The Twin Mysteries: Life and Death
Revelation 14:14-20
And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and on the cloud one sat like to the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown…

I. THE TRUE THEORY OF A GOOD MAN'S LIFE RIPENING FOR THE HARVEST. Did you ask, while you saw the farmer plodding his weary way, what means that sowing? Did you ask, as you saw the wind and the snow fulfilling the word of a higher power, what means the white flake and the rough blast? You have now the plainest answer in the growing of the corn. And if you again inquire, What is it growing for? the harvest will explain that. When the ear has been well filled, and the heat hath ripened and moulded the wheat, and the golden treasures are gathered home amid the reapers' song of joy, and the barns are filled with plenty, the result will sufficiently explain the theory of agricultural toil and of natural influences. And in like manner the growth of the soul explains the moral discipline of life; and the harvest of souls in heaven explains their growth on earth. The days we spend at present are all days of discipline. Now, is this the theory of your life? Are you conscious of such growth and ripening? "No," says some poor, timid, cast-down Christian, "there is no growth, no ripening in me; my heart is as hard and cold as ever it can be." But, are you not conscious of resisting temptation? You cannot deny that you are fighting against sin. H you cannot boast of any good, and have a great deal of evil to lament, still you can conscientiously admit that if you did not make a decided stand you would have a great deal more of evil than you have at present. And is there not hope in that fact — that casting off of evil, and striving and praying and wishing to get rid of spiritual death? — is not that a sign of spiritual life, of spiritual growth, at least in its earliest stage? Thank God, there is hope. It is God working in you; He will not fail to watch over you for your good.

II. THE TRUE THEORY OF DEATH as illustrated by the text. First of all, it is never premature. If the wicked are not cut down until they are ripe for judgment, we cannot believe that God's people are cut down till they are ripe for glory. Fitness for heaven, be it remembered, consists not in the particular state of mind in which a man may happen to be when the death-stroke overtakes him. It does not depend upon his being in a state of religious consciousness. No; it depends upon the habits in previous life, upon the principle of his previous history. Nor shall we be dismissed till we have had full opportunity of doing all that the Master intends us to do. There are different degrees of service, even as there are varied kinds of service. The terms of service are sometimes long and sometimes short. Nor forget that there may be much living to good purpose when the length of life has been very limited. We often measure life by length. Does not God measure it by depth and breadth? We look at quantity, does not He look at quality? The harvest is never premature, and is always carefully gathered in, and nothing lost. There is something very instructive in the signs of careful preparation for the harvest, which are indicated in the text. Before it is commenced, a voice announces the arrival of the time, and the purpose is calmly and deliberately executed. In the death harvest there is no haste and nothing lost. "Of all that the Father hath given Me," said Christ, "have I lost nothing." He is as careful of what there is of value in the soul as of the soul itself. How very apt are we to fancy, when such an one is suddenly cut off, that the great stores of his mind are wasted, that his acquirements by study and discipline are now lose to him. No, no, we may rely upon it, that there is not anything worth carrying into the eternal world that that sanctified soul will leave behind it; not one noble affection but is nobler than it ever was; not one great principle but it is stronger in the soul than ever, not one spiritual habit but it has grown in force, not one true excellence but it excels in beauty. And the harvest gathered in without less is preserved afterwards without loss: "Gather the wheat into My garner." Corn is laid up to be preserved; but that is not all, it is also laid up that it may be used. At the death harvest, the soul is placed for ever beyond the reach of harm. The accidents to which it was exposed while growing, the moral frost, and blight, and mildew, and the blast of the lightning, they are all among the former things, and have passed away. But the soul is preserved where it will be of greater use than it ever was. The best use of the corn comes when it is cut. All before was subordinate usefulness, beautifying the landscape and furnishing subjects for poets and painters; but when it is cut, it feeds and sustains the nations. So the best use of the soul and its acquirements will be in heaven, not here.

(J. Stoughton.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.

WEB: I looked, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud one sitting like a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.

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