The Book of  REVELATION
James J. Barker


Lesson 25
THE HARVEST OF THE EARTH IS RIPE

Text: REVELATION 14:9-20


INTRODUCTION


  1. Last week we started our study in Revelation 14, and I divided my exposition into three parts:
  • The Lamb standing in triumph on Mount Zion with the 144,000 witnesses (14:1-5).
  • In verses 6 and 7 we see “another angel” flying in the midst of heaven,  having "the everlasting gospel" to preach to the entire world.
  • In verse 8, there is the pronouncement by yet another angel, saying the great city of Babylon has fallen.
  1. Now tonight we will pick up at verse 9, which tells us of a "third angel" (the first angel is in verse 6, and the second in verse 8), which announces the doom of those who worship the beast and take his mark.

 

I. THE DOOM OF THE BEAST-WORSHIPPERS (14:9-11)

  1. Verse 6 refers to "another angel."  Then verse 8 says, "And there followed another angel..."  Now verse 9 says, "And the third angel followed them..." (Rev. 14:9-11).
  2. This prophecy refers specifically to the doom of those who take the mark of the beast.  However, it reminds us that all lost sinners will be tormented in hell and shall "have no rest day nor night... for ever and ever."
  3. We know this because in the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16, our Lord referred four times to the torment of hell (cf. Rev. 14:10, 11).
  4. Therefore, these warnings from Revelation 14 should not be restricted to beast-worshippers during the tribulation, because in Luke 16:24, the rich man said, "I am tormented in this flame."
  5. Three times in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said sinners will be "cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).
  6. In Matthew 25:46, our Lord said the lost "shall go away into everlasting punishment."
  7. In fact, our Lord preached more about hell than He did about heaven; and He preached more about hell than any other preacher in the Bible.
  8. Regarding God's judgment upon the beast-worshippers, John Walvoord says, "Anyone who receives the mark of the beast as required in 13:17 shall also partake of the judgment of God. As he drinks of the wine of spiritual fornication, so he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God. It is described in most dramatic terms as wine that is unmixed, that is, untempered by the mercy and grace of God; and these worshipers are declared to be 'tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.' The same Scripture which assures all Christians of the love of God and the grace of God as extended to those who trust in Christ is unequivocal in its absolute statements of judgment upon the wicked" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  9. Regarding their eternal torment, Walvoord says, "it is described in verse 11 as continuing forever, literally 'into the ages of ages,' the strongest expression of eternity of which the Greek is capable."
  10. Years ago, a British preacher by the name of William C. Procter wrote an article entitled, "What Christ Teaches Concerning Future Retribution."  This article was included in The Fundamentals, a twelve-volume collection of 90 essays edited by R.A. Torrey and A.C. Dixon.
  11. He wrote, "The whole drift of Christ's teaching confirms what we learn...that future retribution is not merely an incidental but a fundamental part of the Gospel message. It is the dark background on which its loving invitations and tender expostulations are presented, and the Gospel message loses much of its force when the doctrine is left out. But, worst of all, the earnest exhortations to immediate repentance and faith lose their urgency if the ultimate result will be the same if those duties are postponed beyond the present life...Finally, the doctrines of heaven and hell seem to stand or fall together, for both rest upon the same Divine revelation, both are described metaphorically, and both have the same word 'everlasting' applied to their duration. If the threatenings of God's Word are unreliable, so may the promises be; if the denunciations have no real meaning, what becomes of the invitations? Ruskin well terms the denial of hell 'the most dangerous, because the most attractive, form of modern infidelity.' But is it so modern? Is it not an echo of the devil's insinuating doubt: 'Yea, hath God said'? followed by his insistent denial, 'Ye shall not surely die,' which led to the fall of man? Let us, therefore, believe God's truth, rather than the devil's lie; let us accept Divine revelation, rather than human speculation; and let us heed what Christ so plainly taught, without mitigating, modifying, or minimizing His solemn warnings."

 

II. THE PATIENCE OF THE SAINTS (14:12, 13).

  1. Here in the midst of visions of judgments is a word of encouragement to those who put their trust in Christ.
  2. Though it is referring specifically to believers during the tribulation, it certainly can be applied now during this dispensation.
  3. Though many believers will face martyrdom and others will go into hiding, they are assured that they are much better off than the beast-worshippers who will be tormented with fire and brimstone for ever and ever (14:9-13).
  4. Those who receive the mark of the beast think they will be taking the easy way out, but they will be badly deceived.  As we look around and observe the foolish and silly sin-loving unbelievers that we see all around us, we can understand how most of them will have no difficulty deciding to take the mark of the beast.
  5. These beast-worshipping sinners will think that those who are executed for refusing the mark of the beast are the ones who are the fools!
  6. In verse 13, John hears a voice from heaven pronouncing a blessing on those who die in the Lord.
  7. Those who die in the Lord are described as resting from their labors with the rewards of their work following them. This verse is the second of the seven beatitudes in the book of Revelation (cf. 1:3; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14).

 

III. THE HARVEST OF THE EARTH IS RIPE (14:14-20)

  1. The expression “the harvest of the earth is ripe” (14:15b) indicates that God's judgment is overdue.  The verb form “is ripe” means “to become dry or withered.” The picture here is of a fruit or vegetable that has become so ripe that it has begun to dry up and wither.
  2. Following the reassurance of the saints’ ultimate reward, John beholds One like the Son of man sitting on a white cloud wearing a golden crown and having in his hand a sharp sickle.
  3. Our Lord said in Luke 21:27, "And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."
  4. Revelation 1:7 says, "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him..."
  5. The golden crown speaks of His glorified state and His royal dignity.
  6. The sharp sickle indicates this is the time of harvest, that is, the battle of Armageddon and the other climactic judgments relating to the second coming of Christ (cf. Rev. 16:16).
  7. As John beholds this spectacular vision of the Son of man holding His sharp sickle, he sees another angel come out of the temple crying to the Son of man to thrust in His sickle and reap, declaring that the harvest of the earth is ripe.
  8. "The picture here is of a fruit or vegetable that has become so ripe that it has begun to dry up and wither. The rotten moral condition of the world is dealt with now with a sharp sickle" (Walvoord).
  9. Our Lord said in Matthew 13:39, "The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels" (cf. Rev. 14:17-20).
  10. Like the Son of man, the angel in Revelation 14:17 also has a sharp sickle indicating the severity of the judgment. Twice the sharp sickle is mentioned in verse 18, and the clusters of the vine of the earth are described as grapes fully ripe -- that is, ripe for judgment!
  11. This is a vivid picture of divine judgment as God's harvest. This is a picture of grapes fully grown and almost bursting with juice.
  12. In verse 19 the angel, thrusts his sickle into the earth and casts it into “the great winepress of the wrath of God” (cf. 19:15).
  13. In verse 20, the winepress is described as trodden without the city, that is the city of Jerusalem, and blood is said to come even to the bridles of the horses as far as 1,600 furlongs (nearly 200 miles).
  14. The Scofield Study Bible margin says a furlong equals 582 feet.
  15. The area covered (1,600 furlongs) reveals that the area within a 200-mile radius from Jerusalem will be the center of the famous battle of Armageddon, where the armies of the world will be gathered at the time of the second coming of Christ.
  16. John Walvoord says, "The spurting of the grape juice from under the bare feet of those treading the grapes in the winepress is compared to the spurting of blood and speaks of the awful human carnage of Revelation 19:17-19, 21" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  17. Henry Alford says, "There is no reason, however, for limiting the battle to the precise boundary of the holy land, and there is really no serious problem here in taking the distance literally. The terrible picture here given of the bloodletting which will mark the end of the age may include various phases of the battle taking place in the great tribulation and the climax of Christ’s victory when He judges the nations at its end" (The Greek New Testament, cited by Walvoord).
  18. Note Alford refers to the "various phases of the battle taking place in the great tribulation and the climax of Christ’s victory when He judges the nations at its end."  This is why many Bible teachers refer to the battle of Armageddon as a "campaign," i.e., a series of battles.
  19. This prophecy in Revelation 14 should be carefully compared to a similar one in Isaiah 63:3, 4.  Both prophecies describe the Battle of Armageddon.
  20. Isaiah 63:4 refers to this as "the day of vengeance."

 

CONCLUSION:

  1. William Kelly regards this chapter as the outline of the end of the age: "In this chapter, then, we have the full outline of the dealings of God in the latter-day crisis. There are seven divisions of it. First, there is the full remnant of godly Jews associated with the Lamb on mount Sion, in sympathy with His sufferings and waiting for the kingdom. Secondly, a testimony to the Gentile nations scattered all over the world as well as to those seated on the prophetic earth. Thirdly, the fall of Babylon. Fourthly, the fearful doom, both in this world and in the next, of such as should worship the beast and his image, or receive the mark of his name. Fifthly, the blessedness from that time of those that die in the Lord. Sixthly, the discriminating process of the harvest. And seventhly, the awful infliction of vengeance on religious apostasy; the first, at least, of these two last acts of judgment being executed by the Son of man, which necessarily supposes the very close of the age; the wrath, not of God only, but of the Lamb" (Lectures on the Book of Revelation, cited by Walvoord).
  2. Today is a day of grace.  Only God knows how much time is left before these amazing prophecies will be fulfilled.
  3. Walvoord says, "What is true of the tribulation is also true today, namely, that God will ultimately judge all men. Today, however, the invitation is still open to those who will trust in Christ and who thereby can avail themselves of the grace of God and be saved from entering this awful period which may be impending for this present generation" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).


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