The Last Days—A Time of Harvest
“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.”—REVELATION 14:14.
1. What are some things that have made this century unique?
WHAT a tumultuous time this 20th century has been! Mankind has had to endure two ferocious world wars. Country after country has been wracked by revolution. Famine has caused more suffering than ever before in human history. Economic uncertainty, crime, pollution, and frightening sicknesses threaten everyone’s well-being. At the same time, man has made gigantic scientific advances. He has harnessed the power of the atom and even walked on the moon. Truly, our generation is unique in many ways. Nevertheless, one thing stands out as the most important event of our time, and beside it all other things pale into insignificance.
2. What event prophesied by Daniel was due to happen in our time?
2 This truly epoch-making event was foretold back in the sixth century B.C.E. by the prophet Daniel. Listen to his divinely inspired report: “I kept on beholding in the visions of the night, and, see there! with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man happened to be coming; and to the Ancient of Days he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.”—Daniel 7:13, 14.
3. (a) Who is “the Ancient of Days,” and what did he give to “someone like a son of man”? (b) Who is this one “like a son of man,” and how did the Jewish religious leaders respond when Jesus made this identification?
3 “The Ancient of Days” is Jehovah God. Daniel sees him in “the clouds of the heavens,” that is, in the invisible spirit realm, giving kingship to “someone like a son of man.” Who is that “someone”? Jesus answered that question back in 33 C.E. when he was on trial before the Sanhedrin. The Jewish high priest put him under oath to say whether he was the Christ or not. In answer, Jesus boldly applied Daniel’s prophecy to himself, saying: “From henceforth you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Rather than bowing to Jehovah’s chosen King, the high priest accused him of blasphemy. Subsequently, the Jewish religious leaders pressured Pontius Pilate to condemn Jesus to death.—Matthew 26:63-65; 27:1, 2, 11-26.
4. When did Jesus receive the crown of kingship, and despite what opposition?
4 This attempt to frustrate Jesus’ words failed when he was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven to await Jehovah’s due time for giving him the Kingdom. (Acts 2:24, 33, 34; Psalm 110:1, 2) That time came in 1914. According to all the evidence, in the latter part of that year, Jesus received the crown of kingship from “the Ancient of Days” and began to rule. (Matthew 24:3-42) The newborn Kingdom faced bitter opposition. But the Jewish religious leaders of the first century, all the accumulated power of the nations, and even Satan and his demons were not able to prevent God’s will from being accomplished. (Psalm 2:2, 4-6; Revelation 12:1-12) In 1914 the heavenly chorus rang out right on schedule: “The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15) Since that date, we have been living in “the last days” of this wicked system of things.—2 Timothy 3:1.
A Time of Harvest
5. (a) According to Daniel’s prophecy, who would serve the newly crowned King? (b) What vision did John see that also involved Jesus as a newly crowned King?
5 According to Daniel’s prophecy, when Jesus receives his crown “the peoples, national groups and languages [will] all serve even him.” How can that be if mankind as a whole rejects him as King? A dramatic vision revealed to the apostle John indicates the answer. John tells us what he saw: “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.” (Revelation 14:14) Similar to Daniel’s vision, Jesus is here seen on a cloud and is identified as “someone . . . like a son of man.” He wears the crown of kingship, but in his hand he has not a scepter but a harvester’s sickle. Why?
6. What work does Jehovah command the newly crowned Jesus to engage in?
6 John continues: “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.’” Jesus, although a King, still obeys instructions transmitted from Jehovah in “the temple sanctuary.” So when Jehovah instructs him to engage in a harvest work during the last days, he obeys. Jesus “thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.”—Revelation 14:15, 16; Hebrews 9:24; 1 Corinthians 11:3.
7. (a) What is “the harvest of the earth”? (b) What was the beginning of this “harvest”?
7 What is “the harvest of the earth”? It is people who come out of this satanic system of things to serve Jehovah and His appointed King. The harvest begins with the gathering of the remaining ones of the 144,000 who are to reign with Jesus in his heavenly kingdom. (Matthew 13:37-43) These are “the Israel of God,” a “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” They have been bought “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Galatians 6:16; Revelation 14:4; 5:9, 10) In this way, individuals out of all “peoples, national groups and languages” begin to serve the enthroned Jesus.
8. (a) In what year did the gathering of the final ones of the anointed evidently come to its conclusion? (b) How, according to another vision of John, did the harvest work continue?
8 However, they are not alone. John, in another vision, sees the sealing of the final ones of the 144,000. (Revelation 7:1-8) Evidently, the gathering of these was virtually complete by 1935. But then, John reports, he sees “a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-17) So the harvest work continues as many more from “the peoples, national groups and languages” start to serve Jesus as King.
9. Who are these newcomers, and what other prophecies mention their appearance during “the final part of the days”?
9 These newcomers look forward to enjoying life in a paradise earth under Jehovah’s appointed King. (Psalm 37:11, 29; 72:7-9) Their gathering was foretold in a number of other prophecies. Isaiah, for example, foretold that in “the final part of the days” the nations would stream to Jehovah’s house. (Isaiah 2:2, 3) Haggai prophesied a shaking of the nations during which “the desirable things of all the nations must come in.” (Haggai 2:7) Zechariah spoke of “ten men out of all the languages of the nations” who would join themselves to God’s people. (Zechariah 8:23) Moreover, Jesus himself prophesied about this “great crowd.” He said: “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.”—Matthew 25:31-33.
10. (a) By what means is “the harvest of the earth” being reaped? (b) Who only are cooperating with the angels in this work?
10 Yes, all mankind is being scrutinized to see who are “sheep” and who are “goats.” How is this examining work accomplished? In John’s vision, “the harvest of the earth” is reaped in conjunction with powerful messages proclaimed by angels. One angel declares a message of “everlasting good news.” Another announces the fall of “Babylon the Great.” And a third warns against worship of “the wild beast,” Satan’s political system of things. (Revelation 14:6-10) True, nobody has heard the actual voices of these angels. But they have heard corresponding messages being uttered by faithful humans. (Matthew 24:14; Isaiah 48:20; Zechariah 2:7; James 1:27; 1 John 2:15-17) So, clearly, the messages are broadcast by human mouthpieces under angelic direction. A person is identified as a ‘sheep’ or as a ‘goat’ by the way he responds to the angelic messages. During this 20th century, only Jehovah’s Witnesses have cooperated with the angels in this vital work.
11. How important is the spreading abroad of these angelic messages?
11 The spreading of these messages is a more pressing task than anything else being done today. No political breakthrough or scientific discovery comes close in importance. These messages point the way to the solution of all mankind’s problems and tell of the eternal salvation of faithful humans. And, most important, they have to do with the sanctification of Jehovah’s name.
The Annual Report
12, 13. Give some details from the annual report that indicate that a large “harvest” has already been gathered.
12 That is why Jehovah’s Witnesses look forward each year to reading the annual report of the activity of Jehovah’s organization. They thrill to see continued evidence of his blessing on their work. If you examine the 1987 report, reproduced on pages 12 to 15 of this magazine, you will see that the angels and their human coworkers were extremely active last year.
13 The good news was heard in 210 lands—certainly ‘every tribe and national group and tongue’ accessible at present. (Mark 13:10) Moreover, as a peak, 3,395,612 worked together to accomplish that—more than ever before in Christian history. The figures are impressive even in some individual lands. In the United States, a new peak of 773,219 was reached. Two other countries, Brazil and Mexico, saw peaks of 216,216 and 222,168 respectively; and six more, Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, and the Philippines, reported peaks in excess of 100,000. On the other hand, there are lands with large populations and just a few thousand publishers or less. The work of these faithful souls is also immensely important as they strive to keep the light of truth shining under difficult circumstances.—Matthew 5:14-16.
14. What kind of people are being gathered into Jehovah’s organization?
14 Of course, God’s people are not interested in increase just for its own sake. They know, however, that all those new ones pouring into Jehovah’s organization are “desirable things” in Jehovah’s eyes. Many were “sighing and groaning over all the detestable things” they witnessed in Christendom. (Ezekiel 9:4) They all stream to “the mountain of Jehovah” because they want to be instructed in God’s ways. (Isaiah 2:2, 3) What a powerful evidence of Jehovah’s blessing—that in this corrupt and materialistic system of things, hundreds of thousands of new ones each year manifest themselves as Jehovah’s “desirable things”!
15. (a) How large is the territory to be covered by the preaching work? (b) According to John’s vision, how active is the “great crowd”?
15 The preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses is urgent. Why? For one thing, the territory is huge. The “good news” must be announced “to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” (Revelation 14:6) In Jesus’ parable, people of “all the nations” are being divided into “sheep” and “goats.” There is much work to be done. How fitting, then, that the “great crowd” seen by John is praising God “day and night in his temple.” (Revelation 7:15) In fulfillment of this vision, this “great crowd,” working in cooperation with their anointed brothers, reported spending a total of 739,019,286 hours in the preaching work last year—a figure almost too large to comprehend. Worldwide, this represented an average of 19 hours a month per publisher (including pioneers). Compare this with the average of 12 hours a month just ten years ago, and you can see that the pace of the preaching work is increasing. How does your personal average compare with the world average?
16. (a) What is a fine way to “preach the word . . . urgently”? (b) How many shared in this work last year?
16 Notice, too, the new peak of auxiliary and regular pioneers: 650,095. This means that there were more pioneers in the field last year than there were publishers in 1955. Were you one of those pioneers? If so, you found an excellent way to apply personally Paul’s counsel: “Preach the word, be at it urgently.” (2 Timothy 4:2) Why not plan to share in the pioneer service for at least one month during the 1988 service year?
Prospects for More Growth
17. What figures show that the prospect for future increase is good?
17 The prospect for future growth is truly excellent. The figure for home Bible studies was 3,005,048—and each Bible student is a potential ‘desirable thing’! Moreover, 8,965,221 attended the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal last April. The majority of those who attended were not Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some were newly interested ones. They were most welcome and are encouraged to continue to make fine progress. Others may have attended such occasions several times before. They evidently enjoy being with the Witnesses but have not as yet felt the need to do more than that.
18. According to the prophecies of Jesus and of Zechariah, what does a person have to do to be counted as one of Jehovah’s “sheep”?
18 Such are to be commended for their interest in Bible truth. But remember, in Jesus’ parable the “sheep” who depart into everlasting life are those who show helpfulness toward Jesus’ anointed brothers and cooperate with them. (Matthew 25:34-40, 46) In the prophecy of Zechariah, the complete number of “ten men” declare without reservation: “We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.” (Zechariah 8:23) They do not merely have a friendly attitude. They “take hold” of God’s people and go with them, dedicating themselves to serve the God of these ones. In our day, this includes becoming fully involved in Jehovah’s organization.
Not Much Longer
19, 20. (a) According to John’s vision, what will happen when the gathering of “the harvest of the earth” is completed? (b) What will this mean for all of those who do not submit themselves to Jesus as King?
19 The harvest work is urgent for a second reason. Soon it will be completed. (Matthew 24:32-34) What happens then? Read what happens next in John’s vision: “And still another angel emerged from the temple sanctuary that is in heaven, he, too, having a sharp sickle. And still another angel emerged from the altar and he had authority over the fire. And he called out with a loud voice to the one that had the sharp sickle, saying: ‘Put your sharp sickle in and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, because its grapes have become ripe.’ And the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and he hurled it into the great winepress of the anger of God.”—Revelation 14:17-19.
20 After the harvest of “desirable things” is gathered, there will be no more reason for this corrupt old world to continue in existence. “The vine of the earth,” this whole satanic world system of things, will be cut down and destroyed. At that time, even opposers will be forced to recognize Jehovah’s appointed King. John wrote: “Look! He [Jesus] is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, and those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief because of him.” (Revelation 1:7; Matthew 24:30) Then, Jesus’ words to the Jewish religious leaders, who were foremost among “those who pierced him,” will be fulfilled. (Matthew 26:64) Of course, those religious hypocrites will not be resurrected to “see” Jesus personally. (Matthew 23:33) But all today who show that spirit and refuse to accept Jehovah’s appointed King will be forced to recognize him when he comes to destroy the nations at Armageddon.—Revelation 19:11-16, 19-21.
21. Why should God’s people work hard in cooperation with the heavenly angels?
21 Indeed, the survival of individual humans is at stake. We have a heavy responsibility in being coworkers with the angels. But what a great privilege! May we continue to work hard in cooperation with the heavenly angels as we strive to locate all sheeplike ones, Jehovah’s “desirable things,” before the harvest work is concluded.
Can You Explain?
□ What is the major event thus far in this 20th century?
□ What is “the harvest of the earth,” and how is it being gathered?
□ What are some characteristics of Jehovah’s “sheep”?
□ How does the annual report show Jehovah’s blessing on the harvesting work?
□ Why is the preaching work urgent?
[Chart on page 12-15]
1987 SERVICE YEAR REPORT OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES WORLDWIDE
(See bound volume)