Harvesting in the “Time of the End”
“The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things.—Matt. 13:39.
1. Why is the “harvest” foretold by Jesus a twofold reason for joy?
A GOOD harvest is always a reason for joy and thanksgiving. It is a time for reaping the fruits of long, hard labor. The harvest foretold in Christ’s parable of the “wheat” and the “weeds” would provide a twofold reason for all mankind to rejoice. Why? Not only because it would mean the ingathering of the required number of “sons of the kingdom,” or “holy ones,” to be associated with Christ in his “indefinitely lasting rulership,” thus ensuring good government for the earth, but also because this “harvest” would of itself be proof that we are living at the “conclusion of a system of things” and at the dawn of a righteous new order.—Dan. 7:14, 27; Matt. 13:38, 39; 2 Pet. 3:13.
“SYNTEʹLEIA” AND “TELOS”
2. Why is the Greek work synteʹleia better translated by “conclusion” than by “end,” and so with what period mentioned in Daniel does the synteʹleia correspond?
2 Jesus did not say that the “harvest” is “the end of the world,” as some Bible translations would have us believe. (Authorized Version; American Standard Version; The Jerusalem Bible) Such translations make no distinction between the two Greek words synteʹleia and telos. Explaining synteʹleia, W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words states: “The word does not denote a termination, but the heading up of events to the appointed climax.” So when Jesus said “the harvest is a conclusion [synteʹleia] of a system of things,” he was speaking of a period of activity that would have a beginning and an end. According to Matthew 13:30, Jesus referred to “the harvest season,” obviously designating a period of time, the period the prophet Daniel spoke of as “the time of the end.” (Dan. 12:4) Interestingly, when the translators of the Greek Septuagint Version translated this verse in Daniel, they used the word synteʹleia.
3. With what is the “harvest season” connected, and what does the Greek word telos mean and refer to in Matthew 24:14?
3 This same word is used in Matthew 24:3, where the disciples asked Jesus: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion [synteʹleia] of the system of things?” So the “harvest season” is connected with Christ’s invisible presence as Harvester. In answer to his disciples’ question, Jesus enumerated international warfare, food shortages, pestilences, great earthquakes, lawlessness and a general climate of fear. (Compare parallel accounts in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21.) Then, showing that the “harvest season” would come to an end, he added: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end [telos] will come.” (Matt. 24:14) The word telos means “end,” “in the sense termination, cessation . . . the last part, close, conclusion esp[ecially] of the last things, the final act in the cosmic drama.”a
4. When did the “conclusion,” or the “time of the end,” begin, and so what can be said of the “harvest”?
4 Facts of modern history since 1914, in fulfillment of Bible prophecy, show that the present system of things is well into its “time of the end,” or “conclusion” (synteʹleia). To requote W. E. Vine, we are witnessing “the heading up of events to the appointed climax” or end (telos). Therefore, the “harvest” of Jesus’ illustration must be on; in fact, it must be nearing its culmination. Have the events foretold in the rest of the parable been observable since 1914?
“THE HARVEST OF THE EARTH IS THOROUGHLY RIPE”
5. At harvesttime, what would the “Son of man” order his angels to do?
5 Continuing his explanation of “the illustration of the weeds in the field,” Jesus stated: “The harvest is a conclusion 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 conclusion 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.”—Matt. 13:39-42.
6. Among whom was the “wheat” left to grow?
6 The “reapers,” or angels, would be sent forth by the “Son of man” at “the conclusion of the system of things,” in order to weed out from among the true “sons of the kingdom” “all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness.” As the preceding article has shown, the Devil’s oversowing “weeds” by night has resulted in organized apostasy, false Christianity under a hierarchy of oppressive religious leaders who came to form the composite “man of lawlessness,” foretold by the apostle Paul. (2 Thess. 2:3-12) The true “wheat” was left to grow among such “weeds” until the “time of the end.” Then the “Son of man” would order his “reapers” to separate the “sons of the kingdom” from the “sons of the wicked one.”
7. What parallel prophecy helps us to identify the harvesttime?
7 When did this separating work begin? An interesting parallel prophecy leaves us in no doubt as to when it would be. It reads: “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. 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. 14:14-16.
8. How is the “Son of man” pictured in Revelation 14:14, and so after what event must the harvest have begun?
8 Here we see the “Son of man,” Jesus Christ, not as a sower sowing “fine seed in his field” but as a crowned king moving into action for the “harvest of the earth.” His being seated on a cloud symbolizes his invisible presence. (Acts 1:9-11; Rev. 1:7) The “harvest” must, therefore, take place during Christ’s presence, after he is crowned and receives “rulership and dignity and kingdom” from Jehovah, the “Ancient of Days.” (Dan. 7:13, 14) So the harvesting began sometime after 1914, the year that marked the beginning of the “time of the end,” or the “conclusion of the system of things.”
9. When did the separating work begin?
9 When, after 1914, did the Son of man “send forth his angels” to separate the “sons of the kingdom” from “the sons of the wicked one,” the imitation “wheat,” that is, “persons who are doing lawlessness” and who include the “man of lawlessness,” the religious leaders of counterfeit Christianity? The answer must correspond with the facts, and these show that it was in 1919 that the spirit-begotten, anointed “sons of the kingdom,” symbolized by the “wheat,” began to be freed from the “weeds,” or false Christians, that had overrun the religious field of mankind. The “harvest of the earth” was ripe and the time had come for the “Son of man” to thrust in his sickle and reap. The parable reveals that he did this by means of his “reapers,” angels.
WEEDS COLLECTED TO BE BURNED
10. Why was it difficult to identify the true “wheat” throughout the centuries, but since when has it become possible to distinguish clearly the “wheat” from the “weeds”?
10 In his “illustration of the weeds in the field,” Jesus said: “In the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up.” (Matt. 13:30) For centuries the clear identity of the “wheat,” or true “sons of the kingdom,” had been obscured by the proliferous “weeds,” or apostate Christians, who claimed to have the heavenly hope as heirs to the Kingdom. Only after 1919, when the truly spirit-begotten Christians were delivered from Babylon the Great, the Devil’s world empire of false religion, did a clear difference become visible between the “wheat” and the “weeds.”
11. Who are included in the “weeds,” and how have they been bound in bundles?
11 The symbolic “weeds” include all counterfeit Christians, not excluding any modern-day apostates who teach “things that cause stumbling,” as well as “persons who are doing lawlessness.” This would include the “evil slave,” the ‘foolish virgins’ and the “wicked and sluggish slave.” (Matt. 24:48-51; 25:1-12, 14-30) Their being ‘bound in bundles’ ready to be burned up does not represent their being grouped into the various churches and sects of Christendom, for it can hardly be said that the angels are responsible for such apostate church systems. Furthermore, the binding and bundling takes place during the “harvest season,” at the “time of the end,” whereas many of the religions of counterfeit Christianity have existed for centuries. The binding of “weeds” in bundles means that since 1919 the separation between true and imitation Christians has become ever clearer, both in the people’s minds and by actual separation. The “weeds,” or the “sons of the wicked one,” are ‘bound’ inasmuch as the angels see to it that they do not get back in among the “wheat,” or the true “sons of the kingdom.”
12. What does the “fiery furnace” symbolize, and when will the “weeds” be pitched into it?
12 Speaking of what the angels would do with the “weeds” after having bound them up, Jesus added: “They will pitch them into the fiery furnace. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be.” (Matt. 13:42) Remember that we are studying a parable. If the “wheat” and the “weeds” are symbolic, so are the “fiery furnace,” the “weeping” and the ‘gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:41, 46 shows that “everlasting fire” symbolizes “everlasting cutting-off,” and Revelation (20:14; 21:8) says that the “lake of fire” means “the second death,” destruction with no hope of a resurrection. So the “weeds” are heading for destruction.
13. When and how have those symbolized by the weeds wept and gnashed their teeth, but when will they do more lamenting?
13 Since the “fiery furnace” symbolizes total destruction, the “weeping and the gnashing of their teeth” on the part of the “weeds” must take place before they are destroyed. For decades now, counterfeit Christians, and particularly the “man of lawlessness”—Christendom’s clergy—have bewailed the fact that “the sons of the kingdom,” Jehovah’s anointed witnesses, have been pelting them with hard-hitting Scriptural truths, exposing them for what they really are: “sons of the wicked one.” (Matt. 13:38; Rev., chaps. 8, 9b) The apostate clergy have gnashed their teeth against Jehovah’s Witnesses for fearlessly proclaiming not only Jehovah’s “year of goodwill” but also his “day of vengeance.” (Isa. 61:1, 2) However, all such “weeds” will do more lamenting and teeth-grinding when the “Son of man” comes shortly to destroy them and the rest of Satan’s world.—Matt. 24:30.
‘THE RIGHTEOUS ONES SHINE AS BRIGHTLY AS THE SUN’
14. Where is the “wheat” gathered, and what do such “righteous ones” do?
14 After having ordered the “reapers” to bundle up the “weeds” for destruction, the “Son of man” gives his angels this further command: “Then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse.” (Matt. 13:30) And Jesus concluded his explanation of the parable by saying: “At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let him that has ears listen.”—Matt. 13:43.
15, 16. (a) Why is it not in heaven that the “righteous ones” shine? (b) Where and how do the “righteous ones” shine, and where are they gathered?
15 Revelation 21:23 says of the heavenly Kingdom government, the New Jerusalem: “And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God lighted it up, and its lamp was the Lamb.” So that heavenly kingdom does not depend for light on the resurrected “sons of the kingdom.” It is bathing in glorious divine light. How different among the nations here on earth! (Eph. 4:17, 18; 5:8) Explaining what Jehovah does for the “sons of the kingdom” while they are still on earth, Paul writes: “He delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.”—Col. 1:13.
16 Hence, the “righteous ones” shining “as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” refers to the enlightened condition and the glorious service of such anointed Christians on earth, where they “are shining as illuminators in the world.” (Phil. 2:15; Matt. 5:14) The “storehouse” into which they have been gathered since 1919 can be said to be “the kingdom of their Father,” inasmuch as the Christian congregation is a theocratic organization, recognizing Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. It is a clean organization, for out of it the angels collect “all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness.”—Matt. 13:30, 41, 43.
“THE HARVEST OF THE EARTH” CONTINUES
17. How many “sons of the kingdom” are harvested, but why does the ingathering work go on?
17 How does all of this affect you? Remember that Jesus closed this illustration with the words: “Let him that has ears listen.” (Matt. 13:43) True, this parable illustrates the gathering in of the total number of “sons of the kingdom” required to form Christ’s heavenly government. The same chapter (14) of Revelation that speaks of the “harvest of the earth” reveals the number of those thus harvested to reign with “the Lamb” on heavenly “Mount Zion” as being 144,000. But that chapter adds: “These were bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 14:1-4) The harvesting of “firstfruits” would indicate that there was other fruitage to be gathered later as symbolized by the ingathering of the other fruits of the field at the close of the agricultural year. So the ingathering goes on, and it does affect you.
18. In addition to the harvesting of the “sons of the kingdom,” what other separating work takes place?
18 The harvesting of the “sons of the kingdom” went on apace from 1919 up until the early 1930’s. Because these faithful anointed Christians have ‘let their light shine,’ many others with listening ears have allowed themselves to be separated from the “weeds,” or counterfeit Christians within the churches and sects of Christendom. (Matt. 5:16) This separating work was also foretold by Jesus in his prophecy on “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt., chaps. 24, 25) He stated: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. And these [goats] will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.”—Matt. 25:31-33, 46.
19. In God’s due time, what will happen to the remaining ones of the “wheat” class and to the “great crowd”?
19 Thus, as the harvesting of the “wheat” class of anointed Christians draws to a close, the ingathering of the “sheep” continues. In God’s due time the remaining ones of the “wheat” class will finish their earthly course and join the “Son of man” as part of his heavenly kingdom or government. They will “receive the kingdom” with the rest of the 144,000 “holy ones.” (Dan. 7:18, 22, 27) As for the “great crowd” of “sheep” that are now being gathered, they will survive the “great tribulation” that will mark the end (telos) of the present satanic system of things and will become a part of the “peoples, national groups and languages” that will serve the “Son of man” on earth, under his “indefinitely lasting rulership” or heavenly kingdom.—Rev. 7:4, 9, 10, 14; Dan. 7:13, 14.
20. What does the fact that the harvest is well advanced prove; so what should you do, and why?
20 Where do you stand with regard to the fulfillment of the illustration of the “wheat” and the “weeds”? The fact that the “harvest” of the “sons of the kingdom” is well advanced proves that the “conclusion [synteʹleia] of the system of things” is nearing its end (telos). Your attitude toward the wheatlike anointed “brothers” of Christ and the treatment you accord them will be the determining factor as to whether you go into “everlasting cutting-off” or receive “everlasting life.” (Matt. 25:34-46) Prove yourself to be a loyal companion of the anointed “wheat” class, the “faithful and discreet slave,” whom Christ has appointed to provide spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Matt. 24:45) Keep active in the ingathering work, for remember, “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end [telos] will come,” and “he that has endured to the end [telos] is the one that will be saved.”—Matt. 24:13, 14.
a A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, W. Bauer, translated by W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich.
b See chapters 16 and 17 of the book “Then Is Finished the Mystery of God,” published in 1969 by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.