Today’s passage is Revelation 14:14-15:8. Let’s go!
Revelation 14:14-20 (NIV) 14 I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. 17 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” 19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.
On verses 14-20: Who is the one “like a son of man” sitting on a white cloud with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand? This is most likely a picture of Jesus. The prophet Daniel, writing about a vision he had about the Messiah to come, says, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Daniel 7:13) Jesus often referred to himself as the Son of Man. Here John sees Jesus crowned with a victor’s crown (called a stephanus), often worn by athletes after winning a competition.
As for Jesus swinging a sickle over the earth to harvest the earth, some commentators interpret this as Jesus gathering His beloved people to Himself. However, other commentators believe that all of the “sickle swinging” in this passage is about Jesus judging the earth. To support this conclusion, they point to verses 17-20 which compares the ones being harvested to overripe grapes that are thrown in the “great winepress of God’s wrath” (v19) and trampled on, causing much blood to flow.
In my humble opinion, I think the two sickle swings, one by Jesus in verse 16 and the other by an angel in verse 19, might refer to two different actions. When Jesus swings His sickle, this first sickle swing represents Jesus gathering His own people to Himself. (The fact that verse 16 ends with the words “and the earth was harvested” suggests to me that Jesus’ one sickle swing was perfect and complete in and of itself to do the work Jesus intended it to do.) The second sickle swing in verses 17-20 represents a different harvest, a harvest of judgment, where those who have rebelled against God – the “grapes of God’s wrath”, so to speak – are harvested and crushed. In a way, I see these verses as Jesus separating the wheat from the chaff, just like John the Baptist said Jesus would (Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17).
What can we learn from this? All of us have a choice to make: will we be among those that Jesus gathers to Himself to keep and enjoy for eternity or will we be among those that Jesus gathers only to destroy in the winepress of God’s wrath? To be part of that first harvest simply requires that we believe and receive what Jesus Christ did on the cross for us. To be part of that second harvest simply requires that we ignore or reject what Jesus Christ did on the cross for us.
Revelation 15:1-4 (NIV) 1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues–last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. 2 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God 3 and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. 4 Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
On verses 1-4: Here John sees another vision of heaven. First he sees standing by a sea of glass mixed with fire those Christians who had held onto their faith in Jesus despite the destruction brought by the beast from the sea. They are singing “the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb” (v3), the lyrics for which are quoted in verses 3-4. The fact that the “song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb” are connected here suggests to me two things:
In heaven Moses will be honoured for the way he served God.
We must not think that the ministry of Moses and the ministry of Jesus are opposites. When John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”, John is not saying that Moses’ ministry was bad and Jesus’ ministry is good. The fact is that Moses’ ministry and Jesus’ ministry complement one another. Or put more accurately, Moses’ great ministry was setting up and preparing the way for Jesus’ greater ministry. Moses deserves to be honoured as a great servant in God’s house while Jesus deserves to be honoured as the Son over God’s house (Hebrews 3:5-6)
Revelation 15:5-8 (NIV) 5 After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. 6 Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. 7 Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. 8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.
On verses 5-8: John sees a heavenly version of the Jewish temple, which he calls “the tabernacle of the Testimony”. (Some commentators believe that here John is more specifically referring to a heavenly version of the ark of the covenant, which was a gold plated box that was kept in the Most Holy Place of the temple.) As the tabernacle of the Testimony is opened up, out come seven angels dressed in clean, shining linen and gold sashes. One of the living creatures gives the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with God’s wrath and containing seven plagues. Recalling previous times in Scripture when smoke filled the house of God (see Exodus 33:9 and 1 Kings 8:10), smoke signifying God’s glory and power then fills the temple such that no one could enter it until the seven plagues are completed.
What can we learn from this? When verse 8 says “the seven last plagues – last, because with them God’s wrath is complete”, this tells me something about God. As much as God has wrath toward sin and evil, God never intended for His wrath to carry on forever. Rather, out of love, God comes up with a plan by which His wrath can be extinguished, exhausted and completed. God did this at the cross when He sacrificed His Son Jesus for us, so that for all of us who trust in Jesus, God’s wrath against us is extinguished. God does this again here with these seven last plagues, which would extinguish His wrath against those who keep rejecting His Son Jesus. That is why they are called “the seven last plagues – last, because with them God’s wrath is complete” (v8).
God does not hang onto His anger and wrath forever. Once His wrath is complete, heaven can then carry on with rejoicing for eternity. While God’s wrath has its place and needs to be expressed, God is far more interested in rejoicing than being wrathful. That is why Psalm 30:5 says, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” By the way, if God does not hang onto His anger and wrath forever, why should you?
Heavenly Father, thank You for being a God of great wrath, but even more a God of great rejoicing. Thank You for not holding onto Your wrath forever, but finding a way through Jesus Christ to complete it so that we can enter into Your presence with joy. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!