In revealing His plan for mankind, God chose Holy Days focused on the harvest seasons of Palestine (Exodus 23:14-17). Reaping crops at three festival seasons provided spiritual symbolism for God's people. For us, Pentecost shows how God is harvesting people for eternal life in His Kingdom. Jewish tradition connects Pentecost with the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai. For New Testament Christians the meaning is how to keep the spiritual intent of God's law.
Pentecost shows we need God's Spirit to keep the law in our hearts.
No matter how hard we try to avoid it, we still sin (Romans 3:10-18, 23). Acknowledging this inherent human weakness, God lamented in Deuteronomy 5:29, "Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!"
Oh, how we can agree. If only we had a heart in us that would willingly always do what Jesus did. God shows we have a heart problem. Merely doing our human best to keep God's law does not enable us to think like God. Becoming godly in thought, attitude and action is beyond the ability of men and women without the additional ingredient of God's Spirit.
God reminds us every year through Pentecost that He is now dealing with only a few people—just a small part of the huge spiritual harvest to come. All who have ever lived will in their own time have the opportunity to know God. But for now God extends His truth only to a few—the firstfruits of His plan. That's a miracle too, because only God can unlock the human mind so it can comprehend spiritual understanding (1 Corinthians 2:14). The firstfruits have the awesome responsibility of possessing God's truth. Such knowledge must be used well.
Christ Tests the Heart of the Church
The firstfruits are challenged to be the first to do as Jesus would do. The early New Testament Church was the first to take on this task. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit dramatically changed their lives. Their transformation was viewed as turning "the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). Such was the dynamic, miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. It was the same divine power at work in Jesus' ministry (Luke 4:14).
The first century Church was taught about their battle with human nature (Romans 7:22-25) and with unseen evil forces (Ephesians 6:12). They learned about the sanctity, symbolism and purpose of marriage and family (Ephesians 5:22-25). Husbands were taught to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her. Wives were encouraged to submit to husbands "as to the Lord." Christians were to obey authorities, whether emperor, king or magistrate, unless it conflicted with God’s law (Romans 13:1; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Acts 5:29). Christians were to call on the elders of the Church to be anointed when they were sick (James 5:14-18).
Firstfruits in the Kingdom of God will be able to explain to others how, from painful experience, they subjected themselves to the authority of men while under the authority of Christ; how they withstood the philosophies of false teachers and sorted out what was true and false. In effect they will be able to use the modern phrase: "Been there, done that and bought the T-shirt."
Firstfruits Are Called to Be Holy
Christians are called to be different. They learn when there is a conflict with a job and the Sabbath, it isn't a Sabbath problem but a job problem. They know the Sabbath was here before the job.
They are prepared to be different to serve God. When Unleavened Bread comes, they set themselves apart by a different diet. When major tests of obedience come, they respond as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did: "We want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Daniel 3:18, NIV). They don't consider compromising with pagan customs, hoping that God will understand.
Firstfruits have demonstrated a willingness to follow, obey, take orders, learn and repent because God's Spirit gives an attitude of respect. Being holy is to be different, and the firstfruits don't apologize for being different in a world under the sway of the devil.
But some firstfruits have succumbed to evil. Christ's corrective words to the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 reveal how sorely lacking in holy character some were. They failed to make right choices after apostasy had entangled their lives. Christ said: "You tolerate that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess" (Revelation 2:20, NIV). Paul warned similarly for the end time about those who want teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear and turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Divergent opinions and independent spirits held sway. We see evidence of similar attitudes today.
However, as we keep Pentecost, we are reminded that the power given to the first century Church is still the same power available for the 21st century. We too can apply that power with miraculous zeal.
The firstfruits are the first of their family tree to be called. And marvelous pioneering firsts belong to our calling. The printing press has given us inexpensive access to the complete Bible. The Old Testament patriarchs lived out the truth with occasional direction from God. The disciples had the Old Testament manuscripts and lived out the experience of Acts. Only in recent times has the complete Bible been freely available, along with the most up-to-date handbooks and Bible helps.
The firstfruits of today are able, through the technological revolution, to participate in never before imagined ways to spread the gospel. The Church in our age has enjoyed the color printing press, radio, television, videos and now Internet Web pages. We have the special opportunity to share in making the truth of Scripture available globally to any who will respond.
Every age on earth has been a violent, dangerous one in which to live. Firstfruits are called to be the first to demonstrate that commandment keeping can be done, even in an evil time.
Firstfruits are first in learning the limitations of man's government, whether it be a Caesar, emperor or Western democracy. Yet they learn to respond to government in a godly way.
Firstfruits are first in being accountable for their actions. They are confronted with making righteous judgments—about what is right and wrong, asking what Jesus would do—and in striving for a Christian attitude.
God reveals that Spirit-born firstfruits will be those who are as good as their word—people of high integrity. "They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless" (Revelation 14:4-5). They are pictured as free of deceit, falseness, pretense or window dressing.
Saints through history, along with us, will eventually be models for the rest of humanity. It's being first in keeping God's law against all odds.
Until that future time, the daily goal of a firstfruit is patient commitment to producing the fruits of God's Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)—the finest spiritual character possible.