The First Fruits, the Harvest, and the Vintage
14.1-5 “THE FIRST FRUITS”
14.1 Is Mount Zion in heaven or on earth? It is the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly one, because (1) the Mount Zion on earth is at that time in the hands of the Gentiles (11.2); (2) it is clearly stated in 14.4 that “these were purchased from among men”, thus implying that they no longer stand on the earthly Mount Zion during that moment (3) by joining the last two clauses of 14.4 with Exodus 23.19 we learn that the first fruits are not left in the field since as soon as they are ripened they are to be brought to the house of God (see also Ex. 34.26), and since the 144,000 are the first fruits they cannot be left in the field-which speaks of the world (Matt. 13.38)-but are placed instead on the Mount Zion in heaven which is the New Jerusalem; (4) 14.3 says “they sing . . . before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders”-thus all these are in heaven and not on the earth; (5) the people referred to in 14.1-5 are the first fruits while those alluded to in 14.14-16 are the harvest, so if the harvesting is unto the air, can the first fruits be gathered elsewhere except to heaven? and (6) there is, moreover, no reason to suggest it as being the Mount Zion on earth since the Lord Jesus will come to the earth only by the time of chapter 19.
Who are the 144,000? The 144,000 cited in Revelation 7.4 and 144,000 spoken of here in 14.1 are two different classes of people, contrasted as follows:
(1) The people of 7.4 are the chosen among the children of Israel, while those of 14.1 are purchased from among men.
(2) The seals received by them are not the same. The one spoken of in 7.2 is “the seal of the living God”, which is Old Testament terminology. The seal alluded to in 14.1 bears the name of the Lamb and the name of the Father, and such names are related to the church. Hence these people must come from the church.
(3) The people told about in 7.3 are called “the servants of our God”, but those in view in 14.1 are the children of God (this conclusion is deduced from the name of the Father).
(4) Throughout the entire book of Revelation the Lord calls God as Father each time. And He always says it in connection with the church (1.6, 2.27, 3.5, 3.21). The Lord never uses it in connection with Israel.
(5) The people spoken of in 14.1ff. are associated with the Lamb (standing with the Lamb, having the name of the Lamb, following the Lamb, and being the first fruits unto the Lamb). In chapter 7 the Lord is seen as another angel; and this, as we have seen, is a returning to His Old Testament position.
(6) The song they sing is described in 14.3 as a new song, whereas the song the people mentioned in 7.4 sing is but an old song.
(7) The people in view in 14.4 are virgins, but with Israel virginity is to be bewailed. (According to Ex. 23.26, Deut. 7.14, 1 Sam. 2.5, and Ps. 113.9, to bear children is considered a blessing while to be barren is deemed a curse. In Judges 11.38,39 the daughter of Jephthah is said to have bewailed her virginity for two months.)
(8) The articles preceding both of the 144,000 numbers cited in 14.1 and 7.4 are indefinite, and are therefore general and not specific. Thus these 144,000 numbers constitute two different classes.
14.1 The group of 144,000 here is a special class of people in the church; they are not all the people of the church. And the reasons for this conclusion are as follows:
(1) Since the 144,000 figure in 7.4 is taken literally, the number here should also be reckoned as literal.
(2) This group being the first fruits (14.4), it cannot be said that the entire church makes up the first fruits.
(3) There is no such fact that the people in the entire church keep their virginity.
(4) Prior to the arrival of the Great Tribulation (for it is before the voices of the three angels are heard, 14.6-11), these people are already raptured to Mount Zion.
(5) 14.5 tells of the exceptional features of these people, concerning which it cannot be said that all the born-again ones possess such characteristics.
Consequently, the 144,000 standing on Mount Zion are the best of the overcomers of the church; that is to say, this group of 144,000 is representative of the totality of the overcomers.
14.2 “A voice from heaven”-This must be the voice of the 144,000. Their voice is as pleasant as the voice of harps, as awesome as the voice of thunders, and as majestic as the voice of many waters.
14.3 A new song which they alone can sing. All Christians are purchased Out of the earth, but these are brought home first.
14.4 Twice we find the words “these are”, thus showing that the verse describes and explains who the 144,000 are:
(1) “These are they that were not defiled with women; for they are virgins”-We may not spiritualize the word “women” into “idols”, for the Bible does not support such an interpretation. Neither can we consider “women” as representing evil doctrines. Instead, “women” in the Bible is frequently translated “wives”; for example, the Greek word used for “wives” in Acts 21.5 is the same as used for “women” here in 14.4. The Scriptures not only mention this group of 144,000 as being undefiled with women but they also emphasize that they are virgins. This thus indicates that this portion of Scripture is not speaking of purity but of virginity. With this conclusion Matthew 19.10-12 agrees perfectly. Judging by 14.1 here, those whom God has given such a gift amount to only 144,000 (cf. Luke 20.35, 1 Cor. 7.7). At the time of Antichrist there will be one particular error: he will forbid marrying (1 Tim. 4.1-3). The book of Daniel hints at this also by saying that the future Antichrist will not be married (“Neither shall he regard . . . the desire of women”, 11.37). It is absolutely impossible that there will be only 144,000 Christians who neither worship idols nor follow evil doctrines. Since 14.4 is an explanation, it must mean simply what it clearly says and therefore needs no interpretation.
(2) “These are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth”-This verse does not speak of the past, it instead points to the present and the future. They are closest to the Lord, serving Him as His bodyguard.
(3) “These were purchased from among men, to be the first-fruits unto God and unto the Lamb”-They are men, yet they are purchased from among men. In Leviticus we are told that there are three different stages in reaping: the first fruits (23.17), the harvest (23.22), and the gleaning (23.22). The farmer reaps when the wheat is ripened. He gathers into the garner what he cuts: he does not leave the wheat in the field. Thus, the time of rapture is in a sense decided by men and not by God. The reaping comes after ripening. The first fruits are Christians who mature first, hence are taken first.
14.5 The words of their mouths reveal what is in their hearts. These are the same descriptions concerning our Lord, but they are now applied also to the 144,000.
It should be pointed out, in conclusion, that this portion of Scripture does not exclude women from among the 144,000. It must be remembered that the Bible usually numbers only the men. For example, although a great number of women came out of Egypt and ate manna in the wilderness, God only counted the men but not the women. Moreover, though Dinah was Jacob’s daughter, the nation of Israel had only twelve tribes. Yet neither does this portion of the Bible mean that there are only this number of people among the first group raptured. It simply demon-strates that there will be people such as these in the first group.
14.6, 7 (cf. with v.8) “THE FIRST ANGEL”
14.6 “Another angel” - He is different from the “another angel” spoken of in 7.2 that points to the Lord.
“Eternal good tidings”-The eternal gospel or good tidings is different from the gospel of grace. From the description which follows (14.7), it can be concluded that this eternal gospel is for the purpose of inducing people to worship the Creator. The eternal gospel preaches not God’s redemption but His creation. It does not call man to worship the Lamb but to worship God. It does not proclaim the grace of God, only His judgment. It exhorts people to give glory to God.
Those meant by the phrases “them that dwell on the earth” and “every nation and tribe and tongue and people” (14.6) are not the same. The first refers to that special class of people from among the second-those who are especially related to the earth and who love worldly things most dearly. The future kingdom of Antichrist will only be as big as the Roman Empire, yet its influence will reach every nation and tribe and tongue and people. The words “them that dwell on the earth” may allude to those who dwell within the Roman Empire.
The gospel presented at this juncture is not proclaimed to cause people to believe in the Lord Jesus and be saved; instead, it is to teach them to worship God and not the image of the beast.
How do the sheep mentioned in Matthew 25.34-40 know to treat our Lord’s little brother well (see v.40)? It is due to the influence of the proclamation of the angel here.
14.7 “Fear God”-It is clear in the Old Testament that to be kind to others is indicative of the people’s fearing God. Since the hour of judgment is come, let people fear God and give glory to Him.
Heaven is damaged at the fourth trumpet. The earth is damaged at the first trumpet; the sea, at the second; and the fountains of all waters, at the third.
14.8 “A SECOND ANGEL”
To what does this city of Babylon refer? To Babylon or to Rome? The Babylon in chapter 17 is a mystery and has reference to Rome as a religious system. The Babylon here in 14.8 is also connected with the Roman religious system, for the description concerning both is the same. So that the second angel notifies the world that Babylon is fallen; that us to say, the Roman religious system is defeated. From this we can infer that the big harvest follows upon the defeat of the Roman religious system.
“The wine of the wrath of her fornication” signifies the oppression which the Roman religious system will mete out to people. To those unfaithful to the Lord will she give the wine of fornication; and to the faithful will she give the wine of wrath. Wine speaks of that which bewilders people.
The Roman religious system will be revived, but she will also be totally destroyed.
14.9-12 “THE THIRD ANGEL”
14.10 The purpose of the word in this verse is to inform people who behave themselves according to 14.9 that they will receive punishment from God. The punish-ment is two-fold: (1) to receive “the wine of the wrath of God”-the wrath of God, as shown in chapter 15, which is temporary; and (2) to be “tormented with fire and brim-stone in the presence . . . of the Lamb”-this is to say that they have no hope of receiving grace. To be tormented in the presence of the angels simply means that they are put into the lake of fire by the angels.
14.11 This verse shows that after one has entered the lake of fire there is no more opportunity to repent; yet neither is he therefore annihilated. The saints need no sleep in heaven, but neither can the sinners sleep in the lake of fire.
14.12 agrees with 13.10. “Keep the commandments of God” are words that refer especially to the first and second commandments. This is the time for the saints to be patient.
14.13 “BLESSED ARE THE DEAD”
“From henceforth” means from the time when the worship of the image of the beast is forced upon men. Through death people can thus escape the persecution of the beast. “Who die in the Lord” - these must be Christians. Here the Spirit is not called by the title the seven Spirits of God but by the name of the (Holy) Spirit, because “the seven Spirits” is a term which is particularly connected with God’s judgment whereas “the Holy Spirit” is the term especially related to the church.
The effect of our work cannot go before God ahead of us, though the work of Christ does precede us so as to make us acceptable before God. Our works shall follow us that we may receive reward from God.
14.14-16 “AND REAP”
14.14 The phrase “a white cloud” fits perfectly with the words in 1 Thessalonians 4.16,17. “Like unto a son of man” shows that this word is spoken to the church (see 1.13). The words “having on his head a golden crown” reveal that He is already glorified. A sharp sickle is indicated for quick reaping. In Matthew 13.37 the Lord is identified as the sower; at His second coming He will be the reaper.
14.15 An angel delivers the order of God to the Lord, for the Lord is here taking the place of a servant. In Matthew 9.38 the Lord is recorded as distinctly declaring that God is the Lord of the harvest, so the Lord is presented as a sent one here in 14.15.
Never in the Bible does harvesting carry with it a bad connotation. Unlike figs on the fig trees, wheat cannot remain too long in the field after the ripening. It must be reaped. The first mentioning of harvest in Scriptures is found in Genesis 8.22. Being a harvest, it is a token of God’s blessing. When the Lord speaks of harvest (John 4.35), He too means it well. According to Matthew 3.12 wheat is to be gathered into the garner. According to Leviticus 23, the first fruits of the harvest are to be brought into the house of God (see also Ex. 23.19, 34.26). This typifies how at the first rapture Christians are to be caught up to the throne of God. To gather wheat into the garner, therefore, signifies those Christians who are caught up to the air to meet the Lord, for the garner is built between the field and the home-the field being the world (Matt. 13.38) and the home being heaven. Consequently, the Christians in the harvest are taken up to the air which lies between heaven and the world.
The harvesting mentioned in Matthew 13.37-43 is for the purpose of gathering what the Lord has earlier sown. Since He sows only the good seed, He shall reap only what is good. In Mark 4.26-29 it is said that God comes to reap, for the time of harvest is come. Just as the first fruits are holy, so too is the rest (Rom. 11.16). The first fruits spoken of in Revelation 14.1-5 being so good, the harvest stated in 14. 14-16 must also be good: for the harvest does not refer to the judgment of sinners.
“Ripe” can also be translated “become dry” (mg.). Unripened wheat cannot be harvested; neither can unmatured Christians be raptured. The first fruits ripen first, and therefore they can leave the world earlier. Christians who love the world need to “become dry” or scorched by the world before they will cease loving it.
14.15,16 According to Matthew 13.39 the reapers are angels. Hence the sickle mentioned here in 14.15,16 is that which is in the hands of the angels. It is a mystical sickle.
As the Lord receives us, we shall be raptured. We are “to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21.36).
14.17-20 “GATHER THE VINTAGE”
Observe that 14.14-16 speaks of harvest and 14.17-20 speaks of vintage. Throughout the Bible wheat is always a representation of Christians whereas fig trees usually point to the Jews. Now sometimes grapes can stand for the wicked of the nations. And the reasons for concluding this are as follows:
(1) The Lord has not said that He himself is the grape; instead, He says that He is the true vine. The Lord Jesus is the true vine, and Christians are its branches. With the life of Christ in them, Christians are to produce heavenly grapes. By contrast, though, the earthly grapes before us here must refer to Antichrist and his followers.
(2) The vintage mentioned here takes place following the harvest. And hence after the good ones are taken, what remains must be bad.
(3) Judging by chapter 19.18, the grapes cited here should be those wicked people who oppose Christ.
(4) The Old Testament likewise sometimes gives a bad connotation to grapes (see Deut. 32.32).
(5) Since blood comes out from the wine press (14.19-20), these grapes that are crushed cannot have any good meaning about them.
(6) From reading Joel 3.13 and Isaiah 63.1-6 we can assume that treading the winepress represents the wrath of God, and hence God’s judgment.
Therefore, the passage in 14.14-16 shows the consequence of the wheat whereas 14.17-20 shows that of the tares.
After the Christians are raptured, God will send angels to gather the tares. The sickle is therefore also sharp.
As wheat is ripened, it dries up. But the grape as it ripens becomes more juicy. The wheat and the grape are just the opposite to each other. As the wheat dies to the earth it ripens. But the more the vine draws from the earth, the more the grapes are ripened. Since the nations have become more worldly and have extracted more and more from the world, their iniquity is full, and the time for their judgment is therefore come.
Note that 14.16 says “Cast his sickle upon the earth”, which means only a swift cutting. But 14.19 says “cast his sickle into the earth”, as though meaning to uproot the whole thing. This too shows the difference between the reaping of wheat and the gathering of grapes.
A “winepress” is a kind of stonepress into which the grapes are put and juice is squeezed out from them. It involves pain and suffering.
This passage of 14.17-20 will be fulfilled at the appearing of the Lord Jesus on earth. It coincides with 19.15 in that (1) the phrase “without the city” in 14.20 proves that it must be outside the city of Jerusalem (chapters 15 and 16 are supplementary to the seventh trumpet), and (2) the phrase “the bridles of the horses” in 14.20 agrees with 19.14 wherein we are told that the Lord and His heavenly hosts will ride on horses.
“A thousand and six hundred furlongs” (14.20). According to 16.16 this war will be fought in Har-Magedon, and Isaiah 63.1 tells us that it will begin from Bozrah. Measur-ing the distance from Bozrah to Magedon, it is 1600 furlongs (about 200 miles). The battle of Har-Magedon comes at a time when the feet of the Lord shall stand upon the Mount of Olives, which will be cleft into two so as to allow the Jews who are fleeing from the persecution of Antichrist to escape (Zech. 14.4,5). Then shall the Lord fight with Antichrist and destroy him (Rev. 19.17-21).
The kingdom of God will be ushered in, not through the preaching of the Gospel, but by the shedding of blood. The church must wait until the return of the Lord for the final arrival of the kingdom.
Isaiah 34.1-8 describes the slaughtering in Bozrah.
After these things shall come the kingdom of God. Following the harvest and the vintage there is the feast of the tabernacles which serves as a type of the millennial kingdom.