The Harvest Allegory
God often teaches truths in the Bible by comparing spiritual matters with activities associated with agriculture. This manner of comparison is a common literary device known as an allegory. These same truths revealed through the harvest allegory are confirmed in other allegories also, such as in the building being built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 3. A familiarity with this literary device is crucial to understanding the significance of the harvest festivals, times and seasons.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "The Daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time it is trampled; the time to harvest her will soon come."
The figure utilized in the passage above is first a simile, using the word "like" to compare the daughter of Babylon with the appropriate harvest activity. Then, we are to understand the action taken in comparison to a harvest. Consider the following passage.
9:62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God. 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'
Obviously, the Lord was speaking figuratively. One who plows a field in the manner they did in Jesus' day has to keep their eyes ahead or the rows plowed will be crooked. Crooked rows are inefficient, representing poor stewardship of the field. One who plows in the Lord's field in this manner is not fit for service in the kingdom of God. Have you asked the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field? This is the first thing Jesus commanded the 72 to do when He appointed them and sent them into the field. This should be our prayer today!
Even today, we are reaping and drawing our wages.
34 My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 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. 36 Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.
Jesus was speaking figuratively to indicate that there were many people who would believe the message of the kingdom it were presented to them. The foundation for this work was laid by other men who preached the kingdom. Those who preach Christ to those who believe are reaping. At that time, Jesus was the reaper, now, we too are the reapers, and we will be glad together with The Sower. The harvest activities generally involve preaching the full gospel about Christ to men, and salvation.
A similar figure of speech was used in the following verse. This is another common allegory in the Bible - a fishing allegory.
9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, 'Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men.'
Jesus said that, instead of catching fish, Simon would catch men from then on.
The beautiful harvest allegory runs extensively throughout the Bible.
Do you recall the popular parables of the sower and the seed? Here's an example of the harvest allegory, used as an introduction to a temple allegory.
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 3:5-17
The point of agriculture is the production of a crop. It's all about bearing fruit. The production of fruit for God's enjoyment is so important that this is why Gentiles have been given grace in this time instead of just the Jews.
Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you [the Jews] and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
See, this life isn't just an opportunity for selfish indulgence, this is our special opportunity to labor in the Lord's harvest field, so to speak. This is the reason we've been given grace in this time! Let's heed the warnings and the promised blessings! We should expect to share in the crop at the harvest because of our labors.
Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.
1 Corinthians 9:10
We should labor with the hope and expectation of sharing in the harvest.
5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
2 Timothy 2:5-7
We are encouraged to compete according to the rules and compete to win - to be hardworking farmers. There are rewards associated with this attitude. Have you been given insight into all this? Reflect on what He said! I believe that the hard working farmers will qualify to be the Bride, in another allegorical representation. Since the Bride theft is appointed as the first resurrection in sequence on the Lord's day, they will be the first to receive a share of the crops.
Paul's prayer is my heart for you.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God.
This fruit is to the glory and praise of God! Fruit can only be enjoyed and shared if it's ripe and harvested. This harvest of righteousness is going on right now! A few verses later we read:
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.
While we are still living in the body and not yet gathered to the Lord, this is our season for fruitful labor.
I want to point out that there are added blessings for instructors in the word, for teachers, as the Apostle Paul certainly was.
Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
What could this mean? Just think about it. When must the one who receives instruction share all good things with his instructor? When all good things are given - when rewards are given by God! That's when Jesus Christ will share in our rewards, and when we will share in the rewards of those whom we have instructed. But make sure that your instruction is the Lord's instruction, because, in another example of the harvest allegory, Jesus warned:
Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.
In particular, at this time I believe that there are special rewards for those who are proclaiming the message of the soon arrival of Jesus Christ. This next lesson comes through an allegory about waiting tables and serving food, with an underlying literal application.
It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.
Consider what Jesus also said.
42 The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
If you've been given a "food allowance at the proper time", do likewise, OK! The almost incredible rewards promised is for service in these last days!
If you have a concordance, you can do word studies on harvest related words like; sowing, plowing, reaping, seed, plant, rain, ground, fruit and crop. It's a very rewarding study! Do you know what it is to be involved with the harvest - plowing, sowing, threshing and reaping? Bottom line - its obedience to the Lord. Wherever your God-given abilities and talents lie, just get busy with the gospel and the Lord will direct you to bear fruit and to help bring in the harvest!
Consider now the example offered in James.
7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.
The Harvest Festivals
There are three festivals that are particularly relevant to the church age because these are the times appointed for the harvest of men. They are the three pilgrimage festivals, where men were required to make pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem each year from wherever they were. The pilgrimage speaks the prophetic truth that all men without exception will be brought in due season to the ultimate spiritual realities pictured, at those very times. This is the same truth as the harvest, that the crops in the Lord's harvest field will be brought into the barn at those very times.
The harvest season is divided into three times of firstfruits presentation that correspond to the three divisions of the church and their appointed times of resurrection. The first harvest is at Pesah, which is the firstfruits of the barley harvest. The next is Shavuot, when the primary grain harvested is wheat. The last harvest at the end the season is (primarily) the grape harvest. There is a barley people, a wheat and a grape. The barley are an unleavened people, the wheat, leavened then baked. The grapes, well, you really don't want to be the grapes.
See another brother's view here: The 3-Fold Harvest
What a tremendously relevant teaching for our time! God has skillfully used the simple and familiar agricultural themes to illustrate the spiritual realities. Plowing the soil, planting the seeds, rainfall, the harvest; these are important to the farmer who is concerned about the production of a crop. This allegory isn't specific to this age, but encompasses the whole age of man.
Finally, consider whether we could be able to produce the crop God intends in the last days if we are ignorant about the seasons? An awareness of the season and knowledge about doing the appropriate things at the appropriate times is one element that is crucial to any farmer's success, and certainly no less to ours as we labor in His harvest field, desiring above all to be found pleasing the Lord.