Summary: The Grape Harvest
Revelation 14:17-20, “17After that, another angel came from the Temple in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18Then another angel, who has power to destroy the world with fire, shouted to the angel with the sickle, "Use your sickle now to gather the clusters of grapes from the vines of the earth, for they are fully ripe for judgment." 19So the angel swung his sickle on the earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20And the grapes were trodden in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle.”
This judgment refers to the grape harvest and does not speak of the bowl judgments but of the Battle of Armageddon. The vintage judgment is more dramatic because of the imagery of the winepress. Like the vision of the grain harvest, the grape harvest can be described in three points: the reaper, the ripeness, and the reaping.
Revelation 14:17, “After that, another angel came from the Temple in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.”
Another angel is not the Lord Jesus, but another angel the fifth one here recorded. Like the fourth angel this angel came from the Temple in heaven and also this angel also had a sharp sickle. We have seen quite a bit regarding angels in this context of our study of Revelation. We have seen them call the four horseman, sounding the seven trumpets, and defeating Satan and his demon hosts. Yet Angels will continue to play an important role in pouring out the seven bowl judgments in Chapter 16, announcing the battle of Armageddon (19:17), and bind Satan (20:13). That an angel is pictured in this vision as the reaper, then, is not surprising. The Son of Man will be assisted by holy angels in His final judgment (Matthew 13:39,49; 2 Thess 1:7).
Revelation 14:18, “Then another angel, who has power to destroy the world with fire, shouted to the angel with the sickle, "Use your sickle now to gather the clusters of grapes from the vines of the earth, for they are fully ripe for judgment."”
Yet another angel the sixth one in this chapter is here shown. This angel is given an interesting distinction as who has power to destroy the world with fire which for us has a very significant influence from the intertestamental literature specifically from the writing of Malachi to Matthew that is. Angels are assigned to the various elements of nature. Enoch speaks of the angels of thunder, sea, hail, snow rain and so on (1 Enoch 60:11-21; Jub 2:2). John has in mind here is the angel of 8:3-5 who filled the censer with fire from the altar and cast it upon the earth. Fire is commonly associated with judgment in the NT (Matthew 18:8; Luke 9:54; 2 Thess 1:7). Swete points out, “The angel who had charge of the fire commands the angel with the sharp sickle to gather the vintage. This follows closely the parallel command in the previous vision to reap the harvest of the earth. Joel 3:14 is our model for both. Like the grain that has turned golden and must now be harvest immediately the grapes are fully ripe.”
Yet what also could be seen is that the heavenly altar could be describing Revelation 6:9-11. The Old Testament brass incense altar (Ex 40:5), where twice daily priests burned incense to be offered in the Holy place as a picture of the people’s prayers, since the martyrs underneath it are viewed praying and prayer is associated with incense (6:8; Ps 141:2; Luke 1:10). Yet this again leads us to Revelation 8:3-5, “3Then another angel with a gold incense burner came and stood at the altar. And a great quantity of incense was given to him to mix with the prayers of God’s people, to be offered on the gold altar before the throne. 4The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of the saints, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out. 5Then the angel filled the incense burner with fire from the altar and threw it down upon the earth; and thunder crashed, lightning flashed, and there was a terrible earthquake.”
Every morning and evening Old Testament priests would take hot coals form the brazen altar (upon which sacrifices were offered) and bring them to the incense altar. There they would ignite the incense (ex 30:7-8; 2 Chron 29:11), which would rise toward heaven, symbolizing the prayers of God’s people (5:8). At that same time, the people outside would be praying (Luke 1:10). Macarthur points out, “That the angel had power over the altar’s fire (the definite article is present in the Greek text, which literally reads “the fire”) indicates that he had been ministering at the heavenly counterpart to the earthly incense altar.” This points out for us the fact that the altar associated with the prayers of the saints would show us that His appearance means that the time had come for those prayers to be answered. The time had finally come for God to take fire associated with the intercession of the saints and use it for the destruction of His enemies and the enemies of His people.