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The Harvest of Judgment (Revelation Sermon 28 of 49)

The Harvest of Judgment (Revelation Sermon 28 of 49)

December 03, 2017 | Andy Davis
Revelation 14:14-20
Wrath of God, Judgment


The Book of Revelation was given to enable us to see invisible things that we could not see unless God revealed them to us. Faith is the eyesight of the soul by which we see these invisible spiritual realities. Based on the word of God, we are able to see and understand these past, present and future hidden spiritual truths. Revelation reveals Jesus to us, above all else, as the one who conquered death. Behold, I am alive forever more.” [Revelation 1:18]

In Revelation 1-3, the Apostle John has a vision in which he sees Jesus, radiant and glorious, dressed like a high priest, moving among and ministering to seven golden lamp stands, representing local churches around the world and across every era of church history. He speaks words of rebuke and correction and encouragement to each of the seven churches.

After this, in Revelation 4, John has a vision in which he is invited to ascend through the heavenly realms to a door leading into the presence of the Almighty God, who is seated on a throne. All of Heaven —twenty-four elders and four living creatures and 100 million angels — worships Almighty God.

In Revelation 5 God has a scroll in his right hand, sealed with seven seals. A mighty angel proclaims “in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’” Jesus, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb that was slain — he alone has the right to break open the seals. He breaks them one at a time to unleash the final events on earth. Through John, we witness them unfold in their last phase. The initial phases are happening now, and have been for 20 centuries — wars, rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes in various places, uncertain signs showing that this world is broken. There are so many wrong things in this world, but we are heading toward a place where there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain.

In Revelation 8 and 9, the seventh seal releases seven angels with trumpets, each blown in turn, ravaging the earth’s ecology. All the green grass and a third of the vegetation and trees are burned up. A third of the ocean turns to blood. A third of the living creatures die in the ocean. A third of the drinking water turns bitter with wormwood. A dark billowing cloud of demonic assault comes up from the nether regions of the earth and torments earth's inhabitants for five months, as though they have been bitten with the stings of scorpions. An army of 200 million demons wages war, slaughtering a third of mankind.

Behind the scenes, in Revelation 12, a dragon appears, identified as Satan, who has a vigorous, aggressive hatred for God’s people. He is thrown down from Heaven to earth with a third of the “stars” or angels, known as demons. He pursues a woman, who represents Israel, and her children, who represent all believers in Christ. Satan persecutes the believers, filled with hatred and rage because he knows that his time is short.

In Revelation 13, we see his final, most vigorous and effective assault on the people of the world — the Antichrist, or the Beast from the Sea. He comes up out of the sea to dominate the entire world. Every tribe and language and people and nation is under his rule. Another beast, the Beast from the Earth, also called the false prophet, sets up a religious system to force all the inhabitants earth on pain of death to worship the Antichrist and to receive a mark on the forehead or the hand, without which they cannot buy or sell. This worship of Antichrist becomes the final world government and the final world religion. There is no separation of religion and state but a complete combination under the reign of the Antichrist.

Revelation 14 begins with 144,000 who are sealed — courageous, bold, pure, holy emissaries from God — based on the earlier sealing of the 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. They are perhaps Jewish evangelists, and we assume they are male because they refrain from being defiled with women. They are dedicated, following the Lamb wherever he goes and witnessing boldly. The Gospel is being preached even during the time of the Antichrist.

God sends three angelic messengers flying in mid-air to warn the people of earth to fear God and give Him glory, to believe the Gospel and trust in Christ, and to flee the intoxication of the system of Babylon — the wickedness of this world system — or face eternal death. The second half of Revelation 14 depicts “the harvest of the earth,” depicting Judgment Day as harvests of grain harvest and grapes.

By faith, we must understand and be ready for the coming judgment and the end of the world. The world around us that we see and experience now, which continues as it always has, is less real than the hidden spiritual reality of eternity. Two passages highlight God’s reasons for postponing ultimate judgment:

God made a solemn covenant with Abraham that the land he stood on would be an inheritance for him and his descendants and told Abraham when it would happen. Genesis 15:13-16: “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” For four centuries, God waited for the wickedness of the pagan Amorites in the Promised Land to reach its full measure. He waited as they worshiped pagan idols, bowing before the works of their hands, passing their own children through the fire in worship of blood-thirsty demons. In the same way, God waits patiently now for the sin of the world to reach its full measure.

Daniel was an exile from Judah in Babylon. He served in the courts of the Babylonian kings, the last of whom was Belshazzar. Despite the fact that the walls of Babylon were surrounded by the Medo-Persian army, Belshazzar hosted a drunken feast, toasting the gods of bronze, iron, wood and stone. He used the sacred vessels taken from the Temple in Israel. Suddenly a hand appeared and wrote mysterious words on the wall, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN…” No one could read them so the king summoned Daniel to interpret the mystery. He read: “‘Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.’” All people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Belshazzar was judged as lacking the massive weightiness of God that should be in all our souls. That very night, he died. Our days are numbered. God is waiting patiently. Judgment Day has not yet come, but it will.

God’s patience has a purposeful limit. One purpose is to give the elect time to repent and come to Christ. Another is to allow “the sin of the Amorites [of the world][to reach] its full measure,” its maximum level in God’s providence. Unbelievers do not make the best use of the time, unfortunately. Romans 2:4-6: “…do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”

This morning, I watched two squirrels working on their nest. They had their mouths full of pine needles and leaves from the forest floor. They climbed 40 feet to an ugly-looking mass of debris from the ground, then repeated the process multiple times. In a similar way, every day, unbelievers add a little more to God’s memory, how they have lived that day without thanking Him or giving Him praise and glory or loving Him with all their heart or without loving their neighbors. They are “storing up wrath” a little more every day. It is tragic. It is our job as believers to warn them about that as Paul did in Romans 2.

Unscrupulous businessmen craft new ways to defraud people of their money. Corrupt national leaders use their positions of power to advance themselves and their own interests and to resist the Gospel spread. Urban gangs initiate new members by forcing them to commit random, wanton, malicious acts to show their manhood. Drug addicts resort to crime to feed their habit and cannot free themselves from slavery to the drug. Internet pornographers film the next images that will trap people in addiction. Terrorist cell groups plot their acts of mayhem and murder to further their political or religious agendas. Ordinary unbelievers pursue worldly agendas and pleasures without a single thought of thankfulness to God. Unsaved teenagers swim in a sea of social media, unable to lift up their eyes from their smartphones to see the God who knit them together in their mother’s womb and who sustains them every day. Secularists and social, sexual deviants on college campuses indoctrinate the next crop of college students in a worldview of aberrant, unbiblical sexuality. A river of sin continues unchallenged; people think everything goes on as it always has, and nothing will change. How wrong they are. We can see that day coming when the sickle will swing and human history will be cut off.

Two Different Harvests or One Told Two Ways?

The Grain and the Grapes

Two harvests are pictured here. One of them appears to be a harvest of standing grain, and the other a harvest of grapes. It is told in two parts but it is hard to know if it is the same harvest told two different ways or two different harvests. The harvest of grapes is definitely a harvest of wrath. Revelation 14:19-20 “The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.” That terrifying image depicts God’s wrath falling on the rebels and unrepentant sinners of the earth.

The sickle to harvest grain is a heavy curved manual cutting tool with a long handle commonly used before the invention of grain-harvesting machines. Farmers would swing the long stick to cut the standing grain in this way. The sickle to harvest grapes is a similar tool but with a short handle. The Son of Man reaps the grain with his sharpened sickle; then the grapes are harvested.

One Interpretation

Many commentators think that these are two different kinds of harvests, that the first one by Christ is the harvest of the righteous, the elect. It is a valid idea since many images in the New Testament link evangelism and missions to the image of a harvest. Matthew 9:36-38 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

In John 4, Jesus has an incredible conversation with the Samaritan woman about spiritual things. She is immediately moved to go tell others about him. Meanwhile, the disciples, who were on an errand and did not, it seems, say a word about Jesus, returned and were ready to eat. “…he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about… My food … is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, “It’s still four months until harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying “One sows and another reaps” is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.’”

In 1876, Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on this text entitled “The Harvest and the Vintage” in which he made this exact connection, that the first harvest is the harvest of the elect by Christ bringing them into God’s garner, and the second harvest is the harvest of wrath.

Another Interpretation

It is also possible that these are two different images for the same harvest. Joel 3:13-14 has an image very much like in Revelation 14: “‘Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow — so great is their wickedness!’ Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.”

Judgment Day is Coming

Regardless of which way we interpret these two harvests, both events will happen. Every last elect person chosen by name from before the creation of the world will come to Christ, brought into God’s barn to spend eternity in the New Heaven and New Earth with Christ. Not one will be lost. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. … And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” [Romans 8:29-30] 

And all of the wicked will be harvested and thrown into the fire. John the Baptist said this very plainly in Matthew 3:12: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

The Glorious Reaper Harvests the Earth

The Son of Man Identified

Revelation 14:14 says, “I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.” The Son of Man is the glorified Jesus Christ, reigning in Heaven. In Revelation 1, John sees “someone like a son of man”, dressed like a high priest, moving through the seven golden lamp stands.

The image comes from Daniel 7, which depicts the idea of coming world empires and the Antichrist. In the midst of that, Daniel sees the heavenly court, with the Ancient of Days, God the Father, seated on his throne and a river of fire flowing from it. Daniel 7:13-14 says,“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

This is the exact same language as Revelation 14:14. It is an important prophecy about Jesus in the Old Testament. The incarnation — the fact that the Word became flesh, a human being who could speak and eat and be touched and who could die was actually Almighty God — presented a stumbling block. Jesus consistently called himself Son of Man more than any other title. In so doing, he was pointing his listeners to Daniel 7. This title highlights his humanity. He comes on the clouds of Heaven, which shows his deity. He comes in glory and sovereign power, and he receives the right to be worshiped by every nation. Verse 14 emphasizes the combination of his divinity and humanity.

In the Old Testament, clouds in connection with God symbolize His judgment on the wicked. Psalm 97 says, “The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.” This is the very thing that Jesus prophesied that his enemies would see. The corrupt, wicked Jewish authorities, Annas and Caiaphas, charged Jesus under oath by the living God to tell whether He was the Christ, the Son of God. “Are you claiming to be God?” Jesus said in Mark's Gospel, “I am.” That was enough. But then he made a prophecy with Daniel’s words. Matthew 26:64 says, “In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Jesus is coming on the clouds of heaven in wrath and judgment to bring an end to the wickedness of the earth.

The Son of Man Glorified

This is the Son of Man glorified, in a position of judgment. His golden crown represents his kingly authority. Gold symbolizes purity and worth. Jesus’ glory of Jesus is his right to judge all the earth. He has the right to judge every human being.

John 5:22-23 says, “…the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” What an incredible statement — we are to honor Jesus with the same honor we give to Almighty God. The Father is jealous for that glory. He will not share His glory with a created being, an idol. But He shares it with His Son, the second person of the Trinity. The whole world will see Jesus’ glory because he “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [Philippians 2:8-11] The Father wants us to glorify and worship Jesus, so he comes on the clouds in a position to judge.

Matthew 25:31-32 says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” He will come in his glory with all the angels; all the nations will be assembled before him, and he will judge them. The Father has given to Jesus the right, the authority to judge, because he is the Son of Man.

When the Grain is Ripe, the Harvest Will Come

The Angelic Exhortation

Revelation 14:14-16 says, “I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.”

This exalted, glorified figure, the Son of Man seated on the throne, seems to take an order from an angel, but more likely, the angel is a messenger from God the Father, telling him the time to reap has come. Even Jesus, in his reaping, is under the greater authority of the Father. Jesus was instructing and teaching his disciples in the days before His ascension, after His resurrection, and they said, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom in Israel?” He said in Acts 1:7 “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” The Father decides when it is time to reap; He knows the details He has determined.

“The Time Has Come…”

In John’s vision, the time has come — the harvest is ripe. Either all of the elect have come to Christ, or all of the wickedness — the sin of the Amorites — has reached its full measure. All the days ordained for the earth were written in God’s book before one of them came to be. The time has come to bring history to an end. Joel 3:13 “Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow — so great is their wickedness!’

The last days will be filled with overwhelming wickedness on earth, the worst the world has ever seen. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power.” The overwhelming majority of the world will worship the Antichrist as God.

It will be like the days before the flood, as Jesus said it would be. Genesis 6:5 says, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” The sin of the Amorites had reached its full measure in that time.

The angel says to the Son of Man Revelation 14:15, “Take your sickle and reap because the time to reap has come for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” In the days of Noah, Almighty God, the only one who had the right, shut the door to the ark, which ended the opportunity for salvation at that point. Everyone inside the ark was saved. Everyone outside perished. As it was then, so now the time comes to swing the sickle.

For now, God is waiting. 2 Peter 3:9-10 and 15 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. … Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.” But the time will come. Perhaps when all the elect have repented and trusted in Christ, an angelic messenger will announce the fact to heaven. George Whitefield, one of the most effective preachers in the history of the church, during the Colonial era, right before the Revolution, had a great voice and a sense of drama. He would picture an angel going up from that assembly, announcing, “The last person that will be converted today has been converted.” He would call out, “Stop! Isn’t there room for one more?” Everyone wanted to be that one more person. Today is the day of salvation; now is the time to come to Christ. There will not to be an opportunity after the sickle is swung.

The Son of Man Swings His Sickle

Revelation 14:16 says, “So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.” That is a simple statement with no process described. It is instantaneous. The sickle is sharp like the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says, “…the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight, everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we will give an account.” The sickle does not meet with resistance; no stalks are particularly difficult for it to cut.

In popular culture, the figure of the Grim Reaper symbolizes death. I worked in an engineering group with a floor worker who had a disturbing tattoo of the Grim Reaper on his forearm. It was a black-hooded living skeleton with a scythe, the end dripping red with blood. I remarked to him that he had a constant reminder of Judgment Day on his arm.

In the early days of World War I after the Germans had invaded Belgium and killed maybe a few thousand people, a Dutch propaganda artist named Louis Raemaekers drew a powerful cartoon entitled “The Harvest is Ripe” of a skeleton in tattered clothes with a scythe. It depicted hordes of people in front of him facing impending doom. Little did Raemaekers know what the next four years would bring, that the hundreds who had died in those first few days in Belgium were nothing compared to the millions that would die by the end of the war.

In the end, the true Reaper in the Bible is not grim but glorious. He is not impersonal but very personal. He knows exactly what he is doing. It is Jesus Christ. Hebrews 9:27 says, “…man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”

The Terror of the Grape Harvest

The Second Image

The second harvest is clearly grapes of wrath. These grapes are crushed in the vintage. Again, God initiates this judgment by sending the angel from the temple, His dwelling place. Habakkuk 2:20 says, “…the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” Out of this glorious temple comes this angel, who also has a sharp scythe. The angels are involved in the reaping at the end of human history. A second angel exhorts or commands this reaping angel to begin his work. Revelation 14:18 says, “Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, ‘Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.’”

The vintage is the grapes of wrath, wicked rebels who refuse to live by the truth, and believe in Christ. This angel is identified as having “charge of the fire,” which goes back to that Revelation 8 in which the angel coming from the altar with a censer takes fire from the coals and hurls it to the earth. That judgment of God came as a result of the prayers of the persecuted church, crying out for justice. This is God’s answer. Grace and tolerance for the wicked of the earth comes to an end. Clusters of grapes may represent the teeming cities, massive population centers with different tribes and languages and peoples and nations. They are harvested quickly. Joel 3:14 says, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.”

A Display of God’s Wrath

Revelation 14:19-20 says, “The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.”

The harvest is a display of God’s wrath. This crushing carnage is hard to picture. It is bloody. In those days the clusters of grapes would be put in the winepress and servants would trample and crush them with their feet. At the bottom, there was a trough through which the juice would flow to be caught in vats and fermented into wine. The flow of blood is difficult to comprehend. The blood came out out of the winepress up to a height of horses’ bridle for a distance of 1600 stadia, almost 200 miles. A horse’s bridle sits at about 4 feet; we are not told the width, but it is an incalculable amount of blood even if it is a narrow trough. In the temple where the animal sacrifice was — up to a quarter of a million sacrifices offered at Passover—  there would be a trough through which blood would flow.

Outside the city

The fact that it was “outside the city” is significant. That indicates the place of judgment and wrath, exclusion from God’s presence and the glory of his majesty. The wicked are thrown outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. They are cut off from the fellowship of the people of God. Jesus died outside the city for us. Hebrews 13:12 says, “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.” He was rejected and sent to the place of judgment and condemnation and hell for us. Revelation 22:14-15 says, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” As the second angel swings his scythe, the wicked are harvested and trampled outside the gates.

The Final Battle?

Could this represent the final battle, Armageddon, referenced in Revelation 16 and 17? The forces of Antichrist gathered together to trample out the last vestiges of rebels who will not receive the mark of the beast or bow down and worship his image. They are huddled, hiding, waiting. Jesus said, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened.” The kings will gather together and give their power to the one, the Antichrist, to destroy the people of God and fight against Christ.

Joel 3 corresponds with Revelation 14. Joel 3:9-16 says, “Proclaim this among the nations: ‘Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, “I am strong!” Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there. Bring down your warriors, Lord! [All the wicked nations are together in one place as warriors from Heaven descend.] Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the valley of Jehoshaphat [“the Lord judges”], for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow — so great is their wickedness!’ Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble. But the Lord will be a refuge for His people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.”

Revelation 16 and 17 describe that battle. Revelation 14, is a foretaste of it, taking us ahead to that final moment when the harvest will be gathered in the context of a battle; hence, the flow of blood makes perfect sense. They came to shed blood, and their own blood will be shed.

This battle is depicted in Revelation 19:11-21: I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. [That’s Jesus in His Second Coming glory.] The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.”

This is Joel’s imperative, “Bring down your warriors, O Lord!” I believe — others disagree — that this is when the rapture happens. At that point, he will send his angels to gather the elect from the four corners of the earth; they will meet him in the air as he descends with those who have died and are with Him. They will come down and be together as one to witness him taking care of business.

Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ [That sharp sword that comes out of his mouth is equal to the sharp sickle with which he harvests the nations.] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

He comes down into a battle in which the ten kings come together to give their power to the one, the Antichrist. They are gathered to fight against the people of God, to wipe them from the face of the earth. Jesus says, “No.”

“And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.’ Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.”

That is a parallel image to the river of blood flowing in Revelation 14. That's the Second Coming and the final battle



This is the day of salvation. This is the opportunity we have, before these things happen — before the ark door is closed and you find yourself on the wrong side of that door, outside of salvation. I am pleading with you, if you are outside and you know it, come to Christ while there is time. We are celebrating the Incarnation, the first coming; how different the Second Coming will be. How meek and mild was Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger! How beautiful is that image of the gentleness and peacefulness with which God is appealing and pleading with you to repent and come to Christ!

Embrace the Terrible Reality of Judgment Day

For those of us who have already found safety in the salvation of Christ, our job is to get this message out. Unbelievers are not ready for what will come on them suddenly. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 says, “…the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” We must be children of the day.

Embrace the Work of the Gospel

The twin exhortations of 2 Peter 3: in light of all this, be holy, be evangelistic. It is what we are called to do. This month, talk to some unbelievers about the real gift of Christmas, God sending His Son into the world, that He might save us from the coming wrath. Ask what they think the season is all about, what their spiritual background is. Talk about their religious convictions, their holidays and festivals, and then share the truth that is eternally consequential, bigger than one season. Jesus is not the reason only for the season — He is the reason for everything, every moment. Share with people who need the Gospel.

Closing Prayer

Father, these are potent images, far greater than we could bear if it were not for the truth of the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We know, Lord, that you are a patient God. We know that you are waiting for the sin of the Amorites to reach its full measure, and you are waiting for every single one of the elect who you knew by name before you formed them in their mother’s womb; waiting for each one of them to repent and come to Christ. And so, Lord, I pray that you would help us to be active, that we would not scatter but gather with Jesus. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, and He said, “Everyone who does not gather with me scatters.” Help us, O Lord, to be active in evangelism, in gathering people to come to Christ. Help us to look beyond the festivities and the shopping and the errands, to look to a surrounding world of people who are “without hope and without God in the world.” Because judgment is coming, the sickle will swing and then it will be over. Help us to be faithful until that day comes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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