Revelation Part 28
Matt. 13:24-30 & 36-43
The 1st part of Ch. 14 gave us a vision of how human history will end. It portrayed only 2 alternatives. And, it challenges the reader to determine which of those two each of us is heading toward at present.
It was both heartening and sobering. And as we saw then, because we are still in the age of grace, no one need find themselves shut out from the Kingdom of Christ and the glories of it. But that human history IS on that trajectory is beyond question.
So the call is to every one of us to reckon with that fact now.
And if you haven’t yet, the call to you remains.
To be reconciled to the God who made you. The God you have sinned against in living your life for yourself instead of for the purposes for which He has created you.
To acknowledge your sin of rebellion against His right over you, and to believe the Gospel that Jesus died in your place on the cross, was buried, and rose again to show His substitution was accepted by the Father.
To turn from your self-government to Him, trusting that Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for your sins, and to receive the eternal life He gladly gives all who put their trust in Him.
But neither the passage nor the book ends there.
The balance of what follows are more pictures of how the final days of this present world order will play out. How God’s judgment against the world system which stands in opposition to His perfect rule will be dismantled, why, and what it will give way to. This, both for the Believer and the Unbeliever.
But its main thrust, is to tie together an Old Testament theme that John’s first readers would really identify with, and one we need to as well. It is the theme of DELIVERANCE.
This theme is then teased out in a metaphor – the metaphor of a HARVEST.
Revelation 14:14–20 “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped. Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 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.” 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. 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.”
Now a question immediately arises from this is; are we looking at 2 different harvests, or what? And what does this mean?
vss. 14-16 give us a picture of one who the majority of commentators agree is Jesus “harvesting” – whatever that means.
Then 17-20 depict an angel with a sickle also harvesting, but this time it is grapes, and clearly leads to a picture of judgment. Vs. 19 makes that unmistakable.
The main views on this are pretty straightforward.
Most would say the 1st picture is that of Jesus gathering up the Believers at the end of the age. And the 2nd picture is that of the angels gathering up unbelievers for judgment at the end of the age.
If this is two separate events, many argue, the first is what might be called the rapture of the church, removing Believers out of the world before God’s final judgment is poured out.
The 2nd then would come sometime later. Typically, that later date is thought of as 7 years later – the 7 year period being the Great Tribulation.
While that view is possible, I would want to argue it doesn’t seem to fit the present context well, nor the tie the next chapter will make to the Song of Moses, nor Jesus’ parable in Matt. 13, nor a repeated picture throughout Scripture that we’ll explore in a minute.
What seems to fit the text best is that we are getting two looks at one and the same event. In other words, when the time comes for Jesus to gather His saints to Himself to reward us, judgment will also be poured out on those who remain His enemies in unbelief. 2 different peoples experiencing the same thing 2 different ways.
Let’s go back and look at Jesus’ parable in Matt. 13 for a moment.
The picture He gave there is simply one way of understanding how the kingdom of God works. It is one of 7 parables in Matt. 13 that taken together, were meant to give the Disciples a really well rounded primer on how they were to understand the unfolding plan of God.
1st (3-9) was the parable of PROPAGATION – How the Kingdom of God grows – through sowing or preaching the Gospel.
2nd (24-30) is the parable of MIXTURE & INIQUITY. There will always be both the righteous and the unrighteous in the world, and even in the Church until Christ returns. We’ll come back to this one.
3rd (31-32) The parable of TRANSITION. Christ’s kingdom will start small like a mustard seed but end up large and full.
4th (33) The parable of LEAVEN or TRANSFORMATION. Those in the kingdom are gradually transformed the way yeast permeates dough – until every aspect of our being is affected.
5th (44) The parable of the hidden treasure: REVELATION. Once someone’s eyes are opened to the value of Christ and salvation, we will do everything and anything to be a part.
6th (45-46) The pearl of great price: The TRANSCENDENCE or SUPERIORITY of having Christ above everything this world can offer.
7th (47-50) The net. The mystery of the GOSPEL & CONSUMMATION. The Gospel will go out though the world, and many will respond, but there will be a final sorting out of those who are truly His, and those who are not.
These 7 parables would give the Disciples a realistic understanding of what to expect in the time between Christ’s resurrection and His return, so that we would neither get discouraged, confused nor have unreal expectations.
But it is in that 2nd one that we find the parallel to what we’re seeing in Rev. 14.
Matt. 13:38 “The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one”
Matt. 13:39 “The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.”
Matt. 13:40–43 “Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
So when does this separation come between the sons of the Kingdom and the sons of the devil?
At the harvest – of BOTH, at the same time.
Matt. 13:30 “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
In keeping with this picture, John is seeing that when the time comes for Jesus to gather in His sons and daughters – at the very same time, judgment will be meted out on the rebellious world. They are one and the same event, experienced by two different groups. The difference being one thing – their relationship to Jesus Christ.
And the figure of the blood of those being judged coming up to the height of a horse’s bridle for a distance of 184 miles, (the length of the land of Palestine) is meant to show the staggering thoroughness of that final judgment. It will be quite literally unimaginable.
Well OK Reid, thanks for spoiling my morning so far – where does this theme of DELIVERANCE that you mentioned factor in?
I hear your cry. Let’s move on into Ch. 15.
Rev. 15:1–8 “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished. And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.”
What do we see here? 2 things chiefly.
- A picture of God’s final wrath on human sin and the world system it created – about to be poured out through angelic means – the details of which occupy the next several chapters.
- The Saints, “those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name” standing on the crystal sea we saw in ch. 4 that surrounds the throne of God – SINGING!
And what are they singing? The text calls it “the song of Moses…and the song of the Lamb.”
And here is where the imagery strikes home for the first readers and needs to strike home for us.
The song itself is a composite from at least 4 Old Testament passages: Ps 111:3; Amos 4:13; Deut 32:4; Jer 10:7. But its being identified as “the song of Moses” unquestionably takes us to Ex. 15 and what Moses and the Israelites sang on the day God delivered them from Pharaoh and Egypt at the Red Sea. A 2-stage deliverance we’ll see more next time.
Of particular note in that song are these words: Ex. 15:11–13 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.”
God had swallowed up their enemies, but more, He had redeemed His people and brought them “to your holy abode.” Their deliverance, the great Exodus, as great and stupendous and miraculous as it was – was still only a type and shadow of the true and final Exodus and deliverance of God’s people from the oppression and slavery of sin and of this world. They were on the edge of the desert, not Canaan.
We see this model in Scripture elsewhere. It was true in Noah being delivered from the Flood, while others were perishing in it. It was true with Lot being delivered even as Sodom was being destroyed. And it was true with Israel being delivered from bondage in Egypt even as Egypt’s grip on then was being once and for all destroyed. So, Christ delivers His people from the bondage of darkness, demonic deception, sin’s grip on our lives and the chains of self-government, materialism, false religion and fleshly lusts – at the very same time that He finally crushes this present world system.
And this beloved is the song we’ll sing on that day. Not two separate days but that great “Day of the Lord” as it is most often called in judgment, and the “Day of Jesus Christ” as it is for Believers.
Jesus will not return to fix this present world system (which is why we can’t fix it now) but to redeem His people out of it, while wholly and utterly destroying this present world system.
And this will be the great celebration the redeemed will rejoice in: That Jesus Christ has delivered us from every last vestige of bondage that has had its claim on us since the Fall. Both externally AND internally.
In the immediate, to be delivered from the oppressive Beast that wages war against the saints. But not delivered to be still left to ourselves and our still indwelling sinfulness. No, much, much more!
To be delivered from all selfishness; pride; arrogance; bitterness; unforgiveness; lust; greed; hatred; anger; violence; faithlessness; foolishness; doubt; compromise; cowardice; lying; lovelessness; turmoil; self-promotion; uncleanness; fear; self-deception; self-pity; indolence; carelessness and anything and everything else that is part of the Fall in humanity as a whole and in each of us individually.
“Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
Oh how we will glory, not just in what He has given us in Jesus, but what He has delivered us from by His blood!
Heaven will be Christ. But getting there is deliverance.
Rescue from the sinful world system that keeps people from the saving knowledge of Jesus and tries to stamp out His Church.
AND deliverance from all the remnants of indwelling sin.
No more groaning with Paul “who will deliver me from the body of this death.”
Absolute and complete – DELIVERANCE. And oh how we’ll sing!