The Great Wheat Harvest
WHEN a farmer sows a field of wheat he does not want a lot of useless weeds. Besides producing no profitable fruit, they take up valuable space and soil nourishment that could better be used by fruitful wheat. But what is he to do when weeds appear in a stand of wheat? This problem, which is so common to agricultural people, was used by Jesus in an illustration of prophetic significance that is of particular interest to us today.
One day while Jesus was sitting by the Sea of Galilee speaking to a crowd of people from that grain-growing region, he said: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man that sowed seed of a right kind in his field. While men were sleeping his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat and left. When the blade sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds appeared also. So the slaves of the householder came up and said to him: ‘Master, did you not sow seed of a right kind in your field? How, then, does it come to have weeds?’ He said to them: ‘An enemy, a man, did this.’ They said to him: ‘Do you want us, then, to go out and collect them?’ He said: ‘No; that by no chance, while collecting the weeds, you uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse.’”—Matt. 13:24-30.
Curious about the meaning of this illustration, Jesus’ disciples came to him after he had dismissed the crowds and said: “‘Explain to us the illustration of the weeds in the field.’ In response he said: ‘The sower of the right kind of seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; as for the right kind of seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; but the weeds are the sons of the wicked one, and the enemy that sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is a consummation of a system of things, and the reapers are angels. Therefore, just as the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be in the consummation of the system of things. The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness, and they will pitch them into the fiery furnace. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be. At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.’”—Matt. 13:36-43.
SOWING THE FIELD
Over 1900 years ago Jesus Christ planted in the world of mankind, pictured by the field, good seed when he established the Christian congregation. His sowing would eventually produce a crop of 144,000 fruitful Christians who, along with him, would make up the kingdom of heaven.
The illustration said that while men were sleeping an enemy oversowed the wheat with weeds. This took place when the last of the apostles, pictured by the “men,” fell asleep in death. With the apostles no longer present to watch over the congregation and to act as a restraint, Satan was successful in sowing imitation Christians in it. The apostle Paul forewarned of this: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.”—Acts 20:29, 30.
SEPARATING WHEAT FROM WEEDS
As foretold in the illustration, the Sower, Jesus Christ, did not destroy the imitation Christians when they appeared after the death of the apostles but permitted them to remain and to spread throughout the world of mankind. Separating true Christians from the false had to wait until the last days of this wicked, worldly system of things.
The work of separating wheat from weeds, the sons of the kingdom from the sons of the wicked one, would be done by the angels, as Jesus said. On another occasion he again pointed this out when speaking about what the Son of man would do at the time of the end: “He will send forth his angels with a great trumpet-sound and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.” (Matt. 24:31) That meant there would be a gathering of the remaining members on earth of the 144,000 anointed followers of Christ. They would be gathered into one closely knit society.
What was foretold in the illustration of the great harvest has been taking place in our day, for we have been in the consummation of the system of things since A.D. 1914, when world events began fulfilling the prophecies that mark the last days. Christ’s anointed followers have been separated from Christendom, and imitation Christians appearing among them are removed as weeds are removed from harvested wheat. The angels “collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness.” (Matt. 13:41) The history of Jehovah’s witnesses, particularly since 1918, verifies the accuracy of what Jesus prophesied.
In the illustration the master of the household had to wait for a period of time until the harvest before separating the wheat from the weeds. So it is in the fulfillment. Christ had to wait at his Father’s right hand for many centuries until the time arrived for the angels to begin the harvest work. After its beginning, time would be required to complete it, just as in the harvest of the illustration. As the harvest period in the illustration was short when compared with the growing period of the wheat and weeds, so the length of the spiritual harvest would be comparatively short. The more than forty years that have passed since its beginning is short when compared with the centuries that have passed since the congregation was planted.
The fiery furnace of the illustration in which the weeds were destroyed finds its fulfillment in the coming battle of Armageddon. At that time the large crop of weeds that Christendom has produced under her unscriptural clergy and laity system will be consumed in the fiery destruction of God’s wrath. Satan’s entire earthly system of things will be consumed at that time.—Zeph. 3:8.
During the great harvest Christ’s anointed followers have shone “as brightly as the sun.” This they have done by proclaiming far and wide the enlightening truths of God’s Word, especially those truths relating to the kingdom of God. This has been fruitful activity that has caused a great crowd of meek people to associate with them in a New World society and to embrace the hope of life in a peaceful earth under the Kingdom. Thus many more than Christ’s anointed Kingdom heirs find hope and comfort in his illustration about the great harvest. Both the anointed and the other sheep find in its fulfillment reasons for rejoicing, because it indicates that their “deliverance is getting near.”—Luke 21:28.