Monday, July 24, 2017
Then I saw a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was someone like the Son of Man. He had a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came from the Temple and shouted to the one sitting on the cloud, “Swing the sickle, for the time of harvest has come; the crop on earth is ripe.” So the one sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the whole earth was harvested. After that, another angel came from the Temple in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel, who had power to destroy with fire, came from the altar. He shouted to the angel with the sharp sickle, “Swing your sickle now to gather the clusters of grapes from the vines of the earth, for they are ripe for judgment.” So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress of God’s wrath. The grapes were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle. Revelation 14:14-20(NLT)
A favorite in many churches, especially on Independence Day is The Battle Hymn of the Republic. On such days I have seen on the faces of many a worshipper, waves of patriotic nostalgia as we sing Julia Ward Howe’s inspiring hymn:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
he is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
he hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword;
his truth is marching on.[ii]
It must be that the patriotic thoughts accompanying those verses are visions of a mighty marching American army vanquishing all enemies, solidifying America as supreme authority in the world. It’s hard to not have a puffed-up chest over such notions.
But the song isn’t about American victories; the hymn is about a blood river, 180 miles long, and deep as the height of a standing horse’s jaw bone. The song is about a sickle harvesting the lives of all human beings in the judgment of God…some to everlasting fellowship with their Creator, and the rest squeezed in the winepress of God’s judgment, resulting in everlasting condemnation in Hell.
The modern (and foolish) picture of that kind of preaching is caricature; skeptics give the eye-roll treatment to any kind of end-times talk these days. But, then, God has always had some of His creatures who didn’t believe, and didn’t behave. In the long run, it is not what humans believe or ridicule as fable which matters; rather it is what God has decreed will happen – that will happen!
This part of Revelation’s prophecy about the final judgment time on earth is particularly chilling to the bone. To tell you the truth, I don’t feel patriotic when I sing Ward’s hymn; I do not want to stand up and wave an American flag. Rather, I feel a sense of forebode in my spirit that wants to cry-out to anyone who will listen, come to the altar, reject sin in every way, and turn their your life towards the mercy seat of God’s love. That is the only place of safety against the Day of Judgment.
Whether a person is a skeptic or saint there is nothing that stops the truth from marching on.
[ii] Battle Hymn of the Republic, Julia Ward Howe, 1861, (United Methodist Hymnal, Nashville, UMC Publishing House, 1989, p.717)