We come now to our last sermon point about the symbolic and historic characters of Revelation 12 to 14. Personally, it has been helpful for me in studying and interpreting Scripture eschatologically (meaning with the Last Things in mind). It has been a journey indeed. I have learned so much and I pray our church benefitted greatly as well. The ordinary preaching of God’s Word is the primary means of grace and I pray the Holy Spirit will continue to convert his people whenever his Gospel is heard and understood.
This sermon will close our sermon series on the book of Revelation. Next week, our elders will begin reading sermon from Rev. Nollie Malabuyo about the Gospel of Mark. They will read and exhort us from Mark chapter 1 until Mark chapter 4. It will cover the whole of November until before Advent. This whole period provide me some time to focus on the upcoming ZCRC(Imus) Reformed Conference 2020. If you have not yet registered, please do so. It will also give a personal break from with sermon preparation and prayerfully get me ready for our next sermon series beginning Advent. By November 29, Advent begins and I preach on the sermon series also written by Rev. Nollie Malabuyo. The title of the series is Christmas in Exodus (Last year’s Advent series was Christmas in Genesis). Let us pray God will continue to bless us with Word and Spirit.
Let us begin with a prayer of Illumination from the Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli:
Almighty, eternal, and merciful God, whose Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, open and illuminate my mind, that I may truly understand your Word and that my life may be conformed to what I have rightly understood, that in all my ways I may be pleasing to you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. – Ulrich Zwingli
The Son of Man
Verses 14-20: “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.”
Let us again lay down the questions we need to answer in order to understand the seventh symbolic character. First, who is the one referred to as the “Son of Man?” and what was he doing in this vision scene? Second, what do the grain and wine harvest represent and what do they symbolize?
The Son of Man who is referred to in verse 1 is Jesus Christ himself. Therefore the event being referred to here is his Second Coming. In Revelation 1:9-20, John made reference to the Son of Man in his first vision and specifically in verse 13 he mentions Jesus is the “…one like the Son of Man”. John saw Jesus glorified and this is clearly a Messianic symbolic reference to Daniel 7:13-14: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” This vision from Daniel came right after the four great beast at the beginning of chapter 7. Yet no matter how great empires ruled, none is compared to the eternal rule of the Son of Man.
So again the Son of Man is Jesus Christ himself and this is his Secong Coming. What happened when comes back again? The symbolic history of the Son of Man returns for the final and great harvest! This is clearly the event spoken by Jesus himself in one of his parables. In Matthew 13, Jesus explains to his disciples the meaning of the Parable of the Weeds:
He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:37-42)
The Second Coming of Christ comes to us a blessing but the same event becomes a judgment against unbelievers and hypocrites. The Return of the King is also the Final Day of Judgment. From here, we come now to answering our second question. What does the grain and wine harvest represent and what do they symbolize?
The grain harvest points to the gathering of God’s elect here on earth by our Lord Jesus Christ while the grape harverst represents the punishment of all rebellious unbelievers (including the hyprocrites) by God’s all consuming wrath. The prophet Joel makes a clearly speaks of the same event in Joel 3:12-13:
“Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great.”
Jehoshaphat in Verse 12 means Yahweh judges and in verse 13, Joel refers to two kinds of harvest: grain and wine.
Verse 15 reads “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” Jesus is one harvesting the elect people of God. According to Matthew, Jesus who is the Son of Man is the one who planted these good seeds and they are God’s people. The great harvest in the Old Testament follows and guaranteed the first fruit harvest. Jesus is the first fruit of New Creation which guarantees a fruitful and great harvest of all believers (1 Corinthian 15:20)! In him, we are justified, adopted, sanctified, and glorified! Not one of God’s people get left behind. All those whom the Father gives, the Son will give eternal life:
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:37-40)
May these words of our Lord Jesus bring us comfort in these last days.
Now the grain harvest of believers come with the wine judgment against unbelievers. Clearly, there is no seperate and secret rapture for believers. There is only one event which speaks of the same coming of Christ. Both believers and unbelievers will experience the same event but for different purposes: blessing and judgment.
The wine harvest refers to the same event prophesied by Isaiah in his book at chapter 63:
Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. (Verses 1-4)
The wrath of God against unbelievers is primarily the vengence of God. It is directed towards those who punish God’s people here on earth. The angel who was carrying the fire of God’s judgment comes out from the altar in heaven where the prayer of the martrys are offered. It is God’s vindication of their death. In Deuteronomy 32:35, Moses wrote: Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly. This was the same verse Jonathan Edwards uses in his most famous sermon, “Sinner at the Hand of an Angry God”. John Murray says in his exposition of Romans 1:18 that “wrath is the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness.”
What does the doctrine of wrath of God teach us today? Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones reminds us: “Grace is favor shown to people who do not deserve any favor at all… We deserve nothing but hell. If you think you deserve heaven, take it from me, you are not a Christian.” The wrath of God while a terrifying event for unbelievers becomes to his people a reminder of God’s glorious mercy and grace. We were once children of God’s wrath but by the blood of Christ we become children of the living God! Hearing these words prompts us to humbly praise and give thanks to God. The destiny of unbelievers in hell reminds us of believer’s undeserving status because of God’s grace.
May we continue to live under the gracious reign of God in Christ.
ZCRC(Imus), God is both merciful and severe. He opposes the proud but gives grace to humble (1 Peter 5:5). Let us continue to humbly live under the provisions of his grace. Amen.