The Feast of Firstfruits is another important marker in God’s prophetic calendar. It occurred a day after the Sabbath and coincided with the day that Yeshua was resurrected. This day formed a bridge between Passover and Shavuot since it was the first (barley) harvest and its name in Hebrew “Sfirat HaOmer” means “the counting of the sheaves”[i]. The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) took place the day after the seventh Sabbath following the Feast of Firstfruits which is fifty days in total. A harvest followed the Feast of Firstfruits and similarly Yeshua is the Firstfruits of all those who believe in Him.
The Feasts of the Lord are found in Leviticus 23 and the instructions concerning the Feast of Firstfruits are in verses 9 to 14.
‘And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the 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 firstfruits 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.And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord.Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin.You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.’
Although the first sheath gathered was a relatively small offering; what it represented was of further and greater importance. ‘Gersom says, towards the cast; it was moved to and fro, backwards and forwards, upwards and downwards, to make an acknowledgment to the Lord of heaven and earth, that the fruits of the earth and the plentiful harvest were of him, and to give him the praise and glory of it:’[ii] Ultimately everything belongs to the Lord and this was an expression of gratitude by giving Him the first and best part of the harvest.[iii] My old Bible lecturer used to say, “Is the Lord president in your life as well as resident in your life?” and that is a good question to consider seeing that every good and perfect gift comes from Him.
The sacrificial offering of a male lamb of the first year echoes the Passover sacrifice whilst the offering of grain and wine foreshadow the body and blood of Messiah given to Jewish and Gentile believers.[iv]Eating unleavened bread symbolises the removal of sin and living a holy life pleasing unto the Lord.
Significantly, at Pesach there were some Greeks who came up to worship at the feast who wanted to see Jesus. Yeshua likened Himself to a grain of wheat in John 12:23-24, “But Jesus answered them saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it produces much grain.” Although barley is the first grain to ripen, it is wheat that is harvested at the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), hence at the resurrection and ascension, He became the first fruits offering (wave sheaf) on our behalf.[v]
The Scribes and Pharisees asked Yeshua for a sign. The sign He referred to concerned Jonah which was a foreshadowing picture of His resurrection and that after His death He would rise the third day. ‘But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:39-40).”
Yeshua also provided another sign which was speaking of His death and resurrection. However at the time even His disciples struggled to comprehend the sign that was given, though they came to understand what He meant after He rose from the grave. ‘Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said (John 2:19-22).”
1 Corinthians 15 is known as the ‘Resurrection Chapter’ which links the Feast of Firstfruits with the resurrection. This passage explains that Yeshua is the firstfruits of those who have died and afterwards those who belong to Messiah when He comes (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). For believers, their natural bodies are sown in corruption and dishonour yet are raised in incorruption and glory and as a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). This means that for the believer, the death and resurrection of Yeshua, is the guarantee of their resurrection and everlasting life with Him.
Passover speaks of salvation, the Feast of Unleavened Bread sanctification, and the Feast of Firstfruits looks forward to glorification.
A full harvest followed Firstfruits and following the resurrection of the Lord Jesus there was and still is, a harvesting of souls when Jewish and Gentiles believe in and trust in Messiah. The Apostle Paul considered the earliest Hebrew believers as the first fruits of the Israel of God (Romans 11:16).[vi] Romans 11 explains how the Gentiles have been grafted into the olive tree and God’s plan of salvation for many in Israel and across the nations. Yeshua is our peace having broken down the middle wall of separation, creating in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace (Ephesians 2:14-15).
[i] Peter Sammons Israel’s Holy Moedim (Glory to Glory Publications, 2017; Cambridge), p82
[ii] John Gill’s Exposition of the whole Bible https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/leviticus-23.html
[iii] Bryan W. Sheldon The Messiah and the Feasts of Israel (Gospel Folio Press, 2007; Port Colborne), p110
[iv] Sammons, 82
[v] Richard Adu Ntow Messiah in the Feast of First Fruits http://www.symf.org.uk/teaching-articles/messiah-in-the-feast-of-first-fruits/
[vi] Sammons, p85