Our reading from Revelation 14 is one which sounds like it could produce the script for a good horror movie and very well may be one of the reasons why someone may not want to read the book of Revelation. I’m not a fan of horror movies myself as there is enough in this life, like being a parent, to scare the living daylights out of me that I don’t need a movie to add to my fears. But the thing is, our text from Revelation, even though it could be used for a Hollywood movie … it’s an event which will happen. When it does happen … it isn’t going to be a sweet and sappy chick flick.
Listen again to reading from Revelation 14.
“I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.”
The day is coming when certain ones will be reaped, harvested, gathered together and brought to the Lord and there will be certain ones who will be reaped, harvested, gathered and brought together to suffer the wrath of God.
As I was reading through this and preparing for this morning, a movie did come to mind and no, it wasn’t a horror movie. What came to mind was a movie filled with plenty of action, adventure, and some science fiction. The movie, or movies really, which came to mind … “The Hunger Games.” Now I realize that not everyone here has seen them so let me try to set the stage up for you some.
In the movie, the nation of Panem is divided up into twelve separate districts. These twelve districts are ruled by the Capitol. As punishment for a failed revolt against the Capitol, the Hunger Games were created. Each district is forced to select two tributes, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18. These twenty-four individuals fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games until there is only one survivor.
In the movie, the selection of the two tributes is called the reaping. A representative from the Capitol randomly choses theses names. There is one bowl with the girl’s names and one bowl with the guy’s names.
As you can imagine, this is not something which is looked forwarded. It isn’t looked forwarded to by those who are between the ages of 12 and 18. It isn’t looked forward to by the parents of these teenagers. It isn’t looked forward to by the people of these districts because they know that there is a one and twenty-fourth chance that the innocent chosen teenager is going to survive and come back home. Essentially the only one looking forward to this reaping is the Capitol. One of the characters in the movie says, “The reaping is a good opportunity for the Capitol to keep tabs on the population.”
For God, the reaping of Revelation 14 is not an opportunity for Him to keep tabs on the population of earth, but it is a literal means of reaping, of harvesting, of gathering together and bringing those who believe in Him to Himself as well as sending those who don’t to a place to receive His divine wrath.
But that is then, that’s in the future … what about now? For many, the end, the end times is not something which is enjoyably discussed. There is a certain amount of fear which comes with it.
Sort of like the games in “The Hunger Games,” the uncertainty which comes with the coming of the end cause some to not look forward to it. Deep down, people are scared of the unknown. People question, especially when they know that the end of life is near … “What’s going to happen to me? Am I going to be saved?” I’ve had people confess that they have done some horrible things in their life and they weren’t sure if God could forgive them. Some people wonder if they have done enough. “Am I good enough? Have I done enough good things in my life for God to accept me? I’m not as bad as them, I’m not as bad as Hitler, but I’m not perfect either.”
In the movie, the chance of surviving the game is one in twenty-four. The Bible says in Romans 3, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). The Bible goes on to say in Romans 6, “the wages of sin is death” (6:23a). Those in the game of life who fall short of the ultimate goal of surviving … they find themselves dead. In other words, our chance of survival doesn’t even exist. There is no way we are making it out of this life alive.
In the movie The Hunger Games, the boys and girls are separated and names are placed in separate bowls. Once they reach the age of reaping, that person’s name is entered into the bowl once. The entries though are cumulative. The age of reaping is twelve, so when a possible tribute is thirteen, their name is added one more time. This continues until the age of 18, when a potential-tribute’s name is entered seven times. There are other things which can cause your name to be entered even more than just those seven times. The likelihood of one being picked only goes up.
As we stand before God, as we stand waiting for the reaping, as we wait to hear our name called to receive the ungrateful fate of death … before your name, before my name is drawn, there is a voice we hear, a voice coming from behind us … “I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!” At this, every head turns to see a single man walking up on stage. “I volunteer” Jesus says.
Revelation 14:20 says, “They were trampled in the winepress outside the city and blood flowed out of the press.” In the first century, those who were guilty of a vicious crime were executed outside of the city, away from God’s presence. Those who don’t believe at the coming of the Lord are judged outside of God’s presence.
Jesus, climbing Mount Calvary, climbing the mountain with blood flowing from his scourged back and pierced head is suspended on that cross by nails outside of the city. With blood flowing, Jesus is trampled on by those making false accusations and cursing at him. Jesus is pressed by the divine wrath of God the Father. Outside of the temple, outside of the city, outside of God’s presence, Jesus is forsaken to suffer. Forsaken to suffer the punishment which you and I truly deserve. Within himself, Jesus suffered the punishment for those guilty of sin, believers and unbelievers alike. Jesus died once for all.
“Jesus died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus volunteers so that you and I will be spared. Spared having our name read from Book of Death. Spared from having to suffer the reaping from the angel who has charge of the fire. Jesus volunteers so that you, me, and all who believe in him as their Lord and Savior will have everlasting life in God’s presence.
As those who have been spared … the coming of the reaper, the coming of the end will not be like a scene out of a horror movie. Instead it will be the ultimate and most awesome ending with the sole victor standing, living, and gathering to himself from the ends of the earth those for whom he has volunteered for. When the end comes, all will hail the power of Jesus’ name and crown him Lord of all. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.