SYNOPSIS – The final ingathering of the “fruit of the vine” portrays the outpouring of the “wrath of God” on all men who take the “mark of the Beast” – Revelation 14:17-20.
The “war in heaven” that began in Chapter 12 now reaches a climax in Chapter 14, but in two very different harvests – The reaping of the grain, and the ingathering of the fruit of the vine into the “winepress of the wrath of God.” At the end of the day, all humanity is divided into two camps – Those who follow the Lamb, and, the men and women who give allegiance to the “Beast.” A different “harvest” awaits each group accordingly.
At the start of Chapter 14, the priestly company of 144,000 undefiled “males” who followed the Lamb “wherever he went” was standing on “Zion.” This group was comprised of men “purchased from humanity, as a firstfruit unto God and the Lamb.” The “firstfruit” is the first gleaning of the later and complete grain harvest – (Revelation 14:1-5).
After this event, an angel pronounced the “everlasting gospel” and summoned all men and women to “fear God and give him glory.” This portrayed the completion of the “harvest” that commenced with the “purchase” of the 144,000, the “firstfruit” – (Revelation 14:6-7).
Still “another angel” pronounced the fall of “Babylon” and warned of the everlasting punishment reserved for all who drank of her “wine.” The “great city” caused all the “nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” Therefore, all men who did so would “drink of the wine of the wrath of God” – (Revelation 14:8-11).
Next, the faithful saints from all nations were reaped by a “son of man” figure equipped with a “sharp sickle” – The grain “harvest.” What was put into motion by the “purchase” of the 144,000 undefiled “males” was brought to fruition by the “reaping of the earth.” The final “hour to reap is come because the harvest of the earth is ripe” – (Revelation 14:12-16).
Now, the other harvest is ready, the ingathering of the fruit of the vine into the “winepress of the wrath of God.” As with the grain harvest, the time has come, “because the grapes thereof are fully ripe” – (Revelation 14:12-16, 14:17-21).
(Revelation 14:17-20) – “And another angel came forth out of the sanctuary that is in heaven,—he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came forth out of the altar, who hath authority over the fire,—and called out with a loud voice unto him who had the sharp sickle, saying—Thrust in thy sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; because the grapes thereof 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 there came forth blood out of the winepress, even unto the bits of the horses, at a distance of a thousand six hundred furlongs.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
“And another messenger came forth out of the sanctuary… having a sharp sickle.” Like the Grain Harvest, this “harvest” is executed with a “sharp sickle.” However, unlike the preceding one, the fruit of the vine is “gathered” by an “angel,” not by the “one like a son of man.” Moreover, this angel does NOT “reap” the fruit of the vine. Unlike the grain harvest, the angel “gathers” the fruit to be “cast into the winepress of the wrath of God.”
This “gathering” is performed by an angel “from the altar, who hath authority over the fire.” The clause has verbal links to two passages in Revelation. First, when the seventh seal was opened; second, from the introduction of the seven angels with the bowls of wrath. Note the following parallels:
(Revelation 8:2-5) – “Another angel came and took his stand at the altar, having a censer of gold: and there was given unto him much incense, that he might give it for the prayers of all the saints, upon the altar of gold that is before the throne…And the angel at once took the censer, and filled it from the fire of the altar, and cast onto the earth; and there came to be claps of thunder, and voices, and flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.”
(Revelation 15:7-16:2) – “And one of the four living creatures gave unto the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who liveth unto the ages of ages. And the sanctuary was filled with smoke by reason of the glory of God, and by reason of his power; and no one was able to enter into the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels should be ended. And I heard a loud voice from the sanctuary, saying unto the seven angels—Go, and be pouring out the seven bowls of the wrath of God onto the earth.”
This is the same “altar” seen previously when the fifth seal was opened revealing the souls of the martyrs “under the altar” when they pleaded with the Lord for vindication against their enemies. The “golden altar” of incense was also seen when the sixth trumpet sounded, releasing four angels to unleash forces bound “at the great river, Euphrates”- (Revelation 6:9-11, 9:13-15).
“And he gathered the vine of the earth and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God.” This provides a further link to the sixth seal where the angel with the censer took its contents and “cast them onto the earth” – (ebalen eis tén gén). Likewise, the angel with the sickle takes the fruit of the vine and “casts it into the winepress” of God’s wrath – (ebalen eis tén lénon). The same Greek preposition or eis is used in both passages (“into/onto”). The series of seven seals, seven trumpets, and the war in heaven that began in Chapter 12 all culminate in a scene of final judgment.
The change in verb from “reap” to “gather” is significant, not only because of the change in imagery from the grain to the grape harvest but, much more significantly, because it provides a verbal link to the sixth bowl of wrath and the battle of “Armageddon” when the “kings of the earth and their armies” are “gathered” to the “great day of the battle of God the Almighty” in order to be judged – (Revelation 16:12-16, 19:17-21).
“The winepress was trodden outside the city.” The “city” in view is “Babylon,” the same “great city” outside of which Jesus was crucified, and where the “Two Witnesses” were slain – (Revelation 11:3-13).
“Trodden outside the city.” This is a fitting judgment for the “nations” that “tread under foot” the court that was “cast outside the sanctuary” when John Measured the Sanctuary, and for the slaying of Jesus “outside the city.” So, likewise, the men who took the “mark of the Beast” and drank the “wine of the wrath” of “Babylon” are now judged “outside” the “city of Babylon.”
This image anticipates the description of the judgment of “Babylon” in later chapters of the book. At this point in the literary sequence, the “inhabitants of the earth” that rendered homage to the “Beast” are judged. This is a literary, NOT a chronological sequence – (Revelation 11:1-13, 16:17-21, 18:1-24).
“The great winepress of the wrath of God.” This portrays the same reality as the third angel who announced the fall of Babylon a few verses earlier:
(Revelation 14:8-10) – “If anyone renders homage to the beast and his image…he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger;—and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone before holy messengers and before the Lamb.”
Note well the reference to the “wine” of the “wrath of God.” That vintage is now produced as the angel casts the grapes from the earth into the “winepress of the wrath of God.” Note also, the application of two different metaphors to the same final judgment – Torment by “fire and brimstone,” and, Trodden “in the winepress of the wrath of God.”
In the first image, those who gave allegiance to the “Beast” will “drink of the wine of God’s wrath.” In the second picture, the same group is “cast into the winepress” of his wrath. It is painfully obvious the language is metaphorical – Revelation is not describing literal things.
The “wrath of God” and His just judgments are all too real; however, His “wrath” is neither actual “wine,” “fire,” nor a “winepress,” just as wicked men are not “literal” grapes to be gathered and crushed in a winepress.“And the winepress was trodden…and there came forth blood out of the winepress.”
The image employs language from two passages in the book of Isaiah, plus one from the book of Joel. The first passage was used previously in the description of the sixth seal. The second one will be alluded to again in Chapter 19 in the portrait of the “Rider on a White Horse” who wages “war” against the “Beast” and its allies.
Furthermore, there are conceptual links to the description of the destruction of the “Beast,” the “False Prophet,” and the armies of the “kings of the earth” by the “Rider on a White Horse.” Note the following passages:
(Isaiah 34:4-9) – “Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye peoples: let the earth hear, and the fulness thereof; the world, and all things that come forth from it. For Yahweh hath indignation against all the nations, and wrath against all their host: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter. Their slain also shall be cast out, and the stench of their dead bodies shall come up; and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their host shall fade away, as the leaf fadeth from off the vine, and as a fading leaf from the fig-tree. For my sword hath drunk its fill in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Edom, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of Yahweh is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams; for Yahweh hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Edom. And the wild-oxen shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls: and their land shall be drunken with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness. For Yahweh hath a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion. And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever.”
(Isaiah 63:1-4) – “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treads in the winepress? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the peoples there was no man with me: yea, I trod them in mine anger, and trampled them in my wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I have stained all my raiment. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.”
(Joel 3:12-13) – “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 ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe: come, tread ye; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great.”
(Revelation 6:12-17) – “And I saw when he opened the sixth seal that a great earthquake took place; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the full moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig-tree sheddeth her winter figs when, by a great wind, it is shaken, and the heaven was withdrawn as a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island out of their places were shaken…Because the great day of their anger is come, and who is able to stand?”
(Revelation 19:11-15) – “And I saw heaven set open, and lo! a white horse, and he that was sitting thereon, called Faithful and True; and in righteousness doth he judge and make war…and he was arrayed with a mantle sprinkled with blood…and out of his mouth is going forth a sharp sword, that therewith he may smite the nations…and he treadeth the winepress of the wrath of the anger of God the Almighty.”
The passage from Isaiah Chapter 34 was applied previously when the third angel pronounced doom on all men and women who rendered homage to the “Beast,” everlasting torment in “fire and brimstone.” The same language from Isaiah about “fire burning with brimstone” is also applied later in the description of the victory of the “Rider on a White Horse” over the “Beast” and its earthly allies. Note carefully – The verbal parallels with this first passage from Isaiah:
(Revelation 14:8-11) – “And a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice—If anyone renders homage to the beast and his image, and receives a mark upon his forehead, or upon his hand, he shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger;—and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, before holy messengers and before the Lamb.”
(Revelation 19:19-21) – “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war with him who was sitting upon the horse…And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet who wrought the signs before him, whereby he deceived them who received the mark of the beast…alive were they cast into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone. And the rest were slain with the sword of him that was sitting upon the horse, which went forth out of his mouth, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
Originally, both passages from Isaiah pictured the judgment of Yahweh on Edom, a traditional enemy of the nation of Israel. The book of Revelation has adapted the language from Isaiah for its own purposes. Now the “wrath of God” falls on all the “inhabitants of the earth” who take the “mark of the Beast,” not just on the citizens of ancient Edom.
The point of these parallels is that the several passages in Revelation that refer to the execution of God’s “wrath” all point to the same final event, although details and metaphors vary between the several descriptions.
Likewise, the pronouncement of the “fall of Babylon” and the warning against all men who take the “mark of the Beast” will be presented in more detail in the subsequent sevenfold series of the “seven bowls of wrath,” which culminates in the “completion” of the “wrath of God” and the final downfall of the “great city,” end-time “Babylon”:
(Revelation 16:17-21) – “And the seventh poured out his bowl upon the air.—And there came forth a loud voice out of the sanctuary, from the throne, saying—Accomplished! And there came to be flashes of lightning, and voices, and claps of thunder; and a great earthquake took place,—such as had never taken place since men came to be on the earth…And the great city became divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and Babylon the Great was brought into remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the wrath of his anger; and every island fled, and mountains were not found. And great hail as talents cometh down out of heaven upon mankind; and men blasphemed God by reason of the plague of hail,—because the plague thereof was exceeding great.”
“There came forth blood out of the winepress, even unto the bridles of the horses, at a distance of a thousand six hundred furlongs.” This picture is not easily explained since the book of Revelation nowhere else develops the image of horse “bridles” or the distance of sixteen hundred “furlongs.”
One explanation stems from the use of “furlong” or stadion here and in Revelation 21:16, the only two passages where the term occurs in the book. The verse from Chapter 21 describes the size of the city of New Jerusalem:
(Revelation 21:16) – “And the city lies foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.”
In Chapter 14, the “blood” produced from the “winepress” flowed “even unto the bits of the horses, a thousand six hundred furlongs.” The sum of sixteen hundred is the square of the number 40 – (40 x 40 = 1600). In contrast, the dimensions of the city of New Jerusalem are foursquare with each side measuring 12,000 furlongs.
However horrific the image of blood flowing for 1600 furlongs is, the distance and volume covered by the blood are significantly less than the physical size and volume of New Jerusalem described in Chapter 21. According to this view, the purpose is to contrast the two results in order to stress the limitations of the “wrath of God.” That is, the “harvest” of the “grapes of wrath” is not necessarily larger than the grain harvest “reaped” by the “one like a son of man.”
The overwhelming dimensions of New Jerusalem are provided so the city will be inhabited by an “innumerable multitude” of men and women redeemed from every nation, not by a tiny “remnant” of “saints” who make into the New Creation by the “skin of their teeth.”
The outline of the two contrasting “final harvests” has been given. The book will now provide a detailed picture of the final “wrath of God” about to be poured out on the “inhabitants of the earth” in the sevenfold series of the “seven bowls of wrath.”