Rev. 14:14 – Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and One like the Son of Man was seated on the cloud, with a gold crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. 15 Another angel came out of the sanctuary, crying out in a loud voice to the One who was seated on the cloud, “Use your sickle and reap, for the time to reap has come, since the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 So the One seated on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.
17 Then another angel who also had a sharp sickle came out of the sanctuary in heaven. 18 Yet another angel, who had authority over fire, came from the altar, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from earth’s vineyard, because its grapes have ripened.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle toward earth and gathered the grapes from earth’s vineyard, and he threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 Then the press was trampled outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press up to the horses’ bridles for about 180 miles. (HCSB)
Following the proclamation of the three angels, we next encounter “One like the Son of Man” seated on a white cloud. He wears a gold crown on His head and wields a sharp sickle in His hand. An angel beckons Him to use the sickle, and He does, harvesting the earth.
Then, a different angel comes out of the sanctuary. He, too, bears a sharp sickle, and at the bidding of a third angel, he swings the sickle to the earth, gathers the grapes from its vineyard, and casts them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. Finally, we are told the blood gushes out of the winepress at a depth approaching the horses’ bridles and for a length of 180 miles.
This is a graphic scene of harvest and vintage, and it raises many questions:
- What is the significance of the white cloud?
- Who is the “One like the Son of Man?”
- What does the sickle represent?
- Why do both the “One like the Son of Man” and the angel wield sickles on the earth?
- Who or what are the grapes that are gathered and thrown into the winepress?
- And does blood really flow several feet deep for 180 miles?
Let’s see if we can find answers.
There was a white cloud
John first observes that there is a white cloud. While clouds in scripture often describe the vaporous repositories of rain, they also have a heavenly application, as in this case. Clouds are associated with God, and particularly with the Son of Man. In Matt. 24:30, for example, Jesus draws from Dan. 7:13 when He says that “all the peoples of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” John also captures portions of Dan. 7:13 and Zech. 12:10 when he writes in Rev. 1:7: “Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him including those who pierced Him. And all the families of the earth will mourn over Him.”
In the Old Testament, the Lord is present in a cloud. As the Israelites leave Egypt and camp at the edge of the wilderness, the Lord goes ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to lead them on their way during the day and a pillar of fire by night to give them light. Moses records that “[t]he pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night never left its place in front of the people” (Ex. 13:22). As the people stand at the edge of the sea, hotly pursued by pharaoh and his army, the “Angel of God” – likely the pre-incarnate Christ – moves from in front of the escaping Israelites to behind them, to block the Egyptians’ way. “The cloud was there in the darkness, yet it lit up the night. So neither group came near the other all night long” (Ex. 14:20).
Later, as Moses completes the tabernacle in the wilderness, the cloud covers the tent of meeting and the glory of the Lord fills it. Moses is unable to enter because the cloud rests on it, and the glory of the Lord fills it. Whenever the cloud is taken up from the tabernacle, the people are to follow the cloud and are to remain as long as the cloud envelopes it. “For the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and there was a fire inside the cloud by night, visible to the entire house of Israel throughout all the stages of their journey” (Ex. 40:39).
In the New Testament, clouds are connected mostly with the Son of Man and often with judgment. Jesus tells the high priest in Matt. 26:64, “In the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” This seems to be a reference to the destruction of the temple, which occurs in 70 A.D. Caiaphas, the high priest, and other religious leaders who reject Jesus as Messiah, will witness the destruction of the temple, the holy city, and the corrupt religious system over which they wield authority when the Roman armies are the instruments of God’s wrath. This prophecy also may have a later fulfillment, as many scholars believe, pointing toward the second coming. Surely, Caiaphas one day will join all people in bending the knee to the conquering King.
The cloud in Rev. 14:14 is linked with “One like the Son of Man,” who is seated there. In this instance, the cloud may depict a throne of judgment. Its whiteness describes the purity, uprightness, and justness of the One seated there and of His proceedings. In Rev. 20:11, Jesus is seated upon a “great white throne,” executing final judgment upon the world’s unbelievers. The term “white cloud” (Gr. nepelh leukh) is like the “bright cloud” that descends on the Mount of Transfiguration and from which the Father speaks, “This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him. Listen to Him!” (Matt. 17:5). It also is similar to the cloud that accompanies Jesus into heaven at His Ascension (Acts 1:9) and will escort Him at His return (Acts 1:11).
Sometimes clouds are connected with people or angels who serve the Lord. For example, the writer of Hebrews tells us we are surrounded by “a large cloud of witnesses,” those who have gone into heaven before us. And note that the Lord’s two witnesses are carried up to heaven in “a cloud” in Rev. 11:12. An addition, a cloud surrounds a mighty angel as he descends from heaven in Rev. 10:1. But when clouds are associated with the Lord, they seem to depict His presence, power, and provision. In this context, the white cloud seems to symbolize Christ’s purity, holiness, and rightness as He prepares to judge the earth.
Next: One like the Son of Man – Revelation 14:14