The Harvest of the Earth
January 6th, 1963 @ 10:50 AM
THE HARVEST OF THE EARTH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-6-63 10:50 a.m.
We have come to the Revelation. And in our preaching through the Revelation, we have come to chapter 14. And last Sunday morning, we left off at verse 13. And the message today is an exposition of Revelation 14, beginning at verse 14 and reading to the end of the chapter. If you would like to turn in your Bible to this place, you can easily follow the exposition of this hour. This is the reading of the text:
And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of Man, having on his head a golden crown and in his hand a sharp sickle.
And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle and reap, for the time is come for thee to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.
And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire, and cried to him that had the sharp sickle saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.
And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horses’ bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
I do not suppose that in this book of wonders there is a more wondrous and awesome vision than these two that we’ve just read, closing the fourteenth chapter of the Apocalypse. The expressive imagery and the awesome administration of God that unfolds would strike terror to a heart that wasn’t given in trust to God.
In this fourteenth chapter of the Revelation there is the announcement of the hour of the judgment of God, that it is come [Revelation 14:7]. That is followed by another announcement that Babylon, the great city, is on the brink of destruction [Revelation 14:8]. That is followed by the announcement that those who follow the beast, who give themselves to blasphemy and rejection, are now to be judged, and their judgment is an everlasting unending torment [Revelation 14:9-11]. Then that is followed by these two visions that depict the final administrations of God in this earth; it is the vision of the harvest of the earth and the vision of the gathering of the grapes of wrath [Revelation 14:14-20].
Now there are many who, when they read these two visions, are persuaded that they are the same—the first vision, the vision of the gathering of the final harvest and the vision of the vintage, the gathering of the vine of the earth. There are those who are persuaded that these two visions depict the same thing, that there’s no difference between them, that they reveal the same final end of this earth, except one under the imagery of a harvest and the other under the imagery of a winepress.
Now I would see why they’d be thus persuaded. There’s a sharp sickle in both and there is a reaping in both. But there are also differences in the two visions that to me are remarkably meaningful and significant. And the visions, after all, are not alike. They are different in many details. And another thing: why, if they refer to the same and identical thing, why record them? One would have done and we didn’t need two.
They are alike only in this, that a harvest and a vintage describe the end. But they are greatly unlike in the reference that each vision bears. And to me, that difference of reference lies in this: the harvest is superintended by the Son of God. That’s the first thing described in the vision. The harvest is superintended by the Son of God. And the harvest is a discriminating reaping. It isn’t all the same. There is a harvest of wheat, and at the same time there is a harvest of tares. There is a discrimination presided over by the Son of God taking care of His own. There is a discrimination in the first vision, in the vision of the harvest of the earth. In the second vision, presided over by an emissary of God, by an angel, there is no discrimination, for it is the harvest of the grapes of wickedness. It is the winepress of the unmitigated, unadulterated wrath and fury of Almighty God.
Now we’re going to look at these differences and their meanings for us who live in this earth. “I looked, and behold,” kai eidon kai idou [Revelation 14:14]. I suppose in that day was a very common idiomatic expression among Greek-speaking people, kai eidon kai idou, “I looked, and behold”; but where it’s found in the Word of God, it introduces a remarkable and significant revelation.
I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of Man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
And an angel came out of the temple, crying to him who sat upon the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle and reap, for the time is come, the harvest of the earth is exēranthē, dried up, dead, ripe.
And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle and the earth was reaped.
Even in this day of the vast and last tribulation, God has His own in the earth. They are so many that they cannot be numbered. In the seventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation, John saw them in the holy and incomparable and celestial vision. After these 12,000 were sealed, each 12,000 out of the 12 different tribes of Israel [Revelation 7:1-8], these evangelists and preachers of power—then John saw their converts, the multitude who’d come out of the villainy and wickedness and blasphemy and rejection of this world, who had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:9-14].
God has His own in this earth, even in those terrible last and dark days. And in this reaping there are those both. There are God’s children, the wheat harvest, and there are the children of the evil one, the tares [Matthew 13:38]. For you see, in a harvest you have both. As there is a harvest of good, of the blessing and favor of the Almighty, so there is a harvest of evil. Wickedness has his harvest; its woe and its misery, its judgment and its damnation.
And when this Son of Man sends forth His reapers and with His sharp sickle He cuts down the harvest of the earth, both are reaped: the harvest of good and the harvest of evil. And those two, the reaping of the wheat into the garner and the gathering of the tares into bundles to be burned with unquenchable fire, those two are presented faithfully in the Word of God.
For example, in the thirteenth chapter of the first Gospel—and on Wednesday night, I hope by that time we have come to the thirteenth chapter. If we ever get beyond the first verse of the first introductory word, if in the grace of God by Wednesday night we’re in the thirteenth chapter—that is the chapter of the parables of the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
And the disciples came to Jesus and said, Declare unto us the parable of the tares.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man,
And the field is the world, the good seed are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the children of the evil one.
He that over-sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
Therefore, as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world.
The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity,
And shall cast them into a furnace of fire. There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Then shall the righteous shine forth—
the wheat in the garner of heaven—
then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
That sounds like the Revelation, doesn’t it? “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” In the harvest, there is both the reaping of the good and the bad. Now, that’s all through the Word. In this same chapter of the mysteries of the kingdom,
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind,
Which, when it was full, they drew to the shore; and they sat down and they gathered the good, and they cast the bad away.
So shall it be at the end of the world. The angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just,
And shall cast them into the furnace of fire. There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
This is the vision of the harvest of the earth. There is a discriminatory, there is a discriminating harvest that is carefully superintended, watched over by the Son of Man Himself. Not the least one who has placed his trust in Jesus shall fall into the fire. For an angel may superintend the execution of the wrath of the judgment of Almighty God, but when the Lord harvests this earth, He Himself carefully watches over lest one of His littlest, least, smallest, humblest saints might be forgot or might be overlooked. There is just everything in the Book to comfort and to give assurance to those who lean on the strong arm of our Lord.
May I pause here just for a moment? The difference between that harvest of wheat and that harvest of tares. Wheat is a beautiful and a magnificently meaningful representation symbol of God’s children. When it ripens the full rich heads are bowed to the earth. When the tares ripen they stand up erect, but when the wheat ripens it bends its face to the ground. As God’s children grow in grace—could I say it, as they are made heavy with the knowledge and the presence and the goodness of God, the lowlier they bow toward the ground.
When you see one of the church members walking by and he’s proud, he’s proud of himself, he’s proud of his goodness, he’s proud of all that God has bestowed upon him. He walks by in his self-sufficiency and in his adequacy. Some of them don’t even deign to speak to others, and they feel themselves better than others. When you see one of the church members walking by, proud and lifted up, we’re not to judge, but the Book says he’s a tare.
Then when you see a church member walk by, and he’s lowly and he’s humble, and in honor he prefers others, and his life is given to intercession and to appeal and to prayer in behalf of those who don’t know God, he belongs in the garner of heaven. And as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord, the more our faces will bow to the earth, weighted down with the presence and the grace of God.
I don’t know any exception to that. When Isaiah saw the Lord, he cried of the woe of his life, for he was a sinful man [Isaiah 6:5]. When Simon Peter recognized the deity of Jesus, he fell to His feet and begged the Lord to depart from him, “I’m a sinful man” [Luke 5:8]. When the proud apostle, when the proud Saul of Tarsus, who became an apostle, going to Jerusalem with a high head, when he finally met the Lord, they were leading him by the hand into the city of Damascus [Acts 9:1-9]. It’s always that. The finer, the nobler the children of God, the more they bow in humility and in lowliness. That’s God’s wheat.
Another thing about wheat, the harvest of God: as the wheat ripens upward, it dies downward. As it ripens great unto God, the stalk and the roots die that hold onto this earth. As they ripen upward, Godward, they die downward, earthward.
I read in my studying of this passage, in preparing this sermon, I read one of the most meaningful sentences, one of the most spiritually significant I ever read in my life. The sentence was, “This”—referring to the ripening upward and the dying downward—the sentence was, “This is the sanctity of the relaxing grasp.” You just think about that sentence. “This is the sanctity of the relaxing grasp.” As we grow Godward and heavenward, and as we near what God hath in store for His people, more and more and more there will be the relaxing of our home upon this earth and this life, until finally, when we near the gates of heaven, it is all glory and all God and the scenes of this present earth fade away. “The sanctity of the relaxing grasp.”
One other thing: we just—I don’t know how the time goes just thinking about some of these things. Another thing about wheat, the symbol of God’s child, wheat: it’s an annual that is helpless before the storm. And it is reaped in successive harvests. And if the sun beats down upon it, it turns seared and brown and ripens to death, to the harvest. So it is with God’s children in the earth. In the trials of life, in the heat of the sun, in the burning, blazing heavens, God’s children ripen toward God. We are made saints because of the storms and the tempests that sweep over our lives. And helpless before them, God is just preparing us for the great and heavenly garner in heaven.
Two or three times this past week I have been asked to pray. “I have met,” says a family, “we have met an insoluble problem. We know not where to turn. Pastor, pray for us. Nothing you can do, we know, but just call our names. Remember us.” Others—I hesitate to delineate because they listen on the radio, I don’t like to parade our tears and our sorrows. But God’s children always go through the valleys. I suppose there would be no mountaintops without them. I suppose if it were all daylight and sunshine, we’d never know the sweetness and the blessedness of the presence of the grace of God. It takes the dark to make us conscious of the light. It takes the tears to make us conscious of the joys. It takes the age and the death to make us conscious of the celestial promises of heaven. That’s God’s way of leading His dear children along.
Sometimes on the mount
Where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along.
Sometimes through the valley
In the deepest of night,
God leads His dear children along.
Sometimes through the fire,
Sometimes through the flood,
Sometimes through the waters,
But all through the blood.
Sometimes through great sorrows,
But God gives a song.
In the night season
And all the day long.
[“God Leads Us Along,” George A. Young]
We are under the burning sun, ripening toward God. Dying earthward, living heavenward. This is the harvest of the earth.
Now the second vision is one of terror:
And another angel came, and this angel came from the altar who had power over fire. And he said to him that had the sharp sickle, Thrust in thy sickle sharp and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.
And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth and cast it in the great winepress of the wrath of God.
And the winepress was trodden without the city. And blood came out of the winepress, even unto the bridles of the horses, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
That vision has reference to a very definite and terrible holocaust that is prophesied through all of the Word of God. Now look at it as God writes it here in His Book: “There came an angel from the altar who had power over fire” [Revelation 14:18]. This fire angel, you look where he comes from. In the sixth chapter of this Revelation, verses 9 through :
When they opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been beheaded for the witness and for the testimony of Jesus.
And they cried unto him that liveth forever and ever, ‘How long, O Lord, how long dost thou not avenge our blood in the earth?
That is the altar from which comes this angel of fire with indignation, with wrath and burning fury concerning the evil in this earth, the wickedness of men, and the injustice of mankind. He comes to answer that cry, like the cry of Abel’s blood unto God [Genesis 4:10]; like the cry of the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah unto heaven [Genesis 18:20]; like the cry described here in the Revelation of that sinful Babylon that reached the very throne of God [Revelation 18:4-5]: the cry of judgment and of wrath and of indignation.
And that angel comes from that altar, this fire angel in fury. And he said to the angel with the sharp sickle, “Gather, gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for they are fully ripe” [Revelation 14:18]. The last day of God’s permissive will for wickedness and violence and evil and rejection and blasphemy and unbelief, that last hour has finally come.
“And the angel thrust in his sickle in the earth and gathered the vine of the earth” [Revelation 14:19]. That’s the imagery used in counter distinction to the vine of heaven. Our blessed Lord, He’s the vine and we are the branches. “The vine of the earth,” the vine of rejection and unbelief and blasphemy and wickedness and unrepentance, “the vine of the earth and they cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood ran out.” You can see the imagery. It was grapes that were cast into the winepress, but when it was ground down under the heel of the omnipotent of the Almighty, blood ran out.
And it was such a flow of the crimson of life that to the bridles of horses it flowed by the space of 1,600 furlongs—stadia in Greek [Revelation 14:20]. That’s an eighth of a mile. Divide eight into 1,600 and you get 200. For 200 miles there was a river of blood in this final holocaust of the great day of the Almighty. What does that refer to? What does that refer to? That is the first intimation in the Apocalypse of the awful, awesome and terrible and indescribable, final battle of the great day of the Lord that the Apocalypse calls the Battle of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16].
Oh, the judgment of God upon unbelieving and blasphemous men! You see, they said the antichrist, that first beast, is invincible. “Who can make war against him? Look at the power he has. Look at the ingenuity. Look at the forces. Invincible. Who can make war against him?” He’s not invincible now, crushed under the heel of Almighty God. And they said of the false prophet, “Look at his power to work miracles. He can even make fire fall down from heaven.” He can’t make fire fall down from heaven now, for he’s under the judging hand of the Lord God Almighty.
What an imagery here! This chapter opens with the gathering of God’s children to the Lamb on Mount Zion and the beautiful song that they sing [Revelation 14:1-5]. And it closes with the gathering of the rejecting and unbelieving, the kings and the mighty and the armies of the earth [Revelation 14:19]. It closes with the gathering of those vast hosts in that little land of Palestine that, according to the Word of God—and we shall read it in a moment—that measures from Bozrah where Isaiah describes [Isaiah 63:1], to the valley of Jehoshaphat that Joel describes [Joel 3:2, 12], to the hill of Megiddo that John describes [Revelation 16:16], measuring exactly 1,600 furlongs.
Now we must close in a moment. Just to read it, and to listen to the Word of God; for this great end time has been before the mind of the prophets since the world began. How this age shall end, and how this earth shall come to its final historical consummation in the intervention of God; now listen to Isaiah as he speaks in the sixty-third chapter of his book:
Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, He that is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength?
Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth the winepress?
I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with Me. For I would tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all of My garments.
For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come.
And I looked, and there was none to help, and I wondered that there was none to uphold; therefore, My own arm shall intervene in human history and bring salvation to Me; and My fury shall uphold Me.
And I will tread down the people in Mine anger, and make them drunk in My fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.
These garments that are red, that the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords shall be clothed with, they are red with the blood of His enemies. Now you turn over here to the Book of the Revelation, and in the description of that great and final battle of the Lord:
He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood.
Out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword. With it He shall smite the nations with a rod of iron, and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And He hath on his vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
[Revelation 19:13, 15, 16]
Blood! His vesture dipped in blood. That is the blood of His enemies. That is the great and awful day of the judgment of Almighty God.
Now from Joel:
Proclaim ye this among the nations, Prepare war! Wake up the mighty men, let all of the men of war draw near, let them come.
And beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, I am strong.
Assemble yourselves and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourself round about. Thither, thither cause thy mighty ones to come.
Let the nations be wakened and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there will I sit a judge upon them, saith the Lord.
Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, get ye down, for the press is full, the winepress overflows, for their wickedness is great.
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
The sun, the moon shall be darkened, the stars shall withdraw their shining.
The Lord shall roar out of Zion and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake …
… in that great vintage day of the Lord God Almighty. And this is the way that John says it in chapter 16. How do all of those kings come together? How do all of those assembled of armies converge? How is it?
I saw three unclean spirits come out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
For they are the spirits of evil men, evil workings, working miracles, which go forth into the kings of the earth and of the whole world to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty . . . .
And he gathered them together in a place called in the Hebrew tongue, Armageddon.
[Revelation 16:13, 14, 16]
The hill of Megiddo, the vale of Jezreel. “And the winepress was trodden, and blood came out of it up to the horse’s bridles by the space of two hundred miles” [Revelation 14:20]. There never has been in the history of mankind, there never has been recorded on the pages of the chronicles of man such a deluge of blood and war that shall end this earth, in which great battle the Lord Christ intervenes. This is the vintage of the earth, the day of the wrath of God.
Don’t you ever persuade yourself that evil will be here forever. Don’t you ever be persuaded that death will reign king forever. Don’t you be persuaded that violence and wickedness and lying and greed and murder and war shall be rampant in this earth forever. It rises, according to the Word of God, it rises to an ultimate and a final climax. And when it comes to its worst, God shall judge. And in that intervention the kingdom shall come. And these future sermons in the Revelation, when we come to them, soon in the intervention of God,
I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was True and Faithful.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns.
He was dressed in the vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
In the closing vision of Joel, in that awful day, the Lord will be the hope of His people. “Judah shall dwell safely forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will cleanse their land.” [Joel 3:20] Then you have in the Revelation the beautiful picture of the millennium, described by the poet, prophet, preacher Isaiah, when
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, when the leopard shall lie down with the kid.
When they will not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
[Isaiah 11:6, 9]
When they “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks”; when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” [Isaiah 2:4]. When God is the hope of His people, that is the discriminating harvest; the Lord taking care of His own.
Our time is gone. And while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you, this day, to put the destiny of his life and the trust of his soul in the keeping, guarding hands of God, would you come and stand by me? “I’ll find in Christ the solution to the insoluble problems I face. I’ll trust Him, and here I come. I’m not equal, and I confess it, as I face the exigencies of the tomorrow, death, the grave, the judgment day of Almighty God, but I trust in Jesus. And I’ll lay into His keeping, guarding hands the destiny of my soul. I’ll trust Him to save me now and forever.” Or to put your life with us in the fellowship of this glorious church, as the Spirit of God shall make appeal, come. “Here I am, pastor, I make it now.” While we stand and while we sing.
HARVEST OF THE EARTH
Announcement that the hour of judgment has come
Announcement that Babylon is on the brink of destruction
Announcement that those who follow the beast faces judgment of unending torment
Two visions depicting final administrations of God in this earth
Vision of the harvest of the earth
Vision of the gathering of the grapes of wrath
are persuaded these two visions are the same
are differences between them that are meaningful, significant
If they refer to the same thing, why record both?
They are alike in the sense that harvest and a vintage describe the end
They are unlike in that the Son of God reaps the harvest, a discriminating
harvest between wheat and tares
The vintage is the unsparing judgment of God upon the wicked, presided over by
an emissary of God
II. The final harvest(Revelation 14:14-16)
in day of last tribulation, God has His own in the earth(Revelation 7)
In this reaping there are both God’s children, the wheat, and children of the
evil one, the tares
harvest of good and of evil faithfully presented in the Word(Matthew 13:36-43, 47-50)
Lord carefully watches over the harvest, lest one might be forgot
Wheat abeautiful symbol of God’s children – when it ripens the heads are bowed
to the earth
a. When tares ripen
they stand erect
wheat ripens upward, it dies downward – the stalk and roots die that hold onto
The sanctity of the relaxing grasp
is an annual that is helpless before the storm; passes rapidly in successive
Poem, “God Leads Us Along”
III. The vintage(Revelation 14:17-20)
Vision has reference to a definite and terrible holocaust prophesied through
all the Word of God
from the altar who had power over fire comes with indignation, wrath concerning
the evil, wickedness and injustice in earth
Comes to answer the cry from under the altar(Revelation
angel with the sickle to gather the vine of the earth – the vine of rejection,
Vine cast into the winepress of the wrath of God – blood ran out
Such a flow of blood it came to bridles of horses for 200 miles – the first
intimation of the awful final battle of Armageddon
beast, the Antichrist, had been hailed as invincible – but now he is crushed
under the heel of Almighty God
False prophet had power to work miracles – but now under judging hand of God
Chapter opens with gathering of God’s children to the Lamb on Mount Zion;
closes with gathering of the rejecting and unbelieving, vast hosts in Palestine
This end time has been before the mind of the prophets from beginning
final battle of Armageddon, hosts of the enemies of God gathered into the
winepress, treaded by the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, whose garments are red
with blood(Isaiah 63:1-6, Revelation 19:13,
of the armies, bringing together the kings of earth to battle – seduced by
unclean spirits that issue out of mouth of the Dragon and false prophet(Joel 3:9-16, Revelation 16:13-14, 16)
Never in history of mankind has there been such a deluge of blood and war as
will end this earth (Revelation 14:20)
The intervention of God – the beautiful millennium(Revelation
19:11-13, Joel 3:20, Isaiah 2:4, 11:6, 9)