17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia. – Revelation 14:17-20
That is some pretty gruesome, vivid imagery. Often when we think of the return of Jesus, we think about him taking the Christians away to heaven, but here Jesus sends his angels to gather all those from the “vine of the earth”. What exactly does that mean?
In John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches that He is the true vine, of which we, His disciples are branches. You see, we were made to be attached to something and bear fruit for it. When we are attached to (or “abide in”) Jesus, we bear fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, among others. When we attach ourselves to the earth, or in other words, earthly things, anything other than Jesus, we end up bearing different kinds of fruit. We bear bad fruit like hatred, malice, discontent, arrogance, pride, bigotry, lust, greed, envy, murder, and the list goes on. It matters what kind of fruit we bear for we will be held accountable for our actions.
Jesus is not a get-out-of-jail-free card that God apathetically doled out to the world. To consider Him and His sacrifice as such is an insult to God and to the Christians that have gone before us. Jesus is an opportunity to get help turning our lives around and living in a way that brings glory to God. He lived as an example, died so we would have the opportunity for a second chance, and rose again to show us the power He has to lift us up from the dead weight of sin that drags us down… if we continue each day to choose to abide in Him.
Revelation is not the only place that mentions gruesome justice like this. In the gospels, Jesus Himself tells a story of a vineyard whose tenants are being judged for not giving their master the fruit he planted. They chase away and kill the messengers He sends until finally He sends His own son as an ambassador on His behalf. Instead of giving repenting, they decide to kill the son to take the inheritance for themselves. When Jesus asked the Jewish leaders what they thought justice would look like in this situation, they replied that the tenants deserved to be killed for their deeds and the vineyard given over to someone who would tend it properly – giving the harvest to the master. Little did they know, Jesus was telling this story about them, as leaders of God’s people and His earthly representatives. (Matthew 21:33-46, Mark 12:1-12, & Luke 20:9-19)
Realistically though, we need not be church leaders, or any official leaders for that matter for us to wake up and give this scripture serious attention. Jesus is coming. Justice will be done. Our deeds stand as witness either for or against us, either as good fruit or bad and the wicked vine of the earth will be harvested… along with us if we continue to abide in it.
Live for Jesus, not for this world for the days of this world are numbered.