Jesus Christ Himself said He “did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47 John 12:47And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
American King James Version×). But in a world in which hundreds of people die every day from wars, civil unrest and murder-in which thousands die daily from starvation, disease and natural disasters; accidental deaths claim hundreds more; injustice, immorality and every godless act abounds; professing Christians go to war against and kill other Christians; thousands die daily without having heard the name of Jesus Christ or even seen a Bible, much less read one-can we truly say that Christ’s mission was successful?
Was Jesus Christ mistaken? Has He not succeeded at what He said He would do? Doesn’t the very condition of the world itself show that God has failed in the very purpose for which Jesus said He was sent into this world? After all, we are told that “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17 John 3:17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
American King James Version×).
If Jesus intended to save the world, then has the world truly been saved? Is it logical to conclude, when we observe man’s inhumanity to man on an unprecedented scale, that the world is saved?
These questions have always posed an enigma to thoughtful people willing to face the facts. If the Christian Church had as its mission to take the message of Christ in power to the world so the world could be saved, why is the world in such religious disarray? Further, if the gospel Jesus Christ brought holds the answers to man’s problems, why is the world in such sad moral shape?
Did Christ fail to gain the cooperation of His own Church to carry out this mission? Is that the problem? Is He not able to inspire the faith in His professed followers to do greater works than He (John 14:12 John 14:12Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father.
American King James Version×), as He promised? Or are the opposing forces simply too powerful for faithless mankind? The answer is none of the above.
However, there are answers to all these questions, and, remarkably, they are illustrated in a festival called the Feast of Firstfruits (Exodus 23:16 Exodus 23:16And the feast of harvest, the first fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when you have gathered in your labors out of the field.
American King James Version×). This observance, along with other of God’s annual Holy Days, is commanded by God in Leviticus 23:15-21 Leviticus 23:15-21 15 And you shall count to you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16 Even to the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the first fruits to the LORD. 18 And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering to the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet smell to the LORD. 19 Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. 21 And you shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation to you: you shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
American King James Version×.
In describing this and other sacred observances, God said, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts’ ” (verse 2).
Later, we find the Church Jesus founded also observed this festival, known by Jesus’ followers as the Day of (or Feast of) Pentecost. As a matter of fact, the founding of New Testament Church occurred on this very day, and was accompanied by other miraculous events (Acts 2:1-41 Acts 2:1-41 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared to them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat on each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
7 And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What means this?
13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said to them, You men of Judaea, and all you that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known to you, and listen to my words:
15 For these are not drunken, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, said God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
19 And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke:
20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:
21 And it shall come to pass, that whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
22 You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the middle of you, as you yourselves also know:
23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
24 Whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be held of it.
25 For David speaks concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:
26 Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:
27 Because you will not leave my soul in hell, neither will you suffer your Holy One to see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you shall make me full of joy with your countenance.
29 Men and brothers, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day.
30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
31 He seeing this before spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
32 This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he has shed forth this, which you now see and hear.
34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he said himself, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit you on my right hand,
35 Until I make your foes your footstool.
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made the same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brothers, what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.
American King James Version×). It has great relevance and importance for Christians today.
God had a reason for His nation Israel to keep His festivals and later for His Church to observe them. Through these observances, God reveals to His people the stages of His plan of salvation for humanity. In particular, the feast celebrating the harvest of the firstfruits, or Pentecost, has a meaning that reveals one of the major phases of God’s plan for salvation.
Common, but erroneous, assumptions
Most branches of professing Christianity assume that God intended for everyone to hear the message of salvation, starting immediately after Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
Further, most believe that every person hearing that message would at that point have his opportunity for salvation now, in this life. The various churches’ mission was thus to bring this message to every living person, giving him the opportunity to accept Christ before it would be too late. This general view, adopted by most of the Christian world, has resulted in churches believing they must bring as many people as possible to accept Christ immediately, regardless of the depth of their interest or commitment.
But, you should ask yourself, how many people have never accepted Christ? And how many untold millions over the centuries have never heard of Him? If salvation is a matter of accepting Christ in this physical life, what is the fate of the hundreds of millions of people who lived and died before Jesus Christ was born and for whom it was impossible to accept Christ?
Faced with these questions, must we conclude that the power Jesus promised His disciples simply never translated into the saving work He envisioned?
No, we should not doubt the saving power of Jesus Christ. Instead, perhaps we should examine our understanding of His intentions. We should take a long look at several commonly held beliefs.
If Christ intended to bring the world to Himself and make the world understand, He certainly could have exercised the authority and power to accomplish that task. After all, He said that “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18 Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
American King James Version×).
The apostle Paul wrote that Christ was resurrected and sits with God the Father “. . . in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion . . .” (Ephesians 1:20 Ephesians 1:20Which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
American King James Version×, 21).
If Christ’s power and authority, which are far greater than any other, are not strong enough to triumph over the opposing powers of darkness, then perhaps we should feel a little nervous.
Or perhaps God has had something else in mind all along.
How this feast fits in God’s plan for humanity
What does the Feast of Firstfruits, also known as the Day of Pentecost, have to do with these all-important questions?
There is great significance in the name, Feast of Firstfruits. By its very name, this festival indicates that there is more than one time of harvest.
As we will see, this festival foreshadows God’s intention to reap a small harvest of people for salvation (called “firstfruits” in the Scriptures), and to later call a vastly greater number of people to salvation.
One might say that God put into use a systematic procedure to lead the vast majority of mankind to His light and salvation: bringing first the firstfruits, and later the greater harvest of humankind, to salvation.
Let us notice this amazing truth as demonstrated by the divinely revealed festivals of God. God timed His feasts to coincide with the agricultural cycle of the two harvests in Palestine-one in spring and the other in the autumn-to teach His people an important lesson.
The Feast of Firstfruits coincided with the first harvest, the barley and wheat harvest in that area (Exodus 34:22 Exodus 34:22And you shall observe the feast of weeks, of the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.
American King James Version×). This festival was also known as the Feast of Weeks (Deuteronomy 16:9 Deuteronomy 16:9Seven weeks shall you number to you: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as you begin to put the sickle to the corn.
American King James Version×, 10). The Greek name for this feast is Pentecost, meaning “fiftieth,” in this case implying “fiftieth day.” It was so named because it was celebrated 50 days from the harvest of the first sheaf of grain.
On this day, the Israelites offered two loaves of bread made from flour taken from the new grain of the harvest. These loaves were called “the firstfruits to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:16 Leviticus 23:16Even to the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering to the LORD.
American King James Version×, 17). The people were to “do no customary work” on this day and gather for a sacred religious assembly (verse 21). This was a very significant occasion.
A later festival, the Feast of Tabernacles or Ingathering (Exodus 34:22 Exodus 34:22And you shall observe the feast of weeks, of the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.
American King James Version×), coincided with the conclusion of the later harvest when all the produce, including cucumbers, melons, lentils, chick-peas, nuts and especially dates, figs, olives and grapes had been gathered. The threshing and winnowing of the grain had continued throughout the summer and was finally completed by the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:39 Leviticus 23:39Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast to the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.
American King James Version×; Deuteronomy 16:13 Deuteronomy 16:13You shall observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that you have gathered in your corn and your wine:
American King James Version×). This, too, was an event of great significance marked by sacred religious assemblies and cessation from work.
These two feasts both represent major stages in the spiritual harvest of mankind for salvation. The Feast of Firstfruits, or Pentecost, symbolizes the calling and preparing of the church in this age. This is the first spiritual harvest.
The later spiritual harvest will take place in the age to come. God’s first harvest of people occurs in preparation for that coming age when Jesus Christ will bring His Kingdom to earth.
The physical depicts the spiritual
The spiritual significance of the first harvest, celebrated by the Feast of Firstfruits, is made clear in the Scriptures. “. . . Now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep . . . For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (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×, 22, 23; author’s emphasis throughout).
The wave sheaf offering, which began the barley harvest 50 days prior to Pentecost, pictured the resurrected Christ ascending to His Father (See “The Wave Sheaf Offering: A Ceremony Foreshadowing Salvation,” p. 14). The offering of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest on Pentecost (Leviticus 23:17 Leviticus 23:17You shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the first fruits to the LORD.
American King James Version×) was then symbolic of the firstfruits of God’s harvest of humankind for salvation.
Did you notice that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, clearly states that God will resurrect the dead in a specific order? First was Jesus Christ, who was resurrected as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep,” to be followed by others at Jesus Christ’s return.
Paul states that the resurrection of the saints at Christ’s coming to immortal, spiritual bodies (verses 44, 53) will take place in an instant “at the last trumpet” (verse 52)-the mighty, supernatural clarion call that will announce the return of Jesus Christ to rule the earth (Revelation 11:15 Revelation 11:15And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
American King James Version×).
At that time, God will resurrect the dead who had previously been faithful to Christ, and He will change to immortal children of God-raising them to meet Jesus Christ in the air-those who are still alive and have likewise been faithful (1 Thessalonians 4:16 1 Thessalonians 4:16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
American King James Version×, 17).
This miraculous event is described as “the first resurrection” in Revelation 20:6 Revelation 20:6Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
American King James Version×: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
The world under Christ’s rule
During this reign of Jesus Christ and the resurrected saints on earth (Revelation 5:10 Revelation 5:10And have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
American King James Version×), the second harvest of humanity for salvation will begin. God’s knowledge will at last be widely available, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14 Habakkuk 2:14For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
American King James Version×). All people will experience firsthand the wonderful Kingdom of God, which Jesus Christ proclaimed during His earthly ministry (Matthew 4:17 Matthew 4:17From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
American King James Version×; Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
American King James Version×; Luke 4:43 Luke 4:43And he said to them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.
American King James Version×).
Isaiah 2:2 Isaiah 2:2And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
American King James Version×, 3 provides us a picture of the beginning of this latter and great harvest: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”
Humanity will then have the opportunity to learn and live according to God’s ways. “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34 Jeremiah 31:34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, said the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
American King James Version×).
What of those who have lived and died in the past, having never known anything of God the Father and Jesus Christ? Revelation 20:6 Revelation 20:6Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
American King James Version×, quoted above, shows that God’s faithful saints are in “the first resurrection.” But, if there is a first resurrection, there must be another. And indeed there is. The book of Revelation makes it clear that there will be another resurrection of the dead. After the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ and the resurrected saints on earth (Revelation 5:10 Revelation 5:10And have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
American King James Version×), “the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished” (Revelation 20:5 Revelation 20:5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
American King James Version×).
This will continue God’s great second harvest of humanity for salvation. At that time, all who have ever lived but did not have the opportunity to learn of God’s ways or hear of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice will enjoy their opportunity for salvation. This resurrection of countless millions of people to a physical, perishable life is described in Ezekiel 37:1-11 Ezekiel 37:1-11 1 The hand of the LORD was on me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the middle of the valley which was full of bones,
2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, see, they were very dry.
3 And he said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, you know.
4 Again he said to me, Prophesy on these bones, and say to them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
5 Thus said the Lord GOD to these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live:
6 And I will lay sinews on you, and will bring up flesh on you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
8 And when I beheld, see, the sinews and the flesh came up on them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
9 Then said he to me, Prophesy to the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus said the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.
10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceeding great army.
11 Then he said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
American King James Version×; Matthew 12:41 Matthew 12:41The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
American King James Version×, 42 and Revelation 20:5 Revelation 20:5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
American King James Version×, 13. These people will gain the opportunity-for the first time-to repent and be converted through God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×; 3:19). Then they, too, will inherit eternal life.
We see in this wonderful plan the fulfillment of God’s desire for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4 1 Timothy 2:4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
American King James Version×).
God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×), and through His plan all who have never had the opportunity for salvation in their physical lives can be saved.
Firstfruits to overcome the world
The firstfruits of God’s plan are those who are called now, in this age, and are having their minds and attitudes changed to become like Jesus Christ through God’s Spirit working within them. The apostle James noted that God “chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:18 James 1:18Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
American King James Version×, New International Version).
Paul well understood that those called and converted now, in this age, are the firstfruits of God’s plan for the salvation of humanity. He referred to several first-century Christians as the firstfruits of God’s calling in specific locations (Romans 16:5 Romans 16:5Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the first fruits of Achaia to Christ.
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 16:15 1 Corinthians 16:15I beseech you, brothers, (you know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
American King James Version×). Looking forward to the resurrection of those who remain faithful to their calling, he said, “We also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23 Romans 8:23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
American King James Version×).
However, the firstfruits of God’s plan, those who are called now, find themselves in a vastly different situation from that of those who will follow in the latter harvest. Jesus said that those who are His followers in this age are not to be “of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16 John 17:16They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
American King James Version×). They are called out of the world and are expected to develop the character of Christ, while the rest of mankind is deceived (Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
American King James Version×) and following values that are abhorrent to Christ (1 John 2:15-17 1 John 2:15-17 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God stays for ever.
American King James Version×).
The present evil age
The firstfruits-God’s people-are called and strive to obey God while living in “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
American King James Version×), of which Satan is the actual ruler (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×). The harvest of first-fruits is small, because at this time relatively few will accept God’s calling, repent, be converted and remain faithful to God’s way of life. That is why Jesus said, “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14 Matthew 7:14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it.
American King James Version×).
After Christ’s return, which will usher in a new age, the world-society as a whole-will learn to live by the laws and values of God. In that age, God will bind Satan and not allow him to deceive the nations (Revelation 20:2 Revelation 20:2And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
American King James Version×, 3). Without Satan’s influence, the world will at last know peace. Everyone will know the LORD (Hebrews 8:11 Hebrews 8:11And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
American King James Version×).
Those who have not conformed to the world (Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×) will be those who assist Christ in bringing all nations to His truth (Revelation 20:4 Revelation 20:4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
American King James Version×). They will overcome the world just as Jesus overcame the world, and Christ will use them in bringing all other people to serve Him (Revelation 2:26 Revelation 2:26And he that overcomes, and keeps my works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
American King James Version×; 3:21).
Gift of the Holy Spirit
God enables His people to fulfill His purpose for them.
Significantly, God chose the Day of Pentecost to begin His Church by sending the Holy Spirit to His few faithful disciples (Acts 1:15 Acts 1:15And in those days Peter stood up in the middle of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
American King James Version×; 2:1-4). Many think of a church as a building, but that is a relatively modern use of the word. The word translated “church” in the New Testament is ekklesia , meaning “called out (ones).” The Church is the collective body of people who are called out of the world to carry the gospel to every nation (Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×; 28:19, 20).
Through the Holy Spirit, which God gives to those who are a part of God’s Church, members are empowered to overcome the world. It is through God’s Holy Spirit that the Church can preach the gospel to the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×; 28:19). It is this Spirit that enables a person to belong to Jesus Christ and be a part of the Church (Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
American King James Version×). For there to be a Church, it was necessary for God to send His Holy Spirit. The Day of Pentecost marks the beginning of the Church of God.
The firstfruits of God’s plan for salvation are those called to be in God’s Church in this age. The Church, also spoken of as “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27 1 Corinthians 12:27Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
American King James Version×), is made up of individuals in whom dwells the Holy Spirit. They have repented of their sins and turned to Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. They have committed themselves to obedience to His holy and righteous laws. They are willing to give up everything to remain faithful to Jesus Christ (Luke 14:33 Luke 14:33So likewise, whoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.
American King James Version×).
Firstfruits follow Jesus Christ
Revelation 14:4 Revelation 14:4These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits to God and to the Lamb.
American King James Version×speaks of God’s people who are “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” The preceding and succeeding verses provide insight into the character of those who are the firstfruits and why they accompany Jesus Christ.
Why are they so valued by God? They are described as having the Father’s name written in their foreheads (verse 1); God is foremost in their mind and thoughts. These have not been seduced by a false religious system (Revelation 14:4 Revelation 14:4These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits to God and to the Lamb.
American King James Version×), which is depicted as an immoral woman seducing humanity (Revelation 2:20-22 Revelation 2:20-22 20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against you, because you suffer that woman Jezebel, which calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. 22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
American King James Version×; 17:1-6).
The firstfruits have come out of and avoided the political and religious system that has dominated the world (Revelation 17:1-6 Revelation 17:1-6 1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying to me, Come here; I will show to you the judgment of the great whore that sits on many waters:
2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit on a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
5 And on her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
American King James Version×). When they were called by Jesus Christ, they understood that they were to come out of this system (Revelation 18:3 Revelation 18:3For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
American King James Version×, 4).
In addition, the firstfruits “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (verse 4). They are faithfully devoted to Jesus Christ. They will allow nothing to entice them from their personal loyalty to Him. Since Jesus will use them to assist Him to bring His knowledge to the world, it is vital that His firstfruits will forever be true to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
They “have been redeemed from among men” (verse 4). They have been purchased by God with the precious blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:18 1 Peter 1:18For as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
American King James Version×, 19). Having been bought by God, they know that their lives no longer belong to them, but rather to Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×). They are now to glorify God in body and spirit (1 Corinthians 6:20 1 Corinthians 6:20For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
American King James Version×).
Also, “in their mouth was found no guile” (verse 5). They have learned to deal with the malice commonly found in the hearts of men. There is no deception, plotting or feigning in their actions or words. They have learned about the genuineness, sincerity and simplicity of Christ. They have, in short, come to grips with the deceit of their own hearts and have fully submitted to the pure and unspotted life of Christ dwelling in them. For these things, “they are without fault before the throne of God” (verse 5).
Picturing the plan of God
This most important step in God’s plan for the salvation of mankind is revealed in the observing of his Holy Days. Naturally, those who are of the firstfruits will be observing the very day that pictures the calling and harvest of the firstfruits of God’s plan, the Day of Pentecost.
They will gratefully observe the very day that celebrates another milestone in God’s great plan, the founding of the Church through the granting of God’s Holy Spirit.
We now live in the age of the firstfruits, the time during which God is preparing a special, chosen people to reign with Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 2:9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
American King James Version×). Are you part of that group? You will be if you heed the counsel of the apostle Peter when he admonished us to “be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10 2 Peter 1:10Why the rather, brothers, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall:
American King James Version×). GN