Saturday, October 27, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 37 - Revelation 14:13-20

And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head, and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Put in your sickle and reap, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe." And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth; and the earth was reaped.

And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. And another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Put in your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe." And the angel swung his sickle to the earth, and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles. (NASB)

The First Harvest

How can we identify the first harvester? 

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and  a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;  listen to him." (Matt 17:5ESV)

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Rev 1:7 ESV)

And in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. (Rev 1:13 ESV)

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14 KJV) 

As we look at all these verses, we can see that Jesus is the first harvester. Jesus was enveloped in a white cloud from which God spoke. The cloud is a symbol of the glory of the Lord and it represents His presence. Since the first harvester is sitting on this cloud, it indicates that the harvest is in the Lord’s control and He chooses when it will occur. When we studied chapter one, it was clear that these references were about Jesus. He is portrayed as the Son of Man who will be coming with the clouds. We have also studied the verses in Daniel before with the conclusion that the Son of Man who is worshiped clearly refers to Jesus. 

For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt 24:27, 29-3, KJV)

… so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. (Matt 24:39-42 KJV)  

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:14-17 KJV)

 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor 15:51-52 KJV) 

What are the common elements between 1 Thess 4:14-17 and 1 Cor 15:51-52 that describe the rapture and Jesus’ coming in Matthew 24:39-42? 
What are the differences? 

Coming of the Son of Man (Matt 24:27, 29-31,
Rapture (1 Thess 4:14-17 and
1 Cor 15:51-52)
Coming of the Son of Man
Coming of the Lord
Jesus’ words
Lord’s own words
Great trumpet sound
Trump of God
Quick (flash of lightning)
Quick (twinkling of the eye)
In the clouds
In the clouds
Gathered together
Caught up to Him
Elect gathered, other left behind
Believers will be gathered implies other left
No mention
After the tribulation
No mention
Sun, moon, stars darkened
No mention
Sign of Son of Man will appear in heaven
No mention
People will see Him and mourn
No mention
Angels do the gathering
No mention
No mention
We will be changed
No mention
Dead raised

What is your conclusion? Are these the same events or not? How does this affect the time-line of the rapture? 

 By comparing these two accounts, it appears that they are more likely the same rather than different times. Just because a verse does not mention something does not mean that it doesn’t apply. Just as two witnesses testify to something they have seen, one may leave out some details. It doesn’t mean that an investigator should conclude those details didn’t happen.

I have heard many people distinguish the rapture as a different event from the “coming of the Lord” because this occurs in the air and that when Jesus comes back, He will return and set foot on the earth. However, the description in Matthew 24 seems to support an appearance in the air rather than the time when He will actually set foot on the Mount of Olives. As we study further, it may be apparent how much time takes place between the rapture and when Jesus does touch the earth again.

People who believe that the rapture is a different event from the harvest agree that only the saved will see Jesus at the rapture. By examining the passages as we have, it is apparent that we can’t separate these two events based on this criteria. It is apparent that the whole world will see the harvest and Jesus coming with the clouds, with power and great glory.

At this point, it looks like the harvest mentioned in Revelation 14 and Matthew 24 refer to the rapture. Jesus says that it will occur immediately after the distress of those days. If we believe that the persecution described in Revelation is the “distress of those days” and the events in Revelation 8 describe the time when the sun and moon are darkened, then this harvest is placed near the end of the tribulation. This is at a different time than when we normally consider the rapture to take place.

Why will people mourn when the rapture occurs? 

When the harvest happens, the elect will be gathered and the nations will mourn. They will mourn because they will know without a shadow of a doubt what just happened. People will not scratch their heads and wonder why millions have disappeared. They will know because they will be able to see Jesus in the clouds. Jesus clarifies this when He says one will be taken and one left. They will be working together or doing whatever happens from day to day.  

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28 KJV) 

What does it mean for us to watch (Matt 24:42) or look up? 

To keep watch is not to see try to see Jesus ahead of time in the clouds and then to shout to people to get ready. We are to watch the signs of the times, the sinfulness of mankind, and the problems sin has caused in the world. We need to be continually shouting to everyone that He is coming, He is coming soon, be ready. When He shows up, there will be no time to get ready. When Jesus comes to us in a cloud, it will be for our redemption. It will not be for punishment, but reward. We will need to pray that we are ready, having the right attitude, and that we have done what we can to prepare others. 

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. (Matt 25:31-33 KJV) 

Explain why these verses do or do not refer to the rapture as well. 

Even though Matthew 25 is part of Jesus’ discourse on end-times, this is clearly a different time than the harvest. It occurs at an unspecified time after the harvest. This verse is talking about the judgment and is clearly distinguished from the harvest because Jesus is sitting on His throne at this time. If we are to keep things in time order, then this is a thousand years after the harvest. Many people try to reconcile this with the rapture and get confused. I have even heard a person who used these verses to “prove” that at the rapture the wicked are actually taken and the saints left on earth for a thousand years. 

Why does an angel need to announce the timing of the harvest? 

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matt 24:36 KJV) 

While Jesus was on earth, He said that He didn’t know when the harvest would take place. I can’t prove it, but I think that after Jesus ascended to the Father, that He knew the time. You will notice that the Son of Man is already on the cloud. He may not know the exact time, but He is ready, He has seen the times or at this point He does know. However, that is beside the point. This other angel has come out of the temple, from the presence of the Father. Of this I am positive, that as soon as the Father revealed the time to the angel, Jesus knew also. The angel announces it to demonstrate that this is the Father’s decision. 

Do you not say, “Four months more and then the harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the 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. (John 4:35-37 NIV)  

What is the difference between this harvest and the one in Revelation? 

The time has come; the earth is ripe. We are the workers spreading the Word and seeing people come to Jesus for salvation. The Holy Spirit is bringing in this harvest every day. The harvest of Revelation will be bringing all who are still alive home to heaven. That is why Jesus is the one with the sickle. Only a sovereign God could know when the last person would accept Jesus. Only He could know when no one else would come into the kingdom. It is most likely that from this time on the door has been shut. 

Do you still have some unanswered questions regarding the harvest? What are they? 

I have two questions that I hope to answer as I study this more:
·         How long is there between the harvest of the saints and the harvest of the wicked?
·         Will any be saved between the two harvests?

The Second Harvest

Who is in charge of hell? 

Next, we see an angel with a sickle. I think we get the picture of the grim reaper from this angel. He also takes his cue from another angel who has charge over the fire. Whoever came up with the idea that hell was a place where a bunch of demons were running around poking people with pitchforks never read these verses. Satan is not in charge of hell, God is. He has one of his representatives tending the fire. 

What is the contrast between the earth’s vine and the true vine? 

The second harvest is different from the preceding one. This harvest comes from the earth’s vine.  

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. (John 15:1 KJV)

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5)  

Jesus lets us know that the true vine is not the earth; it is Jesus. The true fruit of the vine is Christians.  

And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. (Gen 4:3 KJV) 

The fruit that we have to offer is not the works of the soil, but works of souls, living sacrifices. The people of the earth are those who are depending on their own works, not the work that Jesus does through us.  

What does it mean that the grapes of the earth are ripe? 

The grapes (people) are ripe. They are filled with sin and corruption to the point that no more can be tolerated. They are at the point where no good can come from them. Much of the next few chapters will describe what will take place as these grapes are trampled. The people left on earth will be very aware of what has happened with the first harvest. They will be furious and yet not realize what will happen next. They will be so full of hate for God that they will think that they will be able to overcome Him physically. Surely the beast with his powers will also encourage this. 

What has God constantly warned His people would happen if they don’t produce good fruit? 

In Isaiah 5:1-7 and Matthew 21:33-44, God’s people are compared to a vineyard. In Isaiah, when He comes to get the produce, wine, or grapes, He finds bad fruit. In Matthew, His servants are beaten or killed when they come to get fruit. Finally, His Son goes to collect the produce and is rejected and killed. Instead of the wine of His love, He will return with the wine of His wrath (Isa 51:17). In the garden, Jesus agreed to take the cup of God’s wrath. In its place He provides us with the cup of salvation (Matt 26:39). 

What will the reaction of the nations be as predicted in Joel 3:9-16? 

Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. (Joel 3:9-16 KJV)  

The nations at this time will prepare for war against God. It’s as if God is even commanding them to try it! They will have been so deceived by the Anti-Christ that they will readily join the armed forces to do battle. Of course, the Lord will win the battle. Why does Revelation say that the blood will flow for such a distance? It is apparent that all, or nearly all, of the lost people in the world will be gathered together. I don’t know if the flow is like a river or a wave. If it is one solid river then, depending on how wide, it will literally take billions of people to produce that much blood.

It is a rather gruesome thought, but that is exactly what God is trying to get across to us. We are not talking about a slap on the wrist and looking the other way, no winking at evil. This is just punishment for evil. But we need to remember that this isn’t an eternal punishment, but a temporal one. This is the valley of decision. Unfortunately their decision is to rebel against God. 

If this is the end with all Christians removed and all the lost killed in the last battle, then who will be left during the millennium?  

Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. (Isa 13:9-13 KJV) 

This is a very vivid description of God pouring out His wrath. God provides a parenthetical comment about the last days while He is telling Babylon that it will be destroyed. He says He will make men scarcer than pure gold. The suggestion is that there will be some left. These will be the people who for some reason did not receive the mark of the beast. But they did not do it because they believed in Jesus. It was their stubborn pride or the mere fact that they were in remote areas and could not be reached. Whatever reason, we know some will be left. We also know that in a harvest there is always enough left for a gleaning process. Gleaning was an important part of God’s plan for His people. 

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God. (Lev 19:9-10 KJV)  

From the beginning of God’s Law He taught about gleaning. Many of the events in Revelation relate to festivals such as the festival of trumpets. The symbolism is throughout the book. At a harvest, it is a commanded to leave behind some of the crop. I’m sure that the Lord is going to do exactly that. He will leave some people to populate the world after the harvest. There is also the possibility that even after the first harvest and before the end of the second, some who haven’t sworn allegiance to the Anti-Christ will accept Christ. 

How did God demonstrate this practice of sparing a few when He punished nations in the past? 

And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim. Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the Lord God of Israel. (Isa 17:5-6)

When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done. (Isa 24:13)  

The Lord has used this principle when He punished cities in the past. He left a remnant behind who survived the destruction. This is the rule but there could be exceptions as in (Jer 49:9-11). However, when it looked like none will be left of Edom, in verse 11 there is an exception. God said He would leave orphans and widows. 

What do you believe is literally happening when the angel puts the harvest into God’s winepress? Who tramples the grapes? 

Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zech 14:3-5 KJV)  

Even though Revelation says that an angel swings the sickle to harvest the wicked it is the Lord who will trample the wine press. Jesus will come to do the battle. It is as if the angel simply insures that those who are to perish will be gathered to the right place at the right time for the Lord’s battle. As the angel does this, God will provide a way of escape for the remnant that will be left behind. Jesus is going to populate the world throughout the millennium with those who escape the last battle.

May this sobering passage help us to share Christ’s love before it is too late. If the rapture occurs only days before the end of the tribulation, may we be strengthened to endure. If it occurs before the tribulation, may we be faithful to help many avoid this horrible time. May all who read this be in the first harvest.

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