Thursday, October 21, 2021

54. The Revelation: Harvest Time - The Grain Harvest (Revelation 14:14-16)


Joel, Isaiah, and the Lord Jesus Christ all spoke of a coming harvest of divine wrath when the Messiah will execute final judgment (Joel 3:12–13, 21; Isaiah 63:1–6; Matthew 13:30, 39–42). That final outpouring of the judgmental fury of the Lamb is the theme of the remaining text of Revelation 14.

This passage pictures the final harvest of divine wrath in two agricultural motifs: the grain harvest (verses 14–16) and the grape harvest (verses 17–20). The grain harvest symbolizes the seven bowl judgments. The grape harvest symbolizes the judgment of Armageddon. Both harvests involve a sickle and reaping.

1. The Reaper

"Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand." (Rev. 14:14)

The familiar phrase “I looked, and behold” often introduces a new and important subject in Revelation (cf. Rev. 4:1; 6:2, 5, 8; 7:9; 14:1). What caught John’s attention was “a white cloud,” an image drawn from Daniel 7:13–14. John saw “sitting on the cloud … one like a son of man.” This is Jesus Christ, coming to establish His kingdom in fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy. The brilliant, white cloud symbolizes His glory and majesty (Rev. 1:7; Acts 1:9). The reaper is sitting as He waits for the proper time to stand and begin the reaping. That reaping (the seven bowl judgments) will be followed by Christ’s return to establish His kingdom.

The description of Christ as “one like a son of man” also derives from Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 7:13). It was Christ’s favorite title during His earthly ministry. when He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and [was] made in the likeness of men … [and was] found in appearance as a man” (Philippians 2:7–8).1 This is the last time Scripture refers to Him by that title, and it presents a marked contrast with the first time the New Testament calls Him the Son of Man. Then He did not even have a place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20). Now He is about to take possession of the entire earth.

The reaper is further described as “having a golden crown on His head.” This crown is not the kind worn by a king (Greek diadēma) but the type of crown (Greek stephanos) worn by victors in war or athletic events. It pictures the Son of Man as the triumphant conqueror over all His enemies (Matthew 24:30).

The reaper also had “a sharp sickle in His hand.” A sickle was a long, curved, razor-sharp iron blade attached to a long, broomstick-like wooden handle. Sickles were used to harvest grain. They were held with both hands spread apart and swept back and forth, their sharp blades would cut off the grain stalks at ground level. The picture is of the Lord Jesus Christ mowing down His enemies like a harvester cutting grain.

2. The Ripeness

"And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” (Rev. 14:15)

Another angel, the fourth one mentioned in this chapter (verses Rev. 14:6, 8–9), appears on the scene. The first three angels proclaimed that judgment was coming. The fourth brings the command to execute it. This angel came out of the heavenly temple before the throne of God. In a loud voice conveying the authority delegated to him from God, the angel cries out, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” He delivers the message from God the Father to the Son of Man that it is time for Him to move in judgment. God’s anger has reached its limit, and His wrath is poured out. The verb translated “is ripe” actually means “dried up” or “withered.” The grain pictured here has passed the point of any usefulness and is fit only to be “gathered up and burned with fire” (Matthew 13:40).

3. The Reaping

"Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped." (Rev. 14:16)

Here is one of the most tragic and sobering statements in all of Scripture. Without fanfare, it announces the executing of divine judgment. The frightening details of that judgment are unfolded in Revelation 16. Those seven rapid-fire bowl judgments mark the first phase of the final reaping of the earth.