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Revelation 14:14-20



I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 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 earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

(verses 14-16)

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(Let me start by acknowledging that there is much debate about the details of this portion of the vision. Who are the characters? What is the harvest? Is it a harvest of the righteous, or a harvest for judgement? The debate goes on. So, having made that acknowledgment, I’m going to simply press forward with the interpretation that seems most persuasive to me.)


John lifts his sights. His gaze is captured. What does he see? A white cloud. An awesome cloud. Did it remind him of the stories of the Exodus when the pillar of cloud led the Israelites by day? Perhaps he remembered the cloud of God’s glory that filled the Temple when Solomon dedicated it to the Lord, a cloud so thick and intense that the priests had to cease their activities. Did it take him back to a more personal recollection, to a moment when he stood on the Mount (alongside brother James and friend Peter) and saw Jesus transfigured before him, being then enveloped in a cloud of God’s very presence with the Divine Voice speaking loud and strong? Or perhaps he was carried back to be caught up in the attention-riveting vision of the prophet Daniel when he saw the fast-moving clouds of heaven carrying along a divine being “one like a son of man” (Daniel 7:13-14).


Yes, “one like a son of man,” crowned with gold and carrying a sickle ready for harvest. That’s what he saw. It captivated his gaze. Surely John could not have recorded the description that he did without vividly remembering that his Lord and Master – Jesus – had so often described himself in this very way, as the Son of Man.


Yes, that’s who John saw. Jesus.


And then, immediately, he saw another angel, and he heard a loud voice (just like on the Mount) calling out to the “one like a son of man,” saying that the time was right, the hour had come, the harvest was here, the field was ripe.


Again, it would take John back. He had been there with Jesus, near that well in Samaria, when Jesus had instructed him, and the other disciples, to lift their sights, to open their eyes, and to take a good look at the fields. “They are ripe for harvest,” Jesus had said. He was indicating that there were many – so many – who needed to hear the Good News in order that they might respond and be won into the Kingdom. John was there with Jesus on another occasion when he passionately told them, “The harvest is plentiful”(Matthew 9:37), and then urged them to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the harvest field – in response, in the next moment, Jesus himself sent the Twelve out into the harvest to preach the Good News, to drive out demons, and to heal the sick.


Now, in this heavenly vision, John sees the culmination of that harvesting work. The Son of Man wields the sickle, swinging it over the whole earth, and bringing in the fullness of the harvest. Oh, how good.


But there is also a harvest of judgement in the succeeding verses (17-20), in which all who have not received the Gospel are gathered into the winepress of God’s wrath. It’s a horrific picture. That great final harvest is coming. But the hour is not yet, so urgency is given to the mission of all those who, like John, have been entrusted with the Good News of Jesus.


What joy in the Lord’s harvest of the redeemed in Christ! What grief in the harvest of judgement for those left unrepentant.


But there is yet time before the end.

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O Sovereign Lord, send out workers into the harvest field. Use even me. May it be to your glory, looking forward to the fullness of the harvest.

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Reflect:

How might the Lord use you this day in the harvest field? Are you willing? Make yourself available. Commit yourself in prayer.

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Photo by Tim Matras on Unsplash

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