First Fruits

Chapter Three

The authors’ thesis is that Jesus completed or fulfilled Firstfruits in that He rose from the dead on the very day of Firstfruits. Is this warranted on the basis of the biblical material itself?

The third holiday in the Jewish religious calendar is an offering and not a feast. It is

Firstfruits, sometimes rendered First Fruits, and is transliterated bikurim in Hebrew. In the passage devoted to Firstfruits, the word does not appear until Leviticus 23:17. (An account is also found in Numbers 28:26.) In verse 10 of chapter 23 we do find the word “Firstfruits” but it is literally two words, harvest and first and not bikurim. .

 Leviticus 23:9-14

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD. And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until the same day, until you brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”

Notes on the passage:

One. Firstfruits was to be observed when Israel dwelt in the land God would give them, and after they reaped their first harvest. It was an offering acknowledging God’s provision.

Two. A sheaf or bundle of grass, most probably barley, the first grass food crop to ripen in the season, was waved, meaning it was offered in thanksgiving and acknowledgement, before the LORD.

Three. It was not a loaf of bread made from barely that was waved—thus nothing with leaven was waved—but it was the unleavened, unbaked sheaf of grain that was waved before the LORD.

Four. There is no instruction to refrain from work involved with this feast—it was a holiday celebrating God’s provision and care.

Five. An omer,  which means “sheaf” or “counting” was waved (in verse ten), then began the count down of forty-nine days ending at the next celebration of a harvest, which was Pentecost, fifty days after Firstfruits.

Six. A male lamb one year old and without blemish was offered as a burnt offering, called the olah. It would not be used by a priest for food but was entirely consumed by fire on the altar.

Seven. The offering was to be presented on the day after the Sabbath—a Sunday.

Three in a row

Now it becomes clearer why the holidays seem to point to Jesus. He is crucified on

Passover, buried on Unleavened Bread, and is raised from the dead on Firstfruits.

Luke 24:1-3

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

It sounds as though it was all planned—but not by humans. Bible scholars have long puzzled over how everything worked. Did it all happen because God had so determined? Did it happen some other way but then rearranged to make it match up with the sequence and dating of the Old Testament feasts?

            Those who do not accept the evidence and witness of the New Testament must propose a theory to negate the possibility that God had predetermined it all. Of course! As to the rearranging theory, there is no evidence for this at all, and there are thousands of manuscripts of the Greek New Testament extant with no variations in texts that would demonstrate tampering on this point. The text is solid. 

A symbol of what was to come

As we view the biblical picture of the high priest taking the sheaf offering the day after the Sabbath and waving this sheaf before the LORD, we see a symbol of the greater harvest to come. Christians celebrate Easter, and Easter falls on the very day of Firstfruits. Jesus rose from the dead on that day, which later came to be called Easter. And because He did, those who have been born anew of the Spirit can have full expectation that they also will one day rise from the dead. Jesus rose first, and all those who trust in Jesus will follow as a second fruit or second harvest. Paul expressed it in this way in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23:

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.

It looks very much like Paul had understood that Firstfruits was related to the resurrection of Jesus. And Paul, a trained rabbi acquainted with the Jewish holidays, knew the third spring holiday well. Over three consecutive days were Jesus’ crucifixion on Passover, His burial on Unleavened Bread, and His resurrection on Firstfruits. But, there is a fourth spring holiday, and that is Pentecost.

Theological compatibility

Three events in Jesus’ ministry tie in with three Jewish holidays, but there must be more—there must be a theological compatibility that connects them as well. There are such connections, and the following is a review of them:

One, Passover. A sacrifice was made, blood was spilt, so no death came to the households where the blood of the lamb was applied. The Apostle John wrote, “the blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7) and, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). As the blood of the Passover lamb in Egypt brought salvation, so the blood of Jesus, which covers sin, brings salvation as well. The first Passover under Moses prepared for the second Passover. Here is God’s dramatic prophecy in action.

Two. Unleavened Bread. Leaven is not allowed to be used in the Passover bread matzo, and this points ahead to the sinless Lamb of God putting away the sin of those who trust in Him.

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

Three. Fristfruits. The stalks of grain waved before the LORD at the time of the first Fristfruits contained no leaven; this was a celebration of a harvest and God’s provision for His people. On this holiday, as we have seen, Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, was raised from the dead and waved before the LORD. It is a day of the celebration of the harvest of resurrection.

Is there a biblical warrant?

Is it possible to state that Jesus completed, satisfied, and fulfilled, in His death, burial, and resurrection something that God had embedded in the Jewish holidays and which mark the roadmap of world history?

            If Jesus’ death had coincided with a single Jewish holiday and nothing else matched up, it would be nothing more than an interesting coincidence. Then we see two matchups, which causes us to take notice. But three that match? Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection occurred on the exact days when Jewish holidays are celebrated, and the fundamental theological content of each holiday and each Jesus event are compatible. We must take note! Now, what if there is a fourth holiday that relates to Jesus, too?

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