v.12-13 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”
The saints (those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior during the Tribulation) will be required to endure the evil without compromise, even to death. Their faith will be tested especially by the mark of the beast. For by refusing to accept the mark, they will be prevented from buying or selling goods and services, will become targets for death by the government, and will become enemies even to members of their own family. It will a time of such unprecedented bloodshed and human suffering, and the patience to endure it will be a life-or-death struggle they must contend with during every moment of the Tribulation (see also—Luke 21:16-17,19).
This might explain why this is the first of only two instances in Revelation where the Holy Spirit speaks directly. An encouragement to the Tribulation saints that they will find rest in death, and His blessed assurance that their works will accompany them to heaven.
v.14-20 And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat one like the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in your sickle and reap, for the time has come for you to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled out side the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.
John now sees what I deem to be a behind-the-scenes look at heaven in spiritual preparation for the outpouring of God’s wrath with the seven bowl-judgments about to follow (Rev.15-16). I consider it behind the scenes because it appears more to set the stage for the impending judgments, rather than an event man will recognize is actually occurring.
The purpose is to “separate” and “gather”. The imagery used is that of a harvest of wheat and grapes. First, in a manner not unlike the cutting and threshing of wheat, God will separate this world’s spiritual powers of good and evil and all concerned with false religious powers. Then, like a vintage of grapes, He will gather up His own and then assemble the unholy and all evil governmental powers together for judgment (Joel 3:12-14; Matt.3:12; Matt.13:30).
Okay, let’s take a closer look.
The threshing of wheat speaks of God’s judgment of the false religious powers that have long co-existed in bitter opposition with the truth of God. Our Lord explains it best in His parable of the “wheat and tares” where He speaks of a field implanted with good seed and bad seed, later interpreted as the “sons of the kingdom” and “sons of the wicked one” co-existing in the world. Moreover, He goes on to say, whereas He will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and cast them into the furnace of fire, the righteous (elsewhere called “the precious fruit of the earth” whom God has patiently waited for; Jas.5:7), He will gather unto Himself (Matt.13:24-30; 36-43).
“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt.3:12)