Rev. 14:19 – 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. (HCSB)
The great winepress of God’s wrath
Verse 19 reads, “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.” A winepress, also known as a wine vat, is a rectangular cavity carved out of rock or built artificially. Ripe grapes are placed in the winepress and trampled underfoot, with the juice flowing down into a lower receptacle. Usually, a full winepress signifies prosperity, while an empty winepress signifies famine. In this metaphorical reference, however, the fullness of the winepress suggests rampant evil that is now being judged.
The word “winepress” appears 20 times in 20 verses in scripture (HCSB). When it is used metaphorically, it depicts either Israel or God’s judgment:
- Isa. 5:2 (Israel) – “He broke up the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted it with the finest vines. He built a tower in the middle of it and even dug out a winepress there. He expected it to yield good grapes, but it yielded worthless grapes.”
- Isa. 63:2-3 (judgment) – The Lord is asked, “Why are your clothes red, and your garments like the one who tread a winepress?” The Lord replies, “I trample the winepress alone, and no one from the nations was with Me. I trampled them in my anger and ground them underfoot in My fury; their blood spattered my garments, and all my clothes were stained.” This passage describes God as a warrior going to battle to defeat the forces of evil.
- Lam. 1:15 (judgment) – “The Lord has rejected all the mighty men within me. He has summoned an army against me to crush my young warriors. The Lord has trampled Virgin Daughter Judah [like grapes] in a winepress.”
- Joel 3:13 (judgment) – “Swing the sickle because the harvest is ripe. Come and trample the grapes because the winepress is full; the wine vats overflow because the wickedness of the nations is great.” This verse describes the Day of the Lord, in which Yahweh will utterly defeat His enemies.
- Matt. 21:33 / Mark 12:1 (Israel) – Jesus says, “Listen to another parable: There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. He leased it to tenant farmers and went away.”
- Rev. 14:19 (judgment) – “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.”
- Rev. 19:15 (judgment) – “A sharp sword came from His mouth, so that He might strike the nations with it. He will shepherd them with an iron scepter. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty.”
Here, in Rev. 14:19, in the trampling of the winepress “lies the true climax of the image of the wine harvest: the liquid that flows from the (red) grapes symbolizes the blood of the enemies whom God has destroyed in his anger” (Roloff, p. 178).
Warren Wiersbe shares the following insight: “Scripture portrays three different ‘vines.’ Israel was God’s vine, planted in the land to bear fruit for God’s glory; but the nation failed God and had to be cut down (Ps. 80:8–16; Isa. 5:1–7; see also Matt. 21:33–46). Today, Christ is the Vine and believers are branches in Him (John 15). But the world system is also a vine, ‘the vine of the earth’ in contrast to Christ, the heavenly Vine; and it is ripening for judgment. The wicked system – Babylon – that intoxicates people and controls them, will one day be cut down and destroyed in ‘the winepress of the wrath of God’ (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Rev. 14:6).
Next: Blood flowed … for about 180 miles – Revelation 14:20
Rev. 14:15 – 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. (HCSB)
The earth was harvested
John picks up the narrative in verses 15-16: “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.’ So the One seated on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.”
The harvest in these verses, though not stated explicitly, refers to wheat or barley. The word for ripe (Gr.: xeraino) describes dried heads of grain and is different than the word used of ripened grapes in verse 18.
The phrase “another angel” does not imply that the “One like the Son of Man” is an angel. John simply is continuing his observation from the point of the three angels in verses 6-13. This angel comes out of the sanctuary and heads straight for the One holding the sickle. He bears a message from God the Father, who is seated on His throne in the heavenly Holy of Holies (Rev. 6:9; 8:3; 11:19). The message is simple: The time to reap has come; the earth is ripe for harvest. The One seated on the cloud asks no questions, nor does He hesitate. He swings His sickle over the earth, and it is harvested.
No doubt this is a harvest of people on the earth. But who are they? Commentators differ in their understanding of this passage. Some believe this is the harvest of the just, coming before the harvest of the unbelievers (vv. 17-20); it is distinct just as the wheat harvest is distinct from the harvest of grapes. Others, however, argue that scripture normally speaks only of unbelievers being cut down. Therefore, both the One like the Son of Man and the angel with the sickle are engaged in destroying the wicked; one harvest, two perspectives.
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. (HCSB)
One like the Son of Man
Seated on the cloud is “One like the Son of Man.” He wears a gold crown on His head and wields a sharp sickle in His hand. There is little doubt that this is Jesus, who calls Himself the Son of Man more than 80 times in the Gospels. The name is not exclusive to Jesus in scripture. For example, the Lord calls Ezekiel “son of man” more than 90 times, and the angel Gabriel once refers to Daniel by the same moniker. But there is no doubt that in specific contexts “Son of Man” refers to the second person of the Godhead.
The Son of Man clearly is a divine being in Dan. 7:13, and Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man who will come on the clouds of heaven (Matt. 26:64) is sufficient testimony to convict Him of blasphemy and condemn Him to death in the eyes of Caiaphas. It’s important for us to understand that in preferring to call Himself “Son of Man” rather than “Son of God,” Jesus is communicating His incarnation. He is neither denying His deity nor exalting His humanity; rather, He is demonstrating that He is one person with two natures: divine and human.
As Ron Rhodes writes, “First of all, even if the phrase ‘Son of Man’ is a reference to Jesus’ humanity, it is not a denial of His deity. By becoming a man, Jesus did not cease being God. The incarnation of Christ did not involve the subtraction of deity, but the addition of humanity. Jesus clearly claimed to be God on many occasions (Matthew 16:16, 17; John 8:58; 10:30). But in addition to being divine, He was also human (see Philippians 2:6-8). He had two natures (divine and human) conjoined in one person” (found at http://christiananswers.net/q-eden/son-of-man.html).
The name “Son of Man” is found almost exclusively in the mouth of Christ in the New Testament. The apostles and other writers avoid the term, with a couple of exceptions. In Acts 7:55 Stephen exclaims, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” And, of course, in Rev. 14:14 John sees “One like the Son of Man” seated on a white cloud.
The early church fathers are of the opinion that Jesus uses the expression “Son of Man” out of humility and to demonstrate His humanity. Others think He adopts the title so as not to offend His enemies until His hour is at hand. Then, associating this lowly title with Dan. 7:13 and tying it to His deity forces the hands of both His accusers and followers to acknowledge Him as Messiah or reject Him as a pretender. At last, this title is “capable of being applied so as to cover His Messianic claims – to include everything that had been foretold of the representative man, the second Adam, the suffering servant of Jehovah, the Messianic king” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Son of Man”).
This is the third in a series of articles on Jesus in the feasts of Israel.
|Name||Scriptures||Time / Date||Purpose||Fulfillment|
|Firstfruits||Lev. 23:9-14||16th day of Nisan (March/April)||To dedicate the firstfruits of the barley harvest||Christ’s bodily resurrection(1 Cor. 15:20-23)|
Firstfruits marks the beginning of the cereal grain harvests in Israel. Of the crops sown in winter, barley is the first grain to ripen. For the Feast of Firstfruits, a sheaf (a bundle of stalks tied together) of barley is harvested and brought to the Temple as a thanksgiving offering to the Lord. It represents the entire barley harvest and serves as a pledge that the rest of the harvest will be brought in. Keep in mind that Passover occurs on the 14th day of Nisan; Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th day of Nisan and goes for seven days; and Firstfruits takes place on the 16th day of Nisan.
Firstfruits is seen primarily as a time marker. It marks the beginning of the grain harvest in Israel. It also marks the countdown to the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), which is celebrated 50 days after Firstfruits. As a result, this period of time is known as the Sefirat Ha-Omer (“the counting of the omer”) because of the ritual of counting the days from Firstfruits to Pentecost.
The Biblical Observance
The regulations for Firstfruits (Lev. 23:9-14):
- A sheaf of barley is to be brought to the priest at the Temple. He waves the sheaf before the Lord for acceptance.
- Accompanying sacrifices are to be brought as well: an unblemished male lamb of the first year, a drink offering of wine, and a meal offering of the barley flour mixed with olive oil.
- The people are forbidden to use any part of the harvest in any way until after they offer their firstfruits to the Lord.
The ritual for Firstfruits (Deut. 26:1-11):
- Firstfruits is to be observed, “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance …” (v. 1).
- The firstfruits are to be brought to the priest and the giver is to say, “Today I acknowledge to the Lord your God that I have entered the land the Lord swore to our fathers to give us” (v. 3).
- The priest takes the firstfruits and places them before the altar at the tabernacle (later the Temple), and the giver recites the story of God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egypt and the giving of the Promised Land (vv. 4-10).
- The giver then bows down and worships the Lord (v. 10).
- The giver joins the priest and even the foreign resident among the people in rejoicing in all the good things the Lord has given him and his household (v. 11).
In Scripture, both the nation and the family observe Firstfruits.
For the nation:
- A special barley crop is raised just outside Jerusalem in the Ashes Valley. Just before Passover, representatives of the Sanhedrin, Israel’s ruling religious body, mark off a part of this field and designate it as firstfruits.
- At sundown on the 15th day of Nisan (the start of the 16thh day), a three-man delegation from the Sanhedrin leads a multitude of observers to the barley field with sickles and baskets. They reap one ephah (about 3/5 bushel) from the designated firstfruits and bring the grain back to the Temple.
- On the morning of the 16th day, one omer (about two quarts) of the barley flour is mixed with ¾ pint of olive oil, with a small amount of frankincense sprinkled on it. The priest then waves it before the Lord as Lev. 23:11-13 instructs and burns a small amount on the altar. The rest is given to the Levites.
For the family:
- Each family marks out the firstfruits of its barley harvest, usually with a cord, and on the morning of the 16th day brings the firsfruits to the Temple, along with a lamb or, if the family is poor, two turtledoves or young pigeons for a burnt offering. The man who brings these – the head of the household – might say with great feeling, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
- As the priest holds the lamb or the turtledoves, the man confesses his sins, and then the priest, in accordance with Lev. 1:10-17, kills the sacrificial animal(s).
- Standing face-to-face with the priest, the man repeats the familiar Firstfruits prayer: “Today I acknowledge to the Lord your God that I have entered the land the Lord swore to our fathers to give us” (Deut. 26:3).
- The man then hands the priest a basket containing the omer of barley as his Firstfruits offering. The priest places his hands under the basket and slowly waves it before the Lord as the offering bearer continues his prayer: “My father was a wandering Aramean. He went down to Egypt with a few people and lived there. There he became a great, powerful, and populous nation. He led us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. I have now brought the first of the land’s produce that you, Lord, have given me” (Deut. 26:5,9-10).
- The priest then takes a handful of the grain and tosses it into the fire. The offering bearer falls on his face and worships the Lord.
- With the requirements now fulfilled, the man rejoins his family.
The Modern Observance
The sacrifices and offerings of Firstfruits are not offered today since there is no Temple. The only surviving ritual is the counting of the omer, the days from Firstfruits to the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).
Jesus rose from the dead on the third day of Passover season (Nisan 16), on the day of Firstfruits, completing the prophetic picture the spring feasts painted of His work of redemption: death (Passover), burial (Unleavened Bread) and resurrection (Firstfruits). Paul proclaims in 1 Cor. 15:20-22: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man [Adam], the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man [Jesus]. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” As Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal point out, “The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee and the beginning (firstfruits) of the final harvest, or resurrection, of all mankind. The Messiah fulfilled the prophetic meaning of this holy day by rising from the dead to become the firstfruits of the resurrection, and He did it on the very day of Firstfruits.” (The Feasts of the Lord: God’s Prophetic Calendar from Calvary to the Kingdom, p. 86)
Next: The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost or Shavuot)
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips