Scripture:Then I, John, looked, and there was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like the Son of Man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand! Another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to the one who sat on the cloud, “Use your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the Earth is fully ripe.” So the one who sat on the cloud swung his sickle over the Earth, and the Earth was reaped. (Revelation 14:14-16)
Reflection: The white cloud, borrowed from the book of Daniel, had become standard code for the final judgment by the time the book of Revelation was written late in the first century. The Son of Man appeared to John of Patmos earlier in the book, where his description is borrowed from the book of Daniel and melded with characteristics of other prophets. Later the Son of Man is presented as a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered. And he appears again as a rider on a white horse who judges and makes war. Through his death and resurrection, the Son of Man has gained the right to reap those who have remained faithful to him during trying times and chaos and persecution. A few verses later he will reap those who have faltered, and they will be put in the winepress of God’s wrath.
The book of Revelation belongs to what is called apocalyptic literature, a genre of writing that flourished from the second century BCE through the second century CE. It uses various symbols to describe what will happen to those who have followed the Lamb – and those who have abandoned him. The purpose of apocalyptic literature is to give hope to people during times of crisis and persecution. Some aspect of one’s world is ending – such as a relationship through the death of a spouse, the end of a semester for a college student, or protest and leaving a church because of its teaching. In order to keep believers from falling into despair, the author urges his readers to remain true to their mission so that they may be harvested by the risen Christ into the Heavenly realm.
Hope is needed in a spirituality of mission. A person who has left all to answer God’s call and been commissioned, sent, and given a purpose for his or her mission will often encounter crisis or persecution. Automobile accidents, floods, and the sudden death of a family member create crisis situations. Persecution may involve having a door slammed in one’s face, workplace shunning because of delivering God’s word, or even honking from drivers because of one’s bumper sticker identifying a person as a Christian. The book of Revelation offers the reader hope that God will one day intervene in human history, and the Son of Man will reap the harvest of those who have remained faithful.
Journal/Meditation: In what specific ways have you experienced hope in the midst of crisis, chaos, or persecution?
Prayer: Ever-Living God, who offers hope to your faithful people during times of crisis, chaos, and persecution, send the Son of Man on a cloud of glory to reap the fully ripe harvest. Grant that I may be counted worthy to be gathered into the kingdom where you live with your Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.