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The Book of Revelation

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The Sickle (Revelation 14:6-20)

It is generally agreed that this is a picture of divine judgment.  There is some disagreement over whether or not this is representative of two separate judgments, one of the righteous and the other of the wicked, or if the imagery represents only a single judgment which God uses to defeat the forces of evil.  The disagreement stems mainly from the futurist interpretation of Revelation, which has been previously noted, offers no value whatsoever to the oppressed Christians of the day.  I believe the context supports a single instrument of God's judgment on the wicked in a dramatic way that leaves the reader with the impression that it will be terrible and final.  The terror and scope of God's judgment is seen in the size of the river of blood, as deep as the bridle of a horse and about 200 miles in length. 

Revelation 14:14
"And I saw, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud (I saw) one sitting like unto a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle."

White symbolizes purity and a cloud is a vantage point of lofty perspective.  Setting upon this pure lofty seat is Jesus wearing on His a golden crown, symbolic of the highest of authority and in his hand is a sharp sickle.  The sickle was a sharp edged tool used to harvest grain.  We sometimes refer to it as a scythe, however a scythe typically has a longer handle.  The reapers of the time would use a sickle to cut down the stalks of grain.  The long curved blade served both to cut and to gather the stalks into a bunch as it is drawn toward the reaper.  The stalks were then gathered into bundles and were later gathered and transported to the threshing floors. 

The words "sharp sickle" do not bring to mind a pleasant thought for the harvest of the just.  John the baptist spoke of hewing down the unfruitful trees with an axe, (Matthew 3:10, Luke 3:9).  Jesus also said that the unfruitful would be "hewn down and cast into the fire" (Matthew 7:19).  Nowhere in scripture is it mentioned that the just will be gathered with a sickle. 

Revelation 14:15-20
15 "And another angel came out from the temple, crying with a great voice to him that sat on the cloud, Send forth thy sickle, and reap: for the hour to reap is come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
16 And he that sat on the cloud cast his sickle upon the earth; and the earth was reaped.
17 Another angel came out from the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
18 And another angel came out from the altar, he that hath power over fire; and he called with a great voice to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Send forth thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
19 And the angel cast his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vintage of the earth, and cast it into the winepress, the great (winepress), of the wrath of God.
20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and there came out blood from the winepress, even unto the bridles of the horses, as far as a thousand and six hundred furlongs." ASV

Three sickles are used to reap the vintage of the earth. One of them being with fire. Scripture is replete with passages that warn of the punishment of fire for the wicked. Those who were cut and gathered were cast into a press and trodden out with an enormous river of blood issuing forth.

The winepress is imagery drawn from Lamentations when Jeremiah wrote of Judah's captivity in Babylon: "...The Lord hath trodden as in a winepress the virgin daughter of Judah." (Lamentations 1:15).

Ancient wine presses ordinarily consisted of two rectangular or circular excavations, hewn (Isaiah 5:2) in the solid rock to a depth of 2 or 3 feet. Where possible one was always higher than the other and they were connected by a pipe or channel. Their size, of course, varied greatly, but the upper vat was always wider and shallower than the lower and was the press proper, into which the grapes were thrown, to be crushed by the feet of the treaders. The treaders would get into the winepress with the grapes and walk back and forth, stomping on the grapes with their feet until the juice was extracted.

God's wrath is here described as being a great winepress. The imagery here is of God cutting down His enemies, casting them into the winepress and treading them out until they are completely destroyed with their blood flowing forth in a river. This is not representative of an instantaneous overthrow on the part of God, rather it is indicative of a methodical and systematic plan designed to utterly and completely vanquish His enemies.

Isaiah 63:1-3
1 Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
2 Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winevat?
3 I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the peoples there was no man with me: yea, I trod them in mine anger, and trampled them in my wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I have stained all my raiment. (ASV)

The scene of the sickle and the winepress is telling God's people, with imagery they would be able to understand, that the oppressive forces of evil are powerful but are no match for God. This scene gives Christians of the first century hope as they are assured that God is still on His throne and that He cares for His people and that He will be their champion in the end and they will be victorious through Christ and through His divine judgment.

Church of Christ Lessons on the Revelation of Jesus Christ

1.  Understanding Revelation
2.  Symbolic Objects in Revelation
3.  Understanding the Numerical Symbolism in Revelation
4.  Identifying the Opposition Characters in Revelation
John's Introduction to the Churches of Asia

6.  John's Vision of Jesus Christ
7. The Church who Left Her First Love, Ephesus
8.  Smyrna, the Suffering Church
9.  Pergamum, the church in Hell's Headquarter
10.  Thyatira, the church that Condoned Sin
11. Sardis (The Dead Church)
12. Philadelphia (The Church With Opportunity)
13.  Laodicea (The Lukewarm Church)

14.  Letter to Your Church
15.  John's Throne Vision (chapter 4)
16.  God the Redeemer Revealed  (chapter 5)
17.  God the Avenger of His Children (Chapter 6)
18.  Who Will Be Able To Stand  (Chapter 7)
19.  The First Four Trumpets
(Chapter 8)
20.  The Fifth Trumpet (Chapter 9:1-12)
21.  The Sixth Trumpet Announcement (Chapter 9:13-21)
22. The Little Book and the Unutterable Thunders (Rev 10)
23.  The Seventh Trumpet Announcement (Rev 11)
24. The Conflict (Revelation 12)
25.  Revelation 13 (Identification of the First Beast)

26.  Revelation 13 (Identification of the Second Beast)

27.  Chapter 14 (The Victorious Lamb and the Redeemed)
28.  Revelation 14 (The Turning Point)
29.  Revelation 14 (The Sickle and the Winepress)
30.  Chapter 15 (Comfort for the Saints)
31.  Chapter 16 (Bowls of Wrath)
32.  Chapter 16 (The Battle of Armageddon)
33.  Chapter 17 (The Scarlet Woman)
34.  Chapter 18 (Fallen  is Babylon)

35.  King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Chapter 19)
36.  The Fall of Satan  (Chapter 20)
37.  Heaven, the Home of the Soul  (Chapter 21)
38.  The Spirit and the Bride Say Come  (Chapter 22)
39.  The Dating of the Revelation

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Revelation 21:5-7

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.