The Tribulation: The Winepress of Wrath
In part 9, we saw the Beast step out onto the world stage and make is power and presence known to mankind, culminating in the dreaded mark of the beast. We pick up now in chapter 14:
"Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless." (Revelation 14:1-5, NIV)
We first met these folk back in Revelation 7, when they were sealed. Now, three and a half years after that event, we see them with the Lord on Mount Zion in a vision. The fact that they are standing before the Throne with the living creatures mentioned leads me to believe that they were martyred during the first half off the tribulations, as well as up to this point in the second half. Certainly the Beast would have sight them out, and no special protection other than them not being targeted by the army of locusts was prescribed unto them. The descriptors of them being blameless, not having defiled themselves, and following the Lamb wherever he goes all seem to point out that they are in Heaven with Jesus, beyond the reach of the beast. the term "Mount Zion" can be taken as the same meaning as "my holy mount", mentioned in Isaiah 56:7.
At this point, John sees three angels, one after another, fly through the air. The first one is described as follows:
"Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water." (Revelation 14:6-7, NIV)
To gather what people may yet still come even at this late hour, and to provide no excuse for the remnant of those who are left on the earth, God does something unheard of: for the first time in history, an ANGEL preaches the gospel to man! And in addition to the gospel, the Angel gives warning to those on the earth about giving God the glory due him. In essence, the essential message the angel gives is the antithesis of selfish man's desire: to give GOD glory, NOT himself.
Then we are told of the second angel:
A second angel followed and said, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries." (Revelation 14:8, NIV)
The second angel brings news that Babylon has been destroyed. Scripture will revisit this point, but for now, we are simply told that the event has happened. Babylon is no more.
"A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:9-11, NIV)
Now, we have to be careful here: Hell is specifically the one place in the universe where God does NOT reveal his presence at all. Humans who do not wish to be with the Lord are choosing to cut themselves off from him and his presence. But being tormented IN FRONT of him would seem to contradict that.
I think that folks take "burning sulfur" and automatically assume it means hell i.e., the Lake of Fire. While those that reject God are indeed destined for the Lake of Fire, I think these verses are telling us of a specific punishment that those who have taken the Mark receive for having done so. While during the bowl judgments, they end up with a foul sore, that seems to be small compared to what their acceptance of the mark truly says. These aren't just people who denied the lord or rejected him, but they deliberately did do with all their hearts, and rejoiced in declaring Satan "their 'god'". This would be a particular slap in the face of the Lord Jesus. So, I'm led to believe that this punishment is specially meted out at the Great White Throne for those that willingly took the Mark.
"This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." (Revelation 14:12-13, NIV)
Here, the saints still on the Earth are exhorted to persevere in their faithfulness to the Lord. Their lot will be far better than those who took the Mark; so much so that death in the Lord is a far better fate that living as one of the damned.
"I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one "like a son of man" with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, "Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested." (Revelation 14:14-16, NIV)
Here, we see a vision of one "like unto a son of man" reaping the Earth. But the clue here that it is not Christ is that the crown mentioned is stephanon, a derivative of stephanos, the victor's wreath, and not the diadem of authority that Christ would have. Also, an angel telling Christ what to do would be EXTREMELY out of character! In any event, this vision depicts symbolically the Harvest of Souls that has happened on Earth during the Tribulation. What this harvest is puzzles us, until we see the next "harvest":
"Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, "Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe." The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia" (Revelation 14:17-20, NIV)
This second "harvest" is described far more graphically, and in gory detail. That the grapes are thrown into the "wine press of God's wrath" shows that this harvest, unlike the previous one, is NOT a harvest of good fruit! "1,600 stadia" is 180 miles, and at that distance and with the "high point" described, the blood that pours out is immense!
This echoes the verses Isaiah penned:
"Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? "It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save."
Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress? "I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me. I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground." (Isaiah 63:1-6, NIV)
When we read this passage, and compare it with the previous one, we begin to see that the vision John saw was a symbolic representation of Armageddon. The Lord, his robe dipped in blood, would come and stain the battlefield with the blood of the armies of the world that would oppose him.
This verse from Revelation 19 further confirms this:
"Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty." (Revelation 19:15, NIV)
In part 11, we will witness the most fearsome of God's judgments upon the earth.
You DON'T want to miss it.
I bid you all peace.