“So will it be at the end of the age: The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous” (Matthew 13:48).
A separation is coming!
God’s Word is very clear that at the end of this age a day is coming when God Himself will separate the righteous from the unrighteous. The righteous ones will go into an eternal bliss whereas the unrighteous will go into an eternal torment. The Lord Jesus spoke about this event on several occasions. He spoke about the sheep being separated from the goats and that the goats would go away into eternal punishment but the sheep to eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-46)
He also spoke about the wheat and the tares and that at the end of the age they would be separated. The tares would be burned in the fire, a metaphor for hades and also for the lake of fire, while the wheat would be gathered into His barns, a metaphor for God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)
He also used the analogy of good fish representing the righteous and bad fish representing the unrighteous and said that at the end of the age the good ‘fish’ would be hauled into the boat but the bad ‘fish’ also hauled in with the nets would be thrown away.
These parables collectively relate to the spiritual harvest at the end of the age when the unrighteous will be separated from the righteous. (Matthew 13:47-49) The angels will also be involved in this end-time harvesting of souls. (Matthew 13:41)
Two End-Time Harvests
In Revelation chapter fourteen we have two end-time spiritual harvests described. In the first harvest the Son of man, a reference to the Lord Jesus, will gather to Himself all of His elect saints. The fact that He is the one reaping the harvest points to those who are His. Having said this His angels will be the ones who will actually come for His elect saints as well as the ones who will execute judgement on the ungodly. This will happen “immediately after the tribulation (thlipsis) of those days.” (Matthew 24:29-31) As for the second harvest the angels are involved as well but those being gathered do not belong to the Lord Jesus. These two harvests are the main theme of Revelation Chapter 14:14-20.
The difference between God’s Judgement and God’s Wrath
One thing we must keep in mind is that the word “tribulation” used throughout the Book of Revelation and the New Testament is the Greek word “thlipsis” and it can be used to describe “trials, afflictions, persecutions, troubles and a sense of being pressed down.” It is used frequently in the New Testament for Christians persevering under trials, persecution, martyrdom and afflictions and also for the breakdown of society leading to chaos. (Matthew 24:21-22) It also describes wars, rumours of wars, famines, earthquakes and disease. (Matthew 24:7-22) God allows tribulation (thlipsis) to perfect the saints (Romans 5:3) (Acts 14:22) and to bring judgement to the spiritually wayward and wicked in order to bring them back to repentance and reconciliation with Himself. His judgements are in the earth to do this. (Isaiah 26:9)
There is a difference between Tribulation (thlipsis) and wrath (thumos). When He sends His judgements He is offering a reprieve for the unsaved and the spiritually backslidden to turn back to Him through repentance and faith before the final axe of retribution falls on them. As the apostle Peter writes; “The Lord is not slow to fulfil His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
When God pours out His wrath there is no reprieve as it is poured out with an unbridled passion and complete lack of restraint. This is what happened in the time of Noah when God gave man 120 years to repent and to come into the ark of salvation which Noah was building. However, after 120 years man’s time was up and it was too late because God had shut the door and there was only wrath left for the unsaved. So it will be at the end of this age.
The Lord Jesus is God’s ark of salvation and repentance towards God and faith towards the Lord Jesus as Saviour and Lord shall save ones soul from the coming wrath of God upon sin. (Acts 20:21) The Lord Jesus is the only door into God’s ark of salvation. (John 14:6) In verse 19 the word “thumos” (wrath) is used not the word “thlipsis” (tribulation). Faithful believers are destined for much tribulation in this life but are not destined for the wrath of God (Acts 14:22) (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9).
So then with these things in view let’s now look at the text…
1. A Harvest of Mercy (Verses 14-16)
“And I looked and behold a white cloud…” In the Greek text the apostle John describes this cloud as a brilliant and dazzling white light shining in its fullest strength and can also describe a dazzling white garment worn by one who is innocent and pure and spiritually undefiled by sin or evil of any kind. This describes the Lord Jesus as one who is holy, innocent, without sin, pure and spiritually undefiled, and set apart from sinners. (Hebrews 7:26) The dazzling white describes His complete separation from everything that is evil. It was no ordinary cloud but one upon which the Son of God could sit in His celestial glory for all to see. (Matthew 24:30) (Revelation 1:7)
“…and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of Man,” This Son of man is the Lord Jesus. The cloud John describes is also used of the cloud which led the Israelites in the wilderness on their journey to the Promised Land. The Messiah Himself also dwelt in the pillar of cloud in the wilderness before He took upon Himself a flesh and blood body. This description John is writing about is the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus which every eye will see and also the sign of the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. It is at this time that the saints will be raptured and resurrected. (Matthew 24:31) The Lord Jesus also said that His Second Coming would be as the lightening that flashes from the east and flashes to the west. It will be when the whole world is in an advanced state of spiritual decay and global chaos. (Matthew 24:27-28)
For the sake of God’s elect saints and for the actual survival of the planet the Lord Jesus will come back. (Matthew 24:21-22) Luke tells us that men will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (Luke 21:27) The apostle John also tells us that the Lord Jesus will come with the clouds and that every eye will see Him including those who pierced Him and that all the people of the earth will mourn because of Him. (Revelation 1:7) At that time the unsaved from every walk of life will seek to hide from Him in abject fear because they know their day of judgement has come. (Revelation 6:15-17) In that day there will be nowhere to hide from Him.
This is why we must make sure we are saved and sheltering under the atoning blood of the Messiah by faith in Him that we might be spared the wrath (thumos) of God. (Exodus 12:13) (Romans 5:9) This is a divinely appointed confrontation God has ordained for every single person that has ever lived or will live in the future in this present age. God commands that men repent because He has fixed this day when He will judge the whole world with justice by the man He has appointed. (Acts 17:30-31) The reason the Lord Jesus has not come back is because God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. However, He is not slack concerning His promises because He has a fixed date when the Lord Jesus will come back to earth. (Acts 17:30-31) (2 Peter 3:9)
“… having on his head a golden crown,” This crown upon the head of the Son of Man was no ordinary crown but one that set him apart as royalty or as a King with absolute authority to rule over His kingdom. It denotes that He is one of an exulted rank above all others which the Lord Jesus is, having been resurrected and ascended to the highest place above all things in the heavens and on the earth and under the earth. (Philippians 2:9-11) This crown also represents the garland or wreath given as a prize to a victor in the public games. It is also used metaphorically for the eternal bliss and blessedness which will be given as a prize to all the genuine servants of God and of His Messiah our Lord Jesus. It will be an ornament of honour bestowed upon one who has been faithful to the end and has won the victory over the world, the flesh and the devil. It will be bestowed on the one who has run with patience the race God has set for their life and successfully completed that course according to God’s will. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
It is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises of God. (Hebrews 6:12) Spiritual fidelity is not gained overnight but takes time but in the end it saves time when one submits to the loving discipline of God the Father who disciplines us for our good. (Hebrews 12:9-11) A believer’s five sense gates must be trained by God’s Word to discern good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14) Only the blessed Holy Spirit Himself can do this and the instrument He uses is the Word of God which is “the sword of the Spirit.” (Ephesians 6:17)
“… and in His hand a sharp sickle.” This is a harvesting implement, a sickle that is very sharp and one the harvester uses to reap in the wheat for the granaries. It is in His hand so its task is divinely orchestrated by this one who sits on the cloud of His holiness and righteousness. It is a spiritual harvesting of the righteous made perfect with the righteousness of Jesus bestowed upon them and received by faith. (Romans 3:22) (Philippians 3:7-9) This harvesting is only for those who belong to the Lord Jesus, who, through the faith of obedience to Him, have given Him the right to rule and to reign over them for life. (John 3:36 NASB) (Romans 1:5; 16:26)
Today the harvest fields are ripe and God is harvesting right now. As bond-slaves of the Lord Jesus our primary goal in life should be getting involved with the harvest using our gifts, our time and our money and obeying our calling. Some sow while others reap but all of us must be in some way involved in the spiritual harvesting of souls. (John 4:34-38) While we all cannot be those with an apostolic calling or evangelists, prophets, pastors or teachers or full time missionaries, we can all be involved in witnessing or handing out tracts and supporting those on the front line through our finances and prayer. This end-time harvest John writes about culminates in the rapture and resurrection of the saints.
“And another angel came out of the temple,” The Temple John refers to is the Temple in Jerusalem but only the sacred sanctuary itself, consisting of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, the domain of the High Priest. The word is also used as a metaphor for the spiritual temple being believers joined together corporately, as well as for believers individually. (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19) God dwells in His temple on earth and in the heavens. (Revelation 7:15)
“…crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud,” It is a cry or a loud shout that incorporates vehemence or a cry for vengeance, not upon the saints themselves of course, but upon those who have persecuted and martyred them. The angel’s cry is a reflection of the cry of the martyrs whose souls are under the altar that they might be avenged on their adversary Satan and his minions in the heavens and the ungodly on earth who have persecuted these precious saints to the death. (Revelation 6:9-11)
“Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” The word “reap” used conveys the idea of the act of reaping but figuratively in this first harvest describes the gathering of people into the Kingdom of God at a fixed time. The word “reap” can also apply to both the righteous and the wicked being gathered in. In this first harvest it is the righteous that are being reaped into the Kingdom of God. In the second harvest it is the unrighteous being “reaped in” for wrath. Notice also that the harvest of the earth is “ripe.” It is overripe, the stalk is dry, the moisture having been lost or has become dry, to be withered, to be wasted away, to pine away or likened to a withered hand.
Once again it can be used for the spiritual state of the righteous as well as the unspiritual state of the unrighteous. When the Lord Jesus comes back faithful Jews in Israel and by extension and inclusion the faithful Church, will be hard-pressed, persecuted and in a very real sense outwardly withered away by tribulation, persecution, oppression and affliction even though inwardly they are spiritually fruitful. Overripe fruit must be harvested or it will be lost. And so we read…
“And He that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.” This describes the Lord Jesus gathering the saints to Himself. At the rapture and resurrection His followers will be gathered together to meet Him in the air at His coming. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) (Matthew 24:29-31) (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) In Matthew 24:29 we read “immediately after the tribulation (thlipsis) of those days” we see the saints raptured and resurrected. As we will see this first ingathering is presided over by the Son of Man, our Lord Jesus while the second gathering is presided over by an angel. Only those who belong to the Lord Jesus and have been justified and cleansed by His blood and clothed with the garments of His righteousness received by faith will be gathered in this first harvest. It is a harvest of mercy. While the Lord Jesus is already spiritually harvesting multitudes around the world the time will come when He will appear and take to Himself all who love, serve and obey His commandments. This then is the first harvest.
2. A Harvest of Wrath (Verses 17-20)
“And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle,” This angel comes out of the upper expanse of the heavens or the sky with all things visible in it such as the constellations. The word “Heaven” also includes the universe including the world, the aerial heavens or the sky. Above the sky and the constellations of the universe there is an ultimate heavenly realm. It is that place called the third heaven where God rules and reigns over the universe, a place of eternal perfection, a place where God the supreme “Elohim” (not created) rules over other heavenly beings or “Elohim” (created). (Psalm 82:1) Out of God’s Temple in the heavens comes this angel to do the reaping. The sharp sickle is the swift reaping implement of the reaper.
“And another angel came out from the altar,” This word “altar” describes the altar for slaying and the burning of victims used in the whole burnt offerings which stood in the court of the priests in the temple at Jerusalem. This word “altar” can also be used for the altar of incense which stood in the sanctuary or the Holy Place. It can also refer to any other altar. Metaphorically the word “altar” in this context stands for the sacrificial altar of the cross upon which the Lord Jesus suffered and died to expiate sin. His sacrifice was a sweet smelling savour to God as we see connected to the Temple sacrifices and the incense offered in the Old Testament. This angel has authority from the very throne room of God Himself and from the Son of man in the clouds to call for this second harvest on the earth to be reaped.
“…which had power over fire.” This “power” is the authority to make judicial decisions such as we would see in a courtroom; it describes one who is subject to authority and rule. This angel is carrying out a judicial command on behalf of the first angel who came out of the very throne room of God. Literally this angel has the authority over physical fire which we see coming out of heaven in judgement. In Revelation 6:9 and in Revelation 8:3 the altar is connected with judgement. On the altar of the cross the Lord Jesus experienced the wrath of God upon sin, not for His own sin of course because He was without sin, but because of our sin. He was the righteous one dying for the unrighteous ones that He might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)
Those who belong to the Lord Jesus will not suffer God’s wrath because they have accepted what the Lord Jesus did on their behalf, so the sacrificial altar of the cross for them is a place of refuge from God’s judgement and wrath. However, for those who reject the sacrifice the Lord Jesus made on their behalf at the cross will suffer judgement and wrath because they did not avail themselves of the salvation provided for them by the Lord Jesus. The angel described here has the authority to take the fire from off of the altar and hurl it down upon the earth in judgement. (Revelation 8:7)
“…and cried with a loud cry,” This is a summons, aloud call or cry to another to take action. It is addressed to the other angel with the sickle. It can also describe one calling out through another and this can describe God himself calling men to repent and to be aware of the coming judgement through this angel or messenger. (Revelation 14:6) It is a divine judgement on those who have refused God’s offer of salvation.
“… to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth for her grapes are fully ripe.” The sickle is used figuratively for the instrument by which the careers of those on earth are terminated. Once again the fruit is over ripe and needs to be harvested. It is overripe for Judgement. Unless God’s judgement falls on those committing evil and suddenly and swiftly terminates their careers they would continue on the downward spiral of wickedness to which there would be no end. This is why the Lord Jesus must return for the sake of His elect saints and for the very survival of the world. (Matthew 24:21-22)
“And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.” This is what will happen to all who have hated and rejected the Lord Jesus and the salvation God has provided in Him.” The word “to cast” is “ballo-from which we get the modern word “ballistic” and in our day we associate “ballistic” with a missile launch. This is the swiftness by which the ungodly are hurled like a missile into the winepress of the wrath of God. This is the same winepress mentioned in Joel 3:12-13 and Isaiah 63:1-6 and in Revelation 19:15. This will happen at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. The angels will go forth at His command to separate the righteous from the wicked. The righteous will be spared and the unrighteous will be judged. (Matthew 13:49)
The word “cast” also conveys the idea of casting something away and not caring where it falls. God abandons the wicked to their fate! As the psalmist writes; “But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to sever their memory from the earth.” (Psalm 34:16) The word “wrath” is the Greek word “thumos” and describes a passionate anger that is not vicious but a righteous anger that comes to boiling point and then boils over for a time before subsiding. It is like the wine that inflames the passions to be expressed unabated and without restraint. Of course God restrains Himself even when pouring out His wrath. With His judgement there is time given to turn back to Him. However, with His wrath there is no reprieve as we see in the flood in the time of Noah and in the time of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The winepress itself was a tub or trough shaped receptacle or vat, in which grapes were trodden, the lower vat, dug in the ground, was the receptacle into which the new wine flowed from the press. While the winepress is used as a metaphor the wrath is real and it is poured out on the earth upon men in rebellion against their creator. (Revelation Chapter 16) Having said this, those who have been saved by the blood of the Messiah our Lord Jesus and by faith in Him are sheltering under its protection will never experience the wrath of God. Because of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus the Messiah, God will pass over them and they will not be harmed when the destroying angel passes through the Egypt of this world. (Exodus 12:13) (Romans 5:9) (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:9)
“And the winepress was trodden without the city,” To be trodden under is to be trampled on, to be crushed with the feet and this is the final lot of all those who come against the Lord Jesus and His people being both Israel and by extension and inclusion the faithful Church. When grapes are crushed the juice flows! The city mentioned can refer to the earthly Jerusalem or to the Heavenly Jerusalem being the city of the glorified saints of God. Both are implied. (14:1) (Revelation 7:4)
In regards to the earthly city of Jerusalem when the Islamic Antichrist and the armies of Islam besiege the city where God has placed His name forever, and they are hell-bent on its destruction, the Lord Jesus will return and destroy them all in the winepress of His wrath. (Isaiah 63:1-6) (Zechariah 14:12-15) (Ezekiel 39:1-6; 17-20) (Joel 3:12-14) (Revelation 19: 19-21) At the same time Jerusalem is being savaged by the armies of Islam and possibly other nations with them, faithful Jews and by extension and inclusion the faithful Church will also be feeling the brunt of the Islamic Antichrist and his beast empire which will have decimated God’s elect saints through severe persecution and martyrdom. (Revelation 6:9; 13:6-7; 20:4) (Daniel 7:21, 25; 8:24; 12:7)
Isaiah, Zechariah, Ezekiel, Joel and the Apostle John all describe the nations being thrust into the winepress of the wrath of God. All of them together are describing the one and the same-end-time battle between the armies of the Antichrist with the armies of the Messiah our Lord Jesus. Ezekiel also tells us that there will be whole rebellious nations that will go down into the pit and all of them listed by name are Islamic today. (Ezekiel 32:17-32) but let’s read on…
“…and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs (180 miles).” This is literal blood described. In fact when the Messiah our Lord Jesus comes back His garments will be stained with the blood of His enemies. (Isaiah 63:1-3) (Revelation 19:13) In both of these passages the winepress of the wrath of God is mentioned and together these passages in Isaiah and Revelation describe the demise of Islam. In the Isaiah passage of scripture Edom is mentioned. Edom in the Bible sweeps down from Southern Jordan into Saudi Arabia which today is the heart of the Muslim world. In Ezekiel chapter 25 we see that Teman and Dedan were located in Edom and today the geographical region stretching from Teman to Dedan is the Saudi Arabian Landmass. (Ezekiel 25:12-14) The Messiah is actually seen coming up from Bozrah in Southern Jordan, Bozrah being the gateway into Saudi Arabia. The Messiah our Lord Jesus has been fighting Islam.
Why Islam? Well in the Revelation passage of scripture the winepress of God’s wrath is mentioned making it the one and the same battle we see in the passage of scripture in Isaiah. In Revelation chapter 19 we see the Antichrist, his beast empire and the false prophet thrown alive into the lake of fire. When comparing the two passages of scripture the beast and the false prophet would have to be Islamic. In fact virtually all of the nations mentioned in the Bible connected with Bible prophecy are all Islamic today. When the Lord Jesus comes back He will fight and completely destroy Islam!
A time is coming when the oil reserves under the desert of Saudi Arabia will burn. The judgement on Islam will be very severe and without restraint for the way they have persecuted Israel and by extension and inclusion the faithful Church. (Isaiah 34:5-10) The fiery judgement to come upon Saudi Arabia will be the harbinger of what will happen in the earth upon the ungodly when the whole world is judged by fire. (Revelation Chapter 18) (2 Peter 3:7, 10)
The blood that flows out of the winepress of God’s wrath will flow for about 180 miles long and be as high as a horses bridle. We are told it will happen outside of the City. This would be the City of Jerusalem on earth and by extension and inclusion the heavenly Jerusalem in the heavens. These satanically empowered armies of the Antichrist will be the sacrifice that God has prepared for the carrion birds and wild animals of the field to gorge themselves upon. (Ezekiel 39:17-20) (Revelation 19:17-18) Ultimately only the righteous will be able to enter the heavenly Jerusalem, no unclean thing will be able to enter into it.
As the beloved Apostle John writes the words of the Lord Jesus; “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” Blessed are those who do His commandments that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs (pagan unbelievers) and sorcerers (practitioners of the occult) and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” (Revelation 22:12-15)
“A Tale of Two Cities”
These two harvests is “a tale of two cities” and we either belong to one or the other. There is the City of God which is God’s eternal Kingdom being at present invisible on earth but the harbinger of the New Jerusalem that will come down from the third heaven and be visibly seen by all. (Revelation 21:2) The other city is the City of Satan which is his domain and those who choose to serve him in this life and in the next life. These will spend eternity with him and with his angels there in that place, shut out forever from the eternal city. Possibly the unsaved in hell they will see the celestial City of God from afar knowing the stark reality that they will never be able to attain it. Their torment will be what they could have had and should have had and that God wanted them to have but chose not to have. (Matthew 25:41)
This is why we must be spiritually reborn from above if we would enter into the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3) As it is written; “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation…. “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) (Hebrews 3:15) When the Lord Jesus comes back will you be harvested for heaven or harvested for hell?
As Moses said to the Israelites; “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20a)