also Joel 3:14-16).

> 13 “Put in the sickle, > for the harvest is ripe. > Go in, tread, > for the winepress is full. > The vats overflow, > for their evil is great.”

When the Lord would restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem (Joel 3:1), He would judge the nations (Joel 3:2).

> 15 “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.

We already saw with John three angels announcing judgment in verses 6-12. “Another angel came out of the temple,” and based on verse 17, this is the temple in heaven. As a messenger (from the presence of the Father) he announces to the Son of Man that it is time.

A “sickle” is a farming tool with a semicircular blade used for cutting grain. Our name for the tool comes from what it does, from the Latin secare meaning “to cut.” It is a chopping, lopping, gashing, severing instrument. Three times it is labeled “sharp.”

“Put in” may be too calm. A better verb is “send” or in this case, “swing.”

“The hour has come to reap,” but it’s not just an arbitrary time. It’s time to reap because the field is ready. The ESV translates “the harvest…is fully ripe,” and that’s fine. The verb is more precisely “has become dry.” A grain or wheat harvest is ready when the grain is dry. And in some ways this is a fantastic figure for the sinfulness of sin. When iniquity is mature, when immorality is full grown, it is dry.

Just as God knows the complete number of martyrs (and the fulness of the Gentiles), so He knows the when the sinners of man are “ripe,” explained by Paul as “to fill up the measure of their sins” (as in 1 Thessalonians 2:16).

> 16 “So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

Jesus, the King, the Lion, inflicts His blade and the unrighteous are cut down and gathered for the penalty of their sins.

The Winepress of Wrath (verses 17-20)

Some would say that the judgments in verses 14-16 and 17-20 are two separate judgments, others would say that it is one judgment presented from two perspectives to emphasize the unalterable nature of the judgment. Of those who see two separate judgments, some would say that verses 14-16 describe the harvest of the righteous and verses 17-20 the harvest of the unrighteous. But the most recent remnant is at the beginning of the chapter, and everything about a sickle suggests violent retribution not rescue or reward. The similarity of “the hour … has come” with 14:7 argues for judgment, as do the dual judgment images of grain and grapes in Joel 3.

> 17 “Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle.

From the universal command post of God’s presence, “another angel came out of the temple in heaven.” This angel doesn’t have a message, he has “a sharp sickle.” His assignment is not communicating but cutting.

> 18 “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.

There is a messenger angel who comes to the sickle-brandishing angel and tells him to start slicing. The messenger angel is “the angel who has authority over the fire.” We met this angel in Revelation 8, an angel who ministers at the altar before the throne where the prayers of the saints are gathered. That angel doesn’t have a sickle but a censer and he fills it with fire from the altar and throws it on earth (Revelation 8:3-5).

These are the prayers of the saints, these include our current prayers for God to make things right. All the prayers have been made, all the suffering of the saints has been endured, and this angel knows it. Now matters then. So he announces that it’s time for harvest, but this time it’s “the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” This metaphor is more specific than in verses 14-16 and more of the sequence is described.

> 19 “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.

As the Son of Man threw His sickle, so this angel brings about the judgment. We didn’t see where the grain went, but here the grapes are thrown “into the great winepress of the wrath of God.” He throws the sickle, he gathers the grapes, and he throws the clusters into the winepress.

A winepress like this was large enough to stand in and trample. This is not mere gathering, but mangling. And now we have the second half of Joel 3:

> 13 “Put in the sickle, > for the harvest is ripe. > Go in, tread, > for the winepress is full. > The vats overflow, > for their evil is great.”

This also connects with the winepress image in Isaiah 63:3.

> “I have trodden the winepress alone, > and from the peoples no one was with me; > I trod them in my anger > and trampled them in my wrath; > their lifeblood spattered on my garments, > and stained all my apparel.”

This is not the verse that Jonathan Edwards launched from in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”; that is Revelation 19:15, but relevant:

> “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.”

It is the imagery that John Steinbeck used for the title of his novel The Grapes of Wrath (published in 1939).

> 20 “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.

“Outside the city” refers to Jerusalem, even as prophesied about a final battle in Joel 3 and Zechariah 14.

Three things describe the blood: 1) it overflowed the winepress, 2) it was as high as a horse’s bridle, and 3) it was as long as 180+ miles (“1,600 stadia”), from Syria in the north to Egypt in the south, covering all of Palestine.

Conclusion

No one is getting away with anything. There is a time to pluck up (Ecclesiastes 3:2), even though evil deeds are not punished speedily from our perspective (Ecclesiastes 8:11). It’s just the Lord giving the grapes of unrighteousness a more time to ripen.

As believers, hold fast Jesus’ name (Revelation 2:13), fear God (14:7), sow loyal worship and enduring witness (14:12), and buy and sell as the Lamb’s. The winepress of God’s wrath is great. But also great: great joy for a pastor than to hear that his people are walking in the truth (3 John 4), and God Himself is unlimited in His ability to bring us into the presence of His glory with great joy (Jude 24).

We’re about to sing about the fountain of blood that flows to cover our sins. We sing another song as kids about that same fountain as deep and wide. The sin of the world is consummate, thorough, dreadful, and violent. Sinners will either be covered by the blood of the Lamb who bore God’s wrath, or by God’s wrath their blood will be deep and wide, just as their sinfulness.


Charge

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Praise God. Do good. Repeat.

Benediction:

> So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:12–16, ESV)