Monday, September 3, 2012

The Second Exodus Part 10 conclusion.

Firstfruits and the Harvest resurrection.

During the Old Covenant era no one went to heaven. (John 3:13). All people were believed to go to Sheol when they die physically Psalms 89:48, What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave? Selah.

The destiny of the “souls” did not distinguish between the righteous and the fate of the wicked; all descended to Sheol and remain there (Genesis 37:35). They went to a holding place of the dead and waited for the atoning work of Christ to be finished and the resurrection from the dead. (Daniel 12:1-4) Sheol was the place of the dead, the diseased an underworld realm of departed spirits (Psalm 116:3).

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for where they were prior to the resurrection is Sheol. In the New Testament the Greek word is Hades. The Old Testament uses the word "Sheol" to refer to a place in the depths of the earth. Death involved the withdrawal of a person’s vital power the (nepes, “soul” departing from the body (Genesis 35:16-20). The close association of death, and the grave / Sheol had long been recognized among the Israelites.

Resurrection was promised to Israel (Isaiah 25:8-9; Hosea 13:14; Daniel 12:1-4), 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).

In the process of God revealing His plan for Israel resurrection He established a concept through Israel’s harvest seasons. The apostle Paul understood this concept since 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 firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming." (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22-23) God uses the analogy of first-fruits and harvest particularly to illustrate aspects of His plan of salvation for Israel.

One of the most interesting studies in the Bible is that of the "firstfruits" and "the harvest" as it relates to Israel’s resurrection. Where did this idea of "firstfruits" harvest originate?" The phrase is an old agricultural term. It refers to the first harvest of a particular crop. Before the harvest is gathered into a store house it is tasted to see if it is rip by the first-fruits.

God required the Israelites to offer the first fruits of their harvest to Him. "The first of the first-fruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God" (Exodus 22:29, 34:19-22; Nehemiah 10:35-39). The first of anything produced belonged to God because He granted the ability to gain the produce. 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:).

The firstfruits 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 firstfruits 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.

Firstfruits were not restricted to just vegetables. The first born among flocks or the first born child was seen as belonging to God. Exodus 13:2 "Dedicate to me every firstborn among the Israelites. The first offspring to be born, of both humans and animals, belongs to me."

This Old Testament harvest symbolism was carried over into the New Testament and applied to the resurrection of Christ and Israel’s saints. Since all the New Testament writers but Luke were Israelites it was only natural for them to think of (Christ as the firstfruits, Gk., aparche). Paul established this basic point when he said Christ was the firstfruits raised from the dead, also significance of the "first ripe offering." (1 Corinthians 15:20) When the priest was to offer the First Fruits offering in the Temple, Christ arose from the dead, the firstfruits of them that slept.

Jesus was the first raised from the dead to eternal life. He is the best of God's harvest of souls. He is the best firstfruits representative to God of a coming harvest of souls. Paul also establishing another basic firstfruits point. While Christ was the firstfruits of his people the saints were also significance of the "first ripe offering."

"I urge you, brethren you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints" (I Corinthians 16:15). Paul calls the household Stephanas and Epaenetus “the first-fruits of Achaia.” (Romans 16:5) Stephanas' household were the first converts in Achaia and Paul is also implying that he thinks they are among the best first-fruits Christians in that region. Paul also referred to the brethren as those "who have the first-fruits of the Spirit." Romans 8: 23"Not only that, but 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." Here Paul is referring to the first converts to Christianity; those who first experienced salvation (II Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30).

James also adopted, this language. "Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures" (James 1:18). Since these Christians have dedicated their lives to God, those converted by the word of God are the "firstfruits" of mankind. They are the ones God keeps for Himself.

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 firstfruits of the gospel, to whom God gave the earnest of the spirit. (2 Corinthians 1:22)

The earnest of the Spirit is mentioned only three times in the New Testament, each time being translated from the Greek word "arrabon," meaning a pledge. In the law the earnest, or pledge is given when anything is bought and not delivered at the time of buying. Most notably the first-fruits are: The first to come in time. A pledge or hope of the greater harvest to follow. The very term "firstfruits" itself implies, there is a remaining harvest that was ready to be gathered in.

According to the Law no grain was to be harvested at all until the firstfruits offering was brought to the Lord (Numbers 15:18,21; Leviticus 23:10, 11), The firstfruits sanctified the subsequent harvest. Every Jewish Christian understood this Old Testament concept.
The book of Revelation cannot be separated from Israel’s symbolism harvest concept. The firstfruit believers who died before the Parousia "the Finished work of Christ," and had (eternal life) who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 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 firstfruits saints reached perfection, and were accepted of God. These firstfruit saints would also 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. The act of reaping had already begun, as seen in the (acceptance or gathering of the 144,00) "firstfruits” (Revelation 14:1-5).

After the destruction of Jerusalem and the (Mosaic Temple) system, the way into the Heaven or the Holiest of all was now made OPEN (Hebrews 9:8). It was then that the harvest was ready to be gathered in. Revelation 20:5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. Thousands of years, was recognized as a symbol to the people of Israel. Fortunately, we are not left completely on our own to decide what various symbols mean. The book of Revelation is written in a style very similar to many of the prophetic books of the Old Testament.

A person with knowledge of the Bible can generally come up with passages which explain the meaning of the figurative words in Revelation. For example, Psalm 50:10 "For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills." Because God says he owns cattle on a thousand hills does that mean if there are cattle on a hill a thousand and one those cattle are not His? Of course not. God is not saying there is exactly one thousand hills with His cattle, but all the cattle in the world belong to Him. Psalms 24-1-2 1 The earth belongs to the Lord, and everything in it the world and all its people. This symbol is used often in the Bible to refer to a completeness.

Here is another good example, in Deuteronomy 7:9, "Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments," Moses was not limiting God's mercy to exactly one-thousand generations, but indicating that God is always merciful. It does not make sense to take one symbol from Revelation 20:5 and assign it a literal meaning while figurative meanings and symbols are used through out the Book.

The rest of the dead here are the (righteous Old Covenant harvest). The saints who had been in "Sheol" waited for the atoning work of Christ to be finished and the resurrection from the dead. (Daniel 12:1-4)

These saints were people like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Job, Isaiah, and Daniel, etc, who died in faith. These "Old Covenant saints" were the rest of the harvest, the general resurrection. 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)

This resurrection is not limited only to the righteous. Revelation 14:14-20 is a two-fold harvest scene. The resurrection and the wrath of God on the vine Israel who refused there Messiah.

Knowing when the resurrection took place we can appreciate what God has done for us through his promises to Israel. We will never go to the place of the dead "Sheol" waited for the atoning work of Christ to be finished.

We will never be separated from the love or presence of God for Christ lives within us. Upon physical death we go immediately into the fulness of that heavenly country that Abraham looked for. (Hebrew 11:8-10) I hope you enjoyed this study on the second exodus as much as I enjoyed doing it.