Harvest, a Time of Happiness
THERE is no happier time for the farmer than the time of harvest. What is more beautiful in his sight than a field of golden grain ready to be gathered into the storehouse? It means nourishment, life, happiness, a time of prosperity not only for him but also for the city dwellers. The farmer and his helpers can view the harvest with a great deal of satisfaction, for much hard work has been spent in the field—first plowing, then planting—and a great deal of patience. The harvesting of the crop is also hard work, but it is done with a light heart.
As regards human history, this is the time of harvest. Although conditions may make things look the blackest, actually a time of prosperity, physical and spiritual nourishment and happiness such as the earth has never known is near at hand, for it is God’s harvesttime. It makes us happy to know this. But how do we know? It will give you happiness to see the description of this harvest in the Bible and as you consider it you will see how clearly and beautifully it paints a picture exactly describing the wonderful things God is doing now and the things that he has in store for the earth in the very near future.
The harvest is described in the book of Revelation, chapter 14, but we will get an understanding of what it is telling us by first going to the words of the greatest teacher who was ever on earth and who taught in the simplest, most understandable way. The words of this Teacher and of his disciples make the book of Revelation so clear that there cannot be a misunderstanding.
Jehovah God, as the great Farmer, is interested in his field. Speaking of himself and fellow Christians, the apostle Paul says: “For we are God’s fellow workers. You people are God’s field under cultivation, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:9) He explains that, while he and his companions are workers in the field, it is God who really causes the growth and the fruitage. Jesus, as God’s master workman, the Sower of the wheat, has supervised the sowing work for 1,900 years. (Matt. 13:37) It has been a tremendous work, taking in every nation on earth. As with all harvests, time is required. The grain must be mature, and the seasons bring the grain to ripeness on time. So God has a set time for the harvest and withholds its fruitage until the due time for it.
There was a time for harvest of the Jewish field at the end of the Jewish system of things, between 33 and 70 C.E. And what a harvest it was, with 3,000 being gathered the first day of the harvest, and before long, 5,000 in Jerusalem alone! (John 4:35-38; Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4) When is the harvest of the entire field, the whole world? This time is described by Jesus as a “conclusion of a system of things.” (Matt. 13:39) When is this? Well, the apostles wanted to know and asked Jesus how they would be able to identify the conclusion of the system of things. In answer he described the unparalleled troubles the world is having today and outlined the strenuous work that would be done during the harvest, namely, the preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all nations, (Matt. 24:3, 7-14) It has to be done urgently, without wasted time, for the harvest is always a far shorter time than the growing season and the grain must be gathered before it is too late.
With this background we are equipped to look into Revelation with understanding. Jesus, the giver of the Revelation, in Re chapter 14, verses 6 and 7, points to the preaching of the everlasting good news of God’s work of liberation as directed by angelic power. And in Re 14 verses 8 to 12 he says that these things will take place in a setting of difficult times but with happiness for many, and paints for us the following symbolic picture:
“And I saw, and, look! a white cloud, and upon the cloud someone seated like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.”—Rev. 14:14.
The Son of man with a golden crown on his head would be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself after his enthronement on heavenly Mount Zion when the Gentile Times ended in 1914 C.E. In the parable on the separating work that he would do, he spoke of himself as coming on the clouds of heaven. Centuries prior to this the prophet Daniel had seen in vision the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven to receive Kingdom power. This took place before God’s throne in the invisible heavens. Clouds denote invisibility, for when Jesus ascended a cloud hid him from the disciples’ vision. Revelation 14:14 harmonizes with Revelation 1:7, where Jesus is spoken of as coming in clouds. So in his spirit form, enthroned in Kingdom power, he is present invisibly as he turns his attention and power toward the earth. He is seen only with the eyes of heart appreciation, not with the literal physical eyes. (Eph. 1:18) He is in Kingdom power and the earth has been made subject to him; consequently, he has authority to cut down any growth in it.
“And another angel emerged from the temple sanctuary, crying with a loud voice to the one seated on the cloud: ‘Put your sickle in and reap, because the hour has come to reap, for the harvest of the earth is thoroughly ripe.’ And the one seated on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.”—Rev. 14:15, 16.
This scene is fully in harmony with Jesus’ words in the parable of the wheat and the weeds when he said: “The reapers are angels.” (Matt. 13:39) Is the angel here taking authority to tell the King what to do? No, but as illustrated in the parable of the wheat and the weeds, he is merely notifying the King that the harvest is ready for reaping.
According to Jesus’ words, the harvest would require or include a separating work: “Let both [the wheat and the weeds] 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. 13:30) The “wheat” would be made clearly manifest before all: “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. 13:41-43.
Therefore, when Jesus took over his Kingdom power in 1914 at the end of the Gentile Times (Luke 21:24), he had to separate his true followers, the wheat, from among the many millions of professing Christians in the earth. From the time of the great apostasy, which prevailed from the death of the apostles down until Jesus’ second coming, it was impossible to tell who the true Christians were, for so many weedlike sons of the Devil, imitation Christians, had sprung up that there was a false presentation of what true Christianity is. The weedlike ones were modern Babylonians, those who worshiped according to the world empire of Babylonish religion. After Babylon fell in 1919, thereby losing her power over those who wished to escape from her, separation of the Babylonish religionists, including the imitation Christians, was to take place.
In 1919 the harvest began when the remnant of the 144,000 of Kingdom heirs began to be freed from Great Babylon. It was in that year that the message of God’s kingdom as established in the heavens began to be preached publicly and fearlessly by Jehovah’s witnesses. Jesus said that his sheep would hear his voice and would recognize it; they did, and the preaching of this good news of the Kingdom resulted in separating the true wheat from the weeds. Many more heard and came out of Babylon the Great and from the rest of the Devil’s organization to join in the preaching work. The number of these increased rapidly from that time. That this is true is shown by the continued increase in the number of those who were gathered for the Lord’s evening meal each year and who partook of the emblems, indicating that they were Christ’s footstep followers and partakers of heavenly hopes, just as the eleven faithful apostles who partook of the evening meal instituted by Jesus Christ nineteen centuries ago. However, the time came when the number partaking began to decrease. What did this indicate? It indicated that the number of those called to the heavenly kingdom, namely 144,000, had come to completion and more were dying off than being added. How could this be a time of happiness for the 144,000 anointed ones?
We need only to go back to Revelation 14:13 for the answer: “And I heard a voice out of heaven say: ‘Write: Happy are the dead who die in union with the Lord from this time onward. Yes, says the spirit, let them rest from their labors, for the things they did go right with them.’”
Solomon turned attention to temple building in the fourth year after his coming into Kingdom power. Jesus came to John at the Jordan River in 29 C.E. and was baptized and anointed by God’s holy spirit as the Messiah, the King, and three and a half years later visited the temple in Jerusalem and looked around upon all things. The next day he conducted a judgment there, driving out the commercialistic money getters. In a perfect time parallel, three and a half years after coming into Kingdom power, Jesus came to his spiritual temple for judgment. (Mark 11:11, 15-17) He first turned his attention to his faithful followers who had been sleeping in death, including his faithful apostles. For what purpose? The apostle Paul explained this at 1 Thessalonians 4:16, when he said: “Because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first.”
But what about those of his spiritual brothers who were doing the preaching work since that time and died? Well, they are those mentioned in Revelation 14:13 who die in union with the Lord, for they become united with him in the likeness of his death, that they may be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection. They are, as it were, buried with him through a baptism into his death. (Rom. 6:3-5) While the dying is not pleasant, they are happy. Why? Because they do not have to sleep in death as faithful apostles and others of past centuries did, awaiting the coming of the Lord Jesus in his Kingdom glory.
Jesus himself, when he died nineteen centuries ago, slept in the death state for parts of three days. (1 Cor. 15:20) His followers experience what Jesus experienced, they die “a death like his,” that they may receive a resurrection like his. (Phil. 3:10) Their Leader was ‘put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.’ (1 Pet. 3:18) His followers, therefore, have a spiritual, heavenly resurrection, unseen to human eyes. They experience what the apostle Paul foretold, saying: “Look! I tell you a sacred secret: We shall not all fall asleep in death, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, during the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised up incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this which is corruptible must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality. But when this which is corruptible puts on incorruption and this which is mortal puts on immortality, then the saying will take place that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up forever.’”—1 Cor. 15:51-54.
“Yes, says the spirit, let them rest from their labors, for the things they did go right with them.” While on earth they labored hard in Jehovah’s service in his field of activity and they did this under imperfect conditions and in imperfect bodies of flesh. However, now resurrected to immortality in the heavens, they continue directly on in Kingdom service, taking their place with the Lamb of God on heavenly Mount Zion, and no labor they have done, no persecution they have endured, no death they have experienced can possibly compare with the unparalleled happiness they have entered into everlastingly in the heavens. As the apostle said: “Consequently I reckon that the sufferings of the present season do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed in us.”—Rom. 8:18.
But the harvest was by no means completed by this, for only the firstfruits had been gathered so far. No harvest ends with the firstfruits. In God’s law to Israel, the firstfruits of every harvest had to be devoted exclusively to God at his temple. Likewise the firstfruits of this harvest are God’s special possession. (1 Pet. 2:9) But he had others to harvest. Thousands more began to hear the good news of the established Kingdom and to join the dwindling numbers of the anointed remnant in the preaching work. But these did not partake of the emblems of the Lord’s evening meal as the spiritual brothers of Jesus Christ. They showed no indication of having been given heavenly hopes by a spiritual begetting, but expressed themselves as having hopes of living in the earthly paradise that was now coming more strongly into focus.—Rom. 8:16, 21-23.
In 1931 the anointed remnant embraced the Scriptural name Jehovah’s witnesses. That year a related work was brought to view, a “marking” work. An understanding of the prophecy of Ezekiel, chapter 9, revealed that there were many others who were sighing over the disgusting things taking place in Christendom among the imitation Christians and that the spiritual brothers of Christ should mark them in their foreheads, to identify them as worshipers of Jehovah and subjects of his king Jesus Christ. In other words, there was a great educational work now open to view. However, in 1935 it was disclosed that the “great crowd” described at Revelation 7:9-17 were an earthly class of God-fearing people who would be delivered from Babylon the Great.
This brought great happiness and joy to the preachers of the Kingdom and opened up an opportunity for happiness for a numberless “great crowd” throughout the earth. The final part of the harvest has meant the gathering of hundreds of thousands more. These are the “other sheep” the shepherd Jesus Christ foretold at John 10:16, “not of this fold,” the “little flock” of Kingdom heirs, but those who would have the prospect of enjoying everlasting life on earth in happiness. At the present time we see an overwhelming majority of the preachers of the good news of the Kingdom to be these “other sheep,” for at the celebration of the Lord’s evening meal world wide on April 16, 1965, the number of the remnant partaking of the emblems, the bread and wine, had decreased to 11,550, whereas the total number of sheeplike persons regularly preaching the Kingdom good news had increased to 1,034,268.—Matt. 25:31-40.
There can be no doubt that the harvesting work is reaching its climax. Soon the earth will be reaped of all the sons of the Kingdom, the anointed Kingdom heirs, as well as the great crowd of “other sheep,” who will get out of Babylon the Great and be safely led by the Shepherd-King through the destructive end of this system of things and on into the new order of things of “new heavens and a new earth.” (2 Peter 3:13) These the great Farmer and Cultivator, Jehovah God, loves. He uses them to serve him in his temple alongside the “certain first fruits” of his, the anointed spiritual brothers of Christ. (Jas. 1:18) In ancient times these of the “great crowd” were foreshadowed by the non-Jewish Nethinim and men slaves and girl slaves and male and female singers and the “sons of the servants of Solomon” who accompanied the Jewish remnant that left Babylon and returned to the Promised Land in 537 B.C.E after Cyrus published his decree of release.—Ezra 1:1-6; 2:43-58, 64-70.
What a harvest Jehovah God is accomplishing in his tremendous field, the world! With infallible accuracy the enthroned king Jesus Christ and the reapers, the angels, will gather in all the wheat. What blessing and happiness it is for those who assist in the harvest by preaching the Kingdom good news here on the earth, right in the field of God! What happiness for those now being gathered as they assist in the work with the prospects in mind of enjoying perfect life and everlasting happiness in the new order of things! But above all, the Great Owner of the field and Master of the harvest has the greatest happiness of all in the accomplishment of his purpose and in bestowing everlasting life on those who hear the good news and prove themselves the right kind to be harvested into his storehouse of everlasting blessing.
But with every harvest there is a threshing and a treading. The Revelation describes this for us also and gives a preview of what is to happen after the fruitage of the harvest has all been gathered. We will look for this preview in later issues of The Watchtower.