To be honest when I first read the passage for today’s readings I didn’t know what to make of it. Revelation takes an interesting twist to begin to talk about a farmer and his sickle and that the son of man has the sickle and that some of the harvest will be thrown into the wine press of God’s fury. At first glance it isn’t clear what God may be talking about. This passage though is full of scriptural imagery and symbolism. I first point you to a passage that we are likely all familiar with Matthew 13. Jesus explains a couple of parables, first we have the seeds spread through different places, the path, in thorns, in shallow dirt and in rich soil. He also gives the parable of the weeds and the wheat. See bellow:
He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”Matthew 13:24-30
Judgement in scripture is compared to a sower and the harvest. That when the harvest comes you separate the wheat from the weeds, you burn the weeds and you put the wheat in the barn. This image of the Harvest and tell the reader the judgement is near.
Revelation also speaks of the wine press of God’s wrath. Again this is an image we are not familiar with and can cause confusion but again we just need to look to scripture for our answer. A wine press is used to explain the judgement of Israel. Today’s reading leaves out the last section of this which explains that the destruction of the wine press.
Now let me sing of my friend,Isaiah 5: 1-7
my beloved’s song about his vineyard.
My friend had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside;
He spaded it, cleared it of stones,
and planted the choicest vines;
Within it he built a watchtower,
and hewed out a wine press.
Then he waited for the crop of grapes,
but it yielded rotten grapes.
Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem, people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard:
What more could be done for my vineyard
that I did not do?
Why, when I waited for the crop of grapes,
did it yield rotten grapes?
Now, I will let you know
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
Take away its hedge, give it to grazing,
break through its wall, let it be trampled!
Yes, I will make it a ruin:
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
but will be overgrown with thorns and briers;
I will command the clouds
not to rain upon it.
The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
the people of Judah, his cherished plant;
He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed!
for justice, but hark, the outcry!
John is foretelling the coming judgement on the earth by this imagery, may we stay awake and be ready for when it comes.
An interesting possibly related point, in popular culture the grim reaper is presented as a figure of death. He is clothed in a black robe usually as a skeleton and holds a sickle in his hand. Some suggest that the grim reaper is based on a Greek god , but there is a similarity between the angel with the sickle in revelation and the grim reaper. I’m not trying to say the grim reaper is the angel from revelation, rather I believe it is a sign of Christian influence on society. This is a side point but interesting none the less.