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 14:19-20 NIV
Revelation 14:14-20 describes two events. In the first, “one like a son of man” swung his sickle over the earth, and it was harvested. In the second, an angel swung a sickle, harvested the earth’s grapes, and threw them into the winepress of God’s wrath.
These two harvests describe two resurrections. The first harvest is conducted by Jesus, “one like a son of man,” who gathers his elect from around the world. This gathering is described elsewhere (Matt. 24:30-31, 1 Thess. 4:16-18).
The second harvest is quite different. This harvest includes all those remaining after the first harvest. These will experience God’s wrath. It is probably a mistake to picture this as a literal winepress with an enormous quantity of blood flowing from it. But it does make clear that there is a terrible price to pay for not following Jesus and being included in his harvest.
The churches that received this letter were experiencing opposition. Some had remained faithful, while others were at various stages of compromise with their culture. The purpose of this letter was to encourage them to remain faithful. And to make clear the fate of those who oppose God and his church.
The Wrath of God
It may, at times, appear that the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer. But that is only a temporary condition. Those who remain faithful will experience what God has prepared for his children (1 Cor. 2:9). The alternative is to experience God’s wrath.
The Bible describes this wrath of God that unbelievers will face in several different ways, including the winepress of his wrath, tormented with burning sulfur (Rev. 14:10-11), darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30), and everlasting destruction shut out from the presence of God (2 Thess. 1:9). But regardless of the descriptive terms used, this judgment is an eternal punishment.
It might be tempting to rejoice in the fate that awaits the ungodly, especially those who cause us grief in this life. But we should instead pity them and do what we can to rescue them from an eternal separation from God (Jude 1:22-23).