The wheat harvest
Jun 17, 2016
By this time, it should be clear that Revelation 13 prophesied about the climax and end of the dominion of the beast systems at the end of the “seven times” allotted to them. Revelation 14 then sets forth the overcomers, because, as Daniel 7:21, 22 tells us, by divine decree they are the successors of the beasts and will rule the earth in the Age to come.
The beasts, however, do not understand, nor do they agree with the heavenly decree, and so they must be actively overthrown, for they refuse to step down from their positions of power. There is no hint, of course, that the overcomers themselves are called to enforce this decree by physical violence and force. God always seems to use vessels of dishonor for such purposes, while the overcomers are called to direct their actions by decrees as they bear witness to the will of the great Judge of the earth.
Gathering the First Fruits
We now come to the “reaping” theme. Before any reaping can take place, the first fruits must be offered to God in order to sanctify (or authorize) the harvest. For this reason, the overcomers are called “first fruits to God and to the Lamb” in Revelation 14:4. They are not “reaped” as part of the general harvest in the rest of the chapter. Instead, they are “gathered” in Matthew 24:30, 31,
30 and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
And so Revelation 14:14 pictures “one like a son of man” coming on “a white cloud.” The event described is a gathering of “His elect,” and for this reason the angels are sent “with a great trumpet.” The timing of the first resurrection, which includes only these “elect” (overcomers), is at the feast of Trumpets, which commemorated the construction of two silver trumpets in Numbers 10:1-4. On that occasion, according to Josephus,
“Moreover, Moses was the inventor of the form of their trumpet, which was made of silver… Two of these being made, one of them was sounded when they required the multitude to come together to congregations. When the first of them gave a signal, the heads of the tribes were to assemble, and consult about the affairs to them properly belonging; but when they gave the signal by both of them, they called the multitude together” (Antiquities of the Jews, III, xii, 6).
When Paul spoke of the resurrection of the dead in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, he said that the dead would arise “with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God.” The word for trumpet is singular, showing that this was to gather only the leaders, not the congregation as a whole. Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 15:52 Paul again speaks of the resurrection of the dead and the transformation of the living overcomers “at the last trumpet.”
Paul did not explain the difference between the first resurrection and the general resurrection, but John does so in Revelation 20, when he writes of two resurrections a thousand years apart. The point is that in Matthew 24:30, 31 Jesus spoke of a trumpet (singular) that was to be used to “gather together His elect,” that is, the overcomers who are the leaders of the congregation.
If we extend this theme beyond the scope of Revelation 14, we may identify this gathering more broadly with the barley harvest, which is the first of the harvests. John was actually seeing three distinct harvests in this chapter, dealing with three different groups of people. The barley represents the overcomers, the wheat represents the church as a whole, and the grapes represent the rest of creation. Barley is winnowed, wheat is threshed, and grapes are trodden under foot.
Each is treated in an increasingly violent manner of judgment, but the ultimate purpose is to extract that which is good for use on God’s Communion Table. In the end, God gets His unleavened bread (barley), His leavened bread (wheat), and the wine (grapes). This is the basic outline of the divine plan whereby He intends to restore His creation.
Reaping the Wheat
The reaping of spiritual “wheat” is pictured in Revelation 14:15, 16, which says,
15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
We are not told specifically what was reaped, but the next verses tell us of a second harvest of grapes. The first harvest, then, must be of wheat, which always came at the time of Pentecost.
Jesus spoke of this wheat harvest in a parable in Matthew 13:24-30. In the parable, a man “sowed good seed in his field.” (Matthew 13:24). Verse 26 tells us that it was “wheat,” and by this we know that this Kingdom parable is primarily about the church in the Age of Pentecost. (See my book, The Wheat and Asses of Pentecost.) Then the wheat field is corrupted by tares, sown by an “enemy.” The order is given to allow them both to grow together until the time of harvest when they can be distinguished by their fruit.
The tares are then removed from the wheat field before the wheat is harvested. “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:30). Jesus later explains the time of harvest, saying in verse 39, “the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.”
This is the time frame covered in Revelation 14:15, 16. When the various “beasts” have finished their allotted time to rule the earth, the time of harvest finally arrives. The poisonous tares, which appeared as counterfeit wheat in the church, will be identified and separated for judgment. Likewise, at the same time, the works of the church will also be tried by the same fire. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:13, “the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” Verse 15 says,
15 If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.
The angel mentioned in Revelation 14:15 does not appear to do any harvesting himself. Instead, he is seen calling out to the “one like a son of man” to thrust in His sickle. He is the Threshing Angel who must await the harvest before he can do his assigned task. By my own personal revelation, this is the same angel that brought judgment to Israel in 2 Samuel 24, but whose judgment was stopped (limited) by David’s hastily-built altar on the threshing floor of Arunah in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 24:16). It prophesied of the cross, where Jesus was offered as the Sacrifice for sin in order to stop the judgment.
In the time of David, the Threshing Angel stood by the threshing floor when he was told “it is enough.” Many years later, when Jesus completed His suffering on the cross—perhaps on that very location—He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Perhaps in Revelation 14:15 the Threshing Angel was still operating under that order to cease when he called out to the Son of Man to thrust in His sickle. Without the sickle, he had nothing to thresh, but he understood that his work would continue at the end of the age.
We now come to still another angel who presides over the wine press of God, depicting the grape harvest in the earth. We will cover this next time.
This is part 113 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones