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The word firstfruits points to the first produce of the harvest, the portion that was first gathered and consecrated to God as an offering of gratitude (Leviticus 23:10; Deuteronomy 26:2). “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God” (Exodus 23:19). This harvest constituted “the best” of the first fruits (Numbers 18:12,13).
The ancient Israelites were commanded to present the first sheaf of the barley harvest to the priest, who waved it before the Lord as a pledge of the full harvest that was to follow. This ritual was to be done on the 16th of Nisan (Abib; Leviticus 23:10; 11). The Israelites ate the Passover supper on Nisan 14 (verse 5), and on the 16th was the offering of the first fruits.
As these first fruits of the harvest of the “land” were brought to God in the Old Testament, so Christ presented Himself to the Father as the first fruits of the resurrection harvest (John 20:17; 1 Corinthians 15:20–23). The wave sheaf of the first fruits of the harvest was a type of Christ, the “firstfruits,” or pledge, of the great harvest that will follow when all the dead saints are raised at the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:14–16).
Christ rose from the dead on the very day that the wave sheaf was offered in the Temple (Leviticus 23:14; Luke 23:56; 24:1). As the first sheaf was an assurance of the gathering of the whole harvest, so the resurrection of Christ is a pledge that all who put their trust in Him will be resurrected from the dead.
The Firstfruits of the Spirit
In addition, the “firstfruits of the Spirit” may be understood as the early, initial gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the pledge to the full outpouring of divine power. They are the foretaste of good things to come (2 Corinthians 1:22).
The Holy Spirit had come in special measure on the day of Pentecost, and His blessings continued, as shown by the various spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12 to 14) and by the changing of character that distinguished the believer from other men (Galatians 5:22, 23).
The attainment of these early gifts increases the longing for a larger bestowal later, especially the gift of immortality, when the earthly body is changed into a heavenly body. Paul wrote, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:44–53 also 2 Corinthians 5:1–5).
In His service,