THE HARVEST TO COME
Rev 14:13-16 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them. And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in Thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for Thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. (Also See Rev. 14:15-20)
Verse 12 closed the lesson text of the preceding study, and gave us a hint about the symbolic and prophetic vision seen, heard, and recorded by the apostle John in the lesson text. No doubt, the harvest, symbolically viewed by the apostle John, and recorded in verses 13 through 20, refer to Judgment Day. But before seeing this particular vision, John writes that he heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write. We are not told the source of this voice but it most certainly came directly from God, or from one given His authority. The words John was to record were: Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them. This statement, coming from the word of God, assures us that not all people that die will receive a blessed reward, only those who die in the Lord. Realizing this, it seems that every person in the world would desire to find the scriptural way enter into the Lord that they may, at the close of life, die in the Lord. Romans 6:3 tells us the only way possible to do this while alive on earth: Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Onlyh baptism, which follows hearing and believing in God's plan of salvation through Christ Jesus, repenting of one's past sins, and confessing Jesus to be the Son of God and the promised Savior, puts one in the Lord. There is no other way!
Being found in Christ Jesus, and having lived an obedient life, one can rest from their labors, that is, the wearisome toils of life - the tribulations and persecutions involved in leading a Christian life. Being freed from such labors, one will be able to face the human pain of death knowing eternal salvation will be their final reward. And at death, this scripture tells each man and woman in Christ, that their works do follow them. What a wonderful lesson this verse teaches us. It is a lesson that everyone desiring an eternal home in heaven must, learn. What is the meaning of this inspired scripture, which tells us that, after death, our "works" will follow us? This raises another question: to where will our works follow us?
The only place the soul of mankind can go after death is before the throne of God and Christ Jesus for judgment. It is here that our works will follow us, both good works that are laid up as treasures in heaven, that will testify on our behalf, as well as the evil works we have done, that have not been forgiven, will condemn us. After death gold, silver, and other forms of wealth will mean nothing; fame, honor and other things that have gratified our human senses will have no merit. Only the testimony of our works, whether good or bad, will be allowed in God's court of eternal justice. On their testimony alone, our final judgment depends. Sure, there will be many that would like to have family, friends, neighbors, and fellow Christians testify on our behalf, but this is not possible. Those that are Christians can point to our obedience to God that culminated in baptism into the body of Christ, as well as being added to the Christ's church by Him. These, then, are the blessed ...which die in the Lord. It was by their unwavering faith that these Christians were bought to the foot of the cross of Calvary.
Surely this fact should bring shouts of approval before the throne of God. Indeed, these acts of obedience are necessary; however, this verse tells us that these acts of faith alone will not be sufficient in the eyes of God. To be granted entry into heaven's eternal abode, our faith must have resulted in unselfish, compassionate works. These works must come willingly, and charitably, using our God-given blessings, talents and abilities, as well as our years on earth, to their fullest extent. To be acceptable in the sight of God, the works accomplished during our sojourn here on earth must demonstrate our love for God, by our works of love for our fellow man. They must also promote the cause of Christ and bring glory and honor to God. To all that desire and strive for eternal life in heaven, we need good works to testify on our behalf before God and Christ Jesus on Judgment Day. To those that fail this earthly test are assured by the teaching of these few verses of God's Holy Will, that the lack of sufficient, charitable, good works, or works of evil that have not been forgiven, will result in eternal condemnation.
John continues to record his vision by saying: I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. Because this was a vision from heaven, John did not say he physically saw Jesus Christ, the Son of Man. Rather, he said he witnessed a symbolic representation like unto the Son of man, and He was seated upon a white cloud. Seeing Jesus appearing in, ascending from, being carried away by, or seated upon clouds is a common characteristic associated with Jesus (See Matt. 17:5, 24:30, 26:64, 34:30; Acts 1:9; 1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 1:7). Certainly John knew this image, having the likeness of the Son of man, resented Jesus, because this is the appellation Jesus chose to identify Himself on numerous occasions, such as in Matthew 8:20, and many other texts found in the four gospels. The crown on His head assured John that this image was the Lord Jesus, who ascended into heaven to be seated on His throne at the right hand of God. In the hand of Jesus John saw a sharp sickle, a scythe-shaped tool used to harvest grain.
The use of this farm implement is indicated by the title of this lesson, The Harvest To Come. Continuing in verse 15, John introduces another angel, who came out of the temple, known to be the dwelling place of God during the Jewish Dispensation. (W)ith a loud voice the angel cried out to Jesus, as He sat on the cloud, saying, Thrust in Thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for Thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. This is not a directive from the angel, but was a commandment that came directly from God and delivered to Jesus by this angelic messenger. The New Testament "seed" had been established by Christ Jesus. It was originally planted by His Holy Spirit-inspired apostles on the Day of Pentecost, and had been cultivated by them, as well as those whom they sent to preach the gospel of salvation throughout the world. This spiritual crop belonged to our Savior, the Son of God. It was now ripe and ready for harvest. He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
Practically all bible scholars agree that the vision, found in verses 13 through 16, is a symbolic prophecy of Judgment Day. And the earth, "harvested" by Christ Jesus, prophetically refers to the men and women who are, undoubtedly His blessed followers. They are the faithful, obedient children of God that are to be granted eternal salvation. Some students of God's Word have the opinion that these verses describe the judgment of the righteous, while the following verses 17 through 20 describe a second judgment of the wicked. Futuristic-minded individuals, especially, but also restorationists, have a problem with this passage since both rely primarily on a literal interpretation of the Revelation letter. Some scholars contend that there will be two separate, distinct judgments taking place at different times. However, when all scriptures are considered, regarding the end of time and Judgment Day, it is very difficult to argue the point that the righteous will be gathered first and the sinful will, at a later time, receive their just reward. This text indicates there will only one harvest - only one Judgment Day, not Judgment Days.
Having foretold the harvesting of the saints from his heavenly vision, John now relates, in verses 17 through 20, the symbolism depicting the gathering, and the judgment of the wicked that have rejected the Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus, preferring the ways of Satan and his followers. As John's vision continues he sees another angel coming from the presence of God, as represented by the temple which is in heaven. The sharp sickle used, according to verse 14, was also brought forth by this angel, but it was not used by him. Instead, another angel come out from the altar, which had power over fire. The altar stood in front of the temple, and upon it, fires were made and various sacrifices were burned. Here the angel of the altar is represented as having power over fire. The fire on the altar has always been known to consume the sacrifices placed upon it, and the consuming fire has always been an emblem of punishment and destruction. This angel, having come from the altar, cried out to the angel having 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. Symbolically, the ripe grapes represent the evil world of unrepentant, sinful mankind. The time had come for the ingathering of all evil men and women of the world. Symbolically, Judgment Day for the world had come. As previously represented, it was on this same day that righteous men and women of the world were gathered in by Christ Jesus, the Son of man (Vss. 13,14). Following this, unrighteous mankind was also gathered in just as ripe grapes were harvested and cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God. Like grapes trodden under foot to release their juice, so the disobedient will be crushed under the weight of God's wrathful punishment and destruction.
Just as grapes were trodden in winepresses located within vineyards, and outside cities, so the symbolic wrath of God will take place without the city. The reference here is to the holy city of Jerusalem where the temple was found, and in which God dwelt during the Jewish dispensation. In the Christian dispensation, the kingdom of Christ, His church, is represented by the temple, Then we must assume that God's wrathful judgment against the unrighteous will be made outside this symbolic temple of God, which is the body of Christ. This seems to be the truth of this verse since the unsaved, during their life on earth, have rejected Christ Jesus as their Savior, and lived unacceptably in the sight of God. And from the great winepress of the wrath of God, John saw the pressed juice of these grapes run out freely and abundantly. The grapes here symbolically represent sinful mankind, and the grape juice symbolizes the human blood of all unsaved men and women of the world justly trodden out in God's wrathful vengeance. Since we are assured that few will be saved and many will be lost (Luke 13:22-23), we can understand the meaning found in verse 20, which reads: and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs. The amount of blood referred to here indicates that coming from innumerable multitudes of sinful men and women that will experience the wrath of God in this symbolic slaughter. Using the dimensions noted here, this symbolic lake of blood would be approximately five feet deep and cover an area of two hundred square miles.
It seems that this entire symbolic description of Judgment Day was designed by God, sent to John in a heavenly vision, and recorded by him, in order for it to be read by Christians throughout the world, and in all ages of the world. Certainly it would cheer the hearts, and revive the hopes, of recompense for the members of the church of Christ during the Roman persecution that lasted 1,260 years. By the same token, the Godly justice that is promised in the harvest to come, that is, Judgment Day, should always sustain the hope of eternal salvation for God's faithful children of all ages.