And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud [was] sitting one like the son of man, having on his head a golden crown and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to the one sitting on the cloud, “Put forth your sickle and reap, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth has ripened.” And the one sitting upon the cloud put forth his sickle upon the earth, and the earth was harvested. And another angel came out of the temple in heaven, having also a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the altar, having authority over the fire, and he called with a loud cry to the one having the sharp sickle saying, “Put forth your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth; because the grapes of it have fully ripened.” And the angel put forth his sharp sickle to the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth and cast them into the winepress of the wrath of the great God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed out of the winepress as high as the bridles of the horses, to the distance of one thousand six hundred stadia.
Here we have the harvest of the earth. This is another one of those passages that is a little controversial. Why would it be controversial? To they who claim Revelation is a chronology of events, the difficulty is to explain why there is a harvest of the earth before the second coming. To they who claim a post-tribulation pre-wrath rapture, this would be the rapture of the church. Yet, the exact same language is being used here as what we expect with the second coming. This isn’t some sort of rapture because it mentions Jesus in the clouds, but not on the earth. What we’re seeing here is final judgment.
The overall flow of the text reveals to us the wrath of the Lamb at the sixth seal, which is pretty easy to figure out is the return of Jesus. Then, at the final trumpet, we find that the kingdoms of the earth have become the kingdoms of the Lord and His Christ. Once again, where do we see this? We expect it at the second coming of Jesus, and not before or after it. Then we enter into the twelfth chapter. Here we have the complication of whether the chapter goes back to the birth of Christ or whether it is during the tribulation, but whichever way we take it, it is nearly impossible to claim that this chapter is somehow after the seventh trumpet. Some have said it is the seventh trumpet, because it mentions a “woe to the earth” for Satan’s being cast down. Once again, how do you have the kingdoms of this world becoming the Kingdom of God without the return of Jesus? In our progression forward, we’ve seen the abomination of desolation in chapter 13, along with the mark of the beast, and now we’re seeing the harvest of the earth.
When we went through Daniel for a brief framework, where does the harvest of the earth fit best? I would say it is at the same time of the resurrection (Dan 12:2). That resurrection is at the return of Jesus. This glimpse into the harvest of the earth can be compared with Matthew 13:24-29, 37-43 where Jesus tells a parable regarding the end of the world and the return of the Son of Man. He likens it to a harvest of the earth where the weeds and the wheat are gathered together, and the weeds are thrown into the fire. In Revelation 19, we find that Jesus’ robe is dipped in blood. Why? Could it be that this is a reference back to this chapter and the winepress of God’s wrath? There is no mystery here. The one identified as “the son of man” is defined in Rev 1:13.
The language of “another angel” comes from the first part of 14, where we find three angels. The “other angel” of 14:6 goes back to that John has already seen angels in his vision. He is saying that this angel is not one of the ones that he had already seen. There is no confusing passage here unless we purposefully try to find something that isn’t obvious. The “son of man” phrase comes from Daniel 7:13, Matt 24:30, Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27, and in all of these cases it is the son of man coming at the end of the tribulation. The only possible exception is Daniel 7:13 where it mentions the son of man coming to the right hand of the Ancient of Days. Here He is wearing a golden crown instead of the diadem in Rev 19:12.
Notice that when you go to Matthew 13, you find that Jesus explicitly mentions the angel’s involvement with the harvest of the earth. He also mentions the angel’s involvement in Matthew 24 and parallels. Once again, no mystery here. It is as plain as plain could be unless we start referencing texts that are not the obvious.
In Joel 3:13, we read that after the nations are aroused and brought together for the final war (Armageddon), the cry goes forth to “swing the sickle”. In Mark 4:29 we find end time significance to the reaping with a sickle as well. The parable is about the Kingdom of God being like a seed that is planted, which we can take as Christ’s first coming, and it grows all by itself. The seed goes from being a seed to being a big plant until the day comes where the sickle shall reap the harvest of the plant. So it is with Jesus’ two comings. He came, and planted the seed of the Kingdom of God. Thus, He did come and smash the statue of Daniel 2. However, the extent of Daniel 2 is not fully present with us. Therefore we await until the day that this plant (the Kingdom of God) has fully grown, for in that day the sickle shall reap the harvest.
In verse 16, it mentions that Jesus harvested the earth. Then, when we begin verse 17, it begins to mention the angels harvesting the earth. Once again, no mystery here. This isn’t trickery and magic trying to create a contradiction. Yes, Jesus harvested the earth. Along with Jesus harvesting the earth, the angels harvested the earth. When was the last time that you saw a farmer go out into the field and reap the harvest in a moment? It takes time, especially if the field is large. Obviously Christ has the ability to reap instantaneously, but there is no reason to assume this is what is happening.
We can compare the gathering of the “clusters of grapes” with Isaiah 63:1-7. The question is asked, “Who is this that comes from Bozrah with his garments stained crimson?” The answer is that this man has trodden down the nations in his anger, trodden the winepress down in his wrath. “For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of redemption has come.” The man claims that he trod the winepress alone; he looked, but there was none to help. And what shall we make of this, because we see angels helping. Read the text of Isaiah 63 in context, and the text of Revelation 14 in its own context. Isaiah 63 is making the point that there was no man, no nation, no people that were righteous to be able to tread the wine of God’s wrath with him. It signifies nothing of the angels.
The city mentioned in verse 20 is Jerusalem. That is the focus of Revelation all the way through. We can also compare Joel 3:2, 12, Zechariah 14:2-15. The flowing blood seems to come from Ezekiel 32:6, Isaiah 34:3, 7, and/or Genesis 49:11-12. In Genesis, to begin with the beginning, it is prophesied concerning Judah that there will be a ruler to rise from his tribe that will “wash his garments in wine” and “the blood of grapes”. In Isaiah, we find the judgment of the nations resulting in “the mountains being soaked with blood” and the “land being drenched with blood”. Ezekiel 32 laments the slaying of Pharaoh, where God will “drench the land with your flowing blood all the way to the mountains.” Where precisely the 1,600 stadia comes from, it is quite possible this is a new revelation given to John.