The Feasts of Jehovah: The Feast of Firstfruits


We have noted that Passover anticipates the death of the Lamb of God, and that the Feast of Unleavened Bread illustrates the lives of those who are redeemed by His blood. 1 Corinthians 5 assisted our understanding of these truths. The same epistle explains the significance of the Feast of Firstfruits: it foreshadows the Savior’s resurrection. “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept”; “Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1Co 15:20,23).[1] The purpose for the teaching of the chapter was to refute the assertion that “there is no resurrection of the dead.” The major plank of Paul’s argument is that since they had welcomed the truth of Christ’s resurrection when they believed the gospel, it was inconsistent to reject the concept of resurrection while accepting that He had been raised from the dead! He is the great prototype of resurrection, the firstfruits, the guarantee of ours.

Firstfruits and Pentecost

Leviticus 23 is punctuated with the phrase “And the Lord spake unto Moses.” The first reference is in verse 1, with no repeat till verse 9 and the next at verse 23. These divisions link Passover with Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits with the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost). So while Firstfruits featured during Unleavened Bread, it does connect with Pentecost. Pentecost anticipates the descent of the Spirit and the formation of the Church, so it is fitting that it relates to Firstfruits. The giving of the Spirit was dependent on the glorification of the Lord Jesus; “the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (Joh 7:39). A risen, glorified Man at God’s right hand sent the Comforter (16:7).

Firstfruits and Unleavened Bread

Having noted the link with Pentecost, it must also be significant that the sheaf of Firstfruits was waved during the week of Unleavened Bread. Remember, unleavened bread pictures the believer’s life, a life that should be free from the corrupting effects of sin. Is that possible in a decadent world? Only in the power of the risen Christ is it possible. The “exceeding greatness” of God’s power toward us is equated with “the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead” (Eph 1:19-20). Our union with the resurrected Christ empowers us to “walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). “Christ liveth in me,” said the apostle (Gal 2:20), and therein lies the secret for holy living. Firstfruits and Unleavened Bread cannot be divorced!

A Feast for the Land

“Then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest.” When? “When ye be come into the land which I give unto you” (Lev 23:10). Firstfruits was a feast for the land. There could be no harvest in the wilderness, but there was the promise of the land, where the fertile soil that drank in the rain of heaven would yield a plentiful crop. Annually, the first sheaf of harvest was waved before the Lord; God’s interests must come first.

How kind of God to grant this further pledge of Israel’s inheritance! It is good of Him, too, to give present-day believers assurances of an inheritance that is “reserved in heaven for you” (1Pe 1:4). Israel’s inheritance was earthly, but ours is heavenly. He has given “the firstfruits of the Spirit” to us here and now (Rom 8:23), the guarantee of multiple blessings awaiting at “the redemption of our body.” Paul conveys a similar thought when he describes the Spirit as “the earnest of our inheritance” (Eph 1:14), the present assurance of future blessing.

The Waving of the Sheaf

When the sheaf was gathered, the priest would “wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you” (Lev 23:11). Remember, the sheaf foreshadows Christ in resurrection, so He is pictured as a resurrected man being presented in celestial courts. Divine power took Him from lying motionless in the garden tomb right to the very apex of glory, “set at his own right hand … far above all …” (Eph 1:19-23). He has entered “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb 9:24). “The Sheaf” has been waved before the Lord in all the acceptability of His Person and work, and for our acceptance.

The Lord’s resurrection was a necessary sequel to His death, denoting divine satisfaction with what He accomplished on the cross. He was “delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom 4:25). At conversion, we did not just believe that He rose from the dead, but that God raised Him from the dead, an indication that He was totally content with what was transacted at Calvary (10:9). The sinner who believes that God raised Him from the dead is saying, in effect, “If His sacrifice at the cross satisfied God, it is sufficient for me as well; I rest there.” So, in picture, the sheaf of firstfruits was signifying that all that transpired was for our “acceptance.” His continued presence as a man in the glory ensures sympathetic interest in days of trial (Heb 4:15) and necessary help in restoring the joy of fellowship with the Father if we sin (1Jo 2:1).

The Offerings

Various offerings accompanied the waving of the sheaf. The burnt offering indicates that God’s pleasure at His death lingers permanently with the presence of the living Christ in glory. The meat offering demonstrates that His holy character was not impaired by death, His flesh saw no corruption, and holy manhood has been carried into heaven. The One who is there is holy, harmless and undefiled (Heb 7:26). The wine of the drink offering denotes the joy that the vindication of His resurrection has produced. As He moved to the cross, there was a “joy that was set before him” (12:2), and He has now been anointed “with the oil of gladness” (1:9).

Christ the Firstfruits

As mentioned, Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15 is that, logically, anyone who believes in Christ’s resurrection must accept the general concept of resurrection. So the Lord Jesus is said to be the “firstfruits of them that slept”; His people will be raised “at his coming” (vv20-23). A small minority of the Church will survive till then, to be raptured without dying at all, but many millions have “fallen asleep” and will require resurrection. His resurrection guarantees ours. He “shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs” (Act 1:3), so our hope of resurrection is well founded on irrefutable evidence. Thank God for “Christ the firstfruits”!

[1] Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.