The Time of Harvest
by Eldon McNabb
Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me." He also told us, "from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." If we are to really learn about Jesus, we must hear His words, and find out what He really meant by what He said in both the Old and New Testaments. All of the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God; they are just waiting for us to rightly divide them.
In our searching to find out what the Bible really means, we will find it especially helpful if we let the Bible define its own terms. Much of the Bible is misunderstood, and many errors are being promoted among Godís people today, because of the use of catch phrases and the practice of basing doctrine on terms which cannot be found anywhere within the Holy Scriptures. So, in dealing with whatever Bible subject, I try to deal solely within the framework of Bible terminology. Some may find it to be less colorful than they would like, but we shall find it far more enlightening than some other approach.
The Holy Scriptures were written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in his own special fashion, "comparing spiritual things with spiritual." (1 Cor. 2:12,13) Likewise, they can be understood only by that same unction and with the use of what Jesus called the Key of Knowledge, in Luke 11:52. The Key of Knowledge is briefly summarized in Eccl. 3:14,15. "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." Paul used a little different phrasing in Heb. 13:8, but the connection can readily be seen.
All of the works of God which were accomplished by the ministry of Jesus and His Apostles and Prophets had already been, in the types, shadows and allegories of the Old Testament. The same is true of the works of God which are now being done, and of those which He shall yet accomplish, in the future. As John the Baptist said of Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." And John, the son of Zebadee, said, "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship (that wicked one), whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The lamb of the O. T. is become the Redeemer in the N. T
The Old Testament is a compilation of types, shadows and allegories, as well as direct prophecies of Godís intentions for the Grace Age, and beyond. Once we understand that fact, we can begin to address any Bible subject with some hope of rightly dividing it.
The words of Jesus, in Matt. 11:13, establish the matter. He said, "All the prophets and the law prophesied." Again, in Matt. 11, Jesus said of John the Baptist, What did you go out to see? "A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written." This scripture, together with others similar to it, show us that much of the work of the New Testament ministry is to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament. (Consider Heb. 10:1; Heb. 11:39,40 and Acts 13:46,47.)
There is history in the Old Testament, but it is more than a historical account. It was written in such a way that it prophesied of things which were to come in the Grace Age. Did not Jesus say that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Himself. Luke 24:44.
Go with me now to The Word of God and let us look at, and rejoice in, the revelation of "The Harvest" to come.
The mere mention of harvest brings to mind all kinds of pleasant thoughts. With the mindís eye we see succulent fresh fruits. We can almost smell the delicate, appetizing aromas. The farmer, himself, will also think of the joy of the reward of his labors. He worked hard to plant and water his crop, and now it is time for him to be rewarded for his toil.
As Christians our minds probably go to the Psalms where we are told, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Turning the soil, and sowing the seed is work, and one labors only in hope. On the other hand, harvesting is also hard work. The big difference is that the rewards are immediate.
Jesus, speaking in parables, referred to Himself as "the sower." Indeed He came as a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. But we are told that He, "for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame." Jesus is even now looking forward to the harvest, for which He has waited so long. (James 5:7) And He is thinking in the terms of John 10:16 and Eph. 4:13;-- that time in which all of His sheep shall be gathered into "one fold" and have "one shepherd," and that saying shall be fulfilled, "til we all come in the unity of the faith."
The wise man said, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. "A time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted." The time of the planting came and went, and the time of harvest is near, even at the door.
THE TIME OF HARVEST
The Word of God reached me when I was a boy, ten years of age. The seed of His word sprang up in my heart, and I was wonderfully born of the Spirit of God. I quickly became an avid student of the Holy Scriptures. By the time I reached my twenties I had read the Bible through, several times. I not only read, but studied and pondered its meaning.
I found that even some things which, on the surface, seemed to be obvious, werenít really all that obvious. The parables which Jesusí told, for instance, werenít told for the purpose of teaching us moral stories. There are some moral lessons which may be learned from some of them, but it is not because that was His primary point.
A few years ago I heard a very prominent and influential minister read Matt. 13:10,11, over the radio. I marveled as he proceeded to explain that this passage meant Jesus spoke in parables so that even little children could understand. In effect that minister told us Jesus meant exactly the opposite of what He said.
But let us consider the reason Jesus Himself gave for speaking to the people in parables. "The disciples came and said unto Him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." (Matt. 13:10-13) It is interesting that Jesus made this statement between telling the "Parable of the Sower" and the "Parable of the Tares." Apparently these two parables arenít as obvious as we might want to think.
Jesus was referring to three categories of believers when He said, "(that which fell on good ground) brought forth some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold." All of these three fruitful grains fell on good ground, but their fruit was not all the same. This concept is also referred to in Isa. 28:25, but there, God used different kinds of grain to represent different Christians. Wherefore, we know that God views different Christians in different ways, so much so that, in the resurrection, they will have different rewards and somewhat different bodies, as Paul explained in 1 Cor. 15:35-42. He said, "It may chance of wheat or some other grain. And further, "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead."
Perhaps Paul was thinking of the prophecy in Dan. 12:2,3. "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever." Some Christians will doubtless have much greater rewards than others. Their respective glories being comparable to the difference between the sun and the stars.
A while after Jesus had finished His session of parables, His disciples came unto Him privately saying, "Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field." I find their choice of title most interesting. By contrast, most Christians seem to think of it more as a parable about something they call "The Rapture." We know, when Jesus comes, the dead in Christ shall rise first, but in this parable, it is the children of the wicked one who are gathered first.
Between his account of Jesusí public teaching session, and His private discussion with His disciples, Matthew made an important observation. He said, "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world." (Matt. 13:34-35; Psa. 78:2.) Therefore the parables which Jesus told are Old Testament types and shadows expressed again, in a little different way.
"The Parable of the Tares"
This parable, with its interpretation, has some very interesting aspects. The sower is Jesus; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy Ö is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the tares are gathered first, etc. "As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. Jesus was telling us that all of these things will happen during that time which is referred to, throughout the Holy Scriptures, as "the time of harvest."
The householder said, "In the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares,Ö" Most Christians are fully aware that, at the coming of Jesus, "The dead in Christ shall rise first." Therefore, this harvest cannot be the coming of Jesus. So what is this Time of Harvest? It is the last great work of God before our Savior becomes our King. It is the end of the sixth millennial "day," and God will gather the Elect together. With them, He shall form the bride for the second Adam, just as, at the end of the sixth day of the creation, He formed Eve for the first Adam.
One thing is readily understandable from the "Parable of the Tares." The harvest is not a single event, but a series of events which occur over a period of time. Therefore, when we read about Harvest in the Word of God, we need to ask the question, "What is God saying to us about the end of the world?"
Up until the time of Christ, God kept the revelation of harvest a secret. It was hidden in things like the story of Samson. Samson went to visit his wife, and because of her fatherís refusal to allow her to return to him, he sent the three hundred foxes to burn up the shocks (sheaves) and standing corn of the Philistines "in the time of Wheat Harvest."
We find reference to this allegory in Rev. 17:16. There He combined the prophetic intent of the death of Samsonís wife with the death of Jezebel, and projected it to a yet future time. He said, "These (ten horns) Ö shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire." Thus shall be fulfilled Jer. 50:16. The Lord shall "cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest." All of this must occur during the time in which God is gathering the Christians together into what He calls His barn.
The story of Ruth also holds part of the key to Wheat Harvest, and tells us much about Barley Harvest. As we are told, she "gleaned unto the end of Barley Harvest and of Wheat Harvest." (Ruth 2:23) Ruth was a Gentile from the land of Moab, and is an allegory of a group of Gentile Christians. There are two phases of their work. First The Elect will be gathered "in the unity of the faith," after which "The Children of the Kingdom" shall be gathered together into "one fold." (John 10:16; Ezek. 34:11-24)
In Isaiah 28:25, there is a prophecy which caused me to think more deeply about what Jesus meant when He referred to the children of the kingdom as wheat. The prophet said of the plowman, "Doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rye in their place?"
I wondered for years what these other grains could refer to. If the wheat represents Christians, then what does the barley represent, or the rye, for that matter? Apparently the plowman in Isaiah is as the householder in Jesusí parable. He sowed good seed. Therefore, these grains, in Isaiah 28, must also each represent different categories of Christians.
One day, in the Spring of 1962, as I sat in church ready to step up to the pulpit, a couple was singing us a special song. Suddenly a wonderful thing happened. A voice spoke to me. It was as if a tall man were standing about three feet to my left. He said, "Preach Barley Harvest." I turned toward where the voice came from, but saw nothing. I spoke softly in that direction, "But, Lord, I donít even know what Barley Harvest is." Then I thought, "Well, Iíll look it up in the Concordance." I did, and immediately I understood the meaning of Barley Harvest. When they finished their song I proceeded to preach it to my congregation. About three weeks later, after extensive study, I preached a message on Wheat Harvest.
Jesus has revealed some of the mystery of The Harvest to us in the Parable of the Tares. He makes the point that Christianity has become a mixture of the true children of God and the children of the wicked one, much as it was before the flood. Therefore, two major things must happen. There must first be a "gathering together of the children of the wicked one, out from among the true followers of Christ. Afterward there will be a gathering together of the true believers.
In 1910, The World Missionary Conference, in Edinburgh, Scotland, marked the beginning of modern ecumenism. However, it was 1962, within a few days of when The Lord told me to "Preach Barley Harvest," that Vatican II opened in Saint Peterís Basilica in Rome. That event marked the beginning of the harvest of the tares.
I believe that God told me to preach Barley Harvest because it is the key to understanding the entire revelation of The Harvest. The time of harvest was beginning, and God revealed to me what He was doing, just as He said He would do, in Amos 3:7. "God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets." I have heard people say, "I donít believe God talks to anyone that way in our day." I would ask them, "When did God change?" In fact, God continued to speak to His prophets in the New Testament, Holy Ghost baptized, era just as He had in the time of the Old Testament. (Acts 9:1-7; Acts 16:9-10; Rev. 1:1)
The secrets of God are woven through the Holy Scriptures in the fashion described in Isa. 28:9-13. "Precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little. "But the word of the Lord was (given this way) unto them Ö that they might go and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken." It is given unto us to know, but unto them it is still hidden today.
The Philistinesí Harvest
The gathering together of the children of that wicked one is portrayed in the story of Samson, in Judges Chapter fifteen, as "the shocks and standing corn of the Philistines." In Judges 14:20, Samson represents Jesus. His "wife was given (by her father) to his companion, whom he had used as his friend." That is easily understood as the "Father" of Roman Catholicism espousing the Church to pagan principles and practices, and thus to Lucifer who was at one time the companion of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Heavens.
"A little while after, in the time of Wheat Harvest," Samson said, "I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in." Even so, the professedly Christian ecumenical union, led by the Pope (Father), will not open the door for Jesus to take his bride unto Himself when He returns. (I believe that Jesus has been trying to regain access to the Church of Rome for a number of years, but has been rejected at the highest levels.) So "Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails. "And burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn" of the Philistines." It is easy to make the connection with Jesusí parable, "Gather the tares into bundles to be burned." (See also Rev. 17:16)
There is another prophetic story which is directly related to this one. It is the story of Gideon and his three hundred warriors. Not only are these stories related by the number of participants, but also by the dream of the Midianite warrior, in which Gideonís army is portrayed by a "cake of Barley bread." You must harvest some Barley before you can bake a cake with it. "All the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the East were gathered together." "But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him." (Judges 6:33,34) The precept is different in the story about Gideon, but we already know that "precept upon precept" is the method by which the Holy Ghost teaches. (See Isa. 28:9,10 and 1 Cor. 2:12,13)
The prophetic truth is clear. There will be a uniting of the ungodly elements of modern Christianity. And further, the Man of God in the end of the world will take three hundred apostles and prophets of God, with the fire of the Word of God, and expose the errors and wickedness of this professed "Christian" union. Much has already been accomplished toward that union, and the work goes steadily on. On the other hand, there has not yet been a noticeable gathering together of honorable and sincere believers in "the unity of the faith." Therefore, I must speak of the coming harvest of the Children of the Kingdom in prophetic terms only.
The Appointed Barley
In Isa. 28:25, God used the expression "the principal wheat," and the rye is referred to as "in their place," but He said the Barley was "Appointed." Also in Jer. 5:24, He refers to Barley Harvest as "the appointed weeks of harvest." The term "wheat" in "the parable of the tares" is used to represent all of the believers. Whereas, in another precept, believers are symbolized by an assortment of grains. So we must weigh each precept, and rightly divide the Word of God.
God told us that Ruth arrived in Bethlehem "in the beginning of Barley Harvest." She then gleaned "unto the end of Barley Harvest and of Wheat Harvest." Therefore, the time of harvest set forth in the precept of grain is divided into two major parts; the latter of which is Wheat Harvest. That Barley Harvest is first is clearly shown in one of the plagues of Egypt. "The barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, Ö But the wheat (was) not smitten: for (it was) not grown up." (Exodus 9:31,32)
God said to us in Jeremiah, "He reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of harvest." The work of reaching souls for Jesus has continued from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, unto this day. The Harvest, on the other hand, was reserved for a time yet future and has something to do with seven. (Lev. 23:15-17; 2 Kings 4:42)
In Deut. 16:9, He went even further. "Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn." Then in verse ten, He called it The Feast of Weeks. It is one of the three feasts which God told the Children of Israel to keep every year.
Letís consider what God said about this in Lev. 23:15-17. "Ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves Ö they are the firstfruits unto the Lord."
There are two periods of Barley Harvest. On period was just after our Lordís ascension, and the other shall be just before His return. The first period began with the resurrection of some Saints who "went into the Holy City and were seen of many." Jesus waved them before the Lord in fulfillment of the annual wave sheaf in the temple. This time, the resurrection of "the just" shall occur after the Barley Harvest. The prophecy in Deut. 16:9, shows that the beginning of the gathering will be a notable event, and the reapers will know to expect the entire harvest to be reaped by the end of seven years from that time. Paul described these two periods of time in 1 Cor. 10:11. He said, "All these things . . . are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (1 Cor. 10:11)
On the Sabbath following the Passover, the High Priest waved a wave sheaf of the first fruits of barley harvest before the Lord. The wave loaves were waved fifty days later at Pentecost, and are represented in The Revelation of Jesus Christ by two sets of 144,000. John said in Rev. 7:9, that after the Jewish "wave loaf" of 144,00 was numbered, he saw another group that no man could number. It is easy see how that could be all of the millions of martyred saints of God who lived and died from the end of the first century until now. He said concerning that multitude, "These are they which came out of great tribulation."
There is another tribulation which is to occur soon. It is mentioned in Matt. 24:29,30. He said, "immediately after the tribulation of those days . . . Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven." There is another wave loaf to be gathered and purified around that time. One of the prophecies concerning them is found in Rev. 14:1-4, where John describes them as a 144,000, "redeemed from the Earth" (Gentiles), and "redeemed from among men" (during the sixth millennium.).
The Jewish Barley Harvest occurred in the days of the early apostles. A number of saints arose from the dead immediately after Jesus was resurrected, and our new High Priest waved them before the Lord,ĖHis wave sheaf. It was a short time after that those early Apostles began to reap their harvest. Because, on the day of Pentecost there were added unto them about three thousand souls, and shortly thereafter another five thousand. By about seven years from the resurrection of Jesus, Peter had reaped a harvest of 144,000, and purified them before the Lord. The first wave loaf was ready, and the condition of the group was one of such purity that when Ananias and Sapphira laid a defiled offering at the feet of the Apostles (on the Altar), God slew them.
How wonderfully is the allegory of Solomonís temple fulfilled in the building of the Church. It is written, "In the fourth year was the foundation of the house of the Lord laid, and in the eleventh year was the house finished. So he was seven years in building it." (1 Kings 6:37,38) In about the middle of the fourth year of Jesusí ministry, He had laid the foundation of the Church with twelve Apostles and seventy Prophets (Eph. 2:20), and left Peter, in His stead, to bring the Church to its fullness. Seven years later Peter had accomplished that mission. (John 21:15-17; John 14:12; Matt. 24:45)
James confirmed these things in James 1:1,18. To the Church which was scattered abroad he wrote, "we (are) a kind of firstfruits." That Jewish kind of "wave loaf of the firstfruits" is described in Rev. 7:4-8 as 144,000 saints who had the seal of the living God in their foreheads. There were 12,000 of them out of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. In Rev. 14:1-4, John described the Gentile kind. He said, They are the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb." The Jewish half of the Bride had already been gathered at the time John was writing about it. That is why the angel commanded John to "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter." (Rev. 1:19) There shall be a "hereafter" in which one hundred forty four thousand Gentiles shall be gathered together unto Him.
You might have heard it taught that the 144,000, in Chapter 7, are to be saved after we are "gone." I know that teaching is fairly common, but the truth is, that 144,000 Jews were the Elect of God in the days of Peter, James and John. In Rev. 21:9-27, John put both of those groups together and called "The Bride, the Lambís wife . . . that great city, the holy Jerusalem.." When Jesus comes and that blessed group are raised from the dead, and the Elect of God who are alive and remain are joined together with them, what glorious things will happen!
The Seven Years
The seven year harvest, at this end of the world, is prophesied of in the allegories of Ruth and Joseph, and God tied those two narratives together by the use of the word "Handfuls." During Ruthís harvest they "Let fall also some handfuls (deliberately) for her." And, during Josephís seven years of plenty, "The earth brought forth by handfuls." This is one of those situations to which God was alluding when He said, "The ear trieth words."
In Ruth, God used the precept of two kinds of grain to prophesy of two consecutive harvestsĖThe Elect and those who shall be called to the wedding. However, in Gen. 41:47-49, He spoke only of one, but divided it into two in another way. "Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number." At this "end of the world," God will number 144,000 Gentiles to finish forming the last EveĖa bride for the last Adam. He will raise up the Jewish 144,000; put them together with those Gentiles, and the cry shall go forth, "The marriage of the Lamb is come." God will gather the wheat into His barn, and that saying shall be fulfilled, "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb."
We are swiftly approaching the time for the second wave loaf of "The firstfruits" to be made ready. "Be patient therefore, brethren unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it." (James 5:7)
The Time of Harvest is near, even at the door. Let us arise with great expectation and with the zeal of God in the Holy Ghost, and begin to prepare ourselves for this great work. The grace of God be with you all, "until we all come in the unity of the faith."