The Son of Man
After telling us briefly about the “blessed” ones “who die in the Lord from now on,” Rev. 14:14 says,
14 And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head, and a sharp sickle in His hand.
When Jesus was questioned by the high priest as to whether or not He was the Messiah, He said in Matt. 26:64,
64 Jesus said to him, You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.
According to Dr. Bullinger’s notes on Psalm 8:4 in The Companion Bible, the term son of man “relates to dominion in the earth.” He says also Appendix 98, section XVI,
“This title, when used of Christ, always has the Article …. When used of a human being, as in Ezekiel, it never has the Article….”
When John uses this term in Rev. 14:14 above, there is no article (“the”). This is why the NASB renders it “one like a son of man.” So who is this “son of man”? It is the corporate “son,” the body of overcomers manifesting the nature and character of THE Son of Man, Jesus Christ.
It is the arnion, the little lambs that Jesus said to feed in John 21:15—not the Amnos, who is the Lamb taking away the sin of the world (John1:29). Yet, keep in mind that this corporate “son” includes both Jesus (the Head) and the sons of God (His Body). In a sense, this is a joint work of the New Creation Man that is called to bring righteousness to the earth.
This “son of man” has a crown on his head. Obviously, Jesus Himself is the highest authority, because He was the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18). But when the sons of God are raised in the first resurrection to join those who are yet alive, they are like the second-born from the dead. They will have the next highest authority. Authority is based upon the order of birth.
The Apostle Paul wrote just before his martyrdom to his co-worker in 2 Tim. 4:8,
8 In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Paul was speaking of that son of man with the crown of righteousness in Rev. 14:14. It included Paul, and “also to all who have loved His appearing.”
This is also the same “son of man” who carries “a sharp sickle in his hand.” While the Head of this “son of man” is Christ, the hand is part of the body. The Head directs the hand, but the hand actually carries out the work as the executor of His will. The “sickle” is meant to give us a prophetic picture, rather than seeing it as a literal farm instrument. So what is its meaning?
The Sickle and Harvest Time
Revelation 14:15, 16 says,
15 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, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth; and the earth was reaped.
Reaping is done only when the harvest is ripe. In a personal application, each person is ready for harvest at a different point in his life. But in Jesus’ parable in Matt. 13:39, He prophesies that “the harvest is the end of the age.” The point of the “harvest” theme is that God has sown good seed into the earth, but that it takes time for that crop to ripen. One should not try to reap a crop before it is ripe. James 5:7, 8 says,
7 Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Those who study timing are better equipped with patience than those who do not study timing. There is, of course, more than one level of timing for people to study. First there is the long-term study of things like the Pentecostal Age and the Tabernacles Age. The verses above refer to such things.
Secondly, there is the short-term timing in one’s own personal life. God may have sown His word in the lives of multitudes, but not all of those seeds have germinated. Yet some ripen every day. This has gone on for generations. In this sense, Jesus said in John 4:35,
35 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.
In other words, while we must be patient for the greater fulfillment of the harvest at the end of the age, there is even now a work to be done on an individual basis. There are many individuals who are now “ripe” for harvest, even though we must have patience with those who are yet unripe.
But let us not pit John4:35against James 5:7, for then we will have one side arguing against the other, when in reality, both are correct on their own level.
Rev. 14:15, 16 (quoted earlier) is not talking on the individual level. It is a long-term prophecy of “the end of the age” (Matt.13:39). What sort of reaping is it? That really depends upon which people we want to discuss.
The harvest of the field (i.e., “the world”—Matt.13:38) begins with the presentation of the first fruits (overcomers). When the sons of God are manifested after the first resurrection, the overcomers will be the first fruits of a general harvest. This is why Rev. 14:1-5 speaks of the overcomers being manifested. Presenting first fruits always marks the beginning of a harvest. Then immediately in verse 6 John speaks of the gospel being preached to all nations. That is the general harvest of the “field.” That preaching brings about the final collapse of “Babylon” in verse 8.
A farmer harvests wheat in order to make bread out of it—not to destroy the crop. Even so, God is a farmer who sends His angels to harvest His field—the world. While it is true that the tares are removed first (Matt.13:24-30), we ought not to think of the tares as being all non-Christians. Tares are imitation wheat. Tares look like wheat and can only be distinguished toward harvest. At that time, the grains of wheat are heavy and cause the wheat to bow. The tares have a small, black, poisonous seed that is lightweight and can easily be seen standing above the wheat at the time of harvest.
The tares are those who claim to be God’s chosen, but who are only imitators, whose doctrines are poisonous. They are the followers of the Old Jerusalem, “the bloody city” (Ezekiel 22:2), rather than those of the New Jerusalem, the true “City of Peace.” They are twins like Jacob and Esau, making it difficult for most people to distinguish between them. The removal of the tares will precede the actual harvest. That time is nearly here.
Gathering the First Fruits
Before any reaping can take place, the first fruits must be offered to God in order to sanctify (or authorize) the harvest. For this reason, the overcomers are called “first fruits to God and to the Lamb” in Rev. 14:4. They are not “reaped” as part of the general harvest in the rest of the chapter. Instead, they are “gathered” in Matt. 24:30, 31,
30 and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
And so Rev. 14:14 pictures “one like a son of man” coming on “a white cloud.” The event described is a gathering of “His elect,” and for this reason the angels are sent “with a great trumpet.” The timing of the first resurrection, which includes only these “elect” (overcomers), is at the feast of Trumpets, which commemorates the construction of two silver trumpets in Num. 10:1-4. Josephus describes it this way:
“Moreover, Moses was the inventor of the form of their trumpet, which was made of silver… Two of these being made, one of them was sounded when they required the multitude to come together to congregations. When the first of them gave a signal, the heads of the tribes were to assemble, and consult about the affairs to them properly belonging; but when they gave the signal by both of them, they called the multitude together” (Antiquities of the Jews, III, xii, 6).
When Paul spoke of the resurrection of the dead in 1 Thess. 4:16, he said that the dead would arise “with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God.” The word for trumpet is singular, showing that this was to gather only the leaders, not the congregation as a whole. Likewise, in 1 Cor. 15:52 Paul again speaks of the resurrection of the dead and the transformation of the living overcomers “at the last trumpet.”
Paul did not explain the difference between the first resurrection and the general resurrection, but John does so in Revelation 20, when he writes of two resurrections a thousand years apart. The point is that in Matt. 24:30, 31 Jesus spoke of a trumpet (singular) that was to be used to “gather together His elect,” that is, the overcomers who are the leaders of the congregation.
If we extend this theme beyond the scope of Revelation 14, we may identify this gathering more broadly with the barley harvest, which is the first of the harvests. John was actually seeing three distinct harvests in this chapter, dealing with three different groups of people. The barley represents the overcomers, the wheat represents the church as a whole, and the grapes represent the rest of creation. Barley is winnowed, wheat is threshed, and grapes are trodden under foot.
Each is treated in an increasingly violent manner of judgment, but the ultimate purpose is to extract that which is good for use on God’s Communion Table. In the end, God gets His unleavened bread (barley), His leavened bread (wheat), and the wine (grapes). This is the basic outline of the divine plan whereby He intends to restore His creation.
Reaping the Wheat
Rev. 14:15, 16 pictures a scene of reaping spiritual “wheat,”
15 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, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
We are not told specifically what was reaped, but the next verses tell us of a second harvest of grapes. The first harvest, then, must be of wheat, which always came at the time of Pentecost.
Jesus spoke of this wheat harvest in a parable in Matt. 13:24-30. In the parable, a man “sowed good seed in his field.” (Matt. 13:24). Verse 26 tells us that it was “wheat,” and by this we know that this Kingdom parable is primarily about the church in the Age of Pentecost. (See my book, The Wheat and Asses of Pentecost.) Then the wheat field is corrupted by tares, sown by an “enemy.” The command is given to allow them both to grow together until the time of harvest when they can be distinguished by their fruit.
The tares are then removed from the wheat field before the wheat is harvested. “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matt. 13:30). Jesus later explains the time of harvest, saying in verse 39, “the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.”
This is the time frame covered in Rev. 14:15, 16. When the various “beasts” have finished their allotted time to rule the earth, the time of harvest finally arrives. The poisonous tares, which appeared as counterfeit wheat in the church, will be identified and separated for judgment. Likewise, at the same time, the works of the church will also be tried by the same fire. Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:13, “the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” Verse 15 says,
15 If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.
The angel mentioned in Rev. 14:15 does not appear to do any harvesting himself. Instead, he is seen calling out to the “one like a son of man” to thrust in His sickle. He is the Threshing Angel who must await the harvest before he can do his assigned task. By my own personal revelation, this is the same angel that brought judgment to Israel in 2 Samuel 24, but whose judgment was stopped (limited) by David’s hastily-built altar on the threshing floor of Arunah in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 24:16). It prophesied of the cross, where Jesus was offered as the Sacrifice for sin in order to stop the judgment.
In the time of David, the Threshing Angel stood by the threshing floor when he was told “it is enough.” Many years later, when Jesus completed His suffering on the cross—perhaps on that very location—He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Perhaps in Rev. 14:15 the Threshing Angel was still operating under that order to cease when he called out to the Son of Man to thrust in His sickle. Without the sickle, he had nothing to thresh, but he understood that his work would continue at the end of the age.
We now come to still another angel who presides over the wine press of God, depicting the grape harvest in the earth.