When the Crop Permits

From the Christlikeness track
By Francis Frangipane
(En EspaƱol)

Certainly, the period prior to Christ's return will be both difficult and perilous. Scripture warns that God's voice will shake all things, things in the heavens and things on the earth. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, and then removed (Heb. 12:26-27).

Yet there is more on the calendar of God than increasing judgments and the Rapture. Between now and the Second Coming, there will also be a significant, though still partial, re-establishing of God's kingdom in the earth (Dan. 2:44; Matt. 24:14; Matt. 13). A spiritually mature people will serve as the vanguard of His return. Before the Lord is glorified in the earth, He shall be glorified in the church (Isa. 60:1-3; Eph. 5:27). Indeed, the attainment of Christlike maturity in those who pursue the Lord shall not be a mere sidebar on the list of end-time events; it will be a significant fulfillment.

Listen carefully to what Jesus taught. He said,

"The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows -- how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come" (Mark 4:26-29).

Jesus likened the kingdom of God to a farmer waiting for the maturing of His crops. During the harvest season, farmers are concerned about two primary things: the quantity and quality of the harvest. For over 30 years I lived in eastern Iowa. Some corn and soybean fields, which may have started strong, fail or were stunted due to unusually high or low temperatures or lack of rain. As a result, farmers plow under their fields because their crops did not reach maturity. There was no "mature grain in the head."

Just as the farmer will not harvest without the grain becoming mature, so God is seeking a crop of Christ-followers that have reached spiritual maturity. God is after full stature not just full numbers. Take note: Jesus said, "when the crop permits" God puts in the sickle. The return of Christ isn't tied to a certain "day or hour"; it is about the spiritual stature of the harvest that triggers the great unfolding of end-time events. You see, God is not looking at His watch; He's looking at His crop.

What does spiritual maturity look like? It looks like Christians taking "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). Again, God is looking for Christlikeness to ripen within us as we approach the end of the age.

"Man...in the image of God" is the seed-idea purposed by the Almighty from before time began (Gen. 1:27). The release of divine wrath is not the Father's highest priority. It does not in any way mean we think we are gods or that we take Christ's place; it means Christ has truly taken our place (Gal. 2:20). This is what the "mature head in the grain" looks like: mature Christlikeness.

For too long we have assumed that only the numeric size of the harvest was the focus of the Father. Certainly the number of people saved is pivotal: "the fullness of the gentiles" must come into the kingdom (Rom. 11:25). However, the Almighty does not just want numbers; He wants spiritual maturity.

Thus, the Lord is not looking at a calendar thinking, "Oh, it's the year 2015 (or 2020, etc.). I have to destroy the world on that date." No. A farmer does not reap his crops without first walking his fields, testing samples of the grain, and studying the moisture and integrity of the seed head. Only then does he begin his harvest. Again, the maturity of the crop determines the day of the harvest.

So many Christians are frozen in spiritual immaturity. They are easily offended, often distracted and without prayer or spiritual discipline. We think God is requiring of us simply to hang on, yet the Lord is looking for more. Paul says the goal of God in the church is that "we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13, italics mine).

Even now, believers around the world are becoming increasingly more Christlike. Many are dying for their faith. Yet "with unveiled face," they are "beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord" and "are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory" (2 Cor. 3:18). When this crop permits, the Father shall put in His sickle, for the harvest has truly come.

Let's pray: Lord Jesus, as You continue looking for spiritual completeness in the harvest, help me to grow to full stature, that I may truly represent a planting which has grown up into Your likeness.


Adapted from Francis Frangipane's In Christ's Image Training course, available at www.icitc.org.