Two different “harvests” occur at the end of the age – The reaping of the “grain,” and the ingathering of the “fruit of the vine” – Revelation 14:14-16.
In chapter 14, Revelation contrasts two distinct groups: The men and women who follow the “Lamb,” and those who render homage to the “beast,” the “inhabitants of the earth.” And two different fates await each, now presented as two harvests: the “grain” harvest, and the ingathering of the “fruit of the vine.” Both “harvests” occur at the final judgment.
In anticipation of the “harvest,” three angels issued warnings to the “inhabitants of the earth”: The summons to heed the “everlasting gospel”; the announcement of the fall of “Babylon”; and finally, the ominous warning that everyone who takes the “mark of the beast” will “drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared, unmixed” – (Revelation 14:6-10).
Everyone who follows the “Lamb wherever he goes,” and who has his “Father’s name” inscribed on his or her forehead, will be “reaped” by the “Son of Man” and gathered into his “sanctuary.” In contrast, all who “take the mark of the beast, or his number,” will “drink of the wine of the wrath of God.”
- (Revelation 14:14-16) – “And I saw, and behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sitting like a son of man, having upon his head a crown of gold, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came forth out of the sanctuary, crying out with a loud voice to him that was sitting upon the cloud: Thrust in your sickle, and reap; because the hour to reap is come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that was sitting on the cloud thrust in his sickle upon the earth; and the earth was reaped.”
“And upon the cloud, one sitting like a son of man.” The clause is a link to the book’s first vision, in which John saw Jesus as the glorious figure arriving with the “clouds”:
- (Revelation 1:7-12) – “Behold, he comes with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, such also as pierced him… And I turned round to see the voice that was speaking with me, and having turned, I saw seven golden lamp stands, and in the midst of the lamp-stands, one like a Son of Man, clothed with a robe reaching to the feet, and girt about at the breasts with a girdle of gold” – (Daniel 7:13-14, Matthew 24:30, 26:64, Mark 13:26, Acts 1:9-11, 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
In the first vision, the “Son of Man” was arrayed in priestly garments and walking among the “seven golden lamp-stands,” which represented the “seven churches of Asia.” The same figure then issued seven “letters” to the “seven churches.” From the start, Jesus as the “Son of Man” is linked inextricably to the churches. And in the book’s prologue and epilogue, his appearance “with the clouds” is connected to his arrival in glory at the end of the age:
- (Revelation 1:7) – “He is coming with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they that pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over him.”
- (Revelation 22:12, 20) – “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is… He who testifies these things says, Yea: I come quickly. Amen: come, Lord Jesus.”
The image of the “Son of Man” is based on the vision of Daniel when he saw “one like a Son of Man” coming “on the clouds” towards the “Ancient of Days” to receive the “kingdom” for the “saints”:
- (Daniel 7:13-14, 18) – “I continued looking in the visions of the night, when behold, with the clouds of the heavens, one like a son of man was coming, and unto the Ancient of days he approached, and before him they brought him near; and to him were given dominion and dignity and kingship, that all peoples, races and tongues unto him should do service… but the saints of the Highest shall receive the kingdom.”
“Having upon his head a crown of gold.” “Crown” translates the Greek noun stephanos, or “victor’s wreath,” which highlights his overcoming victory achieved through death. To the church at Smyrna, the “Son of Man” promised to give the “victor’s wreath of life” or stephanos to every member who remained “faithful unto death” – (Revelation 2:10).
Next, “another angel” cried with a “loud voice” to the “Son of Man” to reap the earth with his “sickle,” for the “hour to reap is come.” The language echoes a passage from the Book of Joel:
- (Joel 3:12-14) – “Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there will I sit to judge all the nations round about. Put in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe: come, tread ye; for the wine-press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! for the day of Yahweh is near in the valley of decision.”
The passage from Joel also provides the basis for the two “harvests” now pictured in Revelation – the reaping of the grain, and the gathering of the grapes – (“Putin the sickle; for the harvest is ripe… tread ye; for the wine-press is full”). Sickles were not used to gather grapes, but instead, to reap stalks of grain.
The “hour to reap” is the “hour of his judging” announced by the angel with the “everlasting gospel” – (Because the hour of his judging is come; therefore, render homage to him that made heaven and the earth”). That men were called to honor to God demonstrates that this “hour” does not necessarily mean destruction.
When the grain “harvest” is reaped, all the “dead who died in the Lord” and received “rest from their labors; for their works followed with them,” are gathered into the “sanctuary of God” by the “Son of Man.” Once again, throughout this chapter, the fates of two distinct groups are presented – that of the overcoming “saints,” and that of the “inhabitants of the earth,” that is, all who “took the mark of the beast.”
The “hour to reap” is the same as the final “hour” of Judgment portrayed variously in the book, as the “hour of trial,” the hour when Jesus “comes,” the “hour” when Babylon falls, and the time of judgment when God rewards the “saints,” but also, “destroys them that destroy the earth.” The final “hour” means vindication for some, but destruction for others – (Revelation 3:3,3:10,11:13-19, 18:10,18:19).
The “everlasting gospel” has been announced. Men must either render homage to God or to the “beast.” All who give their allegiance to God are “reaped” and gathered by Jesus in the grain harvest. In contrast, all others participate in another and quite horrific “ingathering.” Although one “everlasting gospel” has been proclaimed, it produces two very different results, depending on how one responds to it.