The Harvest Comes
So now we get a preview of the Harvest to come. There shall be a harvest; there must be a harvest. Jesus spoke of it in several places (i.e., Matthew 13:30) as did the Old Testament prophets (i.e., Joel 3:13). All the peoples must be judged according to their works, else neither justice nor God exists.
Revelation presents two harvests, and scholars debate who are involved in each one. I will not rehearse all their arguments but offer that with which I am sympathetic. Allow me to say that John’s presentation of two harvests means not that there will be a time lag between them, be it seven years or three and one-half, or what have you. Indeed, I tend to think that we have one harvest of two different groups of people as is indicated in Matthew 13:24-30.
We naturally begin with the first group. The one who comes on the cloud with a sickle looks like “a son of man with a golden crown on his head.” Our Lord spoke of coming with the clouds upon his return in his “Olivet Discourse” and that he would then gather his elect (Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28). And so I am of the opinion that the vision which John sees here is the harvest of the righteous—those who have faith in Jesus and have obeyed his commandments and endured to the end.
But the next harvest is obviously different. An angel comes with another sickle. And then another angel, “the angel who has authority over fire,” tells the other angel to “gather the clusters.” We should note that the angel with authority over fire is probably the same angel who took fire from the altar with which he filled the censor mingled with the prayers of the saints and then cast upon the earth (8:1-5). That altar was the same under which the martyrs gathered (6:9-11). In other words, this harvest is partly in response to those prayers uttered by the martyrs under the altar seeking justice. And the devastation of this harvest can only be described by reference to hyperbole: Blood flowing as high as a horse’s bridle for 184 miles, according to my ESV Study Bible footnote. This is the harvest of the wicked, those who have neither faith in Jesus nor follow his commandments and continue to the end in such a state.
Though we may rejoice over the coming rewards for the righteous and the wicked, this awesome scene calls me to humility and repentance. Except for the grace of God, there go I. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.