Nearly 7,000,000,000 human beings are alive today. This vast majority, the Bible reveals, will be called after Christ’s return. Comparatively speaking, God the Father has been drawing only a few in this age, but for a great purpose. For what purpose has God drawn and put into His Church His first fruits? Has God called these few just so they can qualify and enjoy the fellowship and social life of the local congregations?
Where We Are Now in God’s Plan
God has a Master Plan pictured by seven annual festivals. The first festival is Passover. It pictures the Messiah-Christ who took the place of the Passover Lamb in the New Testament Church, Christ- meaning Savior- of the world (I Pet. 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8). That was accomplished in the spring of A.D. 31.
The second festival, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, pictures overcoming the breaking of God’s law. The first humans, disobeyed God and commandment breaking began. God then sentenced the human family to 6,000 years of spiritual exile, as a whole, cut off except for those few He would use for a particular purpose.
We are now near the end of the first 6,000 years, during which humans have experimented with every imaginable form of government, religion, social and economic idea. Soon the fourth step in God’s plan will occur- the return of Jesus Christ to restore the government of God on earth.
This event is pictured by the fourth Holy Day, the Feast of Trumpets. It is after that event that the vast majority will be called in a world ruled and guided by God’s Family. But before the vast majority can live in such a world and be taught, rulers and teachers must be trained. That is where the ‘First Fruits’ in God’s plan enter the picture!
Church in God’s Master Plan
We are now in the age of the Church. God is not working through isolated prophets, nor through independents. He is working through a small group of tens of thousands, organized and unified by His laws, His government, His truth. God’s Church is the means by which God is now warning the world, preparing it for Christ’s return. It is through God’s Church that He is preparing the future rulers and teachers of His Kingdom. God has laid the foundation.They have been called to eventually help bring God’s plan to the world’s population.
The First Fruits are pictured by God’s third annual festival–the Feast of First Fruits, referred to as Pentecost in the New Testament. Let’s look now, at what the Bible reveals about the Feast of First Fruits, God’s Church and the third major step in God’s Master Plan for all mankind.
New Testament Church Began on Day of Pentecost– (to count fifty)
Jesus Christ told His disciples shortly before His trial and death: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18). Christ would continue to teach and support the apostles, but not in person. So how would He come to them?-by God’s Spirit.
COMMENT: The Feast of First Fruits, came at the end of the first or spring harvest in the Northern Hemisphere (Ex. 23:16; 34:22;Num. 28:26). It was also called the Feast of Weeks, since it came seven weeks after the first Sunday after Passover (Deut. 16:9-10, 16). Since it was also the fiftieth day of the spring harvest season, Greek speaking Jews called it Pentecost, which means “FIFTIETH.” Pentecost A.D. 31 marked the beginning of God’s New Testament Church possessing God’s Spirit. Pekoes, the Greek word for “church,” means an assembly of “called-out ones.” The whole world is not “called out" yet-only a tiny minority are predestined to be called now. This is pictured by the annual feast of First Fruits.
World Cut Off from God’s Spirit
Why is God calling only a few before He calls the vast majority? Once a person is called and put into God’s Church, what does he or she do?
1. As the first step in reproducing Himself, God created the first man and woman and gave them basic instructions in the right way to live. Did God offer the first man and woman an opportunity to receive His Spirit? Gen. 2:8-9, 16-17.
COMMENT: They had human life. The tree of life represented the ability to live forever, which can come only from God. If they had agreed they would have received God’s Spirit, which would have enabled them to overcome temptation, grow in character and become ready to be given spirit composed bodies unconditionally. Even Jesus had to grow, learn, overcome and become perfect (Luke 2:40; Herb. 5:8; Rev. 3:21; Herb. 2:10).
2. They, did not ‘eat of the tree of life’. Which tree-way of life- did they choose? Gen. 3:1-6.
COMMENT: Adam lost his opportunity to replace Satan as ruler of this world. Instead, he placed himself under Satan’s government.
COMMENT: God cut off humanity from access to His Spirit until Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, could qualify by conquering Satan, and pay the penalty of our law breaking. No one could restore God’s government on earth, and no one could be given the ability to live forever.’
God Now Calling Only a Few
The one great purpose now in God’s mind is the restoration of His government on earth. God set apart a period of 7,000 years in which to accomplish His purpose. During the first 6,000 years He sentenced mankind to be cut off from Him. God has called a few, Hebrews 11 mentions Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and others. Apparently each was called for a special mission. It was necessary that an exception be made and that they receive God’s Spirit.
The work done by the patriarchs and prophets became the foundation on which the Church was built (Ph. 2:20). And the Church, in turn, is the instrument God is using to eventually bring about His Kingdom and the restoration of His government over the entire earth.
Even ancient Israel, was never offered God’s Spirit. They were given God’s laws, but, as a nation, they were purposely denied access to God’s Spirit. God gave proof, through Israel, that without His Spirit, humanity is helpless. The ancient nation of Israel knew about God and could appeal to Him, but without His Spirit in their minds, they could not have the love of God in them.
Nevertheless, after Israel became separate nations, Judah was used by God to further His plan. God caused the nation of Judah to preserve the knowledge of His law and His Word even though they did not have a spiritual understanding of it. Into this nation Jesus Christ was born. When He came to earth nearly 2,000 years ago, it was not to set up His Kingdom (John 18:36). Christ did not, at that time, come to restrain Satan from deceiving the world. Understand why.
COMMENT: Christ preached the Father’s Good News to the public as a WITNESS. They heard it but did not comprehend it. The only ones Jesus really wanted to understand the truth were a few chosen students. Fishermen etc.
COMMENT: The world as a whole must remain cut off from access to God’s Spirit until Christ returns.
That is why God’s Church does not try to convert anyone. Only God the Father can do that. God’s ministers do not plead with anyone to repent or be baptized or support God’s Church. But they do make God’s way easy to understand for those whom God is calling. If God wanted everyone to understand, everyone would. God’s”hands off”policy that began in Eden will continue until just before Christ’s return.
COMMENT: Out of the thousands who had heard Christ, about 120 believed Him. Those 120 had been taught by Jesus. The 3,000 who were called later that day (Acts 2:41) were from various parts of the world (verses 5, 8-11); they had not, as a whole, been taught by Christ. They were now being taught by the apostles, who had been trained and commissioned to teach (Matt. 28:19-20).
The number continued to grow and may have increased to about 100,000. But then persecution began, just as Jesus had prophesied (John 15:20). Persecution first came from the Jews, then later the Romans and false brethren (Acts 20:29-30; III John 9-10). It was some decades later that these false brethren outnumbered the true church members.
Most congregations were eventually taken over by men who attempted to combine Christ’s teachings with traditional customs, compromising the truth by attaching Christian-sounding names to pagan ideas. Satan, the god of this world, was deceiving many with a counterfeit, falsely labeled Christianity. True Christians remained a small minority-probably never more than about 100,000-fleeing to new areas when persecution became too intense. Why does God have this small church? What is its purpose?
Church: Preparing for Kingdom of God
God created man incomplete. Man was given a human spirit, needing God’s Spirit. He was made human unable to live forever. He was created a free moral agent, needing to develop character. Just as God does not create all at once, He is working in successive stages. Every stage is a progressive step toward the goal of establishing His Kingdom and restoring His government on earth.
1. Did Malachi prophesy that God would send a messenger to prepare the way before the Lord? Mal. 3:1. Was this prophecy in part fulfilled by John the Baptist, who came before the Lord’s First Coming? Luke 7:24, 27. Did John prepare the way by making the church ready for Christ? Luke 1:17.
COMMENT: John preached repentance and obedience to God’s law to become wise. When Jesus began preaching some people were ready to listen. Many of John’s followers later became Jesus’ disciples.
2. Did Christ say that John’s work was in the spirit and power of Elijah, a type of another “Elijah” yet to come? Matt. 17:11-13.Did Malachi prophesy that this “Elijah” would come before the day of the Lord-when Christ comes? Mal. 3:1-2, 5; 4:5-6.
COMMENT: John was a type of a messenger God would send before Christ’s Second Coming. A people would be prepared for Christ through a message about the return of Christ, the establishment of God’s Kingdom and the need for people to repent of breaking God’s law.
COMMENT: From these verses, it is clear that the true Gospel was not preached to the world for some 1,900 years, for the end is not yet here. The true Good News was suppressed, the “gospel” preached to the world was a counterfeit!
God’s Church, by preaching the Kingdom of God to the world as a witness, is preparing millions for Christ’s return. Although most people pay little attention to the message now, THEY WILL REMEMBER IT LATER. Many who do not believe the message now will nevertheless have been prepared to believe when taught by Christ and His assistants. God’s Church is also preparing for God’s Kingdom in another way, preparing for a role as part of God’s soon-coming Kingdom. Malachite 3:1 says the Lord will come to His Temple. Let’s notice what this means.
COMMENT: God’s Church, composed of those who have God’s Spirit within them, is the spiritual Temple to which Christ will come. Paul told the Ephesians that the Church must be “fitly framed together,” growing, “built together.”
Church Members Preparing for God’s Kingdom
1. Did Paul understand that the people of Israel were spiritually blinded? Rom. 10:16-18, 21. Although they heard the truth, they did not obey it. Did God purposely allow their blindness? Rom. 11:8, 25, 32.
COMMENT: Verse 26, which quotes Isaiah 59:20, explains when most Israelites will have their opportunity -after a Deliverer comes out of Zion to call them to repent. The Redeemer from Zion is Jesus Christ, but Paul was not referring to His First Coming, for Israel was still blinded at the time Paul wrote this. All Israel shall be saved when the Deliverer returns to rule. And then, wrote Paul, the Israelites shall receive their opportunity. When Christ returns, all true Christians will be resurrected, changed to spirit to help Him rule and teach both Israelites and Gentiles.
COMMENT: Just as ancient Israel’s priests were assigned to teach God’s laws, members of God’s Family will be teachers of God’s way of life. Is God unfair to give these positions of leadership to only the few? Not at all. God has not called anyone for special favors-He has called them for a special purpose-a tremendous job to do. God rewards us according to our works (Matt. 16:27). Those called now have to overcome Satan and his society. That requires effort, self-denial and willpower, a price most humans are not willing to pay.
Before Jesus could qualify to rule, He had to overcome Satan while Satan was ruling. Since the Church will rule with and under Christ, Church members must also qualify by resisting and overcoming Satan while he is still ruling (Rev. 3:21). That will not be required of the overwhelming majority. God will call them when the world is ruled by Christ and when it will undoubtedly be easier to live God’s way.
In order to qualify for their future jobs, those who God has called into His Church have been freely given God’s Spirit. The rulers and teachers of God’s Kingdom are, by necessity, given opportunity before their future students can be. The only reason any person is called in this age is to qualify to help in ruling and teaching in the world tomorrow–to help those alive then.
God’s Spirit Gives Strength to the true Church
God has given His true church a job to do, and He gives the Church power to be able to do that job. God’s Church could not preach the Good News of God’s coming world ruling government to the world without God’s Spirit! Nor can God prepare people for their future leadership roles without this power from God.
2. Did Christ promise the same spiritual help to His disciples? John 14:16. What is the “Comforter”? Verse 26. Does Christ, through God’s Spirit, live in His followers today? Rom. 8:9-10; Cool. 1:27; I John 3:24.
COMMENT: Jesus Christ went to the Father’s throne to send God’s Spirit to His disciples (John 16:7). Our hope of becoming part of God’s Family is in Christ, living in us through His Spirit.
3. Is it necessary to obey God to receive His Spirit? Acts 5:32. Did Jesus obey God, and does He expect Christians to obey Him today? John 15:10. Are Christ’s commandments exactly the same as His Father’s? John 14:24.
COMMENT: God gives His Spirit to help us live the way that Jesus Christ lived more than 1,900 years ago. Through God’s Spirit, Christ is enabling us to obey God, overcome and endure to the end of this age. God’s Spirit is the power by which God’s ‘First Fruits’ are now being prepared for their jobs in God’s Kingdom.
God’s Spirit is also the power by which God’s Church accomplishes its commission to preach Christ’s Gospel of the soon coming Kingdom of God to the world.
5. By what power was the work of God done during the days of Zerubbabel, who built the physical Temple to which Jesus came? Zech. 4:6. What power was given to Jesus’ disciples to enable them to perform their work? Acts 1:8. Was this also the power by which Paul was able to preach? Rom. 15:19.
6. Did Christ say His servants would do even greater works than He had done while on earth? John 14:12. What work would the Church do in preparation for the end of this age and the return of Christ? Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10.
COMMENT: Right now, the commission to publicize the coming of the Kingdom of God as a witness to all nations is being done with today’s modern technology, God’s Church can reach millions of people via television, radio, the printing press and the internet. He has commanded His people to support His Church for their own good. They grow in spiritual character, they become better prepared, partly through their support-whether financial, labor, or prayer.
Everyone who is growing spiritually has their heart completely in the work God has given His Church to accomplish. Our “works” include our part in supporting the work God is inspiring His Church to do–preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the whole world as a witness. The members of God’s Church are His instruments in fulfilling His great commission in the end time of mans rule on earth!
The members’ spiritual character growth and the work of the Church is inseparable, as the members support the Church, they will also grow spiritually! And as they please God, He will bless and magnify the effectiveness of the work being done.
Why Called Feast of First Fruits?
Understanding God’s plan and especially the Church’s role in God’s Plan is essential to understanding the meaning of God’s third annual Holy Day. Because the day of Pentecost pictures the First Fruits, and the job they are now doing, by the use of God’s Spirit!
God established His annual festivals and Holy Days to reflect the two annual agricultural harvests in the land of Palestine. The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread come at the beginning of the spring grain harvest; the Feast of First Fruits or Pentecost comes at its end. The fall festivals are associated with the large fruit harvest of summer and early autumn.
The spiritual harvests are patterned like the physical harvests-first a small harvest, then a large one. The spring festivals illustrate yearly that those He calls into His Church before Christ’s return are the “First Fruits” the first group to be given God’s Spirit are the relatively small beginning of His spiritual harvest.
COMMENT: Jesus did not abolish this or any other annual Holy Day. Christ told His disciples to be in Jerusalem so on that Holy Day they would receive God’s Spirit. If the disciples had not been observing God’s Holy Days, they would not have been there to receive His Spirit! And long after Christ’s death, Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, kept the festival with Gentile converts.
The Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say about the New Testament Church’s observance: “The Jewish feast was primarily a thanksgiving for the first fruits of the wheat harvest, but the rabbis associated it with remembrance of the Law given by God for the Hebrews to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The church’s transformation of the Jewish feast to a Christian festival was related to the belief that the gift of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus was the First Fruits of a new dispensation that fulfilled and succeeded the old dispensation…” (article “Pentecost,” 15th edition).
COMMENT: Pentecost, or First Fruits, pictures God’s first spiritual harvest- human beings translated into spirit-composed Beings! God’s Church shall be that firstborn harvest (Heb. 12:23) born into God’s Family at Christ’s return.
4. Are God’s Church the First Fruits of God’s Master Plan? Jas. 1:18. Do Christians today have the First Fruits of God’s Spirit? Rom. 8:23. Are they also called First Fruits in the Bible? Rom. 16:5; I Cor. 16:15; Rev. 14:4.
COMMENT: The 144,000 of Revelation 14:1-5 are not the only First Fruits (the Greek text has “First Fruits,” not “the First Fruits”). All who will be in God’s first spiritual harvest, the first resurrection, are First Fruits. This will include Old Testament prophets and all who were given God’s Spirit.
5. What defines whether one is a member of God’s Church and part of the spiritual First Fruits? Rom. 8:9, 11, 16; I Cor. 12:12-14. Did the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets have God’s Spirit? I Pet. 1:10-11. But when was the first time God gave His Spirit to a large group? Acts 2:1-4. Did the day of Pentecost-(count fifty) mark the beginning of the New Testament Church? Verses 1, 41, 47.
COMMENT: On that day, A.D. 31, God sent His Spirit -to strengthen the First Fruits He was beginning to call into His Church, symbolically represented by one of the “wave loaves.” The New Testament festival remembers the founding of the New Testament Church of God as they received God’s Spirit.
God’s Church observes the Feast of First Fruits as an annual reminder of this step in God’s Master Plan: God’s people today are merely the First Fruits, the small first group. The world, except for the few called, is temporally cut off from God-not yet called, neither saved nor lost. But the members of God’s Church ARE being judged (I Pet. 4:17) in how well they are preparing for God’s Kingdom!
The day of Pentecost pictures the Church being called and trained for when God will open his plan to the world, when they will be kings and teachers, co-rulers with and under Christ!
Christ-First of the First Fruits
The Feast of First Fruits pictures all who will be born into God’s Family at the first resurrection-the first group of humans to be given the ability to live forever. But one human has already been made spirit -more than 1,950 years ago. He is the First of the First Fruits, and was pictured in Old Testament rituals by a symbolic ceremony during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, FIFTY DAYS before the Feast of First Fruits. The meaning of this ceremony is important, even though it is no longer performed since the Old Testament priesthood is no longer needed.
1. Was the first part of the spring grain harvest to be waved before God to be accepted by Him? Lev. 23:10-11.
COMMENT: Since most modern translations use the word “sheaf,” the traditional name for this wave offering has been “wave sheaf.” However, the priests did not wave a sheaf. The word “sheaf” is translated from the Hebrew word omer, which means a measurement of about two quarts or two liters. The Jews traditionally cut a sheaf, beat out the grain, then ground the first of the first fruits into flour and offered an omer of that flour. (See the Jewish Encyclopedia, article “Omer.”)
Some modern translations of the Bible have given the passage describing this wave offering the erroneous subhead “the Feast of First Fruits.” Subheads are not part of the original text; they are not inspired. The wave offering was not a “feast”; it was merely a ceremony that involved primarily the priests. The difference is clear when we look at the original Hebrew words.
The Feast of First Fruits is another name for the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. In the verses that refer to the Feast of First Fruits (Ex. 23:16; 34:22; Lev. 23:17, 20; Num. 28:26), “First Fruits” is translated from the word bikkuwr. It refers to the results of the entire spring harvest. However, the First Fruits referred to in Leviticus 23:10-11 are reshiyth, perhaps better translated “First of the First Fruits.” This was the very first of the spring harvest, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
2. On what day was the first of the first fruits wave offering made? Lev. 23:11.
COMMENT: The Pharisees interpreted “the morrow after the Sabbath” as the day after the first annual Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Sadducees, who were mostly priests, said the wave offering should be made on the day after a weekly Sabbath–always on a Sunday. The correct day becomes clear when we examine the context.
COMMENT: According to the reasoning of Rabbinic Judaism, Pentecost is on the 6th day of the third month.
4. The offering of the first of the first fruits marked the beginning of the first harvest of each year. Now let’s notice the way in which Jesus Christ, the first of God’s spiritual harvest, became the spiritual fulfillment of that offering. Who was the first to be resurrected from the dead into God’s Family? Acts 26:23. Was He therefore the First of the First Fruits of God’s spiritual harvest? I Cor. 15:20, 23; Col. 1:13-15, 18.
COMMENT: All who will be born into God’s Family at the first resurrection will be First Fruits, the results of God’s first spiritual harvest. They are pictured by the Feast of First Fruits. Christ, who became a born Son of God at His resurrection more than 1,900 years ago (Rom. 1:4), was the First of the First Fruits, pictured by the first of the first fruits ceremony- FIFTY DAYS before Pentecost.
5. After Christ was resurrected from the dead, did He have to ascend to His Father in heaven? John 20:17. On that same day, after returning to earth, could His disciples then touch Him? Read Matthew 28:1-10, especially verse 9, and John 20:19, 27. What day of the week was it? John 20:19, first part.
COMMENT: Early on the Sunday morning during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Christ would not let anyone touch Him because He had not yet ascended to His Father. Llater that same day, Christ did allow His disciples to touch Him. This clearly shows that Christ ascended to heaven and was accepted by His Father as the spiritual “First of the First Fruits” on the same day the Levitical priests were commanded to offer the first of the first fruits to be accepted by God!
Christ therefore fulfilled the symbolism of the First of the First Fruits on the morrow after the weekly Sabbath–not an annual Sabbath. If it had been the first annual Sabbath that was intended by the words “the Sabbath” in Leviticus 23:11, then the sheaf or omer would have been waved on Friday in A.D. 31. But on Friday the Messiah was dead, buried in a sealed tomb. So the explanation in Rabbinic Judaism of Leviticus 23:11 is incorrect.
Christ’s resurrection or harvest was necessary before any of the remaining spiritual harvests could be reaped (see Lev. 23:14 for this truth in symbol). Now notice HOW PENTECOST IS COUNTED.
6. How are the authorities in the Church to count the days toward Pentecost? Lev. 23:15-16.
COMMENT: The Hebrew wording in Leviticus 23:15-16 means “beginning with” the starting point. The English word “from” is therefore misleading.
The New American Bible (1970) makes the correct method of counting very clear: “Beginning with the day after the Sabbath, the day on which you bring the wave-offering sheaf, you shall count seven full weeks, and then on the day after the seventh week, the FIFTIETH DAY…,” you shall keep the Feast of First Fruits (Lev. 23:15-16).
The day of the wave offering, the Sunday during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was day one. Day seven would be the next weekly Sabbath. Day 49 would be the seventh Sabbath, and the 50th day would be a Sunday, “the day after the seventh week” or “Sabbath” as the original Hebrew and the Authorized Version have it.”
Note: If you would like to begin keeping God’s Holy Days see the calendar in the Reference Section of the America And Britains Future Free Library.
New Covenant–Completion of First Harvest
The “Old Covenant” was a marriage agreement between Israel and the Logos, the Spokesman of the God Family. The basis of that covenant was the Ten Commandments, which Israel agreed to obey, as a wife obeys her husband. According to Jewish tradition, the Ten Commandments were given on the day of First Fruits. But God’s Spirit was not then given to the nation. The coming of His Spirit did not occur until another First Fruits-Pentecost (Acts 2) for the New Testament Church. The Old Covenant ceased to be in effect when the Logos, Christ, was killed. We now look forward to a new covenant.
1. Has the Lord promised to make a new marriage covenant with His people? Jer. 31:31-34.
COMMENT: The weakness of the Old Covenant was not its laws, but in the people (Heb. 8:8). They were not able to keep the law because they did not have God’s Spirit.
COMMENT: The New Covenant will not be made with humans who cannot keep their promises-it will be established only with those who have been changed to spirit beings who have proved, by their lives, their willingness to obey their future Husband, the “Lord” of the Hebrew Bible who became, through human birth, the Jesus Christ of the Greek New Testament. Although the New Covenant has been proposed, the church today lives by the laws of that covenant through the power of God’s Spirit, it will not be finalized until the first resurrection. Only then will God’s people be given the fullness of God’s Spirit to enable them to perfectly resist breaking His law.
COMMENT: God’s Church will be the Bride of Christ,(the Messenger of the Covenant) (Mal. 3:1), will come to His spiritual Temple, the Church, and make the New Covenant a marriage agreement. God’s law will be written in their hearts so completely that they can assist Christ in ruling, teaching and administering God’s law perfectly.
Notice in Revelation 19:7 that the Church will have “made herself ready.” Each member of God’s Church must grow in character and be ready to help Christ rule and teach. Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) shows that some who think they are prepared for the New Covenant marriage will be shut out.
When the Church is ready in numbers and in character, and the world has been sufficiently warned, Christ will return!
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