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The Reaping
A series on Divine Judgment (part 13)

Author's Bias: Interpretation: conservative
Inclination: promise
Seminary: none

By comparing the apostle John's account of Jesus reaping with Jesus' own prophecy of His coming in the clouds, one can gain a better understanding of what the apostle saw as Jesus reaped.

Apostle John (Rev 14:14-16) Jesus (Matt 24:29-31)
Then 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, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe." Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

Observations:

1. Both accounts describe the rider of the white cloud as the Son of Man. Throughout the gospels, the expression "the Son of Man" is used solely by Jesus Himself as a self designation, not as Messiah, but as an indication of a role He will play in eschatology.

The apostle Paul also identifies this person as "the Lord" in his letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 4:16).

2. Both accounts present the appearance of Jesus in different dramatic fashion.

The apostle's account, from a heavenly perspective, observes Jesus arriving with a golden crown on His head signifying power and great glory.

Jesus' account, from an earthly perspective, presents a dark backdrop without any light from the sun, moon, or stars, from which He emerges on very visible clouds with "the powers of heaven shaken" and great glory.

3. Both accounts present the reaping as occurring after a trumpet sounds and with a seemingly different chronology.

In the apostle's account, the only trumpet that sounds is the seventh trumpet (Rev 11:15), and several events take place (great praise in heaven [Rev 11:15-18], heavenly temple of God opens [Rev 11:19], three angels fly in midheaven and make three pronouncements for all on earth to hear and understand [Rev 14:6-13]) before Jesus reaps.

In Jesus' prophecy, it is not apparent that the trumpet is the seventh trumpet; however, the apostle Paul implies that the last trumpet is the seventh trumpet when he associates "the trumpet call of God" with the "voice of the archangel" (1 Thes 4:16-18) which is consistent with the apostle John's account. With this in mind, Jesus' account of sending "forth His angels" includes the three angels that fly in midheaven making their respective pronouncements (Rev 14:6-13).

4. Both accounts indicate that all Believers are dead.

In the apostle's account, this conclusion was developed with the demise of the 144,000 sealed bond servants (Rev 14:1), the demise of the Two Witnesses (Rev 11:7), and the observation that no survivor of the sixth trumpet "repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their theft (Rev 9:20-21).

In Jesus' account, the reaping occurs after the tribulation. In all of His uses of the term "tribulation," Jesus was describing the persecution that occurs as the result of one's faith in God. In this context, the tribulation ends with the death of the last Believer on earth.

This is further evidenced in the reactions of human beings to the dispensation of the bowls in which they blasphemed the name of God (Rev 16:9, 11, 21). If there were any Believers present, the tribulation would have certainly continued.

5. It is apparent that the verb "reap" is in the figurative sense. While John sees Jesus solely doing the reaping, in reality, Jesus is sending out His angels to gather Believers from around the world.

The apostle Paul, writing to the church of Corinth and Thessalonica, provides additional information of this reaping but with a view towards Believers.

1 Corinthians 15:51-54 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Observations:

1. The effect of the reaping will be immediate.

2. Whatever remains of a deceased human body in whole or in part is reconstituted into a whole immortal body. The dead will rise first and indicates victory over death.

3. The living will change in a similar manner and meet with the dead in the clouds with Jesus Christ and be with Him forever. The apostle Paul's indication that Believers are alive during this period is counter to the accounts by Jesus and the apostle John. Perhaps the apostle Paul's comment was a rhetorical response in anticipation to the question by the Thessalonians, "what happens to us the living?"

The English term "rapture" has often been associated with the arrival of Jesus Christ in the clouds. "Rapture" is from the Latin term "rapio," which is a translation of the Greek term "harpazō."

Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up (harpazō) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:17)

The Latin "rapio" and the Greek "harpazō" means to "seize" or "carry off," and, in the context of Jesus reaping, it is a reference to the Son of Man taking all Believers, dead or alive, out of earth instantaneously. A distinction must be made here – this rapture is not a resurrection, because the first resurrection occurs later (Rev 20:4-6).

The second reaping by an angel from the heavenly temple of God is very different from Jesus'.

The angel is figuratively reaping clusters of ripe grapes (Rev 14:18).

The grapes are thrown into the great wine press of the wrath of God (Rev 14:19).

The wine press was trodden outside of Jerusalem and produced an enormous amount of blood (Rev 14:20). Without knowing its full dimensions, it is difficult to understand this volume, but only that it's huge.

When Jesus Christ comes to Armageddon (Rev 16:13-16; 19:11-19), the apostle John records an interesting observation:

And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. (Rev 19:14-15)

Just as Jesus' reaping was a figure of speech, so too was this angel's reaping. Because it is Jesus treading in the wine press (Rev 19:15) that produces the vast amount of blood (Rev 14:20), this angel's reaping event encompasses a period that includes the final dispensation of God's wrath – specifically all of the bowls and the battle of Armageddon.

The imagery of the reaping angel can be understood in the following manner:

The angel from the altar announces that the grapes from the vine of the earth are "ripe" (Rev 14:18). This "ripeness" represents the fullness of sin which God allows before He judges as exemplified when God tells Abraham that his descendants will leave their land, be oppressed for 400 years, and later return to the land (Gen 15:16).

Despite the fact that there are no longer any Believers on earth to evangelize, an angel pronounces the gospel around the world and in all languages (Rev 14:7), and another calls people to come out from the deception of the world (Rev 14:7). However people preferred to follow the "great men of earth" and the world will no longer hear the gospel (Rev 18:23).

The grapes that are thrown into the great wine press of the wrath of God (Rev 14:19) represent evil human beings just before being crushed in judgment.

The plague wielding angels and the bowls of God's wrath are the last of God's wrath (Rev 15:1), and it serves to enrage the world (Rev 16:2, 9, 11).

Of particular note is the sixth bowl which was intended to dry out the Euphrates River so that the kings from the east can make war at Armageddon (Rev 16:12-14; 17:9-14).

When the seventh bowl is dispensed, the seventh angel announces, "it is done," to express the end of God's judgment and wrath (Rev 16:17).

When Jesus treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God (Rev 14:20; 19:15), the wine press metaphor represents divine judgment.

A similar metaphor was expressed by the prophet Isaiah who was speaking of God's judgment against Edom.

"I have trodden the wine trough alone,
And from the peoples there was no man with Me.
I also trod them in My anger
And trampled them in My wrath;
And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments,
And I stained all My raiment.
For the day of vengeance was in My heart,
And My year of redemption has come." (Isa 63:3-4)

With God's wrath complete, it is Jesus Christ who exacts judgment at Armageddon (Rev 19:11-16).

For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. (John 5:22-27)

While the apostle John's account presents a sequence of Jesus reaping first followed by the angel reaping, Jesus' parables about the Kingdom of God, such as the Parable of the Tares and Dragnet, present the separation of Believers from non-Believers as occurring simultaneously. And as this occurs before the Millennial Kingdom, final judgment takes place after the millennium (Rev 20:11-15).

"Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car."

Billy Sunday (1862-1935)

References:

1. Brand C, Draper C, England A, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, (2003).


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