Revelation 14:14-20 speaks of harvesting earth and trampling the grapes of that harvest in the winepress of God’s wrath. But it is not juice that runs deep and red, it is an immense river of blood. What is being depicted here?


This is the day of reckoning, when the enemies of God’s people, the Church, are judged.

The passage describes two harvests.

Golden Wheat of Faith

The first must refer to the wheat harvest that came in the spring. Jesus swings His sickle and gathers in the wheat of the faithful, described in several parables throughout the Gospels.

Vine of the Earth

The second harvest began in late summer, when fruit came into season. This gathering represents the wicked who will be crushed in God’s judgment. The angel had already proclaimed the cup as those who rejected God and allied with the dragon’s creature would have to drink.

If anyone fawns and worships the dangerous creature and its image, and takes on a graven etching upon their forehead and/or upon their hand, then that one will drink out of the wine of the wrath of God that having been mingled undiluted in the cup of God’s fury

Revelation 14:9-10

Now it is no longer wine, but the blood of the judged.

York Minster, Great East Window, 5j, The Treading in the Winepress (Rev 14: 19-20) | By Coventry glazier John ThorntonPublic Domain

The length and breadth of the winepress’s outpouring is sometimes likened to the dimensions of Italy (with the Roman church in view), but not all historicist scholars take the number literally. One thousand six hundred is forty times forty, with forty being the number of judgment:

Forty times forty would be the judgment of all judgments.

At the very least, the scene is overwhelming. The enemies of God and God’s people will be completely and utterly crushed. The sea of blood will be testimony to their great number and their consummate demise in the same way as the Red Sea closing over the entirety of Pharaoh’s army before the wondering eyes of Moses and God’s redeemed people.

Frescos in the Baptistry (Padua) (Apocalypse) | By Giusto de MenabuoiPublic Domain


Jesus sitting on the cloud is not the same thing as Jesus returning in the clouds.

This is the Lord presiding over the judgment of Jerusalem.

Two Harvests

Ingathering of Christians

Some agree with the interpretation there are two harvests, one of the righteous and one of the wicked. The first ingathering may refer to Christians who fled Jerusalem before Titus tightened his siege. Jesus spoke of this harvest when He said,

“Let both of them grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Jesus, Matthew 13:30 (NRSV)

Preterist commentators see the destruction of Jerusalem and John’s description of these harvests as fulfilment of Jesus’s prophecy—reading Jesus’s harvest as that of the “land,” meaning Palestine, rather than of the whole “earth.” (γῆ | can mean “earth,” “world,” “soil” “land” as opposed to water, “the ground,” or “a region, country.”)

“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 

Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

Matthew 24:30-34 (NRSV, emphases mine)

The angel commanding Jesus to reap represents the church obeying Jesus’s command, “therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Gebhard Fugel (1863-1939): Bilder zur Apokalypse (1933) Mit der Apokalypse hat sich Fugel immer wieder beschäftigt. Zwischen 1917 und 1933 | By Gebhard FugelPublic Domain

Destruction of Jerusalem

The second harvest aptly describes the slaughter that took place when Rome finally overran Jerusalem. Not just clusters of grapes are reaped, but rather the whole vine ends up in the winepress.

The winepress itself is outside the city just as sin-offerings and criminals were dealt with outside the city’s boundaries. This is a fitting justice, for just as the religious authorities and temple elite had rejected God the Son, and consigned Him to be crucified on Golgotha, outside Jerusalem’s gates, so now God would crush them in the winepress of God’s wrath outside the holy city.

For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp.  Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured.

Hebrews 13:11-13 (NRSV)

Of particular note is the similarity in language with the prophet Jeremiah’s lament of God’s judgment on Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.

The Lord has rejected
    all my warriors in the midst of me;
he proclaimed a time against me
    to crush my young men;
the Lord has trodden as in a winepress
    the virgin daughter Judah.

Lamentations 1:15 (NRSV, emphasis mine)

The dimensions of this vast tributary of blood neatly fits the land of Israel, depicting the whole as judged, and is shudderingly close to Josephus’s eyewitness account of what happened.

By Московская старообрядческая книгопечатня 1909 г., с древлеписьменной рукописи первой половины XVII в. – Public Domain

“They were every where slain, and every where beaten. And as for a great part of the people, they were weak, and without arms, and had their throats cut wherever they were caught. Now round about the altar lay dead bodies, heaped one upon another; as at the steps going up to it, ran a great quantity of their blood: whither also the dead bodies that were slain above [on the altar] fell down.

“… they ran every one through whom they met with; and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies; and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed, that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men’s blood.”

Flavius Josephus(c. 37 – 100 CE), Of the War—Book VI, Chapter 4, part 6 and Chapter 8, part 5

Only Judgment

Others position both harvests as judgment against those who have rejected God and persecuted Christians. This whole section focuses on the dragon and its dangerous creatures, so it makes sense the judgment scene would be about them as well.

BAL12738 Revelations 14:14 The Reaper, Vision of Armageddon, from the Luther Bible, c.1530 (coloured woodcut) by German School, (16th century); Bible Society, London, UK; German, out of copyright | By collective – bridgemanimagesIMAGE number BAL12738, Public Domain

The four perspectives taken from Revelation: Four Views A Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg

Leave a Reply