The following reading comes from Tract No. 3, The Judgment and the Harvest, pp. 54-73.
“The seed-sower, the seed, the field, the season of cultivation and growing, and the season of harvest must together be perfectly calculated to illustrate the spiritual kingdom; otherwise the representation can only lead into error instead of into truth.
The four seasons of the year all being required in completing the process of planting, raising, and harvesting the year’s crops, and Autumn being the beginning of the agricultural year (just as the close of the summer season is “the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field—Ex. 23:16), this parable therefore illustrates by the twelve months of the year a period of gospel history, in the closing of which the kingdom of Christ is to be set up, and the beginning of which is
The Seed-sowing Time.
There being a period of church history illustrated by this twelve month harvest period, we must therefore find the time of its beginning—the time of seed-sowing, and the time of its closing—the time of reaping.
“He that soweth the good seed,” says Christ, “is the Son of man,” and the enemy that sowed the tares “is the devil.” Matt. 13:37, 39.
“The Son of man,” He who “soweth the good seed,” is of course none other than Christ. But as He could not be called the “Son of man” before being born of a woman, He accordingly could not have sowed “the good seed” of the spiritual harvest until after His birth in Bethlehem, Judea.
As His ministry—His sowing of “the good seed,” the truth—began right after His baptism (Matt. 4:17), therefore to establish the beginning of the parabolic harvest period, we must ascertain the date He was baptized.
“And after threescore and two weeks,” prophesied Daniel, concerning Christ’s ministry and His death, “shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself: . . . and He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week He shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” Dan. 9:26, 27.
That this is prophetic time, reckoned by the year-day rule of Ezekiel 4:6, is seen from the fact that there were seven years from the time Christ was baptized to the time the apostles were permitted to take the gospel to the Gentiles. During this period, Christ confirmed or fulfilled the covenant. “In the midst of the week,” or at the end of three and one half years, He was to be crucified, thus causing the earthly sacrifice to cease.
The fact having been established (see illustration in The Shepherd’s Rod, Vol. 2, p. 22) that the three and one half years of Christ’s ministry terminated on the 16th day of the first month, then counting three and one half years (follow the illustration on p. 22), we find that His baptism took place on the 16th day of the seventh month, which was in the Week of Tabernacles, and the celebration of which was the end of the agricultural year, the close of the harvest (Lev. 23:39).
Thus we see that the parable is in perfect fidelity to nature, and that “the Son of man” commenced sowing the spiritual seed right on time—in the end of the old and in the beginning of the new year’s harvest—in precisely the right season of the year. With the sowing of the seed beginning with Christ’s baptism, and the harvest coming at the “end of the world,” the period of the parable obviously embraces the entire gospel dispensation—from the beginning of Christ’s ministry to the close of probationary time. Between the two is the
The three and one half years from the beginning of Christ’s ministry to His crucifixion being the sowing time, and the harvest time being the end of the world, then the intervening period is the time for the growing and ripening of the grain, also the
Upon finishing His sowing of the good seed, “the Son of man . . . left His house, and gave authority to His servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.” Mark 13:34. But with Him gone, “men slept,” as men are given to do when their employer is away. Thus, sometime after Christ ascended on high, “His enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.” Matt. 13:25. But His servants, sleeping, knew it not! What a tragically ironic picture! Zion’s watchmen fallen asleep on her very walls, while the enemy slips over unseen and unopposed! O what a fearful guilt of gross dereliction of duty lies upon the watchmen since apostolic days!
Denouncing those today responsible for this failure to protect the church from fellowshipping virtually anyone who professes an interest and shows a desire to be fellowshipped, though such a one neither be grounded in the truth nor bringing forth “fruits meet for repentance,” the Spirit of Prophecy declares: “Too much hasty work is done in adding names to the church roll. Serious defects are seen in the characters of some who join the church. Those who admit them say, We will first get them into the church, and then reform them. But this is a mistake. The very first work to be done is the work of reform. . . . Do not allow them to unite with God’s people in church relationship until they have decided evidences that the Spirit of God is working upon their hearts. Many whose names are registered on the church books are not Christians.”—The Review and Herald, May 21, 1901.
What stronger evidence is needed to convince oneself that the watchmen have lost the spiritual eyesight which John the Baptist and the apostles had? Tragically true indeed the sharp indictment: “Sleeping preachers preaching to a sleeping people.” —Testimonies, Vol. 2, p. 337.
Discerning “when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism,” that they would later crucify his Lord, John said to them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” Matt. 3:7, 8. Thus he exposed and thwarted the devil’s move to bring in the tares at that time. For well did he know that if the tares once got in and then he try to weed them out, he would uproot the wheat with them.
And then during the time of the apostles, Peter, as a faithful watchman of the church, detecting the devil’s essaying again to come in with his bad seed, said to the guilty: “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? . . . And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. . . . And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, . . . came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. . . . Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost.” Acts 5:3, 5, 7, 8, 10.
The fact that the congregation, too, has failed to discern the devil’s sowing his seed among them, twice over vindicates the indictment: “Sleeping preachers, preaching to a sleeping people” (Testimonies, Vol. 2, p. 337), and proves that the entire church, both the ministry and the laity, is sound asleep, in fulfilment of the words of Christ: “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, . . . and five of them were wise, and five were foolish. . . . But . . . while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” Matt. 25:1-5.
The evil of allowing the devil freely to sow the tares among the wheat, has existed in the Christian church since the passing of the apostles, with the result that whenever the Lord has sent a message to His people, the tares amongst them have straightway (at the instructions of the leaders) raised their hands and voted out whoever would listen to the messenger and obey the message. Thus time and again selling their birthright for less than a mess of pottage, the professed people of God have lost out, and still the church has never learned the tragic lesson!
“O ye house of Israel,” warns the Lord, “let it suffice you of all your abominations, in that ye have brought into My sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary, to pollute it, even My house.” Ezek. 44:6, 7.
But ever to the faithful, as the tares have cast them out of their churches, the Lord’s comforting assurance has been: “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.” Luke 6:22, 23.
As the period since the passing of the apostles has been the wheat and tare-grow-ing time, and as, moreover, the Laodicean church is the last of the seven sections of the Christian church in which are com-mingled the wheat and the tares, we must learn the answer to the question:
Which Is the Laodicean Church?
With Christendom become a veritable forest for the number of its denominations, sects, and cults, hence only by the omniscient Word of God can we pick out of it the Laodicean church.
The names of “the seven churches” (rep-resenting the successive sections of the Christian church, of which the Laodicean is the last) are not “just names.” Take as another example the name of the sixth, “Philadelphia.” Its meaning, “brotherly love,” being a misnomer of the spiritual condition of any other church organization in the entire Christian era, implicitly fits, however, the state of charity common and singular to the sixth—the Millerite church.
When the proclamation of the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 sounded to the churches prior to 1844, they arbitrarily denied their members the right of religious freedom, by forbidding them even to attend Miller’s preaching, and by casting out those who accepted the message. Then after 1844 these same religious bodies opposed the preaching of the Three Angel’s Messages (Rev. 14:6-11), again taking the same tyrranical actions against their free-minded brethren. The Millerite church by its actions in contrast to theirs, said, “ ‘Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind’ (Rom. 14:5), and let us not inter-pose between God and his people by making religious laws or by prohibiting the free exercise of any man’s conscience.”
Being the one shining example of a church never guilty of thwarting or trying to thwart in any way her members in their exercise of their inalienable right to investigate and to accept for themselves what-ever their conscience bid them investigate and accept, she alone contributed nothing to the grievous condition calling forth the scripture: “Hear the Word of the Lord, ye that tremble at His word; your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for My name’s sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed” (Isa. 66:5) in the
Separation of the Tares From Among the Wheat.
The end of the period in which the wheat and the tares are commingled is the time of the closing work for the Laodicean church (the last of the seven churches). This work is identified by the church’s founder as the marking in Ezekiel 9, the sealing of spiritual Israel, the 144,000. (See Testimonies to Ministers, p. 445 and Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 266; Vol. 5, p. 211.) And this identification is conclusively substantiated by the fact, as herein seen, that Ezekiel’s prophecy is a separation of two classes—those who “sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (the church) and those who do not. And as the former are delivered while the latter fall under the slaughter weapons of the angels, there is clearly seen a complete separation of the tares from among the wheat in the
Time of Harvest.
Though the true meaning and time of the harvest is greatly confused by some and confusing to many, a close study of the Word will clear it in just as simple manner as it cleared both the time of the seed-sowing and the period of the wheat and the tares.
With His eye piercing the mists of the ages, Christ foresaw the negligence of His watchmen and the evil which was to spring up in His church. Nevertheless, after being asked by His servants, “Didst not Thou sow good seed in Thy field? from whence then hath it tares? . . . Wilt Thou then that we go and gather them up? . . . He said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into My barn.” Matt. 13:27-30.
A harvest means the “result of effort,” of toil, “the gathering of a crop”—reaping the result of labor and filling up the barns with grain. So rather than the year’s toil being finished at the beginning of the harvest, the heaviest labor of the year just then begins. And though harvest time is the shortest of all the periods of the harvest year, the work of reaping is not done in a moment; it takes time. The yield is not garnered by turning the field right into the barn; no, that would be a conglomerate mass instead of a harvest. First the sickle is put to the grain, and next the grain is bound into sheaves, then threshed, after which it is put into the barn; and thereafter the chaff and the tares are destroyed. This work being completed during the autumn, it shows that the harvest is a season of time after “the summer is past,” and that it is followed by the fruitless winter period.
So it must be with the spiritual harvest, which otherwise could not be illustrated by the literal. Do not regard lightly the wisdom of God: His illustrations are perfect.
Consider, now, with what exact fidelity to the natural harvest the Master has stated the truths of the spiritual harvest: “Let both grow together until the harvest,” He says: “and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into My barn.” Matt. 13:30.
In these parabolic words Christ has made the spiritual method of harvesting analogous to the natural method. Were the one not precisely like the other, He would have distinguished the difference. Be admonished, therefore, not to let vain imaginings come into the mind, but stand squarely on the Scriptures, for they are full of meaning of illimitable value—are, indeed, your very life.
As the word “until” means “up to,” the tares are therefore to be gathered out, not before or after the harvest, but at the beginning of it. And “the time of harvest” being “the end of probationary time” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 72), then the harvesting itself necessarily precedes the close of probation—the fruitless winter season. Consequently, the tares are separated from among the wheat before, not after, the end of probationary time.
The wheat, “the children of the kingdom” (verse 38), are gathered into the barn, the kingdom; the tares, “the children of the wicked one” (verse 38)—mere professors, those who are not doers of the Word, and who were granted membership “while men slept”—“are gathered and burned in the fire” (verse 40), after the wheat is bound into sheaves. But
Who Are the Reapers?
“The reapers are the angels” who “shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just.” Matt. 13:39, 49. These angels are not those who shall “come” with Christ at His second coming, but rather those whom He “shall send forth.’’ They are like the three angels of Revelation 14:6-11. Indeed, the third angel “is to select the wheat from the tares, and seal, or bind, the wheat for the heavenly garner.”—Early Writings, p. 118. Therefore the angels, the reapers, whom Christ sends forth, include both him who does the sealing, or binding, and those who follow on to do the destroying (Ezek. 9:2, 5, 6), first in the church, then in the world. Thus is the
Separation in Two Sections.
The command, “Gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity,” does not mean to gather His saints from the earth into heaven; neither does it mean to destroy the wicked from the earth; for the former are to be gathered, not directly to heaven, but first into “the barn,” the kingdom on earth; and the latter are not to be destroyed immediately “in the time of harvest,” but first are to be gathered into bundles, and then destroyed, as is further illustrated in the parable of the net:
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.” Matt. 13:47, 48.
This parable also shows the separation of the wicked from among God’s people in the church (“the net”), this being the first section of the work of separation, the be-ginning of the harvest. The subsequent section follows in the world, as the earth is lightened with the glory of the “Loud Cry” angel, and as “another voice from heaven,” says: “Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” Rev. 18:4.
Note that in the first section of the separation, the one in the church, the wicked are taken away from among the just, where-as in the second, the one in Babylon, the just are called from among the wicked.
As the field is “the world” (Matt. 13:38), the parable of the wheat and the tares necessarily comprehends both sections of the harvest. As, by contrast, the “net” hauls in the “fish,” the converts made by the gospel church, the parable of the net therefore is limited to the separation in the church. Together they distinguish the
Relation of First Fruits to Second.
Isaiah also was given a view of this two-fold harvest. “For by fire and by His sword,” he prophesies, “will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eat-ing swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord.” Isa. 66:16, 17.
The slain of the Lord, in this scripture, are those who profess to be in the faith, who claim sanctification and purification, but who do so on the merits of their own righteousness,—of “themselves”,—not on the merits of Christ’s righteousness. They walk, that is, in their own ways, not in obedience to the truth. Wrapped about with these spurious habiliments of sanctification and purification, they pose as reformers, yet all the while indulging in the abominations of the heathen; doing so in secret—“behind one tree,” or, as the mar-gin says, following in the lead “one after another.” And the food (swine’s flesh, the mouse, and the abomination,—whatever that may be wherever these paganistic Christians may be,—foods used respectively only in certain parts of the world, among different classes and races) with which they are gratifying their appetites, shows that the consequent destruction among these self-sanctified and self-purified ones is in the church world-wide.
That it was not among the Gentiles, who knew not of the truth of God and of His great power, is clearly shown by the Lord’s words: “I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan [the Gentile nations today as called by their ancient names], to the isles afar off, that have not heard My fame, neither have seen My glory; and they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles.” Isa. 66:19.
Since these escaped ones (the first fruits, the 144,000 servants of God—Rev. 7:3) “shall bring all your brethren” (the second fruits, the great multitude—Rev. 7:9) “for an offering . . . out of all nations” (Isa. 66:20, first part), this great ingathering necessarily, therefore, is the closing work of the gospel—the second section of the harvest.
And since, furthermore, these escaped ones are to bring all their brethren “to My holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord,” “in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord” (verse 20, last part), the fact is fully evident that the destruction of the wicked, results in the purification of the church. The “clean vessel” is therefore the purified church, composed of the escaped ones—the first fruits, the 144,000—who, free from the wicked (the tares) shall then, as “the servants of our God,” bring in the second fruits, the great multitude which no man can number, out of all nations.
The second section of the separation thus being completed, probationary time is closed. Whereupon from the wicked will be heard the horrible wail of doom: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” Jer. 8:20.
This being the dreadful experience of the tares in Babylon, in the second section of the harvest, there must, as a type, be a similar and precedent experience for the tares in the Laodicean church, in the first section of the harvest, a parallel which shows conclusively that
The Church Is Not Babylon.
The reason that the church is figuratively not “Babylon” is that it is called Jerusalem (Ezek. 9:4, 8), and from among the good therein, the wicked (the tares) are destroyed, taken out, by the six men with the slaughter weapons (Ezek. 9:6-9), and then afterward the good (the wheat) are gathered in “the barn”; while from among the wicked in Babylon, the just (“My people”) are called out and gathered into the barn, and then the remaining wicked are destroyed by the seven angels’ pouring out the seven last plagues.
Thus in the first section of the harvest, the separation in the church, the wicked are destroyed by six men with slaughter weapons, before the good are taken out; and in the second section, the separation among the churches in Babylon, the wicked are destroyed by seven angels with the seven last plagues, after the good are taken out. There are therefore two separations and two fruits: the former gives the first fruits, the 144,000, who are not defiled with women (Rev. 14:4). That is, they are those whom the sealing message finds in the church of God, not in the heathen churches. And the second gives the second fruits, the great multitude from all nations, some of whom also may be undefiled with women—heathen churches.” — Tract No. 3, pp. 54-72