“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them. And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs” (Rev. 14:13-20).
The martyrs earlier had been gathered under the altar (Rev. 6:9), and their prayers were on the golden altar (Rev. 8:3). They were blessed, but not exactly at rest—they were given white robes so they could rest “for a little season.” They cried out in a loud voice for God to show His righteous vengeance. But now the times of vengeance have come, the time was complete. Jerusalem was now to be destroyed, and this means that all the saints who die from this point on are blessed. There are seven benedictions pronounced in Revelation, and this is the second of the seven (Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). The saints who will die from this point on have the privilege of resting from their labors (v. 13), and their works follow them to their rest. A voice from Heaven declared this benediction, and the Spirit reinforced it.
A few verses earlier in this chapter, we saw the cup of the wine of God’s wrath, which the ungodly had to drink down. Here we see how that wine was to be made, and in a macabre twist we see that those who have to drink the wine are themselves the crushed grapes that make up the wine. The stage is set when John sees the Lord Jesus, one “like a son of Man” (Dan. 7:13). He is seated on a white cloud, just as the one like a son of Man comes on the clouds of heaven in Daniel. He wears a golden crown and holds a sharp sickle in His hand. The one on the cloud wields His sickle and the earth is reaped, and then right after this, an angel with a sharp sickle does the same thing. While some commentators take this as two harvests, I take this double image as indicating that the authority for the final reaping comes from Christ, but the mission is actually accomplished by an angelic executive. Some might wonder that an angel tells Christ to wield His sickle, but the angel is simply a messenger, and he comes out of the Temple as a herald of God.
And so an angel comes out of the Temple, and calls to the Lord to harvest the earth, which He does. When His angelic executive with the sickle comes out of the Temple with his sickle, yet another angel comes from the altar (where the martyrs were) and tells him to reap the grapes, grapes that were fully ripe. These were the “clusters of the vine of the earth,” about to become the vintage of 70 A.D.
This was a harvest of great wrath, taking the grapes of wrath, using the sickle of wrath, and resulting in the grapes being thrown into the winepress of wrath. The wine of wrath was made from the ungodly, crushing them, and thereby treading out the wine that the ungodly had to drink. They had to drink the dregs of their own damnation.
Although the earlier description of wrath sounded global, with the Son of Man putting His sickle to the earth (Rev. 14:16), and the executive angel doing it to the earth as well (Rev. 14:18), we see from the context that this catastrophic judgment is actually a local one, even though horrific. This winepress of the wrath of God was located “without the city,” clearly Jerusalem. The word rendered as earth in the preceding verses is ge, which should better be rendered as land in this context. This wine press of wrath was set up in the land of Judaea, outside the doomed city of Jerusalem.
And when the judgment commenced, blood came out of the winepress—human blood—and it ran as a river for 1600 furlongs, as deep as a horse’s bridle. A question remains whether this is to be understood as a literal river of blood. Initially that seems extremely unlikely—the human body holds about six quarts of blood, and 1600 furlongs is about 200 miles. The river would be about four feet deep (up to a horse’s bridle), and then we would have to estimate the (considerable) width of the river. We are talking about millions upon millions of people. Since the number 40 is a number of judgment in the Bible, and 1600 is 40 squared, what we appear to have is the wrath of God multiplied by itself. And the imagery is not something that was formed by John’s lurid imagination—it comes straight from Scripture.
“Who is this that cometh from Edom, With dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, Travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, And thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; And of the people there was none with me: For I will tread them in mine anger, And trample them in my fury; And their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, And I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, And the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; And I wondered that there was none to uphold: Therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; And my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, And make them drunk in my fury, And I will bring down their strength to the earth” (Isaiah 63:1–6).