“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat. 13:47-50)All who remain alive on the face of the planet must now identify with one or the other of the two criminals crucified with Christ. All the world stands guilty. Those in the first harvest, like the repentant thief on the cross (Luke 23:42), turn in desperation to Christ for cleansing of their sins. They are the wheat. Those in the second harvest (the vintage of wrath) are like the thief who continues to revile Christ (Luke 23:39). They are the tares which are gathered for destruction.for the harvest of the earth is ripe
For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor When it is time to thresh her; yet a little while and the time of her harvest will come.” (Jer. 51:33)The long age so central to Jesus’ teaching concerning the “kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 13:24, 31, 33, 44-45, 47, 52) has now drawn to a close. (See The Arrival of God’s Kingdom.) It is now the time of the harvest. “But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:29).At the harvest at the end of the age, there are both wheat and tares. The harvest includes a reaping of both and their separation. The wheat is gathered and preserved, the tares are gathered and destroyed.
But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ (Mat. 13:26-30)It seems best to understand the two harvests depicted here as two aspects of the final harvest at the end of the age: a harvest of redemption and a harvest of wrath.2 Those who view both as harvests of judgment have difficulty explaining why there should be two such harvests of wrath and what, if anything, can be said to differ between them? When the two harvests are compared, we see that Jesus is specifically associated with the first harvest—for it was He who sowed the good grain. Unlike the second harvest, there is no hint of wrath associated with the first harvest: no angel from the altar, no power over fire, no grapes, no trampling, no blood. The only possible negative aspect concerning the first harvest is that it is said to be ripe, ἐξηράνθη [exēranthē] from ζηραίνω [zērainō] , which means to dry up or wither and is used to describe plants without good roots (Mark 4:6).3 However, since the first harvest involves not grapes, but by implication wheat, this could just be a description of what naturally occurs when wheat reaches its maturity. All things considered, it seems best to understand these as two different harvests, one to gather faithful wheat and the other to destroy wild grapes. We are in agreement with Alford:
What is the distinction between the two ingatherings? And why do we read of the casting into the wine-press of God’s wrath in the second case, and of no corresponding feature in the other? Again, why is the agency so different—the Son of man on the white cloud with a golden crown in the one case, the mere angel in the other? Besides, the two ingatherings seem quite distinct. The former is over before the other begins. On the whole then, though I would not pronounce decidedly, I must incline to think that the harvest is the ingathering of the saints, God’s harvest, reaped from the earth: described here thus generally, before the vintage of wrath which follows.4
1 The Church can take great comfort in the fact that Ruth, the Gentile bride of Boaz (a type of the kinsman-redeemer Christ), was at his feet during the time of threshing (Ru. 3:2-7).
2 Seiss disagrees: “That this is the [a harvest of redemption] seems to me very improbable, if not entirely out of the question. According to the record up to this point, the great harvest of the good seed has already been reaped. The Living Ones, the Elders, the innumerable multitude, the Manchild, and the 144,000 all of whom are the good seed, are in heaven before this reaping comes.”—J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 358. Seiss would have us believe that not a single believer remains upon the earth at the time of this harvest! How could that be? For the second harvest is most certainly the second advent of Christ, including the Campaign of Armageddon which occurs at the end of the Tribulation. There are still saints alive on the earth at the time of Christ’s second advent because they are those who enter the Millennial Kingdom and form its initial population (Mat. 25:31-34).
3 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 548.
4 John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966), Rev. 14:14.