One of Israel's feasts appointed by Jehovah was the feast of first-fruits. The feast centered about the waving of a sheaf of first-fruits which was waved before Jehovah at the time of harvest. It was a representative sheaf and contemplated all the sheaves of the whole harvest, since unto Jehovah must thanks be given for the increase which sowing and reaping secured. The term first-fruits is used variously in the Bible and each one of several applications should be considered:
1. Christ. Twice is Christ said to be First-Fruits and that in His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20, 23). With His glorified human body Christ appeared in heaven immediately after resurrection. His appearance in the realm above became a representation of the vast harvest of those who are to follow in glorified bodies like His body of resurrection glory (Phil. 3:20-21). None of His people who have died are yet in possession of their resurrection bodies. The acquiring of that body awaits the coming of Christ. Thus it is true that He "only hath immortality, dwelling in the light ..." (1 Tim. 6:16). He died and was buried, and because of this experience it would be natural to say that He put on incorruption as all who are resurrected will do (1 Cor. 15:51-52); but still Christ did not see corruption (cf. Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:25-28). Therefore, He as no other put on immortality in His resurrection. Christ as one glorified in His resurrection human body is the Antitype of the Old Testament wave sheaf.
2. Early Christians. Christ alone is the First-Fruits in heaven. James, however, declared: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (1:18). This declaration recognizes both the sovereign election of God—for it is by His own will that He was directed—and the fact of the regenerating power of the Spirit. The latter is achieved by the agency of the Word of Truth. That the ones said to be begotten are first-fruits can be pressed no further than that they were first in order among the vast company of redeemed belonging to the Church which no man can number. That they were "a kind of firstfruits" evidently recognizes the truth of Christ alone being the First-Fruits, strictly speaking.
3. Blessings. As an earnest, a foretaste, of that which awaits the child of God in glory, the blessings which are now realized by the believer because of the presence of the Spirit in his heart constitutes what is called first-fruits. The Apostle said: "And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23). Thus a reckoning may be made to some extent of the experience in glory for all who are now among the saved, if the Holy Spirit is the first-fruits.
4. First Believers in a Locality. Quite similar to the preceding classification is another whereby when the gospel is first preached in a locality there are those who believe and become the first-fruits of that locality. Twice the Apostle refers to the spiritual first-fruits of Achaia thus (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:15).
5. Israel. Jeremiah stated: "Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord" (2:3). As Israel is the first in order of the unfolding of divine purpose for this world, that people became a first-fruits on an extended scale of the whole divine program. It will be observed how warning is given here to all peoples respecting the grievous punishment that shall fall on those who persecute Israel.
6. Revelation 7 and 14. Twice is reference made in Revelation to a company numbering 144,000. In the first instance (Rev. 7:1-8) they are identified as from the tribes of Israel—which identification should direct all attempts at interpretation. These individuals are sealed with the protective and selective seal of God. In Revelation 14:1-5 this same company—being sealed, their number cannot be increased or decreased—are seen to be the first-fruits of the coming kingdom age wherein the King shall reign from Zion.
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