3 Harvests of Souls
We have already seen multiple times how the Law is “a type and shadow of good things to come.” Within the Law there are details concerning 3 specific harvests, which I mentioned in the previous blogs. Paul even references the festivals associated with these harvests as “shadows of what is to come,” adding that the substance of those shadows was Christ (Colossians 2:16,17).
These harvests are prophetic of certain groups of souls that will be harvested by the Gospel. Amazingly, the Bible uses this imagery quite prolifically. These harvests are symbols of various souls being ushered into the Kingdom.
“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’” (Matthew 9:36,37)
“And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.’” (Revelation 14:15)
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” (John 4:35)
Each of these verses specifically connect our earthly harvests of – fruit/grain/vegetables being gathered into the community – to in-gatherings of souls into the Kingdom. Jesus also gives us many more teachings that involved seeds and harvests as representing people in His parables. He also gave His disciples the keys to interpret those parables saying,
“And His disciples came to Him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.’ And He said, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.‘” (Matthew 13:36-39)
There are many other verses in the New Testament where this imagery is used. I need not point them all out, if you desire to read them all they would be found easily enough with a concordance. What I have presented so far gives us a pretty clear view that a harvest speaks prophetically of people. Therefore the type and shadow of the 3 harvests detailed in the Law concern 3 different harvests of people being brought into the Kingdom.
Each harvest involved a different food. The feast of Passover concerned the harvest of Barley; the feast of Pentecost involved the harvest of Wheat; and the feast of Tabernacles deals with the harvest of grapes. These harvests each represent a different group of people being gathered into God’s Kingdom. I believe that these three groups are referenced in a verse that we have looked at now from several different perspectives; but lets look at it one more time, this time with a focus on the three harvests of souls,
“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order (squadron/harvest): Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet…When all things are subjected to Him, then…God will be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)
The three harvests (or squadrons) mentioned above might not seem as clear cut on the surface so let me explain. Firstly, when it refers to the first “squadron” it says, “Christ the first fruits;” but what we don’t realize is that Christ means “anointed.” For Christ was the “Anointed one;” which is what the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’ meant. Christ is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. The word for Christ is many times in the New Testament translated simply as “anointed.” When the word for Christ is used in the reference above it is in the nominative case, which means it ought to be translated “the anointed.” It literally should read,
“But each in his own order (squadron/harvest): the anointed first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end,”
The Anointed First Fruits
Every other time the word “Christ” is found in those verses it is in the genitive case, and is properly referring to the person of Jesus Christ. But here it is used in connection with “First fruits” and signifies that the first fruits were ‘anointed.’
Without understanding this, it would almost seem as if Christ is a group or “squadron/harvest” all by Himself. While He certainly is a category unto Himself, being the very first who rose from the dead (as Paul had just mentioned previously), the connection here to “squadrons” would seem confusing if it applies to Christ alone. Furthermore the context precludes this, for Paul is declaring that all of humanity is dead b/c of Adam’s sin but that they likewise will all be made alive through Christ’s work of redemption – Christ of course being excluded from this list. Christ neither had Adam’s old fallen nature of sin (though He did have our fleshly body and did take our sin and curse upon Himself), nor did He need to be redeemed from that fallen nature and curse. It would be absurd to think that Christ needed redemption from Adam’s curse and therefore became the first squadron/harvest of fallen souls to be made alive in Himself (!??!).
The context and Greek grammar both relate that the first group is a “specially anointed” group referred to in many other places in Scripture as “the first fruits.” See my previous blog for more on first fruits here.
Those Who Are Alive At His Coming
So then the second group is referred to as “those who are Christ’s at His Coming.” At first glance that would almost seem to be a redundancy? Aren’t the “anointed first fruits” that body of believers known as the Church? Certainly Scripture refers to us as the first fruits, so why would God’s people be divided into two groups? The answer to this could fill a volume all on its own, and we have neither the time nor the space to get in depth about it. But I can point this out, within Scripture and within the history of the Old Testament there is much reference to a “remnant.” A group within this main body of God’s people who seem to stand out amongst the others in their dedication and devotion and obedience to God. The New Testament refers to them as “overcomers.”
Within all of Israel were the Levites, who were especially and solely concerned about the things of God. Within Christ’s own disciples there was an inner circle who saw and heard things that none of the others saw. Within the Law there are more stringent rules and special provisions for leadership in contrast to those for the lay person. Paul himself seemed to indicate that all would finish the race, but only a few would “win” (the crown) and therefore he seemed far more willing to pay more of a cost than others in order to gain that reward. There are rulers in a Kingdom and there are citizens.
There are many many more such examples and clues that indicate a group within the main body of Christ that are given special privileges, who at the same time have a lot more required of them than the normal believer. It is my position that the first group to be made alive (resurrected into the glorified and perfected life of Christ) will be that remnant and that, “those who are Christ’s at His Coming” will be the second group to be made alive (resurrected into Christ’s perfect glorified image). I understand that this brings with it a host of other questions, but I am going to pass over dealing with such for now.
Then Comes The End
The next thing we tend to miss is that the third harvest falls under the category concerning, “then comes the end.” It doesn’t sound too much like a category, I agree, but it must be connected with the context of what follows; namely the “placing of all His enemies under His feet,” and “all things being subjected to Him.” We looked at putting His enemies under His feet in much more detail in a previous blog so we do not need to unpack that except to say that it refers to the last harvest of souls that will be converted into Christ’s footstool which is His Temple (His Body, where He dwells/finds rest; see my blog on the subject here)
That is why Paul wraps it all up with the declaration that “God will be all in all.” The last harvest concerns the enemies of Christ being harvested and processed until they are fully a part of His kingdom. So when it says, “then comes the end” it is referring to that last in-gathering of souls and the process by which that last group (who are Christ’s enemies) are brought into subjection to Him.
Therefore we see 3 harvests; 1 – the anointed first fruits (remnant within God’s people), 2 – those who are Christ’s at His coming (the main body of believers), 3 – the enemies who will become His servants and bring about the end (conclusion of God’s plan in history). Now lets look at those three groups as they connect to the 3 harvests.
#1 – The Passover/Barley Harvest refers to the anointed first fruits, the Remnant (for Passover speaks of Christ’s death on the cross, and the Remnant is obedient unto death and are daily being changed more and more into Christ’s image as they take up their cross daily). Scripture says that Christ is our Passover, and that He was unleavened (leaven refers to sin) and that we ought to be unleavened as He was (See 1 Corinthians 5:7). The remnant have a special anointing/calling that requires much more from them than God requires from the rest of His people.
#2 – The Pentecost/Wheat Harvest refers to the Church at large for the Church began on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:1). Unfortunately many within the Church are yet rebellious, as children naturally tend to be rebellious. This is b/c unlike Passover, the Feast of Pentecost was to be “leavened.” This is a type and shadow that is prophetic of the sin that is within the Church. It is part of all of us, and it will be “baked with fire” in order to remove it from us (Leviticus 23:15-27 – the 50 days they were to count refers to Pentecost, which means “50”).
The Tabernacles/Grape harvest refers to the enemies of Christ, all those who refused Him in this life and lived according to their own lusts and the depravity of the world.
Processing Each Harvest
On top of this each harvest had a specific procedure by which it was processed and refined.
The Barley needed only to be thrown into the air where the wind stripped it of its outer shell, its husk. This is prophetic of that first company, the Remnant, who only need the moving of the Spirit (wind) to have their flesh (outer man) stripped away. (The word for “Spirit” in both Hebrew and Greek is also the word used for “wind,” and Jesus even uses wind as an illustration of the moving of the Spirit.)
The Wheat needed to be beaten or threshed in order to have its outer shell removed. This is prophetic of the second company, who even though they are followers of God are yet stubborn and somewhat more selfish than the Remnant, refusing to give up their own will and ways and life. Such souls will need discipline and spankings in order to die to their old man.
The Grapes were crushed under foot. This is prophetic of the final company of souls, the enemies of Christ, who need to be trampled under His feet in order to have their carnal mind and heart broken and removed. They will receive the fiercest processing. This is how Christ will “put all His enemies under His feet.” Which is the context for that last squadron/harvest who brings about “the end” as we noted above (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).
It is no coincidence that this is the same imagery of crushing grapes; a crushing which produces wine that will ultimately cheer the heart of God and man (Judges 9:13). The crushing of grapes is awful to be sure, but it will ultimately produce a lasting fruit.
“’Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.’ So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city,” (Revelation 14:8-20)
“From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” (Revelation 19:15)
There are, actually, quite a lot of fascinating and amazing details related to these 3 harvests of souls; unfortunately we don’t have the time or space in this blog to pursue them all. However, one can easily do a word search to discover all the instances that Barley, Wheat, or Grapes are mentioned in Scripture. Each reference being a “type and shadow” that gives us further clues concerning the details about each harvest of people. Here is a link to two booklets that might help you understand the prophetic significance of the first two harvests more clearly (Stephen Jones)
In the next blog we will be looking at how believers are given a “special salvation.” Though it is special it does not preclude others from being saved, in fact, it is special b/c it is unique and distinct from the general salvation which all will partake of.