************ Sermon on Revelation 14:14-20 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 22, 2009
"The Harvest of the Earth"
Do you remember what we confess about Christ and judgment in the Apostles' Creed? We say, "I believe in Jesus Christ ... [who] ... will come to judge the living and the dead." The true church confesses that Jesus is the final Judge.
This always shocks and surprises some people and some churches.
Why is it that people know Jesus is Savior but they don't know He is Judge? Why is it that churches can talk of Christ's love and mercy and grace and kindness but they cannot talk about His anger? Why is it that artists can depict Jesus the Shepherd holding the little lambs and searching for the lost sheep but cannot depict unrepentant sinners in the hands of a holy God?
The true church confesses Jesus is coming as Judge because that is what the Bible teaches:
-Do you remember what John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and Sadducees?
(Mt 3:7) But when [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?"John was warning the crowds that Jesus is coming and He is coming as Judge!
-Do you remember what Peter said to Cornelius?
(Acts 10:42) [Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.Do you hear that? Jesus is Judge!
-Do you remember what Paul said to the citizens and philosophers of Athens?
(Acts 17:31) For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.Do you hear that? Jesus is Judge!
The true church confesses Jesus is coming as Judge because that is what the Bible teaches. In fact, Jesus said more about hell than any other person in the Bible. Why is this so? Jesus wants to scare people out of hell and into heaven! What I am saying is that fear of eternal punishment can be and has been a tool of the Holy Spirit to move someone to full faith in Jesus Christ.
Think, for a moment, about John 3:16. Everyone knows this verse. What does this verse teach? "That's easy," you say. "It teaches God's love, faith, and eternal life." Wrong Answer! It teaches God's love, faith, wrath, and eternal life! In fact, eternal life means squat apart from eternal death. God's love means nothing if we don't also talk about God's wrath. But most everyone overlooks this part of John 3:16.
The book of Revelation excels at teaching us the full counsel of God. It tells us, over and over again, about the salvation of the saints. It also tells us, over and over again, about the judgment of unrepentant sinners.
So, hear this loud and clear: Jesus is coming as Judge!
Let me remind you of the context of our Bible passage. In Revelation 12, we saw that Satan, as a dragon, tried his best but he was not able to stop either Jesus' birth or ministry of atonement. Now that Jesus is in heaven, He is untouchable. So, Satan turns his hatred upon the church through the persecution of the beast out of the sea, and through the deception of the beast out of the earth. Revelation 12 & 13 makes clear to us that the church is the target of the dragon. Remember how Revelation 12 & 13 end? Every person has either the mark of the beast or the mark of God.
Revelation 14 answers two questions. First, what happens to those people who wear the mark of God? We learned, when we looked at verses 1-5, that they are overcomers who stand with the Lamb, on Mount Zion, singing songs of victory. Second, what happens to those who wear the mark of the beast? We are told that judgment falls on them. John tells us about this judgment through the use of 7 distinct persons: 3 angels, the "son of man," and then another 3 angels.
Last time, we looked at the first 3 angels. The first angel announces that God's judgment has already begun. The second angel announces that God's judgment is a sure thing, it is inescapable. The third angel announces that followers of the beast will endure eternal wrath. Notice, each announcement is worse than the one before; things are escalating.
Today, we want to look at the second set of three angels. Unlike the first trio of angels, these angels do not merely announce judgment; rather, they execute judgment.
I The Son of Man
A But before we look at the second trio of angels, John directs our attention to someone far greater than any angel, far greater than any of the six angels, far greater than the dragon or his beasts, far greater than the 24 elders, far greater than the 4 living creatures. Listen to what John says about this person:
(Rev 14:14) 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.
I want you to see all the features that mark this person as being far greater than any of the angels that come before or after Him.
The first thing we notice is His title: "son of man." The "son of man"is a familiar figure to listeners of the Revelation (remember that the Revelation is a book to be heard and imagined). We first saw the "son of man" in Revelation 1. I would like you to turn there with me so we can be reminded of how exalted and great and glorious the "son of man" really is:
(Rev 1:12-18) I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, (13) and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. (14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. (15) His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (16) In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (17) When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. (18) I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
The "son of man" first makes His appearance in the book of Daniel. I would like to ask you to turn there with me:
(Dan 7:13-14) 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. (14) 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.In Daniel, the "son of man" is someone truly magnificent and glorious and awesome, someone with authority and power.
Now, why does John use Daniel's "son of man" as a title for Jesus? Because – and the answer may surprise you – the "son of man" was Jesus' favorite title for Himself. The title is found 82 times in the Gospels. Jesus is the only One Who used it, and He always used it to talk about Himself. Let me quote just some of the verses:
(Mt 8:20) Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."Like Daniel, Jesus ascribes power and glory to the "son of man." But, do you hear the new things Jesus says about the "son of man"? Jesus tells His disciples that Daniel's magnificent and glorious and awesome "son of man" has no place to lay His head, will forgive sins, and will be betrayed and suffer and die. This must have shocked the disciples! So, the first thing we notice is the title – "son of man."
(Mt 9:6) But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . ." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home."
(Mt 12:8) For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.
(Mt 12:40) For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
(Mt 16:27-28) For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (28) I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.
(Mt 17:22) When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men."
(Mt 24:30) At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.
(Mt 25:31) When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.
There are other features, too, that mark Jesus as being far greater than any of the angels. I want you to notice where the "son of man" appears in Revelation 14. He appears between the 3 angels who announce judgment and the 3 angels who execute judgment. It is clear that Jesus is the center, the focal point. All 6 angels point to Christ. They bracket Christ like cabinet members bracket President Obama.
What else? He is seated on a white cloud. Do you know what the Old Testament says about the clouds? The clouds are God's chariot (Ps 104:3). The "son of man" rides God's chariot. Big deal, you might think. But remember what Haman suggested for the man the king chose to honor? Haman suggested to let him ride on the king's horse or chariot (Esther 6:7-9).
Notice what else sets Him above the angels? He has a "crown of gold on his head" (Rev 14:14). There are two words for "crown" in the Greek language. The one John uses refers to the victor's wreath worn after earning a great victory. Christ won a great victory at the cross and grave so His is the crown of victory. We read about the victory in Revelation 1 & 5:
(Rev 1:18) I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.Compare Jesus to the angels. None of the angels in Revelation 14 wear a crown of victory. In Revelation 12 and 13, the dragon and the beast both wear crowns of gold, but they are not the crowns of victory – for they have won nothing. Think also of the 24 angels. They have crowns of gold, but they don't wear them in the presence of Jesus; in the presence of Jesus, they are forever taking them off (Rev 4:4,10).
(Rev 5:9) You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
B Let's take a second look at the cloud on which the "son of man" was seated. How did Jesus ascend into heaven? On a cloud (Acts 1:9). How is Jesus going to return? On a cloud (Acts 1:11). Do you hear what John is saying to us this evening? John is saying Jesus is coming back.
We see here that John adds another new dimension to Daniel's "son of man." John lets us know that Daniel's magnificent and glorious and awesome "son of man" is coming and He is coming as Judge. Listen to how John puts this:
(Rev 14:14) 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.Did you hear the ending? The "son of man" has "a sharp sickle in his hand." A sickle. At the time of John, this was a harvest image. A sickle was used to cut down the stalks of wheat or barley. The "son of man" has a sickle in His hand. Why? Because He is going to harvest the earth – which in this case means He is going to judge the earth. Remember what John the Baptist said about Jesus?
(Lk 3:17) His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.Same point. Different image. But still a harvest image.
Jesus is coming. He is coming to harvest the earth. He is coming as Judge. John pictures the judging for us with two harvest themes. In verses 15-16, judgment is pictured as a grain harvest. In verses 17-20, judgment is pictured as a grape harvest. Both the grain harvest and the grape harvest are common Old Testament themes of judgment.
II The Grain Harvest and the Grape Harvest
A First, John presents the coming judgment to us as a grain harvest. Listen to what he says:
(Rev 14:15) 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."This is now the fourth angel that we meet.
I want you to observe two things. First, the angel stresses the sovereignty of God: "the time to reap has come." When do farmers reap? When the crop is ripe; when it is ready to be harvested. You don't reap before the harvest is ready – because then the crop is not mature, the heads of grain are not fully developed, the yield is decreased, and the food value is lessened. You also don't delay reaping once the crop is ready because then bad weather or rain or storm or insects can destroy what is in the fields. It is the farmer who decides when the crop is ready. "The time to reap has come." Harvest time is upon us. God has determined that now is the time.
Second, many people are bothered that an angel commands Jesus to reap. How can a mere angel command the "son of man" to harvest the earth? But let me ask, where does the angel come from? He comes from out of the temple. Who lives in the temple? Isn't that the dwelling place of God? So, an angel comes out of God's dwelling place and commands Jesus to begin reaping. Now, what really is an angel? What is his job or calling? The Bible tells us they are God's messengers. So, an angel comes out of God's dwelling place and, as God's messenger, commands Jesus to begin reaping. Isn't this in line with what Jesus Himself taught?
(Mk 13:32) No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.The Father commands the angel to tell Jesus what Jesus didn't know – that now is the time.
Notice what happens in response to what the angel says:
(Rev 14:16) So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.
B Second, John presents the coming judgment to us as a grape harvest. Listen to what he says:
(Rev 14:17-18) Another angel [this is angel #5] came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. (18) Still another angel [this is angel #6], 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 sixth angel, as a messenger from God, tells the fifth angel what to do. We have met the sixth angel before. He is the angel who had charge of the fire on heaven's altar. We met this angel in Revelation 8. This is the angel who mixes the smoke of incense with the prayers of God's saints. Remember what the saints are praying for? They are praying, crying, shouting for justice. We hear their prayer in Revelation 6:
(Rev 6:10) They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"Remember the answer? The sixth angel took fire from God's altar and hurtled it to the earth. Remember what this started? This started the 7 trumpet judgments.
Picture the whole scene. The saints are crying for justice under heaven's altar. The angel in charge of the altar and its fire answers by putting the 7 trumpet judgments into motion. But this was only the initial answer. Now, in Revelation 14, we have the final answer:
(Rev 14:18-20) "Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth's vine, because its grapes are ripe." (19) The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath. (20) 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.
Let me explain the image John has in mind. In the Ancient World, people picked grapes and dumped them into a vat. The servant girls would kick off their sandals, pull up their skirts, step into the vat, and begin to trample on the grapes. The grape juice would escape through holes at the bottom and would be channeled into big containers. John uses this as a picture of judgment. Instead of grapes, it is unbelievers. Instead of servant girls, it is Jesus. Instead of a vat, it is the winepress of God's wrath. Instead of juice, it is blood. What a gruesome picture of judgment.
Does anyone escape? Is there a single unbeliever who manages to get away? They can call for the mountains and rocks to fall on them and hide them, but it will do them no good for the great day of God's wrath has come and none can stand before it (Rev 6:16-17).
Judgment is coming, congregation. That is today's message. Do you have problems with this? Don't talk to me. Talk to Jesus – because He is the Judge.
Why is this here? Remember what I said earlier? Jesus wants to scare people out of hell and into heaven! But there is more. Jesus wants to show us what we are being saved from. You see, salvation means something only if hell means something. If hell and hell-fire and damnation mean nothing, then heaven means nothing too.
Fear hell, congregation. Seek salvation, congregation. How? Accept that Jesus is the glorious and awesome "son of man," believe that He is the suffering "son of man," acknowledge that He is the "son of man" coming as Judge. Then your experience, by grace, will be salvation rather than judgment.
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