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13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”

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The Harvest and the Vintage. (a. d. 95.)

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.   14 And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.   15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.   16 And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.   17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.   18 And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.   19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.   20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

Here we have the vision of the harvest and vintage, introduced with a solemn preface. Observe,

I. The preface, v. 13. Here note, 1. Whence this prophecy about the harvest came: it came down from heaven, and not from men, and therefore it is of certain truth and great authority. 2. How it was to be preserved and published—by writing; it was to be a matter of record, that the people of God might have recourse to it for their support and comfort upon all occasions. 3. What it principally intended, and that is, to show the blessedness of all the faithful saints and servants of God, both in death and after death: Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth, &c. Here observe, (1.) The description of those that are and shall be blessed—such as die in the Lord, either die in the cause of Christ, or rather die in a state of vital union with Christ, such as are found in Christ when death comes. (2.) The demonstration of this blessedness: They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them. [1.] They are blessed in their rest; they rest from all sin, temptation, sorrow, and persecution. There the wicked cease from troubling, there the weary are at rest. [2.] They are blessed in their recompence: Their works follow them; they do not go before them as their title, or price of purchase, but follow them as their evidence of having lived and died in the Lord; and the memory of them will be pleasant, and the reward glorious, far above the merit of all their services and sufferings. [3.] They are happy in the time of their dying, when they have lived to see the cause of God reviving, the peace of the church returning, and the wrath of God falling upon their idolatrous cruel enemies. Such times are good times to die in; they have Simeon's desire: Now, Lord, let thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. And all this is ratified and confirmed by the testimony of the Spirit witnessing with their spirits and with the written word.

II. We have the vision itself, represented by a harvest and a vintage.

1. By a harvest (v. 14, 15), an emblem that sometimes signifies the cutting down of the wicked, when ripe for ruin, by the judgments of God, and sometimes the gathering in of the righteous, when ripe for heaven, by the mercy of God. This seems rather to represent God's judgments against the wicked: and here observe,

(1.) The Lord of the harvest—one so like unto the Son of man that he was the same, even the Lord Jesus, who is described, [1.] By the chariot in which he sat—a white cloud, a cloud that had a bright side turned to the church, how dark soever it might be to the wicked. [2.] By the ensign of his power: On his head was a golden crown, authority to do all that he did and whatsoever he would do. [3.] By the instrument of his providences: In his hand a sharp sickle. [4.] By the solicitations he had from the temple to perform this great work. What he did, he was desired to do by his people; and, though he was resolved to do it, he would for this thing be sought unto by them, and so it should be in return to their prayers.

(2.) The harvest-work, which is, to thrust the sickle into the corn, and reap the field. The sickle is the sword of God's justice; the field is the world; reaping is cutting the inhabitants of the earth down and carrying them off.

(3.) The harvest-time; and this is when the corn is ripe, when the measure of the sin of men is filled up, and they are ripe for destruction. The most inveterate enemies of Christ and his church are not destroyed till by their sin they are ripe for ruin, and then he will spare them no longer; he will thrust in his sickle, and the earth shall be reaped.

2. By a vintage, v. 17. Some think that these two are only different emblems of the same judgment; others that they refer to distinct events of providence before the end of all things. Observe, (1.) To whom this vintage-work was committed—to an angel, another angel that came out from the altar, that is, from the holiest of all in heaven. (2.) At whose request this vintage-work was undertaken: it was, as before, at the cry of an angel out of the temple, the ministers and churches of God on earth. (3.) The work of the vintage, which consists of two parts:—[1.] The cutting off, and gathering, the clusters of the vine, which were now ripe and ready, fully ripe, v. 18. [2.] Casting these grapes into the wine-press (v. 19); here we are told, First, What was the wine-press: it was the wrath of God, the fire of his indignation, some terrible calamity, very probably the sword, shedding the blood of the wicked. Secondly, Where was the place of the wine-press—without the city, where the army lay that came against Babylon. Thirdly, The quantity of the wine, that is, of the blood that was drawn forth by this judgment: it was, for depth, up to the horses' bridles, and, for breadth and length, a thousand and six hundred furlongs (v. 20); that is, say some, 200 Italian miles, which is thought to be the measure of the holy land, and may be meant of the patrimony of the holy see, encompassing the city of Rome. But here we are left of doubtful conjectures. Perhaps this great event has not yet had its accomplishment, but the vision is for an appointed time; and therefore, though it may seem to tarry, we are to wait for it. But who shall live when the Lord does this?