The harvest of the earth speaks of the great judgment of God upon all unbelievers, which occurs at the very end of the Tribulation. We will look at the entire passage and then break it down into three points.
Revelation 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. 15 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.” 16 Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18 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.” 19 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. 20 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.
There will be two executioners: Jesus Christ and special designated angels. Jesus Christ is seen by John as “a son of man having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.” This imagery, especially the golden crown on His head, shows us vividly that Christ is victorious in battle; and even before the battle is over, we know that He will conquer His enemies.
His special angels helping Him also have sharp sickles (deadly weapons), and they will be working to gather all the sinners into the great wine press of God (the wrath of God).
The Harvest Will Be Ripe
The harvest in this passage is first of grain (vs 14-16), and then of grapes (17-20). In the first group of verses I think the harvest of grain is dealing with the separation of the tares from the good grain, or the unbelievers from the believers (This is explained for us in Matthew 13:39-43). We can’t be sure exactly when or how this will occur, but I think it will occur sometime before Armageddon—which is what is described in verses 17 through 20.
So, as for this second passage, where the imagery is clearly of the harvest of grapes, the separation has already occurred, and all of the unbelieving people left (represented as grapes) are harvested (judged); they are all ripe and are cast into the great wine press.
Notice that in both cases—the harvest of grain (the separation) and the harvest of grapes—the timing is exactly right. Hence, as the writer of Ecclesiastes puts it, “There is an appointed time for everything” (Ecc. 3:1). And in this case, the time for God’s judgment on unbelievers has come. He has waited patiently for people to repent and come to Him. But there will be an appointed time when His patience runs out and His judgment begins. At that time nothing can be done to delay His time of judgment.
The Great Wine Press
The great wine press is the slaughter of all unbelievers like the pressing of grapes. The writing here portrays all those who will come to the great battle ground in Israel. As is described in the sixth bowl (Rev. 16:13-16), they (hundreds of millions) will be drawn to this place of battle: mainly in Armageddon, but I think in most of the land of Israel, by demons which will come out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet; these three will demonically convince the world to come and fight. And so, they will be led by demons to this great battle. But they will come to be slaughtered by the angels of God and Christ Himself. They will be slaughtered by the sword, and their blood will be as deep as the horses’ bridles—as it flows for 200 miles from Armageddon in the North to Edom in the south.
Now these who gather, at least most of them, I think, are military men (armies). But what of the civilian unbelievers. I assume that they will be judged too—wherever they may be located. None will escape the sword of God’s wrath. All will die because of their rebellious unbelief. As the seventh bowl judgment describes, some will die by a great earthquake, and some will die by huge hail stones, and I imagine that some will die merely out of fear—the fear of His judgment. In the end there will be no unbelievers left. All will die.
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