Grapes of Wrath

Revelation 14

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
April 2023

Today, we come to a section of Scripture that probably is not anyone’s favorite Bible verse.  It is not a warm and fuzzy chapter.  It is a disturbing passage.

It is graphic.  It is gruesome.  It is gory.  It is violent.  It is bloody.  It describes a winepress of God’s wrath.  It describes a river of blood that is two hundred miles long.

It is one of the most vivid pictures of judgment in the entire Bible.  The concept has made it into pop culture.  It has made its way into movies, literature and music.

There are plenty of horror movies about the Grim Reaper.  John Steinbeck wrote a novel called Grapes of Wrath based on this chapter.  The Battle Hymn of the Republic (1862) talks about God “trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.”

Today we are going to read some obscure passages in the OT.  We want to look at this passage and see what it is talking about.  We also want to see what it says to us today.  What are the takeaways from this section for us today?


Revelation 14:14-20 describes two reapers and two harvests.  There are two reapers with sharp sickles.  Who are the two reapers?  Jesus and an angel.  Before the reaping begins, an angel from heaven says it is time to begin reaping.

What are the two harvests in this section?  There is a GRAIN harvest and a GRAPE harvest.  There is a gathering of grain and a gathering of grapes.

What do they represent?  The second harvest is called a winepress of God’s wrath with blood everywhere.  It is clearly a judgment harvest.  There is no question about that.

The big question is, what does the grain harvest represent?  Some believe that it is a harvest of salvation, not a harvest of judgment.  There are two harvests.  One is a good harvest, and one is a bad harvest.  There are some verses that talk about a salvation harvest.

Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4:35 NIV)

His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:12 NIV)

That is a different picture.  Revelation is not dealing with wheat and chaff.  It is dealing with wheat and grapes.  If you want to know what it is talking about in the Book of Revelation, you have to go back to the OT.

OT Background

If you do not understand the OT, if you do not understand Joel and Isaiah, you will not understand Revelation 14.  It is easy to prove from the Book of Joel that both of the harvests in Revelation 14 are judgment scenes.

There are two harvest judgments.  God’s judgment on the wicked is pictured as a harvest.  There are two harvest judgments.  How do we know?  We can prove this from Joel 3.

“In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will put them on trial for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel, because they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land. 3 They cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine to drink.

Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack. 10 Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, “I am strong!”

11 Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there. Bring down your warriors, Lord!

12 “Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to JUDGE all the nations on every side. 13 SWING THE SICKLE, for the HARVEST is ripe. Come, TRAMPLE THE GRAPES, for the WINEPRESS is full and the vats overflow—so great is their wickedness!” (Joel 3:1-3, 9-13 NIV)

Cut them down like grain. The harvest is ripe.  Stomp on them as you would stomp on grapes. The winepress is full. The vats overflow. The nations are very wicked. (Joel 3:13 GWT)

What are the similarities between the two passages?  Both mention the harvest being ripe. Both mention the grain harvest and grape harvest.  Both deal with the Battle of Armageddon.

Both mention the sickle being swung and the grapes being trampled.  Both mention a winepress.  Both are clearly judgment scenes.  Joel 3 is a judgment scene and even tells why the nations are judged.

The main reason they are judged is because of how they treated the nation of Israel.  Nations will be judged based on their foreign policy.  Anti-Semitic nations will be judged for how they treat Israel.

The nations scattered the Jews and dividing up the land (Joel 3:2). The world tries to divide up the Promise Land and say that Palestinians get part, and the Jews get part.

It is called the two-state solution. All politicians advocate some form of it.  It is dividing the land up for peace and security.  God calls it sin.  It is an abomination to divide up the Holy Land.

It brings His judgment.  Why?  God made a special covenant with the Jews.  He gave them the land.  He says that it is their land.  There are other sins mentioned as well, like sex trafficking (Joel 3:3).  Apparently, God takes that very seriously.

If you read the whole chapter, you will have some idea what is going on in Revelation 14.   Joel 3 describes the Jews return to their land (cf. Joel 3:1).

It also describes an end time invasion of Israel by Gentile armies from all over the world.  They pour into Israel from all sides (Joel 3:11-12).  They are crammed into a huge valley to attack and wipe them off the map.

This is not going to involve some nations or a lot of nations but all nations (Joel 3:2).  They gather against God and His people, and they are armed.

They will surround Israel in a final climactic battle.  They will want to destroy Israel, but they are the ones who get destroyed instead.  God actually draws them there to judge them (Joel 3:2).

When they get to the battlefield, they do not face another human army.  They will face God Himself.  Jesus returns to earth.  He wipes them out instantly.  He is a one-man army.

There are other armies there (armies from heaven), but Jesus does all the fighting.  In fact, Jesus does not have to do much fighting.  Paul says they will be destroyed by the brightness of His coming.

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. (II Thessalonians 2:8 NIV)

The Grain Harvest

First, there is the grain harvest. “The imagery of rebellious humanity being summarily cut down like stalks of grain at the edge of a sickle.”[1]  In Revelation 14, Jesus holds a sickle and swings it.

It is a sharp sickle (Revelation 14:14 NIV).  A sickle is used for cutting.  Here, it is not an instrument of farming or agriculture, but an instrument of judgment. Both grain and grapes are cut by sickles.  Jesus is using it on grain.

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. (Revelation 14:14 NIV).

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.” 16 So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. (Revelation 14:15-16 NIV)

When he was on earth, he was the suffering servant.  He was arrested, beaten and crucified.  In Revelation 14, He is wearing a golden crown on his head and he is sitting on a cloud.  He is swinging a sickle and judging the world.

The Grape Harvest

The second harvest involves a winepress.  The way wine was made in John’s day was to put grapes in a vat and people would step on them and crush the grapes.  That is not how we make wine today.  That does not seem too sanitary but it was the old way to make wine

17 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 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.” 19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. (Revelation 14:17-19 NIV)

It is a terrifying scene.  It is not really a battle.  It is a massacre.  It is a bloodbath.  There’s no battle; just an execution.  Jesus comes back.  The nations gather to fight and are armed and everyone drops dead.  A sword comes out of His mouth, and everyone is wiped out.

Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. (Revelation 19:15 NIV).

When Jesus returns to earth, people are going to die, a lot of them.  There’s going to be dead bodies and blood everywhere.  When Jesus comes back, there will be a bloodbath and it will happen in a moment.

It is called the Battle of Armageddon, but it will not really be a battle.  It will be a massacre and it will result in a river of blood.  In fact, it will be so bloody that Jesus will have blood on Him and will not be His blood.  We see that in the Book of Isaiah.

Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save.” 2 Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress?

3 “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing. 4 It was for me the day of vengeance; the year for me to redeem had come.

5 I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm achieved salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me. 6 I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground.” (Isaiah 63:1-6 NIV)

Isaiah sees the image of a conquering warrior who has just returned from battle.  He returns victorious.  He proclaims victory (Isaiah 63:2) but he is drenched in blood.  They are stained crimson (Isaiah 63:1).

Isaiah asks two questions:  Who is this person coming from Edom and why are his garments red?  It is Jesus.  He just trampled the nations in His anger.

This chapter is another winepress scene, and it is also bloody.  There is blood everywhere, even on Jesus’ clothes.  He is described as the blood-stained man.  That sounds like someone who committed a crime, but it is not a crime but an execution.

On the cross, Jesus shed His blood for His enemies.  At the Second Coming, blood will be shed again but it will be the blood of His enemies who rejected Him.  He will be covered in their blood.

Three Takeaways

1) God gets angry

Some preachers say that God never gets angry.  He is all love and mercy.  God is not mad at you. Joyce Meyer wrote a book with that title.  God doesn’t get mad.

In this section we see a winepress of God’s wrath.  God is slow to anger but He gets angry.  God’s wrath is His anger over sin.  We get angry for many reasons.  Sometimes our anger is sinful.  God gets angry because His is a holy God.

See, the day of the LORD is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger— to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. (Isaiah 13:9 NIV)

Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. (Nahum 1:6 NIV)

Many have a completely false view of God.  Many in the church have a false view of Jesus.  Many preachers today do not talk about God having wrath.  They do not talk about judgment.

They never preach on Hell.  It has gone out of style.  It is unpopular.  It is not positive and uplifting.  That is not good news.  There are very few hell, fire and brimstone preachers today.

Many think that a God of love would never punish people. He would never take vengeance on people.  What does the Bible teach?

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies. 3 The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. (Nahum 1:1-3 NIV)

O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! (Psalm 94:1 ESV)

I will take vengeance in anger and wrath on the nations that have not obeyed me. (Micah 5:15 NIV)

God is a God of salvation and a God of judgment.  He is a God of love and a God of vengeance.  He is mighty to save (Isaiah 63:1) and mighty to judge.  In Revelation 14 we see His judgment.  We see the great winepress of God’s wrath.  We see God in His wrath, not God in His love.

2) Judgment is coming

One day, Jesus will judge the world.  We see that from the two harvest judgments.  They do not describe hell but judgment on earth, because it mentions blood outside the city.[2]

Jesus is not only Savior but the Judge.  He is the one who is going to judge the world.  Judgment is coming.  The Jesus has a sharp sickle in His hand.  The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son (John 5:22 NIV).

God commands people to repent “because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31 ESV).

Judgment is not just coming to INDIVIDUALS; it is coming to THE WORLD.  Amos 4:12 says, “prepare to meet your God.”  Most people that meet him will not be prepared.  We will see that next week.

You say, “If it is coming, why hasn’t it happened yet?”  God waits until the fruit is ripe for judgment.   God promised Abraham the Promised Land but said that He can’t give it to Him now “because the iniquity of the Amorites is not full” (Genesis 15:16).

The Amorites were Canaanites.  They were wicked but not ripe for judgment yet.  The Jews had to wait several generations to get the Promised Land.  God waits until the grapes are ripe and bursting with juice.

He waits until people are extremely wicked and ready for judgment.   It makes you wonder when America will be ripe for judgment.  We saw in Joel that that judgment came when the winepress was not only full, but the vats were overflowing (Joel 3:13).

Judgment is coming and it is coming to everyone.  No one will escape it.  You say, “We will.  We are believers.  We are not going to be judged.”  We will escape condemnation.

Paul said, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV).  We will escape condemnation, but we will not escape judgment.  Judgment is also coming to CHRISTIANS.

Paul also said, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (II Corinthians 5:10 NIV)

Not only are we going to appear before this judgment seat but ALL of us are going to appear before it.  You will appear before it.  I will appear before it.  Paul said that he would appear before it.

We will all face some type of judgment.  There is a difference between judgment of the wicked and judgment of believers, but we will all be judged by God.

3) Judgment is terrifying

The Bible says that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31 ESV).  Many have no fear of falling into God’s hands.  If God is love, why is it a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God?  God is not only a God of love but of wrath.

We see very clearly in the Book of Revelation that divine judgment is terrifying.  We saw it in the Sixth Seal Judgment.  It is so terrifying that people want to kill themselves.  They want the rocks and mountains to fall on them but there’s nowhere to run.

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” (Revelation 6:15-17 NIV)

Revelation 14 describes a winepress.  It will be a divine winepress.  This will be a winepress of God’s wrath and people are put into this winepress.  It will not have grapes in it.  It will have people in it.  You do not want to be placed into this winepress.

There is no mercy or grace in this winepress.  It is a picture of “unmitigated judgment.”[3]  Sinners are being trampled and not a single person will escape the wrath of God.  “The clusters of grapes were trampled and trampled until every single grape was crushed. So shall the wrath of God be.”[4]

This winepress will not produce wine, like ordinary winepresses do.  This winepress will produce blood.  This winepress of divine wrath produces a river of blood that is one hundred eighty miles long.  This river is also four to five feet deep.  It is up to the horse’s bridle.

So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress of God’s wrath. The grapes were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle. (Revelation 14:19-20 NLT)

This is NOT literal, but it is a picture of the terror of divine judgment.  How do we know that this is not literal?  It is in an apocalyptic book.  There are lots of symbols in Revelation.  There are lots of symbols of judgment in this chapter.

Judgment of the world is not going to be a literal grain harvest.  It is not going to be a grape harvest.  They will not be trampled to death.  The wicked are not going to be squashed in a literal winepress, like grapes.

Jesus will not swing a sickle at people’s heads.  That sounds like a horror movie.  There will not be a literal river of blood five feet deep, but the Battle of Armageddon will be a massacre.  There will be a lot of dead bodies everywhere.

We know that this is symbolic because the same figure was used in other apocalyptic books in the first century and afterwards.  We also see it in the first-century, Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote about the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.

And the horse shall walk up to the breast in the blood of sinners, And the chariot shall be submerged to its height (I Enoch 100:3 Charles).[5]

They shall clash against one another and shall pour out a heavy tempest on the earth, and their own tempest; and there shall be blood from the sword as high as a horse’s belly 36 and a man’s thigh and a camel’s hock. 37 And there shall be fear and great trembling on the earth; those who see that wrath shall be horror-stricken, and they shall be seized with trembling (II Esdras 15:35-37 NRS).[6]

Yet was the misery itself more terrible than this disorder; for one would have thought that the hill itself, on which the temple stood, was seething hot, as full of fire on every part of it, that the blood was larger in quantity than the fire, and those that were slain more in number than those that slew them; for the ground did nowhere appear visible, for the dead bodies that lay on it; but the soldiers went over heaps of those bodies, as they ran upon such as fled from them  (Josephus, Jewish War, VI.5.1).[7]

Nor was there any place in the city that had no dead bodies in it, but what was entirely covered with those that were killed either by the famine or the rebellion; and all was full of the dead bodies of such as had perished, either by that sedition or by that famine. (Josephus, Jewish War, VI.7.2).[8]

The whole city (was) run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men’s blood. (Josephus, Jewish War, VI.7.5).[9]

[1]Fanning, Revelation [Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament], 399)

[2] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Revelation, 92-93.

[3] F. F Bruce, ed, New International Bible Commentary, 1618.

[4] The Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible, III, 1222.






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