Bible Study Series: Revealing Jesus in Revelation
Revelation Chapter 14: The Harvest of the Earth
by I Gordon
- The Great White Throne of Judgment (at the end of the Messianic Kingdom)
- The Winepress (at the Second Coming of Jesus)
- The opening of the Abyss (during the Tribulation)
- The Old Testament harvest background - how many harvests are there?
- The timing of the harvest in Revelation - when does it occur?
- The workmen in the harvest - who is it that reaps the harvest?
- The grape harvest - why is it called the winepress and why do you not want to be a grape?
- What are the harvests in Israel's law and history?
- How do the different harvests symbolize different groups of people?
- Why do you not want to be involved when the fulfillment of the grape harvest occurs?
- The barley harvest came first around March/April and was associated with the Feast of Firstfruits. There are some interesting characteristics of barley. The head bends over bowing down. The chaff is also separated from barley very easily, winnowed through the wind. The barley harvest, at the feast of firstfruits, is associated with Jesus and those that are His at the rapture: 1Co 15:20-23 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep... For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
- The wheat harvest came next around May and was associated with the feast of weeks/Pentecost (Ex 34:22). Unlike barley, wheat stands upright and the chaff is more stubborn and requires threshing for separation. Since ancient times a threshing board, inlaid with chips of flint or stone, has been used to separate the wheat from the chaff. The name of this board is the Latin 'tribulum', from which we get the English word 'tribulation'. Hence the wheat harvest speaks of those that will come to the Lord in the Tribulation period. Unlike the barley, those in the wheat harvest don't bend or bow their hearts easily and it will require a more difficult experience, through the Tribulation, to extract the good wheat from the chaff.
- The fruit harvest (grape/figs/pomegranates) came last around September and was associated with the fall feasts. The grapes were trodden underfoot to extract their juice in the winepress. In the Bible this speaks directly to unbelievers in judgment as we shall see later in this chapter. As the Old Testament Prophet Joel said concerning the last days 'Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow-- so great is their wickedness!" (Joel 3:13)
- Earlier in Revelation we were introduced to this One "like a son of man", dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and a golden sash around his chest, as He walked amongst the lampstands (the churches) (Rev 1:13).
- The prophet Daniel once saw a vision of 'one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.' (Dan 7:13) Jesus quoted this verse about Himself before the High Priest essentially sealing His fate as this was seen as blasphemy (Matt 26:64)
- And Jesus used this phrase of Himself in connection with the harvest saying 'one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man' (Matt 13:37)
"If we compare this passage (Rev 14) with Mat 13:39-43 and Mat 25:31-46, we learn that the harvest of the earth takes place at the Second Advent of our Lord. Here He is said to do the reaping; in Mat 13:39 the angels are the reapers. Both are true; Christ does it through the agency of angels. "
William MacDonald, Believers Bible Commentary
You can only swing your sickle over that which you own. In other words, you can't wander onto someone else's property and start harvesting all their wheat or any produce for that matter. Tempting as it may be, that's what they call, 'theft'. But take note of the spiritual application here for Jesus in Revelation is able to swing His sickle over the entire earth. Why? Because it is all His. As both creator and redeemer He owns this world and all it contains and He can harvest it all... and does! As a side note, it does say you can pick kernels from your neighbor's property by hand so finally... finally, I've found some Biblical support for my misspent youth! : )
- Some see the Son of man reaping that which is good from the harvest in contrast with the grape harvest that the angels perform later in this chapter which is definitely a harvest unto judgment.
- Others believe that the harvest of the good grain is not seen in this passage and it focuses solely on the removal 'out of his kingdom of everything that causes sin and all who do evil.'
"For the harvest of the earth is ripe: This ancient Greek word for ripe has a negative sense, "to become dry or withered." The idea is of something that is over-ripe. This means that God will judge the earth only when it is over-ripe for judgment. He doesn't rush into judgment."
Gal 6:9-10 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (10) Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
We will reap in rewards what we have sown in the Spirit so stay close to the Lord and allow Him to live through you!
- The first harvest is the barley harvest. The barley bows its head and its chaff is separated simply in a winnowing process. Barley typifies those that are Christ's at His return
- The second harvest is the wheat harvest, Wheat stands upright and requires the use of threshing on the 'tribulum' to separate the chaff. It typifies those that come to the Lord during the tribulation.
- The third harvest is the grape harvest. Grapes are crushed in the winepress, often underfoot, and this typifies the judgment of unbelievers at the end of the tribulation.3
So it seems that the judgement call from this one angel in charge of the fire at the altar is a direct response to the many prayers of the saints throughout the Tribulation. And they will be answered in a most dramatic way! Notice also that this grape harvest occurs when the grapes are 'ripe'. This is a different word as translated 'ripe' earlier in the chapter (Rev 14:15) and means 'mature' or 'fully ripe'. Again the thought is that God has given these grapes plenty of time before judgement occurs. But they are fully mature now and fully deserving of what is to come.
The most terrifying ordeal for any human being, outside of hell itself—what is it? The winepress. I want to tell you about the winepress because it will demonstrate the harmony of the Bible by answering several puzzling questions and because it will teach us some important principles about God and our lives.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,
He is trampling out the vineyard where the grapes of wrath are stored
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on!
The site of the judgment will be the Valley of Jehoshaphat, mentioned only in Joe 3:2, Joe 3:12. Whether such a geographical site was known by this name in ancient Israel is not certain. Some scholars suggest it is a yet-future valley, to be formed by the splitting of the Mount of Olives at the Messiah’s return (Zec 14:4). At any rate, the importance of the name is not in its geographical location, but in its meaning, “the Lord judges.”
Bible Knowledge Commentary
Hab 3:10-13 The mountains saw You and quaked; The downpour of waters swept by. The deep uttered forth its voice, It lifted high its hands. (11) Sun and moon stood in their places; They went away at the light of Your arrows, At the radiance of Your gleaming spear. (12) In indignation You marched through the earth; In anger You trampled the nations. (13) You went forth for the salvation of Your people, For the salvation of Your anointed. You struck the head of the house of the evil To lay him open from thigh to neck. Selah.
It is possible, as Beechick suggests, that the blood flowing for 200 miles takes us from Jerusalem to Bozrah (Petra) and down to the Red Sea. Or from the north of Israel down to Bozrah in Edom as Newel suggests. Time will tell. What we do know is that what is coming for unbelievers has been spoken about right throughout scripture and is terrifying for those that rebel against the Lord.
- This passage speaks to the patience of God. The harvest is seen as being fully or even over-ripe. God has left and given them as long as He can before judgment comes. God desires all to repent and come to know Him. His patience, even in the midst of a generation that shakes its fist at God, is amazing.
- But the passage also speaks to God's hatred of sin. Sin has messed this whole world up and is evident everywhere. It cannot just be overlooked by a Holy God. There must be judgment and if a person will not accept Jesus as the One who took that judgment, he will have to accept that same judgment upon himself. Jesus or judgment - those are the only two options.
- Thus, this passage is a warning to the world. Most have no idea what is coming and the world is already ripe for judgement - but for the patience of God. If people lose it today because you get their preferred pronoun wrong, how will they stand with what is coming?
- Finally, for the believer this passage is a two-fold reminder.
- Firstly, that we want to see others know the Lord so that they can be part of the first coming harvest when Christ returns for His Church. There is a promise given to the true Church that she will be kept from this hour of trial that will engulf the entire world (Rev 3:10) and we should want as many as possible to board the Ark and be included there.
- And this passage is a reminder to believers that we too will reap a harvest if we sow to the things of God today. God not only watches, He takes notes! And all things done with the right motivation and spirit will be rewarded by Him.
Michael Norton, in his book Unlocking the secrets of the feasts, writes: 'The head of the barley is very soft and easily crushed. This reminds me of the birth of the church at Pentecost where the Holy Spirit came like a wind and indwelt believers as reported in Acts 2:1-2... In the order of the resurrections, the church is first to be resurrected, just as the barley is the first to be harvested... Since the head of the wheat is hard, it must be threshed or crushed to separate the wheat from the chaff. A man who is threshing the wheat stands on a large board, which has bits of glass underneath it, and is pulled by a horse over the wheat to do the crushing. I found it quite telling that the board is called by a Latin word: "tribulum". Many people. including Jews. will come to Christ in the tribulation, as noted in Revelation 7:9-14. It is interesting that you can also tell the difference between a field of wheat and a field of barley. While the heads of the stock of barley bend down like they are bowing in humility (see picture above), the heads of the stocks of wheat stay straight up. I am reminded of Deuteronomy 31:27 where Moses said to the children of Israel: 'For I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord, then how much more after my death?' The church will he resurrected first (the barley). while those who become believers in the tribulation (the wheat) shall be resurrected during the tribulation if they die in that period. In a sense they were harvested under the crushing of the "tribulum". Finally we have the fruit harvest in the Autumn (Fall) season. This is the last of the harvests and in scripture applies to unbelievers. Revelation speaks in graphic detail of this harvest unto judgement.
Many have noted both the good and bad aspects in the coming wheat harvest. For example:
"It must be remembered that evil has its harvest as well as good. There is a harvest of misery and woe, - a harvest for the gathering, binding, and burning of the tares, - as well as for the gathering of the wheat into the garner of heaven."
You will remember that our Lord Jesus spoke about the harvest. He declared that it is the end of the age, the time when the wicked are going to be separated from the just. He is going to gather the wheat into His garner, but burn up the tares with fire unquenchable (Matthew 13:37-42). This is what you have here; it is discriminating judgment. The earth is reaped. The Son of man will claim for Himself everything that is of God. All that is contrary will be given up to judgment. Observe that it is the Son of man who sits on the cloud and directs the reapers. All judgment is committed to the Son. The One who once hung on Calvary’s cross is the same blessed person who is coming to execute judgment.
The vineyard in scripture is often associated and symbolic of Israel (Psa 80:8; Isa 5:1-7; Jer 2:21; Jer 6:9, Mat 21:33-41) so some prophecy teachers think that the winepress of grapes here speaks of the judgment of unbelieving Israel. But when we compare scripture with scripture we see that it is much wider. It is a judgement of the unbelieving nations as seen in Joel 3:9-14.
Beechick's entire book including the chapter on the winepress can be seen online now. The chapter on the winepress goes into a few different aspects that I haven't so if interested in this topic I encourage you to have a read. A lot of what I now believe had it's foundation in this book/chapter:
To this we could add:
Psa 110:1-7 A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." (2) The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, "Rule in the midst of Your enemies." (3) Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. (4) The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek." (5) The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. (6) He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the chief men over a broad country. (7) He will drink from the brook by the wayside; Therefore He will lift up His head.
Isa 34:2-8 The LORD is angry with all nations; his wrath is upon all their armies. He will totally destroy them, he will give them over to slaughter. (3) Their slain will be thrown out, their dead bodies will send up a stench; the mountains will be soaked with their blood. (4) All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree. (5) My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; see, it descends in judgment on Edom, the people I have totally destroyed. (6) The sword of the LORD is bathed in blood, it is covered with fat-- the blood of lambs and goats, fat from the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah and a great slaughter in Edom. (7) And the wild oxen will fall with them, the bull calves and the great bulls. Their land will be drenched with blood, and the dust will be soaked with fat. (8) For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion's cause.
And notice the timing of the passage in Isa 34 above that speaks of the Lord's destruction of the nation's armies. It occurs when 'All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.' This is the 6th seal and lends weight to the belief I expressed in the study on Revelation 6 that the seals go right through to the end of the chapter.