I 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. Then 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.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still 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.” The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They 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. – Revelation 14:14-20
A crown and a sickle. Not something I can picture Jesus carrying along the lake near Galilee. Perhaps this reference to the “son of man” is not referring to Jesus. I do not know. The next sentence, “then another angel came out of the temple”, seems to suggest this “son of man” is an angel rather than the Son of God. This angel bearing the sickle is also seated on a cloud. I assume this is figurative language intended to describe something this is perhaps indescribable.
The second angel tells the first angel on the cloud to get to work with his sickle “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” It seems to me that “harvest” referred to here could have a metaphorical meanings and could be interpreted in a physical sense or a spiritual sense.
If it is a physical description this would be describing a great massacre of humans or perhaps even the earth itself in the form chaos and calamities, similar to those described earlier in Revelation. If this is a metaphysical massacre then it represents a spiritual sifting similar to what Jesus described when He referred to the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:32). I suppose these two ways of viewing “the harvest” would are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps the “sickle” impacts both the secular and the spiritual.
The angel with the “sharp” sickle is then directed to harvest “the grapes” from the “Earth’s vine”. I interpret “sharp” to mean discerning – able to discern subtle differences between souls and people. The essence of grapes, their juice, is of course used to make wine. Through the process of growing vines, harvest, and fermentation, God turns water into wine. The harvested grapes in this passage meet a crushing end in the winepress of God’s wrath. It is a little unclear who these “grapes” represent. Hopefully they are those not that do not belong to the Lamb.
The unfortunate grapes that are crushed by God’s winepress are reduced to blood “blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.”. This is a very horrific image. Blood as high as horses for flowing for over 180 miles. What could this be describing or trying to convey? Seen through a literal lens perhaps it could be describing a disaster that impacts a 200 mile radius such as a volcanic eruption, mudflow, or meteor impact.
Taken in a spiritual sense perhaps this squeezing of souls is the antithesis of our souls finding a unique place in the spiritual sea with God in Heaven. If we are not with God perhaps in the end our souls merely mix with a myriad of others in a spiritual soup in which we lose all identity and individuality. This is the certainly the opposite of the intimate and personal relationship promised by Jesus.
This is a confusing passage to be sure. I am not sure what the take home here is other than that we should figure out how not to become like the grapes, crushed in God’s winepress. This involves following the Lamb and never stopping seeking God.
Prayer: God help us to follow You so that when the harvest comes we can be with You.