Summary: At the end of the age, Jesus will settle the score and every person will receive what they deserve based on how they have responded to Jesus.
This week I came across a letter that was written to Probe Ministries. It reads, in part:
I write to you feeling perturbed about God. At times I really wonder the question of His existence.
I would appreciate if you could enlighten me in the area of trusting in God. I find it hard to trust Him nowadays. I trust in Him to provide financially, but instead I receive more financial problems. I see sinners who are ruthless and despicable earning tons of money, curse Him with the very breath He gave them. What a joke! His children suffered in hunger and He dared to claim that He will not allowed the righteous to suffer hunger. Sometimes when I see how He blessed those rogues, I told myself where is His logic? Of course He hopes that by showing mercy, these crooks will repent, then how about His children who are suffering hunger? You mean God enjoys people cursing Him so that He could bless them? Then I think His children will begin to curse and swear at Him.
I poured my hope on Him in several areas of my life. He said that whoever called upon the name of the Lord shall not be put to shame. I trusted Him time and time again in some areas of my life such as my career, my family problems etc. But none of them came true for me. Instead my feeling right now that He is a cheat and I feel more ashamed trusting Him. What a joke!
The writer of that letter is certainly not the first to express those kinds of thoughts. In fact all of Psalm 73 is a similar lament which is pretty much summarized by these two verses:
Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
Psalm 73:12, 13 (ESV)
But as we’ll see this morning, both the Psalmist and John received a very clear answer to their questions about why the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous suffer. Go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Revelation 14 and follow along as I read beginning in verse 14:
14 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. 15 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.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 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.” 19 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. 20 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.
Let’s quickly review where we’re at in our journey. This is the third vision in chapter 14 – each of them representing one of four sub-scenes in which we see God at work through his agents. At the beginning of the chapter we saw the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel serving God. Then last week we saw God’s angels proclaiming the eternal gospel. This week we see two harvests that are also carried out by the angels of God, and by Jesus.
Before we go any further I need to point out that there are some commentators who view both of these harvests as picturing the same event from two different perspectives or who view both harvests as picturing the wrath of God poured out on the ungodly. However, as we’ll see in our study this morning, the context and other supporting Scriptures support the idea that these are actually two different harvests that are being carried out at the same time, but with two different groups of people and two completely different outcomes.
I think that will be easier for us to see if we look at these two harvests in reverse order. So let’s begin with the second harvest that is pictured here.
THE HARVEST OF THE UNRIGHTEOUS (vv. 17-20)