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The Handbook for the End Times: Hope, Help and Encouragement for Living in the Last Days

The Handbook for the End Times: Hope, Help and Encouragement for Living in the Last Days

by Don Finto


Learn More | Meet Don Finto

1
Let Both Grow Together

"Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe."

Revelation 14:15

Seven words out of Jesus' end time parable of the wheat and the weeds have changed the way I look at the future: Let both grow together until the harvest.

Jesus was telling one of those the-Kingdom-of-heaven-is-like parables. A man sowed good seed in his field, but an enemy came and sowed weeds. As the plants began to grow, the field hands seem to have seen nothing unusual. Only as the plants "sprouted and formed heads" did they detect the weeds (see Matthew 13:26-39).

The servants asked the master, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?"

"No," he answered, "because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn."

The disciples may have been thinking, Good story! But we still do not understand what He is saying.

"Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field," they later asked Jesus.

So He went into greater detail, detail that gives very clear meaning to those seven words.

    "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels."

    Matthew 13:37–39

I have read these words dozens of times, but not until a few years ago did I get the basic message Jesus was communicating to His friends, as well as to us these many centuries later. This is the end time of all end time parables. Jesus is describing what is to happen at the close of the age—this age, the age in which we now live. At the time of God’s choosing, there will be a harvest of both wickedness and righteousness, of both the wicked and the righteous.

Premature Harvest

I am a West Texas farm boy. I know what it means to harvest when something is ripe. We were cotton farmers. Try to harvest cotton too early and it is worthless. Not even when that white begins to show inside the boll would one dare to pick the cotton. Still worthless! One must be patient. But when the boll is fully open, grab the cotton quickly, take it to the market and sell it for enough money to feed the family for the year.

There is an interesting little aside in the encounter Abraham had with God when He was describing what would happen to Abraham's descendants: "For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and . . . they will be enslaved and mistreated" (Genesis 15:13). And then He gave one of the reasons for Israel's long estrangement from their country of destiny. "In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" (verse 16, emphasis added). Or, as the King James Version reads: "The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full."

According to His communication with Abraham, God, in His sense of justice, cannot judge a nation—or, in the case of the wheat/weeds parable, the world—until the iniquity of that nation is full, has reached its full measure, has ripened.

Jesus' simple parable describes for us the time of the end for our present age, when world wickedness will reach its zenith, or, in this case, its nadir. When the sin tank of the world is full, God will bring down the curtain on world civilization in its present form.

These Are the Days

That is the bad news. But the good news is that while wickedness is ripening, righteousness is also ripening. Followers of Jesus will become the godliest, the most Holy Spirit—empowered, the purest of heart, the most miracle-working generation in the history of the planet. Jesus ended the explanation of the parable with words that attest to this maturing: "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:43).

Hundreds of years prior to Jesus' coming, the prophet Daniel saw the very thing Jesus described. He saw "the time of the end" (Daniel 12:4, 9) at "the end of the days" (verse 13), a time when "those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever" (verse 3). This will be a time when "many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked" (verse 10).

Interestingly enough, without any way to imagine airplane travel and superhighways in the nations of the world and without the remotest comprehension of an atomic age when the world's wisest scientists and scholars would be unable to keep up with all of the latest technologies and inventions, Daniel described the very era in which we are living, a time when "many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase" (Daniel 12:4 NASB). Nothing in all of Scripture more precisely distinguishes our generation from all those in prior years. We indeed are going back and forth, with millions of us in the air, traveling from nation to nation at any given moment. Other multiple millions are traveling at high speeds on the world's highways.

At the same time knowledge is increasing at such astonishing speed that even those in the field of technology have trouble staying abreast—to say nothing of the fact that I can hold in my hand access to more knowledge than was in the world's finest libraries less than a century ago.

All this is happening at the same time that the wise, those who are leading many to righteousness, are growing into their destinies of "shining like the brightness of the heavens . . . like the stars," as Daniel foresaw.

Radical and Radiant

Remember when Moses came down from the mountain after being with God, and "the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory" (2 Corinthians 3:7)?

Have you ever pondered what it will be like when, as the psalmist predicts, "those who look to [God] are radiant" (Psalm 34:5)?

I love the story that was highlighted on The 700 Club some years back. A well-known Hollywood figure, a Jewish atheist known for his sometimes ruthless business practices, came upon extremely hard times. During this downturn in his professional life, his wife, too, could no longer tolerate his behavior and left with their child.

One night, in complete despair, this man walked out on the beach in front of his Malibu home, raised his hands to the God he did not believe in and cried, "Help!"

When he went back inside, Jesus appeared to him. The man was so undone by the encounter that he started calling some close friends to tell them what had happened. But they did not take the matter seriously, supposing that he had had too much alcohol or was high on some drug.

Weeks later, while at a Hollywood party, he was strangely drawn to a couple across the room. They seemed so at peace with themselves and with life. The way they greeted people, the manner in which they treated each other. Even their faces had almost a glow about them.

Though he had no idea who the couple was, he finally summoned the courage to walk up to them and inquire. "You're different, different from anyone else in this room," he said. "There is something about the way you relate to each other and to others here. What is this with you?"

They knew all about their inquirer. They knew of his amazing success in the movie industry, but they also knew that he could be ruthless and uncaring in order to get his way.

"Are you sure you want to know?" they answered cautiously.

"Yes, tell me."

"We are radical followers of Jesus," they said. "We believe that He is your Messiah, the promised One from the prophets. We believe He rose from the dead, and that He has sent His Spirit to live within us. We have come to know a peace that we had never before experienced. Maybe you would like to get to know Him as well."

And so it was that this former Jewish atheist, after telling them the story of his beachside cry and his late-night encounter, came to know his Messiah—all because of the countenance of two of Jesus' followers. The radiance of which the psalmist spoke, the radiance that shone in Moses' face, the brightness Daniel foresaw was playing out in the hearts and lives of a Hollywood couple, whom God used to bring another of His children into the Kingdom.

Harvest of Wrath and righteousness

We are living the partial fulfillment of the promise, but we have yet to experience its fullness, its ripeness. Yet if Jesus' wheat-weeds parable is true—and we know that it is—then the time will come when the righteousness, the holiness, the purity, the empowering of believers will have reached its zenith among every tribe, tongue, nation and people—all who will stand before the throne of God in the last day (see Revelation 5:9; 7:9).

In the closing years of his life, the apostle John also saw and described the final harvest of which Jesus had spoken.

    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.
      Revelation 14:14-16

John saw the harvest of righteousness, but then he saw two additional angels who were involved in the harvest of the wicked.

    Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, "Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth's vine, because its grapes are ripe." The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath.
      Revelation 14:17-19

One day near the close of Jesus' life, as He and His disciples were walking away from the Temple to the Mount of Olives, He brought up again the subject of the time of the end, as well as the destruction of the Temple that would occur when Rome destroyed the city in AD 70. There would be great upheavals, an "increase of wickedness, [when] the love of most will grow cold . . . [a time of] great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again" (Matthew 24:12, 21; see also Daniel 12:1). That is wickedness ripening.

But this will also be a time when "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations" (Matthew 24:14).

The "people of the evil one" will flourish, mature and ripen into the wickedest, the most lustful, the most terrorizing, the most idolatrous, the most selfish generation in the history of the world.

But at the same time, the "people of the Kingdom" will mature, flourish and ripen as we move into our destiny of becoming the most powerful, godly, miracle-working, radiant body of believers the world has ever known.

Both growing side by side until the end!

With what kind of attitude should we approach the ripening? What should we expect as the harvest nears? Come with me as we look at ways that will help us be a strong, vibrant part of the future, even when the times are difficult and dangerous.


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