By Ed Tarkowski

The Grape (Judgement) Harvest: Revelation 14:17-20

The prophet Joel described in terms of a harvest the gathering of the nations for judgement just before the day of our Lord at the end of our age:

12: Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. 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. 14: Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15: The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining (Joel 3).

This same harvest is described in Revelation 14:17-20:

17: And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. 18: And 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 thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. 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. 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 (Revelation 14).

Isaiah had prophesied that one would come who would "tread the winepress alone" and bring a bloody vengeance on the nations at the end of the age (Isaiah 63):

1: Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. 2: Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? 3: 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. 4: For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. 5: And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. 6: And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth (Isaiah 63).

Verse 4 of Isaiah 63, "For the day of vengeance is in mine heart," is very important because of Luke 4:18-19, where Jesus quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2:

18: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19: To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4).

What makes these two sets of verses important is that Jesus did not read all of Isaiah 61:2:

2: To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; (Isaiah 61).

He left off the words, "and the day of vengeance of our God." Declaring that "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Lk. 4:21), He didn't finish quoting the verse from Isaiah because He knew that that part would be fulfilled when He would return at the end of the age:

11: And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. . . . 13: And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. . . . 15: And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16: And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.(Revelation 19).

All of these verses refer to a point in time when God judges the nations in His wrath. This wrath is described as a winepress full of grapes which are trampled.

The Wheat (Rapture) Harvest: Revelation 14:14-16

It's important to note that in our previous verses, the word translated "sickle" is "the smaller grape-knife with which the farmer cut the cluster of grapes from the vine" (NIV Study note, p 1942). In contrast, the sickle mentioned in verses 14-16 is "the Israelite sickle used for cutting grain [which] was normally a flint or iron blade attached to a curved shaft of wood or bone" (Ibid.). The particular verses concerning the use of this harvesting sickle are:

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

Where the grape harvest is depicted as one of vengeance, blood, and wrath, this harvest is depicted as bloodless and not at all violent. Verse 16 simply says, "And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped." We agree with Robert Gundry's comments on this particular harvest:

"In 14:14-20 two harvests are reaped, the first by one like a son of man on whose head rests a golden crown, the second by an angel who casts his harvest into the winepress of God's wrath. The first harvest (vv. 14-16) is best taken as symbolic of the rapture. For the phrase "one like a son of man" identifies both the reaper of the first harvest, and in John's first vision, Christ Himself (1:13; cf. John 5:27). Immediately we think of "the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky" (Matt. 24:30) and Paul's comparison of the resurrection and translation of Christians to a harvest (1 Corinthians 15:23, 35ff.). The "white cloud" on which sits the reaper in John's vision corresponds to the clouds associated with the Parousia in Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:9-11; and 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The special dignity indicated by the golden crown also points to the Lord. The second harvest in Revelation 14:14-20 lands the wicked in "the great winepress of the wrath of God" (vv. 19,20, Armageddon; cf. Joel 3:13). But in the first there is only the reaping as though the Son of Man gathers the harvest to Himself. The two harvests, then, seem to be distinct. The one terminates before the other begins. The Son of Man reaps the first, an angel the second. The first lacks the element of wrath. The second exhibits it prominently. The first reaping immediately follows the beatitude upon "the dead who die in the Lord" (14:13). Consequently, a description of the rapture in which "the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1 Thess. 4:16) follows very fittingly. The conjunction with Armageddon (see v. 20: "blood . . . up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles") puts the rapture, figuratively described in the first harvest, at the close of the tribulation.

"Whereas we have in the whole of Revelation no description of a pretribulational return of Christ, rapture, or first resurrection - an absence incredible from the standpoint of the book's being addressed to the churches and its purporting to reveal in detail final events - we do have the first harvest in 14:14-20, the return of Christ in 19:11ff., and the first resurrection in 20:4-6 - all posttribulational" (The Church and the Tribulation, pp. 83-84).

I think Gundry's comment on the "white cloud" is particularly strong: "The 'white cloud' on which sits the reaper in John's vision corresponds to the clouds associated with the Parousia in Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:9-11; and 1 Thessalonians 4:17." Looking at the Scriptures he mentions verifies this:

30: . . . and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matt. 24).

9: And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10: And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11: Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1).

17: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4).

Coordinating the Two Harvests

Evidence to support the idea that both harvests are almost simultaneous is seen elsewhere in Scripture. In 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7, for instance, we find the persecuted Church being given "recompense . . . And . . . rest with us" by God, but also His "recompens[ing] tribulation to them that trouble you" in a single event.

The persecuted and the persecutors are both dealt with "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels." Here we have the "wheat harvest" and "grape harvest" described. The relief to the Church will be its being glorified (v. 10), while the persecutors will be "punished with everlasting destruction" (v. 9).

The same two harvests can be seen in Matthew 24 combined with Revelation 6:12-17, where the Church is gathered (Matt. 24:31) in the midst of God's poured-out wrath (Matt. 24:29-30; Rev. 6:15-17). One last example of the two simultaneous "harvests" can be found in Philippians 3:

19: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. 20: For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

This is a posttribulational event because the rapture (including the changing of our bodies and the freeing of the creation from decay) couldn't occur seven years before the Second Coming. Nowhere is such a gap found in all of Scripture.