Revelation 14:15: “And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.’”
When does the rapture occur: pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation? Gill believed it was post-tribulation. Revelation 14 records three visions: (1) the Lamb with 144,000 followers; (2) angelic proclamations; and, (3) a great harvest. Gill places the timing of these events in sequential order: the first vision is just before the blowing of the 7th trumpet, the second vision is commensurate with it, and, the third vision follows it. Keep in mind, Gill believed the 6th trumpet has already been blown, and the church presently is waiting for the 7th trumpet to sound.
The Lamb and the 144,000
This first vision is yet future. Whereas the previous chapter, Revelation 13, records antichrist and his followers, Revelation 14 records the glorious Lamb—Jesus Christ—and his followers—the 144,000. Gill previously defined the 144,000 not as a precise number, but rather representative of the sum total of all elect saints in between the 6th and 7thtrumpets.1See Gill’s comments on Rev. 7:4. These saints are not defiled by Rome’s idolatrous practices. They represent the firstfruits of a glorious ingathering during the latter-day glory (discussed below). The purpose of this vision is this: The Lamb and his followers are worshiping joyfully at the impending destruction of Satan’s world system.
The Three Angels
This second vision is commensurate with the blowing of the 7th trumpet. It initiates the latter-day glory, which immediately precedes the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ. The three angels represent three sets of Gospel ministers. The first set proclaims the everlasting gospel, which ushers in the latter-day glory era. The second set proclaims the ruin of antichrist. The third set proclaims the downfall of Rome Papal.2See Gill’s comments on Rev. 14:9.
These three waves of Gospel ministers usher in the latter-day glory. Gill states it will “a swift, sudden, and universal spread” of the gospel.3See Gill’s comments on Rev. 14:6. That is, the Jewish nation will be born again at once, the Gentile saints will assist them in evangelizing the world, and a gospel surge ensues with no antichrist to hold it back. The purpose of this vision is to encourage suffering saints to keep enduring until the 7th trumpet sounds.
The Great Harvest
This third vision advances us to the glorious 2nd coming of Christ. You must understand Gill’s timeline. Once the latter-day glory begins, the antichristian nations begin converting to Christianity. When Christ returns in the clouds, he culls-out the believers, rapturing (or snatching) them from the earth unto himself in the clouds. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 states, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” Gill sees this as the great harvest.
Next, the remaining earth-dwellers will be killed and burned. Revelation 19:21 says the birds will gorge themselves on their flesh before the angel’s fire consumes them. Gill calls this the “conflagration,” when the old earth is purified by fire to prepare it for the Millennial Kingdom. Peter states, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the workd that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Pet 3:10). This is why Revelation 14:18 states the harvesting angel “has authority over fire.” Gill describes the reaping of the saints like this:
[T]his reaping of the earth is the removing of the saints out of it, not by death, but by the resurrection of them from the dead; for when Christ shall come in the clouds of heaven, and sit on the white cloud, or throne, the dead in him will rise first, and the living saints will be changed, and both will be caught up together, to meet the Lord in the air; so that the earth will be reaped, and be clear of them, and there will be none left in it but the wicked of the world.John Gill, comments on Rev. 14:16
Of course, this demands only glorified saints enter the Millennial Kingdom, which presents some complications, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Gill describes the gathering of the remaining wicked next:
[S]ince the gathering in of the Lord’s wheat at the first resurrection is designed by the harvest, it is best to understand this vintage of perdition of ungodly men by fire, at the conflagration of the world, which will be at the beginning of the thousand-years’ reign, and of the gathering of them in at the second resurrection, at the end of it, for the destruction of them in hell, soul and body.John Gill, comments on Rev. 14:17
Again, this presents complications which Gill will explore in Revelation 19 and 20. For now, though, he sees a two-step gathering of the wicked: (1) their physical death at the first resurrection (i.e., the resurrection of the saints) and (2) a thousand years later, their spiritual miseries at the second resurrection (i.e., the resurrection of the wicked) when thrown, body and soul, into the lake of fire.
Gill, here, touches on perhaps the greatest difficulty of the historic premillennialism: only glorified saints enter the Millennial Kingdom as all the wicked are destroyed in a massive bloodletting. If this be the case, then who are the nations Satan deceives after the 1,000-year Millennial Kingdom?
Gill will address this in Revelation 20. A couple of solutions have been offered. I heard John Piper suggest in a debate that God, perhaps, spares the infants and children of the wicked, and they somehow flow into the Millennial Kingdom. Over the 1,000 years, these become the nations Satan deceives. Gill, for his part, suggests the wicked souls killed at Christ’s coming are thrown into the bottomless pit with Satan. They foment with rage for 1,000 years. When Satan is released, they are released with him (in resurrected bodies of flesh), to make war against the saints. Both solutions could work, but neither completely satisfy. More to come on this in chapters 19 and 20.