This vile world will be purged and purified before the reign of Christ begins. All that are opposed to God will be rigorously removed. Drastic action, military and judicial, will speedily cleanse a corrupt scene - and when the kingdom age commences not so much as a single rebel will be alive upon the earth. Nor will the malevolent presence of Satan and his demons haunt this habitable world for a thousand years. The reign in righteousness will inaugurate a fresh start for the survivors of the great tribulation at the end of the age.
In previous papers we have considered some of the events relating to the winding up of Man’s Day. And what a sorry mess he has made of things during the centuries of his maladministration of human affairs! In this article we shall look at a further aspect of the consummation of the age - the Harvest and Vintage of the earth. These graphic figures, setting forth correlated truths, describe the final enactments to cleanse the world before the regime of equity, with its resultant peace and prosperity, is ushered in.
In one of His parabolic utterances, the Lord Jesus portrayed the whole area of Christian profession on the earth - Christendom, as we term it - as like a field of growing wheat interspersed with tares, or darnel. A subtle act of sabotage had been carried out by an enemy, owing to a lack of vigilance on the part of the servants, “while men slept”, Matt. 13. 25. Now, in the early stages of growth, apparently the genuine wheat and the spurious wheat, the rank weed, the darnel, are not dissimilar in appearance. But when the situation in the field was later discovered by the servants, they reported the facts to their master, the owner of the field, and asked if they should get to work and root out the tares from among the true wheat The answer was “No!”, and the method to be adopted in dealing with the obnoxious weed was then declared, “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn”, v. 30. In the circumstances, this was the only wise course to follow. The prescribed action must await the ripening of the crop and the reaping of the harvest. Then would come the separation of the counterfeit wheat from the real, the bad from the good, with a view to eventual destruction.
We are left in no doubt as to the meaning of the symbols in this parable. For in the privacy of the house, and in response to the request of His disciples, the Lord interpreted the parable, w. 37-43. The sower is the Son of Man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age; the reapers are the angels.
The process by which the segregation will be effected is described in Revelation 14. 14-16 In that context the field is even broader, in a sense, than in Matthew 13. It is now the harvest of all religious profession, not only that in the realm of Christendom. But whether it be in the world at large or in the area of Christian profession in particular, the reaping of the ripened harvest will bring about the separation of the bad from the good - the separation of the evil for judgment and the good for blessing.
The verses which follow, Rev. 14. 17-20, speak of the vintage of the earth. Even as separation is associated with the harvest, so is the vintage synonymous with destruction. It could not be otherwise, for “the vine of Sodom” produced nothing but grapes of gall, the wild fruit of bitterness and evil, Deut. 32. 32. The vine of Israel, too, which should have brought forth fruit pleasing to God, through apostasy and idolatry was as foul as the vine of Sodom, and her grapes as abhorrent to the taste of God. The vine of the earth will be gathered for judgment and destruction by angelic agency under the direct supervision of the One seated on the cloud, one “like unto the Son of man”, whose head is encircled with a golden kingly crown, and whose hand grasps a sharp sickle. Rev. 14. 14.
Gathered into the great winepress of the wrath of God, the grapes will be crushed outside the city (Jerusalem), and the juice which exudes from them will not be wine but blood. Not the wine of joy, but the blood of judgment, flowing in a torrent from God’s great winepress of wrath, and submerging the whole land of Palestine to the height of the horses’ bridles. The figure of hyperbole is employed to emphasize the ghastly consequences of, and the wide spread area covered by, the relentless judgment of God. The whole land of Palestine will be affected - 1600 furlongs, that is 200 miles, signifying the length of that land; Isaiah 63. 1-4 applies. Although the effect will overspread the entire country, the vortex of the slaughter will no doubt be the valley of Jehoshaphat on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Joel 3. 13-17. This furnishes us with a prophetic preview of the epicentre of this fearful shuddering that will shake the land to its very core in the valley “of decision” (or, “of what is determined”, J.N.D.).
The operation of the vintage is coincidental with the riding forth of the King of kings to the battle of that great day of God Almighty, Rev. 16. 14, and His treading “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God”, 19. 15. These actions mark the commencement of the day of the Lord - the doomsday of a godless world.
The Rider on the white charger is seen in the vision to be clothed with a garment soaked in blood, by no means here the blood of His sacrificial death, which makes the believing soul judicially clean before God. It betokens the blood of His enemies crushed in the winepress of His righteous wrath. “Who is this that cometh from Edom with deep-red garments from Bozrah?… Wherefore is redness in thine apparel and thy garments like him that treadeth the winevat? I have trodden the winepress alone … I have trodden them in mine anger and trampled them in my fury, and their blood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I have stained all mine apparel…”, Isa. 63. 1-6 J.N.D. This is the vintage of the earth.
First, therefore, comes the separation of the darnel from the wheat, the false from the true, the formal professors from the genuine believers - and, indeed, in a different yet corresponding context, the sheep from the goats, those favourably disposed to the Jewish preachers of the gospel of the kingdom, and those opposed to them during the period of the tribulation. Matt. 25. 31-34. This is not a random act but a discriminatory operation of a righteous order. Then follows the devastating judgment of the wicked, and the everlasting blessing of the Gentile “sheep” and the godly remnant of Israel, the Lord’s own “brethren” after the flesh.
In Matthew 13. 30, it should be noted that the wheat gathered into the barn includes the heavenly saints, who will be translated from the earth at the rapture. In the new era they will shine forth in the astral region of the universal kingdom, in the kingdom of their Father. As the sun is to the earth in the solar system, so shall the heavenly saints be in relation to the millennial earth in that coming day.
The “sheep” in Matthew 25. 34-40, on the other hand, after the end of the age, will occupy a place of blessing in the earthly realm of the kingdom, established by the Son of man on this planet of earth during the final dispensation of time.
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