Allan Beechick is a dispensationalist author, known for his book The Rapture Solution, in which he offered a unique but flawed interpretation of Luke 17:36-37.
In context, those verses refer to the glory of Jesus Christ being revealed, which applies to the whole time of the church, but Beechick reasoned that it corresponds specifically to the end of a seven-year period of tribulation, after the rapture of the church, before the Millennium. Jesus compared the events he described to the time of the flood, [Luke 17:26-27] and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, when Lot and his daughters escaped the fiery destruction that fell upon those cities. [Luke 17:28-32]
In the New Testament, those symbolic events relate to the experience of everyone who believes the Gospel. The apostle Peter compared the church’s experience throughout the present age to the period when the ark was being prepared, “when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah,” he said,
“while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” [1 Peter 3:20-21]
Just as baptism applies to Christians in every age, the preparation of the ark, representing Christ’s church, is a type that applies to the whole of the present age of the church. Both witness to the way of salvation that God has established, the ark of Noah being a type of the spiritual ark, which is the church.
Similarly, Peter viewed the experience of Lot as typical of that of all believers, who remain in the world, though they are not part of it. They are strangers and pilgrims, like the patriarchs of old. Peter referred to Lot, when he warned about false teachers who would come into the church. He said that God,
“turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:” [2 Pet. 2:6-9]
Beechick’s interpretation of Luke 17:35-37 invoked the idea that when Christ returns, all unbelievers are taken to a “winepress,” which he believes refers to a place near Jerusalem, where their bodies are crushed.
At the beginning of chapter 10 in his book, Beechick wrote,“The most terrifying ordeal for any human being, outside of hell itself—what is it? The winepress.” He continued:
I want to tell you about the winepress because it will demonstrate the harmony of the Bible by answering several puzzling questions and because it will teach us some important principles about God and our lives. Here are some of the questions we hope to answer in this chapter:
If after the tribulation “the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Luke 17:35), where is the one taken to?
If blood comes out of the winepress as high as the horse bridles for as long as 200 miles (Revelation 14:20), where does all that blood come from?
If blood flows out of the winepress beginning at Jerusalem for 200 miles, to where does the 200 miles extend?
With that much blood flowing out of the winepress, where does it empty out?
I would like to show you how the Bible answers all these questions with one harmonious story. These questions are only a sample. As we go along you will see that several other questions also find their solution as the Bible talks about the winepress.
Beechick discussed the question, where do those who are “taken” in Luke 17:35 go? He claimed they are taken to a place near Jerusalem: “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”
WHERE ARE THEY TAKEN?
In the last chapter we examined Luke 17 which says that at the end of the tribulation this will happen:
Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? (Luke 17:36–37a).
The disciples questioned, “Where?” The last chapter left this question hanging in the air and we hope now to answer the question, “Where are they taken?”
Of course, God could take them and supernaturally kill them. He could just zap them and that would be the end of them. But God has a habit of using natural means to destroy wicked people. To destroy the old world He used a flood. To destroy Sodom and Gomorrah He used fire and brimstone. I believe the end-time destruction is no exception. He will use natural means. So we ask the question, “Where are the wicked taken?”
Let’s look at Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question:
And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together (Luke 17:37).
Does Jesus’ answer tell you anything? He did not come right out and tell the disciples the whole story right away. But He did give a hint. He said that their bodies will be taken to the same place to where the eagles will gather. Where does this clue lead you? It leads me to Revelation 19:15b–18:
… He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God…. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
Where is this place? It is in the vicinity of Jerusalem because this is where the armies descend according to Zechariah 12:2,9. Yes, the armies are there with their kings and captains, and the birds will feast on their flesh, but more than that, the birds will feast on the flesh of all men. This is the place they are taken to. This is the winepress. (Also see Isaiah 34:15 and context.)
We arrived at this answer by comparing two passages. But is there a single passage which tells the whole story at once? Yes, there is. Revelation 14:19–20 says:
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. And the winepress was trodden without the city [Jerusalem], and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
This single passage combines the taking, the casting, and the location. At Christ’s return, all unbelievers from all over the globe are instantly taken and cast into the winepress just outside Jerusalem.
A serious problem with the scenario Beechick describes above is that it tends to obscure the glory of God, of whom Paul said, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” [1 Tim 2:4] Because of this, Beechick’s doctrine is opposed to the gospel, which is a promise of a blessing for all nations. His claim that all unbelievers will be killed at the return of Christ is more of a curse than a blessing. Paul said:
“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” [Gal 3:8]
Similarly, Jesus said: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” [John 12:32] In contrast, Beechick’s interpretation of the significance of the winepress is a dispensational horror-tale.
The gospel says Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all men. The gospel is good news, and a message of hope, not of doom. God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel. Paul wrote,
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” [Rom. 1:16-10]
“For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” [1 Tim. 4:10]
The everlasting gospel [Rev. 14:6-7] is for everyone, not believers only. This discredits Beechick’s interpretations.
When Christ treads the winepress will He literally stomp on men’s bodies as a treader of grapes tramples the grapes? I wouldn’t rule this out, because we already read about His personal vengeance in Isaiah 63:1-6, and we read there how the blood will be splattered all over His garment so that it looks like it was dyed red.
I do not know exactly how Christ will trample, but the Bible does give us a preview of methods of destruction He will use. He will use a sword, probably not a sword of metal because this sword comes out of His mouth instead of being held in His hand:
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God (Revelation 19:15).
For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea [Edom], and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of the Lord is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the Lord hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea (Isaiah 34:5-6).
Since the sword comes out of His mouth it probably represents the dynamic power of His spoken Word (compare Ephesians 6:17) to harness the forces of nature. He will say, “Fire,” and there will be fire:
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him (Psalm 50:3).
A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the word: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth (Psalm 97:3-5).
For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many (Isa. 66:15-17).
As the Lord tramples he will shout, “Hail,” and suddenly 125-pound stones will rain from the sky:
And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great (Revelation 16:21).
Several different metaphors are used to depict the spiritual warfare that Christ wages: fire, hail, a sacrifice of lambs and goats in Idumea; [Isa. 34:5-6] Christ trampling out his winepress; [Isa. 63:1-6] burial of the corpses of the armies of Gog and Magog, for seven months; [Ezek. 39:11-16] the great supper, at which birds are the invited guests, where men and horses and chariots are devoured; [Ezek. 39:17-20; Rev. 19:17] the sharp sword that protrudes from Christ’s mouth; [Rev. 19:21] the fire from heaven, that devours deceived people who come against the camp of the saints. [Rev. 20:9]
Peter referred to the trials which Christians endure as fire. He wrote,
“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” [1 Peter 1:7]
Paul spoke of fire as testing whether the works of men are durable.
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” [1 Cor. 3:13]
Fire also depicts the veangence of God upon those who do not know God. Paul wrote:
“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” [2 Thess. 1:7-9]
It is important to notice that the images of fire, hail, a sword that protrudes from Christ’s mouth, Christ trampling his winepress alone, the supper for the birds, and similar things are metaphors. If taken literally, as Beechick does, they lead to absurd conclusions, and contradictions. For example, how could literal birds devour the flesh of men and horses, and drink their blood, if those men and horses were all crushed together like grapes trodden in a winepress? Beechick’s idea that these are meant literally is based on a human approach, and human tradition, not the spirit of Christ. His comments, which following the tradition of dispensationalism, are like a “cloud that covers the land.” [Ezek. 38:9] They obscure the meaning of the prophecies, rather than enlighten the reader.
John says the depth of the blood that flowed from the winepress was as high as the horse bridles. It extended for 1,600 furlongs, or about 200 miles.
“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. 14:20]
Expositors have noted that the 1,600 furlongs is about the distance from the northern to the southern extremities of the promised land. Since the land of Canaan was a shadow of the “better country” of Heb. 11:16, and represents the spiritual inheritance of the saints, the winepress must be connected with interpreting God’s word. Wine is symbolic of blood in the New Covenant.
“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” [1 Cor. 11:24-26]
Contrary to the interpretation proposed by Beechick, blood flowing from the winepress is not literal, human blood.
Jesus compared his teachings to new wine, when he said:
“No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.” [Matt. 9:16-18]
I suggest the blood from the winepress is a figure, representing the spiritual interpretation of the prophecies of Scripture, that come from the Lord. Horses represent those with no understanding, whose mouths need to be bridled. [Psa. 32:9] The depth of blood from the winepress reaching the horse bridles depicts the effect of new, spiritual interpretations of prophecy; people in spiritual darkness will see the light, and those without understanding will begin to understand.
How could the men and horses who were all crushed together like grapes trodden in a winepress be literally slain by a sword protruding from the mouth of Christ? Why does the feast prepared for the birds follow the burial of the slain corpses in Ezek. 39? If the enemies of God are to be literally slain by the sword, why are they also threatened with fire from heaven, or with great hailstones? Wouldn’t it be redundant? A spiritual sword is wielded against spiritual enemies, not against flesh and blood.
Fire consumes the tares sown by an enemy amongst the wheat, which are gathered by angels from out of Christ’s kingdom, in the parable of the tares. Tares in the parable represent all things that offend.
“As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” [Matt. 13:40-43]
In Rev. 16:21, hailstones having the weight of a talent fall upon men. The true meaning of this may be quite different from that suggested by the shallow, simplistic approach of Beechick. For example, see: The great hail of Revelation 16:21; The supper of the great God