Growing the Kingdom of God – the Mystery of Three Seasons, Three Harvests

Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD.

Ex. 23:17

God wants to give eternal life to all the individuals that he has created. He wants us all to be in his family. He wants us all to be part of the Kingdom of God. Peter tells us in Second Peter chapter 3:

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Pet. 3:8,9 KJV

What Peter means is that God has a seven thousand year plan. He wants all to come to repentance, so that he can give eternal life to all.

When Peter wrote this there were still three thousand years left in that plan. He knew that it would take seven thousand years.

Table of Contents

Appointed times and harvest times

barley as example of first harvest
Barley is the first harvest – Photo by CC license

God has given us seven annual appointed times, holy days, set apart every year, in three seasons. The holy days form an outline for us of that plan.

The three seasons during which those appointed times come are each related to the seasonal crops grown in the land that was promised to Abraham and his descendants. The first appointed times are Passover and the 7 days of Unleavened Bread. They come at the start of the barley harvest.

Close up picture of wheat
Wheat is the 2nd harvest – Photo by bluemoose CC license

Then we number 7 weeks and we count 50 days to Pentecost. That day comes at the end of the barley harvest, just as the wheat harvest is getting underway.

The other appointed times come in the 7th month, and during that time the great Fall harvest occurs. They begin with what we call T’ruah or Trumpets. The name T’ruah means a loud noise, like shouting. Paul says that when Jesus Christ returns it will be with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. That’s in First Thessalonians 4:16.

Picture of fruit 3rd harvest - fruit
Christian Berentz: Flowers, Fruit, with a Woman Picking Grapes – Publick Domain

So that day, the first day of the seventh month, represents the return of Christ and the beginning of what is called the Day of the Lord. Everything that happens from that point on happens during a period of time called the Day of the Lord. It starts when he begins to take control (1 Cor. 15:25), and when his Kingdom finally comes.

The next holy day is the Day of Atonement. After that what we call the Feast of Tabernacles, and finally the last appointed time, called simply The Eighth Day.

The 8th day is not part of the Feast of Tabernacles. The appointed time called Tabernacles is 7 days long. But understanding that the 8th day is a separate appointed time, and not actually part of Tabernacles, is important in understanding what the holy days are telling us.

God is adding to his family and building up the Kingdom of God in three stages, related to those three harvests. Jesus gives us parables that show how that is being done. One is in both Matthew 13 and Luke 13.

He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” Matt. 13:33 ESV
And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” Luke 13:20,21 ESV

Matthew uses the term “the kingdom of heaven” and Luke says “the kingdom of God” in the same parable. So when we see in Matthew the term “kingdom of heaven” we know he is referring to the kingdom of God.

What is the Kingdom of God?

After John the Baptist was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee and began to preach about the Kingdom of God.

Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; Matt 4:12 KJV
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matt 4:17 KJV
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. Mark 1:14,15 KJV

The gospel, then, is the gospel of the Kingdom of God. So we need to know what the Kingdom of God is.

Growing the Kingdom of God – barley and wheat harvests

Parables that Jesus spoke show us that the Kingdom of God starts small and grows over time, and grows in three stages.

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29 ESV

First the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear: That is the three stages of growth of the Kingdom of God.

Now about the leaven in three measures of flour, that we saw in Luke 13:20-21.

Remember it said that the Kingdom of God “is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

In those days they didn’t sell yeast cakes or packets of dry yeast. The quickest way to make leavened bread was the way sourdough bread is made now, saving some of the dough after it rises, for use in the next batch. In this parable, each of the three “measures” of flour (according to Thayer) is about three gallons (14 liters), enough to bake a lot of bread. This is talking about using three gallons of flour each time, in three batches of bread. He is saying that the woman bakes three batches of bread in turn, with each batch of dough depending on the previous and promoting the next. The dough that she saves from each batch after it rises causes the next batch to rise.

These analogies tell us that it is God’s intention for the Kingdom of God to grow in three stages, with each one depending on the previous stage, and following in a logical order, the way a plant grows – first the blade, which is the leaf, then the ear, in which the grain will develop, and finally the full ear of grain.

When Jesus returns, and the first resurrection occurs, that is when the result of that first stage of growth becomes apparent. Christ planted the seed during his earthly ministry.

Those raised to eternal life in the first resurrection are the first to inherit the Kingdom of God. Remember what Paul says in First Corinthians 15:50. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.

Those in the first resurrection will be given a special responsibility. During the thousand years, called the millennium, they will be priests of God in the Melchizedek priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9) and reign with Christ. But as the last few chapters of the book of Ezekiel show, there will at the same time be a temple in Jerusalem, and the priesthood that began with Aaron will be restored.

During that thousand years, all of the nation of Israel will be living under the new covenant. Jeremiah 31:31 explains that.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jer 31:31-34 ESV

“They shall all know me.” he says, “from the least of them to the greatest.” That hasn’t happened yet, but it will, during the coming millennium.

In Romans 7:12, Paul tells us that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

In First John 3:4 John tells us that sin is the transgression of the law. The law tells us what sin is, so we can learn to avoid it.

James, in chapter 1 verse 25, calls it the “perfect law of liberty.”

As God writes his law on our hearts we can be freed from sin. It’s a process that takes time. God does the work, but we have to do our part. We have to let God do that work in us. We have to willingly cooperate.

During that coming one thousand years, the descendants of Israel will live peaceably in their own land. All the other nations will have their own lands. The whole world will be at peace for one thousand years. War will not be allowed. It won’t happen. Satan will be bound for one thousand years (Rev 20:2). He and his angels will not be able to influence anyone.

Although the nations of the world outside of Israel will not be living under the new covenant, God will be calling individuals from every nation, just as he does now.

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Isaiah 2:2-4 ESV

This is during the coming thousand years. Jesus Christ will rule the whole world. But most of the people of the world will be as they are now, not led by the Holy Spirit, not having God’s law written in their hearts (1 Cor. 15:25). That’s why there has to be a temple at Jerusalem with old covenant priests, descendants of Aaron, making daily sacrifices to cover the sins of all the people of those many nations who will not be called at that time. Their time will come later.

Hebrews 10:4 says it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. But that does not mean that those sacrifices have no purpose at all. In Hebrews 9:13 the writer has already said that the blood of bulls and goats can sanctify to the purifying of the flesh. Under the old covenant bulls were sacrificed as sin offerings. That can cover the sin. It can’t remove it. The covering of sins is called atonement.

At the same time, during that thousand years, God will be calling millions of people, who will live their whole lives as dedicated Christians, and die in the faith, generation after generation, prepared by God to be ready for eternal life. But they will have to wait until the second resurrection that comes after the thousand years is over. For them, the thousand years is a judgment period.

Now, there is nothing bad about judgment. Jesus says that all judgment is given to him. He is the one doing the judging. We are being judged now (1 Pet 4:17). Jesus is making a determination of whether we are fully prepared for eternal life, or whether more experience is needed, whether more encouragement is needed. He is dealing with each one of us personally. He can give infinite attention to each one of us. He hears our prayers. He knows our thoughts. He knows our feelings. He knows us better than we know ourselves.

So there is a judgment going on now. We could call this the first judgment period. That is related to the barley harvest. Then after the return of Christ the second judgment period begins, lasting a thousand years. That is related to the wheat harvest.

Growing the Kingdom of God – the fall harvest

And finally, after the thousand years is over, comes the third and last judgment. That is related in the meaning of the holy days to the fall harvest, when a great variety of crops are harvested.

Billions of people from every century, every nation, will be raised together to physical life at the start of that third judgment period (John 5:28,29; Rev 20:5). It will last a hundred years. No one will die during that 100 years. All will remain young and healthy. No children will be born. Those who died as children will be resurrected as adults, just as Adam and Eve were created as adults. We know this because a detailed description of that time is given in Isaiah. (The description is in Isaiah 65:17-25. It is difficult to understand, and comparing several translations helps.)

And a description of it is also given in the last two chapters of Revelation. Let’s read a few verses of those chapters.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Rev 21:1-4 KJV

This is the time represented by the Feast of Tabernacles. One reason we know this is because of verse three. The King James version says that “the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them.”

But the more literal translations get both words right. Both the noun and the verb are “tabernacle.”

(Darby) Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall tabernacle with them
(LITV) Behold, the tabernacle of God with men! And He will tabernacle with them

So this third judgment period is what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about. Billions of people who have lived in seven thousand years are brought back to life. The feast lasts seven days to indicate that all who ever lived during seven thousand years will be alive then.

Jesus spoke of that time. He makes it clear that people from every generation will be raised at the same time.

The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. Luke 11:31-32 ESV

When he sent the disciples out to preach about the kingdom of God and to heal the sick he told them…

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. Matt 10:14,15 KJV

The people raised to temporary physical life in that judgment will be given every opportunity they need to overcome the effects of their previous lives in this world, where evil is allowed to happen.

Three harvests – only two resurrections needed

Let’s go to John chapter 5, starting in verse 25.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. John 5:25 ESV

The KJV says “and now is.”

This is the first resurrection. That word “now” actually means henceforth or hereafter. Jesus means that those who will be raised to eternal life in that first resurrection are those who from that time on hear the gospel and act on it; they are chosen to be priests and reign with him for the thousand years. Not all in their graves will hear his voice. Only those he chooses to be in that first resurrection will hear his voice.

For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. John 5:26,27 ESV

He is the one who judges. He is the one who raises the dead.

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:28,29 ESV

The word “the” is not in the Greek. It has been added twice by the translators. This is one resurrection – the second and final resurrection, after the 7000 years are over, and after the whole earth has been changed to prepare for this event. God the Father has come to earth, and the city of New Jerusalem has been set up on that new earth.

John 5:28,29 is showing that there are two groups of people resurrected at the same time. Those who have done good, that is those who have already lived through a period of judgment in their life and learned how to do good, will be raised to eternal life. Most of those millions of people will be those who lived during the millennium. But also included in that number will be righteous people from every generation starting with Adam. But if they were righteous why were they not in that first resurrection?

It is because that is not how God’s plan works. The 144,000 who are raised when Christ returns have a particular responsibility during the thousand years, as priests of God.

The key to understanding this is the phrase, “many are called but few are chosen.” God has called many people already. But just as Aaron and only his descendants were chosen to be priests from among all of the Levites and people of Israel, God is choosing and will choose only 144,000 to be priests in the first resurrection (referred to by Peter as a royal priesthood), represented by the barley harvest. That is the first leaf of the plant, in the parable, the first stage in the growth of the Kingdom of God.

In the book of Jude, the last book before Revelation, Jude, in verse 14, quotes something that Enoch said. “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints”

The Greek word used there means ten thousand. It’s the word we get “myriad” from. It was revealed to Enoch that when Christ comes in power the number of saints coming with him is in the tens of thousands. Not millions.

If it had been millions, Jude could have said that. In Revelation 5:11, the number of angels is given as ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands. That’s more than a hundred million.

So in the first resurrection, the barley harvest, there are thousands. And those raised to eternal life in the second resurrection, the wheat harvest, will be millions. And in the third stage of the growth of the kingdom of God, the third judgment period, there will be billions.

Now back to Revelation 21.

“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” Rev 21:7 KJV

So those raised to judgment in that second resurrection will have to learn to overcome. And what do they need to overcome?

John tells us, in First John 2:15 and 16 …

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. ESV

It’s the attitudes and the habits of thought that can develop in all of us from living in the world. All of that has to be overcome. Those who are raised to judgment will bring all their bad attitudes (and also the good attitudes) with them. But they will no longer be living in a world where Satan and the demons can influence them.

They will be given the Holy Spirit when they repent. And their names will be written in the book of life. They will be free to enter the city. The city is described in the next few verses. It’s huge. There is plenty of room for everyone. And God’s throne is there.

And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Rev 21:24-27 KJV

So what’s this about, “those who work abomination or make a lie?” They are outside the city. Not allowed in. All the people who ever lived are there, even the most evil.

The description of that judgment continues in chapter 22. In verse 11 of chapter 22 it says, “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.”

Everyone will be given the opportunity to repent. Over that 100-year period many will repent, and their names will be written in the book of life. They will be free to enter the city, or to go out of it to see people outside, people they knew in this life, to tell them about the city, to help persuade them to believe what God says and do what he wants them to do.

At the end of the hundred years, everyone whose name is written in the book of life will be changed from flesh and blood to spirit. They will inherit the Kingdom of God. They will be born into his family. That is what the seventh and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles represents.

In John chapter seven, Jesus is speaking to a great crowd of people on that day. Read verses 37 to 39.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (ESV)

But notice in verse 38. He says that rivers of living water will flow from them. They will be able eventually to give eternal life to others. And he was speaking mostly to those who will be raised in that judgment period represented by the Feast of Tabernacles.

The eighth day

But those whose names are not written in the book of life, those still outside the city, who refuse to repent, will be destroyed when the hundred years are over. And that’s what the eighth day represents.

“And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Rev 20:15 ESV

The whole earth outside the city will be burned. Malachi says that the wicked will be ashes under the feet of the saved. (Malachi 4:3)

The seven annual appointed times are balanced. The first is in balance with the last. The Passover represents Christ’s death to pay the redemption price and to receive the wages for the sins of the whole world. But at the end, it cannot be applied to the sins of those who will not repent. They will have to receive the wages for their sins: the second death.

“It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27 KJV . Some, however, will have to die a second death from which there is no resurrection.

But on that day will be the end of death. It is called the end of all flesh. At that time, the conclusion of God’s 7200-year plan, there will be no more need for anyone to live a flesh and blood physical existence. All who are alive will be spirit. Not subject to death.

Noah was told that the end of all flesh would come. He was given 120 years to build the ark before the flood came. 20 years passed before his three faithful sons were born. After that, 100 more years until the flood.

“And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” Gen 6:3 KJV

“And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me;
for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” Gen 6:13 KJV

The flood was what is called a typical fulfillment. All flesh was not destroyed then. Eight people came through it.

What God is saying in verse 6:3 is that his Spirit needs to work with our spirit. Each of us has a personal spirit. It is that spirit that God works with. But we are also flesh. The time is coming when God will be able to have a direct relationship with us, no longer in a limited way.

After the whole plan is complete, then eternity follows. The Bible says of Christ that of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. No end to the increase (Isaiah 9:7). The Kingdom of God will keep growing forever.

Three times in the year you shall make a feast to Me. You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread . Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread , as I have commanded you, at the set time of the month of Abib. For in it you came out from Egypt, and they shall not appear before Me empty. Also the Feast of Harvest, the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. Also the Feast of Ingathering, at the end of the year, at your gathering your work from the field.  Three times in the year every one of your males shall appear before the Lord Jehovah. Exodus 23:14-17