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. 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.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 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.” 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. 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.
Understanding And Applying the Text
John saw one sitting on a cloud “like a son of man.” This “son of man” is wearing a golden crown and holding a sharp sickle. It is time for the harvest. This is a picture of Matthew 13:30. This is the parable of the wheat and the tares. The land is now ripe. It is ready for harvest.
John saw the fulfillment of Matthew 13:30b. “At harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” There does appear to be differences in order. The gathering of the righteous is first. Following that is the gathering of the wicked.
The wheat represents the righteous. The harvest of the wheat is symbolic of the gathering of the righteous.
The gather of the vine is the gathering or the wick. We cannot ignore the use of the symbolism of the vine. It is clear. The vine throughout scripture represents Israel. This is a well-known symbol, Psalm 80:8. “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.” Jesus, when pointing out He is true Israel, uses the vine. “I am the true vine.” John 15:1. This imagery was not lost on the readers.
You do not use a sickle to harvest grapes. You use shears not a sickle. A sickle cuts down the whole vine. A sickle destroys the vine. The angel is not gathering grapes. It cuts the vine down. The vine with its fruit was thrown into the winepress of God’s wrath.
The winepress is outside the city. The sin offering was burned outside the camp. Criminals were accursed and executed outside the city. (Hebrews 13:11-13).
Blood flows from the press. It flows in such volume it is a flood. The symbolism is strong and clear. The flow of blood is 1600 furlongs long. A furlong is 220 yards. So that means the flow is 200 miles long. It is deep enough to reach a horse’s bridle. This is a horrific symbol. But it is almost literal in historic truth.
Josephus related the carnage of Vespasian and Titus was to this extreme. The 200 miles was the approximate length of Israel. This prophecy and history fit like a hand in a glove.
Eyewitness accounts verify the devastation. These are not overcharged symbols. God’s judgment on Israel was thorough and complete. It occurred at the hands of Vespasian and Titus. They destroyed Israel and Jerusalem. They ended the Jewish religion. Judaism as we know it today is a different religion than the religion of the old covenant. Even orthodox Jews are not practicing the Judaism of the old covenant.
God created a new covenant. And praise God He has included us in it. Praise God Christ fulfilled the old covenant. Praise God Christ suffered our punishment and God’s wrath for those who trust in him.