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On December 13th, 2003 at 8:30pm Iraqi time, in the town of ad Dwar, Operation Red Dawn was in full swing. Mission? Find Saddam Hussein,
also dubbed “HVT1”, standing for “High Value Target Number 1”. For almost 6 months since American forces shock-and-awed its way to an easy toppling of Saddam’s regime, the ruthless former leader of Iraq had been running and hiding in his vast network of hide-outs.
But anticipation was high on December 13th at Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2, the names given to hideouts where informants tipped off the whereabouts of Saddam. When the team was about to leave – chalking the search up as a bust – a Delta Force soldier happened to give one last look around and kick aside a board lying on the ground. Jackpot. A spider-hole. Inside was $750K, a Glock, an AK-47, and the owner of these treasures: a surrendered Saddam Hussein. It was all over. The end of the line. He had finally been caught up to.
Our passage today in Revelation reveals the theme for us again that there is a day when all the evil of the world will be “caught up to”. Regarding evil in the heavens and the earth it will be said on that day, “It’s over.”
Perhaps one of the most prominent themes in Scripture, the day God comes for the wicked is warned about everywhere. Isaiah 13:11-13 says, “…..” In Matthew 13:39-42 Jesus said, “….” Second Thessalonians 1:6-9 says, “…..”
For now He is patient, working out His plans during history, giving man plenty of time to repent. But, God’s patience is not forever. It will end. And when it does, so too will all the unholy criminal activity of this world. “It’s over” God will say. Like the slamming of the door to Noah’s ark signaling the end of the ancient world’s wild rebellion, so too a day is coming when God will cut-down the fully grown evil of the world. It will be the day the Sickle Swings.
This passage comes after the 3 angels fly through the air preaching to the world. It comes before the series of 7 bowl judgments. This passage is describing the moment at the end of the age that all of history has been moving towards: the end-time judgment.
Whats going to happen at the end of the age when Jesus comes back? A lot. This section is anticipating the climax of the judgments of God. The 7 seals, the 7 trumpets, and the imminent 7 bowl judgments are executed throughout the 7 year tribulation. The grand finale is the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven visible to the whole world and His destruction of the armies of the nations in the war of Armageddon. Remember the Bible says again and again that when Jesus returns He is coming with His Father’s holy angels of heaven. They will be dispatched by Jesus when they break on this world to gather up all the wicked and bring them to their destruction. Let’s look at Seven Facts of When the Sickle Swings.
Who Swings the Sickle?
Well we have two persons swinging sickles in our passage. Notice verse 14 and verse 17 with me, “….”
Who are these two? Both of them are obviously acting on heavenly authority. Both of them are called on to reap the earth by an angel from the temple. Obviously the 2nd individual in verse 17 is an angel, but, who exactly is the 1st individual? Is he an angel? Some believe this is a picture of Jesus Christ. Here’s why:
First, clouds are always part of the picture when the Second Coming of Jesus is described in Scripture. Chapter 1 verse 7 said, “Look, He is coming with the clouds…” Daniel 7:13 says, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming on the clouds of heaven.” When on trial Jesus spoke only one time, and it got Him crucified. Matthew 26:64 records the words that sealed His death, “Yes, it is as you say [I am the Son of God, the Christ] But I say to all of you: in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Second, many believe this is Jesus because it describes the one on the cloud as “like a son of man”. Again Daniel 7:13, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming on the clouds of heaven.” In Revelation 1:13 John’s sight of Jesus is recorded with the words, “and when I turned I seven golden lampstands and among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man’”.
Third the crown is taken as an indication that Jesus is portrayed here. This is the “stephanos” crown in the Greek, the victor’s crown, the crown awarded to someone who won in some contest. Jesus certainly is winning against His enemies in this scene.
Now I however do not believe this is a picture of Jesus. I believe it is an angel. Jesus always said the harvesting would be done by His angels for one thing. Matthew 13:39-41 and 49 say, “The harvest is the end of the age and the harvesters are the angels. The Son of Man will send out His angels and they will weed out His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous.
Furthermore, in verse 15 an angel seems to command Jesus, which just simply doesn’t happen. Jesus is giving orders to angels and they execute His orders.
Another point is that we have two reaping scenes here, almost identical. In both there is a person with a sickle who is commanded by an angel from the temple to reap the wicked from the earth. I don’t think it makes sense to have Jesus tag-teaming with an angel in this activity. Which, again I remind us that Jesus is on the throne during all this not on a cloud.
Now, admittedly, the description “like a son of man” seems to be a strong indicator that Jesus is in view here. But not necessarily. The phrase “son of man” indicates the humanity of Jesus, that He was indeed part of the human race. Angels appear “human-like” at times. Read Daniel 8, 10 and 12 and the angel communicating with him is said to look like a man, and, even referred to as a man – which simply conveyed his appearance, not his nature.
Does all this matter in the end? No. If I’m right and they’re both angels swinging sickles, we can still say Jesus is swinging it because they do it on His orders. They do His bidding. Just like President Trump might send in drones and the news might say “Trump sent in the drones to Syria”, we all know He didn’t personally fly the drone from an app on his phone in between tweets. By his authority they were ordered to go in and someone at a computer in Kansas somewhere did it for him. Jesus is going to send in the “sickle”, and those angels under His authority are going to get it done on the earth for the Lord. Isn’t this what we’ve seen all this time in Revelation? The Lord commanding and the angels executing. The four horsemen were summoned and sent, the 7 angels were arrayed and ordered to blow their trumpets and cause judgments to happen.
When is the Sickle Swung?
When is the Sickle going to Swing? Let’s read verse 15 and verse 18, “…”
The simple answer is: The Sickle will Swing when its time for the Sickle to Swing. Jesus said “No man knows the day or the hour.” Only the Father knows when this day is going to happen. There’s a lot of predicting going on these days in the Church. Don’t get caught up in blood moons and harbingers and hurricanes. Don’t spend your days trying to discover the timing of Day of the Lord. We are not told when it is, but, let me say two things about the timing.
First, it is certain. “The time to reap has come” says the angel. Get that in your head, it is not going to go on endlessly as it is now. The day is coming, and, we are one day closer to it than we were yesterday.
Secondly, the Sickle will swing when things are ripe. The first angel says the earth is ripe, and the second angel says the grapes are ripe. The word ripe in the Greek means “to dry up and wither”. It is the picture of shriveling, icky fruit that is worthless for eating. It’s starting to stink. An image is pushed into our minds here: the image of a morally withered and degenerated culture. A culture that has shrivelled away from all things good and righteous, and, instead matured in all things evil and wicked. It’s not just a chronological moment on the cosmic calendar. It is a moral condition that the world is going to reach. When the world is filled out in evil in every way, the sickle will swing.
Who is the Sickle Swung at?
Question #3: Who is the sickle swung at? First of all the “earth”, notice verse 15, “…” Then notice specifically who in verses 18-19, “…”
This passage picks up on the harvesting imagery of the end-of-days judgment of God. Man’s evil is fully matured, and the reaping has come. Remember Revelation is showing us the relationship between earth and heaven, mankind and his Maker. Earth is in full rebellion against God. Man has completely rejected his Maker.
What will result when the Sickle Swings?
Read verse 19-20.
What will happen when the sickle swings? The answer? Blood. And lots of it. 1600 stadia is 180 miles. To give you an approximate idea of a 180 mile radius that is blood up to your chest all the way north to the tip of the lower penninsual, all the way east to the far side of Detroit, all the way south to Lafayette Indiana, and west all the way to Madison WI. Here we have one of the most graphic pictures of the justice of God in action. Totally devastating His enemies on earth with divine violence. The Creator is destroying His creation. This is not the first time the violent end of God’s enemies is mentioned in Scripture.
The day is coming and it will be violent for those who oppose God’s righteousness
Application #1: If you do not have a Savior, then receive Jesus today. Only He will remove you from the path of the sickle.
Application #2: If you have the Savior, then aim your life at Jesus. Grow towards being like Him. We should not live like those who are incurring God’s wrath for the way they are living.