Saturday, October 10, 2009

Firstfruits and the Harvest and Resurrection.

Under the Old Covenant men was separated from God because of his sin that started with Adam in the garden of . But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2). Because of mans sin condition sin offering for atonement had to be made (Exodus 29:36). These sacrifices were not taking sin away; they were covering sin for the forgiveness of the people.

During this Old Covenant era while man was separated, from God. Resurrection was promised to Israel (Isaiah 25:8; 26:19; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Hosea 13:14; Daniel 12), and it constituted "the hope of Israel" (Acts 26:6-9). This hope resided at the heart of the gospel preached to Israel (Acts 2:22-39; 4:1-2; 13:32-39; 23:6; 24:14-15). If death and Hades belonged to Judaism then one can understand the hope of resurrection.

In the process of revealing His plan for Israel resurrection God established a harvest seasons. The apostle Paul understood this concept for he writes. "But 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 first-fruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming" (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22-23)

One of the most interesting studies in the Bible is that of the "first-fruits" and "the harvest" as it relates to Israel’s resurrection. Where did this idea of "first-fruits" harvest originate? God uses the analogy of the first-fruits and harvest particularly to illustrate aspects of His plan of salvation for Israel. "On the same general principle that the firstborn of man and beast belonged to the God of Israel and were to be devoted to Him (Nehemiah 10:35-39).

The first-fruits including the first grain to ripen each season, were to be brought as an offering to God. Every Israelite who possessed the means of agricultural productivity was under this obligation (Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Numbers 15:17-21; 18:12-13:). "Speak the to children of Israel, and say to them." When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest. 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 (Leviticus 23:10-11).

The first-fruits were brought in a basket to the sanctuary and presented to the priest, who was to set the basked down before the altar. Leviticus 23:9-14 institutes the first-fruits offering. The people were to bring a sheaf of grain to the priest, who would wave it before the Lord. A burnt offering, a meal offering, and a drink offering were also required at that time. Deuteronomy 26:1-10 gives even more detail on the procedure of first-fruits.

In the New Testament, the first-fruits offering is mentioned seven times, always symbolically. Since Paul was a Israelite it would be only natural for him to have thought of (Christ as the first-fruits, Gk., aparche) because the day of Christ's resurrection was the second day of Passover week on which the first ripe sheaf of the harvest was offered to the Lord (Leviticus 23:10-11,15).

Paul also establishing another basic point. While Christ was the first-fruits of his people the saints were also significance of the "first ripe sheaf" Paul calls Epaenetus and the household of Stephanas “the first-fruits of Achaia” (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15). Paul also referred to the brethren as those "who have the first-fruits of the Spirit" (Romans 8: 23) His meaning is that, just as the first-fruits offering was the first portion of a larger harvest, these individuals were the first of a greater harvest to follow.

The resurrection began with the resurrection of Jesus. He opened the way. Then came the first-fruit of the gospel were representative of the harvest to come. In concept, first-fruits symbolizes God’s harvest of souls. This select group of Christians were purchased from the earth as a FIRST FRUITS offering (Act 20:28; Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Greek for purchased, means to go to the market. It is a picture of God coming to the earth, to select His FIRST FRUITS from the entire harvest. The first-fruits of the gospel, to whom God gave the earnest of the spirit, existed for the purpose of working out. Upon their acceptance to God depended the whole harvest (Romans 8:18-23)

The term "first-fruits" itself implies, the remainder of the harvest was about ripe. "First-fruits refers to the first portion of the harvest that is given to God. Most notably the first-fruits are: * The first to come in time * A pledge or hope of the greater harvest to follow.

According to the Law no grain was to be harvested at all until the first-fruits offering was brought to the Lord (Numbers 15:18,21; Leviticus 23:10, 11), The first-fruits sanctified the subsequent harvest. Every Jewish Christian understood this Old Testament concept.

The book of Revelation cannot be separated from the other books of the gospel. These first-fruit believers who died before the Parousia "the Finished work of Christ," did not go to the place of the dead Abraham's bosom or the Hadean realm Luke 16:19-31 but instead were under the altar. (Revelation 6:9). These first-fruit saints paved the way for the rest of the harvest.

This first resurrection is considered "blessed and holy" in Revelation 20:6 because of their intimate first-fruit relationship with the risen Christ. Their proximity to the Holy Place rendered them priest of God and the Messiah and they became part of that first century symbolic 1000 year reign of Christ.

The second important truth inherent in the first-fruits figure is the readiness of the harvest to be gathered as signified in the offering of the first-fruits. The act of reaping had already begun, as seen in the (acceptance or gathering of the 144,00) "first-fruits (Revelation 14:1-5).
After the destruction of Jerusalem and the (Temple) the way into the Heaven or the Holiest of all was now made OPEN (Hebrews 9:8). It was then that the first-fruits reached perfection, and were accepted of God.

The harvest was now ready to be cut and gathered in (Revelation 14:14-20). This is a two-fold harvest scene with verse 14-16 applying to the righteous, and verse 17-20 referring to the wicked. This same harvest judgment was prophesied by the prophet Joel (Joel 3:12-17).

The (righteous harvest) were the dead saints in Christ from the Old Covenant. These were people like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Job, Isaiah, and Daniel, etc, who died in faith, not of a time, still to come in our future. David demonstrated his faith and trust in God to delivered him from the depths of the grave. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave (Psalm 86:13 NIV).

Total fellowship to David was to be in the presence of God in the afterlife. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

The time for death to be abolished had arrived (2 Timothy 1:10). These "Old Covenant saints" were the rest of the harvest, the general resurrection. Knowing this, we can appreciate why God said: I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38).

The harvest, follows the ripening "perfecting and offering of the first-fruits." With the return of Christ and the destruction of temple, the way into God presence was now opened (Hebrew 9:8). The Hadean realm was emptied, and the Old Covenant saints, who were the harvest were gathered in the general resurrection in A.D.70. This is the second resurrection that John mentioned in the first part of verse 5 of chapter 20.

The charge by some that putting the resurrection in the past destroys faith is far removed from the truth in scripture. By putting the resurrection were it belongs in God’s scheme of redemption for Israel the believer today immediately enter into his eternal reward, in the heavenly’s.

One way to better understand the teaching of John's resurrection in Revelation 20:5 is to get a better grasp of the literary devices that are used by the writer to produce the desired results of the revelation he is seeking to unveil. One such device is chiasmas, which is a term that designates a literary figure or principle, which consist of "a placing crosswise" of words in a sentence or writing.

The term is used in rhetoric to designate an inversion of the order of words or phrases which are repeated or subsequently referred to in the sentence or writing.

The text is color coded to help you in your understanding of this technique.

20.1 A. And I saw an angel coming down from heaven
B. having the keys of the abyss
C. and a great chain in his hand
D. And he laid hold of the dragon
the old serpent (so named in garden of Eden)
which is the devil
And Satan (so named in (1 Chr.21:1)
and he bound him a thousand years
and he cast him into the abyss and shut it
and sealed it over him that he should deceive the nations no more
until should be finished the 1000 years
and after these things must he be loosed a little while
and I saw thrones and they say upon them and judgment was given to themand the souls of them that had been beheaded
for the testimony of Jesus
and for the Word of God
and such as worshiped not the beast neither his image
and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand
and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
The rest of the dead did not live again until were finished the thousand years
this is the first resurrection
20.6 blessed and holy is the one
who has a part in the first resurrection
over these the second death has no power
they will be priest of God and of Christ.
and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
20.7 E. When the thousand years are complete
Satan will be released
20.8 and will come out
to deceive the nations
20.8b D. which are in the four corners of the earth
Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war
the number of them is like the sand of the seashore
20.9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth
C. and surrounded the camp of the saints
B. and the beloved city
A. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them

Chiasmus in Rev. 20, Verses 1-9 from the works of George R. Douglas, Jr. Esp/Bethesda,MD

If we are to understand the timing of the resurrection we must immerse ourselves in the first century Jewish understanding of the resurrection.What a difference it make when we read the Bible through their Jewish biblical concepts.