Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mark 4:29 commentary: the harvest is come

29 But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

Just a thought. How wonderful it would be to be taken to heaven the moment you are saved. But, we are reaped in the fullness of time. Many people who are saved wonder why God took so long to harvest us. Some people arrive at the understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ as children, some at an advanced age. The word is planted and each person grows until the time is right and their hearts are willing to receive what the Holy Spirit is opening up to them.

I was taken to church as a young child, a few times later on, but faith wasn’t spoken of much in my home. What the practice of religion in my family had become was more of how you appeared to others; paying your bills, having nice things, dressing your children in nice clothing, not associating with riffraff, not drinking alcohol, keeping your yard nice, and your car washed. Success in life was a sign of not only God’s blessing but His approval.

Reading the Bible was rare, in fact, I never remember it being read aloud by my father or mother in the home. Meeting with other people of faith for worship was not a priority and eventually abandoned completely. As my parents became more “sophisticated” and “cosmopolitan” there were a few drinks with friends. The generation of Americans that came out of the Great Depression viewed what you could give your family physically as being of far more importance than the spiritual. There was a sense of shame at not having so any extreme within the bounds of the law was good to at least appear as if you “had something.” Many people were deep in debt trying to “keep up with the Joneses.”

I grew up on movies and television, with fictional characters as my role models because while the true role models in my life were good people, they did not fill the void that only God can fill. I learned my manners from characters played by Humphrey Bogart and Alan Ladd and the like. My heroes were characters in old movies and television. My spiritual world was empty, or at least I thought so, but I was being constantly manipulated and driven by forces I did not understand.

Leaving home, away from the watchful and often disapproving eye of parents, I became immersed in evil doings and evil thoughts. I enjoyed the lust of the flesh and thought only of what pleased me. My peers became of the lower and lower sort of persons until I finally had gone so far into the swamp that I was sent away to a very bad place in which, in spite of my surroundings, God protected me from all of the evils that you read about as happening in such a place. Even the most evil and vicious of people were kind to me but not others, so I know that God’s hand of protection was on me. It was through these times that I witnessed the lives of true, Spirit-filled Christians. These weren’t people who just focused on acting “good.” Some didn’t even have that option. These were people who believed and trusted and yearned for Christ’s righteousness. They lived their lives in faith. Some had the wrong Bibles. Some belonged to the wrong church. Some also had some screwy doctrines. But, all of them were clearly moved by the Spirit of God.

Eventually, the day on March 19, 1986, when my future wife, Beth, asked me if there was any reason why I shouldn’t pray to surrender my life to Jesus, I simply could not think of any reason. The proof was there to overcome my atheism, my pagan idolatry, and my selfishness. I knew that I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the tracts I had thrown away, the Christians I had mocked, the blasphemous jokes I had made, were overcome by the quiet and steady witness of faithful Christians whose lives were Scripture. No words, no invitation to church, no threat of damnation ever affected me more than the simple faith of common people who trusted a Risen Saviour and showed that every day.

You should knock on doors. You should pass out tracts. You should invite people to church. But your testimony day to day is the only Bible some people will ever read. At a time when you don’t know or even understand the harvest will be ripe and God will put in the sickle to reap. God’s words, at least to some extent, were put in the hearts of these Christians and those words were lived out, at least to some extent, before a vile, vicious unbeliever who worshipped only himself. But God gave the increase. Of course, there is another story of a long struggle with sin and selfishness as a Christian, and many setbacks to my walk with Christ, but that is another story, as the Christian has the Spirit of God living in him but walks around in a body of sinful flesh.

The Holy Spirit uses the image of a sickle reaping a harvest in regard to not only those ready to be saved but those ready to be judged.

Revelation 14:14 And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. 16 And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. 17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. 19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

Notice the comparison in Joel 3:13.

Joel 3:9 ¶ Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: 10 Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. 11 Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. 12 Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. 13 Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. 14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. 16 The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. 17 So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.

Whether this is a reference to the battle of Armageddon or a reference to Christ’s return you can see the terrible judgment that will fill the area of Israel.

In this verse in Mark it appears, though, that Christ is referring to a harvest of souls for God, the result of God’s word being planted in men’s heart. All through history this sowing and reaping has been going on with the word planted in men’s hearts and a new creature being made who no longer hungers for sin but now hungers for God.

2Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Galatians 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

As well, throughout history, these bodies of flesh have been planted in the ground, buried at sea, cremated, and in every sense been dissolved.

2Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2Corinthians 5:4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

2Peter 1:13 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;

For no physical body made of the elements of the earth can live forever.

1Corinthians 15:35 ¶ But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: 37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. 40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

And our hope is in this resurrection as well. The Adoption is one of the great Biblical doctrines, not just of a spiritual existence with God but eventually a physical body.

Romans 8:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

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