Contrasts of Symbols in Revelation - Two Harvests
A look at some of the symbolism used in Revelation helps to better understand its message. For example, we see four horses and riders (6:1-8). The first is a white horse with a rider wearing a crown and carrying a bow. This picture symbolizes authority (a crown) and being armed or empowered to conquer (a bow).
Revelation’s symbolic pictures or figures are also often contrasted one against another, as well. These comparisons and contrasts are used extensively throughout the book and are literary devices typical of that period of history.
Contrastive thematic comparisons in Revelation
There are many themes running throughout the book of Revelation. The three main themes, Christ, the church and the tribulation, each are compared to an opposing or contrasting theme. These are Satan the Devil, the Beasts and the millennial Kingdom. These main themes and their parallel contrasting themes are summarize in the following table.
Contrastive themes in Revelation
Parallel Contrasting Themes
Christ (Rev 1)
Satan (Rev 12)
The church (Rev 2-3)
The beasts (Rev 13)
The tribulation (4-19)
The millennial Kingdom (Rev 20)
One seated on the cloud with a sharp sickle - two harvests
Comparisons of contrasting symbolic pictures in Revelation
These main themes and their parallel contrasting themes are represented and described in Revelation with parallel symbolic pictures, or figures. For example:
- Two thrones: Both God and Satan are said to have thrones.
- Two groups of worshipers: Both God's worshipers and the beasts' worshipers are marked or branded on their foreheads.
- Two declarations: The declaration of an angel that "It is done!" occurs twice, both when the tribulation judgment is completed and when the millennial reign is completed and everything is made new.
Here in the following table are these examples along with a few more. They are pairs of contrasting figures using the same symbolic picture.
Contrasting Symbolic Pairs in Revelation
Pair of …
Satan’s (2:13, 13:2)
God’s (40 occurrences)
riders on white horses
with bow & crown (6:2)
with sword & scepter (19:11, 15)
brands on foreheads
mark of the beast (13:16)
God’s name (22:4)
of beast & his image (14:9)
of maker of heaven & earth (14:7)
Babylon the Great (14:8)
new Jerusalem (3:12)
great prostitute (17:1)
wife of the Lamb (19:7)
water place name
lake of fire (19:20)
sea of glass (15:2)
rest of the dead (20:5, 12)
beheaded martyrs (20:4)
book or books
books were opened (20:12)
book of life (20:12)
first heaven (21:1)
new heaven (21:1)
first earth (21:1)
new earth (21:1)
“It is done!”
renewing everything (21:6)
“I will show you…”
judgment of Babylon (17:1)
bride of the Lamb (21:9)
Grain ripe for harvest
Grapes ripe for harvest
Two "harvests" in Revelation
Looking at these contrasting pairs of symbolic pictures caused me to realize there are two harvests described in Revelation. The two harvests are both cut with the sickle and they are harvested at the same point in Revelation, but here is where the similarities end.
These are two very different harvests.
We know that one is a harvest of ripened grain, because of the Greek word θερισον, used for 'reap' in Rev 14:15. The word is the one used to refer to cutting ripe grain (to bunch it up into sheaves).
The other harvest is clusters of grapes. The grapes are to be cut and gathered, too, but Rev 14:18-19 does not refer to this a reaping, like in verse 15.
Therefore, these are two different harvests; one of grain and one of grapes. In addition to the difference of one being a 'grain harvest' and the other being a 'grape harvest,' there are a few more differences that put these two parallel harvests in contrast.
Reaping grain (Rev 14:15)
Gathering the grapes (Rev 14:19)
Two 'harvesters' in Revelation
The same harvester does not harvest both of the harvests in Revelation 14.
One seated on a cloud
The harvester who reaps the grain with a sickle is "One seated on a cloud" (Rev 14:16). This is an allusion to Daniel 7:13, "One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven." The reference to "son of man" is clearly a reference to the Messiah (Christ.) I believe this has in view Christ's promise when he said, "I will come back and receive you to Myself" in John 14:3.
The harvester of the grain does not harvest the grapes. The ripe grapes clusters are 'gathered with a sickle' by an angel (Rev 14:18-19).
Two harvests taken to different places
Where each of the two harvests end up are quite different, as well. To understand where the harvested grain is taken, we first consider where the grapes end up.
What does the winepress symbolize?
The prophet Joel
A full overflowing winepress is likened to the great wickedness of the nations also by Joel (3:13) and is when God enters into judgment with them (Joel 3:2).
Into the winepress
The harvested grapes are thrown into a winepress outside the city of Jerusalem (Rev 14:19-20). This is referred to as the "winepress of God's wrath." It is the same "winepress of the fierce anger of God" spoken of later, in Revelation 19: 11, 15, that is trampled by the rider on the white horse, who is called Faithful and True (Christ).
We know from these verses in chapter 19 that the trampling of the grapes in the winepress symbolizes the destruction and killing of the kings and their armies. They are destroyed when they gather for war against Christ, the rider on the white horse, and His army (Rev 19:19).
These gathered kings and their armies are also the same, I believe, as those assembled for the battle of Armageddon (in Rev 16:14, 16). This is where, in Revelation, the bowls of judgment are poured out to bring down and destroy "the cities of the nations" (Rev 16:19). They—also referred to as Babylon the Great—are given "the cup filled with the wine of His fierce anger."
What does the sea of glass symbolize?
Onto the sea of glass
Where the reaped grain harvest is taken is not described in Revelation 14 (as was the grape harvest). In Revelation 15 what is seen, however, are both the seven last plagues, about to be poured out by the angels, and those who will escape this judgment (in 15:2). They are the ones who best the beasts by not worshiping them. They have escaped to God's presence to serve Him—symbolized by the picture of them standing on a sea of glass before His throne, singing with harps.
I believe the grain harvest is taken by the Messiah, the Son of Man, into God's presence; escaping the seven bowls of God's full wrath that is reserved for the wicked. The grain harvest is a symbolic picture of the rescued righteous saints—quite a contrast to the destroyed wicked nations symbolically picture by the trampled grape harvest.
The grain and the grapes' final end
This final outpouring of God's vengeance on the wicked nations happens in a short span of time, "a single hour" (Rev 18:10, 17, 19). It could well be that, when the last plagues are poured out to the destroy wicked nations, those who escape to the sea of glass then accompany Christ as part of His army (Rev 19:19) in that final battle, Armageddon.
More examples of contrastive symbols in Revelation
- Revelation: Book of Cosmic Symbols | Grace Communion International
Provides more examples of symbolic comparisons and contrasts in Revelation.
Verse by verse explains the symbols Revelation.
© 2012 Deidre Shelden
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