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A study of Revelation 13-15. This is book 5 of an 8 part book series.
Category - Bible Commentaries
Revelation 14:17 says,
17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.
John saw two sickles. The first was held by the one like the Son of man, a reference to Jesus Christ, while the second was held by the Angel of Vintage (my revelation). Jesus harvests wheat, while the angel harvests grapes. In the wheat harvest, the Threshing Angel signaled that it was time for Christ to harvest the wheat. In the grape harvest, as we shall see, another angel calls out to the Angel of Vintage to harvest the grapes of the earth.
It may seem strange that two parties are required to do the job. Did Jesus not know when to harvest the wheat? Was the timing of this event hidden from Him until an angel informed Him? In the grape harvest, the Angel of Vintage too did not seem to know what to do or when to do it until a different angel told him to do his job.
But the simple answer to this is that this arrangement sets forth the law of the double witness. When two entities are involved in an important act or in a decree, it satisfies the requirement of the law, which in turn is the expression of God’s nature. If this were not so, then we might expect God to issue His own decrees from heaven that would bring changes to the earth, when, in fact, He requires an earthly witness—a voice responding from the earth—to establish all things.
The core principle behind this arrangement is that to make a decree effective, agreement and unity are required. This was the underlying truth behind marriage that was established in Gen. 2:24, and this same principle carries over to the great marriage between heaven and earth. Without this principle, marriage between two people would have been unnecessary. Each person singularly might have been complete.
When God created all things in Genesis 1, He pronounced each of them in turn “good,” and at the end He pronounced the whole creation “very good” (Gen. 1:31). But when God formed Adam in Gen. 2:7, there is no such conclusion, because God’s creation was not yet complete. After taking Eve out of Adam, God establishes unity, but still no final pronouncement is made, because there was still more to create. In fact, a long time of disunity and disagreement yet had to run its course before the reconciliation of all things was complete.
It is only at the end of time as we know it that heaven and earth come into full agreement in Christ, peace (shalom) is established, and God is then “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). In the broad sense, this completes this particular creation project of God. Without the reconciliation of all things, the creation would remain divided and fractured. Without such reconciliation, the goal of history would be Dualism, where good and evil, light and darkness coexist forever.
Dualism has been the basis of many religions, both past and present. Many have assumed that good and evil, light and darkness, heaven and hell, are each necessary for the other to exist. Their solution, then, is not to eradicate evil, but to separate it from the good. They view universal reconciliation as being impossible. There will always be darkness in some part of the universe in order to make it possible for light to exist in another part of the universe. There must be both heaven and hell for either to exist. Even God cannot exist apart from the devil, they say.
Scripture does teach that good and evil will be separated, but this in itself is not the final goal of history. The divine goal is marriage that is based on agreement and unity. The good overcomes the evil and eradicates the evil by restoring all of creation into one harmonious whole. The divine marriage between heaven and earth is a happy one.
All separation from God is temporary, because it is not the final solution in the divine plan. In the course of world history, heaven and earth have experienced a bad marriage, and this is pictured in God’s marriage to Israel, which also ended up in divorce (Jer. 3:8).
However, Scripture differentiates between the two marriage covenants. Old Covenant marriages between carnal people, are characterized by disagreement (more or less) and even failure. For this reason the law allows for divorce (Deut. 24:1-4). An Old Covenant marriage sets forth a master-slave relationship and idealizes obedience of the wife to the husband. But New Covenant marriage sets forth an equal relationship that idealizes agreement and unity between husband and wife, allowing them to be co-heirs (1 Peter 3:7).
When we understand the nature of God and realize that His goal is reconciliation, unity, and agreement for all of creation, then we may shed the Dualistic mindset. The divine goal is not to establish “heaven and hell” for men to exist forever, but to bring all of creation under the feet of Christ (1 Cor. 15:25) in a perfect marriage relationship.
This is the foundational mindset of the God of the Bible that is behind the need for two angels to establish the harvests in Revelation 14. Each angel has its own unique role to play. It is not that the Son of man has no sense of timing as to when the wheat harvest should take place, but that an angel has been set up with the word of timing, much like a watchman in the temple who looks for the dawn or for the first crescent moon at sundown.
Every person and every angel has been assigned a calling or function, and it is in the loving nature of the Heavenly Manager not to bypass them in the fulfillment of their responsibilities. Hence also God uses men and women in the establishment of His will in the earth, when He certainly has the power to do it all by Himself.
Herein do we see the importance of authority. Even though God is sovereign, He has chosen to create authority, which is a limited and subordinate form of sovereignty. The purpose of authority is to fulfill God’s desire (nature) for a double witness, without which any unity remains untested and therefore unreal. Yet authority was never given a position or power equal to God’s sovereignty, otherwise the will of God would always remain in doubt, for it would depend upon the response of those in authority.
The creation of authority in the earth has confused many into thinking that God created free will, when in fact, He created authority. Free will is a philosophical concept, and the term is not used in Scripture, nor is it advocated. Scripture presents authority as a principle of spiritual law, not philosophical free will of the carnal mind.
Authority is limited by very definition. Those limits are defined by time. Time was built into creation in order to subject man’s authority to God’s sovereignty and to limit man’s time of disunity and disagreement. The first large span of time is this 7,000 year period leading to the Great White Throne judgment. Men are given 7,000 years in which to exercise their God-given authority to choose between agreement or disagreement. Then everything changes when all who are yet in disagreement are issued an arrest warrant, and the angels gather them before the Great White Throne for judgment.
At that point, the law removes the authority that they had enjoyed previously, and sentences them to a time of slavery. Slaves do not have authority. They are required to obey the will of their masters, and if they should assert their “free will,” they are coerced (by pain, if necessary) into giving up their rebellious ideas of “freedom.”
Most people understand the idea of slavery from the manner in which it has been practiced in the earth, and for this reason we tend to recoil at the idea of slavery. Biblical slavery is different, because it is established by a God of love, and so it requires slave masters to take responsibility for their slaves in much the same manner that fathers are required to train their children in the principles of righteousness.
Hence, when the sinners (former unbelievers) are sentenced at the Great White Throne to a life of slavery by law (Exodus 22:3), the overcomers who redeem their debts are given authority and responsibility in equal measure. The overcomers are responsible to train their slaves in the ways of God, so that when the Creation Jubilee arrives, and creation itself experiences the freedom of the sons of God (Rom. 8:21), they will all be in full agreement with the divine nature.
Revelation 14:17, 18 says,
17 And another angel [of Vintage] came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel [of Fire], the one who has power [exousia, “authority”] over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.”
Both of these angels are temple angels. The Angel of Vintage “came out of the temple,” and the Angel of Fire “came out from the altar.” This second angel is the same one seen in Ezekiel 10:2,
2 And He spoke to the man clothed in linen and said, “Enter between the whirling wheels under the cherubim, and fill your hands with the coals of fire from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.” And he entered in my sight.
Angels are often called “men” when they take the appearance of men. This Angel of Fire took coals from the altar of incense in the temple of heaven and scattered them onto the earth. The altar of incense is the place of intercession (Rev. 5:8). The “fire,” then is scattered onto the earth in answer to prayer. This “fire” is designed to burn chaff and to purify gold and silver. Its purpose is to judge sin and thereby purify the earth by the baptism of fire. Thus, the fire represents the work of the Holy Spirit, who works within our hearts to purify us of carnality and disagreement.
This is also the work of the Angel of Fire in Rev. 14:18, though the metaphor changes to the theme of harvest. The “sharp sickle” is used to gather the grapes together for judgment at the Great White Throne. It pictures metaphorically what is stated later in Rev. 20:12, “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.”
Those unbelievers (or really, ex-unbelievers) will then be “thrown into the lake of fire” by the authority assigned to the Angel of Fire. The fire speaks of the divine nature, for God is“a consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24). Man was created to reflect that fire (glory) in the earth. The Hebrew word esh (alef and shin) means “fire.” The word ish (“man, male”) is esh with a yood between the alef and the shin. Because the yood literally means a hand and signifies one’s works, we can see that man was created to do all of his works in the midst of the fire of God.
The Angel of Fire is assigned to bring all men into the purpose for which they were created—by judgment, if necessary—burning out the chaff by the baptism of fire (Matt. 3:11).
Revelation 14:19 says,
19 And the angel [of Vintage] swung his sickle to the earth, and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God.
The fiery judgment coming from the Angel of Fire is synergistic with the “winepress” as well. Even as the previous sickle reaped the wheat (believers), so also does this second sickle reap the grapes (unbelievers). They are then cast into the winepress of God in order to extract the new wine from them for God’s Communion Table. Wine was normally trodden under foot to separate the flesh from the juice. So all things are put under the feet of Christ (1 Cor. 15:27), not to destroy the grape company, but so that God may be “all in all.”
The purpose of divine judgment is to discard fleshly disagreement, in order to establish unity between heaven and earth. Using a sickle to reap wheat is normal, but to use a sickle to reap grapes is abnormal. This unusual metaphor suggests finality. The plants themselves are being cut down by the sickle, preventing any further growth. In other words, because the plants themselves have been cut down, the earth will no longer produce unbelievers.
The “wrath of God” (Rev. 14:19) cannot be understood apart from a Hebrew mindset. There are two Greek words translated “wrath,” and these correlate with two Hebrew words. The Greek word used in Rev. 14:19 is thumos, “intense passion that is inspired by breath.” It correlates with the Hebrew word aph, “nostril, face, breath” that is released through thumos, “intense heat, passion.” When God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7), the word aph is translated “nostrils.” God did not breathe life into Adam out of anger, but out of His passion.
God’s “wrath” is His PASSION, which is an emotion that can be expressed as anger, love, jealousy, or in other “heated” ways. The point is that thumos must be understood in terms of God’s nature, not man’s, and His purpose, not man’s. In this case, His passion, based on love, is to bring the earth into unity and agreement, so that heaven and earth can be married, so to speak. But to accomplish this goal, He brings judgment—even appearing in “wrath”—in order to make this happen.
The other Greek word translated “wrath” is orge, whose Hebrew equivalent is chemah, “breath, heat, to burn red hot.” In English we derive our word “orgy” from orge, which, though it has some negative connotations, does not normally indicate anger, but intense passion. Hence, this word too means God’s Passion.
God is passionate enough about His creation to labor unceasingly until His purpose for creation has been accomplished. John uses the term orge five times in the book of Revelation, including Rev. 16:19, “And Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.” In this case, God expresses His passion by anger against Babylon, because He is passionate about setting the creation free. It is a divine orgy, so to speak.
So also we read in Rev. 14:20 (NASB),
20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.
If this were literal, there would not be enough blood in the entire world of humanity to fill up a valley 200 miles long to the height of a horse’s bridle. Obviously, John was still speaking in metaphoric language. A better translation is given in The Emphatic Diaglott:
20 And the wine-press was trodden outside of the city; and blood came forth out of the wine-press, even to the bridles of the horses, a thousand six hundred furlongs off.
This translation preserves the original numbers (1600 furlongs) and thereby helps us understand the meaning of this through the biblical meaning of numbers. The number 16 is the biblical number of love, and when multiplied by 100 suggests the fulness of love. This is consistent with the underlying meaning of thumos, “passion.” And so, no matter how violent the wine press appears to be, the ultimate goal of God’s passion is to reconcile through judgments, not to destroy or lose any part of creation.
The unnamed “city” in this case can be seen either as Babylon or as Jerusalem, which are equated spiritually in Rev. 11:8.