Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lesson 11: "Getting Ready for the Harvest"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of James

Lesson 11: "Getting Ready for the Harvest"

The coming of Jesus shone brightly in the heart of James and so should it be for us. The second advent can be either something we dread or love depending upon our perspective. If the old covenant overshadows our minds, then we're petrified with the thought: "Here comes the Judge! What must I do to get ready?" Thus the second coming is bad news.

But the Lord never sends bad news to discourage us. Jesus sends the message of Good News. It's about how He prepares us for His return. Therefore we are not only interested in what James meant when he wrote for his day, but what does "the coming of the Lord" mean for us today in light of our cleansing of the sanctuary idea.

We have been living in the cosmic Day of Atonement since 1844. Unfortunately, in a lesson entitled "Getting Ready for the Harvest" there is absolutely nothing relating this idea of the harvest with our Heavenly Counselor who is the Head of the church. He is the One who prepares the church for the harvest.

As Christians become more and more urbanized and disconnected from the direct link with the land, our source of food, we tend to become oblivious as to how dependent we are upon the sunshine and rain with which God blesses the earth in order to make it productive. Our fast-paced lives make us impatient. We demand instant results.

It is just here that we may learn a lesson from the farmer who tills the ground and plants the seed. But beyond that he can't cause the germination or maturation of the crop. He must patiently wait for the rains, both the early and latter.

No one prepares himself or herself for the harvest. No grain can ever ripen by itself without being watered. Our part is to welcome that blessing, and not to fight it off and resist it. The latter rain of the Holy Spirit's outpouring causes the grain to ripen.

The early rain fell at Pentecost, and has been received ever since through the past two thousand years as untold multitudes of human souls have prepared for death. The figure is drawn from the Palestinian barley crop where the annual early and latter rainy seasons were familiar to farmers. The early rain enables the grain to sprout and to grow, but not to ripen for the harvest. The ripening is a change that can only be produced by the latter rain.

There must also come a spiritual change before Christ's second coming. A people must be prepared, not for death, but for translation without seeing death, because the Bible differentiates between the multitudes who have died believing in Christ and those who are living when He comes." [1]

The Lord says He is ready to work with each one on earth who is willing. A great outpouring of the Holy Spirit will accomplish a work that makes ready a worldwide community of believers for the coming of the Lord. It also empowers them to complete the great unfinished commission of proclaiming the everlasting gospel to all the world.

This leads to considering the nature of the judgment hour message. James' practical application is: "My friends, do not blame your troubles on one another, or you will fall under judgment; and there at the door stands the judge" (James 5:9, Revised English Bible).

"Groaning" against one another is a reference to complaining about one another, which is in fact a kind of judging. Grumbling is the opposite of patience and is a mark of unbelief; it is contrary to genuine faith. Although grumbling may seem to be a minor offense, James' warning against it is serious. Those who take up the work of judging their fellows are thereby saying that Christ is not coming to His church to prepare them for His coming and therefore, they must do that work for Him. By judging others they put themselves in the place of Christ. [2]

It is just this perspective of the judgment as "grumbling," blaming "your troubles on one another," judgmentalism that has turned people off regarding our Day of Atonement message. The "hour of His judgment" has become bad news. This is old covenant selfishness to the extreme.

Christ said to Nicodemus, "God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17). Did Jesus mean what He said? Or as Judge has His personality suddenly changed so that He now presents Himself to the church and the world as its Condemner?

Jesus taught that the source of condemnation is unbelief in Him as the Saviour of the world. "He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). Condemnation is a do-it-yourself job. In the case cited by James, judgmental complaints about others within the church is a manifestation of unbelief in the True Judge who stands before the door. Thus the one holding the "grudge" condemns himself.

It is telling that in the Judge's message to the Laodiceans, the High Priest positions Himself outside the church wanting to come in. "I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him" (Rev. 3:17). Likewise, in James "the judge standeth before the door."

Jesus actually quotes word for word from Song of Solomon 5:2 when He says, "I stand at the door and knock." Thus He tells us that the Laodicean message is actually a love letter from Christ to His Bride-to-be!

Jesus reveals Himself here as the disappointed Lover who has just come from His journey to His Beloved. It's night; it's cold; it's raining; He is hungry; He is lonely; He wants her. But she doesn't want Him, apparently. He is hurt.

Standing outside in the cold, He says He goes on knocking, knocking "at the door." The object of His love has just gone to bed, is in that twilight zone between waking and sleeping. Then she hears Him. She is annoyed; why does He bother her at this hour? She doesn't want to get her feet soiled on that floor--she's comfy in bed. Finally, however, she stops thinking of her own selfish laziness, and thinks of Him outside. Belatedly she gets up to go to the door to let Him in. And, lo, He is gone. He got tired of waiting, waiting.

After all these many years since 1844 when Jesus said that it was His will that "this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34), He intended all along that the generation which went through the Great Disappointment should live to see Him come the second time. But through our resisting His call to the wedding of 1888, the time has been greatly prolonged.

James' specific example of steadfastness in suffering may appear a bit odd (James 5:11). For a reader of Job, it may be surprising to hear that Job became a model for patience, since much of the book consists of Job's impatient complaining to God about the injustice of his suffering. However, the kind of patience that James has in mind is not passivity, but perseverance, fortitude in the face of suffering. The story of the farmer waiting patiently points to a yearning for the day of justice, since the farmer waits not with nonchalance, but with longing. Job did not give in to the falsity being suggested by his friends, and he did not give up; he kept clinging tightly and unyieldingly to God as his life, which is the very reason he felt such a conflict of injustice that was happening in his present life.

But remember the deciding factor of this concluding statement, "the Lord is merciful and compassionate." This points to the end of Job's story,where the Lord's mercy to Job is displayed. The Lord blesses Job.

--Paul E. Penno


[1] 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.

[2] See E. J. Waggoner, "Majority Rule," The Present Truth, May 18, 1893. This article may be found at:

Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz