No happy ending for sin

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Reflect quietly on the wonder of all that God has done for you through the death of Jesus. You will not face condemnation (Romans 8:1).

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Bible passage: Revelation 14:14–20

The Harvest of the Earth
 14I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one "like a son of man" with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, "Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." 16So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

 17Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, "Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth's vine, because its grapes are ripe." 19The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath. 20They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses' bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


Right and proper judgement
On the cross, God proclaimed both a ‘Yes’ and a ‘No’. Precisely because sin was being judged by God and taken away by the Lamb, the floodgates of God’s mercy and grace are opened to sinners. The cross is both good news and dire warning. The good news about the God who saves for ever goes hand in hand with the dire warning of wrath. Not wildly volatile anger, but right and proper judgement on evil.

Appropriately awful
The picture is appropriately awful. Swinging the sickle, trampling the grapes. Two movements of the same final event. Growth cut down. Blood flowing from the winepress, enough to cover the whole land. There’s nothing nice about judgement. There’s nothing nice about sin. We can wince and turn away. We can feel embarrassed and try to render it innocuous. But if we find what sin is and does unacceptable and find ourselves angered by what we watch on our news channels, how much more does the utterly holy God? The passage describes the awful end of awful rebellion; not an awful God.


The warnings of today’s passage are as sure as the reassurances of yesterday’s. Pause. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. ‘Jesus will deal with rebellion.’ Say it a few times to let it sink in. As you do, think of the world around you for a full minute, a 60-second reality check.

Deeper Bible study

This is immensely solemn. The end of time is the harvest. This is judgement day. There is no place for pomp, position or protest. In Genesis the question is asked ‘Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ (Gen 18:25) Now he will be vindicated. Jesus used the harvest metaphor to illustrate spiritual truth: wheat would be gathered in; weeds would be burned (Matt 13:24–30). A crowned figure, ‘like a son of man’ (v 14) sits on a cloud with a sharp sickle in his hand, surveying all that lies below him. Here is the Lord Jesus.

The order to move comes, no doubt from God, via an angel emerging from the Temple. The time has come to put the sickle to use and to reap the harvest. God has appointed the Lord Jesus to be Judge of all the earth. However much Rome (in John’s day) or any contemporary source of power now might preen and puff themselves up, their time is limited and their fall certain. How important, then, to make right choices now. These may not be big choices, but each one helps to shape our character and, in the end, our destiny. We need to learn to take careful steps on a daily basis to identify with the Lamb and his followers. Then we can, by God’s grace, be part of the rich harvest.

If the grain harvest speaks of the ingathering of the faithful, the second picture is more sobering. Grapes are being cut from the vine and taken to the winepress to allow the juice to be extracted. This is not a picture of celebration, but of judgement – the grapes symbolise the winepress of God’s wrath against evil throughout the whole earth and the destruction of all the wicked: ‘He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored’.1

We bless you that we have a Saviour in Christ our Lord and that salvation is all of grace. 

1 Julia Ward Howe, 1819–1910, ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory’

Colin Sinclair

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Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Job 9,10

Luke 16

The harvest

‘The harvest’ is a metaphor used throughout the Bible – in the Old Testament, by Jesus in the Gospels, and here again, at the end of all things, in Revelation.

As you look back over verses 14–16, picture the scene in your mind, hear the words being spoken, and ask God to reveal what they mean to you.


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All the glory
Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 1991 Make Way Music
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To be in your presence (This is my desire)
Noel Richards.
Copyright © 1991 Thankyou Music

  • Rachael Hampton | Monday, 22 July 2019

    The end of an awful rebellion, not an awful God. Yes. In Ezekiel 18:23 and again in 33:11 Ezekiel says that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. If people did not believe in justice for wrongdoing we would not have police, courts and jails. It’s God’s judgement on ‘good’ people, the recognition that we are all sinful and need Jesus to take the judgement for us, that offends people, and makes what we consider good news a foul stench to them.

  • Alan Pang | Monday, 22 July 2019

    In contrast to DS, CS thinks swinging the sickle symbolizes ingathering and trampling the grapes, judgement, If he is right, Jesus does the ingathering and leaves angels to exercise judgement. The Saviour does not himself judge!

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Tuesday, 23 July 2019

    Thank God for Jesus 144,000 times and more for choosing me, never giving up on me and sanctifying me through and through.

  • Angela Munday | Tuesday, 23 July 2019

    Jesus always does His Father’s will, whatever the cost. He teaches us well through the many words He spoke “Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.” We know God’s character is one of love and compassion and He is patiently waiting for all to return home to Him. Jesus gave warnings about not being ready for His return and the consequences from this. We can live with confidence knowing that we are worshipping a good and fair-minded God who judges what is there before Him and from whom nothing is hidden. Christ is everyone’s Saviour if they choose to follow Him. Thanks be to God for His wonderful gifts to everyone! Amen.

  • Janet Webb | Tuesday, 23 July 2019

    ALAN interesting. Maybe He judges by not gathering, thus leaving the unfaithful to be gathered by the angel. My understanding was that it was ultimately Jesus who sat in judgement. In the creed we say that He will judge the living and the dead.

  • Jean MacKenzie | Tuesday, 23 July 2019

    Thanks to the WordLive commentators for supporting our understanding of these difficult chapters in Revelation. Thanks also to John, Jack and Philippa for your very helpful posts yesterday. "It's not the parts of the Bible that we DONT understand that should concern us,but the parts we DO understand'' - that makes so much sense, John! And thanks also to Barbara for sharing that lovely hymn.

  • Ian Dalton | Tuesday, 23 July 2019

    @Philippa - of course you are right. Thank you very much for your comment yesterday on viriginity in a spiritual rather than a physica

  • Ian Dalton | Tuesday, 23 July 2019

    ...physical sense. I'm grateful for your insight.

  • Barbara Sabin | Tuesday, 23 July 2019

  • David Chipchase | Tuesday, 23 July 2019

    ALAN, A thought; do we humans effectively judge ourselves by the choices we make in life? As CS commented, "These may not be big choices, but each one helps to shape our character and, in the end, our destiny. We need to learn to take careful steps on a daily basis to identify with the Lamb and his followers. Then we can, by God’s grace, be part of the rich harvest." The greatest choice is whether we commit ourselves to Jesus and then build on it to confirm our place in that "rich harvest". If we don't make this commitment to Jesus, we are condemning ourselves to "the great winepress of God's wrath." JANET, good point. Jesus is the judge but our response to him will decide how he judges us. Apologies if I sound pedantic; it's the way the words appeared on paper. It is definitely not the way I was thinking.

  • David Chipchase | Tuesday, 23 July 2019

    PS. Congratulations to our UKers your new PM. He wouldn't have been my choice but I trust you enjoy his reign!

  • Philippa Linton | Tuesday, 23 July 2019

    He was only the choice of a determined minority within the Conservative Party, dear David Chipchase, and it will be a miracle if his 'reign' is not a disaster, especially for Scotland and Northern Ireland. So no celebrating from me, but lots of prayer. Anyway, enough politics. ;) Ian and Jean, thank you!

  • Roger Hall | Tuesday, 23 July 2019

    John 15 where Jesus tells the parable of the true vine. We are to be so closely attached so as to be able too feed along the nutrients required for the Growth and size of the fruits of the Vine. I'm not sure if the overflowing winepress after all that Jesus went through is really fruit or Blood. Perhaps there may be something in thinking that each Christian by helping in the produce of wine would be responsible for the massive overflowing of the blood into which the Robe of the returing King will dip His white Robe. (Rev. 19.) It does ask a lot of questions. There is certainly enough of the Blood of the Cross for all purposes.

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