Revelation 14: Gathering the Wicked for God’s Winepress of Wrath

Revelation 14:1-20

Image “Harvesting Lambrusco grapes” is by snoopsmaus; shared under CC License 2.0.

Let’s remember chapter Fourteen’s theme —

We must not allow current events in space and time to rob us of the fact that Christ, and we in Him, have already triumphed.

The Structure of the two Visions in Revelation 14:14-20

[1] The harvest of the grain symbolizes the gathering of the church for salvation 
[2] the grape harvest portrays the gathering of the wicked for destruction.
(see Johnson, D. E, below; emphasis mine.)

Let’s continue to see how the final judgment gives us as Christians stability in the present while awaiting the Second Coming of Christ. 

I. God’s decrees are enforced despite the opposition of the powerful. vss 17-18

Vss. 17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 

Many think, “I see evil prosper all around me, and I live according to God’s Word. When will I get justice?

The Psalmist in Psalm 37 observes this —

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found.

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813 – 1843) was Scottish pastor and hymn writer. One of my favorites of his is “I am a Debtor.” The first and third verses  have always been favorites for me. (Many more verses make up the hymn as written by McCheyne.) The verse usually omitted deals with the final judgment —

2
When I hear the wicked call

On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink
On the fiery deluge brink, –
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

The world’s only hope is in Christ! No one can put off making this commitment to Him as Lord and Savior. There will be date when this offer will expire when Christ removes Christians in a harvest and then gathers the wicked to suffer His wrath in the wine press of His justice at the Last Judgment.

The Harvest and the Wine-Press of Blood

Left is a woodcut of both sections of Revelation 14:16-20, by Hans Leonhard Schäufelein (1480-1540) CCommons CC0 1.0

Now the imagery shifts from grain harvest to the harvest of the grapes. John uses these images to describe the one reality of the final judgment of the world. The Old Testament provides the source for this imagery (Isaiah 63:1-6; Lam. 1:15; Joel 3:13).

John describes this as another (allos) angel of the same kind as the others. This angel had, literally, “authority over the fire.” This angel differs somewhat from the previous three. He comes “from (ek) the altar.” This is the altar of incense before the throne of God on which the prayers of believers are offered up for answer. After what seems to us as a long delay, Jesus Christ will return for His own people and judge the wicked. The prayers of the suffering church in Rev. 6:9-11 are answered. 

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.
10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?
11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

II. God will cause those who’ve persecuted His people to receive just retribution in the end.

RG-Lee

R. G. Lee (1886 – 1978) was the pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis from 1927-1960. He…was called “a veritable paragon of excellence in the preparation and delivery of sermons,” by W. A. Criswell. His most famous sermon is “Payday Someday.” He is said to have preached it over 1200 times across the country. (see Famous Sermons, below). 

When I came to Edgefield in 1989, I met people who had lived there all their lives. I mentioned to Mr. Frank Timmerman that I knew the famous preacher R. G. Lee once served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Edgefield [EFBC]. I said I had heard on the radio Lee’s most famous sermon, “Payday Someday.”

Mr. Timmerman acknowledged that what I told him was so. In fact, Lee pastored EFBC from 1918 to 1921 (after graduating from Furman University, in Geenville, SC, magna cum laude in 1913). He then proceeded to tell a story from Lee’s ministry in Edgefield that I didn’t know. (I have found if you tell stories, people will share stories with you.) (see Lee, R. G. below.)

R. G. Lee had written the sermon “Payday Someday” while he was in Edgefield in 1919. A man only identified to me as Mr. Norris attended a Wednesday Evening Prayer Meeting where Lee delivered the famous sermon for the first time. Old Mr. Norris then made a “prophetic” statement to Lee, “That was a good sermon, R. G.! If you work on it, it could be a great sermon!” What a positive encouragement to a young pastor who went on to be a very famous preacher! How many preachers are crushed by a church not wanting his sound preaching.

Here is a brief excerpt — “Did God mean what He said, or was He playing a prank on royalty? Did pay-day come? “Pay-day—Someday” is written in the constitution of God’s universe. The retributive providence of God is a reality as certainly as the laws of gravitation are a reality. And to Ahab and Jezebel, pay-day came as certainly as night follows day, because sin carries in itself the seed of its own fatal penalty. (see Famous Sermons, below.)

What we witness in John’s vision in Revelation Chapter 14 is “Payday that Day.” Remunerative justice comes to God’s people as Christ gathers the grain harvest. Retributive justice falls on the wicked who have opposed God and His people. 

Flying_angel_in_Prague

“Flying Angel in Prague” image taken 2016 by Pampuco;
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License

III. God’s delays are not God’s denials — God’s wrath falling on the wicked is certain! vss. 19-20 

When Does God Settle His Accounts?

The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for God. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever—the best in the entire county. When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God.

Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, “Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.” The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. It read simply, “God doesn’t always settle His accounts in October.” (see Settling Accounts, below.)

In vss. 19-20, God settles His accounts. He pays wrath to those who have rejected His ways and unjustly persecuted His people.

vs. 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.  [ESV]

The imagery of this verse is from Isaiah 63. The phrase “winepress of God’s wrath” means the winepress “which is the wrath of God.”

1545_Bale_Revelation_Chapter_14

Woodcut by John Bale (1545); author MVT_555
image is in the public domain

vs. 20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

This seems to be a reference to Armageddon. John collects all of the anti-God forces together and merges them into one symbol. Later he will call it “Babylon.” The forces will be judged by a power that is outside of their territory. The battle is fierce and bloody. It is obvious that the imagery is not intended to be taken literally. It is supposed to strike terror in those who are unrepentant.

We must flee from the wrath to come by embracing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Many of us did this years back, but it helps to continuously to keep this eternal truth before our minds as evil abounds and good seems to be deserted.

Next time Chapter 15.

Notes

(I list commentaries on which I rely sometimes without direct quotation.)

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Famous Sermons. (2018). “Payday Someday by RG Lee.” Accessed 16 December 2020 from https://sbchistory.com/blog/2018/07/07/famous-sermons-payday-someday-by-rg-lee/

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic

Lee, R. G. (n.d.). “The Life of Dr. R. G. Lee.” Accessed 16 December 2020 from https://www.uu.edu/library/archives/collections/lee.cfm

Lowell, J. R. (1844). “The Present Crisis”; accessed 15 December 2020 from https://poets.org/poem/present-crisis

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Settling Accounts. (2002). From 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Galaxie Software. Accessed 16 December 2020 from https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/78979/when-does-god-settle-accounts-by-sermoncentral
Note: I have used this story since I first read it in Our Daily Bread devotional. When I first want into the ministry, more than 44 years ago, I used stories like this to help me learn how to use illustrations in a sermon. Later, I had many stories from my own life experience I could introduce material of my own. 

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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