God uses farming analogies a lot in the Bible as it was a very familiar trade and process back in Bible times. It’s a little more difficult for us to understand today, unless you grew up with parents who raised crops for a living, but even then, you might not be familiar with the three harvests that God discusses in the Bible: the barley, wheat, and grape harvest. So, we will talk about them a bit today.
There will be three harvests at the time of the end, or three times when God will execute His judgements (and ability to save!) on different groups of people. Each harvest will be processed differently based on where we stand in relationship to God at the time He starts His harvest. We will see there are two harvests in the spring, which represents those who will have their sin removed (unleavened), and then the final fall harvest, who will actually remain in sin and be the sin (the wine and blood).
“… the harvest is the end of the world…” (Matthew 13:39)
The Barley Harvest
The barley harvest is the first fruits harvest offered to God in a wave offering. It normally occurs sometime near the end of the passover season which includes the three spring feasts of passover, unleavened bread, and first fruits. All of these three spring feasts cannot have the presence of sin and so are described as needing to be without leaven (which is symbolic for sin), or holy unto the Lord, pure and without fault.
Barley is a delicate crop, the main food of the poor and very common, and was valued less than wheat, that is the first to be harvested between the three crops. It is a delicate crop that takes special care to harvest lest it get damaged. Barley is more prone to shattering, so in order to reduce this type of loss, barley is usually harvested before being fully matured and in the morning hours. In Bible times, it was picked into baskets, and then ‘winnowed,’ or slightly massaged in the hand until everything was gone until just the barley remained. This was done on windy days so that the wind would carry away everything that was not the completed barley harvest.
The symbolism for barley throughout Scriptures relate both to Jesus and to His bride. Many of the bride examples throughout Scripture will also have a reference to barley.
For many Jews today, the significance of this feast is unknown as they do not claim Jesus as their Messiah. They assume it is to give testimony to the future resurrected Messiah, but they don’t believe that He has come yet. However, this day was the exact day that Jesus was raised from the dead as the first fruits.
- But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1Corinthians 15:20)
- For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. (Romans 11:16)
- But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. (1Corinthians 15:23)
- These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. (Rev 14:4)
So, the first barley harvest are those who have been purified by the blood of the Lamb, and are trusting Him for their salvation. They have been given pure garments and made holy. They are first to be harvested, at the rapture, and the easiest to harvest., i.e, they take minimal effort to get them ready. They will be the first resurrection and will be dedicated to the Lamb and will follow Him everywhere. They are His and have joined Him as the whole body. One thing to note though is that these are identified specifically as the overcomers, or those who have remained in the faith and have not soiled their garments, so there is a difference between members within the Church (virgins (the 5 wise, and the 5 foolish)).
“4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. ” Revelation 3:4-5
The Wheat Harvest
Wheat is the next harvest following the barley harvest by approximately one month and usually during the season of Pentecost (or feast of weeks.) Wheat is a more difficult crop to harvest as its grains do not fall off the shaft easily and so thus require much more effort to get them in usable form. It, like barley, is harvested before it is ripe so it would not fall off the husk prematurely. In order to get the grains off the shaft, they are either thrown on the floor and cattle and/or oxen trample repeatedly over them, crushed with a sledge or threshing roller, or they are ground across a board called a ‘tribulum’ (yes, to which we get the word tribulation). However, before the grains are extracted, they would need to be tied in bundles and dried for a period of time when the air would flow through them to mature them. After they were dried, they could then be beaten to get the grains off. Once the grains were off, they were ‘winnowed’ by throwing them into the wind to finish extracting the rest of the non-usuable portion like the tares (exactly what the barley harvest had to go through first).
Christ provides a clue as to when it was the best time to cut the grain in:
“35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. ” John 4:35 (So, cut the shafts before the harvest is ripe)
The wheat harvest represents the church in general. It seems to speaks of those who were justified by faith in Jesus, but did not go through or submit to the sanctification process of the Lord and can also be Jews who come to the realization that Jesus is their Messiah during the tribulation period. They are believers, but are in need of further correction in order to be fully sanctified and put on the holy nature and character of their Heavenly Father. There still remains iniquity (lawlessness) in their lives that must be purged by the tribulum (tribulation). Those who are part of the wheat harvest shall be brought forth in the second resurrection to be saved “ yet so as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:15). This fire is necessary to burn off what remains of the sin in their lives. It is not pleasant, but know that after the purification, that God will still keep them unto Himself. They will not have to go through God’s final wrath and judgement.
11 “I, [John the Baptist] baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”? Matthew 3:12
- “…these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev 7:14b)
- “4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Rev 20:4-6)
- “10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’ Revelation 3:10-11
- “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.” Revelation 14:12-16
- “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
The Grape Harvest
The grape harvest is a fall harvest, the last of the three harvests that we will discuss. This will be the harvest of those who chose not to believe the Word of God and put their trust in Jesus. They have not become justified, nor sanctified, and so thus they carry their sins with them and shall go through God’s wrath and judgement. They do not have the blood of the Lamb to cover them, so they will have to give up their own blood as their final sacrifice to pay for their sins.
Grapes are harvested by throwing them into a winepress. In Bible times, this looked like a large bowl where the grapes were thrown in and then people tramped them ‘severely’ until all that was left was grape juice.
- 17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.[c] Revelation 14:17-20
- “12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:12-15
We can validate that there are various times when God chooses to save different groups because of His analogy to the harvests as well as verses such as these, where both are true:
- “…a remnant shall be saved….” (Romans 9:27b)
- “…all Israel shall be saved….” (Romans 11:26a)
1 John 1:9 ESV / If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
John 3:36 ESV /Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Romans 6:23 ESV / For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Hebrews 10:26-31 ESV / For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” …
Romans 1:18 ESV / For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
John 15:6 ESV / If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Father God, Thank you that you give multiple times to be saved, as you are entirely full of mercy and grace. We ask, Lord, that you purify us and make sure we are worthy to be the first, barley harvest and not have to go through the wheat tribulation to clean our garments. Give us hearts for you and hearts for others. And, thank you for the blood of the Lamb to cover us so that we do not need to pay with our own blood. Praise you for who you are! In Jesus’ Name. Amen