Our Period Today
“The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels” (Matthew 13:39).
The text above is part of Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the wheat and tares, which was parable seven of the series recorded in Matthew 13. The Greek word rendered “world” in the common version, quoted above, is aionos, which means “age.” It is so rendered in the RVIC and many other clear translations, including the NIV, ESV, New King James, NASB, Amplified, Good News, Young’s Literal, and Rotherham.
The Greek word rendered “end” is also of interest. The word telos may refer to an ending period of time, or a final conclusion, much as the word “end” in English can be used flexibly. However, the word in Matthew 13:39 is less flexible. It is sunteleia, which refers not to a final point of conclusion, but to an ending period of time. “The word does not denote a termination, but the heading up of events to the appointed climax” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).
Thus the harvest, as used in this parable, refers to the ending period of the age, in this case the present Gospel Age. Brethren generally agree that we are in the ending period of the age. Even more broadly in the Christian world, the view is common that we are in an ending period, different from previous times, and working toward a climax.
The Jewish Age also had a period of harvest, of gathering in those of faith in Israel to the then newly opening privilege of the heavenly calling. Jesus spoke of this in John 4, as he saw the ripe interest of many in Samaria. “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).
The harvest of that time might be considered to run from 29 AD when Jesus was baptized, until the year beginning in the autumn of 69 AD, which later saw the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem by the Romans. This ended a period of opportunity for Israel. The fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD was at the close of three Roman campaigns against Israel in the years 66, 67, and 70 AD. This was part of the judgment against Israel for rejecting Messiah.
This reminds us that when King David was rejected by Israel, in favor of his rebellious son Absalom, the latter was caught by his long hair in an oak tree, and his life ended with three darts into his heart. “Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom … in the midst of the oak” (2 Samuel 18:14). Perhaps Absalom depicts Israel, committed to the ordinances of the Law Covenant, but rebellious against Christ, suffering an end to their national life.
The close of the Jewish harvest might be extended to 73 AD, with the fall of the last Jewish fortress, Masada. Forty years passed from 33 AD, when Jesus died and opened the heavenly calling, until 73 AD. Another blow came to Israel in 135 AD, when the Romans defeated the Bar Kochba Rebellion and caused Israel to lose Jerusalem yet more completely.
As the Gospel Age exceeds the length of the Jewish Age, so the Gospel Age harvest exceeds the length of the Jewish Age harvest. Already, 149 years have passed from the opening of the Gospel Age harvest in 1874, which is longer than any feasible length of the Jewish Age harvest. And it seems that we have perhaps a generation further until the Kingdom.
Another testimony respecting the Gospel Age harvest is Revelation 14:14. This verse describes Jesus, the Son of man, with a sickle in his hand prepared for the harvest work. “On his head a golden crown” had been set, indicating Jesus’ presence with regal authority.
In the verse following, 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.” Accordingly, in verse 15, Jesus proceeded.
The question comes to mind, who or what is represented by this second angel, who had authority to direct Jesus? It appeals to us that this commanding angel represents the authority of time prophecy, which is from God. Notice the expression, “the time is come for thee to reap.”
The Book of Daniel contains six time prophecies that brethren have studied for many years. They are of 490, 2300, 2520, 1260, 1290, and 1335 years. The last of these closes the book of Daniel. That is the one that gives us the time for the standing up of Michael to close out the Gospel Age, and introduce the Millennial Age.
That prophecy refers to a period of 1335 days. However, in lengthy time prophecy, days are fulfilled by years, as expressed in Ezekiel 4:6, “I have appointed thee each day for a year.”
Daniel 12 contains the last three time prophecies listed above: the 1260, 1290, and 1335 years. These all began with the same year, each one projecting to another milestone leading to the time when, as the opening verse of chapter 12 says, Michael would “stand up” in regal authority.
To provide a secure foundation for when the 1335 years close, the first of these three prophecies, 1260 years, is expressed seven times in scripture: twice in Daniel, and five times in Revelation.
The two cases appearing in Daniel present the 1260 years in a cryptic way, as 3½ prophetic “times” (Daniel 7:25, 12:7).1 One might guess that a “time” here intends a “year.” But how should we count the length of that year, so as to know the precise number of days, symbolic of years, that are intended?
(1) Note 181 in the RVIC on Daniel 12:7, respecting the word “times,” says: “That is, two times. Similarly in Chapter 7:25. In Hebrew, if no number is assigned to a plural, the minimum plural is implied — hence two.”
The answer is disclosed among the five times that this prophecy is repeated for us in Revelation. The appearance of this prophecy in Revelation also makes it apparent that this prophetic period begins some time during the Gospel Age. For Revelation discloses “the things which shall be hereafter” (Revelation 1:19), that is, from the time of Christ forward.
Revelation 12:14, as in Daniel, gives this prophetic period as 3½ times (“time, times, and half a time”), allowing us to connect to the period expressed in Daniel. Revelation 11:2 and 13:5 express the same period as 42 months, and indeed, 3½ years would have 42 months. Then Revelation 11:3 and 12:6 give the time as 1260 days — by which we learn that each prophetic month is to be counted as 30 days. For 42 months x 30 days equals 1260 days.
260 years later brings us to 7993 when, on Christmas day, the Pope crowned Charlemagne, as though claiming authority from God over even the rulers of empire. One thousand years later the Pope died as a prisoner of the French, in France, and the office was vacant for some months. Thereafter Papacy has not again exercised wide spread political authority.
Thus, the year 1799 marked both the close of 1260 years of Papal authority, and the 1000 years of Papacy’s counterfeit Millennium. This provides a double testimony that Papacy’s 3½ prophetic times closed with the year 1799. In which case the 1290 days closed 30 years later in 1829, and the 1335 days ended 45 years further on, in 1874.
Daniel 12:12 reads, “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.” This is a brief prophecy, but notice the words blessed, waiteth, and cometh. They imply a terminal point for which saints have patiently awaited, for a long time.
(3) See the article “Here I Stand,” Beauties of the Truth, November 2017, page 7, paragraph 3. It is explained there that the well-known experience of the Pope crowning Charlemagne was on Christmas day of the year we would term 799 AD. In that time, year numbers changed on Christmas Day, unlike today, when the count increments on January 1. Thus Christmas Day of the year we term 799 AD, was at that time called 800 AD.
These three words are also found in Luke 12:36, 37, which refer to the saints waiting for the return of Christ at the close of the age. We are to be “like unto men that wait for their lord … that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh, shall find watching.”
The blessing to come for the saints is expressed in the latter part of verse 37. “He shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” This refers to spiritual food, an understanding of God’s Plan of the Ages. This has been restored to the saints through the ministry of the seventh messenger. This understanding was not retrieved spontaneously, but by knitting together fragments of truth uncovered from the Reformation forward, especially since the close of the 2300 years and the cleansing of the sanctuary class from various defiling errors.
In Jesus’ message to the seventh phase of the Church, Laodicea, we find similar promises. “I stand at the door and knock” (“he … knocketh” in Luke 12:36): “if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Here is the same repast of spiritual understanding referred to in Luke 12:37.
1874, Beginning of the Harvest
Thus time prophecy identifies for us the beginning of the harvest. From this beginning point, we mark successive events in the harvest, to our day and further. This we pick up in the article following.
Categories: 2023 Issues, 2023-March/April