Summary: The harvest is already begun
For the past several decades, the study of ‘last things’ ~ the last days ~ has gotten a much sharper focus than it seems to have had in past decades and even centuries.
There have been specific times in history when Christian circles have looked more closely at Biblical prophecies concerning the last days, because times of tribulation had come, causing Christian leaders and thinkers to say, ‘maybe this is the time’.
There were many who, during World War II, thought that Hitler was the Anti-Christ, and that the end was coming soon.
But the picture I get in my reading of past times, is that Eschatology, or the study of last things, has been largely neglected until the past century.
With the popularity of the “Left Behind” series of novels (which I’d like to remind you here, are fictitious), and especially since the events of September 11, 2001, that focus is re-sharpened, and Believers all over are agreeing that the technology is finally in place, and the world situation such, that we may very well be seeing the final ‘snowball roll’ that will lead to Christ’s second coming and the great tribulation.
In the midst of all this sky-gazing and excited speculation about the turmoil in the Middle East and whether Christ will rapture the church first, or whether the church will stay on earth through the first half of the tribulation, and who the False Prophet will be and, ‘is the Anti-Christ already living on the planet, and how old might he be right now’, and what do all of the weird creatures in the book of Revelation really symbolize...?....
I’d like to call you to rest from that today, and do a bit of a turn around to look, not at ‘last things’, but ‘first things’.
Not Creation. Not the beginnings of the universe; but the One who is both first and last, beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, and who, because of His atoning work, is the Firstborn among many brethren, and the Firstfruits of the resurrection.
(read text here)
When Paul talked about Christ being the first fruits, he had something very specific in mind, that hearkens back to the Jewish Feast of Firstfruits.
In fact, apart from Christ’s death and resurrection, that ancient feast loses all of its meaning, as the feast, along with all the other Jewish feasts and ordinances, were types, or foreshadowings of the Messiah’s work and His relationship to His people.
I want to spend a few minutes explaining this particular feast to you, for fuller understanding of what Paul was saying to the Corinthian believers and to us in our text verses.
I’ll begin with a paragraph taken from the book “The Feasts of the Lord”, co-authored by Kevin L. Howard and Marvin Rosenthal. quoting:
“Firstfruits marked the beginning of the cereal grain harvests in Israel. Barley was the first grain to ripen of those sown in the winter months. For Firstfruits a sheaf of barley was harvested and brought to the Temple as a thanksgiving offering to the Lord for the harvest. It was representative of the barley harvest as a whole and served as a pledge or guarantee that the remainder of the harvest would be realized in the days that followed.”
Now, the spring feasts in Israel, started with the Passover, which is celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan, on the Jewish calendar, which coincides with March/April on the Julian calendar. We see God’s own establishing of this date, in the 12th chapter of Exodus, as He prepares to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt. Verses 1 - 6 read as follows:
“Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight’.”
From that day, through the 21st day of the month ~or, for seven days~ they were also to eat unleavened bread, which is a teaching in itself, and this is officially the second spring feast, although the first and third feasts are included in the same time period of these seven days.