Trampling Out the Grapes of Wrath
A YOUNG man, a vigorous active participant in athletics, noticed one day that he had a feeling of tiredness. This was a new experience for him, for heretofore he had always been full of energy. As the days went on this became more and more noticeable. Attributing it to a certain lack of something in his system, he began to take vitamins. This seemed to help a little but he noticed later on that not only did he still have a rather exhausted feeling at times but he knew he was also losing weight. Mildly alarmed, he visited his doctor, who gave him a routine examination and prescribed more rest and a tonic. The symptoms continued to persist and the man went to several doctors and was given several different forms of treatment, but his weight loss continued and he began to be really sick. Nothing he tried seemed to give anything more than a slight, temporary help. Finally he was admitted to a complete examination, which included X rays and a series of other tests. On returning to the clinic he could sense something serious as he was ushered into the doctor’s office, where the dreadful news was broken to him: the tests revealed that he had cancer. He had progressed to the point, said the doctor, that a serious operation would be required. The success of the operation depended upon the extent to which the cancer could be removed. The operation would succeed if every last bit of the tentacles of the cancer could be cut out. The operation would be serious and trialsome, but it was urgent and absolutely imperative for survival.
The world today is like the young man. It is sick. Everywhere hatred, fear, distrust, distress and suspicion stalk. Blame for the condition is placed sometimes on individuals such as dictators, on ideologies such as communism or capitalism. Likewise, different individuals, especially political leaders, are looked to as the remedy. Some men devote their lives to causes and movements that they believe will cure the world of its deadly malady. But these people do not see the world as God, its Creator, sees it and they overlook one very important fact, of which his Word the Bible informs us. That is, that there is a malignant growth in the earth, the tentacles of which reach out and affect every feature of mankind’s activity. Until it is rooted out, including every last vestige of its tentacles, mankind cannot have a condition of health spiritually, mentally and morally, nor the peace and happy relationships with one another that all honesthearted persons desire.
The Bible describes the thing causing the sickness in the earth as a vine, rooted in the earth and producing a corrupt fruitage that has resulted in the oppression of mankind and has made the earth very sick. It shows that until this vine is cut down and threshed and trampled out thoroughly so that it can no more take root in the earth, the treatments given for earth’s sickness, including all the various movements, ideologies and efforts will be to no avail. What is this vine? When was it planted? What fruitage does it produce? When and how will it be cut down and trampled out? It is important for us to know the answers to these questions so as to know how to direct our energies and pattern our lives, for, otherwise, all efforts will be directed aimlessly and will result in disappointment and frustration, with our life’s energies wasted on lost causes.
BEYOND MAN’S POWER
But you may say, Cannot man deal with this vine of the earth and cut it down? No! for in the book of Revelation Jesus Christ gave the apostle John a preview of things to come in our time—the harvesting of the earth, the gathering of the true worshipers of God to a place of God’s favor and protection and the destruction of the “vine of the earth”—and revealed that the immensity of the job is such that only mighty angelic creatures serving under Christ’s direction can handle it.
Revelation, chapter 14, depicts a work being done by angels under Christ Jesus during this time of the end. It states (Re 14 vss. 17, 18): “And still another angel [the fifth one in this series] emerged from the temple sanctuary that is in heaven [therefore a worshiper of Jehovah as God], he, too, having a sharp sickle. And still another angel [the sixth] emerged from the altar and he had authority over the fire. And he called out with a loud voice to the one that had the sharp sickle, saying: ‘Put your sharp sickle in and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, because its grapes have become ripe.’”
SYMBOLIC USE OF THE WORD “VINE”
What this “vine of the earth” is can be understood by examining other scriptures where a vine is used in a symbolic sense. God organized Israel into a nation, gave them a government and planted them in the land of Palestine. He says at Jeremiah 2:21: “And as for me, I had planted you as a choice red vine, all of it a true seed. So how have you been changed toward me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine?” At Isaiah 5:7, he says: “For the vineyard of Jehovah of armies is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the plantation of which he was fond. And he kept hoping for judgment, but, look! the breaking of law; for righteousness, but, look! an outcry.” Here the nation of Israel was considered as Jehovah’s vine and it was planted right and began to be good but finally turned out to produce bad fruitage. The nation became very sick spiritually and morally. When Jesus came to earth this vine produced such corrupt fruit that its leaders and many of its people were moved to destroy him. Jesus began gathering out those who would become his spiritual brothers and he spoke of himself as a vine and the ones making up spiritual Israel, the 144,000 spiritual Israelites, as branches in it. This vine was to be composed of the “little flock” to whom it was the Father’s good pleasure to give the kingdom of God. So this “true vine” is the nation of spiritual Israel that produces the fruits of the kingdom of God.—John 15:1-8; Luke 12:32; Matt. 21:43.
Now the fruitage this good vine produces is listed at Galatians 5:22, 23, namely, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness and self-control. These things work to the good of all who come into contact with the true, spiritual vine. This vine was planted by Jehovah God in the first century and, being a spiritual vine, will constitute the kingdom of God, ruling from heaven. It will bring blessings of life and everlasting happiness to the peoples of the earth.
FRUITAGE OF THE “VINE OF THE EARTH”
The “vine of the earth,” which is to be cut down by God’s angels, must be something opposed to Jehovah God and, therefore, must be a product of his enemy Satan the Devil. It has to be cut down because the fruitage it produces is bad. We know that Satan the Devil is the god and ruler of the worldly kingdoms and it is from Satan that these kingdoms get their power, thrones and great authority. (Rev. 13:1, 2; Matt. 4:8, 9; Luke 4:5, 6; John 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4) These nations belong to Satan just as Israel belonged to Jehovah God. Therefore, the “vine of the earth” is the Devil’s visible system of government over mankind. It was planted by means of Nimrod the mighty hunter twenty-two centuries before the Common Era. It has always been opposed to God and has produced much fruit.
There is a reason why the fruit of the “vine of the earth” is bad in the extreme. It is this: In producing its fruit the vine has been aided, yes, goaded by Babylon the Great, which reigns as a great false religious empire over all the kingdoms under Satan. (Rev. 17:1-5; Re chap. 18) Therefore, all its fruitage is of the most corrupt kind, against God and very degrading, resulting in much oppression of the people. Its fruitage is described in Galatians 5:19-21, as follows: fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hatred, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. So this vine has produced the fruitage of “all the kingdoms of the world” and its fruitage has resulted in making the earth drunk with devastating wars, oppressions, fear, crime, hatred, strifes and murders. Millions have gone into their graves in an untimely death because of the selfish, greedy ambitions of vicious rulers in all the seven world powers to date. The ambitions of men like Hitler and others for world domination have dealt a terrible toll, increasing the sickness that the malignant vine promotes.
God has let this vine grow, especially until the end of the Gentile Times in 1914, because he did not interfere with earth’s governments, to unseat them, during his allotted time allowance for them. But now is the judgment time and he is harvesting those who will come to his side, favor and protection. Then through his mighty angels he will turn his attention to the vine of the earth. Certainly in all the centuries it has had, it has produced an abundant load of clusters and its grapes are certainly ripe and ready for trampling. Wickedness today has come to the full.
The sixth angel, who calls for the “vine of the earth” to be cut down, emerges from the altar where the sacrificial fire was kept burning. This angel would therefore be well acquainted with the activities of the 144,000 spiritual brothers of Christ, who during their course on earth have offered up sacrifices of praise and good works to God and have done so under the greatest persecution, suffering and martyrdom from those who drink the fruitage of the “vine of the earth.” The angel is coming to their help by ordering the cutting down of this vine. He pictures, therefore, those angels who are “spirits for public service, sent forth to minister for those who are going to inherit salvation.” (Heb. 1:14; 13:12-16) These angels in directing and ministering to God’s servants on earth will not order the earthly servants to cut it down, but they do direct these earthly servants in publishing advance notice to the world that the vine will soon be cut down.
The fifth angel with the sickle takes action against the vine: “And the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and he hurled it into the great wine press of the anger of God.” Being hurled into the winepress to have its grapes thoroughly trampled out, there will be no chance that this vine once cut down will take root again and disturb mankind with its death-dealing fruit. What a tremendous winepress it will take to tread out all the nations and kingdoms of this world! In the prophecy of Joel (3:9-14) the valley of Jehoshaphat outside of Jerusalem is used as a symbol of the place where all the nations fighting against Jehovah will be trodden down and annihilated. The winepress of Revelation is bigger even than this valley, for the account goes on to say: “And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out of the wine press as high up as the bridles of the horses, for a distance of a thousand six hundred furlongs [two hundred miles].”—Rev. 14:20.
The tremendous size of the winepress emphasizes the scope of the destruction of the vine of the Devil’s system of political government over mankind. The whole earth will actually be the scene of the battle of Armageddon. In Isaiah 63:3-6 Jehovah says: “The wine trough I have trodden by myself, while there was no man with me from the peoples. And I kept treading them in my anger, and I kept trampling them down in my rage. And their spurting blood kept spattering upon my garments, and all my clothing I have polluted. For the day of vengeance is in my heart, and the very year of my repurchased ones has come. And I kept looking, but there was no helper; and I began to show myself astonished, but there was no one offering support. So my arm furnished me salvation, and my rage was what supported me. And I kept stamping down peoples in my anger, and I proceeded to make them drunk with my rage, and to bring down to the earth their spurting blood.”
The winepress, therefore, evidently symbolizes a condition, a cornered, trapped condition into which Almighty God by means of his Field Marshall Jesus Christ maneuvers his enemy forces. It will be a time when the measure of their guiltiness reaches its fullness. Jehovah knows how to reserve the ungodly until the day of judgment to be punished and so they will be caught “red-handed,” as it were, and where their guilt is so obvious that there can be no question whatsoever that they fully deserve their destruction. He gives time allowance for the grapes producing wrath to come to full ripeness. So it comes upon them at just the right point of time and circumstances and God’s winepress is big enough and is arranged and equipped perfectly to catch all and allow escape for not one of them.—2 Pet. 2:9.
THE GRAPES THOROUGHLY TRAMPLED
In this great symbolic winepress Jehovah’s tremendous war organization of his holy angels under the lead of his crowned king Jesus Christ will do the treading and will vent God’s anger on the vine. No one of Jehovah’s witnesses will have any part in the treading. It is like the attack threatening King Jehoshaphat by Moab, Ammon and Mount Seir in ancient times, in which God said: “You will not need to fight in this instance. Take your position, stand still and see the salvation of Jehovah in your behalf.” (2 Chron. 20:17) The treading of the vine will be done, not by human feet, but by horses’ hoofs. In the Bible horses are a symbol of war. It is God’s war. It will be the most tremendous destruction the earth has ever witnessed because the vine is so big and loaded with grapes. The earth is filled with the violence caused by the wine they produce. The blood of the crushed grapes comes out to as high up as the bridles of the horses.
The war described at Revelation 14 as a treading is pictured at Daniel 2:44, 45 as the crushing of all the worldly nations and kingdoms by the rocklike kingdom of God. Daniel 12:1, 4 and Matthew 24:21, 22 say it is a time of distress and tribulation such as the nations and peoples have never known since this world began and the like of which will never take place again. That Jesus Christ will be in the fight and will be taking the lead is shown in Revelation 19:11-16, where he is spoken of as the leader of the armies in heaven who are on horses and as the one treading out the press of the wine of the wrath of the Almighty.
So we can be sure that Jehovah God will do a thorough work through his enthroned king Jesus Christ in trampling out every vestige of the “vine of the earth.” This growth that has made the earth sick will have not even a trace of its tentacles left to cause uneasiness and fear to those peoples of earth who now take God’s warning seriously. What a fine thing it will be to survive through that time! Only by Jehovah’s protection can it be done. Joel’s prophecy, after foretelling the treading of the nations in the winepress, says: “And out of Zion Jehovah himself will roar, and out of Jerusalem he will give forth his voice. And heaven and earth certainly will rock; but Jehovah will be a refuge for his people, and a fortress for the sons of Israel. And you people will have to know that I am Jehovah your God, residing in Zion my holy mountain.” (Joel 3:16, 17) This means their surviving without dying into his new order of things.
A cancer operation is difficult and dangerous, providing a time of trial and tribulation for the patient, yet if the cancer can be removed completely it is a cause for rejoicing on the part of the patient that is able to come through the operation successfully. Just so it will be a difficult time unparalleled in history when the “vine of the earth” is cut down and trampled. But it will be a cause for rejoicing for earth’s inhabitants when the “vine of the earth” is gone and when God’s judgments fill the earth. Then the abundant fruitage of the true Kingdom vine will enable earth’s inhabitants to practice righteousness and will bring them life and peace. Jehovah’s witnesses are working hard now to see that honest-hearted people realize the seriousness of the situation and take the necessary steps for their preservation so that they can avoid being trampled in the winepress. Sometimes the urgent warning message that they have to proclaim is not accepted readily but they continue, nevertheless, for they are doing it to save lives. Revelation goes on to point out the things they must do to reveal the dangerous conditions along with the only way of escape to everlasting happiness. We may look for succeeding issues of this magazine to discuss Revelation’s exciting fifteenth and sixteenth chapters.