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A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

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I invite you to take your Bible and turn with me to Revelation, chapter 14. As a backdrop for our study of this text tonight, I want us to start by remembering what we have already seen in this amazing book of the incredible patience of Jesus Christ, and His many gracious invitations to a rebellious world to believe in the gospel, even during those seven years called the tribulation. Here's just a little list, and this is not all encompassing, but it's a list to think about. During the fifth seal in chapter 6, believers are present in the world, those who come to faith after the rapture, and who share their testimony, and they are martyred for their faith. In the sixth seal, also in chapter 6, Christ makes it clear to the world, and the world acknowledges, that He is behind the events unfolding on the earth. And that is another implied invitation to repent before it's too late. He saves and commissions 144,000 Jewish evangelists to share the gospel with the world and sends them out across the planet on a mission to bring the gospel into the lives of the lost. There, many converts, also in chapter 7, share the gospel, and they in turn are killed, and we see them eventually gathering around the throne of God in heaven. The judgments that unfold during this time are catastrophic, but they are, at the same time, survivable by the largest portion of the earth's population.

In chapter 11, He sends two witnesses whose testimonies are heard by the entire world. He allows men to see the power and hatred of Satan, and evil in antichrist and the false prophet, [and] in the demon locusts that come out of the pit of hell. They see what evil looks like. He sends an angel, in chapter 14, preaching the gospel across the heavens. He sends another angel, warning that that great economic and political system run by antichrist is about to collapse. He sends a third angel, warning that if they refuse to repent, He will be forced to condemn them to eternal fire, in the lake of fire, forever.

Again and again and again, during really a brief period of time, seven brief years, Jesus shows His incredible patience and His incredible extension and offer of grace. But tonight, at the end of chapter 14, we're reminded that the time will come when it will no longer be time for His patience and His grace or His compassion, but it will be a time only of strict judgment on the world and its people. We'll be reminded in the passage that we look at tonight that the Lamb is also a Lion.

Just to remind you of what we've learned about chapter 14, it is part of an interlude in the chronological events of Revelation. Chapter 14 provides a powerful preview of the Lamb's final victory, with the eternal defeat of His enemies and the eternal reward of His followers. It's a preview of what's yet to come, a kind of trailer for the rest of the tribulation. And as we've noted, this preview of Jesus' ultimate victory unfolds in five dramatic scenes. First of all, Jesus returns and gathers with His 144,000 Jewish witnesses, an event that will take place at the second coming, after He has defeated His enemies. Through His angel, Jesus preaches the everlasting gospel to the world. Thirdly, through His angel, Jesus proclaims the imminent fall of antichrist's empire. A fourth scene is, through his angel, Jesus announces the impending judgment of mankind. And we saw last time that Christ has decreed everlasting punishment for unbelievers, in verses 9 through 11, and everlasting rest for believers, in verses 12 and 13.

Tonight, we come to the last dramatic scene in this preview of Jesus' coming victory, and it's this: Jesus initiates the final harvest of earth's people. Let's read it together, Revelation 14, beginning in verse 14 through the end of the chapter.

Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, 'Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.' Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.

And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called out with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, 'Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe. So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.

Now, just to give you an overview of these verses, as you can see, verses 14 to 16 is a preview of coming judgment in the metaphor of a grain harvest. And then, verses 17 to 20 is a preview of coming judgment compared to a grape harvest. It's interesting that in the book of Joel, as he looks forward to the future day of the Lord, this time period we're studying, in Joel 3:13 he combines both of these pictures in one verse: "Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe." There's the grain harvest. "Come, tread, for the wine press is full; the vats overflow, for their wickedness is great." There's the grape harvest.

Now, what's going on in these two metaphors of a grain harvest and a grape harvest? Well, everyone agrees, there's no disparity on this, that the grape harvest in verses 17 to 20 describes God's judgment on unbelievers. That's clear, because if you look in verse 19, all of the grapes that are harvested are thrown into the "wine press of the wrath of God." So, there's no question about that. But what about the grain harvest?

Well, there are two options that are set forth for the grain harvest. Some would say that the grain harvest describes, either in whole or in part, the harvest of believers from the earth. There are compelling arguments against that view. Let me give you four of them. First of all, in this grain harvest, in verses 14 to 16, John does not say that martyrs were reaped, or saints were reaped, or the righteous were reaped. But he says, but "the earth was reaped." Secondly, the metaphor of a wheat harvest is used in different ways in Scripture. Some see the grain here and

think, "Oh, well, we know what that is, that's right, John the Baptist, talked about in Matthew 3:12, that Jesus would gather His wheat into His barn." Or they say, "Remember in Matthew 13, the parable of the wheat and the tares? The wheat has to be believers." But that's not how grain or wheat is always used in Scripture. For example, Jeremiah 51:33: "[For] thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time it is stamped firm; yet in a little while the time of harvest will come for her." There, the grain harvest is of unbelievers of the wicked. So don't think that it's always going to be used the same way in every context. A third argument against this being believers is the tone of this entire section. You caught it as I read it from verses 14 to 20. The tone is one of the judgment of the wicked, not the salvation or deliverance of the righteous. And I think, sort of the coup de grâce here, is that this picture is based on Joel 3:13, in which the wicked are punished during the day of the Lord. There, he combines both the grain and the grapes as a picture of the coming judgment on the wicked.

So, I think there's a better solution as far as what's going on in these two metaphors of a grain and a grape harvest. Because between this chapter, chapter 14, and the second coming in chapter 19, two judgments will unfold. And those two judgments, I believe, are depicted in these two harvests. The grain harvest describes the next judgment to unfold, beginning in chapter 15, verse 1 and through chapter 18. It's the judgment of the seven bowls that will be poured out on the earth. That's the grain harvest. And the grape harvest describes the coming judgment in Armageddon, and that becomes very clear at the end of this passage, and we'll see that as it unfolds.

So, as Jesus initiates the final harvest of earth's people, He does so, first of all, using the image of the grain harvest, and that describes His coming judgment of the seven bowls. This is the message of verses 14 to 16 in our text. Now, this is clearly a metaphor. No one believes that Jesus is going to use an actual sickle, nor that He's harvesting real wheat or grain. This is a metaphor. Both of these are. And so, we have to understand it that way. What I'm going to do in my outline is bring out the reality that the metaphor is communicating in each case. So, this grain harvest begins by reminding us that Jesus is the Lord of the harvest. He is, in fact, the divine Son of Man, from Daniel 7. Look at verse 14: "Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man." Now, this expression, "then I looked, and behold," occurs consistently throughout Revelation to introduce a new and an important scene. And as John looks at this new scene, the first thing that caught his attention was a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one "like a son of man." Now, that wording comes from Daniel, chapter 7. Turn back there with me. We studied this together. I love this text. And you need to go, if you weren't here when we went through Daniel, you need to go listen, because this is one of my favorite passages, Daniel, chapter 7. But notice the imagery that's communicated here in verse 13, Daniel 7:13: "I kept looking in the night visions," Daniel writes,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him.

And His dominion is not only a dominion that ranges across the world, but it's forever. It's an everlasting dominion which will not pass away. And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.

John has already used this very same language in Revelation. Look at Revelation, chapter 1. As he describes the glorified Christ, he pictures Him with this majestic scene, verse 12:

[Then] I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; in the middle of the lampstands [I saw] one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like [white] wool, like snow; and His eyes were a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, [when it has] been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of many waters.

And when that one returns, back in verse 7, "Behold, He is coming with clouds," so you see those images combined. A blazing white cloud will accompany Jesus at the second coming. And He is one, like a Son of Man. That is, He is one of us. But He's not solely one of us. He is also God, as we were reminded this morning.

Now, some have argued, back to our text, some have argued that the person in verse 14 is an angel, this one like a son of man sitting on a cloud. Some said, "No, it's not Jesus, it's an angel." But this same terminology is used to refer to Christ in chapter 1 and in Daniel 7. In addition, the title "Son of man" was Jesus' favorite term for Himself during the incarnation; this is the glorified Christ. And notice, we're told in verse 14, that He is sitting. That pictures [Him] patiently waiting until the time comes. And He's sitting on a cloud, which pictures His majesty, His exalted glory. It brings back sort of pictures of the shekinah glory cloud from the Old Testament. [Revelation] 1:7: "Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him." So, He is the divine "Son of Man" from Daniel 7.

He will be victorious over all His enemies. Notice, verse 14 goes on to say, "having a golden crown on His head." Now, it's an interesting choice John makes here. The Greek word for crown is not the crown of a king, it's not the word diadem, which Jesus later wears in chapter 19. Instead, this Greek word is the word stephanos. It's the word used to describe the crown that was given to generals who had been victorious in battle, and to athletes who had been victorious in the games. It is the victor's crown. It points to Jesus' impending victory over all of His enemies. Once He is completely victorious, He will wear, as He does in chapter 19, a diadem, a crown of royalty. He will be victorious over all His enemies. And, in anticipation of that, He's already wearing the crown of the victor, and He is the one who has the exclusive right to judge.

Look again at verse 14: He has "a sharp sickle in His hand." The Greek word for sickle describes a long, curved iron blade that has been carefully sharpened and then attached to a wooden handle. Sometimes, it was a short wooden handle so that it could be used with one hand. Other times the blade was attached to a long handle, swung with both hands in a sweeping, cutting action through the grain. And this tool, we're told, is sharp, which stresses the severity and the certainty of what it will accomplish. The fact that our Lord holds this sharp sickle in His hand implies the reality that we're told in the gospels that He alone has the ultimate right to judge. Only He has the responsibility to gather the harvest at the end of the age. He may use His angels to accomplish some of it, but He is the one who has the authority. John 5:22: "[For] not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son." Verse 26: "[For] just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man." He will execute it en masse, in the tribulation; He will execute it individually at the great white throne of judgment. Jesus the Lion, who is the Lamb, will be the judge of every single human being.

[In] Acts 10:42, Peter says to Cornelius, "[And] He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that," of Jesus, "this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead." [In] Acts 17:31, to the philosophers there on Mars Hill, Paul says, God "has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness" — how? — "through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." He is the one who has the right to judge. He is the Lord of the harvest.

Secondly, we learn in verse 15 about this grain harvest, that the end is the time of this harvest. Verse 15 says, "And another angel came out of the temple." Another angel refers back to verse 9, where there's an angel mentioned. This is the fourth angel in a series of six that appear in this chapter. You remember, the first three angels either announce the eternal gospel or coming judgment. This fourth angel announces that it's now time. It's time for God to execute that judgment that's been announced. Notice verse 15 says, "This angel came out of the temple," that is, out of the heavenly dwelling place of God, out of the throne room of God, or out of the presence of God in heaven. Verse 15 says, And he came out "crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud."

This angel is pictured bringing an announcement from the Father to the Son, and he proclaims it loudly, with a sense of urgency, and with a sense of the importance of this message. And this is what he says. This is the message the angel has received from God, and it's merely relaying to Christ: "Put in your sickle and reap." We already saw, in Joel 3, [that] this image of harvesting is an image that's often divine judgment. Now, why does the angel say it's time for Christ to reap? Well, he goes on to explain, verse 15: "For," because, "the hour to reap has come." Why is it the hour? By the way, if you remember John's Gospel, again and again, he uses that expression in the mouth of Jesus, "My hour has not yet come." And then eventually, "My hour has come." There, he's talking about the cross. Here, it's not the cross. It's the hour of judgment. The hour of His judgment has come. Why? Verse 15 goes on to say, "Because the harvest of the earth is ripe." Notice again, this is the harvest not of the righteous, but of the earth. This is a judgment of rebellious humanity. And here's the reason it's the hour to reap, because the harvest of the earth is ripe. Literally, the Greek text says is dry, which is exactly what you would expect with harvesting grain, right? When the stalks of grain have turned from green to golden brown, it's time to harvest them. They're dry. It's time. So, an angel comes from the presence of God with a message from the Father, for the Son of Man, saying "It's time." Jesus has been waiting, waiting patiently, and now it's time. God's patience has reached its end. The time for grace is done. The time for justice has arrived. It's time for the seven final bowls of divine judgment to be poured out on the earth. And that's what begins, really, the announcement of those in chapter 15 and the actual pouring out of them, then, in chapters 16, 17 and 18. So this is an announcement. This grain harvest is a reminder: It's coming. And that time will come near the end of the tribulation, as we'll see, as the bowl judgments unfold.

As we look at this grain harvest, thirdly, we learn that the Lord Jesus will initiate and complete the harvest in verse 16: "Then He who sat on the cloud swung" — literally cast, or threw — "His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped." This chilling description of Jesus' future judgment of the earth is expressed in the Greek language as if it had already happened. It's so certain, that John uses language as if it was already passed. Again, this metaphor of a grain harvest describes the unleashing of Jesus' judgment on the earth, with the pouring out of the seven bowls of judgment in chapters 15 to 18. This is the beginning of the end. God's patience is done. It's time for justice.

As Jesus initiates the final harvest of earth's people, He does so, secondly, by using the grape harvest. And the grape harvest describes His coming judgment at Armageddon, His coming judgment at Armageddon in verses 17 to 20. Let's work our way through this text as well. It begins in verse 17 by introducing us to the reaper of the grapes. Verse 17 says, "And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle." This is the fifth angel that we've met in this chapter. He, too, comes "out of the temple which is in heaven." That is the heavenly reality of which the earthly temple was the shadow. In other words, he came out from the presence of God, out from that throne room we studied back in chapter 4. And like Jesus Christ in the previous verse, this angel also has a sharp sickle in his hand. Christ possesses the sickle by his own right of authority. This angel possesses it by delegated authority, as angels do everything else. It's only given to them, delegated by, God. It is not theirs by right.

Since he's harvesting grapes, by the way, this is not the same kind of sickle used with grain. The same Greek word is used for different harvesting tools. In this case, it's the sharp, small, curved knife typically used for harvesting grapes. If you've ever used like a carpet knife, that curved blade at the end, the short little carpet knife, it's kind of like that in shape. It's used for cutting the little clusters of grapes from the larger branch. Angels clearly will assist Jesus in this final judgment. And in this case, this angel is going to be the reaper of the grapes. And we'll learn exactly what he's doing in a moment.

But first we learn the reasons for the harvest. There are two of them in verse 18. First of all, you have the first reason, [it] is the saints' prayers have been heard. Verse 18 says, "Then another angel, the one who had power over fire, came out from the altar." Now, again, this is the sixth angel in this series of six angels, and he comes from the altar. Now, when you see the altar in the Book of Revelation, it's not representative of the brazen altar where sacrifices were offered. Instead, it is the altar of incense that was inside the holy place in the temple. It's the heavenly counterpart to that altar of incense that's in the earthly temple. And that also is why this angel is called, one who has power over fire.

That also is a reference to the altar of incense, because here's what happened every day, twice a day. At the time of the morning and afternoon sacrifices, a priest was chosen by lot. Often a priest wouldn't have that opportunity his entire life. That's what made it so remarkable that Zacharias is chosen in Luke, chapter 1. He lived a long life as a priest and never had that opportunity. But he's selected by lot to go in and handle the incense, and what would happen is, at the time of the morning and evening sacrifices, the people of God would gather in the courtyard to pray. And one of the priests would take coals from the brazen altar, where the sacrifice had been offered. He would take coals from that altar, along with incense, separately, and would walk into the first room in the temple, the holy place — not the holy of holies, that was reserved for the high priest, and only once a year — but into the holy place. And there, standing against the curtain separating the holy place from the holy of holies, was this altar of incense. And on that altar, he would first take the coals of the incense that had been burned before away. And one, an assistant, would often exit with those coals, by the way, never turning his back on the holy of holies, but always backing out, face forward, facing the holy of holies. And then the priest who had been assigned would take those coals of fire and put it into that dish. And then he would add the incense, and the incense would begin to burn. And as that incense would begin to burn, the smoke from the incense would begin to rise. And it would waft over that curtain into the holy of holies that symbolized the presence of God, where the ark of the covenant was, the very throne of God on earth, as it were, in the midst of his people. And it pictured the prayers of God's people that they were praying on the outside, even as all this was unfolding inside. It pictured their prayers coming into the presence of God as a sweet smell. By the way, that's still true. God delights in the prayers of his people. He delights when you express your love and praise and dependence on Him by coming to him in prayer. It's a sweet smell to Him.

But that's the picture. We read already about this altar back in [Revelation] 6:9-11 [and] 8:3-5. So here is this angel who is connected to a heavenly altar of incense, representing the prayers of God's people. And that angel is the one who comes out with the announcement: It's time for judgment to fall. Do you see the connection? Revelation pictures God's judgment coming from, in some cases, this altar of incense. And the point is this: God's judgment falls, in part, in answer to the prayers of God's people. This sixth angel is connected to the prayers of God's people, to that heavenly altar of incense. And he says, "It's time." It's time for all the prayers of God's people who have been persecuted, who have been maligned, who have been killed for the sake of their Lord throughout the centuries. It's time for the prayers of those who prayed for the kingdom to come. We pray often, don't we? "Your kingdom come." The angel says, "I'm coming with a message from God. It's time for the prayers of God's people to be answered."

Verse 18: "And he called out with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, 'Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth.'" He called with a loud voice, and he issues a double command: Put in your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth. The fact that the one who issues these orders from God is the very angel who oversees the fire of the altar of incense, representing the prayers of God's people, means that one reason for the harvest that's about to come is that God has heard, and is now answering, the saints' prayers.

But there's a second reason that's offered in verse 18, and that is: Man's sin is ripe. This is in the second half of verse 18, "Because her grapes are ripe." The Greek word means in their prime, fully ripe. This isn't a good thing. This is a bad thing. What he's saying is, the sinfulness of man has reached its fullness. Mankind is so filled with evil, he is plumped out like a grape, ready to burst. He's overcome by evil. It's time for God to act. Those are the reasons for the harvest.

Thirdly, notice the preparation of the grapes in verse 19: "So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth." The fifth angel, in response to the command from God given by the sixth angel, gathers the grapes from the vine. In other words, at the very end, he's going to gather the enemies of God. All of those enemies who survived the seven bowl judgments that are about to come, he will gather them. To what purpose? Verse 19 goes on to say, And he "threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God."

Now, some of you perhaps have seen a wine press. In the ancient world. the wine press consisted of two large bowls cut out of solid rock. The grapes were thrown into the upper bowl, where they were then trampled by the feet of workers. My friend, Todd Boland, has taken some pictures of a modern reenactment of this happening, where you held on to ropes suspended from a superstructure in a shaded area, and that gave you your balance. And then you trampled on the grapes. You crushed the juice out of the grapes until it became a bloody mess, and then it ran down into the collection vats, or sometimes was caught in jars, as it came out. So, the juice flowed through a channel into the lower bowl, where the wine was collected. And then eventually it was stored in large stone jars. Because the color of wine resembles blood, and because of the sheer violence necessary to extract the juice, the Old Testament is filled with the imagery of the wine press as a picture of God's judgment.

In fact, there's a passage that describes this very scene. Go back to Isaiah 63:1. This passage describes the same event that our text describes with the grape harvest. Watch what he writes. "Who is this who comes from Edom, with garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, this One who is majestic in His apparel, marching in the greatness of His strength?" By the way, what's going to follow here is a monologue, a soliloquy, by the Messiah, when He comes to judge unbelievers. And this is what he says: "'It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.' Why is Your apparel red and Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press?" And here's his answer:

I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come. I looked, and there was no one to help, and I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; so My own arm brought salvation to Me, and my wrath upheld Me. I trod down the peoples in My anger and made them drunk in My wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.

Jesus Christ is the Lamb, an incredibly patient, gracious, loving Lamb, but He is also the Lion, who is perfectly just. And the day comes when He, in His justice, will destroy His enemies.

That's the preparation of the grapes. In verse 20, we see the trampling of the grapes. Back in our text, Revelation 14:20: "And the wine press was trodden outside the city." Now, this verse doesn't tell us who tramples the grapes, but keep your finger here and turn over to chapter 19, because chapter 19 tells us exactly who tramples the grapes. [Revelation] 19:15, this is Jesus at the second coming: "From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty." It's Jesus Christ. He's the one who, once the grapes have been gathered by the angels, He will tread the wine press.

Now, what is this describing? Go back to our text. Look at 14:20 again. Notice, it tells us that Christ's victory over His enemies, pictured in this grape harvest, is going to take place outside the city. In the context of revelation and of biblical prophecy, this city has to be the city of Jerusalem. In fact, you remember back in 14:1, Jerusalem is the city that Jesus will visit immediately after His return, and where He'll gather with his saints. Jerusalem will not be unscathed — read Zechariah 14 — it will face incredible difficulties and hardships, but it will not be ultimately destroyed. Jesus' devastating defeat of His enemies will take place outside the city of Jerusalem, but the city itself will be protected from ultimate annihilation. Instead, the Bible teaches that this final battle, at the end of the tribulation, will be centered in the Kidron Valley, near Megiddo.

If you look at a map of Israel, the Jezreel Valley is a clear valley area up just north of Megiddo. And it's actually in the shape of an arrowhead, kind of shaped like a bowl in the shape of an arrowhead, there in the topography of Israel. That is the Valley of Megiddo, of the Jezreel Valley, or Armageddon, as we will encounter it later. It makes sense, because Daniel tells us that when antichrist eventually brings his onslaught against Jerusalem, Daniel 11:45, "He will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain; yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him." So, he will not be in Jerusalem, but he will be outside the city.

This is described in Joel. Turn with me to Joel and look at 3:1. This, again, is a description of this same event: "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem," God says, "I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat." This is another reference to the same place.

Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land. They also have cast lots for My people, traded a boy for a harlot and sold a girl for wine that they may drink.

Then there are some intervening verses that deal with a slightly different subject. But when you get to verse 9, he returns to the same theme. He says:

Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up! Beat your plowshares into swords.

Notice this is the opposite of the millennium.

Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, 'I am a mighty man.' Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down, O Lord, Your mighty ones Let the nations be aroused 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. Come, tread, for the wine press is full; the vats overflow, 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.

And that end of times, that great battle of Armageddon, will be accompanied by signs in the heavens. "The sun and the moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness. The Lord," here it is:

roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble. But Yahweh is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel. Then you will know that I am Yahweh your God, dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain. So Jerusalem will be holy, and strangers will pass through it no more.

This is what Jesus will do at the battle of Armageddon. Now, you see it described in even more detail in Revelation, chapter 19. And I won't read the entire text because we're going to get there, but just look at Revelation 19. And here's the second coming, verse 11, "[And] I saw heaven opened, [and behold,] a white horse." Jesus returns — and notice, He judges and wages war. And He's described in these magnificent terms. But as a warrior, verse 13, "He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood." He is a veteran, and the armies which are in heaven accompany him: "From His mouth comes a sharp sword," and he treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.

And then verse 17, here's Armageddon:

[Then] I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, 'Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, [and] small and great.'

And I saw the beast and the kings of earth and their armies assemble to make war against Him who set on the horse and against His army. [And] the beast was seized, and [with him] the false prophet…[these two] were thrown [alive] into the lake of fire.

Verse 21: "And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh." Although the battle, this final battle will take place in the Jezreel Valley, in the valley near Megiddo, that will be the center of this final battle. It will rage across the land of Israel. Go back to Revelation 14 and look again at verse 20. It says, "And blood" — now it's clear we're not just talking about grapes — "and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles."

Now, conservative biblical scholars disagree exactly how to interpret this verse. Here are the options. Some say this is symbolic. It simply represents a complete, devastating victory. Well, I think that is true, but I don't think it's purely symbolic. Another view is that it's hyperbole: The depth of the blood and the vastness of the battlefield, they say, are meant to describe a massive slaughter and an unimaginable loss of human life. The third view is actually the one that I see every reason to take, and that is a simple, literal reading of the text. It says, look at it again, Revelation 14:20: "Blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles." It's interesting, if you look at a map of Israel from the Jezreel Valley in the north, where this final battle will center, down to south of the Dead Sea, Bozrah, which is mentioned in the Isaiah 63:1 passage that we read just a moment ago, that's about two hundred miles. It's very possible that this battle will rage across the entire land of Israel, although it's centered in the Jezreel Valley.

And the Jezreel Valley, that Megiddo area actually drains — you'll notice again the shape of it — it drains into the Jordan system. And you'll notice the Jordan River is below sea level, and it flows down to the Dead Sea and all of its tributaries. And so, any fluid, water or otherwise, that flows out of the Jezreel Valley flows into the Jordan system and down and through the entire system south to Bozrah. So, blood could flow and mingle with water throughout the entire Jordan system. And if actual horses are in this battle, we'll talk about that when we get there, the blood in those streams and tributaries could splatter up to their bridles. That's the picture. This is a vast battlefield, and there will be unimaginable destruction.

We talk about the battle of Armageddon. It's not really a battle. It's a crushing rout. Jesus will destroy His enemies, all of them. And the greatest of them — are you ready for this? — with the word of His mouth. That's the sword that comes out of His mouth. Nobody believes there's going to be a sword coming out of Jesus' mouth. It means he fights with His words. With a word, He spoke the universe into existence. And with a word, He will utterly crush all rebellion. Not one saint, not a single angel will need to lift a weapon. He will destroy them all with the word of His mouth,

This angel will harvest the grapes. That is, he will bring the nations of the world, the peoples of the world, into that natural bowl that is the great Jezreel Valley, the Valley of Megiddo, and there the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb, who offered Himself to all in the gospel, but has been, again and again and again, rejected, and His blood trampled underfoot. The Lamb will then become the Lion, and in perfect justice, He will crush their lives like the workers in a vineyard trampled the grapes. No wonder Hebrews 10:31 says, "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

John MacArthur writes,

Jesus came the first time as a Servant. He will return as the sovereign King. In His first coming, He came in humility. In His second coming, He will come in majesty and splendor. The first time He came to earth, the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. When He returns, it will be to judge the living and the dead. Jesus came the first time as the Sower. He will come again as the Reaper.

What are the lessons for us from this passage? There are several of them that come to my mind, and I had to limit myself because there were a number. But let me just give them to you.

First of all, today's natural and human disasters are merely Braxton Hicks contractions. But during the future tribulation, this planet will experience the pain of hard labor. That's what Jesus says. You remember in Matthew 24:6, He says, "You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars." Boy, is that today.

See that you are not frightened, for these things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

They're like Braxton Hicks contractions. They're not the real thing. When the real thing comes, it will be hard labor. It's coming. By God's grace, you and I won't be here.

Secondly, Jesus is amazingly gracious and patient, giving rebellious mankind countless opportunities to hear the gospel and repent. But at the end of the tribulation, His justice demands that He act in devastating judgment, in all who continue in rebellion against him. If you're here tonight and you're not a believer, you've not repented of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ, you need to understand that you and God are not okay. This will happen to you if you survive until the end of the tribulation. If Jesus returns for His church tonight and you're left, if you survive everything that unfolds during the tribulation, what we've studied tonight will happen to you because of your rebellion against Jesus Christ. Here's how Paul puts it in Romans 2:4:

[Or] do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God [leads] you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.

I plead with you: Don't wait. Second Thessalonians 1:7 says:

The Lord Jesus will be revealed rrom heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and be marveled at among all who have believed.

He's coming, and he's coming in perfect justice. I've quoted it to you before, but I just find my own heart comforted by the fact [that] when I see all the atrocities of our world, when I see children abused, when I see people treat people the way they do, when I see wars in which innocent victims are slaughtered, I think of this text:

If a thief had come to plunder when the children were alone

If he ravaged every daughter and murdered every son

Would not the Father see this? Would not His anger burn?

Would He not repay the tyrant in the day of His return?

Await, await, the day of His return

Because He will rise up in the end

I know you need a Savior.

He is patient in His anger

But He will rise up in the end

Thirdly, today: Repent of your sins and take refuge in the Son. Joel puts it this way, in Joel 2:13: "[And] rend your heart and not your garments. [Now] return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and relenting of evil." If you will humble yourself, repent of your sins, cry out to God for forgiveness, He will hear you, He will forgive. Revelation ends with that invitation. In 22:17, the Spirit and the bride say, "'Come.' [And] let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost." Jesus is still in the day of His grace and patience, and He offers you Himself. Psalm 2 puts it this way, Psalm 2:12: "Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled, how blessed are all who take refuge in Him!"

Fourth lesson: Believer, keep praying. Keep praying for all wrongs to be righted, all unrepentant sin to be judged for Jesus' kingdom to come. Because at the end of the tribulation, an angel will present the prayers of God's people, including yours, as the reason that it's time for Jesus to act.

And number five: It's the Father's will that Jesus be glorified. And He will, either in the gracious salvation of those who repent, or in His perfect judgment of those who refuse. "Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father."

Let's pray together. Father, thank You for our time together tonight. This is, as John warned us, it's sweet in the mouth, but it's bitter when we really digest what it means. And yet, Father, our heart calls out for the triumph of Jesus Christ, for the defeat of evil, for the crushing of those who just will not turn and who refuse and continue in their rebellion. And so, Lord, we pray: Even so, Lord Jesus, come. I pray for those who may be here who don't know the Lord. May their knee bow to him today as the Lamb who was slain on Calvary for the forgiveness of their sins, so that they will not one day be forced to kneel as His enemy before their rebellion is crushed. I pray it in Jesus' name. Amen.

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38.

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20
Current
39.

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20
Next
40.

Heaven Prepares for the End

Tom Pennington Revelation 15:1-8

More from this Series

Revelation

1.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3
2.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3
3.

Salutation & Dedication

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:4-6
4.

The King is Coming!

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:7-8
5.

A Vision of the Exalted Christ - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:9-20
6.

A Vision of the Exalted Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:9-20
7.

Ephesus: Loveless Fidelity

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:1-7
8.

Smyrna: Faithful in Suffering

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:8-11
9.

Pergamum: Undiscerning Tolerance

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:12-17
10.

Thyatira: Extra-Biblical Authority

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:18-29
11.

Sardis: Dead Christianity

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:1-6
12.

Philadelphia: Enduring Faithfulness

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:7-13
13.

Laodicea: A False Gospel

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:14-22
14.

He is Worthy! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5
15.

He is Worthy! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5
16.

He is Worthy! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5
17.

He is Worthy! - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5
18.

The First Six Seals: The Tribulation Begins - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 6:1-17
19.

The First Six Seals: The Tribulation Begins - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 6:1-17
20.

Tribulation Saints - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 7:1-17
21.

Tribulation Saints - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 7:1-17
22.

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9
23.

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9
24.

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9
25.

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9
26.

The Little Book

Tom Pennington Revelation 10:1-11
27.

The Two Witnesses - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 11:1-13
28.

The Two Witnesses - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 11:1-13
29.

The Seventh Trumpet: The Beginning of the End

Tom Pennington Rev. 11:14-19
30.

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17
31.

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17
32.

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17
33.

Antichrist - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10
34.

Antichrist - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10
35.

The False Prophet

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:11-18
36.

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20
37.

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20
38.

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20
39.

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20
40.

Heaven Prepares for the End

Tom Pennington Revelation 15:1-8
41.

Seven Bowls of Wrath - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 16:1-21
42.

Seven Bowls of Wrath - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 16:1-21
43.

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 17:1-18:24
44.

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 17:1-18:24
45.

Babylon Is Fallen! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 18
46.

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 18
47.

The Rapture of the Church

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures
48.

The Future Tribulation

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-18
49.

Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:1-10
50.

Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:1-10
51.

The Glorious Return of Jesus Christ

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:11-16
52.

Armageddon

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:17-21
53.

The Real Binding of Satan

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-3
54.

The Millennium: Christ's Future Reign on Earth - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10
55.

The Millennium: Christ's Future Reign on Earth - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10
56.

The Millennium: Christ’s Future Reign on Earth - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10
57.

The Last Judgment

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:11-15
58.

Our Eternal Home - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:1-8
59.

Our Eternal Home - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:1-8
60.

The Eternal City - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5
61.

The Eternal City - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5
62.

The Eternal City - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5
63.

How Should We Then Live? - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21
64.

How Should We Then Live? - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21
65.

How Should We Then Live? - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21
66.

How Should We Then Live? - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21
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