Friday, 16 April 2021
And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” Revelation 14:18
John continues to describe the events surrounding the reaping of the earth. He first described the harvest of the earth, implying a grain harvest. That was in accord with several parables spoken by the Lord that referred to the end of the age. Another harvest is now to be described, the grape harvest. Of this, John says, “And another angel came out from the altar.”
As before, this could be an angel, meaning a created being, or it could be another manifestation of the Lord as He reveals His many roles to us through apocalyptic scenes. The latter is surely the case. The previous angel came out of the temple, indicating a High Priestly Role. This one comes out from the altar.
This would be the altar of incense, and it recalls the words of both Revelation 6 and 8 –
“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” Revelation 6:9-11
“Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.” Revelation 8:5
The tribulation saints of Revelation 6 were told they had to rest until the number of saints to be killed was completed. With the coming of the mark of the beast, those refusing to take it will be killed in great numbers. Revelation showed the beginning of the judgments of these things during the trumpet judgments.
The angel is coming out from this altar of incense, signifying that it is surely another manifestation of Christ, the High Priest. He is the One who mediates the prayers of His saints to the Father. Of this scene before John, he next says, “who had power over fire.”
There is an article before “fire.” The Greek reads, “who had power over the fire.” The word translated as “power” signifies “power to act,” meaning “authority.” As the fire is what lights the incense (the prayers of the saints) and causes it to rise, this is telling us that the number of the saints to be killed is completed. The prayers are heard, they have reached their full number, and the world is to be judged. Thus, John says, “and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle.”
The loud cry is a cry of authority and direction. The time has come. Action against those who have martyred God’s people is required because their numbers have reached their fullness, and their prayers will now be responded to. With this in mind, this angel (assumed to be the Lord Jesus) says, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth.”
The word translated as “gather” is one that only refers to the gathering of grapes. It comes from a word meaning “to dry.” Thus, it speaks of ripe fruit, ready to dry. These grapes are fully ripe. As the grapes signify the people of the earth, it means that they have heaped up their sins to the point that they are fully ripe for judgment. As the angel next says, “for her grapes are fully ripe.”
It is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 3 –
“Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.
13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
Come, go down;
For the winepress is full,
The vats overflow—
For their wickedness is great.” Joel 3:12, 13
The wickedness of the people has reached its fullness. It is as if they will simply explode if they are allowed to continue anymore, and so they will be gathered by clusters. What lies ahead is a judgment so great that it will be incredible to even imagine, but the words have been written, and they will come to pass just as revealed in Revelation.
Life application: The grape harvest is a harvest of judgment. It is a time of wrath being poured out. Throughout history, and now particularly during the tribulation period, the prayers of those who have been martyred are calling out for judgment. Eventually, that time will come.
Like grapes filled with their juice, the people of the world will come to the point where they are so full of iniquity that no remedy will be left. Only punishment can be expected. When grapes are harvested, they are then taken and processed. In Isaiah 5:5, a similar thought is seen concerning the judgment upon Israel –
“And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.”
This was speaking of the people of Israel (My vineyard) and the judgment they would receive. However, in Revelation, God has restored them to His land, and they are now the ones being protected while their enemies will face His judgment.
There is an end to the great patience of God. There is a time when sins fill up to the full measure and judgment must be executed. The grapes of God’s wrath will be taken to the winepress and the blood of the nations will flow. As terrible as these verses sound, everything which is described as coming upon man is self-inflicted. We only have ourselves to blame for the judgment to come.
The saddest part of all, though, is that God has already extended His offer of peace to the world. He has sent His Son to take the punishment that we all deserve. Let us be wise. Let us receive this wonderful gift of reconciliation and peace with God before He comes as the Judge of the earth to trample out the grapes of wrath. He first came as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. How do we want to face Him? Let us be wise. Let us turn today to our Lord and Savior. Let us turn to JESUS.
Lord God, of course You are loving and merciful. You give us beauty in nature and plenty at our tables. You give us the love of others and the joy of beautiful sunrises. And above all, You have given us Jesus as a gift and an offering of peace. How could we turn away from that? Help us to see rightly and to call out while the time of salvation is at hand. Amen.