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A LAMB ON MOUNT ZION, PART 8

 

 

Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs. Revelation 14:17–20

 

As we looked at the reaping of the earth we encountered the Church of God Reformation Movement that emerged around 1880. One criticism of the church-historic interpretation of the book of Revelation is that churches that hold to the interpretation tend to see themselves as the object or fulfillment of the Book of Revelation. Some descendant fellowships of the Church of God Reformation Movement tend to take that position, but that is truly unwarranted as there was a great move of God during this time that encompassed more than just this Movement.

This Movement was contemporaneous with and involved in a greater Holiness Movement that was active around the world at the time. It is tragic that sectarian friction arose and became the cause of degeneration of the work of reaping the earth, leading to the necessity of a second and lesser effective gathering from what is here called the cluster of the vine of the earth.

 

The Need for the Gathering of the Clusters

 

Daniel Warner was an advocate for unity among this greater holiness movement. He was actively involved in and strongly supported the holiness movement in Indiana; however, He came under conviction because of a major contradiction in the constitution of that movement.

In his editorial in The Gospel Trumpet for June 1, 1881 he wrote: “The Spirit of the Lord showed me that inconsistency of repudiating sects and yet belonging to an association that is based upon sect recognition. The issue was a key clause in that constitution that read: It shall consist of members of various Christian organizations and seek to work in harmony with all these societies.”[1] The emphasis is on organizations and societies rather than on people that are the redeemed in Christ. He offered a substitution for this clause that read: “It shall consist of, and seek to cooperate with, all true Christians everywhere.” His rationale for this change was: “We had supposed that fellowship and cooperation should not exclude any person or truth that is in Christ Jesus, and that we should not be compelled to bow down to anything not in, nor of, Christ Jesus.”

However, the holiness movement rejected the concept in favor of recognizing organizational membership rather than individual and personal experiences of salvation. Warner reports the consequence of his suggestion: “We were positively denied membership on the ground of not adhering to any sect. And now we wish to announce to all that we wish to cooperate with all Christians, as such, in saving souls—but forever withdraw from all organizations that uphold and endorse sects and denominations in the body of Christ.”

In another article in that same issue of the Gospel Trumpet he wrote about sectarianism: “Oh, I beseech you for Christ’s sake, do not dishonor God by confounding his church with Babylon confusion! Instead of sects giving the church of Christ a visible organization they mar and destroy the visible organization and unity of the church of Christ.” Distractors saddled with sectarian orientation severely criticized this Movement calling the people “come outers.” Responding to this criticism in an article dated August 15, 1881, Warner wrote: “The Christians branded ‘come outers’ have founded no church or sect, nor do they intend to; but, on the contrary, they have abandoned all sects to live in the one church that Christ founded, and into which we were inducted by regeneration.”

As both movements went their separate ways much good was done in preaching salvation and holiness of life, but the weight of sectarianism began to slow down their progress bringing both to a virtual stand-still.

 

The Thorn in the Flesh

 

One problem of seeing and proclaiming the truth of the biblical church is that when people you think should see this truth don’t respond or they reject it, you begin to think you alone are that one church and no others are or can be.

The holiness movement organized itself into numerous small denominations, several of which eventually came together to form the Church of the Nazarene. Others remained separate with only handfuls of congregations in regional areas.

The Church of God Movement experienced phenomenal growth over many decades and in 1906 the Gospel Trumpet Company moved to Anderson, Indiana. In June of 1917 a General Ministerial Assembly was organized and designated as the body responsible for controlling the various agencies of the church. In 1932 the Assembly authorized the organization of an Executive Council. Over time many boards and supervisory bodies came into being, including state assemblies. The problem with growth was how do we organize the work of the church without creating another denomination?

Dissention over excessive organization and changes in doctrine and outward standards arose in the mid-twentieth century that started a cascade of groups breaking away from the Movement to form their own fellowships focusing on traditional teachings, standards, or certain ministers.

At about the same time rumblings of dissention were happening in the Holiness Movement. Around 1956, Glenn Griffith wrote a short book titled Nineteen Reasons Why I Am Leaving the Church of the Nazarene and formed the Bible Missionary Union, which later became the Bible Missionary Church.

There is so much more that could be given in evidence as to the silence at the opening of the seventh seal in Revelation 8:1, which lasted an indefinite time identified as about half an hour. It is this same half hour that we meet between the reaping of the earth and the gathering of the clusters.

 

Another Angel With a Sickle

 

Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. (Revelation 14:17)

 

Sometime after the initial reaping of the earth another angel or ministry is given the sickle of the everlasting gospel and comes out into the open. He apparently steps out of the temple into the silence of the seventh seal and more or less just stands there not knowing what to do. The lack of clarity of the biblical teaching of the church, salvation and holiness has created a spiritual vacuum. The angel knows what to preach but he apparently does not find anyone to listen to him. This seventh seal produces frustration and confusion that obscures the everlasting gospel in the spiritual heavens.

In chapter 8 seven angels stood before God and were given seven trumpets, but they did not know what to do with them until an angel came and stood at the altar and took fire off the altar and threw it on the earth.

 

The Angel and the Altar

 

Here in Revelation 14:18 we see “another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe’”

The first angel, or ministry, holds the sickle, showing that it knows the everlasting gospel in its three applications. This tells us this ministry had the privilege of learning the three messages included in the everlasting gospel from the ministry that just preceded it. This ministry had been in the temple, that is, the church, but it was not able to come out into the open to minister until this prophetic time arrived.

But why the silence? The seven angels of the seventh seal are a ministry that grew up during this period and it is the same ministry that comes out of the temple in Revelation 14:17. The fact that there are seven angels indicates that this ministry understands how God worked through His chosen ministry in each of the seven periods of Church history. This implies that they have complete understanding of both the truths and the errors the church has embraced and battled throughout its history. God prepared them to address the final work of His church in history. God gave them each a trumpet. These trumpets are symbolic of the true understanding of the message of the everlasting gospel. God gave them the trumpets but He did not permit them to sound their message until the time was right because the church as a whole was not in a state of mind to receive it. God was preparing them and holding them in reserve until the prophetic moment arrived.

But, this ministry needs more than just the knowledge of the everlasting gospel. It requires another angel, a very special angel, to come out from the altar. The angel standing at the altar in Revelation 8:3 receives the prayers of the saints until his golden censer is full, at which time he takes the censer full of incense with burning coals from the altar and casts fire into the earth. This angel standing before the altar symbolizes the saints of God who are praying for revival and praying for God to lose the ministry that is waiting to sound the message of the everlasting gospel. The angel here in Revelation 14:18 is this same angel of whom the Apostle John says that he has power over fire. The word power is the Greek word exousia and means the power of authority. The fire over which the angel has authority is the moving of the Holy Spirit in an end-time revival.

Looking back again at Revelation 8:5 we see the beginning of this revival, “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.”

In this symbolism it can be seen how the angel, in this case the body of Christ, casts the fire onto the earth by praying for revival and encouraging the preaching ministry to preach the everlasting gospel. They know this preaching is necessary and that revival is not possible without it. Now in Revelation 14:18 we see this angel crying out with a loud voice to the angel with the sickle telling him to gather the clusters of the vine of the earth.

This angel comes out from the altar and he had power over fire. First of all, we must understand what this altar is. The writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 13:10 “We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.” Barnes comments that “the ‘altar’ to which he here refers is evidently the cross on which the great sacrifice was made.” The Living Bible captures this by rendering the verse: “We have an altar—the cross where Christ was sacrificed—where those who continue to seek salvation by obeying Jewish laws can never be helped.” So we understand that the altar represents the atonement in Christ that cleanses from sin.

Second, the angel has power over fire. In the preparation of the 7 angels after the opening of the seventh seal, the fire taken from the altar is mixed with the prayers of the saints. Fire represents the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the one that would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. In having power over fire, this angel representing the body of Christ supports and urges God’s ministry through Holy Spirit anointed prayer to preach the everlasting gospel to gather in the clusters of the vine of the earth.

 

What Are These Clusters?

 

To answer this question, let’s ask another question: What kind of vine grows in the religious world? Jesus answers the question in John 15:1–2, 8. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. . . . By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

Christ is the true vine and people that bear the fruit of salvation are His branches; but, notice the angel says that these clusters are on the vine of the earth. What can this mean? The vine of the earth represents God’s people in spiritual Babylon that are truly born again. They are in Christ: they have been saved from sin, some of them even have made a complete consecration, but they have not yet come to all that Christ has for them in salvation and their experience in the church.

This second reaping is to harvest those out of Babylon that are saved but have yet to come to all the truth of the everlasting gospel. They must be given the truth about holiness; they must be given the truth about Babylon; and, they must be given the truth about God’s judgment on Babylon; otherwise, they can never find the rest for which they are looking in the sects of Babylon.

When the church gets behind the ministry and has prayed down the revival, the vine of the earth will be reaped.

 

The Great Winepress

 

In verse 19, the clusters are cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God. It was learned from verse 10 that the wine of the wrath of God was nothing more than the everlasting gospel itself. The everlasting gospel declares God’s wrath on sin by the fact that God has made a way for people to be saved from sin. The winepress of God’s wrath is the preaching of the everlasting gospel in clarity under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 20 says that the winepress is trampled outside the city. This city is Babylon.  Today, at this time in history, the everlasting gospel cannot be preached effectively in Babylon, particularly that part of Babylon that professes to be Christian, because the leaders and the people will not receive it. The people have been taught that they cannot live without committing sin and any message that tells them otherwise is not welcome in Babylon. A Christian message that appears to criticize churches or their teachings today is considered intolerant and uncharitable. Any group, sect, or church that claims to be the only church accepted by God and that all others are wrong is considered to be fanatical. Because this stigma is applied, albeit unfairly, to those who would call God’s people out of Babylon, believers will have to be harvested out of Babylon and brought to where they can hear the everlasting gospel preached.

Verse 20 also describes blood coming out of the winepress, even to the horses’ bridles for the space of 1,600 furlongs. What blood comes out of preaching the everlasting gospel? 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” When God’s people who are part of the vine of the earth hear the preaching of the blood of Christ, they will receive the understanding that the blood of Christ really cleanses them from ALL SIN!

Verse 20 goes on to say the “blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.” Some suggest the 1600 furlongs are time symbols but they cannot be because time symbols in the Revelation are always expressed in terms of actual time. A bridle stands about five feet from the ground when it is applied to the head of a horse. A furlong is 200 yards so 1600 furlongs equals 200 miles. Because there are only two dimensions a volume cannot be calculated, but an area can be calculated. 200 miles at five feet of height contains an area of 1,000 square miles. That is a lot of blood!

So what does the 1600 furlongs of blood symbolize? When people hear the everlasting gospel preached in its fullness, they will realize that the blood of Christ is sufficient to meet their every need and to cleanse them from all sin.

This is the challenge that faces us today.

 

In Summary

 

The fourteenth chapter of Revelation is a vision that depicts the historical reemergence of the biblical church of God after centuries of its being hidden from the religious heavens.

God gave His church a three-fold message to preach in this last hour of God’s judgment on the earth. This message is: Jesus Christ saves people from all sin and leads them to live holy lives; the religions and denominations of men are apostate and God does not approve of them; and people who trust in church membership, creeds, or doctrinal systems for their salvation will not find deliverance from sin in those things.

God reaped a host of people out of Babylon in the Sixth Seal. According to the Seventh Seal, the church was commanded to be silent for about the space of half an hour; then after this silence, another reaping is to be done: to again call God’s people out of Babylon.

Are you prayed up enough so that you have the authority to cast the fire onto the earth and let the revival begin? God is not waiting for the person in the other pew, or the people in another congregation to take action. God is waiting for you.

 

 


[1] Birth of a Reformation, Faith Publishing House: Guthrie, OK,  1966,  pages 277–280.