This is part 6 in the Bible study series: Let Us Keep the Feasts. Is it possible that God is only dealing with a few people today? There is a huge spiritual harvest to come, but what does the Biblical Festival of Pentecost tell us about the plan of God? God uses the representation of the harvest of firstfruits to make a powerful point as to the deep meaning of His purpose. In this study we’ll discuss the details of what exactly is a firstfruit and what responsibilities does it carry? Join us for this in depth examination of Pentecost and the firstfruits.
[Steve Myers] Good to see you tonight. Hope you're doing very well, not only those of you here in the room, but those that are joining us on the Web. Tonight, we continue our series on Let Us Keep the Feast. And since we've come through the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost is right ahead of us, we're going to change our point of view and start to talk about something a little bit different tonight that points us to the next festival in God's plan, and that is Pentecost. And so to begin tonight, why don't we go ahead and bow our heads? We'll ask God's blessing on our study tonight.
Loving Heavenly Father, God almighty, thank you so much for your wonderful way. We thank you that you have a plan and a purpose for all of us. Thank you, God, for that plan. Thank you for revealing that plan and as we study your word tonight, Father, help us to even understand more fully and perhaps more deeply than we ever have before certain aspects of your love and your way and your mercy and, of course, the plan that you have. And so we thank you for this. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss your word. Thanks for your presence here with us. And we just pray that you bless every word that's said and bless our thoughts and our thinking as we discuss and consider your word. So thank you for this opportunity, Father. Thank you for your love and your way. And we just want to put it into your hands now. So we thank you for it, and we ask this blessing by the authority of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
All right, to begin tonight, I thought I could begin with a question. If you had to say how God reveals His plan to us, how would you answer? How does God reveal His plan? Okay, well, we know He's got to open our mind to His truth. Okay we could probably start there. Without God's calling, without Him working with us, without Him taking the blinders off, well, we can't even begin. But once God begins to do that, is there something in His word that shows what He's doing that indicates His plan and His purpose for mankind? Is there anything that indicates the way that His plan of salvation works? How is He going to rescue us? Like Paul says, how is He going to rescue us from this body of sin, this body of death? How is He going to do that?
Well, throughout the Bible, we find that God reveals that plan through His Festivals and Holy Days. And it's by those Festivals and Holy Days He paints a picture of his purpose. He paints a picture of his plan. And in a way, I think we can say it's an object lesson, isn't it, that he gives us a means to help us understand. So if you had to say, what is that object lesson that God demonstrates through His Festivals and Holy Days that's supposed to help us to understand what His purpose is, to help us understand His focus and His intent for salvation? What would that be? What would that object lesson be?
Well, if you tear apart the Scriptures, I think you've got to come to the conclusion that it's about harvest. It's about harvest. If you look at the early writings back in the Old Testament, we find the focus of God's Festivals and Holy Days are around the harvest. And it's supposed to be an object lesson for us. Now, it's a little bit of a challenge for us today because most of us aren't farmers. We don't grow our own food. We're not so connected to the land that it immediately pops out as "Oh, wow! There's something being taught to us through this lesson of harvest" But nonetheless, that's the way God reveals His focus. He reveals it through three festival seasons. And those three seasons are symbolic of what God's purpose is. He is harvesting. God is harvesting. And He uses this physical harvest as an object lesson to teach us spiritual things.
And so if you'd like to turn with me over to Exodus 23, we can begin there to see this object lesson played out as God discusses how the ancient Israelites should be able to recognize that purpose that God is working out for mankind. Let's notice it. Exodus 23, beginning in verse 14, He describes these three harvest times. Let's notice it. Exodus 23:14 Exodus 23:14Three times you shall keep a feast to me in the year.
American King James Version×, He says, "Three times you shall keep a feast to me in the year." He says, verse 15, "You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. You should eat unleavened bread seven days as I commanded you at the time appointed in the month of Abib." That's the first month of the year according to God's calendar. "For in it, you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty.”
Then He says, “A second time in the year,” it says "and the feast of harvest," it says, "the first fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field." So there's that harvest connection, that how you harvest from the field should be symbolic of some greater spiritual truth. And then He points to the third season, and He says, "And the feast of ingathering at the end of the year when you've gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field."
And so here God is showing His people that He's established His Festivals and Holy Days to outline His purpose. And He's done it around these harvest seasons, these harvest seasons in Palestine, in ancient Israel. And the interesting thing is it's not about crops. It's not about physical grain that's growing or fruit that's going to be coming to harvest at the end of the year. That's not what it's about. But it's supposed to teach us what it is about. And so here's God mapping that out. And in a way, you know what He's saying. He's saying, “Just like you harvest these various crops at different times during the year, I am going to harvest people. Just like you harvest crops, I am going to harvest people to eternal life in the Kingdom of God.”
And so He established these Holy Days that are wrapped around the harvest seasons. And so in the spring time, we have the Festivals and Holy Days of Passover, Unleavened Bread that begin that first harvest. The barley harvest is in Palestine right in the spring time of the year. Then as we move on through the year, we get to the early summer where Pentecost falls. And that's representative of this wheat harvest, still an early harvest, not this gigantic, overwhelming, open-the-storehouses kind of harvest, but a small harvest, an early harvest.
And then of course, He mentions here in the fall of the year, we have those fall Holy Days of Trumpets and Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day. And they're certainly representative, I suppose, as a whole of that ingathering that he mentioned here in Exodus, this huge harvest, almost overwhelming harvest of all the other things, other than wheat and barley mainly, all those other crops that are going to finally be ready to be taken in. And that happens in the fall of the year. And so we see as God maps out how important those harvest seasons are.
And in fact, still here early on in the year, he points to this feast of harvest. Well, what does this feast of harvest have to do with the crops that are going to be gathered in? And how does that fit toward the beginning of the year? We have those spring harvests, the Passover and Unleavened Bread, I guess you could say, and then Pentecost following. Why would He call it the feast of harvest?
In fact, this particular Feast seems to have more names than most of the others. Sometimes, it's called the Feast of Weeks. If you just flip over a couple of pages to Exodus 34, we see that name synonymous with this feast of harvest. It says, verse 22 in Exodus 34, "You shall observe the Feast of Weeks of the first fruits of wheat harvest." And then he mentions that third season again, the feast of ingathering at year’s end. So he mentions those three seasons here again in Exodus 34. And so we have the feast of harvest, which is equal to the feast of first fruits, also called the feast of weeks, the Feast of Weeks, because we recognize that God designed this feast to be counted out from the Days of Unleavened Bread to when it should be kept. And it's a number of weeks. Seven weeks plus a day are counted.
In fact, the New Testament name in Greek is Pentecost, which means 50th. And so it's actually numbered out so we know exactly when to keep that specific day. We'll talk a little bit more about that in just a minute.
Now, we know that these days, whether it's called the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of First Fruits, connected and synonymous with Pentecost in the New Testament. We know in the New Testament something awesome happened, that was the time that there was this speaking in all kinds of different languages when God poured his spirit out on his people, and the New Testament Church began. And in fact, it is interesting when you begin to think about what does ripening fruit have to do with beginning of a New Testament church? How are those things connected? And what in the world is a first fruit anyway? What is it?
Well, it's not real hard to figure out. It's pretty much what those words say. First fruits would be those first that ripen, the ones that come to maturity fastest, to come to maturity first. And so God uses that concept of first fruits, those that ripen sooner, to spell out a portion of what He's doing in his plan, in that plan of salvation. God uses this concept of the first fruits, those that would be harvested sooner, in order to illustrate what He's doing at the beginning of His plan, more toward the beginning of what his purpose is all about. And so when we look at what He's doing at the beginning of those harvests, what was it? What was it?
Well, when you look to the beginning, to the Days of Unleavened Bread, it begins to point out that there was a certain procedure that was done during those days. Before that early harvest could begin, there was a special ceremony that had to take place. In order for any harvest to start, physical harvest at that time, something had to be done first. God had a requirement for them. In fact, it's found over in the book of Leviticus, Leviticus 23. If you take a look over in Leviticus, we'll see what God required must happen before any harvest could take place. So let's take a look over in Leviticus 23, and we begin in verse 9, Leviticus 23:9 Leviticus 23:9And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
American King James Version×. Here's the Lord speaking to Moses and He says, "Speak to the children of Israel. Say to them, ‘ When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest."
So before any harvesting could be done, this ceremony had to take place. An individual would go out and cut a sheaf of that barley. And once that sheaf was cut, we could say it was a handful, an omer, a couple of liters worth, I guess, of dry measure, they would bring it to the priest. And then what would the priest do? Well, verse 11, it says, "He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted on your behalf. On the day after the Sabbath, the priest shall wave it."
And so here we see the beginning of the harvest began with this sheaf of the first fruits. Sometimes it's called the wave sheaf. This single lone sheaf was called the first fruits. And so this priest would take that, and he would wave it before the Lord. Or literally, he would lift it up. He would lift it up and present it before God. And that was a significant festival because no one could eat any of the new grain, any of the new harvest. None of it could be touched in that sense. None of it could be harvested. None of it could be eaten until that ceremony took place.
And so it meant something very significant. And especially when you begin to think about the spiritual connection here because it's not just about crops. Remember, God is giving us an object lesson to teach us about a greater spiritual truth through these three harvest seasons. So before any of them could begin, this sheaf of the first fruits had to be waved, had to be lifted and presented before God.
So let's consider this sheaf of the first fruits for just a moment. The sheaf of the first fruits is what Leviticus calls it.
So we’ll write that out. I’ll try to spell it correctly here before I get carried away.
So the sheaf of the first fruits, sometimes also called the wave sheaf, well, what does it represent? So we’ll put that up here. It represents.
What is that significance of this particular ceremony and this particular sheaf? And more often than not, it was barley, in order to begin that harvest. Well we see specifically it's called the first in verse 10. Verse 10, it is called the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest, the sheaf of the first fruit. You see, Israel understood this concept of first fruits. First fruits not only applied to the crops. It not only applied to the grain or any of the harvest things. It also applied to people. And so this wave of the first fruits also had a representation that connected them to the firstborn.
This sheaf of the first fruits has a connection and represents the firstborn. And the firstborn of God's people were special to God. There was something that related to that idea of being first, being first. It's always nice to be first, isn't it? First in line, first to win the race. What's second place? The first loser, right? Well, you want to be the first loser? You want to be the winner, firstborn. And it had that connection. It's the best. It's the choicest. It's the one that is special. It's that whole concept that they did understand that it's the best and also an indication that if it's the first, there must be more to follow as well.
So they understood there was this connection between the sheaf of the first fruits and the firstborn. If you go with me over to Nehemiah 10, we can see this connection spelled out in that representation to the firstborn and the connection to a sheaf. Let's notice what it says here in Nehemiah 10. Look at verse 35, Nehemiah 10:35 Nehemiah 10:35And to bring the first fruits of our ground, and the first fruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the LORD:
American King James Version×. Here it says, "We made ordinances to bring the first fruits of our ground." Of course the "We made it" is not really there in the Hebrew. In your Bible, it may be italicized. But certainly, they were told by God to bring the first fruits of their ground and the first fruits of all fruit of all trees year by year to the house of the lord. And so we've got this connection to the first fruits, but it doesn't stop there.
So we keep reading, also verse 36, “to bring the first born of our sons.” And it didn't stop there either, “the first born of our cattle,” as it's written in the law, “and the first born of our herds and our flocks to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of God. To bring the first fruits of our dough, our offerings, the first from all kinds of trees, the new wine and oil to the priests and the storerooms, to the house of our God, and to bring the tithes of our land to the Levites.” And so we see the Israelites understood. There was a connection here between the first fruits and the firstborn.
The first fruits were holy to God. They understood they belong to God. And what happened at the time that those firstborn came on the scene? It says they were presented before God like that wave sheaf. Like the sheaf of the first fruits, they were presented to God. They were set apart by God and then presented to Him. He considered them something special, something that was choice, something that was first.
And so Israel certainly understood there was a connection here. Now, this firstborn concept goes farther as well because it's not just about cattle and fruit and sheaf and not just about that. There's a spiritual significance. So keep that in mind, because we'll come back to that in just a moment, because there's more to what the sheaf of the first fruits has a connection to.
It's also interesting that this sheaf, or really, oftentimes, any sheaf in the Bible can be representative of a person. So it has a connection to the firstborn. But there's also this connection of a sheaf to a person. Can you think of any example in the Bible? Let's say other than Jesus Christ, where a sheaf has a connection to a person. Well, we probably all know the story of Joseph with his fancy multi-colored coat that his dad gave him. Remember how he got in trouble with his brothers? Remember what that dream was all about that Joseph had? I won't go there. But if you went to Genesis 37, it tells that story of Joseph and the multi-colored coat that he had. And his brothers got jealous because Joseph had a dream. And in that dream, what was happening? They were putting sheaves together. They were bundling up the grain. And as those bundles came together, whose bundle stood tall? Whose sheaf stood tall while all the others of his brothers bowed down to Josephs? Well, it was Joseph's.
So we see there is a connection there in that story of Joseph and his dream that that one sheaf represented Joseph. The others represented all his brothers. And so there is that connection that a sheaf can represent a person. There is that connection. In fact, it doesn't stop there. There's an amazing psalm. I don't know if you've ever noticed this. Psalm 126, it seems like the early days of America, they recognized this psalm, I'd say, often, often. In Psalm 126, right at the very beginning of the psalm, we've got a prophetic psalm. It's a prophetic psalm that speaks to the future of what's going to be happening and looks to the past of what has occurred as well as it identifies God's people, God’s people. It says, "When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream." But we know what happened to Israel, well they got carted off into captivity because they disobeyed God.
But we know, prophetically, there's a time they're going to come back. God's going to bring them back. And this is accounting for that very scenario. Let's notice something. It says then, wow, “This is great! We're going to be back in our land where we belong.” It says, "Our mouth was filled with laughter. Our tongue was singing." And they said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them." God gets the credit. And we know this is going to happen in the future. God is going to bring His people back. Verse 4, “bring back our captivity, the streams of the south. Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy." Yeah they've sowed in tears as they were carted off into captivity, but when they're redeemed, they're brought back, and then there's going to be, it says, “great joy”
And in a way, that happened in Christ's ministry as well. The Jews expected Christ to come in great power and authority and wipe out anyone that stood against Him. But He was a man of sorrows, wasn't He, first time around, a man of sorrows? He sowed in tears. Connection to Christ there. But ultimately, what will be reaped? Well, He says great joy here.
Then he says, verse 6 "He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seeds for sowing shall doubtless come again with rejoicing." There's that connection to Christ, a man of sorrows who was sowing what's going to be reaped, a fantastic harvest. And what does He say about that harvest? Remember our connection here? It says, “He will bring his sheaves with Him.” He’ll bring his sheaves with him.
I don't know if you've ever heard the song before. But in early America, they used to sing it all the time. Did you ever hear that song? "Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves." That's what that is from. Christ is going to bring His people with Him represented as a sheaf. As the sheaves He's going to bring with Him. So I think it's undoubtable that there is a connection between sheaves, the first fruit, and people and that harvest, of course. So we see that connection to this representation of what God's purpose and plan. He's going to return and His people, those sheaves, are going to be with Him.
Now, I think it also begins to point out something pretty specific that we've even talked about a little bit already, that there is this representation of Jesus Christ Himself.
That wave sheaf is representative of Jesus Christ. Yes, there's connections to the firstborn and to people as sheaves. But most specifically, this single sheaf not only represents Jesus Christ, but I think, more importantly, is that it was fulfilled by Jesus Christ. This ceremony that we read about in Leviticus 23 not only was a representation, but something that Christ Himself fulfilled. He is the firstborn. He is that sheaf of the first fruits. He was the firstborn as well, firstborn of Mary but, most importantly, the firstborn of the Father. He was also the first born of other things as well.
If we turn over to 1 Corinthians 15, we can see this connection to this first fruit and this wave sheaf and Jesus Christ. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:20 1 Corinthians 15:20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
American King James Version×. 1 Corinthians 15:20 1 Corinthians 15:20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
American King James Version×, you probably remember chapter 15 oftentimes known as the resurrection chapter. And not only talking about the opportunity for God's people to be resurrected, but it get's right back to the beginning, right back to the first.
And in fact, it is interesting, in the Old Testament the word oftentimes translated first fruits is reshith. That's an English transliteration. But you know what it's also translated as? Beginnings, beginnings. It's also translated as beginnings. Where does the plan of God begin? Well, it begins with Jesus Christ. Where does our hope begin? Well, it begins with Jesus Christ. Where did the church start? Well, it started on Pentecost, on the feast of harvest, on the Feast of Weeks the New Testament church began. And so there's amazing connections even with just the usage of the terms when you look at what the Bible says.
Well, anyway, back to the resurrection chapter, chapter 15, 1 Corinthians. Let's notice verse 20. It says, "But now, Christ is risen from the dead and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. So that tells us straight away, Christ not only represents but fulfills the first fruits. He is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. He says "For since by Man came death,” by Man with a capital M, by Jesus Christ, our Savior, “also came the resurrection of the dead, for as in Adam, all die, even so in Christ, all shall be made alive." But he says each one in his own order. Christ the first fruits, afterward, those who are Christ at his coming."
And then comes the end when He delivers the Kingdom of God to the Father and puts an end to all rule and all authority and all power. And so it's kind of interesting here in Corinthians, we see that pattern of the harvest seasons. And Christ is the beginning. He's the first of the first. But there's also a connection of how there will be each one in his own order. There's a series of things. And those harvest Festivals in Palestine and ancient Israel have a connection to what God's purpose is all about. There's a spiritual meaning behind it. And so that wave sheaf, that sheaf of the first fruits points to the beginning. It points to our savior Jesus Christ and everything that He not only represents but He fulfilled in His life and His resurrection.
In fact, Colossians exemplifies this, expands on it even more. If you go over to Colossians 1, we can see here in verse 16, Colossians 1:16 Colossians 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
American King James Version×, it talks about the preeminence of Christ. It talks about how Christ is choice, how He is the best, how He is the ultimate. He is the firstborn of the Father, firstborn in so many ways. Let's notice what it says, Colossians 1:16 Colossians 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
American King James Version×. Well, look at verse 15, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." So he's preeminent. It says, "By Him, all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, all things were created through him and for him." Making that point, He's the choice. He's tops. He's number 1.
Verse 17, "He is before all things, and in Him, all things consist. He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning. The firstborn from the dead that in all things He may have the preeminence," all things, He may have preeminence. So He is the most holy one. He is the fulfillment of the first fruit, that sheaf of the first fruits. He was that fulfillment. He represents that.
In fact, we see that played out in scripture right to the T how that wave sheaf that was lifted before God in ancient Israel had a connection to what we just read about, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you remember the story of the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Christ, if you look really quickly over to the book of John, John 20, let's recognize in more than one way he fulfilled this sheaf of the first fruits. John 20, let's see. Where should we begin?
Well, verse 13, here's Mary at the tomb. And we see they ask Mary, "Why are you weeping, woman?" She said, "Because they've taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they laid Him."
Verse 14, "When she said this she turned around and saw Jesus standing there and didn't know that it was Jesus." Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Well, she supposed Him to be the gardener. And she said, "Sir, if you’ve carried Him away, tell me where you've laid Him that I will take him away."
And Jesus said to her "Mary!" She turned and said to him, "Rabboni," which is to say teacher. She recognizes Christ. Well, what does Christ say to her? He says something interesting. He says "Do not cling to me for I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren and say to them I'm ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."
So it's interesting to see this connection now. Where was Christ in all of this? This connection to the sheaf of the first fruits, He's been cut down. He's been resurrected. But He hasn't been presented yet. Just like that sheaf had to be cut, had to be gathered up, and then taken to the priest, He was right in between. He'd been cut down. He'd been resurrected and picked up in that sense but hadn't been taken to the Father yet, like that sheaf had to be taken physically to the Father, Christ had to ascend…or to the priest, Christ had to ascend. He said don't touch me yet. I haven't ascended, haven't been there yet.
But later on in the story, we see that Christ does allow the disciples to touch Him and hold Him and handle Him. If you go over to the book of Luke 24:38 Luke 24:38And he said to them, Why are you troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
American King James Version×, we see just a little while later, same day, different story. A different story is right here as we see Christ appear before the disciples. This is verse 38 in Luke 24. It says, "Why are you troubled? This is Christ speaking. Why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold, my hands and my feet that it is myself." It's me, He says. "Handle me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have." So here's Christ encouraging them to touch Him when just earlier in the day He said, “Mary, don't touch me. Don’t touch me. Don't hang on to me, because I haven't ascended. Well evidently, like that wave sheaf that was lifted up by the priest, Christ hadn't been lifted up yet to the Father when Mary was there. But later on in the day, obviously, that had happened, and He had ascended and had been presented before the Father and had been accepted by the Father. And so He fulfilled that sheaf of the first fruits.
And we can see how that representation follows straight through in what Christ Himself did. His resurrection and appearance to the Father testified to the very fact that this sheaf of the first fruits had been not only cut down but reaped and presented, reaped and presented to God in His Heavenly sanctuary, not to just some priest, but to God the Father.
And in fact, it's also interesting to note, back in Leviticus, if we were to have kept reading there in Leviticus where it talks about this sheaf of the first fruits, it also talked about other things that were to happen when that sheaf was presented. They had daily sacrifices that always went on. But it also talked about special sacrifices. So when you get time, you can look back at Leviticus 23, and it points to other sacrifices that were to have occurred when this wave sheaf, this sheaf of the first fruits, was presented at the temple.
You know what they were? Those sacrifices were ones that had a connection to a great spiritual truth as well, because there was a meal offering that was given. Meal offerings often consisted of the grains that would have been included in bread and things like that. There was also a coinciding drink offering, a drink offering that was also presented before God. Now, that wasn't all. During that presentation of the wave sheaf, there was also a burnt offering that was offered, a burnt offering, the whole body of the animal being given over to God. And of course, then there was the wave sheaf as well, that sheaf of the first fruit.
Does that remind you of any connections here? Can you think of God's plan being outlined in His Festivals and Holy Days? Well, the Passover, certainly representative of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That burnt offering was a complete offering, body and blood, everything offered. So we have that connection to Jesus Christ, Christ's death itself in that. There was also the meal offering with connections to bread. There was the drink offering with connections to wine, point also to the Passover, and the wave sheaf because after the Passover and after His crucifixion, it points to His resurrection.
But there's also something missing there in Leviticus. One of the sacrifices was missing that was a normal kind of sacrifice that everybody had to account for. You know what that one was? Sin offering. At that wave sheaf ceremony, there was no sin offering. Can you think why? Christ is sinless. There is no sin in our Savior Jesus Christ. Christ Himself was sinless. And so the amazing connections here between Christ fulfilling that symbolism of the sheaf of the first fruits and those connections even to the offerings that were given are really astounding when you think of how amazing and how interconnected the word of God is and how many nuances there are into why He did the things that He did and how they should just bring forth His amazing plan. It all starts with Jesus Christ.
And of course, being the first, we saw that there is another connection here.
It's also a symbolic thing toward the harvest, because even though specifically we can say that points to Christ, it's also pointing to the fact that there's a harvest coming. It had to start with that first sheaf that they cut and then bought to the priest physically. It had to start there. Then what happened? Well, they all sit back and forget it and relax. No, that's the time we've got to get going. There's going to be more. We got to go get the rest of the barley in. It's time. It's time for the harvest. It's time for the early harvest. The wheat and the barley, that's when it began. And so this sheaf of the first fruits pointed to the fact that there will be a harvest. There will be a harvest, not specifically the harvest of the first fruits, but this was a sample, you could say. This first wave sheaf was a sample of what's to come. It also even pointed to the fact that there's going to be a greater one, a huge harvest, at the end of the year by the time you get to the representation of those later Festivals, those Festivals that came in the fall of the year in Palestine. And so this was just the beginning. This was just the start.
And so we see a double sense in that that's specifically representing Christ. But this harvest, I think, has that connection to a person, the sheaf, that the fact that this harvest is pointing to the fact that it's symbolic of God's people, not just any people, but more specifically God's people, those who will be sheaves with Him when He returns, fulfilling that Psalm 126. It points to God's resurrected saints that will be with Him at his coming. It certainly points to that very fact. And I think the important aspect of that is the first fruits…Let me get it spelled right. The first fruits points to us. It points to God's people, specifically. God's people, it points to them that like Christ, He was the first of the first fruits with those to follow, His people. His people that have been set aside that are called by God, that are responsive to God, that have been given His Holy Spirit. They will follow.
In fact, there's an amazing passage over in the book of James. Take a look over in the book of James, first chapter. James 1:16 James 1:16Do not err, my beloved brothers.
American King James Version×is where we’ll begin. James 1:16 James 1:16Do not err, my beloved brothers.
American King James Version×points to the fact that we are called first fruits. There is a symbolic connection between the first fruits and God's people , those who have responded to the call of God and have received His spirit. James 1, look at verse 16, says "Don't be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there’s no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth that we might be a kind of first fruits of his creatures." Some translations say "of his own creations."
And so then it goes on saying, well here's how first fruits behave. Because He brought us forth, because He opened our minds to His truth, because like that beginning of the New Testament church, He poured out his spirit on us, and we made a commitment to follow God. And as we keep that commitment, He promises his first fruits will be there when Christ returns. We are those first fruits. We are the first fruits of His creation. And so we have an opportunity to be a part of that early harvest because another harvest is coming later. But that early harvest, that wheat harvest, that barley harvest that happens early on in the year, we have an opportunity to be a part of that early harvest that Revelation 20 talks about. We’ll be able to reign and rule with Christ when He returns. And so that's God's people. The first fruits are representative of God's people.
And over in the book of Romans, it substantiates that even more. And in fact, you might do a study of sometime. Just Google first fruits and see how many times in the New Testament that word comes up and study it. Recognize how many times that term is used and notice what it's connected to, how often it's connected to Christ Himself and how many times it's connected to God's people. Just recognize that. You'll probably have some fun going through a study like that. But over in the book or Romans, Romans 8, notice verse 11. Romans 8:11 Romans 8:11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.
American King James Version×, it points us to the fact that we are the first fruits. God considers us like the firstborn, like a person who has responded to His truth, who has received his spirit. Romans 8:11 Romans 8:11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.
American King James Version×says, "If the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you..." that's where it starts, we got to have God's spirit, "He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His spirit who dwells in you." So we see that connection to the Feast of Weeks, to Pentecost, the beginnings of the New Testament church with God's spirit being poured out. If God's spirit has been poured out on us and we have made a covenant with God, He says He'll give us life. We'll be in that early harvest. We'll be right there.
In fact, if we skip down a little bit to verse 14, He says, "For as many as are led by the spirit of God, these are the sons of God." We're the sons of God. And we’re the first ones because there's going to be more later. And those three seasons of harvest point to that very thing. And so later on, there'll be a bigger harvest. And so right now, we can be the sons of God if we're led by His spirit, it says, by His spirit. Now down to verse 16, it says, "The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." Then it says, "If children then heirs…We are heirs, it says…heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him that we may also be glorified together." Boy, it sounds like Psalm 126. He's going to be bringing those sheaves with Him. His first fruits will be with Him, glorified together.
And so if we skip down a little bit further, look at verse 22, "We know the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs until now." And not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body, for we were saved in this hope." And then He goes on from there.
So God identifies those first fruits. He identifies those who have His spirit are set apart as His people. They are His people. They are His church. And what that harvest indicates is not going to be some monstrously huge number of people. Because like that early harvest, it's going to be smaller. The barley harvest didn't rule the year. The wheat harvest, by no means. It was that fall harvest that was the big one. That was just the amazing one where the storehouses just become packed full. And so this certainly points to the fact that, right now, God's just dealing with a few people. And there's a much greater huge spiritual harvest to come down the line.
But it's also a very hopeful thing. It's not something that anybody should get a big head over, “Wow! Look at me. I'm great. I'm a first fruit. That would be a warning message there. Better be careful. You see, it points to the fact that everyone's going to have an opportunity. Everyone's going to have an opportunity. You point to those fall Festivals, you point to the harvest that's in the fall. It’s pointing the fact everyone's going to have an opportunity to know and understand God, have an opportunity to choose His way, have an opportunity to respond to God's calling.
And so the first certainly should remind us all that there's going to be more to come. The early harvest, the small harvest should always remind us there's a bigger harvest to come down the line. And it is a promise. It is a prophecy that Christ will certainly fulfill as a part of God's great plan. And it's spelled out in those harvest seasons. So the fall season will certainly be representative of the fact that all people will have an opportunity to understand the truth and have an opportunity to be a part of the family of God.
Now in the mean time, first fruits also are challenged. First fruits, if we want to be a part of that early harvest, we're challenged to do what the preeminent one did, the one who was the forerunner, the one who led the way, the one who was resurrected, the one who was lifted up to the Father. We are challenged to do as He would do. That's a challenge for us as God's people, as first fruits. And the only way that can happen is also found in this representation of the first, God's spirit. It's only by the power of God's spirit that we can accomplish the things that God wants us to accomplish.
You see we have the opportunity to be the first to seek first the Kingdom of God. That's a wonderful honor. But it's also a big responsibility, isn't it? Also, a huge responsibility. We have the responsibility to be the first ones to come out of this world. How many times did God say to come out in front of my people? Don't partake of their wrong ways. We have the opportunity to be the first ones to do that, following in the steps of Jesus Christ. We can be the first not to compromise, not to give in. We're to maintain with love, especially that first love of the truth so that we not only know the truth, but we live the truth, and we do the truth. And we keep accomplishing those things that we were called to by that faith that God's given to us. And so we’re the first to do battle against human nature. Other than Jesus Christ, we're following in His footsteps. Like Paul said, we can overcome, through God's Holy Spirit, that normal everyday carnal human way of thinking. Through the power of God, through His Holy Spirit, we can be the first to battle. We're called as first fruits to be holy, to be just, to be different than the rest of humanity. God's called us to that.
And so we have those responsibilities as his called out people because we've been given his spirit. We have to be different people than the rest of the world. We have to be people of integrity. We have to be people of our word. We have to be people that represent the highest standard. In fact, we're striving for that full measure, that standard of Jesus Christ. That's what we're striving for. And so we can be first and foremost in love and obedience and service. And we can be the first to be growing in grace and knowledge.
In fact, when we do those things, we recognize it's not by anything that we work up. It's not by our greatness or our power or our authority or our good looks. It's none of that. We know it's only possible by God's spirit, God's spirit, which connects us right back to the beginnings. The beginnings of our connection to God is through His spirit, by his calling and our response to that calling. And in fact, we're told very specifically over in 2 Timothy, if we're to be first fruits, we’ve got to maintain that. 1 Timothy 1, notice verse 6. I'm sorry 2 Timothy 1:6 2 Timothy 1:6Why I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands.
American King James Version×, 2 Timothy 1:6 2 Timothy 1:6Why I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands.
American King James Version×brings us back to that connection to the Spirit of God. Here the apostle Paul has reminded the young minister, Timothy. He says, "I remind you to stir up the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands." Well, what was that gift? He says it's His spirit. It's the Spirit of God. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." That's the heart of a first fruit that they stir up that spirit. They respond to that spirit. They submit to the Spirit of God, and that they imitate Jesus Christ. They follow him. They're transformed from the ways of this world into the character of Jesus Christ.
And it points to the fact that there's more to come. There's more to come. And we have the opportunity to be a part of the things at the beginning. So what a wonderful blessing. In fact, when you get to the very end of the story, you go all the way back to the book of Revelation, there's an interesting comment that's made in Revelation 14. And for me it hearkens back to that passage in the Psalms that we read about the sheaves. Revelation 14, it talks about the 144,000, certainly pointing to the fact of those sheaves I guess you could say that would be with him when Christ returns. Right at the very beginning of the chapter, he says "I looked and behold a lamb standing on Mount Zion and with him 144,000 having His Father's name written on their foreheads. So here's the lamb, Jesus Christ, with his people. And down in verse 3, it says, "They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, the elders, no one could learn that song except the 144,000." And it says who are they? "Those that were redeemed from the Earth, those that were redeemed.
It says, "These are the ones who weren't defiled," specifically it says with women, "for they are virgins." Spiritually speaking, that's what it's talking about, “These are the ones who follow the lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men being first fruits to God and to the lamb." And so right when we get to the end of the story, we see when Christ returns his first fruits will be with him. And so we want to be there. We want to be there. And with that great calling that God has given us, we have that opportunity to be a first fruit.
And so this whole aspect of the sheaf of the first fruits has such amazing significance that we don't want to take it lightly. We want to make sure that we recognize there's responsibility that comes with being a part of God's great calling, especially now. Not everyone has that opportunity right now. That's going to come later. That's represented in the plan of God, in His purpose, in those harvest Festivals. But we have that opportunity right now. And so what an awesome calling we have. And it's not because we're so great. We know that passage that talks about that. It's not because we're so smart or so great. It's because God is so good. He is gracious. And He has an awesome plan. And He's called not many mighty. But he's called us to be a part of His plan now, to be a part of his family, especially when Christ returns. And we can be there.
And so I think if we take this symbolism that God's given us, it can have deeper meaning for what God's purpose and His plan is all about. And hopefully, it will also motivate us then to strive for the ultimate standard. And of course, that ultimate standard is found in the first fruit, the ultimate standard of Jesus Christ. So let's strive to meet that standard and allow Christ to live in us and through us, and then we can truly be first fruits.
All right, well, that will do it for our study tonight. I hope you enjoyed it. We will be having another Bible study in two weeks or our next biweekly Bible study two weeks from tonight. So we hope you'll join us right here at the home office of the United Church of God. If not, join us on the Web. You can tell your family and friends. They can watch online. It's archived on ucg.org as well. So we hope you'll catch up on some of our past Bible studies. We'll continue this series of Let Us Keep The Feast in two weeks. So we look forward to seeing you then.