Chapter 14: 14-20
“Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.
“Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. 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.’ So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.”
Last time we ended talking about Hell – a real place that real people that we know will go to because they have rejected the salvation of God provided through the shed blood of Jesus and His resurrection for us. In Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, and several other places, the Lord gave us very clear instructions as to the purpose of the New Testament church; we are to share the Gospel to everyone. The message of salvation is for everyone. If nothing else, we are to share the Gospel. We are to tell people about Jesus’ offer of salvation and of His love for them. We should be using every available tool to preach the Gospel; share the offer of eternal life and forgiveness of sins.
If we are not doing this, are we really the Lord’s churches?
If a fireman refused to go into a burning house to rescue people, is he really a fireman? If a doctor stops treating people to help make them better, is he really a doctor? I can go on, but you understand the point, I hope. Well, if we are to be telling others about the free gift of salvation, offering them the chance to have eternal life with Jesus and to avoid Hell, if this is our primary goal and we are NOT doing it, are we truly churches? The answer is NO.
Hebrews 10:25 tells us that we are to assemble even more as we see ‘the day’ approaching, the Lord’s Day, that Day when Jesus will come to begin judgment.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 we find these words from the Apostle Paul: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.”
The salvation of the lost is our crown of rejoicing. We should be enraptured with joy when someone repents. Here in 1 Thessalonians the apostle tells us that our crown of rejoicing will be when we are in the presence of the Lord along with those that we have helped to understand that they needed Jesus as Savior and helped them to call on Him (verse 20).
We find joy and seek glory in many things, but too many of the Lord’s people simply do not share the Gospel; and there are so many tools and ways to reach people.
Just last weekend, I know of a church that sponsored a Super Bowl evangelism event; they had 223 people from 15 states and 45 churches that handed out the Gospel to all who would take it. The Saturday before the Super Bowl, they had five (5) trust Jesus as Savior on the sidewalks and roadways of Atlanta. Awesome! This is their glory and joy. This joy is had by all who hosted people, fed them and provided money; it was a team effort. No superstars; that position is taken by Jesus.
Today we will explore some powerful events in the Tribulation. Stuff that is gruesome and reflects the powerful wrath of God.
The Son of Man, verse 14
Jesus loved the title, Son of Man. He loves his humanity. Most of us wonder what it would be like to be God; Jesus chose to become a man. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah, in the Tower of Flock as a sacrificial baby, it was a permanent transition into humanity. He would be a man forever. According to what I can find, the phrase ‘Son of Man’ appears 81 times in the Koine Greek in the Gospels. In a bit of a contrast, the phrase ‘Son of God’ is only used 5 times in the New Testament. Jesus often called himself the Son of Man (Luke 9:22, 22:69; Mark 8:31, 14:62; Matthew 9:6, 26:64 and on we can go. Jesus loved to refer to himself as the Son of Man. Jesus relished his humanity.
In Hebrews 4:14-16 we find these encouraging words: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Our Great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of Man, is always there for us and always on our side and with firsthand knowledge of the frailty and limitations of humanity. He can sympathize with us and give us mercy in the time of need.
In 1 John 2:1 we see these lovely words of encouragement: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
We have an Advocate with the father, a friend, one who is always on our side even when we fail – reminding the Heavenly judge of His sacrifice for us and His blood that covers our sins. His perfect human blood that was shed for us. Jesus, the Son of Man; our High Priest, our Advocate, our Redeemer, our Friend and our King.
The Harvest of Wrath, verse 15-16
There was another harvest at the Rapture. One of grace and kindness, one of redemption and peace. One of life and that, eternal.
In 1 Thessalonians 5: 9-11 we find this promise: “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”
The promise is that God did not want us to suffer His wrath; we are spared that through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We have obtained salvation through Jesus our Lord. We are to comfort each other with these words – the assurance that we are not appointed to wrath.
Some will argue that the ‘wrath of God,’ called the great wrath, only begins in the second half of the Tribulation. I have many dear brothers who feel this way, that we will be here for the first 3+ years of the Tribulation. But we are not appointed to any wrath, whether great or small, since we have been redeemed by Jesus. Jesus suffered the wrath of God for me, in my place as my substitute on the cross. He took all of my sins before I ever even existed; in Him they were nailed to the cross; in Him I have suffered my just wrath. Jesus, the righteous dying for me, the unrighteous.
As such then, this harvest here is for the ones who have rejected the Lord God Almighty and His loving, kind, and gracious offer of salvation. I refer you back to the verses in Revelation 14:6-7 where God expressly offers salvation in Jesus to the whole world from the mouth of an angel. In a similar manner, God allowed seven (7) days for grace and kindness in the days of the flood. He had given mankind 120 years to repent; and none, not one, had repented. Only Noah and his family were ready to enter the Ark.
In Genesis 7:7-8, Noah and his family along with the animals entered the ark; and then in verse 10 we see that, after 7 days, the rain began to fall. God was gracious even then; He gave the people of earth an extra 7 days. Maybe it took 7 days to load the Ark; or maybe they entered the Ark and then, after 7 days, the rains came. Either way, the people of earth had 7 clear days to simply show their belief by entering the Ark with Noah and his family. Notice in verse 16 that it was God who shut the door. God determined when judgment would begin, and His people were safe and secure in His protection before the wrath came.
Well, God gave the people of earth – every tribe, nation, and tongue – a chance to accept His salvation. They rejected it, and the wrath came on them in swift and relentless waves.
As an aside, I would like to interject something. Please forgive me if this seems rude since I am not a US citizen, but I am a citizen of North America and the Western Hemisphere. It would appear to me after listening to the SOTU address on Tuesday that God has or is offering some hope to the USA: record employment amongst all sectors, military victories, financial victories and political victories. The current president is very vocal against late-term abortions, against socialism and against injustice it would seem. He is a man who has spoken openly about salvation in Jesus; he is surrounded by men and women who pray for him; he is not doing the job to get money; he is hard working and stands for law and order.
This seems to me like the Lord is offering a stay of execution on the US right now, so to speak. This place that has been a refuge for Jews. The USA that has sent more missionaries than any other country in the world to share the Gospel and is still doing so, both with bodies and monies. The nation that runs to rescue those that are harmed by acts of God and by acts of man.
The last president hated the God of the Bible, and this president seems to love the God of the Bible. And for a man that many say is lost, He certainly is not afraid of the Gospel. I wished that Christians talked about God and Jesus like he does. If the people of the US do not repent and accept this gracious offer from God to go back to the former ways, then the end is near. Like that seventh day after they enter the ark, God will shut the door on the US; and what was once a great nation will crumble, and the fall thereof will be great.
The Bloodbath of God’s Wrath, verses 17-20
I love movies about battles. I have watched We Were Soldiers many times; I have watched Blackhawk Down often; I have watched Heartbreak Ridge often; and the more real the movie is about an actual event, the more I like to watch it. Many years ago, I ‘fell in love’ with the series Band of Brothers, a TV Series/Documentary about a platoon of soldiers who entered WW2; and this series tracked them from being recruited all the way through the war in Europe, to the end of the war and the rescuing of Europe from Hitler. The total death toll in WW2 was in the multi-millions, more than 50,000,000 dead at the end of the war. This was a shedding of blood that ran from the island of England and stopped in the Pacific in Hawaii.
There is an even greater bloodbath coming, and it is described for us here in these verses. Millions will die at the hand of Jesus. The blood will be deep and plenteous over the battlefield. The imagery used is quite graphic; the grapes of wrath and the winepress remind us how violent this battle will be – and more importantly, how one-sided it will be. In the winepress, the grapes do not have a chance; they do not fight back and injure the winepress as they are being crushed. This is going to be a one-sided affair. Jesus will be the winepress, and the enemies of God and Israel the grapes.
In verses from the Old Testament like Joel 3:13, we are told that the vats will overflow as God executes His wrath. In Isaiah 63:3, we see that Jesus’ robes are sprinkled with the blood from the people he is judging.
We have all seen movie depictions of the old battles: two armies across from each other; then the call to charge is given and they advance, coming to a loud clash in the middle; then the spears and swords begin to clash; bones break, blood is spilled, horses get upended, limbs cut off, and soon all are covered in blood and mud from the battle. This is what we are talking about here. This will not be some covert mission with armies sitting hundreds of miles away waging video-game combat; this will be a face- to-face, man-to-man, anti-Christ to Christ, and sword-to-sword battle that will end in the death of millions.
This attack will happen outside of the city of Jerusalem. In Zechariah 14:1-5, this is clearly seen. There will be some in the city that are hurt according to the passage, but Jesus will show up (Revelation 19:11-15) and engage the enemies of Israel on the battlefield outside the city. The city of Jerusalem will not be destroyed. As the Lord touches down on the earth, He will immediately create a new valley for the Jews to use as an escape.
This battle will be on a battlefield that encompasses about 200 miles. There are 8 furlongs in a mile, hence the 1,600 furlongs. This battlefield, from what I can understand, will stretch from Armageddon in Northern Palestine to Edom in the south. The idea that the blood will be 4 ft. deep for 200 miles is simply breathtaking. This may also refer to blood splatter on the horse reaching all the way to the face of the horse. But maybe in some narrow parts of this battlefield the blood will be 4 ft. deep.
In Ezekiel 39:8-16, we are told that it will initially take seven (7) months to clear the dead and the debris. Israel will not need to cut trees for firewood for those 7 months; they will be able to burn the remnants of the battle for fuel. But even after the 7 months, they will have regular search parties that go out looking for more dead bodies. One of the things to note is that this is not a war of machines as we see today. Rather, Jesus takes the world back to old-school war, where men fought face-to-face in close combat.
In 2010, the EU reported that there were 4.4 million horses in the member countries along with another 6 million equine animals including donkeys, mules and the like. According to a census taken in 2006, there are more than 58,000,000 horses worldwide, some 9.5 million in the US. There are plenty to furnish an army that can no longer use its machines for whatever reason.
So, is Jesus coming to get you in the Rapture? Or will you feel the wrath of God? The Son of Man offers you salvation—the only one available to mankind—the one He paid for in His blood. You can either be washed in the blood and be saved or reject the blood and be crushed. The choice is yours.