“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”[1 Corinthians 15:20]
The significance of New Testament language and imagery is lost without a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament, and likewise the significance of the Feasts of the LORD is found in the Person and work of Yeshua the Messiah. God the Son came into the world to fulfill the law and the prophets and literally to bring the Feasts of the LORD to life!
He laid down His perfect life as our Passover lamb, shedding His innocent blood to save us from our sin and death.
After being buried, His physical body did not decay in the grave, which is an absolute fulfillment of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
And on the day after the Sabbath, as predicted by the Feast of Firstfruits — early on the first day of the week — the Lord Jesus Christ was gloriously and miraculously resurrected from death to life!
As we peer more closely into this most significant event in human history, we will see how Jesus becomes the Firstfruits of our future hope in the coming harvest on the last day.
An Acceptable Sacrifice
One of the first connections we see between the resurrection of Christ and Firstfruits is that the priest was to wave the sheaf of barley during on the day after the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Naturally, the day after the Sabbath is Sunday, the first day of the week and the day of new beginnings. In the gospel of Mark it says, “Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene …” [Mark 16:9].
Secondly, the priest was to inspect the firstfruits offering and officially bless it before the ensuing harvest could be declared acceptable unto God. In the same way it is the resurrection of the Jesus that make us acceptable to God!
“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”[Romans 4:25]
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the divine validation and public declaration that His atoning sacrifice was accepted by God. In other words, without the validation of the resurrection, Jesus would have died in vain.
Jesus is the Firstfruits from among the Dead
The Apostle Paul acknowledges the divine nature of Christ as Creator and calls Him the “firstborn from among the dead so that in everything He might be preeminent” [Colossians 1:18]. Jesus is preeminent, meaning the beginning, the head, the supreme Lord over all creation, and as the first to rise from the dead in a glorified body, He alone possesses the power to give life to all who believe in Him. Our only future hope of resurrection is found in Christ.
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”[Romans 8:11]
Jesus is the FIRST to rise from the dead, which obviously implies that He will not be the last! Just as the priest waved the firstfruits of the barley harvest before the people as a symbolic promise of the harvest to come, so Jesus was put on display in His resurrected glory as the living testimony of what is to come in the future resurrection from the dead. We have good news to proclaim. There is a harvest coming!
“To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”[Acts 26:22-23]
Waiting for the Future Harvest
If spring is a time of planting and watering and autumn is the season of the harvest, then the last 2,000 years of history represent the long summer season of both working and waiting for the return of the Lord Jesus. He is the Firstfruits of the future resurrection of the saints, but we are still waiting out the last few days of the summer before He comes to harvest the earth.
After His death, burial and resurrection, the Lord Jesus showed Himself to many witnesses for a period of 40 days. Just prior to His ascension, He told His disciples something profound. He told them that there was much work to be done before the restoration of all things.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons (appointed feasts) that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”[Acts 1:6-8]
Jesus wanted to make sure that the disciples remained focused on their primary mission — the Great Commission — by making disciples of all nations and proclaiming the gospel to all of creation. God has been working this “summer” season to redeem people from every nation, tribe, and language, as a people for His own possession. By the time this summer season of grace has been extended to the Gentiles, God’s people will be scattered to all four corners of the earth.
It was not for the disciples and their generation, however, to be concerned about the future fulfillment of the appointed feasts and final harvest on the last day. That would be revealed to another future generation — perhaps our very own.
The days of summer work are nearing the end and the waiting period for the harvest is quickly closing. Jesus has promised to give life to our mortal bodies and redeem us from the bondage of suffering and physical death once and for all. Only Jesus can give us what we all are longing for — ultimate and total redemption! Future resurrection! The Coming Kingdom!
So when does this harvest take place? When is the resurrection of the dead? When will all of creation be liberated from its bondage to decay and corruption? When will we receive new, glorified bodies like the Lord Himself?
On the Last Day
As followers of Yeshua, we should be expecting and awaiting the great harvest of the earth, which means our resurrection. Many Scriptures remind us that the future resurrection and harvest of God’s people will occur on the last day at the 2nd Coming of the Lord Jesus. For those of us who believe and have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, we will be delivered in the end and receive resurrected bodies to inherit the Kingdom of God.
Jesus says that the harvest will take place at “the end of the age” [Matthew 13:39], and He also says that those who have believed upon Him will be raised up “on the last day” [John 6:39-40]. Martha believed her brother Lazarus would “rise again in the resurrection at the last day,” after which Jesus declared Himself to be “the resurrection and the life” [John 11:24-25].
Paul, echoing the words of Jesus Himself (see Matthew 24:29-31) declares that the resurrection of the dead will take place at the glorious and triumphant return of the Lord Jesus to earth. Immediately after the great tribulation, the sun and moon will be darkened and the Lord will descend from heaven in a cloud, at the last trump, and will gather His elect from the four winds of heaven (see also 1 Corinthians 15:50-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The Apostle John received confirmation of this great harvest in a vision.
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.[Revelation 14:14-16]
The Holy Spirit is the living seal in the soul of every believer, bearing witness with our spirit that we belong to the Father and will one day be adopted into His Kingdom. As Paul says, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” [Romans 8:23].
Paul also reminds us in His great treatise on the resurrection that Christ has indeed been raised as the firstfruits of our faith and that the rest of God’s purposes must continue in order, just like His appointed seasons. As surely as the summer follows spring and the autumn follows summer, so will we follow the Lord Jesus in the resurrection on that Day when He is glorified in all His saints!
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.[1 Corinthians 15:20-24]