RAMONA LOWE
THE BOOK OF REVELATION ARTIST
   The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2


Page 108

The Grapes of Wrath

     The Spirit of God has spoken concerning the blessedness of believers, even those who give their lives because of their faith.  It is time for the second group of three angels described in this chapter to bring their messages of judgment.  The perspective is still that of the middle of the tribulation, looking forward to the coming climax at the end.  The first three angles had warned the earth of imminent judgment; the last three speak of the implementation of that judgment, ordering and arranging the coming battle of the great day of God at Armageddon.

Revelation 14:14.     And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.

     Still in the interval between the two sets of three angels, but immediately after the comforting message of the Holy Spirit, John views an amazing scene.  The same Son of man whom he had seen at the beginning (Revelation 1:13) appears again.  In the interim between these two appearances, the Lord Jesus had appeared as the Lamb, as the rider, as the mighty angel, and in various other aspects, but now John sees Him again as He is and will be forever, as the glorified Son of man.  It is as the Son of man that the nations will see Him come in glory (Matthew 24:30) and reign in power (Matthew 26:64).  They will see Him “coming in the clouds of heaven” and here John also sees Him on a glory cloud.

     The sickle in His hand, of course, indicates He is coming in judgment and the crown on His head indicates He is coming to reign.  As John had heard Him say long before, the Father “hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man” (John 5:27).  As Son of man, as perfect man, as resurrected man, He is also the Heir of all God’s promises to man and is to have dominion over all the earth (Psalm 2:7, 8; 8:4-6).

     The scene is obviously one of preparation for judgment and the figure of the reaping sickle is taken from Joel 3:13, “Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.”  In context Joel also is prophesying of the coming great battle of Armageddon (Joel 3:9-16), reaching its climax when “the Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem.”

Revelation 14:15.     And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.

     The last three angels of the preview of judgment in this chapter now make their appearances in rapid succession.  The first one emerges from a waiting period in the temple to cry out to the Son of man on the cloud.  Whether this is the heavenly temple or the earthly temple is not stated, but it is probably the latter.   The angel had perhaps been observing the abominable defilement of the temple by the beast and his image, and so cries up to the heavens, entreating the Lord not to delay any longer.  The harvest of the wicked is ready for the threshing; the grapes of wrath on earth are full and ready for the reaping.

     A created angel cannot, of course, command the Son of man to proceed with judgment, so that his cry should be regarded as a plea rather than as a demand.  The holy angels, no less than the martyred saints, are appalled at the wickedness of men and devils and yearn for the time to come when the great rebellion will be forever put down and God’s will shall be done in all His creation.

Revelation 14:16.     And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.

     In response to the plea of the angel guarding the holy temple (made unholy by the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place) the Son of man does begin His mighty reaping.  The “reaping of the earth” is apparently something different than “gathering the vine of the earth” (verse 19), though the great sickle of judgment is used in both.  The one precedes the other, and the latter is clearly a reference to the gathering of the armies of the beast and his followers to Armageddon.  The first reaping is apparently a “harvest” of grain, the second a “vintage” of grapes.  The first is cut and threshed, the second is gathered for the winepress.  Probably the first refers to all the worldwide judgments of the second half of the tribulation, unleashed when the seven bowls of wrath pour out over the earth (Revelation 16), climaxing in the utter destruction of Babylon, the capital, and the entire Babylonish world-system.  The second refers more specifically to the final judgment of the beast and all his followers at Armageddon.

     The climax of this reaping of the earth at Babylon is described in Revelation 17 and 18, but was long ago prophesied also by Jeremiah and foreshadowed by the defeat of ancient Babylon.  “For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; The daughter of Babylon is like a threshingfloor, it is time to thresh her: yet a little while, and the time of her harvest shall come” (Jeremiah 51:33).

     The harvesting of Babylon will separate wheat and chaff.  There are still some of God’s people in the Babylonian system even at this late date and the final judgments will sift them out.  “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.  The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:40-42).  Both the Old and New Testament prophecies of Babylon’s fall contain exhortations to those of God’s people who yet are clinging to their Babylonian comforts to escape her before the destruction falls (Jeremiah 51:45; Revelation 18:4).

Revelation 14:17.     And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.

     The harvest of the earth has been undertaken by the Son of man Himself, quite possibly because He is still seeking to save that which is lost.  Though only a few corns of wheat can be found in a field choked with tares, He still cries in the midst of judgment, “Come out of her, my people!”  And some still respond, coming out of the great tribulation, washing their robes white in the blood of the Lamb, refusing the brand of the beast, and willing even to become martyrs if the Lord so ordains.

     To another angel, however, He assigns the task of reaping “the vine of the earth,” casting these all into the trampling of the vintage of the great winepress of the wrath of God.  This angel is called out of the temple in heaven, thus contrasting with the preceding angel in the earthly temple.  Possibly this is one of the “presence angels” (see Revelation 8:2) since he was in the temple of God’s presence in the heavenlies.  Furthermore, he is assigned a ministry quite close to that of the Son of man Himself, wielding the great sickle of judgment.  That it is a judgment sickle, speaking not of harvest blessing but of cutting destruction, is indicated by its description as sharp.  No cluster of grapes ripe for the winepress will escape its keen edge.

Revelation 14:18.     The another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in they sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.

     Finally the sixth angel of Revelation 14 appears and this angel, like the fourth, is on the earth, assigned evidently to attend the altar in the temple at Jerusalem.  The Scriptures give us intriguing glimpses here and there of the particular duties and powers of the different angels of God, though all in one way or another minister somehow to the heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14).  Here in Revelation, for example, we have encountered angels who can even restrain the winds (Revelation 7:1).  This one has “power over fire,” perhaps calling or restraining fires from heaven in relation to the altar as in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 18:17-41).

     As the fourth angel had entreated the Son of man to thrust in His sickle and reap the harvest of the earth, so now the sixth angel will beseech the fifth angel, sent by the Son of man, to thrust in his sickle and gather the vintage of the earth.  The grapes of wickedness and rebellion have ripened fully on the vine, and are fit now directly for the great winepress of the wrath of God.

     The “vine of the earth” contrasts diametrically with the vine of heaven.  Jesus said
“I am the true vine” (John 15:1).  The fruit borne by the branches of this true vine (“ye are the branches,” said Jesus) is good fruit, fruit that “remains” (John 15:16).  The fruit of the “vine of the earth,” however, yields sour grapes and bitter wine and is about to be trampled in the divine presses.  The false vine, with all its branches visibly joined to it by the tell-tale “mark,” can only refer to the great counterfeit system of Antichrist, established by the beast and the false prophet in the power of the dragon.  This is the final form of the cosmic rebellion against the Creator and this must finally be crushed forever.

     As the blood of the Lamb once was shed by His enemies, so their blood now must be she, wrung out to the last drop.  When His blood was shed, however, it became the life-giving new wine of the kingdom, symbolized by the cup of remembrance at the Lord’s supper.  When their blood is shed, crushed out in the great vintage-trampling at Armageddon, it will merely provide “the supper of the great God” (Revelation 19:17) to the fowls of the air.

Revelation 14:19.     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.

     The thrusting of the sickle to cut the vine of the earth obviously speaks of a rapid displacement of all the followers of the beast from their home countries.  They are to be gathered to one place.  This is the great gathering spoken of in many other passages as well.  “I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat” (Joel 3:2).  “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle” (Zechariah 14:2).  “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Revelation 16:16).  “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army” (Revelation 19:19).

     The “winepress” into which they are to be cast is the place ordained for ages to be the locale of the last great conflict between Christ and Antichrist.  Tremendous numbers of soldiers will be massed in the land of Israel for this final confrontation.  Joel describes it thus: “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14).

     Once gathered and cast into the winepress, these condemned multitudes can face only “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:27).  It is the “winepress of the wrath of God,” and it is Christ Himself who executes the wrath, for “he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:15).

Revelation 14:20.     And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

     As John looks forward in his vision toward the end of the tribulation period and sees all the nations being drawn like a magnet to the land of the chosen people, he must sense the enormity of the calamity that is soon to overwhelm them.  But he could hardly have anticipated the awful scene that eventually unfolds in his prophetic vision.

     Nothing less than the sudden spilling of the blood of all the unnumbered multitudes massed together in a great phalanx extending through the whole land of Israel is the terrible sight entrusted to him.  The bloodshed is so massive and so quick that the only apt comparison is the spurting of the juice from tremendous clusters of ripe fruit beneath the feet of the grape-tramplers in a winepress.  The hordes of soldiers and civilians, many riding horses, no doubt many on foot, perhaps others on vehicles of one sort or another, thronging together as in a great trough, unable to flee, their gaze transfixed on an amazing scene in the heavens, suddenly explode like bursting grapes, and the blood pours from a billion fountains.

     The bodies quickly are awash in their own blood, and will soon become carrion for the waiting flocks of vultures that darken the sky (Revelation 19:17, 18).  Thus shall be the unspeakable end of those who worship the beast and receive his mark.

     This vat of blood will extend for sixteen hundred furlongs (Greek stadion, with each stadion the equivalent of about 607 feet), or a distance of approximately 180 miles.  Imagine, if you can, a massive army of 200 million men, stretched out for 180 miles in length and, say, a mile in width.  This would allow each man an average area of only twenty-five square feet in which to maneuver.  That is, every man would be separated by only five feet from the next man in front of him, behind him, and on each side.  If they were on horseback, they would be packed like sardines.

     That 200 million is not an impossible number is evident from the fact that this is the number of demon horsemen released form the River Euphrates under the sixth trumpet (see on Revelation 9:16) and the fact that , at this time, there will probably be still well over 2 billion people on earth.  Most of the able-bodied men (possibly also women) will be drafted into the armies of the nations under the beast.  If 10 percent of the world’s population is gathered to fight under the beast in the Holy Land (and such seems appropriate in light of the superlatives employed in Scripture to describe this vast army), that would come to 200 million, and such a number would become a veritable sea of humanity, a mile wide and 180 miles long.

     And when the blood suddenly bursts forth from the bodies of these multitudes, in addition to the blood of the horses on which they are mounted, the sea of humanity will become a sea of blood.  The blood will drain toward the valley center, where it will literally reach to the horses’ bridles.

     All of this will take place “without the city,” so that the Holy city itself will not be polluted with this bath of blood.  The armies will have besieged Jerusalem, and to some extent have plundered it (Zechariah 12:2, 3; 14:1-3), but will be unable to occupy it and will withdraw toward their line down in the wilderness of Judaea and along the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, extending down into ancient Idumea, or Edom.

     The great phalanx will project deep into Edom, in fact, at least as far as the ancient Edomite stronghold of Bozrah, which is about twenty miles southeast of the southern tip of the Dead Sea.  On the north it will extend to and beyond the great plains of Esdraelon, or the valley of Jezreel, near the town of Megiddo, a region known since ancient times by the foreboding name of Armageddon, “the mount of Megiddo.”  The center of the phalanx will be concentrated in the Judaean wilderness opposite Jerusalem, in a region where King Jehoshaphat once won a great victory over the enemies of God’s people (2 Chronicles 20:20-24) and thus later called in scripture “the valley of Jehoshaphat.”

     The line from Bozrah through the valley of Jehoshaphat to Armageddon is roughly 140 miles in length, with Jerusalem closely opposite the middle of it.  The 180 miles mentioned in this verse would allow the military forces of the beast to protrude about twenty miles beyond Bozrah and Armageddon.  If the width of the encampment is 1 1/3 miles instead of one mile, then the termini would be at Bozrah and Armageddon (assuming one person every five feet, as noted above).  Whatever the precise numbers and areas may be, at least the biblical descriptions are eminently plausible, and may be taken quite literally.

     It is this great valley in which the blood will, at its center, reach the bridles of the horses.  “The sword of the Lord is filled with blood, . . . for the Lord hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea” (Isaiah 34:6).  “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, traveling 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 treadeth in the winefat?  I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.  For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come” (Isaiah 63:1-4).

     The winepress thus extends from Bozrah in Edom on the south.  In the north it reaches to Armageddon (Revelation 16:14-16).  “And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: . . . and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:13-15).  Its center converges on the valley of Jehoshaphat.  “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge the heathen round about.  Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great” (Joel 3:12, 13).

     But what is the occasion for such an unprecedented assemblage of the armies of the earth in the Holy Land?  Why would such hordes be gathered against the pitiable remnants of the forces of Israel?  Many Israelites had flown to the wilderness when the beast had taken over Jerusalem and the temple (Revelation 11:2; 12:6) and the remainder had been the objects of his decimating persecutions.  Yet here we see the gigantic armies of the beast besieging Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:1-3) once again.

     It is evident that something of great moment has happened in Jerusalem since the installation of the beast’s image in the holy place at the middle of the tribulation.  In some mysterious way the beast’s deputies have been frustrated, the Israelis are again in control in Jerusalem, and the beast (presumably ensconced in his new Babylonian capital) is furious.

     The precise fulfillment of this remarkable development is right at the end of the tribulation, of course, but John is permitted to look forward to it in his prophetic vision even though his immediate perspective is focused on the tribulation’s midpoint.  Although the Scriptures are not explicit as to how this will all be accomplished, the vision of the 144,000 Israelites on Mount Zion with which this chapter began implies that their return to Jerusalem has something to do with it.

     Perhaps (and this is only a suggestion) the 144,000, after teaching their people in the wilderness for almost three-and-a-half years, preparing them for the coming of their Messiah, return to Jerusalem to meet Him there when He comes.  Since they are under God’s invincible physical protection (Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 14:1), the beast’s forces would be unable to prevent their occupying the city and setting up an encampment on Mount Zion, where the Lamb will quickly come to meet them (Revelation 14:1).

     Knowing that the final confrontation with the returning Redeemer is imminent, the beast (no doubt energized and guided by his master, Satan) will then desperately assemble all the armies he can muster, from all the kings of the earth, hoping against hope that he can thereby recapture Jerusalem and perhaps even defeat the armies of heaven as they return with Christ.

     This last-ditch spasm of a defeated foe is utterly futile, of course.  Although it will constitute the mightiest army ever assembled on earth, it is really only the gathering of the ripe fruit of the vine of the earth for a mighty blood-letting in the winepress of God.

     The heaven-bathed sword (Isaiah 34:7) will “strike through kings in the day of his wrath.  He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound [that is, “crush”] the heads over many countries” (Psalm 110:5, 6).  It will not be a sword of steel which sheds the blood of the wicked, for “out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations” (Revelation 19:15).  “The Lord will roar from Zion” (Amos 1:2).  “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4).  “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8).  His powerful Word is “sharper than a two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12) when He finally speaks in judgment.

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