The doom of the worshippers of the Beast – Tuesday, 34th Week in ordinary time – Revelation 14:14-19

The doom of the worshippers of the Beast – Tuesday, 34th Week in ordinary time – Revelation 14:14-19

The text of today forms the tail end of the central section of Revelation [12:1–14:20] and portrays the power of evil, represented by a dragon, in opposition to God and his people. Chapter 14 tells us that those who worship the beast (the Roman empire) will soon be doomed. God’s eternal purpose is to be fulfilled and judgment is at hand. It is for this reason that God the creator alone must be worshipped and not the Emperor.

Today’s passage, like much of revelation, seems puzzling at first. Using very graphic images, John describes the end of the world in terms of a harvest. It is a vision of gathering together the righteous and the good, followed by judgement on the wicked. The actual destruction of the wicked pagans will be treated more fully later on (19:11ff). This text is in line with what Jesus says in the Gospel about judgment day; how the sheep shall be separated from the goats.

Our reading today is based on a text from the prophet Joel based on the grain and grape harvests; “Put in the sickle for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great” (Joel 4:13)

In his vision, John, sees “one like a son of man” sitting on a cloud. The “son of man” refers to Christ and the cloud indicates a divine presence; it is God’s throne. He wears a crown of gold on his head, representing a golden wreath of victory, his victory over death and sin. In his hand, he carries a sharp sickle. The sickle, used by the Israelites for cutting grain, consisted usually of a flint or iron blade attached to a curved handle of wood or bone. The sickle is the tool for harvesting and Christ as Judge comes to reap his harvest, gathering in, first of all, the elect, those who have been faithful to his Word. The reaping of the harvest symbolizes the gathering of the elect in the final judgment.

Just as farmers harvest the crops they plant, we cannot expect to harvest good in places where we have sown evil. Our life on earth is very short. It is a time of planting and it is exactly what we plant, (the way we choose to live, the choices we make every day) that determines what the harvest of our lives would look like.

In the second part of the reading, we see another angel, also with a sharp sickle, coming out from the “temple in heaven”, the place where God has his dwelling. This angel, is “in charge of the fire”. In Jewish tradition various angels were responsible for particular aspects of the world, including wind, water and the bottomless pit. Here, fire is closely associated with the idea of judgement. Fire both destroys the bad and purifies the good.

The angel of fire left the altar where the prayers of the persecuted and martyred are carried up to God. Now judgement comes on those who made them suffer. The one with the sharp sickle is then instructed to cut and gather in all the ripe grapes which are then put into a huge winepress to be crushed. The treading of the grapes was a common symbol in the Old Testament for the carrying out of God’s judgement symbolizing the doom of the ungodly (cf. Joel 4:12–13; Is 63:1–6) that will come in Revelations 19:11–21.

In order for us not to get too attached to the imagery, we must dwell on the essence of the message itself and that message is clear; there is nothing that we do that does not have its repercussion. For every good deed that we do and for every wrong deed that we do, we shall somehow get to receive a boomerang effect later.

The theme of the final judgement is one that goes right through the texts as we approach the end of the liturgical year. It is a time for reflection on where we stand before God and before each other. These reminders are not meant to frighten us but to help us to prepare and, above all, to be ready at all times.

Compiled from several sources.

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