The parallels of God’s word define His metaphors and symbols. One thing is compared to another thing, and the symbol is defined. In Ezekiel chap. 15, God compared the people of Jerusalem to the vine tree in the forest.
6 Therefore thus saith the Lord God; As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
7 And I will set my face against them; they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them; and ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them.
8 And I will make the land desolate, because they have committed a trespass, saith the Lord God. (Ezek. 15: 6-8, YLT)
The first part of verse 6 stated the figurative metaphor, while the second half gave the equivalent definition of the figure. The comparison of Israel, Judea and Jerusalem as the Lord’s vineyard was also clear in Isaiah chap. 5.
“ 5 Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
2 And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.“ ….
7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.” (Isa. 5:1-3, 7, KJV)
The comparison is used again in Revelation and likewise positively identifies the land and region of the judgment prophesied as Judea and Jerusalem.
“17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
18 And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs. (Rev. 14:18-20, KJV)
The very plain speaking in Ezekiel’s prophesy is more obscure in Revelation. The OT shines the light on Revelation, and makes the symbols and metaphors clear. Whereas Ezekiel clearly defines the metaphor that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were the vine tree, Revelation only recalls the metaphor.
We cannot make God’s metaphors and figures mean anything we want them to mean. We have to find their original use from within the His word in the OT.
We also need to recognize that Revelation adds metaphor to metaphor within the texts. If we pay attention, and watch the parallel verses, we can identify them and understand the symbolism God used.
In Rev. 14:17, the angel with the sharp sickle came out of the temple “which is in heaven”. That the location of the temple had to be specified as being “in heaven” meant that it was distinguished from the temple that was then existing on earth. The fact that the location was mentioned confirms the existence of the earthly temple at the time this scripture was written. This is another scriptural proof text that Revelation was written before the earthly temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.
In Rev. 14:18, the second angel had power over fire. When used in prophesy, fire was the symbol of God’s judgment (Lam. 2:4), so having power over fire meant that God had given this angel the authority to carry out that judgment, which the angel further delegated to the first angel with the harvest sickle.
The vine tree in Ezekiel ch. 15 were the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In Revelation, the “clusters of the vine of the earth” included both the inhabitants of all Judea and Jerusalem. Often in the context of the judgments pronounced, the word “earth” was used in place of the people of that land as in Jer. 22:29 where God was calling to the king of Judah.
“29 O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.”
Associated with the Lord’s vineyard, the earth is understood to be Judea.
“Her grapes are fully ripe” defined “grapes” as another metaphor for the individual people living in the earth of Judea and Jerusalem. Being fully ripe meant they were ready to be harvested. Harvesting a crop, or plucking the vines meant they were ready to be consumed.
In Rev. 14:19, “the vine of the earth” are again the people of Judea and Jerusalem. The angel was to cast his harvested grapes into the “winepress of the wrath of God”. A wine press is traditionally a large barrel filled with the grapes where they would be crushed under foot to extract the juices.
The winepress of Rev. 14:19 was the same winepress which God established in Judah from Isa. 5:2 above.
As the people were the grapes, then the people of Judea and Jerusalem were going to be crushed under foot, and the juice of those grapes was the image of the blood that was going to be spilled by God’s wrath. Therefore, the winepress was the metaphor of God’s judgment and pronouncement of war against the earth of Judea and Jerusalem.
Rev. 14:20 gives us the measure of the blood crushed under the foot of the army which God sent “without the city”, or outside the city. In other words, this blood was going to be spilled before the army reached the city of Jerusalem.
The horses are the image of the army. The imagery of the amount of the blood spilled being as high as the horse bridles indicates huge losses of life. It was a full-on, no holds barred battle. The path of the battle outside the city was the blood spilled in the surrounding country side and region of Judea. The length of the battle outside Jerusalem was specified as 1600 furlongs.
The original word translated as “furlong” in the KJV is Strong’s Gr. 4712, “stadion” which means a stadium.(1) It implies a race course, thus the distance of a race course measuring 600 Greek feet, which was 1/8 of a Roman mile. A furlong equals about 660 standard English feet. Therefore, 1600 furlongs would be the equivalent of 200 miles.
Vespasian marched from Antioch south to Ptolemais on the eastern Mediterranean shore in AD 67 where he concentrated his forces with those of his son Titus for an approx. total of 60,000 Roman soldiers. He then marched inland to Galilee to put down resistance throughout all of Judea before attempting the siege at Jerusalem. His plan to subdue the will of the people via scorched-earth warfare was a bloody campaign with an estimated 100,000 people slaughtered just throughout Galilee. (2) (3) (4) (5)
The path of his campaign through Galilee, and on through Idumea and Samaria toward Jerusalem encompassed approx. 200 miles.(6) He marched through Meggido in 67 AD. By early 68 AD Vespasian had defeated all of the Jewish strongholds in the north and had isolated Jerusalem. And the imagery of the blood up to the horse’s bridles is very clear.
The first destruction of Jerusalem which Ezekiel and others prophesied happened approx. 586 BC under the Babylonian army of Nebuchadnezzar, who was called God’s servant (Jer. 27:6, 43:10). The second destruction of Jerusalem which Ezekiel’s prophesy foresaw, and which Revelation revealed was carried out by the Romans in AD 70.
“The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress.” (Lam. 1:15, KJV)
Revelation cannot be about any other destruction than the one carried out against Jerusalem in AD 70. All future tenses of this prophesy were yet to come upon that city of Jerusalem and the Judean province of ancient Rome when the book was written. The judgment was carried out in that same generation in which Christ foretold it (Matt. 23:36; 24:34). Christ told them it would be soon, and that He was coming shortly (Rev. 1:1). He told them the time was at hand (Rev. 1:3, 22:10).
We have much secular history recorded as proof of its fulfillment. Anyone trying to apply this prophesy to some future time, or some other nation, or even the current “state” of Israel is taking it out of time and place, and out of context.
The plan for man’s salvation was never the end of the world. Christ did not come to destroy the entire world. He came to save it.
(All bold emphasis is mine.)
(Updated links August 25, 2022)
1) Strong’s Gr. 4712 “stadion” – Biblehub
2)” The First Jewish Roman War…” here
3) The Success of Vespasian – here
4) “How the Romans Humiliated Jerusalem…” here
5) Visual Timeline of the War (AD 66 – 73) https://preteristarchives.org/visual-timeline-of-the-roman-jewish-war-3/
6) Vespasian’s Conquest of Galilee, Fig. 3 p. 41of “Insurgency in Ancient Times: The Jewish Revolts Against The Seleucid and Roman Empires, 166 BC – 73 AD” by LTC William Sorrels U.S. Army, https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA436236.pdf
Pompey’s Siege of Jerusalem – https://www.livius.org/articles/concept/roman-jewish-wars/
From Pompey to the Destruction of the Second Temple – https://www2.biu.ac.il/js/rennert/history_6.html