Upon completion of reading this article you will be able to:
- Explain the meaning of a “natural parallel of a spiritual truth.”
- Identify the natural example of the harvest as a spiritual parallel of the vision God wants to birth in your spirit.
- Explain steps which lead to receiving the vision.
Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. (John 4:35)
This article identifies the vision Jesus wants to birth in your spirit and explains how to receive it. The vision is the same with which He challenged His disciples over 2,000 years ago. In order to understand the meaning of the vision it is necessary to identify one of the basic principles of God’s Word. This principle concerns natural parallels of spiritual truths. This chapter defines this principle and applies it to the vision God wants to conceive in you.
NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL TRUTHS
The written record of God’s Word, the Bible, focuses on the subjects of people, promises, prophecies, and principles. Much of the Bible is a record of people, how God dealt with them and their response to Him. There are also major portions of the Bible which record prophecies of future events and there are many promises given to God’s people.
The Bible also contains important principles which you must identify in order to understand what God is saying to you through His Word. One of these great principles is that of natural parallels of spiritual truths. The word “parallel” means to be similar to something. When we speak of a “natural parallel of a spiritual truth” it means God uses a natural example to explain or represent a spiritual truth.
The parables of Jesus were natural examples of spiritual truths. In one parable He used the natural example of a woman placing a small bit of leaven in a lump of bread. The spread of the leaven throughout the bread illustrated the growth of the Kingdom of God in the world. This is just one of many examples of parables in which He used a natural example to illustrate a spiritual truth.
This principle of natural and spiritual parallels is explained in I Corinthians:
…There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. (I Corinthians 15:44-46)
This is a great example of a natural parallel of a spiritual truth. The first man created by God was the natural man. His name was Adam. Jesus, who is referred to as the last Adam, was a spiritual man. Adam was a natural example of the spiritual truth God was to reveal through Jesus Christ. By the natural man came sin and death. By the spiritual man came salvation and life.
That which is natural is something you can observe with your senses. You can see, hear, or touch it. That which is spiritual can only be observed with spiritual senses. Natural examples can be recognized with physical senses but spiritual parallels can only be recognized through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Understanding this principle of natural parallels of spiritual truths increases your understanding of God’s Word.
The vision with which Jesus challenged His disciples and which He desires to birth in your spirit was revealed by a natural parallel of a spiritual truth. Jesus said to His disciples:
Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. (Jn. 4:35)
Jesus was not speaking of the natural harvest in the fields that stretched before them at the time He spoke these words. He was speaking of a spiritual harvest.
He used the example of the natural harvest to give His followers a vision that would provide meaning and spiritual direction for their lives.
WHAT DID IT MEAN?
What did this natural example of the harvest mean in the spiritual realm?
Read John 4:3-35. Jesus was passing through Samaria on the way to Judaea. When He rested near a well His disciples went in search of food. While they were gone a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well and Jesus shared the Gospel with her. When His disciples returned with the food, Jesus said to them:
I have meat to eat that ye know not of…My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work. (John 4:32,34)
The most important thing to Jesus, more urgent than natural food and the necessities of life,
was to do God’s will and finish His work.
It was at this point in the conversation that Jesus used the example of the natural harvest. He used it to illustrate what He had just told His disciples: The most important thing in life is doing God’s will and His work.
GOD’S WILL AND HIS WORK
What is God’s will? What is His work? It is revealed in the vision of the harvest. Jesus told His disciples to lift up their eyes and look at the natural fields of grain ready to harvest. He used these fields as an example of the spiritual fields of multitudes of men and women around the world who are ready to be harvested for the Kingdom of God.
The Samaritan woman with whom He had just talked was an example of this great spiritual harvest. She was ready to receive the Gospel and accepted it with great joy. Through “harvesting” this one woman, an entire city came to know Jesus:
And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman, which testified…
And said unto the woman, now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. (John 4:39,42)
THE VISION TODAY
While standing in the middle of visible natural harvest fields that day, the disciples experienced the birth of a spiritual vision.
It is the same vision Jesus wants to birth in your spirit. He wants to give you a vision of the spiritual harvest fields of the world which are ready to be reaped for His Kingdom. When you recognize the reality of that vision and understand your responsibility in fulfilling it, your life will never again be the same. Jesus clearly stated:
The field is the world… (Matthew 13:38)
Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, South America, Europe, the Islands of the sea…the harvest fields of the world are ripe with multitudes who have yet to hear the good news of the Kingdom of God.
The vision has not changed. It is the same as it was when Jesus birthed it in the lives of His disciples. The will of God is the same because the work of God is not finished. There are untold millions yet untold. The vision is still the harvest fields of the world.
WHY THE HARVEST?
Why did Jesus use the example of the harvest to illustrate the spiritual vision He wanted to give His followers? There are many other natural parallels He could have used. Why did He choose the harvest?
The harvest was an example to which His disciples could easily relate. The history of God’s people, Israel, dated back to Adam who was first to till the ground. Agriculture continued developing to the time of Moses when it became the basis of the economy. At the time of Christ’s ministry the economic cycle of Israel centered on agriculture.
Harvesting was a continuous activity throughout the year. Flax and barley harvesting occurred in April-May, the wheat harvest about six weeks later in June-July. Apples, figs, almonds, and the first grapes were gathered in June. Olives, dates, and summer figs were harvested in August and September, pomegranates and pistachio nuts in October. Olives in northern Galilee and winter figs were gathered in November.
Not only did the economy center on the harvest, it was also at the heart of the religious system of Israel. The three main religious feasts God established for His people related to the harvest. The Passover came in the season of the barley harvest (Exodus 23:16). Seven weeks later, at the time of the wheat harvest, was the feast of Pentecost (Exodus 34:22). The feast of Tabernacles was observed the seventh month which was the period of the fruit harvest (Exodus 34:22). Since the entire calendar, economy, and religious system revolved around the harvest the disciples could easily understand this example.
But even more important, there were certain guidelines for sowing and reaping which affected the natural harvest. These natural laws also applied to spiritual harvesting. The disciples of Jesus could easily apply these principles to spiritual harvesting because of their familiarity with them in the natural world. Applying these natural principles spiritually would bring forth an abundant spiritual harvest. We will study these principles later in this course.
Most important, the disciples recognized the urgency represented by the example of the natural harvest. When a crop was ripe it must be harvested immediately or it would ruin. It was a matter of reap or rot.
If the harvest was great and there were not enough workers available to reap it, the crop would be lost. Of the spiritual parallel to this natural problem Jesus said:
The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. (Matthew 9:37)
RECEIVING THE VISION
When Jesus spoke to His followers about the vision of the harvest He outlined five steps to enable them to receive the vision:
(1) SAY NOT YE (2) THERE ARE YET FOUR MONTHS then cometh harvest?
(3) BEHOLD, I SAY UNTO YOU, (4) LIFT UP YOUR EYES, and (5) LOOK ON THE FIELDS; for they are white already to harvest. (John 4:35)
STEP ONE: “Say not ye…” Many believers spend their entire lives talking about the harvest. They are like a labour crew trying to gather a harvest while sitting in a barn. They go to the barn [church] each Sunday morning and study bigger and better methods of agriculture [spiritual harvest]. They sharpen their harvesting sickles and then go home.
They come back that night to study better methods of agriculture, sharpen their sickles, and go home again. They are back for a midweek meeting to learn bigger and better methods, sharpen their sickles, and return home. They do this week after week until the weeks turn into months and months into years, yet nobody ever goes out into the fields to gather the harvest.
When Jesus said, “Say not ye” He meant that talking about spiritual harvest was not enough. You must become involved in the actual harvesting process. That does not mean everyone is to leave their jobs, seek financial support from the church, and travel to other nations as preachers of the Gospel. But each believer is to be involved in some way in the harvest. For some, it will be the fields that are right outside the doors of their home and church. It will be the harvest in their school, on their job, and in their local community or village. For others, the harvest will be a foreign field. The point is that each believer is to be participating in and not just talking about the harvest.
STEP TWO: “Yet four months.”..
In order to become part of this harvest time vision you cannot delay it. You cannot wait until some future time to become involved. Souls are dying in sin now. For many, tomorrow will be too late:
Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe; come, get you down; for the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. (Joel 3:13-14)
STEP THREE: “I say unto you…”
God’s ways are different from those of man:
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Men talk about spiritual harvest. They delay it. But what God says is different than what man says. He says…
STEP FOUR: “Lift up your eyes…”
The eyes of the disciples were distracted. They were not focused on the vision of the spiritual harvest fields. In order to receive this spiritual vision you must take personal action. You must lift up your spiritual eyes from the natural distractions of life. You must lift them from your personal problems, from discouragement, from business and worldly concerns. You must lift your eyes from the circumstances of life to…
STEP FIVE: “Look on the harvest.”..
Turning your eyes from distractions to the harvest field is not enough. You must really look at the harvest. You must see the world through the eyes of God. Many do not have spiritual vision because they have not really looked. They have not recognized their personal responsibility to the harvest fields. They have not considered the conditions of the harvest fields of our world today.
TO RECEIVE THE VISION…
- You must not just talk about it.
- You can not delay it.
- You must listen to what God says, the challenge He presents when He cries, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8).
- You must lift your eyes from the distractions of the world to the harvest field.
- You must look at the fields of the world through the eyes of God.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
This chapter emphasized personal involvement in the vision of the harvest. Read the story known as the parable of the “Good Samaritan” in Luke 10:25-35. This parable illustrates attitudes of involvement with human need. It is an example of the various attitudes of believers towards the vision of the spiritual harvest fields of the world.
Notice the attitudes of the thief, the priest, the Levite, the innkeeper, and the Samaritan in the parable. Also observe the attitude of the lawyer who originally asked the question which resulted in Jesus telling the parable.
- The Lawyer Saw a question for discussion.
- The Thief Saw a person to exploit.
- The Priest Viewed the need as a problem to avoid and ignore. and Levite
- The Inn-keeper Saw a customer to be served for pay; had an attitude of “What can I get out of it?”
- The Samaritan Saw a person dying, a harvest perishing, and responded to the need with personal involvement.