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Reaping the Harvest (1)

Revelation 14:14-16
I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 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.' So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. (NIVUK)

This scene in John's vision seems to be between heaven and earth. A figure is sitting on a cloud above the earth, prepared for action. Who is this figure? The depiction of 'one like a son of man' echoes Daniel 7:13 where the person is clearly the Lord Jesus Christ. The gold crown is the victor's wreath from a wrestling match. And yet it seems this is an angel because verse 15 introduces another angel, and including this figure there are seven angels in Chapter 14 to match the seven angels of Chapter 15. However, Jesus is not an angel (Hebrews 1:4) … so what does this mean?

Although some commentators see the sickle-wielder as being Jesus, He told His disciples that the reapers would be angels (Matthew 13:39-41). Mark 13:26-27 clearly differentiates between the Son of Man and the angels who are under His command. We also have some help from Revelation 10:1-4 in which a mighty angel is invested with some Christ-like symbolism, for he acts with His divine authority. For more study see https://wordatwork.org.uk/revelation/roaring-messenger. In both instances, the angel has authority and is under another's command.

The sickle is used to harvest the grain; it is the symbol of God's final actions on earth. The agricultural world knew full well that the harvest was the end of the growing process. In verse 15 the word for 'ripe' means over ripe or withering, so it was high time that action should be taken. The patience of God is exhausted, His long-suffering has reached its end, the end will come (Acts 17:31). The time has come, which has always been set by Father God, and the angels respond to the authority cascade which now issues from God's command (Matthew 24:26).

Although this last Day of the end times is both a judgement on the wicked and an ingathering of the righteous, these verses focus on the certainty of that day. The world's ripeness for judgement is well advanced, like the sin of the Amorites reaching its full measure (Genesis 15:16). The angels reap at Christ's command and nobody will be able to argue with them. This has clear gospel implications. There is no certainty of another day. The day for being saved is today (2 Corinthians 6:2). And for those of us who know the Lord, today is the day to lead others to Jesus; today is the day for them to respond. Because there is a finality about the last day, although we do not know when it will be, we have a responsibility to live Christ-pleasing lives (2 Peter 3:11) and witness to the saving grace of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:28-29).

Father in heaven. Thank You that there will be an end to this world as we know it because You will bring it to an end, rewarding the unrighteous in judgement and the righteous with eternal life. Forgive me if I have grown lazy or careless of all the lost people around me, failing to tell them of Your love and the way of salvation. Please help me to live each day as if it were my last, in holiness and glad witness about my Jesus. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams