Revelation 14:14 describes a scene of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “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.” It is very clear that this text is talking about the coming of Christ, as many times the Bible describes His coming in clouds accompanied by all of His angels. He will come as King of kings with glory and power wearing a golden crown upon His head. Interestingly, He will come not only as a King, but also with a sharp sickle in His hand. A sickle is a tool of farmers, so why will Jesus come as a King of kings, and at the same time come as a farmer?
The season in which the farmer uses his sickle is at the time of harvest. Jesus Christ is coming back with a sickle in His hand because the second coming of Christ is the time of harvest. The harvest is the children of God, those who reflect His image. “And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” Verse 15. A similar picture is seen in Mark 4:29: “But when the fruit is brought forth [ripe], immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” These verses give us an idea that Jesus is coming back as soon as the earth is “ripe.”
With this in mind, who is waiting for whom? Is the farmer waiting for the fruits, or are the fruits waiting for the farmer? Are we waiting for Christ, or is Christ waiting for us? Christ is waiting for us to be ripe, although we can also say that we are waiting for Christ as well.
Virginia and South Carolina are two of the fruit growing states in the United States. If you were to go to an apple orchard around the end of September, you would see acres of apple trees all laden with an abundance of fruit, some red, some green, and some yellow. Even before the fruit is ripe, it looks as if it would be juicy and sweet and ready to eat. You may be hungry and reach out to pluck that apple when it is not ripe, but it will hang on tight to the branch, and you will have to pull at it, having a war with the branch, twisting and pulling it hard before you can pluck it and then bite into it. Only then do you realize it is not ripe; it does not taste good because it is very sour and if you eat it you may get a stomachache.
However, if you go to that same orchard around the beautiful time of autumn the fruit will be ripe. At the first bite the delicious sweet juice will run down your chin because it is ready with a sweet taste; it is ripe. Jesus Christ is coming back, not for sour people, but for sweet people. He is coming back, not to fight with the world over you, not to twist you, not to turn you, or pull you. All that Jesus needs to do when He returns the second time is just touch you, and you will be ready. Those are the kinds of people that Christ is waiting for—sweet people of God.
How then do we get ready for the Second Coming of Christ?
It is very simple! We must become ripe and sweet fruit. This can be confirmed one more time from the Bible to make it clear. “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman [farmer] waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.” James 5:7.
There you have it. Christ is waiting for His people to become ripe fruit. But to become a ripe fruit, you have to receive the early and the latter rain. Before even considering the early and latter rain, a seed must be planted into the ground. Planting yourself into the ground is the beginning or the start of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. That tree is dependent upon how the seed grows in its first three years.
Once the seed is planted, it must die. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” John 12:24. According to the Bible, to bring forth much fruit the seed must first go into the ground and die. Without the death of the seed, there is no life in that plant and hence no fruit.
The only way to be ready for the coming of Christ, to be harvested by the sickle of Jesus and be taken away by the heavenly Farmer, is to first die. As soon as a baby is born into this world, it begins to die. In this world, you are born to die.
However, in the Christian world, you die to live. The worldly philosophy is to ask what life is all about. Let us eat; let us drink; let us party and have a good time. If it feels good, do it; if it tastes good, eat it! If you want to get it, get it now and have a good time, because tomorrow you will die. But the Christian’s philosophy is totally opposite. It says, let us die with Jesus today that we may live with Him tomorrow.
A strong Biblical concept is that those who want to have life must experience death with Christ in baptism. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” Romans 6:3. Here we see that baptism represents death with Christ. So, baptism represents death to the old life and the beginning of the new.
The Bible says, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Verse 4.
The three most important ceremonies that you will celebrate in this life are your birthday, wedding, and funeral. All three of these events happen on the day you are baptized: birthday, marriage to Christ, and the most important aspect, the funeral to the old self. What kind of person is buried in the ground? A dead person! If a live person was buried it would be considered murder, so only those who are dead—dead to self—should be baptized. There are many people being baptized who can say, “I know the doctrines; I don’t eat pork; I don’t drink alcohol; I will keep God’s holy day, and I will pay my tithe; I know about the second coming, and I know about the law of God.” Yet they are still full of selfishness, impatience, jealousy and evil surmising; are still envious, revengeful, backbiting, gossiping and greedy, having all these things in their hearts.
To have doctrinal understanding only and be baptized is to be buried alive. When people are baptized alive, not understanding the meaning of dying to self by surrendering himself or herself to God, it brings trouble into the midst of Christian fellowship. Understanding the true meaning of baptism is essential to the new candidate, to prevent him/her from making such a solemn vow. Baptism is clear—dying with Jesus and living with Christ. “For if we have been planted [in the ground] together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, [you had better know this!] that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Verses 5, 6.
So what needs to die?
The old man! Whether you like it or not, all have an old man that must be slain day by day. You see, baptism is the occasion that you commit yourself to die to self, the day that you allow Christ to crucify the old man. But after baptism it does not feel as if the old man is completely dead. That is the reason why Paul says, “I die daily.” 1 Corinthians 15:31. That old man wants to live again and again and again. But, by the power of God you can keep him dead day by day. That is the power of the message of salvation for mankind.
But let us go a little deeper than this. What kind of man is the old man? The Bible says when the old man is dead, then you should not serve sin. So if the old man is alive, that means we are still serving sin. Consider this: If I am serving you, that would mean that I am your slave or servant and you are my master. So I have a master named old man. That master named old man is to die in order for me, as a servant of this master, to be free. When the master is dead, I am free. The Bible says, “For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Verse 7.
Is it possible to be free from sin?
The Bible answers this and reveals the secret how to be free from sin—to be dead. This means surrender, to be completely surrendered to God. He that is dead to the old man, it is he who is free from sin.
When first learning how to type, it seems so awkward and difficult to hit the right key, but with practice, doing it over and over again, you find that it is no longer necessary to look at the keys because it just happens automatically. Repetition forms habits. And when a habit is formed, it is acted upon without any thought. Habits can be good or dangerous. So what kind of old man is this? It is an old man that causes you to commit sin automatically, and the sins committed are habitual sins to which you are enslaved.
As a young person I had a bad habit of stealing. At first I found it very difficult. My heart pumped with fear as I looked at the storeowner and looked around making sure no one was watching as I grabbed the candy and put it in my pocket. My whole body shook, and I was sweating as I slowly walked out of the door when the owner was not watching. I took off and then stopped, looking around to make sure that no one was watching, before I ate my candy with fear and trembling. Each time after that it became easier and easier, until after years walking into a store, stealing became automatic without any nervousness. Sin becomes automatic, and you become a slave to it until it is impossible to give it up.
Some have habits of smoking or drinking alcohol, and others have a bad temper that they claim to have inherited from their family and it seems impossible to change. There are young people who are addicted to drugs, cocaine, crystal meth, marijuana, sex and alcohol, and some husbands are so addicted to anger that they beat up their wives. Children are addicted to video games that consume their every thought, playing games for hours each day. Some mothers are addicted to shopping, and that is all they can think about doing—shop, shop, shop, ’til they drop! All of these habits consume a person and take so much time and energy that those who are trapped often think they are too far in sin for God to change them, so they try to kill that old man themselves by making resolutions to quit their habit. They muster all of their strength, and with great effort tear that cigarette apart, flush it down a toilet, and then say, “Ok, from this day I’m not going to smoke!”
The first week is often fine and even the second week goes well, but on the third week the boss may speak as though they might get fired. The fourth week their child starts being a bother. Then on the fifth week the wife starts nagging because there is no money coming in. Nervousness sets in and then worry. Then starts the search for something to give some comfort. The old habit kicks in—just one time, one more! After all, isn’t there a reason? I am stressed out. I am full of anxieties; let me relax; just one more! And they do it. Next day they do it again, and then, in half a week they are back to where they were before, but even worse.
Because they tried to kill their old man with human strength, it did not happen. There are many ways to kill a person. You can shoot him, strangle him, hang him, poison him, cut him, beat him or drown him, but there is only one way to kill the old man. That old man must be brought to Jesus at the foot of the cross and see Him dying there; see Jesus bleeding for his/her sins; see Jesus suffering for his/her transgressions. See Jesus agonizing before God, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46.
That old man must be brought to the cross, not in your own effort alone. The only effort you can put forth is to drag that old man to the cross and fall at the feet of Jesus helplessly. Tell Him all about the pains in your life and the guilt that you face. Tell Him about the bondage that you are in. Tell Him you are sick of falling again, and again, into the same old sins, that you are tired of it. Jesus will cleanse you with the power of the love of God if you will allow Him, He will crucify that old man.
Christ has the power. “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. Ephesians 4:22.
When the Bible says, “put off,” it gives the idea of putting off a garment. It goes on to say, “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Verse 23. Putting off the old man means the transformation of the heart and mind. The Bible says, “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Verse 24. Praise God! Through Christ you can put off the old man and put on the new man. But the question is, How do we put off the old man?
“Crucify him.” Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.
When we pray as Paul prayed, we receive power to live a new life with Christ dwelling in our hearts. That old man must die. What is the condition of a dead person? “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they anymore a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished.” Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6.
According to this Scripture, a dead person cannot talk, cannot love, and cannot hate. So when your old man is dead, he cannot hate; he cannot love, and he does not know anything.
We as human beings, living in this world, see, hear, smell, and feel temptations. Many times Satan is so clever that when he tempts, he tempts you in such a way that he causes you to think you have already committed sin while you are only being tempted. He turns your feelings, emotions and thoughts in such a way that he causes you to think you already committed the sin. The devil manipulates and plays with your mind. Temptation is not sin, but when yielding to that temptation, then it is sin. So, between the temptation and yielding, the Christian has the power to say, “Stop! Before I yield to this. I claim that I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; but Christ liveth in me.” If Christ is living in you, you will respond just the way that Christ would respond to the temptation.
Christ was tempted in all points as we are, but without sin (See Hebrews 4:15). Christ must live within your heart and you must surrender to Him moment by moment to receive His power. But how is that possible when we see, feel, hear and even smell temptation? While living by feelings, it is impossible; you must live by faith. Faith and feelings are as different as east and west—totally different. Some people depend upon feelings to determine the strength of their faith. When feeling good, they have strong faith, but if they feel bad, they are low in spirituality. Feelings may fluctuate, but faith remains steady without listening to feelings, relying on the word of God. The power that is available can only be received by making the right choice.
Though temptations come, respond by faith in the love of Christ, which is the power and secret of the Christian life. When a body is buried, it is put six feet under the ground, and so should the old man be buried, six feet under, but why not make it seven feet under—a perfect burial, and then put a little mountain on top of it so that the old man will not come back up again.
If only a part of the old man is buried, then a foot or hand may come back out and grab something that he likes. That old man wants to live, but by faith you must tell Jesus, “Lord, keep my old man dead, every day, and by faith I live by You and not by him.”
If you have this kind of commitment with the Lord, you will have a victorious Christian experience. The old man has wounded some of you and some others make mistakes here and there, but Jesus is saying, “My child, come to Me. My son, come to me. Let Me explain to you how you can overcome your own self. Let’s walk together again. Die with Me so you can live with Me and walk with Me.”
Do you know how to live the life of humility and obedience? “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not.” I John 3:6. To dwell on the sin, saying, I cannot commit sin, I better not commit sin, keeps the focus always on the sin, but this misses the crucial point. In order to have strength to overcome sin, the first effort must be to abide with Christ, day by day learning to abide in Him: “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Galatians 2:20.
Why then are there so many fights in the church?
Church members are so often not talking to each other, or competing with each other, or jostling over who will be the next head elder and fighting for position or power. They say, “Who’s paying the most money into church?” “Who has the best education?” Why is it that so often in the board meeting there is dissention, which ends up in fighting? The root of the problem is that we have not learned to die to self, daily. If the church members are dead to self and Christ is living in them, automatically and naturally there will be complete unity and power.
God arranged that there would be order. He planned it, and we must follow His example and follow His steps. Are you fighting for a position or power? How often we see the bigger brother pull rank on the younger brother, pushing the responsibilities his way. When young men show their muscle and their magnificence comparing themselves one against another, self is not dead. When girls gather together and compare who is the thinnest, who is the most beautiful, who has the best-looking boy friend, self is not dead. And then when watching television with every soap opera saturated with adultery, fornication, and self-exaltation by beholding, we become changed. Self is not dead. When young people play computer games of destruction, bloodshed and blowing things up, self is not dead. Do you understand?
Satan is in this world, and he is doing all he can to deceive the people. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he caused the people watching to say, “If you are the Son of God, come down and save Yourself and we will believe You.” Matthew 27:40. But Christ said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. They beat Him, whipped Him, spat upon Him, dragged Him, mocked Him, reviled Him, and nailed Him on the cross, but Jesus, ever so softly and tenderly looked down and said, “My child, I love you. I cannot come down because I want to save you.”
Oh, my brothers and sisters, look to Jesus. Look to Christ. If you do, your old man will become nothing. The only thing you will see is Jesus Christ Who is all in all. Jesus says, “Let us go; let us live together.”
Judy Hallingstad is part of the LandMarks team. She may be contacted by email at: email@example.com.