"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 world is ripe.' So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested."
~ Revelation 14:15-16
This week, as we end our "Lessons of Harvest" series, we go all the way to the end of the Bible: Revelation. This book is an account of a vision given to John of the events leading up to and including Christ's return. It gives us a glimpse of the final judgement, of the final battle between heaven and hell, good and evil.
In the midst of the pain and suffering in the world today, it is hard to imagine what the world might look like without the constant push and pull between those two forces. The book of Revelation assures us that, while the road won't be an easy one to travel, in the end, God wins. The book is a reminder to keep the big picture in mind when life feels overwhelming. It is a reminder that there will come a day when all are called to stand before God. This passage comes specifically when a series of decrees are being issued from the temple of God. Another angel has emerged with the next command to be carried out: take your sickle and reap.
A sickle is not something we commonly use in harvest today. It was generally a curved blade which cut the crop off close to the base of the plant. A key thing observation in this passage is to understand that the sickle didn't only cut the crop, it cut everything in its path. Crop and weeds, corn and grass, wheat and tares. It cut all it encountered without discrimination. The plants can’t bribe, intimidate, or deceive to avoid being cut down. Thus, in commanding the angel to harvest the earth, it indicates everyone will be caught up in this action. Both the righteous and the unrighteous.
It is only after the crop is harvested with the sickle the good useful product is sorted out. The weeds and crop which has failed to produce a yield is sorted and tossed from the crop which has matured and grown into what it was intended to be. At a certain point, regardless of any one person's readiness, time will run out for all of humanity to make a choice. Do they follow God? Or do they choose evil?
If you read the book of Revelation up to this point, you will read of all sorts of misery and destruction visiting the earth in the last days. In the debate over how much we should read as a literal account of what will happen, and how much we should read as incredible imagery to be taken metaphorically, I personally would vote not to have a front row seat to the events of the end times.
When I was a teenager, one of our family vacations was out to the Yellowstone area. It was just a couple of years after the historic fires of 1988 when 800,000 acres of forest within the park burned. My great uncle, who was our host for the week, as well as a retired park employee, talked about how hard it was for those in charge of the fire to contain it and to preserve the historic structures within the park as well as the personal property along the borders of the park. As a teenager, I did not appreciate the level of destruction I witnessed. My cousins, siblings, and I started joking that the only thing we had to look at most of the time were burnt trees.
This past summer, just after camp ended, I took the time to help my mom drive her car out to the Seattle area for an extended visit with my sister and her family. Since we were going to take 3 full days to do the drive, I requested we add the 2 or 3 hours onto the trip needed to drive through Yellowstone Park. Nearly 30 years later, it is still very obvious where the fires raged in 1988. This time I couldn’t help but stand and marvel at the level of destruction I was witnessing.
This past spring, the rains brought unprecedented levels of destruction to eastern Nebraska. Billions of dollars of damage have occurred with more flooding happening as recently as a month ago. Over 1,000,000 acres of farm land was flooded this past spring. It will be years before the damage done can be repaired to make the land fertile and revenue producing for those farmers again. A friend of mine was telling about her experience of driving through Nebraska on I-80 this past July. Even then, 4 months after the initial flooding, it was a common sight to see fields which looked more like lakes.
We can look at and experience events like these all over our world today. To really dive into them is often overwhelming because the forces which cause wide spread devastation are so far beyond our control and so incredibly effective. The aftermath they leave behind will be felt for years to come and the stories will be told for generations. These sorts of events do not discriminate. Flood waters do not choose to only flood the wicked. Wildfires don’t pause and go around the homes of those who are righteous. And so, while most of us feel bad for those who do live through such events, we are also thankful and relieved when we are not in the path of destruction.
This command God issues to the angel to harvest the earth puts everyone in the path of destruction. Either they are prepared to deal with the consequences or they are not. Everyone is to be brought before him. The righteous will find themselves in heaven, the wicked will find themselves in the fire of hell.
So the question we are left to ask ourselves is this: Am I ready for the harvest? If this command were given today, where would I end up?
If you haven’t been aware of how extensive the damage has been in Eastern Nebraska and other parts of the upper mid-West this year, I would encourage you to start with the summary provided on Wikipedia. Look for ways to get involved with helping those still affected. If you are at a loss, check HERE to see what the Nebraska Synod has done and scroll down to see additional organizations you could contact.
a. Additionally, if you know someone who has been directly and significantly impacted by the flooding this year, please have them contact IOLBC about a scholarship to attend family camp during Family Camp #1 of 2020. While we know we can’t fix all their problems, we do want to give them and their immediate family a chance to get away and strengthen their relationships with each other as they deal with the ongoing stress of recovery.
Destruction isn’t limited to Americans but is felt throughout the world. Visit Lutheran World Relief’s site to see where they work around the world. Choose one country and commit to praying for them, being educated about the issues that country is facing, and doing something tangible for the people who live there.
Salvation is a gift given to us. Jesus paid the price to set us free with his death on the cross. Take a few minutes of your day to check out this unique perspective from the Skit Guys. What other unique ways of sharing the story of salvation do you know about? Share your favorite with us!