Continuing our study of Revelation 14.
Revelation 14:14 ‘I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘like a son of man’ and a sharp sickle in his hand.
The remainder of Revelation 14 describes two harvests. The first harvest is not clearly described but we can assume that it is a corn crop, and the second is a grape harvest.
Theologians wrestle over the meaning of these two harvests. The first harvest, the corn crop is not perfectly clear in its meaning and leaves room for debate. The second harvest, the grape vine, is clearly one of judgement, without a doubt.
Most assume that the ‘one like a son of man’ is Jesus himself and there is no real reason to believe otherwise. Once again, everything happens according to the perfect timing of God, who has been so patient, not wanting one person to perish. But yet the world has become so evil. God is like the perfect farmer, who waits for just the right day, before nodding to his labourers and signalling the commencement of the harvest.
Some will question here if an angel is ordering Jesus to begin the harvesting, and it is a point to consider, but we could assume that the angel is making a declaration of the beginning of the harvest rather than ordering anyone.
Revelation 14:15 ‘Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’
The first harvest, the corn crop, could describe the fruit of evangelism, the souls who respond to the angel flying in mid-air, proclaiming the eternal gospel. They will fear God and give him glory, as described in Revelation 14:6-7.
This would marry well with Jesus’ declaration in the gospel of John.
John 4:35 ‘Do you not say, “Four months more and then the harvest?” I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.
Jesus could then be referring to the harvest at that time, but also prophetically of the end-time harvest.
Matthew 24:14 ‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come.’
This would then be strongly pointing towards the church reaching out boldly with the gospel, and resulting in a rich harvest of souls, just before Christ Jesus returns in power and glory.
Some will still insist that this first corn harvest is the same as the grape harvest, that is, a harvest of judgement upon the wicked. I respect this opinion but there are three points weighing against the two harvests being the same:
- Jesus harvests the corn crop whereas an angel harvests the grapes.
- The grape harvest is clearly described as being one of judgement whereas the first harvest is not.
- The whole of chapter fourteen contrasts the righteous and the wicked and this contrast is continued with the differentiation of the two harvests.
I suspect that this debate will continue. A good number of established commentators assert that this first corn harvest is actually one of judgement. They will point to Joel where the two harvests are seen as one.
Joel 3:12 ‘Let the nations be roused, let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side. Swing the sickle for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes for the winepress is full and the vats overflow – so great is their wickedness.’
I believe that we can all agree that God will sort the good from the wicked, in his perfect timing. The rest is a matter of conjecture.