In the pamphlet, The History and Teachings Of “The Shepherd’s Rod,” The Committee on Defense Literature of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, as with numerous others like it, insist that: “The Shepherd’s Rod theory that the separation between the good and the bad, as foretold in the parable of the wheat and tares and in that of the fish net, will take place before the close of probation for mankind in general, is contrary to the teachings of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.”
The authors of the pamphlet, as with practically every other attempt to refute the Rod, try to show inconsistency between Victor Houteff’s writings and the Ellen White’s. You may remember that we mentioned this earlier and showed how such practices are not reliable scholarship. As we have seen, the only safe course is to study the subject as a whole from both the Scriptures and the Spirit of Prophecy.
The Traditional Position
As you more than likely are aware, the standard Adventist position is that the Harvest of Matthew 13 and the separation of the fish in the net, takes place at the second advent of our Lord in the clouds of glory. The reasons for taking such a stance can be summarized in several references.
The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.” Matthew 13:39.
“The teachings of Christ and His apostles, who declared that the wheat and the tares are to grow together until the harvest, the end of the world.”
“The tares and the wheat are to grow together until the harvest; and the harvest is the end of probationary time.”
“When the work of the gospel is completed, there immediately follows the separation between the good and the evil, and the destiny of each class is forever fixed.”
“He [Christ] has said that false brethren will be found in the church till the close of time.”
The Rod’s Position and the Bible
We will see that there are no contradictions between the Rod, the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. We will not have time or space to go into every aspect of the subject, but let us first view the subject from the Bible after which we can look at Ellen White’s statements.
The parable is recorded in Matthew 13, verses 24 - 30 and explained by Christ in verses 36 - 42. It is not likely that we need to quote the verses since Adventists are generally familiar with them. Nonetheless, it may be a good idea at this juncture to stop and read them before going on.
You will remember that a Householder or “man” planted good seed in his field. (verse 24). But the workers or servants fell asleep, during which time an enemy sowed tares—a type of weed that looks much like the wheat until the crop is grown. The eager workers want to pluck up the tares but the wise owner tells them to wait until the harvest, during which time the tares will be plucked up, bundled and burned, and the wheat stored in the barn.
Christ explained to His disciples that He, the “Son of Man,” planted the good seed, the field represents “the world,” the good seed are the righteous, the tares “the children of the wicked one,” the enemy is the devil, the harvest the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels. At first glance the parable appears simple enough.
The misunderstanding is centered around the phrase, “the harvest is the“end of the world.” It is assumed that the phrase refers to the second coming of Christ because it says, “end of the world.” But that alone is not sufficient evidence. A closer examination reveals something different.
The term, “end of the world” just indicates the latter days. Hebrews 9:24 -26 proves this.
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. Nor yet that he should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy places every year with blood of others. For then must he often suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. “
When did Christ enter the most holy place, was it not in 1844? Yet Paul, under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit said it was the end of the world! So the term indicates the last days or the latter days, not the second coming! So Jesus was telling his disciples that the harvest was not to be in their day but in the latter days. An example of this is when we say that December is the end of the year. This is what the Bible says. We will come to the Spirit of Prophecy statements in just a while, but let us look further into the Scriptures.
Now, what does the word harvest signify here in Matthew 13? Perhaps again you are thinking about the second coming. But it cannot be. “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” Jeremiah 8:20.
We notice here that the wicked cry out that they are lost because the harvest time is past and the summer is gone. In other words, during the time of harvest they could have been saved because probation still lingered and they had the opportunity to accept the truth and live. This indicates that the harvest is a time when people can be saved. Surely the wicked will not cry out after Christ comes that they could have been saved at His coming! It could not be because at that time probation will be closed. Furthermore, the wicked will be in their graves after the second advent (See Revelation 20:5,6) and cannot cry out, “the harvest is past the summer ended and we are not saved.” Thus the harvest is before Jesus returns and must end at the general close of probation. Remember, the harvest is a time when people can be saved. This scene is also recorded in another familiar passage.
“Behold the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.” Amos 8:11,12 Thus the harvest ends at the close of probation when everyone’s destiny is forever fixed. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still. And he which is filthy, let him be filthy still. And he that is righteous, let him be righteous still. And he that is holy, let him be holy still.” (Revelation 22:11). It is then, the wicked will cry out, “the harvest is past,” not at the second coming. The harvest, therefore, is the latter days–our time–the last section of probationary time.
Now that we know that the harvest will end at the final close of probation, we can ask, when does it begin? Let us look at Matthew 13:30.
“Let both [good and bad] grow together until [up to] the harvest, and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, gather ye together in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn. “
According to God’s Word, the wheat and tares grow together up to the harvest time, but when the harvest begins the tares or wicked will be plucked up. Thus the harvest begins with the separation of the good and bad. This is very important to understand. But where do the wheat and tares grow? The answer is, in the field. What does the field represent? The Spirit of Prophecy has the answer.
“The field” Christ said, “is the world.” But we must understand this as signifying the church of Christ in the world. The parable is a description of that which pertains to the kingdom of God, his work of salvation of men and this work is accomplished through the church.”
Therefore the wheat and tares grow in the church. What church? It has to be the church of the last days—the church in the time of the “end of the world.” That is our church—the Seventh-day Adventist Church—God’s true church today. Therefore, the harvest begins with the removal of the good and bad in the church! The first thing the reapers do is separate the tares from the wheat—the bad from the good. That dear brethren is not the second coming because He does not come until after all His true people are called out of Babylon (Revelation 18:1 - 4) and the harvest ended. Then the plagues fall, then Jesus returns. Remember that the harvest is a time when people can be saved. Before we go to Ellen White’s writings, there is another point from the Scriptures. Let us look at Matthew 13:40 & 41. Please read carefully.
As therefore the tares are burned gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity.
Note that verse 40 tells us that just “as” the tares were burned in the parable so the wicked will be destroyed. But verse 41 tells us how. He will send forth his angels to gather out of His kingdom—the church—and destroy the wicked–“all them that offend and do iniquity.” Again, here Christ takes the wicked from among the righteous. But at the second coming He does the opposite, He takes the righteous from among the wicked and take them to heaven for a thousand years. Is that not right? If you doubt that, read Matthew 24:31, 32. There it plainly tells us of the second advent, at which time he “gathers the elect” not the wicked. The opposite! Thus they have to be two different events. Matthew 13 is referring to the cleansing of God’s church, while Matthew 24 is the second return of our Lord. Clearly, the harvest of Matthew 13 must begin in the church before the second coming. They just cannot be the same.
There is No Contradiction with Ellen White
Let us begin with Christ Object Lessons, p. 72. Yes, according to the statement in question, the “harvest” is the end OF probationary time, taking place AT, not after, the close of probation. Furthermore, she cannot contradict the Bible. As we have seen, the harvest must begin before Christ returns, thus the harvest is the end OF, or last part OF probation, not after probation has closed. Again, it is like saying, December is the end Of the year. So there is no contradiction here. The problem is with our misconception of what she meant.
The other references that say, “close of time,” or the “end of the world,”simply means, the latter days. The harvest is the latter end of man’s probationary time. Thus “false brethren will be found in the church till the close of time,” as Mrs. White tells us. She is correct. False brethren exists up to the latter days, and so they are in the church today, but will not long hence be removed. There is no contradiction. Only our misunderstanding of the statements.
How about Christ Object lessons, p. 123. We can quote part of it again to jog your memory: “When the work of the gospel is completed, there immediately follows the separation between the good and the evil.”
The separation which takes place when Christ comes the second time is His taking the saints to heaven with Him and leaving the wicked here on earth. In this way His second coming does bring about a physical separation. Although Christ Object Lessons, p. 123, does apply to the separation (the righteous being taken to heaven and the wicked being left on earth) at the second advent of Christ, yet it does not obviate the separation of the “tares” from the “wheat” in Matthew 13. In other words, they are two different separations. Christ Object lessons speaks of a general separation, different from that of the harvest of Matthew 13.
There is one last point that can be mentioned. It is found in the book, Early Writings.
I then saw the Third Angel. Said my accompanying angel, “fearful is his work. Awful is his mission. He is the angel that is to select the wheat from the tares, and seal, or bind, the wheat for the heavenly garner. . .”
This certainly reveals that the harvest is to take place during probationary time. The harvest here by the Third angel, who represents the gospel message (Revelation 14:6 -12), cannot take place when Jesus returns because our Lord’s return is after probation closes. Surely the Third ‘angel will not be working during Christ second advent!
Indeed, therefore, the Rod’s position is Biblical and in harmony with the Spirit of Prophecy.
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