The Sickle (Revelation
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.
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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.