December 9, 2009

It's Harvesttime

2009 1533 page17 capS A DENOMINATION WE’VE DONE AN EXCELLENT JOB OF PROCLAIMING THE messages of the three angels in Revelation 14:6-12. However, we seem to have overlooked the last three angels mentioned in this chapter (verses 15-19), along with the one in Revelation 18:1-8. These four angels are essential to understanding Christ’s redemptive work before His second coming. The fourth angel’s message opens with a new vision (Rev. 14:14-16) that arrests John’s attention with some familiar biblical symbols.

The vision begins with “a son of man” (verse 14) seated on a white cloud, a sign of Christ’s glory (Matt. 17:5; 24:30; Rev. 1:7), indicating His supreme authority to rule and execute judgment. The title “son of man” describes a Being both human and divine. Although this term was used by Daniel (Dan. 7:13, 14), it wasn’t commonly appropriated to Jesus until during His earthly ministry, when He used it as a title for Himself (John 5:26, 27). It appears more than 80 times in the New Testament.
The “son of man” wears a golden crown. There are two words for crown in Greek: one, diadema, is a symbol of kingly or imperial dignity and status, the kind Jesus will wear at His second coming (Rev. 19:12). Stephanos was a wreath worn for public honor or dishonor. Jesus first wore it as a crown of thorns, plaited and put on His head by soldiers when He bore the sin of the world. But here in Revelation 14, He wears a golden garland of victory and triumph—an emblem of joy and eternal life. This everlasting, glorious, dazzling splendor is a portrait of our victorious Harvester of souls in the closing period of earth’s history.
2009 1533 page17The “son of man” holds a sharp sickle in His hand, an ancient implement for cutting and harvesting grain or grass. It’s a symbol of the absolute authority of our human-divine Reaper to separate the righteous from the wicked and execute judgment (Joel 3:12-14).
The fourth angel comes from the temple’s Most Holy Place, saying with great urgency, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come” (Rev. 14:15). The seed, the Word of God sown by Jesus with 12 men and a handful of women, has multiplied exponentially. The gospel seed, fertilized by Christ’s death and watered with His blood, has produced a harvest beyond imagination.
The Greek word for “ripe” can also mean “overripe.” Its original meaning is “to wither or dry up,” as stalks of grain that lose moisture. As a plant grows, its stem/stalk serves as a conduit, bringing nourishment from the soil. When the process of maturation is fulfilled and the fruit is ripe, having fed on the rich soil long enough, the stalk becomes dry and rigid. It withers and dries up as the sun presses its golden rays upon the ripening grain and brings it to the last stage of development, in which it’s ready to be reaped immediately or fall to the ground and rot.
It’s the same with people. When the golden light of the Sun of righteousness shines on them, and they accept Him as Lord, they are transformed. The stalk that was in the world withers and dries as conversion, the season of reaping, comes. Thus the sense of urgency: the “grain” of the world is ripe. Stalks are drying up. The Lord of the harvest wants us to reap right now. It’s harvesttime!
“Thrust in the sickle,” announced the angel, using the prophetic emphasis to designate a completed action by Jesus Christ. And the earth was reaped.
The field is the world and the ripened grain represents those who respond to the messages of the first three angels of Revelation 14. And just as the natural harvest never failed, neither will the spiritual harvest (Isa. 55:6-11). So lift up your heads and look at the fields now white for harvest (John 4:35).
This message is a powerful reminder in these last days that it’s harvesttime; and the work of reaping isn’t over until Jesus says it is (Rev. 22:11). So let’s bring in the sheaves! 
Hyveth Williams, formerly senior pastor of the Campus Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church in Loma Linda, California, will soon join the faculty of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary as a professor of homiletics. This article was published November 26, 2009.