True Sayings Series
The Time of Harvest, Part 2
After Jesus had finished his session of parables, in Matt. 13, His disciples came unto Him privately for an explanation of the meaning of one parable in particular. "Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field," they said.
I find their choice of a name for the parable most interesting. By contrast, most Christians seem to think of it more as a parable about "The Rapture." One thing is obvious, the disciples did not understand it until He explained it.
Between his account of Jesusí public teaching session and His private discussion with his disciples, Matthew explained that Jesus spoke in parables to fulfill prophecy. He also told us what the parables contain. "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 by our Lord.
This "parable of the tares" has always been of particular interest to me. Take for instance the words of the householder, "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?" In His interpretation of the parable, Jesus said, "The harvest is the end of the world."
This parable, with its interpretation, has several very interesting aspects. "The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy Ö is the devil."
"As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of Man shall send forth his angels (messengers), and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend." "But gather the wheat into my barn."
One thing that is readily understandable from this narrative is that the harvest is not a single event, but a series of events which occur over a period of time referred to in the Holy Scriptures as the Harvest. Therefore, when we read about Harvest in the Word of God, we need to think, "What is God saying to us about the end of the world?"
Until the time of Christ, the fact that God intended to have a time of harvest in which special works would be done, was kept secret. It was hidden in things like the story of Samson. Samson went to visit his wife, and because of what he found, he sent the three hundred foxes to burn up the shocks (sheaves) and standing corn of the Philistines "in the time of Wheat Harvest."
This prophetic allegory is spoken of again, in a little different way, 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 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."
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. So this is a prophecy of a group of Gentile Christians. They are the "angels" who will gather the wheat into His barn. They will do the work of gathering The Elect and then gathering "The Children of the Kingdom" 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 also must each represent Christians in some way.
Then, one day in the Spring of 1962, as I sat in church ready to enter the pulpit, a couple was singing us a special song. Suddenly, a wonderful thing happened to me. 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 and proceeded to preach it to my congregation.
Jesus has revealed some of the mystery of The Harvest to us in the parable of the tares. One point He makes is that Christianity has become a mixture of the true children of God and the children of the wicked one. Therefore, two major things must happen. There must first be a gathering of the children of the wicked one. Afterward there will be a gathering together of the true believers.
In 1910, the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh marked the beginning of modern ecumenism. However, it was 1962, within a few days of when The Lord told me to "Preach Barley Harvest," when Vatican II opened in Saint Peterís Basilica, beginning 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.
God was ready to begin the Harvest, and He 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." Consider again the words of Jesus in Matt. 13:10-13.
By C. Eldon McNabb
(Note: This sermon is from the True Sayings Series. These sermons are available in booklet form, in their entirety, upon request. Please refer to the contact information.)